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Rangers 2-3 Hibernian

Scottish Cup Final, Hampden Park, 21/5/2106

And so the long running saga of Hibs not winning the Cup has ended. Well, I did suggest this might happen.

Looking at the chances created and shots saved you have to say the result was the correct one. But it did look like Hibs had Hibsed it when they went 2-1 down. Rangers didn’t press their advantage though. Maybe they Rangersed it.

The Things You Miss When You’re Away

As I’ve been away I only caught up with the news of the demotion of East Stirlingshire from the SPFL late yesterday.

61 years in the SFL/SPFL gone in a flash. It’s sad for them but they’ve been living on fumes for seasons on end now. It was always most likely that it would be the Shire that would be the first to fall victi to the play-off system.

Congratulations, though, to Edinburgh City. The role of third (or fourth) largest football side in Edinburgh has been taken in the past by St Bernard’s (defunct since World War 2) and Leith Athletic (demised 1955, reconstituted 1996 and as a senior team in 2008.) As those statistics suggest, surviving in the shadow of Hearts and Hibs is not easy.

Then there is the case of Meadowbank Thistle (Ferranti Thistle as was) admitted to the Scottish Football League in 1974 but weren’t satisfied with the sizes of crowds they were attracting in the capital and decamped to Livingston in 1995.

Speaking of Hibs, I see they managed to muck things up again. Hibsing it indeed. Then again they’ll probably win the Cup Final now and so put to an end the longest running “will this be the year” saga in Scottish football.

Leicester City’s fairy tale first top level title made the news in The Netherlands – as elsewhere I suspect. There was a newspaper article there about the length of time previous winners of their country’s football championship had been waiting to win it again. Schalke 04 topped the list at well over 20,000 days with Tottenham Hotspur second (also over 20,000 days.) Liverpool were about eighth on the list. I can just about make out some Dutch but a list is no problem.

I also divined from a radio report on the way back up that Roberto Martinez had lost the Everton job, paying the price for not getting enough out of a talented group of players. (An alternative possibility is that those players aren’t quite as good as their reputations would have them.)

And then there was the Scottish Parliament election, where the SNP paid the price of winning too many constituency seats and Labour actually did come second in the percentage vote in that element but not in the regional lists. We had voted by post before we left.

Time’s Ravages

On Match of the Day a few weeks ago the commentator on Leicester City’s game mentioned that seven years ago Danny Drinkwater (I think) had been turning out for Leicester against Stockport County in the third tier and now he was at the top of the Premiership, remarking what a contrast that was.

I thought, wait a minute, it’s not just Leicester whose fortunes have changed.

In that season Leicester won League One and began the journey back to the big time whereas Stockport County ended it 18th, partly due to a ten point deduction for going into administration.

The next season Stockport finished dead bottom and went down to League Two. (Norwich City won League One that season: yo-yoing up and down the divisions is second nature to some.) The season after that Stockport completed their descent through the Football League by also finishing bottom – of League Two – and so to relegation out of it.

Two more seasons and they even fell out of the Conference into the Conference North. This is the sixth tier of English football, a regionalised league, where they remain, 11th as I write. (Despite this regionalisation in its lower reaches the Conference is now called the National League.)

Football can be a cruel sport.

Notwithstanding this tale of woe Stockport have what on the face of it seems an unlikely fame in China once even having a Chinese team named after them. As that article reminds us at one time Stockport County were the second biggest team in the Manchester area, lording it over Manchester City.

They still manage to attract crowds of over 3000 to their Edgeley Park Ground (image from the link above):-

Edgeley Park

While researching this post I came across this Football League Fourth Divison (as it then was) top four from season 1966-7:-

1. Stockport County P 46 W 26 D 12 L 8 F 69 A 42 GA 1.643 Pts 64
2. Southport P 46 W 23 D 13 L 10 F 69 A 42 GA 1.643 Pts 59
3. Barrow P 46 W 24 D 11 L 11 F 76 A 54 GA 1.407 Pts 59
4. Tranmere Rovers P 46 W 22 D 14 L 10 F 66 A 43 GA 1.535 Pts 58

(For my younger readers the GA statistic is for goal average, the precursor to goal difference for separating clubs equal on points – for which in those days there were only two for a win. It’s an interesting quirk that the top two here had identical goal scoring and conceding records but Stockport had won three more games.)

Admittedly it’s forty-nine years on but all four of these clubs are now plying their trade outside the Football League, albeit in Tranmere’s case only for this 2015-16 season. Barrow and Southport have in their time also fallen to the sixth tier – more than once – but have managed to climb back up to the fifth level again.

Maybe Stockport can do so too some time. Whether they can ever outdo Manchester City again is more doubtful.

¿Qué pasa en Hartlepool?

