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Serie A

A Chinese cat <em>Picture: mattk1979</em>

A Chinese cat Picture: mattk1979

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
It was England against Wales in the Six Nations championship, while in Serie A it was first against second when Juventus met AC Milan.

Two sporting occasions, in distance hundreds of miles apart. But when it came to crucial calls and decisions that ultimately decided the outcome in these matches, there was a world between them.

At Twickenham, the video referee Iain Ramage earned his corn in the closing moments as the hosts pressed for a match-saving try, the Scots official eventually ruling that David Strettle had not grounded the ball.

End of nervous wait, end of deliberation, end of match.

Meanwhile in Italy, Milan and Juventus drew 1–1, although the outcome should have been different.

Football – thanks almost entirely to Sepp Blatter’s befuddled thinking – hasn’t followed the route of rugby, cricket, tennis, NFL and the likes by adopting video technology to assist the officials (but not to take over from them) in making key decisions.

Blatter and co think that throwing more officials – like goal-line assistants who, as far as I can see, see nothing other than new towns and cities across Europe – is the way to solve a problem. And the main and most contentious problem is whether a ball has or hasn’t crossed the line.

That archaic thinking is flawed, when technology would help. It’s not infallible, but it would be better than just guessing. As the linesman most certainly did when Gigi Buffon saved from Sulley Muntari.

Here, judge for yourself. And feel free to tell me exactly how involving a video ref wouldn’t benefit football, even on this one key area …

Sunday
While Wales were celebrating winning the Triple Crown, Murrayfield was hosting Scotland’s Six Nations encounter with France.

France, don’t forget, reached the World Cup final a matter of months ago. So they can play, and showed as much in the second half to beat the plucky Scots.

Plucky, game, unlucky. Heard it all too often.

Under coach Andy Robinson, the Scots have now won just two out of last 13 matches in the Six Nations.

I cannot help but think that if Robinson was in charge of our national football team, questions about his suitability would have been asked long before now, if he hadn’t already been mentioned in a dispatch which included the line “mutual consent”.

And, I can’t think those interrogating would have been fobbed off either by his “but I still believe” reply …

Monday
Andy Murray is in Dubai for the Dubai Duty Free Tournament. I remember I used to go there for the snooker tournament of that name. How things change.

This was Murray’s first outing since his Australian Open semi-final appearance (and loss) – and, for one radio reporter, that was enough to relegate him from world no.4 to just plain old ordinary British no.1. Fine.

Such generalisations usually mean people don’t know what they are talking about, but know it’s probably a safe bet to call Murray the nation’s no.1.

I would put the said radio correspondent in that category. By the same token, anyone referring to Murray as the Scottish no.1 probably belongs in a category all of their own …

Tuesday
Football is a passionate sport, and on occasions emotions can spill over. I suppose that will be the excuse Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell will use when he explains to the FA comments made after his club’s 1-0 loss to Milton Keynes Dons.

Most of us involved in football have heard (or even used) rather fruity language when things don’t go to plan.

Few of us, unlike Mitchell, have decided to use BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 as the platform.

Mitchell swore three times live on-air (“bollocks” and “f*cked” being his best efforts) before presenter Mark Chapman gave him a red card.

Mitchell accepted the FA’s charges of using “improper language”.and requested a private hearing, which will be held before 13 March. Obviously in private, so as not to offend any audience.

Hear Mitchell in full flow here. And it’s OK, the Beeb bleep machine has been edited in …

Wednesday
Scotland have a pre-World Cup qualifying campaign friendly against Slovenia. I find that the match is not being shown on any of the channels I subscribe to (either by law or choice).

So I decide to spend the £5 I have saved by not watching this meaningless contest (rendered such because the national coach won’t pick the best players available to him) and purchase five Lotto lucky dips.

Imagine my shock when I won, which is more than Scotland did.

So I am now a fiver better off than when I started, whereas I was guaranteed to be a fiver down if I’d invested in Premier Sports.

I recall getting all hot under the collar when a Scotland qualifier was shown on Channel 5 at a time when people in the shadow of Hampden couldn’t watch it because they couldn’t get a signal.

