The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 28

June 16, 2010

Confessions of a Mince-Pie Eater
– Volume 3 (More Mince)

As soon as we get the balloons cleared off the park then we can begin“. Thus spake a TV commentator before the start of last year’s FA Cup Final. Of course, many would argue that exactly the reverse was the case.

This article is yet another exploration of the balloons, half-wits and all-purpose head-cases who populate the pitches, terracings, commentary boxes and pressrooms of our beloved game.

Let’s start with my favourite bete noire – the Blue balloon. Last year I had borrowed a ticket for the Copland Road end at Ibrox for an Old Firm match. I arrived very early. In fact, I was sitting there at 2pm all on my own tucking into some Bears Pakora and Blue-Nose Veggieburger. I noticed another ‘Gers fan taking his seat a few rows along, clutching his Loyal hot-dog and No Pope of Rome Orange Juice. The two of us sat there in splendid isolation. A few minutes later, some of the Celtic players, resplendent in their C&A suits, emerged for the traditional pre-match pitch inspection. Such “inspections” generally seem to consist of the lads wandering about aimlessly in small groups discussing who they’ve got in the 3.30 at Doncaster. The Celtic goalie, Gordon Marshall, ambled towards the Copland Road penalty area and bent down to scrutinise the turf. The Blue-Nose along from me looked up from his programme and shouted, “It’s grass, Gordon. Hae ye no’ seen that afore?” Marshall grinned and made some amiable reply. There was then some good-natured banter between the two of them, with the ‘Gers fan saying, “Make sure an’ drap a couple the day, Gordon” and Marshall responding, “Nae chance “. Eventually, Marshall turned to head back inside. Dr Jekyll along from me spontaneously transformed into Mr Hyde, bawling “Ya big fucking Fenian bastart that ye ur. On ye go, away back into your cage ya fucking baboon “.

Bigot Than Both Of Us

I know that Rangers fans are easy targets, but some of them are so relentlessly oafish it’s almost as though they are parodying themselves. Recently, Mad Mac and I were travelling from Edinburgh to Firhill, and we got stuck behind a Rangers supporters bus on the motorway. Some of the lads on the bus were constructing a message of the rear window, using white sticking plaster. The first word was “Hiv”. I thought that this was the beginning of a sentence which would read something like “Hiv ye goat a spare ticket?”. The composer painstakingly formed the next character which was “+”. Ah, yes, “HIV +”. I get it. They’re playing Hibs. Hibs are from Edinburgh. Edinburgh is the AIDS capital of Europe. Yes, very droll, very fucking funny.

If it’s bad taste you’re after, try this. Several years ago, Eric Shaedler, then a Dumbarton player, ended his own life with a shotgun. The next day the Sons were at home to Morton and there was two minutes silence for Shaedler, who, after all, had been a Scottish international player. The silence was punctuated by a group of Morton fans singing, “Eric Shaedler, bang bang bang“.

In a similar vein, following the murder of Lord Mountbatten, some Celtic supporters were wont to sing (to the tune of Old McDonald’s Farm) “Old Mountbatten had a boat, e-i-e-i-o, with a bang bang here and a bang bang there, Old Mountbatten everywhere “.

In this trawl through the seamier side of the football fan I cannot resist going back to Ibrox. A few years ago the Daily Record published a photograph of an unfortunate baby who’d been born with a grossly enlarged head. I saw a guy going into Ibrox with, pinned to his lapel, this very photograph superimposed on top of a Celtic player’s body. Fuck knows why I’m telling you all this. It ain’t funny. Well not unless you’re a sicko (like me). I apologise for the high disgusting quotient of the last two paragraphs. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Funny Farm

Regular readers will know that I’ve got a positive fetish about football commentators and analysts (because secretly I’d like to be one myself). The most brilliant piece of post-match analysis I ever heard was back in the seventies following one of Celtic’s six-hit Cup Final wins over Hibs. Some genius had dragged in George Farm (ancient Scottish goalkeeper, failed manager of every club in Fife) to do his stuff on Scotsport. Arthur Montford said, ‘Right, George, talk us through the Celtic goals, if you will’ . As the slow-mo appeared on the screen, George delivered the following soliloquy, in stunning monotone,

There’s the throw-in, into the box and it’s in the net. (Pause) It’s through to Deans. Goal. (Pause) The boy hits the shot, it’s number three. (Pause) Good play and another goal. (Pause) Nice header. Number five. (Pause) It’s in the back of the net. That’s six. ”

George never appeared on Scotsport again.