This post’s title is adapted from an Argentinian newspaper headline (¿Qué pasa en Suecia?) I saw on a TV programme about the history of Argentine football when the national team was widely perceived to have underperformed in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and recieved a hostile reception on their return to Argentina. (See their Group 1 results if you look on here.)

AS to the meat of the post; after bumbling along just above the relegation zone for much of this season (unlike last where they were firmly rooted there before what seemed an almost miraculous escape) Hartlepool United have gone on a similar late run, not losing in their last seven games and winning five of those. (See League Two table and current form here.)

Of course, by mentioning this I’ll have jinxed it. The ‘Pool will most likely lose at Carlisle tonight, now.

Johan Cruyff

Oh dear. Johan Cruyff, once the greatest footballer in the world, undisputedly the greatest in the time between the careers of Pele and Maradonna, has died.

Together with the coach Rinus Michels, he was the most exquisite of the proponents of Total Football. The Ajax and Dutch teams of which he was the prominent member were a delight to watch. He is also one of the few footballlers to have a manoeuvre named after him, the Cruyff turn.

He has a particular place in the memories of Sons fans of a certain generation for at least having considered joining the club at one point. A short-lived Sons fanzine (remember fanzines?) was titled Cruyff Says No in tribute.

One of the greats has gone.

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff: 25/4/1947 – 24/3/2016. So it goes.

Serial Manager Slayers!

So, Livingston have sacked manager Mark Burchill.

That’s three opponents in a row whose managers Sons have seen off.

First Alloa, then St Mirren and now Livingston.

Can we dare hope to polish off the next two as well? Falkirk’s Peter Houston and Rangers’s Mark Warburton?

No; me neither.

Well, maybe Warburton.

Jimmy Hill

I was sorry to hear today of the death of Jimmy Hill and especially that he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

As a player he was relatively undistingusihed (or is that perception of mine just because he played before football became plastered all over the TV?) but as chairman of the Professional Footballers’ Association he was instrumental in having the cap on footballers’ wages removed in 1961, leading to today’s high salaries in the upper echelons. As a manager he brought Coventry City up two divisions before leaving for a career in TV.

As a pundit he was always worth listening to but famously annoyed Scottish football fans by describing David Narey’s goal against Brazil at the 1982 Word Cup as a “toe-poke.” Both sides played up to the supposed antipathy his remark engendered but in reality he got on very well with any Scottish fans he encountered.

James William Thomas “Jimmy” Hill: 22/7/1928 – 19/12/2015. So it goes.

Salford City 1-1 Hartlepool United

FA Cup Round 2, Moor Lane Stadium, 4/12/15.

I posted about Hartlepool United this time last year at the same stage of the competition and again when the club miraculously retained its football league status in April.

So once again Pools were on live television courtesy of the BBC and its FA Cup coverage but apart from converting a penalty weren’t much in the game first half where Salford had much more possession and looked more threatening especially with the dead ball – culminating in a goal when their player reacted quickly in a second ball situation from a free kick.

Second half there was an improvement by Pools perhaps catalysed by the wonderfully named sub Rakish Bingham who looked very lively. Unfortunately he missed a header from five yards as did Scott Fenwick both of which would have removed the necessity for a replay. Salford also had their chances but couldn’t get past Trevor Carson in Pools’ goal.

1-1 at the end. At least I’m not a televisual jinx.

Manager Ronnie Moore was scathing about the performance after the match. His assessment was spot on. If Pools play for 90 mins in the replay they ought to get through.

Despite a winning start to the season Pools still lurk towards the bottom of League Two. I’m still nervous about that.

World Cup Draw

Hmmm. Interesting.

England, Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Malta.

It’s tricky. Not as tricky as Group A though; or G. And it might have been better to be in Group B.

The England games will take care of themselves, I suppose, but we’ve come unstuck against Lithuania before.

We’ll just have to make the best of it.

The Hope That Kills Us edited by Adrian Searle

An anthology of Scottish football fiction. Polygon, 2003, 191 p.

 The Hope That Kills Us cover

From Stuart Cosgrove’s foreword, with its tag of “Anybody who says he disnae like football is a lyin’ bastard,” – a quote from the final story – to that final tale this book is an examination in prose of Scotland’s contradictory love affair with the Beautiful Game – an affair at times not beautiful and not a game. The tendency of Scots to see anything and everything through the filter of football is evident from the contents.

This paperback edition contains additions (by Brian Hennigan and Bernard McLaverty) to the original hardback contents. Each story’s title page is illustrated by photographs taken by Paul Thorburn of different sets of goalposts from round Scotland. Occasional double page photos, overlaid with quotations from the stories, intersperse the book.

As is usual for anthologies and might be expected from the range of contributors the stories are varied in tone and style. The relevance of football to some of them is a bit dubious, though.