Now, I get the feeling no one is really too bothered where Scotland matches appear – or more accurately, disappear.

When you see signs up outside pubs stating “We are NOT showing the Scotland game”, you have to wonder if broadcasters or armchair fans are interested in these friendly games, or Scotland.

Anyway, that win on Wednesday has seen me qualify for EuroMillions on Friday. Wish me luck.

Thursday
Mark Allen is already a few hundred quid down this season after giving some frank views at a post-match press conference.

And, from his more recent spat with authority, that the Northern Ireland cueist either hasn’t learned or won’t be dissuaded from speaking his mind.

In China for the Haikou World Open (headings like “world” always help when you are selling an under-valued product for above the going rate) Allen didn’t hold back on Twitter.

“Journey a nightmare. People are ignorant. Place stinks. Arena’s rubbish, tables poor, food is horrendous. Other than that I love China.”

He continued: “Dead cat found this morning. Any wonder this place stinks. Must be dead cats all round the town.”

And he added: “This place is horrendous. It just baffles me how world snooker continuously go out of their way to put tournaments on in the middle of nowhere.”

However, he showed some remorse later. “As usual people jump on the hate-Allen bandwagon. Might’ve been a bit harsh a few hours ago in my tweet. Not all Chinese people are ignorant. I stand by everything else though.”

The sport’s governing body, World Snooker, later described his remarks as “extremely disappointing”.

And to think these guys thought they got it bad in Prestatyn …

Friday
I thought I’d finish this week with a quiz.

Is Craig Whyte
a) Rangers owner?
b) still welcome at Ibrox?
c) “thoroughly unfit”?
d) “wholly unreliable”?
e) a billionaire?

Answers when the administrators can find them …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Amir Khan <em>Picture: SportsAngle.com</em>

Amir Khan Picture: SportsAngle.com

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Nothing much wrong with your Saturday evening sport this week. If you didn’t fancy a bit of the “gas cooker” (work it out yourself) from the UK “Lite” Championship, then there was some boxing along later in the night. And more of that later.

But those with a passing interest in football would have lapped up the offering from Spain – Real Madrid versus Barcelona, El Clásico. And it wasn’t too far short of the billing.

Everyone believes there is nothing quite like their derby, be it Linfield against Glentoran, the Old Firm, Merseyside, Tyneside, North London or those in and around Birmingham, or Sheffield, even Norfolk.

Can’t imagine all of them put together attracting a global audience of half a billion. Probably only the Manchester rivals could pull in a similar figure.

In the end, Barcelona won, comfortably, almost as if they save their best for when people watch them most.

And as I tweeted during the match, for those who had watched Hibs versus Rangers from Easter Road, yes, Real and Barça were playing the same game.

Just playing it a little differently …

Sunday
I suppose for most it was just a continuation of Saturday night. And it was over the other side of the Pond.

But in the early hours of Sunday morning, Amir Khan put his WBA and IBF light-welterweight titles on the line in Washington DC against Lamont Peterson, a capable fighter, but someone Khan was going to be able to beat in front of a big American audience. Wasn’t he?

No, is the easy answer. Peterson was up for it – and, for me, won the fight long before referee Joseph Cooper docked the Brit a crucial point in the last round for pushing.

Cooper heaped pressure on himself and left the decision open to debate because of when he penalised Khan – who would have been deducted points long before round 12 had a British referee been in charge.

That intervention would give Khan and his entourage reason to appeal – although there were plenty who also wanted their say, one of them being part-time Manchester United striker and racehorse owner Michael Owen.

“Gutted Amir Khan got beat last night,” he tweeted. “Controversy over the scoring I hear. Is there no better way to score a fight? Seems outdated to me.

“I wouldn’t fancy my career being so dependant on 3 old guys watching from below the ring. I’m sure the rich promoters have influence too!”

Nice to show such support Michael. A bit rich given that on some occasions contests you participate in have twice as many judges, and none of them can get it right …

Monday
And Jonny Wilkinson announces his retirement from international rugby.

