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18-60 Munchen

Mad Mac expressly notes on the front page that the numbering system is ‘becoming tenuous’.

Also on the front page, if you squint you’ll be able to see it here, are the plaintive words “This Time, Maybe ??“.

This edition of TAG appeared just ahead of the 1990 World Cup, and having qualified fairly gloriously for the Finals, there was a guarded optimism that we might, this time maybe, progress beyond the group stage, where our opponents were to be Costa Rica, Sweden and Brazil.  For those of you who cannot remember what in fact happened next, tune into the review of TAG 19.

Without giving the game away I can say that Mad Mac’s editorial in this edition prophetically began “Scotland aren’t going to win the World Cup“  before continuing “…..it would be very disappointing, to put it mildly, if we couldn’t even register a single goal victory against the Central Americans (Costa Rica)….

pudnGary Oliver writes entertainingly and at length about what turned out to be Gordon Brown’s team, Raith Rovers.  He evokes memories of the Railway Cowshed, a nine-goal thriller at Ibrox (lost 8-1), the advent of manager Bobby Wilson who ‘set about assembling the worst-ever Raith Rovers team with almost missionary-like zeal‘, defeats of mortifying proportions at Kilbowie (7-2) and Meadowbank (6-0), Wilson’s dismissal succeeded by the appointment of Frank Connor (‘Alex Brash and Hamish McAlpine (combined age 69) were drafted in to bolster the defence‘), all of this reaching a climax with this extraordinary sentence, “Gaining promotion on an unforgettable afternoon in Stranraer remains probably the highlight of my two decades of watching Raith Rovers“.

Of course, Gary was not to know it then, but the greatest day in the Rovers history lay four years in the future when they won the League Cup by defeating Celtic in the Final – definitely dancing in the streets of Raith that day.

Bruno Glanvilla meanwhile says no to plastic pitches and forecasts that the semi-finalists in the forthcoming Mondial will be Argentina, Brazil, England and Scotland – Italy still too naive, Holland a flash-in-the-pan, West Germany lacking the flair of the four favourites. Was he right, readers? Tune in to the review of TAG 19 to find out.

Tinkering with the League structure is back on the agenda again. In a piece quite brilliantly entitled ‘Foibles of the Reconstruction’ we get the views of fanzine editors of Auchinleck Talbot and Pollok on the prospects of Junior clubs aspiring to join the Senior league via a pyramid system along the lines of the Vauxhall Conference in England, while there’s a separate, but related, article on the end-of-season play-offs.

Back to the World Cup theme and it’s Part II of the A-Z – “S is for Scotland. Throughout the footballing world, from Europe to Asia to Africa to South America, the word has a universal meaning, which can be translated as ‘a footballing tragedy, bitter disappointment, why the fuck do we bother etc etc‘”

I suspect that many of you are like me and buy a programme at every match you attend, but then rarely read them – I used to treat them simply as a souvenir or memento of the game, the actual contents normally being execrable. Mike Alway surveys the entire scene, contrasting the expensive and turgid rubbish produced by eg Rangers with the cheaper and more entertaining fare on offer at eg Stirling Albion.  Nearly every programme has a ‘player profile’ in which the player confesses his favourite album (usually Nana Mouskouri or The Commodores or somesuch) and that kind of thing. Mike finds one where Royal Albert’s Paddy O’Callaghan was asked ‘who would you most like to meet?’ and responded “Pope John Paul and any good-looking blonde“.

There’s a very long joint article about the then current state of the Premier League, focusing particularly on St Mirren (underachievers), Motherwell (underachievers) and Rangers (bastards). Motherwell’s underachievement was, of course, destined to be temporarily interrupted less than a year later when they won the Scottish Cup in one of the best matches I’ve ever been at.

By 1990 of course, Ireland had more or less become the new Scotland (ie a wee country punching above its weight at the top table of international football) while Scotland of course had conversely become the new Ireland (ie usually tripe, redeemed only occasionally by the very odd triumph). Donal Dunne gives you the lowdown on how this happened and the likelihood of it all reverting back sometime soon.