The opener is The Thing About Brazil by Allan Spence. On a trip to Brazil, Andrew remembers his dad and their visits to Ibrox, takes in a Flamengo-Palmeiras game at the Maracanã and, later, has his own moment of football glory on Ipanema beach.
In A Belfast Memory by Bernard McLaverty a Belfast man remembers the time that “Charlie Tully called” and the discussion that ensued on the shameful demise of Belfast Celtic.
Linda Cracknell’s The Match is only incidentally about football. A woman is taking a holiday in the Carribean on her own since her husband wouldn’t miss a vital European match. (It could have been any obsession really but I suppose football is the most plausible.)
In This Is My Story, This Is My Song by Laura Hird some Hearts-supporting friends gather for the funeral of one of their number, killed in a van crash. Supporting Hearts is the biggest thing in the lives all of them.
Iain Maloney’s Football Scarves and Richard Kimble tells of a boy’s experience of his first match – a Cup Final – interspersed with his Dad’s reminiscences of how the ending of the TV show The Fugitive, gripping much of the nation at the time, was announced over the tannoy at a night game.
The Hand of God Squad by Gordon Legge is the tale of two (moderate) drinking pals, the hotels they drink in, the Englishman who first of all befriends them then joins in their trips away with the Tartan Army (complete with kilts.) All tied up with the sad end to the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup.
In The Cherrypicker by Jim Carruthers the narrator’s grandfather was a Cherrypicker, so he is slightly disappointed both that no-one famous turned up at the old man’s funeral and at the absence of missives from Liverpool in his effects. Years later, on seeing Glenbuck, he cannot credit the team’s name.
Nae Cunt Said Anyhin by Andrew C Ferguson is narrated in a very broad Fife Scots. It is the story of Tam Johnston and the gift of sublime football talent the fairies passed on to him; a gift almost useless because Tam likes the drink too much (“George Best oan a budget”) and even though he gets to play for Scotland they’re “so shite even Tam cannae make a difference. Couldnae score on Loveboat.”
Billy Cornwall’s Jesus Saves has Wee Davy thrust into a game against older heavier boys, where he imagines himself as Kenny Dalglish.
Heatherstone’s Question by Des Dillon is another not really about football, even if two neighbours in Galloway do support different halves of the Old Firm. Rather, it is about neighbourliness, and reticence.
Alan Bissett’s A Minute’s Silence charts the friendship and rivalry between two boys that sours when they attend different schools and start to support different teams (you know the two.) About sectarianism and how it is not engrained, but learned.
In Denise Mina’s The Bigot a criminal has scheduled the divvy-up from a job for the day of an Old-Firm game. Again, the football content here is really incidental. Revenge, it seems, is a dish best served not only cold but well-planned.
Sufisticated Football by Suhayl Saadi has a man “lying in the cells at the dark bottom of the Old Partick Police Station” being visited by the ghost of Allegro Akbar, a celebrated football coach. Illuminated with words from Urdu and Arabic – ghosht = meat = the ball, pyar = love, and ishq = perfection (as in Zidane, Hampden, 15th May 2002) – illustrating the philosophy of football.
The Tomintoul Deliverance by Brian Hennigan is the humorous story of how Loch Muick triumphed over the ancient enemy Athletico Tomintoul – despite not having played them for years and a season spent losing heavily to the likes of Dynamo Fochabers and Sporting Kilwhinnie (not to mention Unsporting Kilwhinnie) – mainly through managerial exhortation by cliché. A flavour of the tone is given by the sentence, “It was at times reminiscent of the film Zulu, particularly when the Tomintoul attack set fire to the thatched roof of our goal.”
The Last Man in Scotland Who Doesn’t Like Football by Colin Clark tells the story of “Pasty” Hastie, who doesn’t like football so got a hard time at school. The affliction goes on to haunt his adult life.

Pedant’s corner:- non sequitar (sequitur,) sprung (sprang,) its (it’s,) Billy McNeil (Billy McNeill,) “Better tae have to hoopsthough eh?” (the hoops makes more sense,) Queens Park (Queen’s Park,) “Where’s the excitement I that?” (in that, surely?) Thursday through the Saturday (that “through” is USian usage,) what we what we, was was, students’s, allen key (Allan key,) “’And you’ll have you got yourselves kitted out?’” epitomy (epitome,) gets the heads shaved (get,) Robert Prosineski (that’s how it’s pronounced but it’s spelled Prosinecki,) a missing quotation mark, were (where,) alter x 2 (altar – both times,) a few slice of bread (slices,) one and other (one another,) wanes (weans,) Ranger’s (Rangers’,) sliver shelving units (silver?) ranger top (Rangers top,) sleak (sleek,) viscose (viscous,) threw (thrown,) soccer (soccer!!!!) miniscule (minuscule,) deosil (usually deasil,) snuck (sneaked,) nine items or less (ought to be fewer, of course, but it’s a straight quote from a supermarket sign,) a question mark after what wasn’t a question, lead (led.)

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