The Absolute Game Remembered – 6

January 9, 2011


Didier 6

For me, this is the critical issue. On its first birthday I finally caught up with TAG.

The first thing I read was the Forgotten Ones No 6 on Willie Johnston. It’s reproduced in full below, but I quote the very bit that persuaded me that I  should try my hand at this sort of thing –

Not for him the currently fashionable and faintly intellectual crime of dissent – his mark was invariably made (literally) using those solid and trusty tools, the knuckle and boot. Bruising of the highest order, to twist Jock Brown’s well-worn phrase“.

On the same page there was a review of Jim McLean’s autobiography, ‘Jousting With Giants‘ – “166 pages of black comedy from the most doom-laden human being since Edgar Allan Poe. McLean really is Calvinism incarnate – neurotic, self-doubting, depresssed……

There’s an interview with Hugh Keevins, then the chief football reporter for the Scotsman. And an in-depth look at the Blue Brazil with the fantastic headline ‘COWDEN : Where’s the Beef?‘ There’s an analysis of what went (seriously) wrong at the Hibs – Celtic game on 28 November 1987, when proper crowd-control disappeared, Hibs and Celtic fans were crushed together, fighting was constantly breaking out, there was a procession of displaced fans walking along the touchline while the game raged on, all topped off by some moron discharging a tear-gas canister and causing a stampede ‘which could have led to a tragedy of Heysel proportions‘.

On a lighter note, one of my favourite ever article headings is featured, viz ‘HEID DOON, ARSE UP‘, being an account of St Mirren’s European Cup Winners’ Cup Tie at home to Belgian cracks, Mechelen. “The script for this game had been well rehearsed : Scottish club gets good result (but no goal) in first, away leg ; the press hacks go into an orgasmic fit and more or less urge us to lay down a first deposit on the Cup Final tickets ; second leg, Scots club blows it, the ‘wily foreigners’ running out easy winners………

There is a close look at football in the Highlands,  entitled ‘High Lands Hard Facts‘ with a sly nod to Aztec Camera. This was, of course, in the days before any Highland league team had gained admittance to the Scottish league and we still thought of Inverness Caledonian, Inverness Clachnacuddin, Inverness Thistle, Ross County and Elgin City as quaint wee teuchter teams that got hammered by Alloa and Brechin in the first round of the cup, but otherwise played year-round on a turnip field, usually with shinty sticks as optional extras. This article brings enlightenment, and in its own way prepared the ground for the successful assimilation of the big Highland teams into the SFL.

There’s a favourable review of ‘the Best of Foul’, the usual round-up of ‘the sinister world of football fanzines’, a delve into the peculiar world of Albanian football (“Albania is where Darlington fans go on their holidays“), the Redcar Lunatic returns to document the resignation of Eric Tait as manager of Berwick (“Berwick Rangers finally hit rock bottom when they kicked off with their keeper speeding down the A1 somewhere near Dunbar, and their fat ageing physio in goal….to cap it all Albion Rovers had a man sent off and still trounced us 3-0“), and an article called ‘Touchline Tantrums’ that amusingly documents the foibles of the managers who ‘kick every ball’ from their position patrolling the side of the pitch : starting  with Frank Connor, then manager of Raith Rovers (“Frank is indeed a frightening figure. In his knee-length overcoat and greased back silver hair the similarities with Ian Paisley are obvious. In all probability he is shouting things like, “You, sir, will be delivered in to the Devil’s cauldron for the blasphemous crime of failing to award a penalty kick“”).

The letters page continues to resemble psychiatric case-notes. The Sons of Spooner write to take issue with the ‘unprovoked attack on the bathroom facilities at Crewe Station‘ in TAG5  – “the beautiful Armitage Shanks porcelain urinals are a joy to behold and although trap one has a uniquely pungent aroma……

A Dunfermline fan bemoans his side’s elevation to the premier league which is ‘boring’. “I miss the epic journeys of yore, the Stranraer rabbit, Forfar’s bridies, and getting my head kicked in at Dumfries twice“.

In short, it’s only issue 6, but already here is a virtually perfect template for what a football fanzine should be



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