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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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Top 10

The cover price has increased to 50p, but there’s a letter from Mrs G Peabody from Fochabers (aka Mad Mac) saying, “I think in fact that TAG is now even better value for money than ever. and have no hesitation in enclosing a big cheque to renew my subscription“.

STV’s Controller of Sport, unlike his counterpart at the BBC, responds to the criticisms of the coverage of Scottish football made in TAG 8.

TAG wildly celebrates Scotland’s World Cup qualifier win against Norway in Oslo (“Oh shit, Roxburgh’s job is safe for another few months“).

Everything you wanted to know about the Bundesliga and the rest of German football but were afraid to ask is covered in a 2 page special.

The Tannadice terrors get a run out, and there’s a review of  ‘that book’ (ie the one that’s obliquely referred to on the front page of this edition – ie Bill Murray’s 100 Years of the Old Firm, a book notorious for the atrocious gaffe on its own front page – for further details see http://almax.wordpress.com/2007/08/08/old-firm-old-fraud/) (in fact, this link won’t take you anywhere – see instead the very end of this article ).

Crumbling football grounds are investigated by Mad Mac, unsurprisingly illustrated by pics of East Stirling’s Shires Park and Ochilview, Stenhousemuir.

jstmThere’s a look at ‘soccer casuals’ – not all they’re cracked up to be – Aberdeen casuals at Ibrox spend the second half crapping themselves as to how they get back to their bus….”one spindly youth turned to another and saidGod I hope Aberdeen don’t score – they (ie the Ibrox Bears) will be mad

There’s a lengthy article about Yugoslavian football ahead of Scotland’s world cup ties with that country (and, of course, 20 years later there is no such thing as Yugoslavian football because there is no such thing as Yugoslavia).

There’s more on Dutch football, and Mad Mac waxes lyrical on his beloved St Johnstone who are about to depart from their traditional home at Muirton Park for pastures new (Starpaulus and I actually went to Perth for the last ever game at Muirton, though I cannot recall who the opposition were or what the score was).

There’s the fanzine round-up and reviews of the Maurice Johnston story (yet to take its most sensational turn) and the Scottish Football League review.

As for my own contribution, well, you’ll remember my vow after the Dumbarton article that I would never write another thing – well here it is – my contribution to TAG 10 – to read it now makes me cringe with embarrassment, but in fairness, I could not have anticipated just exactly how quickly computer technology would move on – the height of sophistication when I wrote this article was the much-missed Sinclair Spectrum, bristling with 48 Kilobytes of Random Access Memory –

COMPUTER LOVE

PRESS ENTER TO PLAY

The fevered world of the computer whizz kid may seem to be a million miles away from your average wind-swept and rain-lashed terracing. Football junkies can however continue to thrill to the heady excitement of big-time soccer action at any time of day or night simply by investing in one of Clive Sinclair’s magic boxes and the appropriate “software.”

In the privacy of your own bedroom you can live out the agony and ecstasy of the world’s greatest game, all courtesy of the ubiquitous micro-chip. This article is by no means a “Which” type consumer guide to the football games available as I can’t claim to have road-tested any more than a handful of them. The software manufacturers were quick to exploit the seemingly insatiable appetite of some people (i. e. you and me) for all things connected to football. Consequently there are quite a large number of games on football on the market. They seem to fall into 2 categories. On the one hand there’s the action type game where you control the movements of graphically represented players on the screen via the computer keyboard or the inappropriately named and slightly risque sounding “Joystick”. Alternatively, there’s the “adventure” type game where you are cast in the role of team manager and become embroiled in the murky world of team selection, transfer negotiations etc.

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Personally, I’m not too keen on the action type game, mainly because, if you haven’t got a joystick, it requires the type of manual dexterity more usually associated with performing open-heart surgery. It your brain and your fingers are not syncromeshed, then you are likely to become an impotent spectator as your opponent runs up a cricket score.

One such game is “Match Day 2″ which purports to be “the best football action game for micros”. I haven’t played this game but I’m intrigued by the advertising for it which claims that “Just like the real game, players react against each other with deflections, volley shots and sneak passes.” Has this been translated from an ancient Chinese dialect or and I just going to the wrong matches? It’s certainly quite some time since I saw any of my team’s players reacting against anybody with a sneak pass. The advertisement also claims that the game is a “startling simulation that allows players to make headers, back heel the ball, and even barge opposing players.” The programmers must’ve been watching Miller and McLeish in action. If you’re into sneak passes and barging opposing players then this is the game for you.

