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Tom Daley

Falkirk Stadium’s artificial pitch

Saturday
The Falkirk – Rangers Scottish Cup tie is marred by a flare throwing incident that scars the home club’s recently laid plastic pitch.

I don’t like flares; I think they are dangerous and have no place in football. Rather like the morons that cheered the efforts of the Falkirk ground staff who attempted to kill the fire. I would say they won’t be laughing if Rangers were to be fined for their actions, or pay for the damage done. But that’s not true either. Those fans think their club has money to burn – especially when it comes to paying for their stupidity.

Sunday

Tynecastle  Hearts destroyed by Celtic

Tynecastle
Hearts destroyed by Celtic

Vladimir Romanov, November 2005: “Hearts will be champions of Europe in 10 years’ time, They will never lose 5-0 to Barcelona or Chelsea or any other club.”

December 2013: Hearts 0 Celtic 7 …

Either Mr Romanov was talking tripe, or the next two years will be the most exciting spell any club, anywhere in the world, has ever enjoyed. I think we’ve guessed the answer a while back!

Monday
I’m left shocked, stunned, surprised, even bewildered. No, not that Tom Daley decides the time is right for him to ‘come out.’ I just never saw John Hughes as the man to replace Terry Butcher as manager at Inverness Caley Thistle …

Tuesday

Hampden Park Questions have been asked

Hampden Park
Questions have been asked

Hindsight is always 20/20, never more in sport. When Hampden was being rebuilt in the late 90’s, I asked an extremely high-ranking official involved in sports administration why no consideration was made to include an athletics track around what was being labelled a ‘National Stadium.’

On seeing the bulldozers move into Hampden to begin the refurbishment and transformation of the said venue for the Commonwealth Games, I decided to see if there was a story to be had from the same individual. Sadly, there was none, entirely due to having the phone put down on me after they had blurted ‘no comment.’ Is this what they mean by ‘legacy’?

Wednesday
Not a good night for Manchester United manager David Moyes, losing to his former club Everton at Old Trafford. One can only imagine how Moyes, who never actually achieved that particular feat during his tenure at Everton, must have been feeling afterwards.

Still, it was a really thoughtful gesture from those producing the ITN News At Ten to at least try and make him feel a bit better!!

Thursday

Michel Platini likes the idea of 'sin bins' (Pic: Creative Commons)

Michel Platini likes the idea of ‘sin bins’
(Pic: Creative Commons)

And UEFA supremo Michel Platini has called for yellow cards to be replaced by a sin-bin. Another innovation from UEFA, which given the erratic nature of some referees, is likely to be as much of a success as using six match officials. Still, an interesting concept, although I’m not sure how some fans would react to paying thirty or forty quid just to watch a five-a-side game …

Friday
The draw for the World Cup takes place in Brazil and I like every other football fan on the planet will be full of anticipation just to see what FIFA’s convoluted draw procedure throws up. That said, regardless of who is doing the introductions, the draw, or the commentary, I know that as a Scots, somewhere in the back of my head, Jim Bowen will be saying ‘now let’s see what you could have won …’

Still, while seeing who England get, who Spain begin their defence against, and when we need to set the planner to watch Brazil, I’ll also be thinking about Scotland’s improved world ranking.

Aye right!

Tom Daley and Max Brick <em>Picture: An Honorable German</em>

Tom Daley and Max Brick Picture: An Honorable German

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
It was the first opportunity Rangers fans had to both show and voice their support for their club, now perilously close to being their former club.

The game against Kilmarnock saw a clamour for tickets last witnessed in the run-up to the UEFA Cup in Manchester back in 2008. And if that event brought out all that was bad in some elements of the Gers support, then so did Saturday’s show of loyalty.

We didn’t have to wait long until the strains of The Billy Boys were echoing around Ibrox, as some were quick to latch on to, revelling with the texts they were sending. Mistakenly, as it was actually visiting supporters belting out “Hello, hello we are the Killie boys”. Still, an easy mistake to make for untrained news hounds to make.

What was in no doubt was the re-emergence of the F-word, directed mostly – if not entirely – at referee Ian Brines. It was as if some elements of the Rangers following had reverted to (the old) type in this time of crisis.

But, as I had tweeted last week, just who do you fine or take points from when your team is skint and has already suffered a points reduction?

It was unsavoury, and unwelcomed. But then, no officers of the law heard it either. Did they?

The F-word has, or maybe had, been successfully banished from Ibrox. Or at least, from amongst Rangers fans. Because as I mentioned before, seeing Celtic followers at the first Old Firm game of term unfurl a banner declaring “Paddy McCourt’s Fenian Army”.

Again, as I’ve stated before, the F-word is like the N-word. No one else can use it, unless you belong to that ethnic grouping, or culture. Probably got that explanation wrong. But that’s easy to do.

Because of having raised this issue on Sunday afternoon on Twitter, I have to say I was hugely enlightened by what “F” meant to different folks. One tweeter said: “Its a historical term for an Irish Republican. If Rangers fans use that to mean ‘catholic’ then they are clueless.” Which, unless I’m mistaken, is the opposite to what certain church leaders have said.

