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Niall McGinn

Al Capone, enemy of Hearts? <em>Picture: Goldfinger</em>

Al Capone, enemy of Hearts? Picture: Goldfinger

By Stewart Weir

Like many a weekend, it started on a Friday night. And quite soon we were wondering if we were really all there.

The usual combination of being confused, wondering if we’d had more to drink than we first thought. That dazed feeling and glazed look. But no, we were absolutely fine.

All that many of us had done was to read (probably more than once) the statement put out on behalf of the Hearts board of directors issued in relation to outside influences on players and the club – the briefing coming just hours after the club had decided to allow Craig Thomson to resume his Tynecastle career following a club investigation into his conviction for “lewd, libidinous and indecent behaviour”.

For those who haven’t seen it, the statement read as follows:

What’s happening with the club today is not a new thing. For almost 7 years we have been fighting to shield the club from crooks, criminals and thieves. Many of the top players at the club have felt the bitter results of the swindles that have been carried out with them on their own skin. [Rudi] Skacel and [Andy] Webster have returned to the club after realising where these “football patriots” have led them.

Over a short space of time 4 players at our club have been on the wrong end of the law. We note that 3 of them are represented by the same agent – Gary Mackay – who has been so vicious in his attacks against Mr Romanov.

Taking into account the facts that have been omitted by the media it can be presumed that each of these cases is not a coincidence, but the result of targeted actions of a mafia that wants to manipulate the club and the results.

Every year Hearts fights to be in the top 3, but even last season in the last 12 games of the season it was almost like someone replaced the team with a different one. Whose fault is that? Players? Manager’s? Or it is mafia.

Stealing players, bad games, problems with the law – all of that on top of record SFA fines. Problems are just shifted to another level.

Mafia are dragging kids into the crime, in order to blackmail and profit on them. It is not possible to separate these people from paedophiles, and you don’t need to do that. Each year we are forced to fight against these maniacs harder and harder. We are standing in their way not letting them manipulate the game of football in the way they want. As such they undermine us in every possible way they can.

The task of the club is to tear these kids out of hands of criminals.

Was this for real?

I had to assume it was, and immediately wondered what the next communiqué from Gorgie might contain. Mention of reptilian humanoids? (Credit for that to Gary Keown.) Or an earthquake on the Isle of Arran?

The old saying in boxing – about having to knock out a home-town fighter to get a draw – still rings true to this day.

Just ask Matthew Macklin, the Birmingham-based Irishman who failed to take the WBA middleweight title away from Germany’s Felix Sturm in Cologne.

And yes, there was a smell after the fight, a right stink over the scoring which saw Macklin lose on a split decision: two judges favouring Sturm by 116–112 and the other seeing it 115–113 for Macklin.

I’d have to say, had the fight taken place anywhere else other than Germany, Macklin would have been on top of the world.

What isn’t in any doubt is that the contest was one of the best fights I’ve seen in ages – 12 rounds of non-stop action and even, with six months of 2011 remaining, a contender for Fight of the Year. It was that good.

Celtic’s Niall McGinn couldn’t hide his feelings at not flying Down Under with the rest of the Bhoys, as reported in the Scottish Sun.

McGinn sought some comfort food at the local Nando’s (other purveyors of chicken are available, such as KFC as preferred by at least one of his Oz-bound team-mates), managing to eat with one hand and tweet with the other.

“Raging I’m nat going to Australia,” tweeted McGinn, the “O” key obviously being a bit greasy.

He added; “Havnt been selected in the 23 man squad folks, so just gota work hard in training in the meantime.” I thot it was got2. But hey, WTF do INO.

It would have been a nice trip for the youngster, who must be wondering about his future in Paradise.

Which took me back to the summer of 1993. Gary McSwegan had finally made it in to the first-team squad at Rangers, and had even scored in the Champions League against Marseille.

I bumped into him at Ibrox the day before Rangers were due to fly to their training base at Il Ciocco in Tuscany, a trip I would be on, and obviously Gary thought so as well.