Nigel Burbage brings you a long-range weather forecast, preceded by the first ever reading from the Old Testament to feature in TAG – “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the Earth de-da de-da dum dum dum etc etc” – Genesis 7: 19&20 – this by way of an introduction to a cheery lesson about how climate change, the greenhouse effect, global warming etc might drown several senior football grounds in Scotland. A fairly modest rise in sea-levels and Aberdeen, Rangers, Dumbarton, St Mirren, Morton and several others would be swept away to join the new Atlantic league – in the Atlantic !!. A slightly bigger rise in sea level would lead to a Scottish Premier division consisting perforce of Airdrie, Cowdenbeath, Albion Rovers, Dunfermline, Motherwell, Dundee, Dundee United, Hamilton, Brechin and Forfar, being the only clubs 50 metres above sea level.  Good news for Blue Brazil fans.

eijgYou can have a guided tour of football in San Marino (not to be confused as it frequently was in the 1980′s with Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino). Or learn about how football is losing its soul to big business. Mac hilariously spotlights radio phone-ins, Jimmy Sanderson of course to the fore (“I have nothing against Mr Roxburgh personally, but I think he should never have been appointed“), but joined by the much more reasonable and likeable Bob Crampsey (“Well I think there are three points here“) and the utterly unintelligible John Greig (“John made several major contributions to the development of the English language including the introduction of the word ‘eh‘ as a means of punctuating sentences…..“).

Mad Mac is back with more bloody statistics in an article entitled ‘More Bloody Statistics’ wherein he proves that Motherwell are the best-supported team in the country.

My own contribution to this edition was a survey of football players’ names

http://almax.wordpress.com/2006/04/30/the-absolute-game-revisited-part-26/

That modest wee article actually contains a ‘joke’ that came to me in a dream. I had been trying to write the article one night and I was tinkering with the ideal Scotland line-up of Weir Young and Speedie, Ure Auld and Gray, Ure Auld Bauld, Gray and Duff. Players names were obviously still in my mind when I went to sleep, because at about 3am I suddenly awoke, and amidst protests from my wife I had the light on and was searching for pen and paper to write down the revelation that had come to me in the dark, viz – “I Fought D. Law and D. Law Won“. Unfortunately, the only way I could use this bon mot in the finished article was as a mere sub-heading, but I remain quite inordinately proud of both that line, and the sub-heading that preceded it, viz ‘St John the Baptie“.

This time the letter writers are all ultra-reasonable bods with sensible points to make, though a Stranraer fan took the time to compile league tables for all Scottish senior teams based on their league positions over the preceding ten years. He then placed the teams in the order of their ‘average league positions’, with the result that Stranraer ended up bottom, as consistently the worst team in Scotland over the preceding decade. Nowt as queer as folk.

PS – And this is a very belated PS indeed to my article about footballers names – the actual line-up of Michael Palin’s team was -

Hagerty F., Hagerty R., Tomkins, Noble, Carrick, Dobson, Crapper, Dewhurst, MacIntyre, Treadmore, Davitt.

My version wasn’t even close

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17 Nentori

The numbering of this issue reaches new heights/depths of the arcane.

Unless you are well up on Albanian football of the 1940/50′s then this one may pass you by.

17 Nentori was the name given in 1947 by the Communist government to the football club formerly  known as SK Tirana (and now known as KF Tirana).

Anyway, once you are inside this edition you find Mad Mac’s unfavourable reception of Lord Justice Taylor’s report on the Hillsborough disaster. As had been widely trailed and anticipated, Lord Taylor had gone for the easy option of recommending all-seated stadia, even though the existence of terracing per se was not the cause of the disaster. Mac recognised the inevitability of all-seating now being imposed on football fans, even though many wished to stand. As always, the very last and least people to be consulted were the actual spectators. (On a personal note – in 1990, as one who had always stood on the terracing at football matches, I was incensed at the idea of being forced to sit. Now, 20 years later, I give thanks to Lord Taylor for allowing old codgers the relief of a guaranteed seat at the game.)

There’s a look back at 1974 when Scotland’s amazing sequence of qualifying for the World Cup Finals began. 1974 – the year of Jinky’s attempt to row to the Finals in Germany. A year when the world cup single ‘Easy Easy’ achieved such chart success that ‘there was the hellish prospect that Top of the Pops would be hosted by Archie MacPherson‘. The year when we started off our campaign in the Finals by beating Zaire 2-0, leading to the team being roundly condemned for the paucity of the victory (and that is a criticism which will never be able to be directed at a Scotland team again – nowadays any victory against anybody is welcomed).  This was followed by one of our greatest performances ever in tonking Brazil, the holders, 0-0. Unfortunately Yugoslavia beat Zaire 9-0 and the writing was on our wall.