Someone else offered: “I’m proud to be a Fenian. What those idiots don’t know is a lot of great Fenian leaders and men were not catholic.”

Another involved in the debate reckoned there were few 19th-century Irish historians contained in the stands at Ibrox. Which I would agree entirely with, but would say something not dissimilar about Celtic Park.

Another Hoops fan said: “Don’t see what is confusing about it. You know that they are using it in a derogatory manner. We use it in its traditional meaning” – as explained by this contributor who added: “Depends on the context. If a Celtic mate called me a crazy Fenian in a football sense, its banter.”

All of which, I have to say, took most of an afternoon to explain, several times over, and differently on each occasion.

Then, just when you think you’ve heard the last of it, does BBC Sportscene frontman Rob Maclean (the SFA agenda-setter) not get a fearful bashing on Twitter, because of what people believed he had said, rather than what he actually broadcast around referee Brines and that F-word.

What causes most offence to Celtic folk are references to blood, and whatever prefix or suffix some wish to attach to the F-word. And I couldn’t agree more.

Equally, though, the word shouldn’t be used to taunt or goad others, regardless of how justified you might think it is. Scotland doesn’t need the F-word. So why not just ban it once and for all?

Sunday
Boxing lives on hype. It always has. Staged aggro at press conferences is all part of the selling process, but occasionally it goes a wee bit too far. Actually, make that a big bit too far.

Calling the weekend eventful for British boxer Dereck Chisora would be an understatement. It began with him slapping Vitali Klitschko at the weigh-in for Satuday’s heavyweight title fight, earning him a fine from the World Boxing Council.

He then decided to spit water over Vitali’s brother Wladimir, the WBA/IBF/WBO champion, as the introductions were taking place in the ring ahead of his points loss to Vitali.

But what came afterwards was shameful and comedic. The after-fight press conference turned into the real fight of the evening, with Chisora stepping from the platform to confront former world champion David Haye, who had taken the opportunity to noise up the Klitschkos.

Take a look. There were those who believed this was all staged, one big act to sell tickets to Haye vs Klitschko I, Klitschko II or Chisora. Forget that. These two went for it because they hated each other’s presence.

In an instant, Chisora lost all respect he might have gained from going the distance minutes earlier, while Haye might have lost his career, whether as a film performer, a pundit or a pugilist.

It was embarrassing, dangerous and damaging to boxing and its image. But it was nothing new. I remember more than quarter of a century ago it all kicking off when Errol Christie and Mark Kaylor got a little too close at a photoshoot to promote their forthcoming title fight.

They ended rolling about in the street, and made as many headlines in their day as Chisora and Haye did. The British Boxing Board of Control had their say, and their share of the money from the two of them. But back then we didn’t see it four times an hour for a day-and-a-half afterwards.

In 1985 it was done, dusted and dealt with. You’d struggle to find video of it. Something we won’t be saying 25 years from now about Chisora and Haye.

Monday
Scotland coach Craig Levein names his squad for the forthcoming international against Slovenia with some names omitted.

Levein obviously doesn’t fancy Ross McCormack of Leeds United. Sixteen goals this season wasn’t enough to get him a place – and, as he fumed to Ronnie MacKay in the Scottish Sun: “[You have] Craig Mackail-Smith who is not playing for his club, Jamie Mackie is not playing for his club and David Goodwillie is not playing for his club.”

So, they’ll be fresh for Scotland, then …

Another to miss out, again, was Wolves in-form striker (three words that cannot be attached to anyone else who qualifies for Scotland) Steven Fletcher.

One has to admire Levein. He’s sticking to his guns – namely, that until Fletcher says sorry, and tells Levein personally, and first, he won’t be considered.

Just as there is a fine dividing line between genius and madness, so there seems to be little between stubbornness and stupidity.

What will happen next? My betting is that Scotland will need to win their last five games by 4–0 or more to qualify for Brazil, Fletcher will get a recall, fail to score, and then get the blame of Scotland’s non-participation in 2014.

Can I suggest that Fletcher might do it publicly, but in the presence of Levein? Something along these lines I think would greatly impress everyone.

Tuesday
Rangers owner Craig Whyte has been called many things of late. A hearing in London described him as “thoroughly unfit”, while a court in Glasgow referred to him as “wholly unreliable”.

Today, he could have been branded as “slightly forgetful”, “bewilderingly clumsy” or even “abundantly absent-minded”.

See, after denying he had mortgaged off Rangers’ season ticket money to fund his takeover at Ibrox, Mr Whyte suddenly remembered he had profited to the tune of £20 million plus VAT for three years’ worth of tickets, and not £24.4 million over four years as had been reported weeks earlier by the Daily Record.

Obviously, Mr Whyte had been completely thrown by the Record’s figures and increments of time. In his prepared statement, Whyte said regretted not being “more transparent”.

Not actually the case. Because quite a few have seen right through Mr Whyte from the off.

Wednesday
In other news, the diving World Cup is taking place at the London Aquatic Centre, the warm-up (or hose-down) event ahead of this summer’s Olympics.