Of the adventure type games one that’s worth a look at “Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes“. Quite what Brian (England will win and I fancy young Webb to get a goal) Clough has to do with it, other than presumably receiving a large cheque for having his name associated with it, is difficult to fathom. It could equally well be named “Ally McLeod’s Football Fortunes” though perhaps at the risk of losing a certain something in consumer appeal.

A monopoly-type board is provided with the game and there are player cards supplied, each of which has the name of a well-known player on it, together with a star-rating of between 1 and 5. The star-ratings are slightly eccentric and seem to have been allocated by Jimmy Hill. For example, Kenny Samson and Gary Stevens both inexplicably attract a rating of 5 while Alan Hansen merits only 4 and David Neary (sic) rates a measly 3. Obviously the higher your combined ratings, the more powerful your team is. In “real life” which forward line would you choose -MARK HATELY (3), KERRY DIXON (4) and MARK HUGHES (5) – (TOTAL 12), or PAUL STURROCK (3), NIGEL CLOUGH (2) and JOHN BARNES (3) – (TOTAL 8).

It would be far too boring to further explain the mechanics of this game, but one feature which is quite entertaining and realistic is the transfer market. The more of your mates who are playing, the better it is. Each of you has control of a separate team and when a high rated player comes up for sale there is a frenetic scramble to try and buy him. This takes the form of an auction and the transfer price quickly becomes inflated beyond all common sense. This is particularly so if you are all fuelled by a few pints of, for example, McEwens Lager. Eventually, all the bidders drop out bar one. After the excitement of the auction you experience a realistically sickening sensation when you realise that you’ve just parted with £1.5million for, say, Richard Gough. Thereafter, when you lose the very next game it makes you feel like kicking the T.V. set.

One irritating flaw in “Football Fortunes” is that there is no relegation from the league as a punishment for making an utter bollocks of the manager’s job. You can cheerfully be cuffed 5 or 6 nothing every game secure in the knowledge that you will get another shot next season. To that extent it’s a bit like our own Division 2. This can be contrasted with another similar game – “Football Manager” where you can move from the English 4th to the English 1st division and back again just like Swansea City or Wolves. In both “Football Fortunes” and “Football Manager” the weekly league results are presented on your T.V. screen in the style of the B.B.C. teleprinter. This loses something when not accompanied by David Coleman’s ever-interesting interjections along the lines of “That’s Aldershot’s seventeenth away match without a win of any kind“.

Talking of the B.B.C. results service, how many West of Scotland readers have chuckled along while listening to Paul Cooney reading the results on Radio Clyde straight off his portable T.V. screen switched to B.B.C? Although Paul tries manfully to pretend that this is Clyde’s own exclusive service, he gives the game away when he goes too fast and finishes English Division 3 ten seconds or so before the telly man. The bold Paul then has to indulge in Italian-like time – wasting tactics by droning on about “That’s an interesting result there for Rochdale. A 1-1 draw at Stockport. Never an easy place to pick up league points. Em, Derek Parlane’s old team of course. Derek’ll no doubt be listening to Radio Clyde’s results service. So, there you are Derek, a good point for your old team. Or maybe it wasn’t Rochdale Derek played for. He did play for quite a few clubs down that way, but maybe Rochdale wasn’t one of them. Anyway, onto English League Division 4…….

An amusing feature of some of the computer games is the facility to alter the names of the teams and/ or players supplied by the computer. Thus you can pilot Albion Rovers to the Premier League Championship and on to eternal glory by defeating Juventus to lift the European Cup. Alternatively, you can insert your own name as Liverpool’s free scoring number 9 shirt.

The main problem with computer games is of course that only so much information can be included on the software tape. I’ve only ever played these games on a 48K machine. No doubt the games could be more sophisticated on larger computers. I’m sure there must be some way of incorporating such refinements as ‘ hotly disputed penalties, red cards, punch-ups in the dressing room, and the odd Sheriff Court appearance

BEEP BEEP, GAME OVER

AND HERE IS THE PIECE ABOUT BILL MURRAY’S BOOK REFERRED TO ABOVE

At lunch-time in the office today we were talking about the Old Firm, and I mentioned Bill Murray’s 1988 book ‘Glasgow’s Giants – 100 years of the Old Firm‘. I promised Bill and Dougie that I would hunt it out tonight – well I’ve searched high and low but I cannot find it, which is bloody annoying because the point I was making about it concerned the front cover of the book.

