Date: 20th May 2022
This Week’s Sting
Good Luck to Inverness and St Johnstone in the last of the play-off finals.
I hope the result comes from the game and not from penalties in Perth on Monday night.
And Good luck to Hearts and Rangers too.
1. Thoughts from Wee Jimmies Bar
Last Saturday Bonnyrigg Rose defeated the Blue Brazil at Central Park Cowdenbeath and now replace their hosts in the SPFL.
It means that after 117 years, Donald Findlay’s Cowdenbeath FC finds itself in Ian Maxwell’s SFA-run Lowland League and on the outside of Neil Doncaster’s SPFL.
They are in increasingly good company with 3 other ex SPFL pals now also plying their trade in Scottish football’s ‘proverbial’ barren darklands.
It will be a shock.
But each previously relegated club has taken the time to regroup and is on the way back.
Historic league tables demonstrate that it is completely natural for football clubs to yo-yo, up and down, over the years. (Arbroath were second bottom of the SPFL 2 as recently as 2016 and Queens Park bottom in 2014).
What isn’t natural is self-interest barriers between leagues affecting natural realignment processes.
It was totally predictable but our current pyramid has an in-built member-imposed restriction that is actually starting to hurt the very clubs it was introduced to protect.
It is a tragic fact that the SPFL 2 remains difficult to get into because the clubs made it that way at the time the pyramid was agreed.
You won’t find it in any records but it was a last minute take it or nothing ‘rebellion’ and ‘show of strength’ from the wee guys.
Just because they could.
Ironically, that very ‘rebellion’ and the ‘legislation’ it created is now stymieing 4 of the very clubs who voted for it.
Outside, isolated, looking in enviously, and regretting their myopia at the time.
Since 2014 we have only seen actual relegation from SPFL2 on four occasions when Edinburgh City replaced East Stirling, Cove replaced Berwick, Kelty replaced Brechin and now Bonnyrigg have replaced Cowdenbeath.
Unlike in England where there is a proper fair and open pyramid in place, none of our deposed clubs have even come close to a return.
Demotion to the Highland or Lowland League is seen by many in the game as a death knell but it needn’t be and for football’s sake we can’t let it be.
We owe it to our communities to have open leagues, top down and bottom up.
Before last week’s crunch game, in Cowdenbeath’s famous ‘Jimmies Bar’, the mood from Blue Brazil fans was realistic but still just a little hopeful rather than cocky.
Just 3 goals were needed, and always possible, but after a lousy season not easy, and deep down not expected.
Afterwards it was sombre in Jimmies Bar and others nearby, like a death in the family.
“It is the end of the world” summed up thoughts of one home fan looking blank and pessimistically at a Lowland League future over his pint.
But it shouldn’t be and needn’t be.
Cowdenbeath and the other SPFL ‘outcasts’ can help right the wrong they were party to creating.
Time for a Pyramid Review
Gordon Smith should be given great credit for seeing and selling the power of the pyramid in uniting and strengthening our game nearly twenty years ago.
Stewart Regan agreed with the wisdom picked up Gordon’s baton and very nearly delivered.
The final compromise was not perfect and is not working perfectly, but it is better than what we had before.
Nearly 10 years on it is time for a revisit.
Let’s get Gordon Smith, Donald Findlay and others round a table and thrash out what is best for the game going forward.
Scottish Football Needs a Proper Two Way Street
2. The Wrong Ending aka
That red-top headline summed it up for me.
A lousy way to lose any match.
Nobody ever remembers the runners ups.
And this was Rangers 5th European Final with 4 trophies missed out on.
A final none of us really saw coming after defeats by Lyon and Sparta Prague in the early stages.
An amazing journey.
A change of manager midway through.
A lot of football.
And all down to 3 key moments in the Spanish heat.
A defensive lapse.
A missed chance at the death.
And a saved penalty.
Everyone will remember Eintracht as Champions, that’s the way it goes.
The German fans are happy.
Frankfurt is still smiling.
And the German football club’s bean-counters are ecstatic with the prize money in the bag, the Super Cup glamour game against the CL winners with more money guaranteed, and seeded, guaranteed entry to next years CL.
Such is football.
Such are the margins between winning and being runners up.
The Good Things from Seville
Well done the team for doing everything and deserving a better result.
Well done for almost singlehandedly rescuing Scotland’s club coefficient
Well done Rangers fans for getting there and for behaving, mostly.
Spanish Polis say there were only 6 arrests, and all were Frankfurt ‘ultras’.
It was also great to see the number of women and young fans in the throng and I thought the radio quote from an ex-Scottish Polis chief was appropriate.
“I was expecting the worst but gladly proved wrong”.
Some Bad Things from Seville
The sheer treatment of human beings at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium was dreadful.
Everyone and his granny knew there is a heatwave in southern Spain and that the temperature would be high and edging towards 40 degrees in crowded areas.
With an alcohol ban in and near the stadium everyone knew fans would need access to water.
Catriona Shearer the ex-BBC Presenter and well known Rangers fan got caught out and tweeted angrily from the ground.
“No water or food available despite having paid ridiculous amounts for tickets. (My bottle of water was taken by security staff on entry). 30 degree plus heat”!
Another fan on the radio told us he’d passed out in the heat because of the lack of water.
The complainants were not exaggerating.
Uefa shifted the blame, normal Zurich style, “The quantity of food and beverages planned by the concessionaires was not enough to meet the extraordinary demand and Uefa wishes to apologise for the ‘inconvenience’ caused”.
‘Inconvenience’ that saw some fans fainting and Balogun the Rangers player handing out Uefa water to fans in the stands.
Send for Thompsons, they will sort out these charlatans!
