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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.)

di Stéfano

The football legend who has died today had a name that needed no further explanation. He was part of that legendary Real Madrid side that captivated the football followers of Glasgow and Scotland at the European Cup Final of 1960 – played at Hampden Park. di Stéfano scored a hat-trick.

I was too young to be aware of it at the time but the folk memory was promulgated and persists. Such was the effect of that display of what football could be that the names of the forward line still trip off the tongue with no need for googling. Canario, Del Sol, di Stéfano, Puskas and Gento. Mind you, I see film of that game now and think, “Where was the marking?”

One curiosity is that I believe the Eintracht Frankfurt team that formed the opposition that day were all amateurs – as was German football as a whole.

di Stéfano may be unique in having played international football for three different countries, his native Argentina, Colombia, where he played league football for a while, and Spain for whom he was naturalised in 1956. That was the type of scenario that I thought had been resolved by FIFA with its rules on eligibility but in the recent World Cup one of the commentators remarked that Kevin-Prince Boateng who played for Ghana in the tournament had previously played for Germany (but not, it seems, for the senior side.)

The World Cup was one stage that di Stéfano did not grace, for various reasons, but his thirteen national titles (two in Argentina, three in Colombia and no less than eight in Spain) and five European Cups – not to mention his scoring record – speak for themselves.

Alfredo Stéfano di Stéfano Laulhé: 4/7/1926 – 7/7/2014. So it goes.

New Scotland Manager

So. Gordon Strachan.

Not much of a surprise there.

Can he turn things round though?

Newco or Not Newco?

With over five SPL clubs now having said they’ll vote against a team bearing the word Rangers at least somewhere in its new name being in their division next season it now seems that the Newco will have to apply to the SFL for a place.

The thought that they might be in Division 1 next season fills me with foreboding. If Dundee take their place in the SPL it would mean that Dumbarton’s first league game in Div 1 for 16 years will not then be at Dens Park (thus incidentally depriving me of the opportunity to walk to the game from my son’s flat) and may be at Ibrox – in which case I’ll not be going.

Any precedent here is surely Gretna, who when they were relegated from the SPL while in administration were immediately demoted to Div 3. But the Newco will not quite have been relegated, they will have been expelled.

Moreover they are a NEW club and ought to apply for the vacancy which will (due to shuffling within the leagues as before – Airdrie Utd you win again!) be in Div 3, not Div 1.

I fear though that some SFL clubs may vote for short term financial gain over sporting integrity despite the fact that the original Rangers were part of the process of shafting the rest of Scottish football (probably hoping it would wither on the vine) when the SPL was set up. The SFL clubs, though, have not withered but rather have managed to keep themselves alive and financially viable – certainly in Divs 2 and 3 – unlike their supposed betters.

This open letter
to the SFL was written by a Raith Rovers fan and puts the case very well.

My feeling is that the misdemeanours of Rangers have been so grievous that a mere one division demotion is no sanction at all: any other club could then play fast and loose financially and expect to get away with it with as little to pay. I am even coming round to the notion that Newco Rangers ought not to be admitted even to Div 3 (they do not meet the entry criterion of having three years’ accounts for a start.) Scottish football will find its level without them – and become steadily more competitive as Celtic will not have a partner with which to bully the rest. If this means fans of Rangers are lost to the Scottish game so be it. The smaller clubs don’t depend on them anyway.

Sporting Club Lisbon 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Europa League (sic) Semi-final, first leg. Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon, 19/4/12.

Not paint drying.

(Again, though, I only watched the second half.)

This was an object lesson on how a near miss can spur a team on and how an equalising goal changes a game. At 0-1 down Sporting looked out of it. At 1-1 they dominated, and scored another.

Should be interesting in Bilbao next week.

I see the other Europa League(sic) semi-final finished 2-4. That can’t have been boring either.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir.

The access is up a small street which also houses the entrance to the now sadly defunct (again) McCowans Highland Toffee factory.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Entrance

This is the “away” end. Every time I’ve been in there since it got covered over by a canopy the Sons have lost the game.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Away Supporters Enclosure

I go to the main stand now. It’s called the “Norway” Stand for some reason I forget.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Stand

The view from the stand is below. There used to be a stand like the one opposite the pavilion stand at Boghead over there but it’s been gone quite a while now. There’s a cricket pitch in the distance believe it or not. The town of Stenhousemuir boasts both a football and a cricket club.

Ochilview Park, Stenhousemuir, Far side from stand

A couple more photos of the ground are on my flickr.