To be honest, he could have done so a while ago, given some of the injuries and knocks – both physical and mental – that he’s bounced back from.

In 2003, Wilkinson – and England – reached the peak of their collective powers, becoming world champions with the number 10 landing the winning drop goal, off his supposedly weaker foot.

And I may have told the story before, but it’s worth it again.

Around 1997, I went to see Doddie Weir at Kingston Park. Chatting away, I was aware of the relentless practice going on in the background – and, more impressive, the accuracy of it.

“That’ll be Jonny,” said Dod. Asked if the youngster was good, George replied: “Oh aye. The best. A star. A superstar in the making.” He wasn’t wrong.

He could also have said a machine. For while others had impressive hauls when it came to points, none did it quite as clinically, or quite as often as Wilkinson.

How good was he? It’s all about opinions. But he’s England’s best-ever stand-off. An argument you’ll never really have until the next time they win a World Cup …

Tuesday
Aberdeen beat St Johnstone 2–1 in Perth. Both sides had to beat the elements to get this game started and finished.

McDiarmid Park was battered by wind and rain, with just 1,607 turning up to watch this SPL encounter.

The weather and the size of the crowd had many debating summer football again before the final whistle had sounded, including me.

Tuesday evening’s game was all the proof or evidence some needed that summer football was the way to go.

But don’t be so quick there. Look first at the circumstances behind Tuesday’s game going ahead.

Both managers wanted to play the game when the referee offered them the chance to call it off. That would have been the second postponement of the fixture, it having been cancelled a few weeks prior due to weather.

It was a stinking night, and police and Met Office were issuing travel warnings, so the 200-mile round trip from the Granite City might not have been entirely safe.

And, the game was televised. Another good reason to stay at home and listen to the informed Ian Crocker call the plays.

All contributory factors to why so few turned out. But not even all those reasons could silence the fair-weather brigade.

However, if summer football was the way to go, then the clubs would surely have jumped at change years ago. But they haven’t – because, commercially, there are many more distractions during the “good” weather (if you know what it looks like).

Scotland has tried winter shutdowns and holidays before. But the problem we have, if you haven’t noticed, is the unpredictability of our weather.

Currently we play August (even July) to May. Call it ten months, for argument’s sake. So pick a period of ten months during the year.

January to March is hardly reliable weatherwise. And you would still be playing in September into October – when, if I’m not mistaken, a league match between Dundee United and Rangers was washed out by half-time.

Of course, the rest of the continent would have to alter their timetable as well, otherwise some of our clubs might still be playing a full 12 months if they were to get luck in European competition.

A nice idea, but practical? Nah.

Oh, and before we leave the subject, those advocates of summer football might want to cast their minds back to August 1998. Oops. Some might still have been at school. Well, read about it.

Because back then an SPL match, broadcast by Sky on a Sunday evening, attracted just 3,641. Last time I looked, August was still considered summer, even then.

So what are the excuses for that paltry crowd? The wrong kind of summer? Wrong kind of derby? It was Dundee against St Johnstone. Wrong kind of promotion? Oh, that was Sky’s big entry into the fray.

You can find causes and reasons and a case for playing summer football, playing on plastic, playing on the moon. But if all these ideas were so great and radical, why is it 30 years later we’re still hearing the same gripes without one inch of movement?

Wednesday
A slightly different take on sport, perhaps, with news that a Royal Navy destroyer was dispatched to Scotland in a major security scare after a Russian aircraft carrier came within 30 miles of British shores for the first time in 20 years.

HMS York steamed 1,000 miles from Portsmouth keep an eye on the 65,000-tonne Russian visitor.

However, it could have stayed in the south, according to my Admiralty sources. You see, the Russian import was none other than the Admiral Kuznetsov.

And I am reliably informed that, on reaching British territory, it immediately broke down with a mechanical defect. Something to do with its cruciate ligament …

Thursday
Celtic go out of the Europa League, a draw against Udinese not good enough, although the same couldn’t be levelled against their performance against the high-flyers from Serie A. Still, they are out.