I then made my way out to Firhill and who should pull up next to me at the lights but Gary. I put the window down and enquired where he was headed.

Notts County – I’ve just been transferred!”

I don’t often take to writing about the Scottish road network, but today is the day (or tonight is the night, actually) that the M74 extension opens, completed under-budget and ahead of schedule (give or take 30-odd years).

Naturally there was much debate and questioning of the advantages of the five-mile stretch – and of the cost, which was quite astounding. Every mile cost a mere £131 million.

Or to put it another way, one Tore André Flo every 161 yards…

Norway face debutants Equatorial Guinea in the Women’s World Cup in Germany, the 1995 winners edging the match 1–0.

But the new boys – or new girls – had their chances, including this one that was just too much for one supporter. Goodness knows how he’d have reacted watching Hamilton Accies last season…

A couple of taps, a spin of the wrist, and a quick listen to see if it is still ticking. Yes, my timepiece appears in good working order, and it is – going by the wee date window – only 30 June. The English schools are not yet on holiday, Wimbledon is still in full flow, and the summer heat hasn’t yet materialised.

And the reason for my confusion? I’ve just heard Fulham have beaten Nes Sóknar Ítróttarfelag Runavík 3–0 in the first leg of their Europa League qualifier. The new season has begun seemingly just weeks after the last one ended.

Which of course means that there is a possibility – although perhaps slight – that a Fulham player could play for an entire year were they to appear in the 2012 European Championship final.

Still, they could have a real job instead…

The big day, in Wimbledon terms, has arrived – although there could be another one along in a few days, or not.

I for one wish Andy Murray all the best today against Rafael Nadal. The Scot has played majestically at times to get this far, hence the rise in confidence across that land.

But I do wish folk wouldn’t get too carried away with what he has achieved to date.

Debates about whether this will be Scotland’s greatest-ever sporting triumph, should Murray win, are far too premature. As I said the other day, all he has done is to match Tim Henman’s achievement at Wimbledon, who in turn kept pace with Roger Taylor (before he became the drummer for Queen).

And none of them have managed to match polo-shirt manufacturer Fred Perry.

It will take a monumental performance from Murray to beat Nadal, and the same again in the final, regardless of the opponent.

So forget pondering whether Murray would surpass Jim Clark, Stephen Hendry, Sandy Lyle, Gavin Hastings, Denis Law, Allan Wells, Finlay Calder, Liz McColgan, Ken Buchanan, Eric Liddell, Jocky Wilson, Colin McRae, Chris Hoy, Lawrence Tynes, Catriona Matthew, Pat McKay, Jackie Stewart, Paul Lambert, Rose Reilly, Paul Lawrie, Freuchie, Jock Taylor, David Wilkie, Steve Hislop, Rhona Martin, Jim Watt, John Higgins or Rubstick until he actually wins it.

Which might be never. Or if he does, he will join an elite list which, in my mind, no one tops or heads…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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By Stewart Weir

Few players over the years have galvanised opinion quite like El-Hadji Diouf. In these parts, while visiting as a Liverpool players, he endeared himself to the Celtic support by gobbing on one fan who had playfully patted him on the head. For that he was fined £5,000. And Spit the Diouf (who really should be introduced to Bob Carolgees) was at it again a few years later when he spat at an 11-year-old Middlesbrough fan. Must make you something of a hardman in Senegal.

This weekend though, if it were possible, Diouf stooped even lower after QPR striker Jamie Mackie suffered a broken leg in a challenge with Blackburn defender Gael Givet. Diouf, it is alleged, abused Mackie as he lay on the pitch.

Of course Diouf denies it.

But you have to think that something must have been said to rile the QPR players and management to that extent. QPR defender Bradley Orr and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny posted comments on Twitter, Orr suggesting; “Never come across a more repulsive human being than E-H Diouf!” adding “The things he was saying were disgusting! The lad has just broken his leg! You horrible disgusting man E-H Diouf! Your time will come!” Kenny waded in with: “So gutted for the boy Mackie, football can be horrible sometimes, and that **** Diouf will get it one day, what goes around comes around.”