There’s the Loony’s latest epistle from Berwick, this one beginning ominously “In a ‘clear the air’ meeting with Berwick Rangers supporters in January, Chairman George Deans was asked the whereabouts of the £110,000 received in transfer fees for John Hughes and Neil Oliver……..(on 8 February) Deans buggered off and bought Falkirk…….” (Note from me – funnily enough, a year or two later George Deans and his father found themselves in the dock at Falkirk Sheriff Court where the question this time was about the whereabouts of the gate takings at several of Falkirk’s home matches. The Deans’ escaped conviction and imprisonment apparently because the Sheriff reached the conclusion that almost every director of Falkirk FC had for many years  been stealing from the club and he couldn’t apportion exact responsibility)………”the abiding memory is of a devious and secretive little spiv who ran the club with all the openness of a Masonic Lodge…..

Scottish Women’s football is spotlighted, a book on Belfast Celtic is previewed, Bruno Glanvilla waxes lyrical on Scotland’s prospects in Italia 90 “Oh, how can I express to you the joys of seeing Roy Aitken in full flow, or Jim Leighton commanding the penalty area with a confidence born of so many superlative displays at this level….“, and still on the World Cup theme there’s part 1 of an A-Z (“C is for Costa Rica, a nation whose football prowess we know little of…….“).

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Mad Mac investigates the ebbs and flows of crowd sizes over the years (under the heading “271′s a Crowd” with the sub-heading “well, it is for East Stirling anyway“), and some of the figures are actually quite eye-opening from the perspective of 2009. We live in an age when 60,000 people regularly turn up at Celtic Park and 50,000+ turn up at Ibrox to watch what is frequently dire rubbish. The average crowd at Celtic Park in 1969/70 (making due allowance for the biscuit tin massaging of the figures) was 35,411 (at a time when Celtic were a major European force), and then ten years later in 78/79 it was a mere 26,178, rising by 88/89 to 33,755. At Ibrox meanwhile, the corresponding figures were – 69/70 – 31,647 : 78/79 – 24,380 and 88/89 – 39,333.  Aberdeen’s crowds varied only slightly between 11,000 and 14,400 over the same period, while by ’89 Hearts had just overtaken them as the third best supported team in the country at 15,500. The decline of the aforementioned ‘Shire was mirrored in crowds which fell from 891 to 513 to the said 271. Mac identified the trend (which has continued) of the big getting bigger while the small grow weaker.

Alloa, Alloa” is the fun/pun title of an article about, er, Alloa. “It’s fair to say that the sixties didn’t exactly swing for Alloa – they just plodded on by“. How many club histories will include, as Alloa’s does, a phrase like “….a record-breaking run of 7 consecutive penalty misses…..“. And how delightful that Gregor Abel was the manager for a while, permitting the comment, “Abel was unable to keep his job“.

Well it was 1990 and the talk was of Rangers joining a European Super League (yawn). TAG’s investigation began by quoting ‘Scotland on Sunday’ who had the complete lowdown including the specific teams who would be in Rangers group. There’s a quote from David Murray, which is particularly interesting in the light of recent events, “We have a fabulous stadium, possibly the best in the world. Why should we be restricted to playing Hamilton Accies?

(2009 answer to 1990 rhetorical question) -’Cos they’re the only team you can beat, Dave.

As Italia ’90 hoves into view, Mad Mac profiled the team most likely to be the Giantkillers in the competition – ie Scotland.  Coach Andy Roxburgh reminisced about the critical away victory over the mighty Cyprus in the qualifying rounds, “Basically the Cypriots were over-confident. Being a skilled side and disciples of total football, I think our primitive, disorganised approach wasn’t at all to their liking“.

There’s a highly thought-provoking interview with academic and Rangers fan, Dr Graham Walker of the University of Sussex – it’s impossible for me to quote from it because any quote will be wildly out of context, but this is one well worth getting a hold of if you can.