While Tom Daley is in action, I’m surprised at the non-appearance of Sone Aluko and Garry O’Connor

Thursday
And administration at Rangers claims its first big-named casualties as director of football Gordon Smith and chief operating officer Ali Russell depart.

While Russell only spoke of his chance to serve the club, Smith launched a broadside at the “owner”, stating: “I was brought in by Craig Whyte but because his control and reputation has been damaged by recent disclosures, I feel my own position has been undermined by association”. Damning, if you ask me.

But spare a thought for Australian internationalist Matt McKay. Because while Smith and Russell were reportedly the “first big-name casualties”, Rangers had already agreed a fee with South Korean club Busan I’Park for McKay.

While he hasn’t departed yet, it tells you something of the impact McKay failed to make when the COO’s departure make more headlines than that of a first-team squad player …

Friday
Leaving Ibrox around the same time was a dossier, on its way to Strathclyde Police, containing the findings of administrators Duff & Phelps.

Forced into administration, Rangers have a “wee” tax bill approaching £15m, a “big one” which could be anything up to £75m, and no trace of the £33 million that Craig Whyte says he put into the club’s coffers.

Add up all those figures – and what is owed to other clubs, or what has been hawked off to outside agencies – and you’d need a record-busting EuroMillions win to cover Rangers’ debt.

Although you need two quid to buy one of those tickets …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, track-fighting man <em>Picture: Chell Hill</em>

Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, track-fighting man Picture: Chell Hill

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Usain Bolt aside, athletics has been up against it in recent times, drugs putting a question mark against everyone. So those in charge of the sport have tried all kinds of marketing ploys to lift the popularity, from Golden to Diamond leagues, strange-coloured vests, and world record attempts at every opportunity.

But it appears they might have cracked it with a completely new event – the middleweight street-fighter 3,000m steeplechase. I know there have been wee neds and polis throughout Scotland participating in this event for years, but never on a world stage.

Watch this and tell me who wouldn’t want this in the 2012 London Olympics or Glasgow 2014?

Channel 5 has live boxing, the British and Commonwealth heavyweight title fight between holder Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury.

Fury took the win on points after 12 rounds, which I had scored 117–112 in his favour. There were some inquisitive looks at me when the MC read out the judges’ scorecards, the first two giving Fury the fight by the same margin. There are those amongst my family and friends who forget what I used to do for a living.

All in all, it was more thud and blunder than blood and thunder, but a good enough scrap nevertheless. I’d score the contest 7/10, above average, because over the years I’ve paid more to watch worse…

Sunday
The German Grand Prix lost out to a BBQ. I admit, I missed a great race (although I watched the highlights later).

Star performance of the day comes from Mark Cavendish, who won the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris, becoming Britain’s first winner of the green jersey for the race’s best sprinter.

Cavendish deserves the plaudits for his achievement, although what he won was a series of races within one big race. Overall, he finished 130th, ninety-nine places behind the top Brit, Geraint Thomas.

Still, Cavendish rewrote the history books in capturing that green jersey, and had plenty more written about him as a result.

But imagine if he had taken such a title and finished at the head of the field. What media frenzy would have followed that?

Well, back in 1984, that’s what Scotland’s Robert Millar did, winning the King of the Mountains red polka-dot jersey outright and finishing an amazing fourth overall.

But Millar’s incredible performance merited probably a tenth of the exposure in this country that Cavendish’s did.

That’s how much sport has grown in the last quarter of a century. Or do I mean the hype around it?

Monday
While he might never have enjoyed the hero-worship of Jimmy White or Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry was always a popular guy.

People presented him with awards aplenty, adoring fans even commissioning special trophies to mark his achievements, with my good friend Neil White’s Waterford Crystal piece commemorating Hendry’s 100 Crucible centuries a particularly striking gift.

Whenever the seven-times world champion was signing autographs, there would be a lengthy queue, with all sorts wanting him to pen their books, photographs, programmes, tickets and the likes – and, in the case of a few daring young ladies, certain parts of their anatomy.

Stephen joked a few months that he was now the property of the granny brigade. But just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse when it came to admirers…

I have to say, all credit to Stephen for posing as an Apache warrior…

Tuesday
While Rangers entertain Malmö (although they struggled to do the same with the home support) in their Champions League qualifier at Ibrox, holders Barcelona are participating in the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena along with Bayern Munich (who they would eventually defeat in the final), AC Milan and Internacional from Brazil.

Audi spend a shed-load of dosh year-on-year backing their own record-breaking team in endurance car races, especially at Le Mans.

But while there are those out there trying to tell butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers just how wonderful motorsport sponsorship is for brand awareness, here is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world sinking even more cash (they are official car suppliers to Manchester United) in football.

What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?

Back to Ibrox, and in the inner bowels of the great stadium ahead of the game, I’m interviewing the legend that is the “Greatest Ever Ranger”, John Greig. “Greigy” is helping me with a few chapters for a book idea I’m working on and complains bitterly that I’ve asked him to recall some details from nearly 50 years ago.

He then rhymes off team-mates, goalscorers, who passed to who and other recollections as if it were yesterday.

What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?

