Genetics are not a reason Scotland doesn’t qualify for football tournaments

Scotland failed yet again to qualify for a major international tournament. Manager Gordon Strachan has said something utterly extraordinary.

“Genetically, we are behind,”

Strachan’s idea is that we Scots are too small and we need big blokes to make ourselves effective on the world stage of football. This is bollocks.This is that Scottish habit of failing to accept your own faults and failures so rather than working with what you have, Strachan comes up with bullshit.

This is what’s known as the ‘it’s shite being Scottish’ meme. It’s easy to do, and I’ve even done it myself. It is however a mortifying piece of pathetic self-pitying that solves nothing. I like Strachan, he’s funny but for most of this campaign he’s failed to pick players playing in Scotland who are in form with Leigh Griffiths being the best example. It isn’t unrelated that when Strachan starts picking him regularly we start doing well.

That though is not really the point. Wallowing in a ‘och, we can’t do this. we’re Scottish.’ really is crap and what’s worse we nurture this idea, this concept, of glorious failure and take some perverse joy in it. We’ve went from the nation that invented much of the 20th century to whining miseries in a century and you know what? I’m tired of it. We can do better, not because we’re entitled to it but because we’re capable of doing more than we think we can if we work out ways to do just that. Part of achieving that is dropping this attitude of people like Strachan or quite I few people I’ve met since coming back to Scotland.

We shouldn’t be scared of failure but we should learn from it.It seems too many have learned to take failure for granted and accept it as the natural way of things and that isn’t good enough. So Scotland, get up off your knees and do better!

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Watching Scotland play in Scotland is more difficult than it should be

Last night I was feeling a bit peaky so went home to watch Scotland play Lithuania in a World Cup qualifier which if lost, meant Scotland had no chance of qualifying, if won then it kept it us with a shout. Turning on STV I found them showing the England game and after slipping into a mild coma listening to Ryan Giggs dazzle us with the fact he’s got the personality of rice paper. No Scotland game to be seen.

Now since moving back to Scotland this is something I’ve encountered before and frankly, it is extraordinary. I’ve been in France and Sweden where their respective national broadcasters broadcast games of this importance, but in Scotland you need to sign up to a subscription package or scour the internet for a stream. It is frankly ludicrous a Scottish based broadcaster doesn’t show Scotland national matches on free-to-air TV, and that isn’t an opinion which is mine alone, but tens of thousands others share. As for STV, their word on this is this Tweet.

So here’s the problem. ITV as a network buy the England rights, but feels it isn’t worth buying Scotland (or indeed Wales and Northern Ireland) rights. The BBC have been priced out the market and the SFA doesn’t give a fuck about fans anyhow. Now Westminster could legislate to ensure Scotland gets their football on free-to-air TV but that ain’t ever going to happen so we endure England playing Malta is a game so turgid and without tension it could be mistaken for a dead bird lying in the gutter.

This isn’t a good situation if we want to get future generations excited about the game. A child may watch this and think ‘I want to do that’, go out and become the best footballer they can, but if you only have Scotland games subscription only then you keep many kids away from the game as after all, kids aren’t going to go to the pub to see the match and if the national broadcasters don’t give a fuck why should they? It’s a crap short sighted, fuckwitted decision that reduces the national sport into an afterthought and it shames the Scottish media that there isn’t more fuss about it. Then again after nearly a year of being back in Scotland I have to say the Scottish media can always be there to let you down.

The past joys of Cup Final Day

Today is cup final day in Scotland and England. These days it’s just a moderately sized game at the end of the season, but in times past when live football was as scarce as a Conservative politicians morals, cup final day was a day when as a boy you’d be glued to the television from early Saturday morning watching the build up. In the 80’s that meant David Coleman on the BBC…

Viewers in Scotland had their own programming which meant the parochial cheapness of BBC Scotland and STV, but live television gave us great moments like this fantastic Jock Wallace interview on STV.

Or Alex Ferguson having a pop at his Aberdeen team after winning the cup final in 1983.

How about Dickie Davies on ITV and his smooth lounge bar ethic?

Now, sadly, the game is another notch in TV companies schedules. Kick-off times are all over the place, fans are secondary to corporate fans and finals are dominated by the massive clubs like Chelsea or Celtic. Basically clubs used to finals and winning things. Shocks are a thing of rarity, but there’s the hope still at every single season that your team may well be standing there on the pitch at Hampden or Wembley holding the trophy.

So good luck to whatever team you support but I do miss the days when today was a day to savour rather than an afterthought.

