It’s the second Saturday in April, and that means the Melrose Sevens. Saracens, the defending champions, reign supreme again, but only just as they see off a gutsy challenge from French outfit Clermont Auvergne.
Melrose remains the original, and to my mind, the best Sevens tournament there is. Yes, there might be bigger crowds, better exponents and more glamorous locations elsewhere. But where else would you have the match ball for the final delivered by a Grand National winner (Ryan Mania), or a kick-off delayed because Little Bo Peep and was rounding up her sheep, or a call from the crowd of ‘Aye, yir mother tackles better.’
Sevens is a world-wide game now, included in the Commonwealth Games, and the Olympic Games for 2016, as Scott Hastings must have mentioned three-dozen times in commentary, just to put himself in the frame for a trip down to Rio. As if to prove the world-wide appeal, India arrived as one of the guest sides at The Greenyards. A few years ago, China visited. India did little better, beaten 45-0 in their only appearance.
Oh, imagine the ignominy of returning home to the biggest democracy in the world with that score against your name. Nothing to do with the margin, just that it was Gala who inflicted it …
After mayhem amongst Millwall fans at Wembley, today Newcastle United supporters kick-off against followers of Sunderland, police, polis horses, wheelie bins and anything else that gets in their way.
The ‘English Disease’ has been kept in check for years, but it bubbles and simmers under the surface and, as was proved this weekend, doesn’t take much to combust. Of course, hooliganism is a curse throughout football. Even in Scotland, despite the best efforts of some to ignore it, and divert the focus instead on to banners and songs …
Take your pick. But Scottish football was today split/divided/in meltdown/at Civil War after Ross County and St Mirren voted down the SPL proposal for league reconstruction. Without the necessary mandate, the SPL’s 12-12-18 option (unwanted, even hated amongst ordinary fans) is booted into the long grass.
“Putting Scottish football in jeopardy,” was how Aberdeen chairman Stewart Milne saw Ross County and St Mirren’s actions, rich from the man who when given the chance to ditch the 11-1 majority rule, didn’t act.
“Self-interest,” was how Scot Gardiner of Dundee viewed the actions of Roy MacGregor and Stewart Gilmour, rich from a man who believed he had bettered Scottish football when he took a club, 24-points worse off than the Division One champions, into the SPL to do no more than make up the numbers, and then sacked the manager.
“It was Rangers,” was how the eejits, conspiracy theorists and paranoid of Scottish football saw it.
What MacGregor and Gilmour did see was straight through the gossamer of league reconstruction. It was ill-conceived, flimsy, and with no guarantee of succeeding.
Interesting, that in talking up the need for change and more exciting matches, Peter Lawwell of Celtic, one of the SPL’s driving forces behind reconstruction, stated ‘nine thousand were at the Ramsdens Cup final, so too at Partick Thistle against Morton, and St Mirren also took about 17,000 to Hampden (or the Scottish Communities League Cup final).
In all three instances, Scottish Football League-organised tournaments and nothing to do with the SPL’s management or Board. That didn’t go unnoticed.
What also hadn’t gone unnoticed was the language used by one SPL chairman in particular, especially amongst some of his voting members and especially within Division One clubs, that the proposed joining for the SPL/SFL membership ‘wasn’t an amalgamation but a reverse takeover,’ and how League teams had ‘bowling club constitutions.’
He might watch who he says that to in the future. Obviously money was at the core of the upset shown by the defeated SPL members. Maybe there was a sponsor after all ready to be unveiled for the SPL, and another, separate backer, for the middle division when the 8-8-8 split came in. I say maybe, because no-one was quite sure, and those who did know were not for letting on.