So too are Birmingham City, finishing with ten points but behind Bruges and Braga. Bottom of that group table interested me, though. NK Maribor, with a single point.

That’s the same NK Maribor who knocked out Scottish champions Rangers in the qualifying round. Maybe they just peaked too soon …

Friday
And it might not be just on the pitch where Celtic lost out.

Days after being fined by UEFA for signing illegal songs, an element of the Celtic support decide to set off flares – against Italian law – and unfurl a banner stating “F*ck UEFA” – probably against their better judgement.

These people believe they are above the law and beyond reproach – a belief probably not without some foundation given how woolly and open to various interpretations the new Scottish legislation is.

Not that UEFA are governed by Scots law – or any law come to that – other than their own.

Perhaps that was why Celtic last Monday – 27 years to the day after the infamous replayed game at Old Trafford against Rapid Vienna – decided to accept the £13,000 fine imposed by Europe’s football governors for those illicit songs.

You wouldn’t want such a fine doubled or trebled should you contest it. But then, neither could you really contest it if you were willing to accept it in the first place – or are people missing that bit of the story…?

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Ibrox – the 51st state? <em>Picture: mrsdkrebs</em>

Ibrox – the 51st state? Picture: mrsdkrebs

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
As with any career, there are highs and lows during the lifetime of your average footballer, leading a rollercoaster existence.

One such player could be Maurice Edu, a well-mannered, ice cream-loving, Twitter-holic American boy who has had his ups and downs during his spell on the Clyde coast.

His winning goal in one crucial Old Firm game has long been forgotten, replaced for the best part of a year by real inconsistency

But this term, Edu has slowly grafted his way back to his best, capped at the weekend by a stunning strike against Dunfermline.

A week or so back, Edu was Ally McCoist’s pick as MVP (to give it its over-the-pond label) in the 4–2 win against Celtic, although some didn’t see that.

If that accolade and his goal at East End Park were good, it would get even better by the middle of this week when Edu was voted man of the match against Kilmarnock, so completing the transformation from whipping boy (not my description, but one used by a Radio Clyde pundit a few weeks back) to neighbourhood good guy.

I fancy his transformation could have something to do with him being surrounded by some of his own. The arrival of Carlos Bocanegra and Alejandro Bedoya could have made Maurice feel a little more homely.

I well remember Howard Wilkinson once telling me that he signed the Wallace brothers from Southampton, Rod for a million and a half to play up front, Ray for a hundred grand to keep Rod company. And he didn’t mean on the pitch.

Sure, Rangers did have DaMarcus Beasley on their books for a few seasons, but “Dawinger” was no more than a bit-part player during his time in Glasgow, who had his own issues to deal with.

It’s different for someone of Bocanegra’s standing, for instance. Craig Brown, who knew him from Fulham, gave me a glowing testimonial of someone he regarded as a top professional and player, suggesting Bocanegra’s experience – “you don’t play Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea or in front of 100,000 in Mexico City without learning” – would rub off on others.

Is Edu already benefiting? Well, he does look happier, and sounds happier, if his tweets are anything to go by, bro…

It’s obvious that the Stars and Stripes contingent are enjoying it in Glasgow currently, although I can’t get this picture out of my head of that triumvirate, living together under the one roof, something akin to the Beatles, the Young Ones – or, as it’s a trio, maybe the Goodies.

Fun, fun, fun all the way, conveniently ignoring Malmö, Maribor and Falkirk…

Sunday
I could write something about Scotland losing to Argentina in the Rugby World Cup, but that’s too depressing, or about Sebastian Vettel nearly clinching the F1 world championship again, but that’s too predictable.

But I must mention Europe beating USA to win the Solheim Cup, and in particular the drama of those final three singles matches.

However, away from the limelight, there is sad news that United Arab Emirates winger Theyab Awana has been killed in a car crash aged just 21.

His name may not be instantly recognised, but most football fans will be aware of what he famously did, something that will keep his memory alive for many years to come.

Monday
Congratulations are in order when it’s announced that the Mansfield Town owner is to marry the club’s chief executive.

