High Ground edition 13; dateline 1 June 2012
Footy Colour Scene
The round-ball game continues to roll on and on and on, and the tartan influence keeps popping up all over the place. A sunny Hampden Park – or should I say the National Stadium – in May for the Scottish Cup Final and a team in green and white takes to the field to take on their derby rivals, a team in blu.. wait a wee minute there, a team in maroon? What is happening in the crazy world of Scottish football? A Hibs v Hearts cup final with Hibs seeking their first cup final victory in about two jubilees! So what happened then? After that length of time it just had to be, well, a crushing one-sided defeat for the Hibees by their arch rivals. To add a little bitter-sweet piquancy to the day, the Hibs assistant manager Bobby Brown (no, not the one that was hitched to Whitney) is a former player and was assistant manager for a number of spells with the Jam Tarts (it’s not just the cockneys that have the rhyming slang, you know). Cue conspiracy theories in the hostelries of Edinburgh.
Meanwhile over in the west, a club of another colour continues to capture the imagination/bore the shorts off (delete as appropriate) everyone and their dug as to whether they are going to survive, go out of business, go bust and come back into business, some, all or none of the above. The subject of Rangers Football Club permeates much of the admittedly mostly west-coast-based sporting and general media, crops up in political current affairs programmes and was even top of the agenda at a funeral purvey (afters) which MacSideliner attended recently. Is there a new buyer? How much money does he say he’s got? Does he actually have any money? Does anybody actually have any money? Is he Greek or Spanish? Haven’t they both won the footy Euros in recent times? Wait a minute, maybe it would be a good thing for Scottish football for Scotland to become independent, join the Eurozone, lose all our money then we’re a sure bet to win a major at last – get in there!
As we speculate on the big questions here in Scotland the “Scottish FA”, obviously still keen on branding themselves like a branch office of another Football Association not too far away, have only the colour red to see reflected in their reasonably plush mirrored toilets. This is because they managed to find themselves being overturned in court after issuing Rangers a sanction they didn’t actually possess in their own rulebook. Their rationale (that’ll be “excuse” then) was that the punishment was less than the least worst they had. “It could huv been mair worser for the Teddy Bears,” (more rhyming slang there) said a branch office spokesperson on behalf of the North Britain Soccer Federation Alliance. Well, ok, maybe they didn’t actually use those exact words but they might yet.
Over in the land of the Red, White and Blue, that’s the United States of America and not Larkhall in Lanarkshire (search engine that particular place and see the cultural history for yourselves), Scotland’s answer to Professor Wenger, Lord Levine of the Football Doctorate, was managing again to impersonate an escape artist in the way he avoided taking responsibility for a thumping defeat which mirrored the Scottish cup final score line. Spookily, Craig played for Hearts for a time; even more spookily at a time when they didn’t win anything!
Scots are appearing in the managerial merry-go-round that is English Football too. Liverpool sacking King Kenny for only winning one cup and getting to the final of another. Big Eck (McLeish not Salmond, who by the way is a Hearts fan – he’s getting good at picking winners...) gets the punt from Brummy Rovers and immediately they go to the Scotosphere in search of Paul Lambert, who is a Bundesliga and Champions League winner as well as a domestic Scottish League and Cup winner too.
But enough of this Scotophilia, the Euros are about to start, and all we have to look forward to is an anxiety-free (we’re no in it) festival of footy. Whereas our southern neighbours can look forward to a nail-biting, over-hyped, navel-gazing exercise about whether you are going to win it or exit embarrassingly early we will have the time and space to ask the really big questions, like what exactly is happening to Wayne’s new hair?
As the author of this column I decided to treat this edition as a warm-up celebration of the round ball megafest that is and will be Euro 2012, however, pursuant to a paragraph deep in the small print of the Faustian Pact which is my contract with TLR (think national sports development agency “partnership agreement” complete with bits about working together in a shared vision of mutual togetherness followed by lists of the hundreds of things that the other you have to do for your money including, counting, measuring, monitoring, evaluating and then counting again) and, reflecting their burning and everlasting commitment as former sports development professionals to the diversity of sport blah, blah, I am called upon to mention other sports. So here goes – for compliance purposes.
Congratulations to Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors for reaching the Heineken Cup semi-finals and Rabo Pro Direct League play-offs respectively, Edinburgh lost to Ulster and Glasgow to Heineken Cup Winners Leinster. Well done for the efforts, guys. Later in the year MacSideliner will run his eye over the new Glasgow coach, SRU golden boy Gregor Townsend, who “replaced” play-off reaching (or should that be retching?) Kilted Kiwi Sean Lineen thanks largely to his record of being the backs coach of a Scotland national team which exited the World Cup earlier than planned and failed to win a game in the Six Nations...
In tennis The Murray is fighting another sair back complaint as well as low ranking opponents in his way to facing up once again to the big three above him. C’mon Andy!!
We have seen new Scottish top level performances recently from:
Fourteen year-old Larbert High School (its near Falkirk) pupil Asia Bailey who became the first-ever Scottish Taekwondo player to achieve a podium finish at a World Taekwondo championship. Britain's only medallist at the event Asia became world bronze medallist after reaching the semi-final of the Junior Female under 42kg division. She is the youngest-ever British player to medal at a world championship since they were introduced back in 1973.
Dario Franchitti whi joined a select group of racing drivers who have won the Indy 500 three times or more (and he’s married to Ashley Judd)
The Scotland team who became official World Stone Skimming Champions of 2012 after winning almost all the male and female adult and junior medals at the championships in Easdale Island near Oban.
And let’s not forget the Scottish Institute of Sport and probably a few other band-wagoners looking to continue their funding who will be telling us we are also preparing well and looking good for the upcoming and very eagerly anticipated 19th annual World Porridge Making Championships in October of this year. Last year Jon Boa (yes that’s his real name), a Gaelic singer from Strathglass in the Highlands won the highly-coveted Golden Spurtle, the prize for winning the World Porridge Championship. In a fairy tale story the first time entrant but life-long porridge maker romped his way to the title thanks, no doubt, to the fantastic support from a clutch of sports scientists, peformance analysts and probably a couple of S&C coaches. So never mind the five rings, its the ring under the porage pot that’s really hot this year, but not too hot of course or it will all stick to the bahookie of the pan....pay attention at the back young Owen!
As Rab C Nesbitt would say, “See diversity in sport, let me tell you this boy.”
The High Ground
An alternative view of the Scottish sport, leisure and culture landscape