By Stewart Weir
Tom Daley and Max Brick Picture: An Honorable German
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 …
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 …
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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