The Absolute Game Remembered – 14

March 6, 2011

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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 –

https://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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