Goal-scoring celebrations are analysed, ranging from the modest 1960s simple shake of the hand from colleagues to the goal-scorer, to Peter Grant crossing himself on bended knees after Terry Butcher had scored an own goal. And, under the heading of ‘Talbot Handsome’ there’s a look at the Junior ranks in darkest Ayrshire in a review of a book on the history of Auchinleck Talbot. It’s a hard old game – “……in the 1982/83 Ayrshire Cup Final Talbot won an extra time penalty against Cumnock. The Cumnock skipper flung the referee to the ground, and on his way to the dressing room after dismissal, knocked the Ayrshire Cup off its stand. He was suspended for 2 matches and fined £30….“.

And finally, my own Mince Pie Eater Confessions  makes a return for part 2 -

http://almaxp.wordpress.com/2010/06/08/the-absolute-game-revisited-part-25/

The letter writers are mainly sensible, though Hoots McPherson (possibly not real name) rather straddles the line, – “Ah hae enclosit a wheen o’ siller fur the nixt sax bit buiks wi’ their bonny pictures an’ thir gey canty bit speak. In fac’ ah dampt near runkle ma breeks ilka time ma e’en lichtens oan it……….here’s tae us, wha’s like us, dam few an’ they’re a’ in the World Cup Finals…

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Hat-Trick 16

League reconstruction, as ever, is on the agenda. This time its purpose appeared to be to save Dundee from relegation – it turned out that nothing could save Dundee from relegation, least of all Dundee themselves. This is the cue for an in-depth look at the Dens park club and their ‘flamboyant’ Chairman, Angus Cook. Cook was a self-proclaimed messiah, and indeed not long after he took the helm at Dens “two big triumphs followed : The Forfarshire Cup was captured in Mid December. Amidst emotional scenes, Bobby Glennie lifted the Bacofoil covered trophy while ecstatic fans, Sid and Doris Bonkers, danced up and down the Gayfield railway sleepers…..

Who was to know that a mere 15 years later Cookie would find himself appearing on Indictment at Dundee Sheriff Court pleading guilty to a variety of colourful charges involving fraud and false accounting? A benevolent Sheriff declined to send Cook to the jail, confining the penalty to a combination of fines and compensation orders amounting to the best part of a million quid.

League reconstruction proposals from an earlier age throw up a delicious irony – in 1964, a domestically dominant Rangers attempted to force through proposals to axe 5 clubs from the Scottish League, because they were pish. Four of the clubs for the Ibrox chop were Albion Rovers, Brechin City, Stenhousemuir and Stranraer, and Rangers went as far as the Court of Session in their efforts to have them ejected.

The irony? The fifth club was Berwick Rangers. Rangers were still engaged in the Court of Session on 28 January 1967 when Berwick Rangers beat them 1-0 in the first round of the Scottish Cup.

tagclip1There are still pertinent full-scale reviews of a book about John Barnes and another two about football hooliganism, along with brief looks at some other publications including “The Book of Football Quotations” (example – Everton manager Gordon Lee, asked his impression of Africa on a tour of Morocco said, “Africa? We’re not in bloody Africa, are we?“).

Part 2 of Protest and Surmise looks again at supporter power, while there’s an article telling you more than you want to know about Norwegian football. Inverness Clachnacuddin are the subject of a Mad Mac 2 page special.

There is the first appearance of ‘Scotland’s favourite world-weary, haute cuisine loving, jetsetting Italian journalist’, Bruno Glanvilla, “….my job does not involve me in a round of glamorous footballing junkets, with first class travel and accommodation. I personally have slept the night on an Edinburgh to Polmont sprinter and have waited 13 hours for a connection to Kirkcaldy while en route from Genoa to Dundee“.

George Best was still in life at that time, and was earning a crust on the after-dinner circuit, and we have an account of one such appearance in Australia – there was a question and answer session, “…….jabbing the air with a can of Fosters a balding Mancunian said he had two ambitions in life:  “To see Manchester United win the League again and to be George Best’s dick“. Amidst the laughter George said he had a chance of one coming true“.

tclipArbroath come under the spotlight in an article entitled ‘A Decade In The Doldrums‘, while elsewhere there’s an introduction to Charles Reep’s Performance Analysis for beginners.

As it’s approaching Christmas, there’s a Yuletide quiz – eg “Liverpool Manager Kenny Dalglish has been capped 100 times. But for which country?” and Which Scottish clubs have never won the UEFA Cup?

