The Absolute Game Remembered – 11

February 1, 2011


Alternative XI

Rounding up 1988, Mad Mac’s editorial calls it ‘the year of the silly bugger’ citing the antics of such worthies as Jim McLean, Louis Thow (the referee who awarded Neil Simpson a mere yellow card for wrecking Ian Durrant’s career), Wallace Mercer, Graeme Souness and Bill McMurdo in support of that contention.

Indeed Souness and Mercer feature at some length in this issue – the latter spotlighted in a review of his book, ‘Heart to Heart’ while the former is the leading actor in an article entitled ’10 Great Graeme Souness Fouls’ – eg “1. Siggi Jonsson, Iceland v Scotland 1985 – Jonsson was an adolescent hardman, known the world over for his barbaric tackling and chilling intimidation. It was obvious that he was going to kick the entire Scottish team into the nearest geyser sooner or later, so off for an unexpected visit to the local casualty unit he had to go………….9. Peter Nicholas, Scotland v Wales 1985 – Nicholas was a fighting psychopath who had been trained on commando assault courses by Don Howe when he was at Arsenal. In this particular incident Nicholas had adoopted a very threatening stance – ie he had his back turned and was moving away with the ball. Obviously some form of pre-emptive action was required…..

The appearance on the scene of a Rangers fanzine (‘Follow Follow’) (still in existence to this day) results in an article arising from a TAG interview with the editor (“Just call me Billy X“). Billy is taken to task for describing Celtic as ‘the athletic wing of the IRA’ and doesn’t answer the charge at all convincingly  (“On our supporters’ bus there would be no eyebrows raised if there was a bit of fundraising for the loyalist prisoners – obviously it’s a matter of degree – if someone went round taking a collection for the Shankhill butchers we’d tell them where to go, but if they said it was for the guys who shot Gerry Adams, I think we’d all chip in. Same on the other side : most Republicans would say it’s alright to shoot a British soldier, but very few would try to justify Enniskillen“).

fopmAt the other end of the spectrum Forfar Athletic (the athletic wing of Forfar) get the in-depth treatment. You will get an idea of what we’re dealing with here when I tell you that the person described as the  ‘saviour’ and ‘Messiah’ of the club is, in fact, none other than Archie Knox. And the whole two page article manages to avoid the use of the ‘b’ word  right up until the very last sentence when the author congratulates himself on not mentioning ‘bridie’ (oops, bugger it).

You get a real sense of another age when you read the article by Nigel Grant about the Government’s proposals to make football supporters participate in a compulsory national identity card scheme – ie you don’t have a card, you don’t get into the game.  This was the brainchild of the malicious old sow Thatcher herself, but was being piloted along by her neutered glove-puppet, Colin Moynihan (aka the 4th Baron Moynihan) (remember him? the little Falkirk bar-steward that he was).

There’s a review of a couple of players’ ‘autobiographies’ – first up is  Alex McLeish (‘The Don of an Era‘) (“it is terribly tedious….tiresome”) but even the scathing criticism thereof seems benevolent by comparison with the review of Alan Rough’s effort ‘Rough at the Top‘, where the review in its entirety reads, “For fuck’s sake“.

sjupUp till now I have resisted mentioning that there has been a series of ‘Hairstyles Thru The Ages’ running in TAG. We’re now on to episode 7, and it’s a two page special on the curly perm, featuring Kevin Keegan, Alan Rough again, Asa Hartford, Sandy Jardine (“the Ready Brek glow around his head provides some clues as to the type of curlers used to get a nice bushy perm – spent fuel rods from Hunterston B“) and Bobby Smith.

Rab Crangle gives an account of the trip to Oslo where Scotland beat Norway in a World Cup qualifying match (ah, the good old days !!) (The Tartan Army have a new song reflecting Scotland’s current style – “Luxembourg, Malta and Saudi too, We’ve drawn wi’ the best and we’ll draw wi’ you, We are the boys in Scotland blue, We cannae score and neither can you“).

There’s part 3 of TAG’s long-running love affair with Berwick Rangers (‘Bordering on Terminal’), wherein Jim Jeffries and the Deans clan emerge as potential saviours (soon to move lock, stock and barrel to Falkirk, and in the case of the Deans Pere et Fils, into the Sheriff court in relation to ‘creative accounting’ practices concerning the Falkirk gate-money), and there’s a quite extraordinary follow up to an earlier article about the state of some grounds in Scotland – try this as an opener – in 1974 a new cup competition for boys’ teams was inaugurated in Cowdenbeath – they played for the Bob Selkirk Trophy (Bob Selkirk being a deceased local Communist councillor) – for 14 years the final of the competition was played at Central Park, and obviously it was something of a thrill for the boys to play at a league ground – for the 1988 final, however,  Cowdenbeath refused permission for the use of the ground claiming that it was unfit to stage the match, which was expected to draw a crowd of about 100 people……..wait a minute…..if Central Park was unfit to stage a boys final, how could they hold senior league matches there? – now read on.

One of the letters begins “I have read some rubbish in football articles in my time but……….



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