But, never fear, I found the TAG review from TAG 10, October 1988, and although TAG was in monochrome, and the picture was a small one, it will admirably serve the purpose – so here is a black and white version of the front cover of the book –

A book about the Old Firm, with an action scene from an Old Firm game on the front cover? What’s so remarkable about that?

Well, astute readers noticed pretty well straight away that the ‘Celtic’ player was in fact Mark Fulton. A singular fact about Mark Fulton’s career is that, although he put in sterling work at St Mirren, Hibs and Hamilton Accies, he never in fact played for Celtic.

So, what gives with the photograph?

Well, think of the Hamilton Accies strip (pictured right).

Now think of what it would look like in black and white.

Now take a black and white picture of an action scene from a Rangers v Hamilton Accies match around the time when Mark Fulton was playing for Accies.

Now colour it in, in approximately the undernoted cack-handed amateurish fashion.

And slap it on the front cover of a book about the Old Firm.

No-one will suspect a thing.

Although I haven’t got the actual book to hand, the above coloured illustration made by photo-shopping the old black and white pic from TAG, is startlingly similar to the book cover. It is faintly surreal to use this photograph in preference to the ten squillion action photos of Old Firm games available. Apparently the person who selected the photograph thought that Mark Fulton looked even more like Murdo McLeod than Murdo McLeod.

PS Mark Fulton later became a police officer in West Lothian. Bill Murray faded into the obscurity of academia and never lived this faux pas down.

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9 Past Haffey

This edition of TAG came to me through the post direct from Mad Mac, and I was beside myself with excitement to find that my finely-wrought, oft-revised, long slaved-over article about Dumbarton FC had metamorphosed from a few sheets of untidily-typed and multi-tippexed A4 into a page and a half of a published item in the best football fanzine around.

I was quite disproportionately proud of this achievement, and I still am. Seeing it in print completely repaid the long hours hunched over the manual typewriter, writing and re-writing.

I remember when I pulled the final, final, final edition from the typewriter saying to Ann, “That’s it. Finished. I’m never going to write another thing ever again

And I was serious about that, because I was fairly convinced that I had exhausted my entire store of invention and inspiration in that one article, and I couldn’t imagine that I could repeat the trick.

Anyway, you can find my first-ever TAG contribution here –

https://almaxp.wordpress.com/2010/07/11/the-absolute-game-revisited-part-34/

Elsewhere, there’s a quite terrific article about Queen’s Park (the Spiders), a club then attracting crowds of about 500 to a stadium with a capacity of 75,000 (see photo).

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Jim McLean (‘vindictive‘), Jan Bartram (‘effeminate’), ex-referee Alan Ferguson (‘faced with a lynch mob‘), and Billy Stark’s hairstyle through the ages (gained by ‘applying Baby Bio to his scalp with a watering can‘) are all featured.

There are reviews of books about David Francey (“tame and extremely short…“) and Jock Stein (“I don’t usually get in too much of a state about knighthoods, but how he was overlooked is a national scandal“). Also reviewed is an academic study of ‘The Roots of Football Hooliganism

Mad Mac co-authors an analysis of the current state of the national team – the heading ‘Scotland the Bores‘ rather gives the game away (“The revisionist view on Scotland up to Argentina ’78 is that most games consisted of a cavalry charge, with Big Joe or some other badly stitched up Frankenstein lookalike at the front, which lasted for about an hour and was followed by the fatal goalkeeping slip“).

The revival of AC Milan merits a full-scale article. How do these sentences from 1988 grab you ?- “And then, in 1986, in the darkest hour of onfield mediocrity and off-field bankruptcy, came the messiah. Silvio Berlusconi, millionaire television magnate and lifelong Milan fan, bought out the ailing club and refloated it with himself as Chairman“.

And there is a timely look at the arcane world of Junior Football (not, as some think, football played by children, but instead it’s football played at a lower level than ‘senior’ professional, and is very much ‘adult entertainment’). “Clubs are to be found battling it out for a variety of esoterically named silverware, such as ‘The Cream of the Barley Cup’ (the trophy is rumoured to be a replica of a combine harvester)…..

Mad Mac plumbs new depths soars to new heights of obscurity by recounting the arcane events surrounding Shamrock Rovers in the League of Ireland. Here the talk is of dark deeds and Glenmalure Park, Tolka Park, Dalymount Park, Home Farm, Bohemians, Keep Rovers at Milltown (KRAM), Paddy Kilcoyne, Dermot Keeley, Brian Murphy and John McNamara.