Wednesday
One year to go to London 2012. 365 days now, or is it 366? It’s a year, anyway. Unfortunately my preparations have been curtailed somewhat by injury (a long-term Achilles problem has flared up again), and the fact that I am still trying to decide what event I want to compete in. This decision-making process will be all the easier once I work out what sport I am going to be good at.

I’m still thinking football, as the token Scot – or judo, as you would get to keep a nice jacket if nothing else.

It might be my imagination, but champion diver Tom Daley has started appearing even more regularly on my TV, fronting the Nestlé “Get Set, Go Free” campaign.

Now as a diver, young Tom is agile, inventive and expressive – all of the things he is not in this advert.

I noted that while he tried out golf and hockey, the kept him well away from horses. Copyright there probably belongs to Zara Phillips.

Of course, there has only ever been one athlete capable of world-class diving and being able to act with it. Watch and learn, Tom, from a master at work.

Thursday
El-Hadji Diouf has always had the ability to play at the very highest level. He has also had the ability throughout his career to start a fight in an empty hoose.

This week Diouf fell out of love with the Senegal Football Federation (FSF) which banned him for five years after comments he had made on Radio France Internationale, in which he claimed that “the whole system of African football is corrupt”. I couldn’t possibly comment.

But Diouf is naturally upset by the outcome and promised he would “go to war” with the FSF. Well, he wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t warring with someone. Ask Scott Brown, the players of QPR, and at least one Celtic fan. The list is endless.

This latest spat, coupled with Diouf’s non-appearance for Blackburn’s return for pre-season training, has put his future at Ewood Park in doubt, with Rovers boss Steve Kean indicating that perhaps the time was right for the player to leave the club.

And here was me thinking that Kean had allowed Diouf to play at the tail-end of last season with Rangers, just so he could welcome him back with open arms.

However, there might have been some method in El-Hadji’s madness, missing the making of this.

Maybe Tom Daley isn’t that bad after all…

Friday
Northern Ireland’s second-best golfer Rory McIlroy doesn’t like criticism levelled at him by American broadcaster Jay Townsend on Twitter.

After seeing the US Open champion double-bogey the last hole at Killarney, Townsend tweeted: “It was some of the worst course management I’ve ever seen beyond under-10 boys’ golf competition.”

McIlroy countered: “Jay Townsend shut up… you’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing.”

Townsend responded with: “I stand by my comments.”

The Ulsterman retaliated with “Well, I stand by my caddie,” and then revealed: “I have now blocked him on Twitter so I won’t be reading anything more.”

Different sport, different people, different times and different technology.

But you could never see someone like Graeme Souness in his pomp, or Sir Alex Ferguson, resolving their differences with someone by telling them they’d blocked them on Twitter…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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Tiger Woods interviews his new caddie <em>Picture: Pete Souza</em>

Tiger Woods interviews his new caddie Picture: Pete Souza

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
It’s early morning, I’m trying to catch a train, and I’m not really paying much attention to who or what the car radio is tuned to – but the ears twitch when I hear the name Pete Waterfield mentioned.

No, he’s nowt to do with Rick Astley, Michaela Strachan or the Hit Man and Her. Pete is in fact Tom Daley’s synchronised diving partner.

Diving is a sport which as graceful as it looks, and is one where the competitors take a hellish pounding, as Pete and his former diving buddy Leon Taylor once explained quite graphically when I was in their company on a Red Bull jaunt at Silverstone. (They were there along with Jason Queally and Chris Hoy, the athletes among the assembled gathering playing an accident damage and injury version of Trump Cards, which the divers won hands down.)

Back to the radio report, and the female voice informs me that illness means Waterfield apparently could miss pairing-up with Daley for the “ten-kilometre synchronised dive event” in Shanghai.

10K? I wouldn’t fancy climbing the ladder, never mind freefalling from it…

Late afternoon and I get a tweet through to say Northern Ireland have beaten Scotland 4–3 in the snooker World Cup in Bangkok.

What the report didn’t say was that the Scots were World Cup holders, the defending champions, as they had been since 1996. In a fit of temper, I immediately delete Barry Hearn from my Christmas card list.

You see, if Hearn hadn’t come in with all his clever ideas on how to make snooker bigger and better, and had allowed the game to happily stagnate as it was under the previous regime at World Snooker, us Scots could have safely looked forward to another 15 years of not having to defend our status as champions of the world. Blah.

It also means that I don’t have a ready-made counter when I’m asked to name a sport where Scotland are world champions, as I don’t think elephant polo is yet recognised by the IOC…

Sunday
Wire snaps (for non-press folks, these are one-line tasters to breaking stories) are a source of amusement, especially when the same name might appear once or twice on the news agenda.

BBC News Glasgow & West announced: “Weir signs one-year Rangers deal.”

I suppose that’s a slightly different way for Ally McCoist and Craig Whyte to get a sniff of that £161 million EuroMillions cash rather than just sending a begging letter to Largs…

Meanwhile the Copa América continues, although you really have to ask just how serious some were taking it all as witnessed by this, which has to be one of the worst exhibitions of penalty taking ever.