Scottish Football Fans’ Survey

A poster on the Scottish football fans’ forum The Pie Shop – otherwise known as Pie and Bovril – has put up a link (which I copy here) to a new survey Supporters Direct is undertaking to ascertain fans’ views on various topics of concern/interest.

If you are at all interested in Scottish football – especially if you support a “small” club – please add your contribution to the survey. The more respondents there are the more weight Supporters Direct will have in discussions with the football authorities.

Glebe Park, Brechin

Brechin City’s ground is one of the tightest in senior football. They have recently been threatened with fines if they do not increase the pitch’s area, apparently because it is not large enough to meet UEFA‘s standards.

One of the reasons for this is that a beech hedge runs along behind the terracing on one side of the ground. You can see it in this photo I took on Saturday.

Beech Hedge, Glebe Park, Brechin

There is no scope to move this as Brechin do not own the land behind the hedge. The hedge is, in any case, one of the joys of attending a match at Glebe Park. To remove it would be a sacrilege.

And when are Brechin likely to play in a European tie anyway? And, if they did, why can they not use Dundee’s stadium, or Dundee United’s, both of which are compliant?

It’s nonsensical. The hedge must stay and Brechin not be fined.

This is the David Will stand, behind one of the goals. It is reputed to be able to seat more people than actually live in Brechin! In his time David Will became one of the top administrators of football; ironically eventually a UEFA official.

David Will Stand, Glebe Park, Brechin

You can, by the way, view Dumbarton’s new home strip in the above photo in which I can see six of our players. It’s basically an all gold effort with trimmings.

Here’s a panorama of the ground from the stand. A stitch of three photos.

Panorama of Glebe Park, Brechin

There are two more beech hedges, on the right as you look at the above, split by the smaller stand which houses the changing rooms.

Here’s a close-up of the nearer one.

The other beech hedge

All in all it’s a lovely wee ground.

Rep. Ireland 1-0 Scotland

Carling Nations Cup, Aviva Stadium, Dublin, 29/5/11

It was almost inevitable the Republic would win this. They were at home after all.

Again I’ve missed the goal, but I’ve heard this game was dire – not even a patch on the English League 1 play-off between Peterborough and Huddersfield. People just lumping the ball forward; no passing, no Barcelona style passing anyway.

In that case neither of these two sides will trouble the 2012 European Championships.

Not Any Time Soon

While looking up Eddie Turnbull’s career for my post on his death I noticed something remarkable.

Hibs won the league three times during Turnbull’s playing career; in 1948, 1951 and 1952. Not only that: in the seventeen years spanning their first win till Kilmarnock’s sole league title in 1965 no less than five different non-Old Firm sides won the league. Apart from Hibs and Kilmarnock, Hearts (1958, 1960,) Aberdeen (1955) and Dundee (1962) are on the roll of honour. That beats even the early years of the Scottish League when in its first 14 years Dumbarton – 1891 (shared with Rangers) and 1892 (outright) – Hearts (1895, 1897,) Hibs (1903) and Third Lanark (1904) all were champions of Scotland.

Can anyone imagine that sort of thing happening now?

The Old Firm duopoly is so entrenched that the mere thought is instantly dismissable.

The only team to upset the Old Firm domination of the league between the two World Wars of the last century was Motherwell, in 1932. (See here for the full list of winners.) The 28 year run from Third Lanark’s title in 1904 till Motherwell’s is the longest such period of unbroken Old Firm hegemony. So far.

At present it is 26 years since anyone but Rangers or Celtic won the league. (Aberdeen 1980, 1984 and 1985) and Dundee United (1983) are the only provincial sides to win a championship since the 1960s. Neither look likely to repeat the feat soon. Barring extraordinary circumstances, circumstances that are unforeseeable, to me at any rate, that 28 year record will be broken in 2014.

The Scottish Cup has always been a more likely prize for a “smaller” club to win but even so that 1950s and 60s period saw no fewer than seven non-Old Firm clubs lift the trophy. Aberdeen in 1947 (and 1970,) Motherwell (1952,) Clyde (1955 and 1958,) Hearts (1956,) Falkirk (1957,) St Mirren (1959) and Dunfermline Athletic (1961 and 1968.)

Of course, in those days the playing field was a bit more even as each club shared its gate money with the away team. Since the introduction of the system whereby each club keeps its own home gates the imbalance between the Old Firm and the rest has grown bigger. This is merely exacerbated by the Champions League money available to Celtic and Rangers nearly every season. (Though none of that stopped Rangers getting into substantial debt recently.)

The other clubs are simply not in a position to compete. It’s a sad and unhealthy situation.

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