The letter writers are revolting – “All right, you tight Scotch bastard, where’s my copy of the Aug/Sept copy of TAG?………..” and “I am writing to complain about…….

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2nd Half – 15

I told you the numbering process was obscure.

Mad Mac inveighs editorially against the football authorities, whose cardinal sin is said to be that they completely ignore anything and everything football supporters want.

tagclipThe Redcar Lunatic re-appears to examine the fraught and sometimes dangerous world of referees (‘I’m The Bastard In The Black‘) (the article entitled thus because the Loony himself  was a qualified Class 3 ref). But first he has a quick swipe at his beloved Berwick (‘more boring than postal chess‘) and then it’s on to imagining how we would feel doing our own jobs whilst constantly surrounded by a baying mob of disbelievers – “imagine a checkout girl in Willie Lows “That’ll be £15.62, please” – “Fifteenpounds sixty bastard two?? Open your fucking eyes you silly fat cow….” etc.  And here, he’s just talking about abuse from the players – we’re not even on to the spectators yet.

The Count of Monte Christie Park (not real name) regales us with more delights of Highland league football – “I recall some years ago mentioning a Highland League Cup Final result to a drunken Celtic supporter :

ME – I see Keith won the Highland League Cup today against Ross County – that’s the third year in a row they’ve won it

DRUNK TIM – Fuck yer shinty

The Count examines in some detail the myth that Highland League football is played by hairy-arsed, bearded, claymore-swinging bears, all called Lachie, on converted local turnip patches – though concedes that the description may variously fit Rothes and Huntly.

Mad Mac, as a St Johnstone fan, gives the new purpose-built, all-seated, all-covered McDiarmid Park a cautious welcome. It would be nice to report that McDiarmid Park was named after the poet, but in fact it takes its name from the farmer on whose land the ground was built.

Amidst descriptions like ‘pretty impressive’, ‘compact’, ‘neat and tidy’ Mac tells us that a pleasant surprise was that the PA system was perfectly audible, a facility somewhat undermined on opening day by the tannoy man playing a full side of the ‘Carpenters Greatest Hits‘ in the run up to kick-off. Mac also counsels us , “do not interpret ‘all-seated’ and ‘all-covered’ to mean complete shelter from the elements. Those of us sitting in the front rows were given a facial wash and rinse periodically throughout the match as a (moderately) strong wind swept the rain into the stands…

Compare and contrast that new football Mecca in Perth with the slightly older one in Larbert – Ochilview, home of Stenhousemuir – Stenny (aka the Warriors) get the in-depth treatment “…in 1928 the stand at Ochilview burnt down, and the replacement was completed before it was noticed that there was no access to the seats…“.

Staircases had to be added later.

Perhaps that wasn’t such a disaster for a club who’ve been going since 1884 and whose club history describes their ‘golden years’ as being 1893-1903.  At the time when this edition of TAG appeared, Stenhousemuir had NEVER been promoted (ie they joined the league in the lowest division in 1921 and stayed there…until the formation of the current third division in 1993-94 at which time they were ‘promoted’ administratively to the second division. They were relegated in 1998, which of course was then trumpeted by the club as ‘the only time’ they’d ever been relegated. The following season they were actually promoted, but they were relegated again in 2004).

The demise of the Scottish Cup is bemoaned by Mac – to keep sponsors Tennent’s happy, there will henceforth be no replay if the final epohknds in a draw – straight to penalties – indeed in the earlier rounds only one replay will henceforth be allowed before penalties kick in. Indeed the trophy itself has been re-named as ‘the Tennent’s Scottish Cup’, which Mad M calls ‘a complete disgrace’.

Cowdenbeath are back in the spotlight.  Their pre-season friendly draws this withering comment, “Only a 2-2 draw could be mustered against Whitley Bay – the visitors arrived an hour late which meant that they could only play 35 minutes each way since Central Park’s floodlights were being replaced and the new ones weren’t wired up. There we have it : a crap result; a typically shambolic game; and a joke stadium.

Things had got so bad for the Blue Brazil that their supporters had taken to humming the theme from the ‘Twilight Zone’  as their team ran out onto the park. Ya hoor, sor.

Although many fans continued to feel utterly disenfranchised so far as affecting the conduct of their club, many others had recently shown that ‘fan power’ could have an effect at boardroom level and the article ‘Protest and Surmise’ is really a primer on how fans can organise themselves as effective lobbyists.