How about Archie MacPherson’s latest incarnation as a radio commentator with Radio Clyde? If the art of the radio man is to give the listener a faint inkling of what’s taking place on the park then Archie is most definitely not the boy for the job. The following is reasonably typical of Archie’s style,

”The ball’s played forward, a fierce tackle there, it’s knocked back, woof Robertson, no, took his eye off it, and here’s a chance, woof it’s cleared, he has it again, and dear oh dear, would you believe it, it’s gone out for a throw-in near the corner flag. No, in fact, the referee’s given a free kick. Offside. Yes, offside, I thought as much. Well, Derek, what did you make of that? “.

I know what I make of it.

Let’s Be Frank

Particular enjoyment can be derived from listening to players or former players talking about the game. My favourite is Paul Elliott. He’s a relatively intelligent man and often has some interesting things to say, but sometimes his mastery of language lets him down, and he runs off at the mouth like an out-of- control motorised lawn-mower with no-one at the helm. Recently, I heard him analysing the first half of a Chelsea match, and he was keen to praise Dave Beasant’s performance in the Chelsea goal. Unfortunately, what he actually succeeded in saying was “If there were any doubts about Dave Beasant ‘s abilities then he’s certainly justified them in the first 45 minutes “. In the same game, Andy Gray, confused by the
juxtaposition of Frank Sinclair and John Spencer in the Chelsea line-up, repeatedly referred to Sinclair as “Frank Spencer”’. Some mothers really do ‘ave ’em.

Since Elliott’s departure from Celtic there have been constant rumours linking the Parkhead side with interest in English defenders. One of the alleged targets was the unfortunately named Julian Dicks. This reminds me of the “the Batsman’s Holding, the Bowler’s Willey ” type comment essayed by Alan Parry or someone similar, viz,
“West Ham have Dicks in defence “.
Funnily enough, even without spending money on Julian, precisely the same is true about Celtic.

On a slightly different tack, I am reliably informed that Forbes Johnston is known in the Falkirk dressing room as “Brains” on account of the fact that he is a university student. Apparently he inherited this title from a player with two 0 levels.

Hooked On Classics

I’m by no means saying that all football people are lacking in the grey matter department. Following a recent Clydebank-Dumbarton match at Boghead I found myself at the train station surrounded by a group of disgruntled Bankie fans (stuffed 3-1 by the rampant Sons). The conversation was the usual “Fuck this, fuck that, fuck the next thing” until they fell to discussing which hostelry they’d be drowning their sorrows in that evening. One brute announced that he couldn’t go to the pub as he was off to see the Scottish National Orchestra in the Glasgow Concert Hall. The initial disbelief on the part of his fellows soon subsided as they all engaged in a surreal fantasy equating the concert to a football match, viz, “Who’s the bastard with the baton?” “That c**t wi’ the triangle’s done fuck all all night, get the tubas on. ” “Beethoven’s Fifth has a few goal-mouth incidents in it.” . “That was a cracking bit of modal counterpoint by the boy Stravinsky. ” “A nicely timed intervention by the big cymbal player at the back there. ” And then, adapting Harry Enfield’s joke, they launched into a rousing chorus (to the tune of Here We Go, Here We Go) of “Placido, Placido, Placido “.

A Real Fruit Case?

The final anecdote in this edition of mince comes from the mouth of recently-retired bastard-in-the-black, Brian McGinlay. He was refereeing a vital match of some sort between Hungary and Czechoslovakia in Budapest (this was the Eastern Bloc’s equivalent of a Scotland-England game but without the good-natured camaraderie).

There was a massive crowd and passions were running high. Brian was assisted by two Scottish linesmen, whose names I can’t remember, but let’s say Douglas Hope was one of them. The Czechs were operating a highly-efficient offside trap, and the continual raising of the linesman’s flag was rousing the home crowd into a fury. Ten minutes to go, the ball is knocked long into the Czech half. McGinlay is pretty sure that it’s offside and he glances over expecting to see Hope’s flag raised for the fiftieth time. There’s no flag so McGinlay waves play on. As the Hungarians close in on goal McGinlay looks back. Not only is there no sign of Hope’s flag, there’s no sign of Hope either. Brian stops the play, which action ultimately results in him requiring an armed escort out of the stadium. Investigation reveals that Hope is lying semi-conscious on the half-way line, apparently having been struck by a flying pomegranate.

In their hotel room later that night they set about compiling their match report to FIFA. “in the eightieth minute the linesman, Mr Hope. was struck by a pommy.., pommi… pomag…. ach, fuck this, he was struck by an orange… “.

First published in TAG 33 – May 1993

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