Mackie’s fingers still worked, enabling him to Tweet; “Proper disappointed that e diouf was in my ear while I’m on the deck with a broken leg.”

QPR youth coach Marc Bircham called him a “scumbag” while their boss, Neil Warnock, called Diouf “a sewer rat.” Even this early in to 2011, El-Hadji Diouf is off a few Christmas card lists …

Not so much the king is dead as the King is back. Twenty-four hours after Roy Hodgson departs Anfield, Liverpool re-instate Kenny Dalglish. And all is well in the world with Liverpudlians, Scousers and Kopites – if you ignore their team. Within half-an-hour of being back on the bench, Dalglish finds out just exactly what he’s let himself in for as a penalty in the first minute and a red card for his captain end Liverpool’s FA Cup challenge against Manchester United.

If that was bad, Wednesday must have been a whole lot worse as Blackpool completed a league double over their coastal rivals. Many questions directed at Dalglish between those matches centred around how he would cope with managerial life a decade after he had last fulfilled that role. He intimated he had mellowed, and their was the jovial quip about Ryan Babel not being capable of mocking up the picture (of referee Howard Webb in a Man U kit) that landed him in hot water with the FA. And oh how the journalists laughed. I wonder if they’ll be so jolly if, or when, Kenny goes in the huff, and they end up having a press conference a city centre pub you wouldn’t frequent other than by accident …

Rangers beat Kilmarnock 3-0 in the Scottish Cup. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Not so with the attendance in that game. A stinking, if not stupid night for a game, coupled with live TV and a refusal from Kilmarnock to reduce the ticket prices, meant just 13,215 visited Ibrox, the lowest crowd there in 25 years. And if the years have hurried past, that makes it pre-Souness! There is a time and a place for live football. But shifting a match to a Monday just for TV is typical of the way regular fans are being abused. Overkill is killing interest in the game.

FIFA’s Ballon d’Or Puskas Award – the very wordy title for their Goal of the Year – was won by Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit Altintop for his volley while playing for Turkey. It was a great strike and polled more than 40% of the online vote, beating by a distance the likes of Giovanni Van Bronkhorst, Lionel Messi, Samir Nasri and Arjen Robben. But I bet you there’s another one, or two, or several, just like that one over the coming year. I doubt however if you’ll see another quite like the incredible back-heeled volley netted by Glentoran’s Matty Burrows (see below). The only reason I can think he didn’t win was that many would have considered it a freak or fluke goal. But he meant it all right.

Back on the subject of overkill, Manchester United’s FA Cup fourth-round clash with Southampton has been selected for live television coverage by ITV.

No surprise there in what was something of a mediocre draw. And no shock either than Fergie and his lads are again live and exclusive somewhere. Indeed, the shock would have been all the greater had the Old Trafford giants not been alive and kicking in the FA Cup. For believe it or not, Manchester United’s visit to the south coast will see them play their thirtieth – that’s 30 for those who wish confirmation – successive live FA Cup dating back to their 0-0 draw with Exeter in January 2005.

Like Barnum & Bailey coming to town, everyone turns out to see them, so TV executives have less chance of embarrassing gaps in the stands, as there were at Ibrox on Monday. And if they happen to be the hosts, Old Trafford is always full all of the time. And for those reasons, here’s to Sir Alex chalking up yet another record.

More bullets in the post for Celtic personnel, with Paddy McCourt the target for a few rounds, just like team-mate Niall McGinn and manager Neil Lennon. It brings in to sharp focus just how many eejits there are still out there who would target individuals just because of where they came from and who they play or work for..

Browsing on my mobile. I spot a line online somewhere connecting Kris Boyd, the once-prolific former Rangers striker and now out-of-favour with Middlesbrough, with Turkey. I am not sure whether this was in relation to a move there, or how those in England view him …