No, it’s not like that. John Radford will wed CEO Carolyn Still, a real Mr and Mrs, the news coming just weeks after her appointment when she denied being in a relationship with the chairman.

Obviously after a couple of half-time pies she changed her mind. But it will be interesting to see how that relationship works out.

Which made me wonder if perhaps this might not have been a better way for Craig Whyte and Martin Bain to resolve their differences…

Tuesday
Kettering strikers Moses Ashikodi and Jean-Paul Marna show just a wee bit too much passion as their side goes down 5–3 to Hayes & Yeading in their Blue Square Premier League game.

Both throw punches and are sent off. Not what any manager wants to see, especially when the team-mates had a (Blue) square go at each other.

Trouble flared when Ashikodi missed a penalty, which Marna had wanted to take. Marna scored from the resulting corner, words were exchanged, as were a few blows, closely followed by two red cards.

Passions and tempers often run high within teams. Training ground flare-ups are common place. Less so during games, but when they occur, not surprisingly, they are well reported.

The first instance I can recall was the Charlton tag-team of Derek Hales and Mick Flannigan having to be pulled apart after a disagreement following an offside call.

More recently, Graeme Le Saux and David Batty became “Le Sau-lt and Batty-ry” while on European duty with Blackburn, with Newcastle’s Kieron Dyer and Lee Bowyer also exchanging more than glances and Christmas cards.

And who could forget Hearts stopper Graeme Hogg coming off a distant second when he criticised his fellow centre-half for a goal conceded in a pre-season friendly against Raith Rovers?

Hogg got a ten-match ban and a broken nose, the aggressor a 14-game suspension.

Now what happened to the latter? Oh, that’s right. Isn’t he the current Scotland national team boss?

Wednesday
For those who haven’t seen me saying it before, I was told there was no such thing as a new story, only an old story presented to a new readership.

All the hullabaloo today is around Rangers’ owner Craig Whyte broadcasting his ambition to take Rangers to the English Premier League, or becoming part of an Atlantic League. Now where have I written or read that before?

Given that the top English clubs said no to developing the Championship (the Second Division in old money) into a “Premiership 2″ a couple of years ago, and that turkeys don’t vote for Christmas (who is going to vote themselves out to make way for either of the Old Firm?), and that Rangers are probably second in any queue behind Celtic, and that Manchester 2008 probably put Rangers’ case or cause back years, I think the chances of the Ibrox club being confused with those from Loftus Road in the near future are somewhat remote.

As for the Atlantic League, I wrote about it 20 years ago during my Evening Times days. Then, the Atlantic League would have the Old Firm, those sleeping giants (well, they were then) from the English north-east, Newcastle United and Sunderland, along with Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord from Holland, Anderlecht and Bruges from Belgium, and Swedes IFK Göteborg.

Unfortunately, the Atlantic League concept did a good impersonation of the Titanic, and disappeared.

Now it’s been trawled up from the depths again, a “new” story to some who haven’t heard it all before. Great if it happened. Or will there be some equally cynical lines being written another two decades from now?

Thursday
Spirits lift in Scotland with news that two of England’s Rugby World Cup party have been banned from Saturday’s “must win” game (yes, “must win” matches are not solely the preserve of the national football team).

Spirits fall when they are named as kicking coach Dave Alred and fitness specialist Paul Stridgeon. And their crime? Ball-switching.

Rules state that you must use the same ball for the conversion as was used to score the try. But England changed it without asking the referee.

Apparently, kicker Jonny Wilkinson thought one of the balls being used was the wrong shape. Millions across the globe will be thinking that’s stating the obvious…

Friday
Celtic will be reflecting on their 1–1 draw with Udinese and how costly that late penalty might be to their Europa League ambitions.

But I wonder if their decision to kick off early in their tie against the Serie A outfit was also a costly exercise.

The crowd was guesstimated at 37,000 by some outlets last night, the swathes of empty green seats testament to many fans’ disgust at the hideous start-time.

OK, it’s not quite as bad as Motherwell’s midweek, mid-afternoon kick-off against Borussia Dortmund back in 1994. But six o’clock is no time to start a football match.