Where this all ends, who knows? What is evident is that football ‘people’ are struggling to come up with plausible, workable solutions. I’ve suggested before, that Scottish football should look to someone like Ken Schofield, someone with a sporting business head, who transformed European Tour golf and English cricket, to come up with a plan, not some politician or even worse, a committee of football chairman headed by an expensive paper shuffler. Of course they won’t, because out of all of this, the last thing they want is home truths, or to be one of the turkeys compelled to vote for a merry, happy, and prosperous Christmas …
This week, Moss decided to have a pop at our Susie in his usual chauvinistic tones, stating he didn’t think women could be top race drivers because they lacked ‘mental aptitude.’ Said the man who not so long ago, showed his mental aptitude and awareness by falling down a lift shaft …
Margaret Thatcher is laid to rest, and not surprisingly, there is plenty of comment about her on social media, even around her connections with sport. And I don’t mean Dennis here. People flag up her opposition to British athletes going to Moscow in 1980, the rebel cricket tour to South Africa, Bradford, Heysel and how politically involved she, and her Government of the day, were around events Hillsborough.
However, given how despised she was in Scotland, for various reasons, I can’t help but point out to Tom Hall on the Scottish Football Blog that during her time in office, Scotland reached three World Cups, Dundee United reached the UEFA Cup final and the semi-finals of the European Cup, while Aberdeen won the Cup-Winners-Cup and also a semi-final in that tournament. And, we beat England at Wembley and exported Alex Ferguson, the most successful manager in history. So not all bad.
Personally, some might say bizarrely, two sporting memories stick out. One was the busload of Welsh rugby fans turning up in Edinburgh in 1983 with a banner in the back window proclaiming; “Keep Llanwern, Close Ravenscraig.” The other was the abuse that Airdrie ‘keeper John Martin took as a ‘scab’ during the Miners Strike, and how that continued for years thereafter. Turning people against people, communities again communities, was one of Mrs Thatcher’s biggest achievements.
Meanwhile, it emerges that Craig Whyte has sold his rights to someone wanting to make his version of events during his time at Ibrox. What form ‘Rangers: The Movie’ takes, we can’t be sure. And who should play Craig Whyte? Well, Tom Courtenay did a fantastic job as Billy Liar, but might be considered past it now. And Danny Kaye, superb as Walter Mitty, is somewhere else. No, for me, given the nature of the storyline, might I suggest Craig Whyte should be played by Paul Baxendale-Walker? Just a thought, you understand …
And, as everyone guessed, some of us much sooner than other (like a year ago), Sir Chris Hoy retires from international cycling. As the BBC said on their website; “Sir Chris Hoy retires, assured of his place in British sporting history.” Talk about stating the obvious.
There is no doubt that Hoy is worthy of whatever title people want to pin on him; icon; legend; hero; role-model. Of course, someone of his standing can’t quit without us getting a healthy ration of my least-favourite buzzword, ‘legacy.’ And what will Hoy’s legacy be?
Well, apart from the velodrome that carries his name, probably making life doubly-difficult, if not impossible, for any Scots or British cyclist who follows in his wheel tracks. Just imagine winning five Olympic gold medals and still be rated second in the list of greats.
All sport seems dominated by this word, legacy. So, what ‘legacy’ was it that inspired Britain’s greatest Olympian to take up cycling? Was it watching the Tour de France? Was it having the often-lethal wooden Commonwealth Games track in Edinburgh to pedal around? Or was it Chris Boardman on his super Lotus-engineered bike? No. It was none of the above.
Unfortunately for the legacy merchants, Hoy’s inspiration to get a bike (as he didn’t have one to get on at the time), came from watching the film ‘ET.’ So instead of spending millions, if not billions, on attempting to guarantee a sporting legacy, really the UK and Scottish Governments should have been offering free subscriptions to Sky Movies …
‘The Weirdos’ – the annual, most irreverent sports awards in the land – are still eight months away. But already we have a contender for ‘Numptie of the Year.’ Take a bow Gillian Renwick, SNP Councillor for Lenzie & Kirkintilloch South in East Dunbartonshire.
However, to my mind, no-one would have asked that question unless they were looking for answers in the affirmative? I hope she realises she’s done her chances of ever being Sports Minister untold damage, while given her spelling of velodrome, Education Minister is probably another office she won’t see!