Now, are ball-boys the last of the unsung heroes or a bunch of spikey-heided masochists? That’s the question in an article entitled ‘Gie Us The Baw Mister‘. Or at least it’s one of the questions. Another is ‘How many ball  boys have died from hypothermia in the course of duty?’ Never praised for doing his job properly, the only advice the ball-boy is likely to hear is “the baw’s ower there ya wee prick”.

There’s more on Australia’s World Cup campaign (deceased at the hands of Israel), the first appearance of Harry Angel (real name) rounding up what’s going on in Junior football, reviews galore and an insight into football in Switzerland.

The letter writers are on form – “Dear TAG, – A helpful suggestion I have is that if a new national stadium is to be built, a place could be found for Ernie Walker in one of the concrete supports…….” and “Why do the caterers at Hampden Park only heat up a dozen pies at half time for a crowd of 50,000?

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2nd Round 1st Leg – 14

As you see, the numbering system has become obscure, but basically having had the first 13 we’re now reverting to no 1 again – at least we are until it becomes too difficult and then some other system entirely will be adopted. Keep an eye on that.

puomThis is the issue immediately after Maurice Johnston signed for Celtic Rangers. TAG gave this move a qualified welcome and encouraged supporters of all clubs outside the Old Firm to give Johnston all the backing they could, not least because he had almost single-handed or single-footed brought Scotland to the verge of qualification for the World Cup. On the other hand, “because of who he is, and his lack of personal integrity, the odds against this particular Catholic succeeding at Ibrox, which were going to be heavy in any case, begin to take on almost impossible proportions“.

And crikey, do you remember this? In June 1989 Scotland got to the World Cup Final !! Beating a Portugal team featuring Luis Figo along the way !! OK, fair enough, it was merely the under-16 tournament held here in Scotland, but it turned out to be a source of great excitement and yes, pride, as our gallant boys made it all the way to the Hampden final only to succumb to a Saudi Arabian team who appeared to be playing fast and loose with an essential element of the competition, namely the ‘under-16′ bit (it seemed that quite a few of their players who started the match clean-shaven, finished it with fairly bushy beards).

Very few of the boys who played for Scotland that day went on to feature prominently in the senior game. Ironically, perhaps the most successful senior career was ahead of Brian O’Neill who went on to play for Celtic and Aberdeen and others, and for the senior Scotland team. I say ironically, because O’Neill had the opportunity to win the cup for Scotland and blew it. We had established an early 2-0 lead. The Saudis pulled one back. Seventeen minutes to go and we are awarded a penalty kick – “You are about to take a crucial penalty at Hampden in front of an enthusiastic Scots crowd. If you score Scotland will be world champions for the first time at anything. It is the 675th anniversary of Bannockburn.The goals are 8 yards wide and 8 feet high – you are 12 yards away. Are you thinking, “I’ve got no chance” – I’ll bet you are“.

O’Neill missed. The Saudis equalised. In the penalty shoot-out O’Neill repeated his trick and missed again and they won 5-4 on penalties. A very Scottish scenario. But it was great fun.

Having not contributed since edition 10, I managed to cobble together a two-page spread, ‘Confessions of a Mince Pie Eater‘. The title was supposed to be a sly knowing allusion to De Quincey’s ‘Confessions of an Opium Eater‘, but to my chagrin everyone else thought it merely referenced the Robin Askwith/Anthony Booth series of soft porn films beginning with ‘Confessions of a Window Cleaner‘. You can read the whole thing here -

http://almaxp.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/the-absolute-game-revisited-part-24/Elsewhere, this edition is packed with terrific material on Aberdeen (the Decline and Fall aka the Big Sheep), Kilmarnock (“Picture the scene. A gathering of people 366 in number, to vote on a matter of paramount importance. A show of hands is called for. The result 344 for, 22 against. The result is the 22 against win. China? No. Poland? No. Russia? No. Kilmarnock Football Club EGM? Yes“), Ayr United (Manager A. McLeod, ’nuff said)  Acrrington Stanley (in 1956/57 they fielded a team consisting entirely of Scots…), Austrian Football (From Sturm Graz to Memphis) and Albion Rovers again (“One law Fagan (former Chairman now deceased) somehow managed to avoid was the criminal law – which, incidentally states that a dead person cannot be libelled, so I have no hesitation in pronouncing him a general all-round bastard of the first order.“)