Monday
Take a large measure of success, several (and various) alcoholic beverages and a dollop of sleep deprivation, mix together, allow to react overnight, then stick an interview microphone in first thing the next morning and sample the concoction. It will inevitably put a smile on your face.

You know what I mean if you’ve viewed Freddie Flintoff, vintage of 2005, post-Ashes triumph. So too Darren Clarke’s morning after the night before (which hadn’t yet ended) interview with BBC Radio 5 Live’s Iain Carter on his first full day as Open champion.

We all smiled and related to the big, middle-aged bloke with the belly, who likes his cigars and the odd beer, and who has overcome his share of real-life tragedy, who on Sunday triumphed over the best golfers and the worst of conditions to claim his first Major.

His interview on Monday morning with Beeb man Carter was one 5 Live played several times over. And, like his win the previous day, it never failed to make you smile…

Tuesday
Labour MP Tom Watson has been dogged in his pursuit of answers around the entire News Of The World phone-hacking scandal. He also managed to inject a moment of levity to the select committee hearing following the attack on Rupert Murdoch, when Mr Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng struck out at attacker Jonathan May-Bowles, otherwise known as Jonnie Marbles to his follower and friend.

“Your wife has a very good left hook,” said Watson to Murdoch as proceedings reconvened. Nice line, wrong summation. It was in fact more of a right jab.

Still, Mr Watson showed with that one line he has all the makings of a a Shadow if not future Minister for Sport…

Wednesday
The partnership between Tiger Woods and caddie Steve Williams ends acrimoniously after 12 years and 13 Major titles, the golfer posting news of the divorce on his website.

Williams had obviously taken time to consider his response, before thinking “to hell with that” and going for the jugular.

“Realistically, I could look back and say I’ve wasted the last two years of my life because he’s [Woods] played infrequently, he’s been injured and he’s played poorly,” said Williams.

“I was prepared to hang in there through thick and thin, so I found the timing extraordinary.”

That any caddie launches a salvo on a former employer is something in itself, given that he’ll have to resume bagman duties with someone new – although Williams has been seen next to Adam Scott of late.

Williams for a few years was the answer to the oft-asked trick question, “Name New Zealand’s highest-paid sportsman” – although I fail to see how you could be considered a sportsman just by showing your boss a certain club, or helping line up several birdies.

And anyway, wasn’t there someone else in Tiger’s entourage who also performed those duties, off-course?

Thursday
Couldn’t help but notice one of the tweets sent out by Graham Spiers, the Scottish sporting correspondent for the Times, when he referred to Śląsk Wroclaw, Dundee United’s European opponents, as “this Polish mob”.

That will be the Polish mob that are still in Europe?

Friday
Sir Alex Ferguson has been splashing the cash this summer, almost £19m of it on Spanish U21 goalie David de Gea.

De Gea will hope to follow in the path of Edwin van der Sar and Peter Schmeichel as a winner and reliable shot-stopper, and less in the mould of Raimond van der Gouw, Mark Bosnich, Massimo Taibi, Fabien Barthez and – dare I say? – Jim Leighton.

And no doubt so will Sir Alex…

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz

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<em>Picture: Thejaswi</em>

Picture: Thejaswi

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
And the FA Cup takes centre stage south of the border with a mixture of ties and replays to decide who would progress through to the fragmented quarter-final draw, and a place in the last ten. No, I know that doesn’t sound right.

Live Saturday early evening viewing on all ITV regions (except for viewers in Scotland on council telly as you lot should have been going to see your local team even though they weren’t playing on Saturday and STV don’t show any Scottish domestic matches anyway) was Manchester United, managed by a Scot, Sir Alex Ferguson, against non-League Crawley, led by another from these parts, Steve Evans.

Stop there for a second. But does anyone else think there is something of the Freddie Starrs about Evans?

Continuing, and Fergie was not best-pleased after his side’s efforts in only managing a 1-0 win. While others would take that result and move on, a win is not a win in Ferguson’s eyes if you fail to put the likes of Crawley in their place.

Ferguson had of course been a cheerier wee soul beforehand, saying how he would welcome Starr, I mean Evans, who had brought along a special bottle of red wine as a gift for the Knight, hoping he would be offered the chance to commune in the presence of the oh so great one.

Sir Alex nodded his way through the pre-match platitudes, saying that Crawley would be given every respect on their Cup Final day.

What did irk him, was the interviewer’s assertion that “and of course, this is a match-up between two Glaswegians.”

“Naw, no he’s not … he’s from a wee village on the outskirts of Glasgow [Cambuslang to be exact],” said the Govan boy. Nothing like showing all of England how parochial us welcoming Scots can be

Sunday
I read with some interest (which is more than I will do with his threatened tome) that the British Olympic diver Tom Daley has signed a megabucks deal to write his autobiography – at the age of just 16. Maybe crayons will be included.

But what has he done at that age? What will the chapters be: Almost Drowning For The First Time, Santa – The Truth, Hair, Where! and Spots?

I can’t imagine it will be terribly honest either. Who’s going to go into detail about how they were always tired as a 13-year-old, not because of the training regime but because masturbating four times a day really takes it out of you. Not to mention being embarrassing if you are standing on top of the ten-metre board.