The pain of supporting Scotland

Last night Scotland’s national football side lost 3-0 to Slovakia, a decent side, but beatable. Our best player was David Marshall, our goalkeeper which shows how rubbish our defence was. I mean, I’m recovering from a stroke and I’d do better in central defence than either of the men picked by manager Gordon Strachan last night.

I grew up admiring Strachan as a player, and as a pundit and manager I’ve always liked him, especially after scoring this goal in the Mexico World Cup in 1986.

It is however now 18 years since we qualified for a tournament. The World Cup in Russia in two years look as distant as the nearest star in terms of qualifying now, and barring a small miracle, I can’t see Strachan leading a Scotland side to qualification so by the time we have another chance I’ll be in my early 50’s, and running out of tournaments to root for as I refuse to have anything to do with Qatar in 2022 for obvious reasons.

What do we do though? We’ve got a decent group of players and if teams with less resources and talent than Scotland like Iceland or Northern Ireland can do well internationally then surely we can?

Demanding Strachan go is an easy demand but who replaces him? Who’s willing to not just pick players on form, but take on the dinosaurs of the SFA? I can’t think of anyone who’d do that. So, it’s this endless pain of being a Scotland supporter. Unless of course, you want to get behind Scotland’s ladies side, see them qualify for tournaments and work out how the men’s side could learn from them. A question being asked by not just myself.

Maybe there will be a miracle, I dunno, I just would like to see Scotland not be a joke in terms of international football. Men’s football that is…

49 years ago World Champions England played Scotland and this happened…

50 years ago today England won the World Cup. You may have heard it mentioned several million times over the decades.

Now, I’m not one of those bitter Scots who moans about anniversaries like this, I’ve no problem with the 50th anniversary because it’s a genuine landmark. It’s the other 49 years of constantly mentioning it all the time not to mention the seemingly endless bullshit of comparing every England side since to that side which isn’t putting an unrealistic pressure on players at all, honest….

But let people enjoy this 50th anniversary. This is about 1967, when Scotland played England at Wembley and this happened….

Scotland played England off the pitch and from here was launched the utterly ludicrous but fun, Unofficial World Cup Champions, a title currently held by Chile. If there’s one thing we Scots are good at its turning Pyrrhic victories into glorious ones, and turning failure into fabulous pisstaking success.

20 years after Euro 96

Imagine this is you will, 20 years ago in England Euro 96 happened and the country changed once and for all.I know it feels like at best a decade ago, but nope, it’s two decades and the effects of it last to today.

The fact it’s a two decade anniversary was driven home by this excellent article over at the Quietus which places the decline of in particular England, at this point. I can see the argument and there’s much to it as this was the end days of the Major government and unbroken Tory rule going back to 1979 with Tony Blair’s shiny new Labour sitting there waiting to be given the chance to hammer a broken, bitter, useless Tory Party that’d ran out of steam, ideas and popularity.

Yet I disagree with this..

Seen via the rear view mirror, the mid-90s are a bit of an embarrassment. They feel like an era of complacency – an aimless interregnum between the fall of the Berlin Wall apparently ending history and 9/11 revving it up again with a vengeance. The resulting mainstream cultural totems constituted slim pickings; Blur v Oasis, the Spice Girls, Tony Blair. And then there’s Euro 96 which, in terms of national identity, feels like an illuminating metaphorical staging post; ostensibly just a football tournament but in a wider sense, embodying something sad and portentous that remains unresolved to this day. Like many milestones of that era, it was a wild ride. But it didn’t really take us anywhere.

The mid 90’s felt like a wonderful place to be at the time, especially if you were on the right side of 30. There was a sense of adventure that doesn’t exist in the streamlined, divided 2010’s, and Euro 96 was closure of the old days of football and the opening of the modern age. At the time we never knew that as hindsight is a glorious thing. We were just having fun and Euro 96 was huge fun until right at the end when the worst aspect of English blood and soil nationalism reared its head, yet til then it looked fantastic then Gareth Southgate walked up one balmy summer night to take a penalty and it was over for many..

southgateeuro96

For myself as a Scotland fan living in Leicester at the time it meant vicariously living the dream that we’d maybe for once do well enough in a major tournament to get into the second round. Plus with Scotland games being based in Nottingham and Birmingham I could soak up some of the atmosphere even though I couldn’t get a ticket, and it’s also worth noting that we drew against an excellent Dutch side, beat a decent Swiss side and pushed England for around 50 minutes and were only put to the sword by a still stunning Paul Gascoigne goal that came after a penalty saved by David Seaman which saw Scotland yet again suffer failure.

It’s also forgotten now that England in the early games were soundly criticised until their final group game against the Netherlands where they came up against the same side we’d held to a more than respectable draw and battered to a inch of their lives. To this day I don’t think I’ve seen an English side play as well as they did that evening.

