The Absolute Game Remembered – 17

May 10, 2011


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…….“).


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 –

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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