People are still writing letters about Willie Johnston.

And no ‘forgotten one’.

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Last 8

Dundee, East Fife and Partick Thistle get the up close treatment. There’s a history of black players playing in Scotland (including Gil Heron of Celtic and Third Lanark, father of American singer Gil Scott Heron), a review of Jimmy Johnstone’s autobiography, an analysis of Falkirk’s tactics utilising enormous Crawford Baptie as a target man (see helpful and detailed diagram below), a look at TV coverage of Scottish football (it was a different age then, of course, pre-satellite and cable TV and pre-wall-to-wall coverage) and the usual round up of reviews and snippets of news, including a scale-map of ‘the sociologically-minded visitors guide to Pittodrie Stadium (home of Dick Donald’s wallet)‘.

Here’s the Baptie diagram (the black circle at the centre is Crawf – the straight lines are the angles at which the ball leaves his head) – the first time I ever went to Brockville I was accompanied by my youngest brother who was highly amused to hear big Crawf referred to as a ‘gorrillephant’ by one of the frustrated punters in front of us –

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Elsewhere, Mad Mac adopts the alter ego of A. Grumblepuss, fictitious manager of a fictitious division two side (“Our league form continued to be indifferent……with bad luck again playing its part. While travelling to Alloa, for example, the team bus ran out of paraffin, and the players were forced to hitch a lift from a passing milk float. Arriving at Recreation park 35 minutes late, and exhausted from helping with deliveries…….“).

The letter writers are still on about Willie Johnston, this time as a player for Vancouver Whitecaps – Willie goes to take a corner kick. A spectator hands him a can of beer, which he downs before scoring directly from the corner.

And there’s an entry for ‘the picture tells a thousand words’ competition featuring former Aberdeen stalwart, Doug Rougvie, in his new Brighton strip –

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………..meanwhile chez moi, I am on the 10th draft of what I hope will be my first (only) contribution to TAG – bashing it out two-fingered on an old manual typewriter – it’s much more difficult than it looks – see the results in TAG 9…….

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THE MAGNIFICENT NEVIN

Mad Mac’s editorial takes it cue from the recent signing of Mark Walters by Rangers, and the ensuing grotesque scenes of racism at Tynecastle and Celtic Park. As Mac puts it “There have for some time been growing suspicions that the absence of racism at Scottish football matches was only due to the absence of players from ethnic minorities“. I, for one, was not at all surprised by the banana-throwing and monkey-chanting that greeted Walters at these venues. On the day that Rangers signed Walters I happened to be in the midst of Rangers supporters in the heart of Lanarkshire, and one remarked without demur from the others, “I hear we’ve signed a monkey“.

Perhaps piously, one hopes that the intervening years have all but eradicated the mind-set that produced such sentiments. The football fanzines, including TAG, were in the van of the fight against racism at football grounds, and my experience over the years is that, generally speaking, the decent majority will now simply not tolerate the bestial racist behaviour of the minority. It is quite a long time since I have heard ‘you black bastard’ or similar inside a football ground.

Moving on from there, we come to another of my favourite article headings, viz – STRANRAER : MUDDY WATERS SINKS THE BLUES. (“….the desperately poor quality of the playing surface at Stair Park..makes any form of tactical planning for a match (apart from the big punt) a virtual impossibility. Come late November and the beginning of Scotland’s monsoon season, a bowl of runny porridge would give you a truer bounce“).

As if football in Stranraer wasn’t arcane enough, the next article (by The Horley Wideboy) concerns itself with the obscurities of English non-league football, in particular the exploits of Crawley Town in the Southern Premier League (aka the Beazer Homes League).

tpuMad Mac is full of pessimism at Scotland’s draw for the qualifying phase of the 1990 World Cup (“The draw for the 1990 World Cup was a disaster for Scotland. Just terrible. It’s a very tough section, and our chances of qualifying are slim“).

(pedantic note – We did in fact qualify for the 1990 World Cup, finishing behind Yugoslavia but above France, Norway and Cyprus – a tremendous achievement, but one almost immediately thrown away when we proceeded to lose 1-0 to Costa Rica in the first World Cup tie in Italy)

The then recently retired from playing, but now the players ‘union rep’, Tony Higgins, is profiled. Mad Mac explains the various processes in the making of a substitution (“…..usually effected by a tubby man holding aloft a couple of tin plates with numbers on them – not to be confused with the half-time draw ticket salesman, although instances of their being one and the same person are not without precedent“), and Ewan Davidson continues with part 2 of his ‘serious article on Highland League Football’.

