The Absolute Game Remembered – 18

June 28, 2011


18-60 Munchen

Mad Mac expressly notes on the front page that the numbering system is ‘becoming tenuous’.

Also on the front page, if you squint you’ll be able to see it here, are the plaintive words “This Time, Maybe ??“.

This edition of TAG appeared just ahead of the 1990 World Cup, and having qualified fairly gloriously for the Finals, there was a guarded optimism that we might, this time maybe, progress beyond the group stage, where our opponents were to be Costa Rica, Sweden and Brazil.  For those of you who cannot remember what in fact happened next, tune into the review of TAG 19.

Without giving the game away I can say that Mad Mac’s editorial in this edition prophetically began “Scotland aren’t going to win the World Cup“  before continuing “… would be very disappointing, to put it mildly, if we couldn’t even register a single goal victory against the Central Americans (Costa Rica)….

pudnGary Oliver writes entertainingly and at length about what turned out to be Gordon Brown’s team, Raith Rovers.  He evokes memories of the Railway Cowshed, a nine-goal thriller at Ibrox (lost 8-1), the advent of manager Bobby Wilson who ‘set about assembling the worst-ever Raith Rovers team with almost missionary-like zeal‘, defeats of mortifying proportions at Kilbowie (7-2) and Meadowbank (6-0), Wilson’s dismissal succeeded by the appointment of Frank Connor (‘Alex Brash and Hamish McAlpine (combined age 69) were drafted in to bolster the defence‘), all of this reaching a climax with this extraordinary sentence, “Gaining promotion on an unforgettable afternoon in Stranraer remains probably the highlight of my two decades of watching Raith Rovers“.

Of course, Gary was not to know it then, but the greatest day in the Rovers history lay four years in the future when they won the League Cup by defeating Celtic in the Final – definitely dancing in the streets of Raith that day.

Bruno Glanvilla meanwhile says no to plastic pitches and forecasts that the semi-finalists in the forthcoming Mondial will be Argentina, Brazil, England and Scotland – Italy still too naive, Holland a flash-in-the-pan, West Germany lacking the flair of the four favourites. Was he right, readers? Tune in to the review of TAG 19 to find out.

Tinkering with the League structure is back on the agenda again. In a piece quite brilliantly entitled ‘Foibles of the Reconstruction’ we get the views of fanzine editors of Auchinleck Talbot and Pollok on the prospects of Junior clubs aspiring to join the Senior league via a pyramid system along the lines of the Vauxhall Conference in England, while there’s a separate, but related, article on the end-of-season play-offs.

Back to the World Cup theme and it’s Part II of the A-Z – “S is for Scotland. Throughout the footballing world, from Europe to Asia to Africa to South America, the word has a universal meaning, which can be translated as ‘a footballing tragedy, bitter disappointment, why the fuck do we bother etc etc‘”

I suspect that many of you are like me and buy a programme at every match you attend, but then rarely read them – I used to treat them simply as a souvenir or memento of the game, the actual contents normally being execrable. Mike Alway surveys the entire scene, contrasting the expensive and turgid rubbish produced by eg Rangers with the cheaper and more entertaining fare on offer at eg Stirling Albion.  Nearly every programme has a ‘player profile’ in which the player confesses his favourite album (usually Nana Mouskouri or The Commodores or somesuch) and that kind of thing. Mike finds one where Royal Albert’s Paddy O’Callaghan was asked ‘who would you most like to meet?’ and responded “Pope John Paul and any good-looking blonde“.

There’s a very long joint article about the then current state of the Premier League, focusing particularly on St Mirren (underachievers), Motherwell (underachievers) and Rangers (bastards). Motherwell’s underachievement was, of course, destined to be temporarily interrupted less than a year later when they won the Scottish Cup in one of the best matches I’ve ever been at.

By 1990 of course, Ireland had more or less become the new Scotland (ie a wee country punching above its weight at the top table of international football) while Scotland of course had conversely become the new Ireland (ie usually tripe, redeemed only occasionally by the very odd triumph). Donal Dunne gives you the lowdown on how this happened and the likelihood of it all reverting back sometime soon.

Nigel Burbage brings you a long-range weather forecast, preceded by the first ever reading from the Old Testament to feature in TAG – “And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the Earth de-da de-da dum dum dum etc etc” – Genesis 7: 19&20 – this by way of an introduction to a cheery lesson about how climate change, the greenhouse effect, global warming etc might drown several senior football grounds in Scotland. A fairly modest rise in sea-levels and Aberdeen, Rangers, Dumbarton, St Mirren, Morton and several others would be swept away to join the new Atlantic league – in the Atlantic !!. A slightly bigger rise in sea level would lead to a Scottish Premier division consisting perforce of Airdrie, Cowdenbeath, Albion Rovers, Dunfermline, Motherwell, Dundee, Dundee United, Hamilton, Brechin and Forfar, being the only clubs 50 metres above sea level.  Good news for Blue Brazil fans.

eijgYou can have a guided tour of football in San Marino (not to be confused as it frequently was in the 1980′s with Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino). Or learn about how football is losing its soul to big business. Mac hilariously spotlights radio phone-ins, Jimmy Sanderson of course to the fore (“I have nothing against Mr Roxburgh personally, but I think he should never have been appointed“), but joined by the much more reasonable and likeable Bob Crampsey (“Well I think there are three points here“) and the utterly unintelligible John Greig (“John made several major contributions to the development of the English language including the introduction of the word ‘eh‘ as a means of punctuating sentences…..“).

Mad Mac is back with more bloody statistics in an article entitled ‘More Bloody Statistics’ wherein he proves that Motherwell are the best-supported team in the country.

My own contribution to this edition was a survey of football players’ names

That modest wee article actually contains a ‘joke’ that came to me in a dream. I had been trying to write the article one night and I was tinkering with the ideal Scotland line-up of Weir Young and Speedie, Ure Auld and Gray, Ure Auld Bauld, Gray and Duff. Players names were obviously still in my mind when I went to sleep, because at about 3am I suddenly awoke, and amidst protests from my wife I had the light on and was searching for pen and paper to write down the revelation that had come to me in the dark, viz – “I Fought D. Law and D. Law Won“. Unfortunately, the only way I could use this bon mot in the finished article was as a mere sub-heading, but I remain quite inordinately proud of both that line, and the sub-heading that preceded it, viz ‘St John the Baptie“.

This time the letter writers are all ultra-reasonable bods with sensible points to make, though a Stranraer fan took the time to compile league tables for all Scottish senior teams based on their league positions over the preceding ten years. He then placed the teams in the order of their ‘average league positions’, with the result that Stranraer ended up bottom, as consistently the worst team in Scotland over the preceding decade. Nowt as queer as folk.

PS – And this is a very belated PS indeed to my article about footballers names – the actual line-up of Michael Palin’s team was –

Hagerty F., Hagerty R., Tomkins, Noble, Carrick, Dobson, Crapper, Dewhurst, MacIntyre, Treadmore, Davitt.

My version wasn’t even close


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