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Mad Mac muses perceptively on the repercussions of Hillsborough and the clamour to move to all-seater stadia.  There’s a reconstruction of the peculiar events that led to Clyde saving themselves from relegation  at the end of the previous season, at the expense of Kilmarnock – Clyde scoring with a penalty kick  6 and a half minutes into injury time. Mac is also on top form in an article entitled “European Gory Nights” that examines the fortunes of our domestic clubs  in the European competitions (“Scotland has always lagged behind in adopting successful continental tactical innovations such as the sweeper system, total football, and bribing match officials……….“). Recalled are Celtic’s infamous matches with Atletico Madrid (“…likened by many to a boxing match, but although the majority of the Spanish side’s punches were below the belt they appeared to win on points, with their Argentine internationalist Ayala landing the knockout blow on Jimmy Johnstone in the players tunnel after the bell“) and Rapid Vienna (“…theatricals in the finest traditions of a Mozart opera..”) and Politechnica Timisoara (“a side that had qualified for the competition by winning the Rumanian final of Mastermind“). Meantime, Hibernian’s occasional sorties into Europe are described thus, “time and time again they have seen themselves drawn against the Continent’s all-time greats – Liverpool, Valencia, Leeds, Juventus and Oester Vaxjoe…..

On the letters page, Bill Murray writes in to complain about the review of his book on the Old Firm, and another correspondent takes issue with Rab Crangle’s implication that Sammy ‘leg-snapper’ Conn is a dirty player – “OK he was sent off on numerous occasions…….

The best issue to date, in my opinion.

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Likely 13

This was the first edition after the Hillsborough disaster and Mad Mac doesn’t rush to judgement, but instead asks that whatever lessons are learned are suitably heeded and applied in Scotland. Simultaneously however, the fight against Mrs Thatcher’s ID card scheme is stepped up.

There’s a statistical investigation into the number of times the Old Firm have been drawn against each other in Cup competitions – the answer, not surprisingly, is that the figures make it look like something highly suspicious was going on – listen to this – between 1945 and 1988 Rangers and Celtic were together in the semi-final of the Scottish and League Cups on no fewer than 15 occasions, and were drawn to play each other ………..ONCE. (Perhaps, Steve, our resident stats man would like to have a look at this). This apparently anomalous situation has tended to rectify itself ever since the draws started to be televised live, despite talk of heated balls (oo-er, missus) and other similar devices.

mwcThere’s a look at the flow of players across the border – a flow that had been relentlessly one-way until the arrival of Graeme Souness at Ibrox, when for a brief period it was English clubs who became jittery at the sight of a Scots raiding party. But prior to that “many a Scotsman has flown from his footballing nest in exchange for pound notes, corrugated iron sheets or the odd floodlight pylon. The majority, including the likes of Bobby Collins, Pat Crerand, Martin Buchan, Lou Macari and Kenny Dalglish went on to greater things and famous accomplishments, but others like Peter Marinello, Alex Cropley and Charlie Nicholas were not to be so fortunate – they went to Arsenal“.

And here’s one for students of soccer history – it’s 1989 and TAG has an article entitled “FERGIE : What’s Gone Wrong?” – and yes, it is our old chum Sir Alex (then plain Alex) who is the Fergie in question. “What the hell is wrong with Alex Ferguson these days? Many are shellshocked at stories emanating from the South that he has become a griping, moaning, petty-minded, paranoid neurotic, and most bewildering of all that he has lost his sense of humour………..“.

The interface between fitba and jurisprudence is explored in ‘10 Great Court Cases‘ – one example was the occasion when Robert Fleck was fined £150 for baring his bum to the crowd during a Rangers-Celtic reserve match. Many thought this was much preferable to him baring his face. Also mentioned in dispatches was the infamous 1987 Old Firm 2-2 draw (2 convicted, 2 acquitted) ‘with the verdicts on McAvennie and Roberts probably being as perplexing and unfathomable as the events on the field that day‘. Benny Rooney, John ‘Cowboy’ McCormack and Andy Brannigan are among the others in the dock.