Still, Penguin (the publishers, and not some teen fantasy) aim to bring out the youngster’s life story in spring 2012, three months before the London Olympics start.

So sales of the book won’t be affected if he fails to make a splash …

Monday
Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting loses half his match fee after being found guilty of taking out his frustrations on the dressing room TV following his run-out for just 28 against Zimbabwe.

While Australia won in the end, Ponting was the financial loser after it was reported he’s broken the telly by throwing his gloves at it. In addition to his fine, he also offered to replace the damaged item.

Never nice to see someone like Ponting joining the John Logie Baird Memorial Club, which of course was set up for sportsmen who had shown particular venom either in or through (or should that be threw) televisions. I think Graeme Souness is still their president.

“When Ponting was run out, he was perhaps frustrated. He threw his gloves straight at the TV,” Gujarat Cricket Association secretary Rajesh Patel said. “It was an LCD TV, which was properly damaged. We could not view anything.”

That was before they found out it wasn’t connected to a satellite dish …

Tuesday
It’s all about the numbers today when the Olympic Velodrome in London is opened.

Apparently It took a team of 26 carpenters eight weeks to install the Siberian pine track and more than 350,000 nails were used on its 56km of timber surface.

I’m thinking these are the same chippies that did the flooring in my house, 56 kilometres of wood for a 250m track. A bit of waste there I think.

But no. The whole 23-month Velodrome project cost £94 million – which is on time and under budget.

This was on the same day MPs deliver a scathing report on waste by the Ministry of Defence who had cost the taxpayer a staggering £8 billion after cancelling the Nimrod and Sentinel reconnaissance aircraft and an overspend on the Eurofighter/Typhoon order.

Now, far be it for me to suggest such a thing, but, maybe if the Olympic purse-holders had been in charge of the military purse, then we might have got the planes we needed, to a cost, and on time – handily ignoring they were constructed out of Siberian timber and pedal-powered.

Wednesday
Cancelling any sporting event has a knock-on effect somewhere.

Anyone who has ever tried to return a thousand pies back to the local bakery when a fitba match has been frozen off will empathise with Formula One Management picking up the tab for the cancelation of the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Formula One Management is Bernie Ecclestone’s business, where all empathy ends.

Bahrain was to have been the first round of the 2011 world F1 championship, but civil unrest meant the race was put off in the meantime, or for all time. It’s difficult to gauge civil unrest.

And the cost of cancelling that race? Around $40 million. That’s a lot of pies in any currency.

Thursday
And still in the Middle East, it is reported that the royal family of Qatar is preparing a fresh £1.5billion bid for Manchester United after the Glazers (who don’t do new PVC windows) rejected an earlier offer.

It appears the Americans have already knocked back £1bn, and are holding out for a figure closer to £1.8bn, give or take a few pies. The royal family of Qatar is preparing a fresh £1.5bn bid for Manchester United after the Glazers rejected an earlier offer.

Compare that to the £20 million United “sold” for in 1989. Of course, it didn’t sell, because the deal struck by Isle of Man-based property tycoon Michael Knighton fell through when his financial backers backed out.

So he bought Carlisle United instead. And those bankers have never regretted their decision since – much …

Friday
Former Celt Aiden McGeady may have turned his back on Scotland. But indirectly he could have ensured Scotland two Champions League places from 2012/13.

His Europa League goal meant Spartak Moscow beat Basle on aggregate, a result likely to keep Scotland ahead of Switzerland in coefficient rankings.

Of course, every single Scots football fan will be grateful for McGeady’s contribution. Not.

Because others will point to the fact that Maurice Edu is responsible for keeping Scotland ahead in that particular race thanks to his late, late goal for Rangers against Sporting Lisbon.

Indeed, that goal was so late, that there were several dozen re-writes made by those covering the game. But none had to work as quickly as the moderators on BBC’s soon-to-be-scrapped 606 forum.

A certain Alfonso1234 – a Celtic fan on the Rangers board – thought it would be clever to have a pop at Gers fans, stating that they now wouldn’t have the excuse of paying too many games when their team lost the SPL title.

Unfortunately for Alfonso1234 (presumably a pseudonym, although there is no guarantee of that), his barb remark came seconds before Edu’s dramatic equaliser. And once it was up, there was no taking it down.

Texts and emails flew around the nation as poor Alfonso was ridiculed, pilloried and abused to such an extent that BBC’s mods had to take every reference of the poor man off their site, as shown in this (broken) link www.bbc.co.uk/dna/606/A81798871.

I have to say, the great majority of the comments were hugely funny, the best arguably being; “If Carlsberg Did Premature Ejaculation …” – which even gained praise from Celtic supporters!

<em>Picture: Justin Kraemer</em>

Picture: Justin Kraemer

By Stewart Weir

Saturday
Winter happens. And some years it happens more than others. Unless you’re reading this from your holiday home in Barbados, or you’ve emigrated to the Antipodes, you might have noticed we’re in the middle of a cold snap which has played chaos with the sporting calendar. Football is particularly badly hit again, the mounting pile-up of snow causing a similar pile-up of fixtures. Still, it has stoked the debate again about winter shut-downs and the likes.