Of course, the switch was made for television. But how much would a TV company pay for that game, against the revenue Celtic missed out on from those absent fans?

Supporters have for too long been shunted around to accommodate TV companies and football clubs. Maybe last night’s distinct lack of crowd involvement and noise (and that’s from a Celtic diehard), and the end result might just make them, and others, think whether it was worth it or not.

Certainly in Sweden supporters have been determined to make clubs aware of just how important they are, both in terms or revenues and atmosphere

I’m sure the Green Brigade or Blue Order might have something to say.

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Sportacus – or Francesco Totti? <em>Picture: Daniel C Griliopoulos</em>

Sportacus – or Francesco Totti? Picture: Daniel C Griliopoulos

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
And the Six Nations draws to a close with the usual amount of cheers and tears. Scotland beat Italy to avoid the wooden spoon – or, given the close relationship between the two nations, maybe it should have been the ice cream scoop.

But the big event saw England fall at the final hurdle to the Irish, so missing out on a Grand Slam. I mean, they only had to turn up to win, such was the 1990-like pre-match hype. That result meant that Wales had a chance of taking the championship, if they beat France by 28 points.

Who the hell started heaping such expectation on Wales in advance of the match in Paris?

Regardless, it was ill-founded, with the French running out easy winners – so handing, if you have been following things, the title to England. They received the series trophy, not in front of 70,000 spectators at the Aviva Stadium, but witnessed by just a few cameras and photographers in a Dublin Hotel.

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An anti-climax, or what? England had few complaints, despite their rally after the break, soundly beaten 24–8 by an Irish side which had led 17–3 at half-time.

“We won the first half, but England won the second half,” said Irish captain Brian O’Driscoll.

Wait a minute. 17–3 at the turnaround, 24–8 at no-side. Surely Ireland won the second half 7–5?

Poor arithmetic, Brian. Or do you have ambitions to be a future Irish finance minister?

Sunday
Rangers beat Celtic 2–1 to take the Scottish League Cup. But that’s not the football highlight of the weekend.

Fiorentina and Roma playing out a 2–2 draw is hardly a scoreline to set pulses racing. But in scoring two goals for Roma, Francesco Totti (who has more than a passing resemblance to Sportacus from Lazy Town, minus the moustache) reached the landmark tally of 200 goals in Serie A.

To put that in to context, Serie A is more than a century old. But Totti is only the sixth player to reach that elusive mark. Giuseppe Meazza and Silvio Piola from the 1930s, and Gunnar Nordahl and José Altafini from the 50s and 60s, had their double-hundred before Roberto Baggio (the unthinking man’s Stevie Fulton) arrived, some 33 years after Altafini.

A decade on, and Totti has emulated their feat. But at the age of 34, he might not add too many more to his collection and certainly doesn’t have a hope of catching Piola’s all-time high of 274.

Of those still playing in Italy’s top flight, only Alessandro Del Piero is close to becoming the seventh member of this exclusive club.

Indeed, it’s not so much a case of marvelling at who has netted 200 goals in Serie A, as recognising the famous names who didn’t even come close: Gabriel Batistuta on 184, Luigi Riva and Roberto Mancini each with 156, while on 142 is Christian Vieri, who does not make tellies for Panasonic…

But returning to the League Cup, do you realise petrol was only 88p a litre when Celtic last won a trophy? Yes, that long…

Monday
It would have been easy to miss it. But the draw for the Betfred World Snooker Championship took place on Monday, where 16 seeds were matched with 16 qualifiers to decide the first round proper at the Crucible.

There was a bit more razzmatazz about the draw, as there is with most things concerning Barry Hearn. No more the draw being held on the radio (which ended in a cock-up when the same player was drawn against two different opponents), or in secret, as it was a few years ago, the outcome held over for a day before being announced. Did I hear the word “fix”?

But even Monday’s event was a pale and poor imitation of what was once the norm, when the draw took place at peak-viewing time on a Saturday afternoon as a main feature on Grandstand. Snooker may still be as popular, but it just doesn’t feature as near the front of the Beeb’s sportfolio…

Tuesday
No sooner had Rangers placed the Co-operative Insurance Cup in their trophy cabinet, than they heard they would be defending the Scottish Communities League Cup next season.