After that something did click in England. People reclaimed the St George’s flag from the far right, people seemed more open and a genuine surge of openness. Indeed, by the time England played Spain in the next round there was a sense of belief that maybe all the wrongs of the last decades could be washed away like you’d hose vomit off a pavement outside a nightclub after a student night.

I spent the day of the England V Spain game working at one of the last Westminster comic marts. Afterwards I ended up having to walk up from Westminster in search of a pub that had a TV (as amazing as it sounds, not every pub had a telly in those days) and wasn’t rammed to the door. Eventually I settled on the McDonalds in Piccadilly where with some confused tourists and a load of English fans I watched a tense set of penalties which saw England through to the semi finals against Germany.

And we know what happened then.

I was working in a nightclub in Leicester that night. We opened early at 8pm in the hope if attracting people, but nobody turned up so we sat around in the DJ booth drinking beer and watching the game. At the moment Southgate missed the last English penalty I turned round to one of my colleagues and said something along the lines of ”this is not going to be a good night”. It wasn’t. The first three lads through the door proved themselves to be trouble from the off and were quickly removed as were many other angry, bitter English fans who’d seen what they saw as a personal slight.  By the end of the night I never wanted to see another England flag or supporter in my life and so did friends and colleagues I worked with.

When the dust settled the anger for some didn’t stop. It still seethes today and here is where I verge back into agreeing with the Quietus article. The roots of today are rooted in 1996 as it was a transformational year. 1997 saw Blair elected and some of us quickly saw we’d been conned and I walked from the Labour Party by the start of 1998 which was a World Cup year which yet again saw England attempt to burn away what some called ‘hurt’ but was really entitlement but things (barring one or two blips) did change. English football became a product and a lifestyle choice rather than something you’d follow because you stuck by your local side. Hooliganism faded. Then it blew up again this week.

I loved Euro 96. It was a time when the people of England finally embraced a civic nationalism, reclaimed the St. George’s Cross from the far right, and genuinely thought about their own culture and identity going into the future rather than constantly dwelling on the past. It didn’t last, but for a time it showed what England, as a country and as a football team, could achieve. Now people settle for fighting people on European streets singing about a war they were never involved in and a team built on spectacular failure. Perhaps one day it may become a forward looking country again, but I fear not at least for a generation.

A quick word about Leicester City winning the league (hopefully).

I’m a supporter of Partick Thistle, Glasgow’s non Old Firm team. It’d have been stupidly easy for me to support either Celtic or ‘Rangers’ but I decided to support my local side because they had the mighty Alan Rough!

alanroughpanini

I lived in Leicester from 1988 to 2000 with some time off for good behaviour in London, Bristol and Nottingham in there too, but I occasionally ventured down to Filbert Street to see a Leicester City side sometimes win. but mainly whenever I was there it was grinding 0-0 draws.

filbertstreet

For those out there that have supported Manchester Utd since ‘‘that glorious night in Barcelona’‘, or Arsenal since they won things, or Chelsea or Man City since the money tap was turned on, clubs like Leicester are the sort of places they turn up to for a few seasons before they end up being relegated. They’re places where these fans turn up and wonder why fans of a club like Leicester stick with them and they don’t rush down the nearest J.D Sports to buy a replica Chelsea top ASAP as after all, in the modern age of football these sort of clubs win nothing at the top level so what’s the point of sticking by them?

Well, today Leicester play Manchester United at Old Trafford and if they win then Leicester win the top flight of English football for the first time in their history.For a fan of Leicester this is going to mean something more than a fan of a wealthy club jaded on success moaning that they didn’t win something that they think they’re entitled to. Sticking by a club like Leicester takes commitment because you see the bad times, and the club will have seen some awful times but the hope is always that your club bounces back and that maybe you’ll end up in a comfortable place in the top flight.

Yet today Leicester could win the league. As a Partick Thistle fan who last won anything three years ago and looks at the trophy cabinet moths with as much pride as our scant few trophies. But you stick by your team. You’ll be slagged off, laughed at, mocked and when relegated, crushed, but you can come back. You might even win the league as may happen today.

Leicester City is the closest I’ve got to an English team I’ll be interested in looking at their results first, but they’re not my team but for fans of clubs that will never do anything major, we can live vicariously through them. Yes they’re a relatively well off club, but in the modern era having a club like Leicester stand on the cusp of winning the biggest prize in English football is an astonishing achievement.

So at 4pm today, people like me and most importantly, the thousands of fans who’ve stuck by Leicester for years are hopefully going to see the club prove the impossible can happen. Whatever happens in the future these fans will remember this for as long as they live.

All Leicester have to do today is win….