At one time I was all for it, particularly when spending many an arduous hour, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice while watching Rangers train in Florida. A decade ago, Rangers jetted 3,000 miles just as Scotland began to endure a pleasantly mild January.

Since the referees strike in the last weekend of November, only a handful of SPL matches have been played. Pretty much all of December has been wiped out. And there is still no sign of a thaw.

A year ago, snow set in the week before Christmas and the chaos lasted through much of January. Indeed, the “live” clash between St Johnstone and Rangers at the end of February was another victim of the cold. So, without trying, that’s three months where a case could be made for having a break.

In principal, a winter shut-down seems the right and proper thing to do. Unfortunately – and this always has been the biggest barrier – no-one has a clue the best time to have it.

Sunday
Given the environment in which it belongs, the BBC Sports Personality of The Year awards could easily have been tested for steroids given the size that it has grown to. Several years ago, it was a cosy wee show where the nation (although I always had the sneaking suspicion that it was just England who took an interest) would wait to see what hard-luck story had captured the imagination, and was therefore worthy of a trophy.

These days however, SPoTY has turned into an extravaganza, with Sunday’s gathering at the LG Arena in Birmingham played out in front of 12,000 guests.

Tony McCoy won, his Grand National success obviously tugging at sufficient heart-strings for people to register a vote, although what can’t be ignored was the support whipped up (still legal under Jockey Club rules) from within the racing fraternity. In a ten-horse race McCoy gathered 42% of the vote, an amazing statistic and one which might have the Electoral Reform Society using it as a case study.

If SPoTY has changed in size it has also radically amended just where it pulls its “personalities” from. Winner McCoy’s biggest success this year was in the Grand National, covered by the BBC, while third-placed Jessica Ennis has performed mostly in front of licence payers, which also applies to diver Tom Daley (6th).

But Strictly BBC viewers just wouldn’t be familiar with the best of the rest.
But of the rest, runner-up Phil Taylor is only ever seen on ITV or Sky, the latter also being home the majority of the time for Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowall, David Haye and Graeme Swann, while Eurosport would have a stake in Mark Cavendish and slider Amy Williams (although she did take Olympic gold on the BBC.)

Victory for McCoy (who should slip his election agent either a fiver or a few tips for a job well done) will placate followers of the gee-gees who have always claimed those involved with that industry have never got the recognition they’ve deserved, a view I’ve always subscribed to – ever since the year my vote for Red Rum didn’t count!

Monday
Sam Allardyce’s sacking but a week ago from Blackburn hasn’t so much left a void as a complete mess. While Big Sam was shown the door along with assistant Neil McDonald, coach Steve Kean was kept on, something that obviously rankles with Allardyce. Scotsman Kean is obviously well thought of in football, and the new Indian owners at Ewood Park have shown faith in him by installing him as caretaker manager, which appears to have tipped Allardyce over the edge. “If there was anybody capable of looking after the reins when I left, with all due respect to Steve, it would be Neil,” admitted Allardyce, who is still wondering, and angry, as to who has been two-faced in this saga. But better, Sam, to rise above it, keep your dignity, and say nothing – and watch on as the buggers find out the hard way who really knew what they were doing …

Tuesday
I like my darts. I like my cricket. So I was always going to love Sky’s coverage of the PDC World Championship from the Alexandra Palace when Andrew “Freddie’” Flintoff joined Sid Waddell in the commentary box. Classic TV, with Freddie giving it all the chat and delivering some classic “oooone-hundred-and-eighteeeee” calls. The fans loved it and so too did the producers on Sky Sports News, who ran the feature right through Wednesday. Whatever anyone thinks of master showman and impresario Barry Hearn, he and Sky really have turned darts into the most watchable sport on the box.

Wednesday
At a press conference, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan and its president, George Peat, give their first public reaction to the McLeish Review, the former First Minister’s report into the workings of Scottish football. Peat arrives with a toy dinosaur in hand. “A member of staff gave it to me a few years ago,” smiled Peat. “It adorns my office every day, just to remind me.” Of what George?

That the SFA is a prehistoric organisation? Or that you may be plastic? Or that someday you’ll have to ask who plays at Jurassic Park?

Thursday
When your physics master at school weds your music teacher you have to wonder what will come out of that relationship. Possibly someone who can get a tune out of a Periodic Table. But in my case, it was Scotland prop Euan Murray. So having always taken a biological interest in his career it was good to see him signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Newcastle Falcons. The 30-year-old had been without a club since being released by Northampton, partly because he refused to play on Sunday due to religious beliefs. That problem shouldn’t arise too often with Newcastle as they mostly play on a Friday evening.

Friday
Friday and Christmas Eve. No, not a couple Tommy Sheridan met at Cupid’s. But one may wonder why his lies and fall merits a mention in this article. It is entirely because of his victory speech outside the Court of Session after winning his defamation case against the News of The World.

Back then, Comrade Tommy proclaimed: “Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done.”

It was a very good analogy at the time, but one that was ultimately flawed.
This tie was obviously always going to be played over two legs, home and away, Edinburgh then Glasgow, so less chance of a real upset.