There probably has never been such an extreme switch in where sponsorship cash has been sourced. From the Co-op – mutual, benevolent, social and community based – to the £1 million promised by Scottish government from pimping, fraud and drugs.

Sorry. It doesn’t come directly from the Scottish government’s activities in pimping, money laundering and the likes. The investment actually comes from cash seized from criminals, through the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The Proceeds of Crime Cup? Now that would get you recognised. I hear the Colombian authorities are looking at having a Cocaine Bowl next season.

And just a thought. After all the brouhaha of the Old Firm game at Parkhead a few weeks ago, could there be a chance in the future where troublesome managers and players – already threatened by authorities and polis alike – might end up as unsuspecting sponsors of a cup competition their teams are entered in?

Wednesday
And Elizabeth Taylor dies. Many mourn her passing. I just reflect on the small fortune she probably cost me over the years.

See, because of her, I fell for the likes of Charlotte Brew, Jenny Hembrow, Linda Sheedy, Geraldine Rees, Joy Carrier, Valerie Alder, Jacqui Oliver, Gee Armytage, Venetia Williams, Penny Ffitch-Heyes, Tarnya Davies and Rosemary Henderson. Not in the way you would “fall” for a movie star.

No. I thought that at least one of them would follow Liz and win the Grand National, just as she did on Pie, by Two Get One Free out of The Local Bakery (that’s not an offer to look out for on your next shopping trip, but the sire and dam), in the 1944 film National Velvet.

So muggins here always thought that the dream world of the big screen might just become reality. Much to the delight of my local bookie.

Ach, he’s not bad really. If I stick twenty quid on them, he does give me 500/1 every year on Kilnockie winning the Scottish Cup.

Thursday
Talking about Hollywood, that thingy called YouTube (or YouYaTube, as the rival Glesca derivative is known) makes stars out of ordinary folk. Just film it, edit and stick it up, and before very long there you are, entertaining people you have never been formally introduced to, who are laughing at your expense.

This blockbuster was sent to me the other day. No animals were harmed in the making of this video. However, the same cannot be said for pies and pints.

Judge for yourself, and please tell me a) if Voiceover Man from The X Factor has anything to worry about, b) if this is not the best hand-off you’ve ever seen and c) do people’s arses look bigger on screen?

PS – Should anyone take exception to this offering, my name is Roddy fae Selkirk…

Friday
I suspect like a great many, I get confused over who can play for who at international level. It’s now become the norm that you can play for anyone, even if you have represented a different country at an under-age level.

Take Victor Moses, sold to Wigan a few years ago as cash-strapped Crystal Palace hawked off any talent they had. Despite playing for England at under-17, under-19 and under-21 level, Moses might play for Nigeria against Ethiopia in the Africa Cup of Nations – which, apart from the word “of”, is ostensibly the same as the old African Nations Cup.

Moses was born in Kaduna, Nigeria, but has dual nationality. He may, quite possibly, have triple nationality. But Ireland are not sure whether they have a claim because of the similarity between national flags.

Anyway, the FIFA police are not happy because protocols and paperwork haven’t been completed, making Moses ineligible, or at least until someone finds a pen.

But hang on. Could Scotland have a claim? I mean, we had Jordan. And Moses would have been nothing without Joe…

Surely Moses is a British or UK passport holder. I’m sure someone at Wigan could have a word with him. Maybe James McCarthy for instance. Oh, maybe not the best choice there.

Of course, Nigeria have bigger problems. Goalkeeper Victor Enyeama has been ruled out of the game because of an ankle injury, and sadly not because he’d accidentally been stuck up someone’s arse…

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The Rangers crest
By Stewart Weir

There was a time when only big internationals or cup finals merited live TV coverage.

Nowadays, half the stuff broadcast live and exclusive doesn’t deserve a look, never mind a second one. Not so Saturday’s SPL match between Hamilton Accies and Rangers.