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The Kicker Conspiracy‘ is a look at some of the ‘enforcers’ in the lower divisions, with top prize for ‘Services to the Wheelchair Industry‘ going to Sammy Conn variously of Albion Rovers, Airdrie, Clydebank and Falkirk…….”a formidable opponent, supremely skilled in the art of getting his retaliation in first“.

Brechin City, Clyde and Hamilton Accies all get the in-depth treatment, and there are articles on the Premier League, Hibs new crest, football songs, and televised fitba, as well as the usual round-up of reviews etc.

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The correspondents, as always, are revolting rebellious, with the notable exception of a Queen of the South fan who not only wholeheartedly endorses the views expressed on that club in TAG 12, but also hearteningly says that he’s been supporting Queens since 1945, which at least made me not the oldest reader.

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ONE-TWO 12

TAG celebrates Scotland’s World Cup victory in Cyprus by lavishing praise on our man-of-the-match, Siegfried Kirschen. A conspicuously non-Scottish name and a name you may have now forgotten, Herr Kirschen was the referee who somehow found about twenty minutes added-on time to enable us to overcome Cyprus 3-2, Richard Gough getting the winner in the 109th minute. I don’t think he was being deliberately biased in our favour – I think his watch just stopped. Note that this precipitated rioting by spectators which was sufficiently serious to result in Cyprus being punished by UEFA  and having to play their next ‘home’ game in Athens.

pueaAnd talking of Athens , there’s a 2 page spread on Greek football under the heading ‘Amazing Greece’ (headline writer sacked). At that time (1989) we might have thought that Greek football was a bit of a joke, but who’s laughing now? In the interim, Greece have been European champions and a much safer bet for qualification for finals than our own brave boys.

Jovial Jim McLean is under the spotlight again and there’s even a cartoon strip detailing his life story – when he’s born, his father asks anxiously ‘is it a boy or a girl?‘ only to be told ‘neither – it’s a miserable wee potato‘.

Mad Mac investigates the apparent increasing numbers of over-30s still playing – cue Hamish McAlpine and Jim Gallacher (in the latter’s case ‘there is a great temptation to run onto the pitch, throw a travelling rug over his shoulders, and offer the old bugger a sip of tea to ward off a chill‘).

The Australian national team (inevitably nick-named ‘the Socceroos’) is profiled in the wake of their near failure to qualify for the World Cup finals. All they had to do was beat Fiji (population 800,000 of which 9 play football). To their considerable embarrassment they lost the first leg 1-0, but salvaged the tie in the return game much to the relief of manager Frank ‘Mad Dog’ Arok.

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Dundee were looking for a manager. See the various newspaperclippings. TAG gives an exhaustive list of the candidates, including The Hon Man, Hen Broon, Fraser Elder, Yasser Arafat, George Galloway and Soapy Soutar.

There are articles on crowd attendances at SPL matches and TV coverage of Scottish football (conclusion – most people watch/want to watch Rangers and Celtic) and a terrific in-depth piece on Queen of the South (entitled ‘We Call It Rubbish’) (“Davy Wilson proved that he might have a career ahead of him as a music hall comic when he announced during last year’s mid-season crisis that he was introducing a sweeper system. In reality it transpired that this was a euphemism for playing with seven or eight back in defence, and a frenetic cavalry charge every time the ball was hoofed up towards the other end“).

There’s a message to all Hearts fans from Wallace Mercer – “I have offered Alex MacDonald some tactical advice on a take it or leave it basis. He either takes it or he leaves the club.

And Mad Mac dons his pith helmet again to explore ‘The Mysteries of the East’, the orient in question being the mysterious East of Scotland League (though at that time Annan Athletic were in the EOSL even though they are a bit westwards). “As with all non-league football in Scotland, matches are characterised by the ‘heid doon, arse up’ approach with flailing legs – and sometimes fists – popular optional extras“.

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The letter writers are becoming more and more bolshie (I digress for a moment to note that in a recent police report I read, it was said that a particular person’s behaviour was becoming increasingly bolshoi). Several readers complain that the editor of ‘Follow Follow’ was let off far too lightly in the previous TAG, and there are legitimate complaints about the tasteless casual racism in the most recent edition of the Dundee fanzine, Derry Rumba. Derek Rae continues to be panned by all and sundry – but sundry doesn’t apparently include the writer of the letter to the Daily Record depicted here.
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