At Gretna, as with Sheridan, honesty was just a veneer. And Gretna paid the price for living their dream when lying to others, and for believing they were bigger than they were and could take on the establishment. And Gretna were sent down and went out of business. But I’ll stop the analogies there.

What I will tell you is that both he and I were columnists together at the Scottish Mirror a few years back. On one particular day he asked to borrow one of my books, How To Get Three In A Bed.
A few weeks later he returned it. “Not what I was expecting,” he said, to which I replied; “I was surprised you wanted to read a book written by Eric Bristow in the first place …”

Tommy left court last night but realised he’d forgotten something. He walked back in to find the cleaning lady bending over while dusting the judge’s chair. “I’m here for my holdall,” to which the wummin replies “d’ye no think yer in enough trouble already Tommy!”‘

Ho, ho, ho and a Merry Christmas …

By Stewart Weir

Saturday: The morning after the night before and I’m still coming to terms with what I endured for all of 48 minutes the previous evening. It might have seemed a good idea at the time (the kind I’ve had myself around twenty to three in the morning after several pints) but I and countless others are still toiling to fathom national team coach Craig Levein’s decision to tackle the Czechs with a 4-6-0 formation, seen only once previously when used on the LMS Royal Scot class locomotive. No strikers equalled no threat to the opposition, so much so that Chelsea ‘keeper Petr Čech could have worn his helmet back-to-front for the full 90 minutes – which is 42 minutes longer than I lasted. When you find yourself watching (even though you are recording it) how the M-Sport Ford rally team were transported to Finland by Eddie Stobart for a round of the World Championship then you know you’ve hit rock bottom with the national side. And here was me thinking only Berti Vogts could ever have that effect on me.

Sunday: I’ll happily own up to being a petrol head. So fuelled up on “Monster” I sat glued to the box in the corner (or more accurately the giant envelope on the wall) from around nine on Saturday night until 6.00pm on Sunday to first watch all 161 laps of the Bathurst 1000, live from Oz, then the Japanese Grand Prix, and all three races on the final day of the British Touring Car Championship won by Jason Plato. I was in my element – and on my own …

<em>Picture: Scottish Government</em>

Picture: Scottish Government

Monday: Sky+ is brilliant for without it I wouldn’t have been able to whizz back through Reporting Scotland on the Beeb just to make sure my eyes hadn’t deceived me. And they hadn’t. The man in the hat wasn’t the guy from Stars In Their Eyes doing Nelson Eddy dressed as a Canadian Mountie. Nor was it an overgrown Boy Scout or an extra from It Ain’t Half Hot Mum. No, it was First Minister Alex Salmond – and he really had worn that hat at the Commonwealth Games. And I thought politicians only wore those made of tin.

Tuesday: The Scots are confronted by the not insignificant might of World and European champions Spain at Hampden in the must-win European Championship qualifier. We didn’t win. But then, we had been beaten by Spain and “they are probably the best team Scotland has ever played”. Who told us that? None other than Craig Levein, with an overdose of sports psychology (or kidology) in the build up to the game. That way, if you get a result, you’re brilliant. Lose, and well they are the best – so deflecting any criticism for what in truth, was a pointless week.

Wednesday: At the Commonwealth Games, 16-year-old Tom Daley, the world champion, takes gold for England in the 10m platform diving. He added that title to the gold won in the men’s 10m synchro in partnership with Max Brick. I mean, isn’t that cheating? How difficult can it be to get in tandem with a brick?

Thursday: In Delhi the Commonwealth Games close with Scotland set to return home with a haul of gold medals particularly from the shooting range where we pocket titles galore. So many winners, so many medals, and so many disciplines to remember, if you take in rifle, skeet, full bore pistols and the likes. With the next Games due in Glasgow in 2014, it may come as a surprise to some of the locals there that drive-by is not a category …

Friday: The last decade for those who frequent Dens Park could have come straight from a screenplay penned jointly by Stephen King and Hans Christian Andersen. Ravanelli, Burley, Davids, redundancies, redevelopment, ground-sharing, closure. Today’s the day the staff, players and supporters of Dundee will find out their fate. No doubt there will be conjecture and speculation about last-minute rescue bids and other interested parties. No surprise either that the name of Giovanni di Stefano has resurfaced. His first link with Dundee came in 1999 when he made a bid for the club but adverse publicity saw that fail. That might have been because his previous foray in to the glorious game saw him partner the late Serbian warlord/”Belgrade businessman” Arkan at FC Obilic where they went from the Second Division to the Champion League in two seasons. Obviously there were ways of making the players focus. Rejection from Dundee also had something to do with Mr Di Stefano rhyming off his list of friends which included Yasser Arafat, Gerry Adams, Saddam Hussein and his son Uday. There was also a mention in dispatches for Hitler and Mussolini. Back at the Mirror, we mocked up a picture of what the Dens Park directors box might look like with that guest list and duly received a phone call stating it was not a true or proper representation and a retraction was requested. And ignored. The question now though is would another offer of a bail out from Di Stefano be ignored? Or did I just take on the guise of Hans Christian to write that last line?