There’s an article looking at the SPL and the nature of the football played there (‘dour and deadly’), illustrated by a photo of Fir Park, Motherwell captioned ‘Calvinism Meets Football‘. This is followed, appropriately, by a lengthy, fascinating article on football in Northern Ireland, beginning with the account of a Coleraine goal in an Ulster Cup tie against Linfield, awarded by the referee ‘despite the ball having clearly passed over the visitors’ crossbar. Mr Ritchie (the referee) was of the opinion that it had proceeded via a hole in the net……..the offending hole remained undiscovered….

D’ye remember Derek Rae? You do. “Up and coming, smooth, smarmy, totally soulless, zero personality“. Remind yourself of the horror, the horror with the article by Alex Horsburgh.

In the letters, a West Brom fan writes to protest at Willie Johnston being described as a forgotten one – “……he was only sent off four times with Albion, an exemplary record which averaged out at less than once a year. Most were for fighting or retaliation, though one was for kicking the referee up the arse – quite justifiably I might add…..

No ‘Forgotten One’ this time. Forgotten.

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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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Copenhagen 5

For this issue the millionaire proprietor styled himself as the powermad proprietor.

Mad Mac raged editorially against the SFA.

Ewan Davidson took us to Glebe Park, Brechin (“the only league venue where a promotion decider has been halted by a pitch invasion by a rabbit“).

D. Watt frae Eberdeen bemoaned the all-seated nature of Pittodrie in pursuit of the mythical ‘family crowd’, thereby forcibly removing the home fans from the Beach End to Sleepy Hollow or the mysteriously named Paddock.

Scotland in the same European Qualifying Group as Bulgaria? – then we need a fans’ guide to Sofia (“In the overall scheme of exciting places to visit, Sofia ranks just below spending a weekend in the toilets at Crewe station“).

There was an in depth look at football chanting (including how a Chicory Tip hit single was adapted firstly for ‘Oh, Alfie, Alfie….Alfie, Alfie, Alfie, Alfie, Alfie  Conn‘ and then latterly as ‘Oh, Spot the Loony‘).

There’s a very scathing review of a book on the history of Albion Rovers. The reviewer (Rab Crangle) is unhappy that the author (R. Marwick) confines himself to dull statistics and apparently leaves out any references that might be unflattering to the late Chairman, Tom Fagan. Crangle recalls one such omission, when die-hard fan and match programme editor Brian Nugent was banned from the ground in 1981 for publishing details of Fagan’s reaction to a player revolt – “The irony of a club with gates of around 300 refusing to admit one of its own supporters was not lost on a variety of newspapers…….the ban was as idiotic as it was futile. Mr Nugent simply watched the rest of the season from the hill overlooking the west terracing…

It is pointed out that Fagan was in the habit of dismissing managers because they didn’t accept his advice on the playing situation and that there had been ten managers in five years “before the appointment of Tommy Gemmell, which appointment, coinciding with Fagan’s death, improved the playing situation dramatically“.

Hibernian get the in-depth treatment in the wake of the takeover by David Duff (“…when it was made public that the new manager was to be Alex Miller, the announcement was greeted with the sort of stunned silence that usually accompanies the unveiling of the latest acquisition by the Tate Gallery“)

Also profiled at length are Romanian champions Steaua Bucharest. It is recalled that Goalkeeper, Raducanu, was a bit of an emotional character – “During one international against Switzerland his circuits went on overload due to what he perceived was a distinct lack of effort on his fellow players’ part. Incensed, he grabbed the ball at the earliest opportunity and with a vicious glint in his eye hurled it into his own net. 1-0 !!

Mad goalkeepers in Germany are featured by Wolfgang Needlematch and Ken Crichton, while elsewhere there are the by-now usual fanzine and book reviews, along with articles about the play-offs, Ally McLeod and (once again) synthetic pitches (a TAG bug-bear).

The letters column is becoming one of the most entertaining bits of the mag – one reader recalls Bertie Auld’s tactical acumen  in his Birmingham City days (pre-substitutes) when in one spectacular outburst of unprovoked violence he head-butted both George Cohen and Johnny Haynes of Fulham. Although Auld was dismissed, the game continued with 10 Birmingham vs 9 Fulham players, much to Birmingham’s advantage.

Another letter bemoaned the use of animal skins to make expensive shoes. It was from one Ally Gator and had perhaps been intended for a different magazine altogether.

An unforgettable forgotten one –

fodd