ESPN (who have filled a bit of the void left by Setanta) gave punters the chance to view their wares over Saturday and Sunday for nowt. A giveaway, a freebee.

Nice touch as it was, in reality it was nothing more than a marketing ploy to try and get folks to buy in to their coverage of the MLS, Bundesliga, Serie A, and of course our very own Scottish Premier League.

Top of the bill at noon on Saturday were “The Accidentals” against the champions. But, pitched against Everton v Manchester United, and free or not, the South Lanarkshire showdown was always going to be a distant second in terms of viewers.

Still, I ended up, well for 45 minutes at least, being one who tuned in to the former.

No, it wasn’t that my home-town team were playing. Nor was it about not knocking back something for nothing.

It just took me that long to work out what I was watching, and why.

While Accies were resplendent in their red and white hoops, Rangers looked nothing like themselves, turned out in something more akin to the New Zealand rugby team. Even the visiting punters at Douglas Park found themselves confused when it came to singing about “Walter Smith’s Blue and White Army”.

Saturday saw the Ibrox club debut their newest away kit. And of course, they had to. Think around the problem.

On the road, and with a great, smashing, super away outfit that was obviously modelled on Bully of Bullseye fame (in other words red and white stripes), there would just have been too much of a colour clash for punters, officials and commentators alike.

So Rangers just had to play in their third-choice little black number.

But silly me. Here was me forgetting that Rangers actually play in blue. And in forty-plus years of watching fitba I have never mistaken Hamilton Accies’ colour scheme, whether horizontal or vertical, for that of the Gers.

So why a black kit at the weekend?

It has nothing to do with creaming more out of their punters. They do require a third strip for Europe.

Actually, in the space of eight words, I’ve changed my mind. It is about cashing in on every last penny.

I could say it will be the only way the Ibrox will find themselves back in the black this year, but that would be a cheap shot – which is more than can be said about this latest kit, retailing between £28 and £35 depending on what size of Bear you are.

I completely understand why clubs need change kits. There will always be colour clashes. But three?

Wearing it on Saturday against Hamilton was just the most blatant fashion show before Monday’s release, an attempt to get more money out of punters. What was wrong with the traditional blue?

Of course, those who suffer from colour blindness may have already latched on to the point that people with that affliction tend not to see red or green.

Given Accies hooped tops, do you think Rangers will therefore break with tradition the first time they travel to Celtic Park this term by wearing black in Paradise?

It is of course all one big con, and one which has been perpetuated for ages.

Anyone remember the purple strip that Rangers brought out in the early 90’s, again on the pretext that it was for Europe?

Some mugs bought it, although to be honest the only places I ever saw it worn was on building sites or in photos of the less-well-off in Malawi. Most just had a lilac whine, seeing right through the cunning plan.

And if I am not mistaken, Rangers only wore it once, when they crossed the water to face those giants of European soccer, eh, Motherwell. Is it just something with coming to South Lanarkshire?

It seems to be a perennial problem when Rangers have a second-choice jumper in red and usually accompanied by red neck. But not always.

I recall some time ago John Greig, in his capacity as PRO at Ibrox pointing out as he left a press conference ahead of a Champions League qualifier against IFK Gothenburg that Rangers – with a blue and a white kit to choose from – had to play in red because of a colour clash.

A second after he’d left the room, Greigy re-entered and barked; “This is a one-aff – dinnae anybody printing we’ve brought out another set o’ strips.” Third kits have always been a touchy subject in Govan.

And those across the other side of Glasgow are not above and beyond reproach either.

What does green and white hoops clash with? The first person who puts Hibs up as an example, dig out your Topical Times annuals of the early 70’s to see how Celtic and Hibs happily met in a series of finals, both playing in traditional colour schemes.

And remember, that was at a time when many still only had a black and white telly.

Oh, and for those famous Hoops. How Celtic fans are proud of them. The most famous colours in the world? So why turn up at Old Trafford a few years ago wearing yellow?

To repeat myself, I know the need for a change of clothes. But it’s when they are worn, and the need to almost to justify having them, that sticks in my craw, not to mention confusing the hell out of me.