3. Qatar Stuff
Legionnaires Camp Update
Last week the players in the Ukrainian Training Camp beat Borussia Monchengladbach and this week had two friendlies against Italy’s Empoli 3-1 and also Croatia’s Rijeka, 1-1.
They are getting fitter and still have some players from England to make up their 26 man squad.
Scotrail has been nationalised and is therefore owned by us all.
They have decided to cut their evening trains drastically.
On Wednesday June 1st, just 12 days away, there will be no post Hampden trains home for the Tartan Army to Ayr, Dumfries, Dundee, or Stirling.
And the Edinburgh train is tight at 22.15 and impossible if extra time is needed.
So in effect our Scottish government from Nicola down want us to welcome Ukraine and the world, but not to get there and back by trains that we all jointly own.
Pretty Please to Jenny and Maree (Sports and Transport Ministers)
Please sort this out, there is enough time, and why not donate all revenues from Tartan Army fan train tickets on the night to Ukrainian charities?
Allow us to do just three things.
i) Get the fans to Hampden to welcome Ukraine in front of the world.
ii) Watch extra time and penalties if necessary.
iii) Get home safely by environmentally friendly means.
Amnesty Demands £355 Million for Qatar Migrant Workers
Amnesty International wrote to Fifa this week asking them to match the Qatar prize money in a compensation pot for victims of migrant workers abuse.
Hard hitting stuff in a letter including,
“When Fifa awarded the tournament to Qatar it knew or should have known the risks posed to migrant workers’ rights given the country’s poor human rights record. In awarding without imposing any conditions to avoid foreseeable labour rights abuses, Fifa has contributed to the widespread abuse that followed. Until all workers are compensated, and harms remediated, the tournament cannot be truly celebrated”.
Three Quinies in the Middle
Stephanie Frappart from France, Yoshimi Yamashita from Japan and Salima Mukansanga from Rwanda are in the Fifa ref list, the first female refs to be selected.
Chairman of Fifa Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina, the best ref ever said, “It is quality that counts, not gender. In the future the selection of elite women’s match officials for important men’s competitions will be perceived and normal”.
England have two male refs, Michael Oliver, and Anthony Taylor.
No Scottish refs on the list, male or female, maybe because we don’t have VAR yet.
4. Vangellis and his Rangers Social Club Connection
I was sorry to hear of the passing of Evangelos Odysseas on Tuesday.
I play his compilation album, ‘Themes’, frequently when I am doing stuff like writing this wee blog.
Back in 1980 I like many others was blown away when I saw Chariots of Fire without knowing anything about the film before sitting down in the Odeon Cinema in South Clerk Street.
The film was great, but the music was spectacular.
It was haunting and like watching the Chieftains it evoked memories I didn’t even know I had.
Until years later.
One night on Radio Scotland on a dark night somewhere between Inverness and Perth, there was a programme about Calum Kennedy and it was the only station that I could get a signal on in the car so I was its captive audience.
One of the songs he sang was an old Jimmy Copeland song “These are my mountains”.
I’d heard it before on ‘Round at Calum’s’ a show my mum and dad used to watch in our one front room, one telly house, so it was watch it or do homework.
I don’t know if Jimmy who died in 2002 actually wrote the tune too or if it is traditional, but the song had become an ever present in Calum’s repertoire and got sung most weeks on the show and in live performances.
Anyway the story goes that Vangelis had seen a live Calum performance in Glasgow at the Rangers Social Club near Ibrox.
I can imagine Calum giving this lovely tune Laldy, and Evangelos being transfixed along with the rest of the audience.
Check out ‘Calum Kennedy – Live at the Rangers Social Club’. It was 1972 album of the year in Stornoway at the time.
And by transmosis, maybe, just maybe a few years later it evolved into the Chariots of Fire anthem we all know and love today.
A kind of ‘Scots folk meets Greek electronics’ lovechild.
Here is a wee snippet of Calum.
Then a ‘For these are my Mountains’ version below by Calum’s pals, The Alexander Brothers.
Finally the Vangelis version where he lifts the basic tune and works wonders.
5. Equality in the USA
The USA have had an enormous and very positive impact on women’s football across the world and therefore on football.
After an internal discussion/dispute that has taken 6 years US Soccer have now agreed that its men’s players and women’s players will receive the same payment when representing their country.
Yes, it is a fact that as of now men’s tournaments pay more in appearance, prize, and media monies but the country has said that because they do the same job the payment should be equal.
Cindy Parlow Cone, the US Soccer President said, “No other country has even done this”.
I wonder what our Women’s team think when they see stuff like this?
6. Stephane Gets His Cup Final Retaliation in Early
The Frenchman, Stephane Adam, was a magnificent signing for the Gorgie side, and yesterday ahead of the repeat of the 1998 cup final where he scored an early second half volley in the Hearts win, he tweeted, “Congratulations to the new Rangers FC for nearly winning their first European Major trophy in such a short existence”.
After extra time on Wednesday and the penalties emotional roller coaster the last thing Gio’s boys want is a full-on Cup Final on the big Hampden pitch just 60 hours later.
Good luck to both teams and let’s hope for no bloody penalty shoot outs!
Barca Vella Red- ish
OK I own up.
Nobody called Jose Mourinho or Brendan Rogers actually sent me a bottle of Barca Vella Red last week let alone 2.
But I did find an incredible old Portuguese wine that is just as good, in that well know wine merchants, Aldi.
Amazing for the price and you can buy 100 bottles of it for just one of the Barca Vellas.
It’s called Mimo Moutinho 2019.
If you can find it buy it because the wine critic at the Times recommended it last week and that always means empty shelves.
And cheers Jose and Brendan from the cheap seats.
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