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The Doc

So 2020 continued to be a miserable sod right till the end, when it took Tommy Docherty away from us.

The Doc was probably most famous for being manager of Manchester Uinted though he had previous spells at Chelsea and other clubs, plus as Scotland manager. After Man U he managed seven more clubs.

His senior playing career began at Celtic but he could not displace Parkhead legend Bobby Evans from the team and moved south to Preston North End and later Chelsea.

He played for Scotland 25 times including in the 1954 World Cup (but we’ll swiftly draw a veil over the 7-0 defeat to Uruguay – I read once of a player’s recollection that the Scotland team were in heavy woollen jerseys as if playing in winter rather than the heat of a Swiss summer and were shod in big old-fashioned boots – with the Uruguayans in more modern footwear he described as like slippers in comparison. We were lucky it was only seven was the verdict.)

It was as a manager that The Doc made the most impact, taking over a very declined Man United and not able to turn the club’s fortunes round till after a relegation but leading them to a swift – one season – return to the top flight and then to an FA Cup win against Liverpool (denying that club what would have been a first ever treble by any English side.) Who knows what might have transpired if The Doc had not had an affair with the wife of the club’s physio Laurie Brown and as a consequence got the sack? (I note from the obituaries that Docherty was still married to Mary Brown when he died.)

Despite plying his trade mostly in England Docherty, like most of his ilk, remained a proud Scot.

There was a tale told – I think it was of Joe Donnelly, Dumbarton’s perennial substitute in the 1971-1972 season (only one sub allowed in those days and that for injury) that the player had once been involved in an altercation with an English team mate who had called him a “Scottish b*****d.” Docherty, as their manager, took them into his office, got them to settle the matter reasonably amicably then let the Englishman leave the room. Whereon he immediately turned to Donnelly and said, “You didn’t hit him hard enough.”

A character, then.

Thomas Henderson (Tommy) Docherty (The Doc): 24/4/1928 – 31/12/2020. So it goes.

Paolo Rossi

I’m sad to note the death of Paolo Rossi, who was in effect the prototypical Italian striker, arguably the best ever such.

There is an argument to be made about whether one man can be said to have won a World Cup for his country, the usual example given being Diego Maradona.

However it is almost certain that without Paolo Rossi, Italy would not have won the World Cup in 1982. His contribution to that success was profound – and indispensible.

He had only recently come back from a two year ban resulting from the Totonero betting scandal (in which he said he was unjustly implicated,) and had endured, as did his team-mates to be fair, a non-descript start to the 1982 tournament. But his hat-trick buried an extremely talented Brazil side in what was effectively a knock-out game in the second phase in one of the best-ever World Cup matches. Was there ever such a snapper-up of unconsidered trifles as in his third in that game?

Italy 3-2 Brazil:-

Rossi then scored the two goals which defeated Poland in the semi-final and set Italy on their way to the Cup with the first in the final against West Germany – a goal which he said most exemplified his style in anticipating where the ball would be before the defender could react in time.

Six goals, the Golden Boot, and Golden Ball for most valuable player, with the 1982 Ballon D’Or added in for good measure.

All six goals:-

In his career he had multiple Italian domestic trophies, and all but the EUFA Cup in European competition. One of the greats.

Paolo Rossi: 23/9/1956 – 9/12/2020. So it goes.

2022 World Cup Qualifying

Gosh, it comes round again.

The draw for the European qualification round for the 2022 World Cup (to be held in Qatar) was made today.

Scotland’s fate could have been worse I suppose – we managed to avoid holders France, world ranked no 1 Belgium and also Spain, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal, nemeses in previous qualification campaigns, but Denmark, Austria and Israel (yet again drawn in a group with Scotland) are no mugs; and I always get the fear over games against countries like the Faroe Islands and Moldova.

Our last two games were 1-0 defeats too let’s not forget, but I’ll give the team a pass on those as they were hungover (in the nicest sense I hasten to add) from managing to reach the Euro finals.

Jack Charlton

So, with the passing of Jack Charlton, another of that select group, English footballers to have won a World Cup, has gone.

Not the most cultured of players, unlike his brother Bobby, Jack was said to have thought when he learned of his England call-up that they’d picked the wrong Charlton. His position at centre-half though, has not historically been the preserve of the cultured. In his club career at Leeds United he had big shoes to fill, taking over from the Gentle Giant, John Charles, after his transfer to Juventus. In all he appeared for Leeds 629 times – a club record unlikely to be surpassed.

As a manager I remember him leading Middlesbrough to promotion to the top flight before spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Newcastle United but it was as manager of the Republic of Ireland international team that he made his greatest mark, taking them to a World Cup quarter-final in 1990. Four years later they had a famous 1-0 win over Italy (who went on to reach the final) in New York.

John (Jack) Charlton: 8/5/1935 – 10/7/2020. So it goes.

Modern Architecture, St Petersburg

The view from the MS Magellan’s bow in dock at St Petersburg. New building construction with bridge behind:

A Bridge in St Petersburg

The view towards the city. Flats. We were told most Russians live in flats. All sorts of folks in similar flats in the same block. Only the insides would let you know how well off anyone is:-

Flats, St Petersburg

Gazprom Tower:-

Gazprom Tower, St Petersburg

This breaks the height restriction on buidlngs in St Petersburg. They let it go because it was way out of town and, well, Gazprom. Closer view:-

Gazprom Tower, St Petersburg

Krestovsky Stadium, or Zenit Arena, home of Zenit St Petersburg FC. This was a venue for games at the 2018 Football World Cup. Modern bridge in front with cruise terminal building in foreground:-

Bridge and St Petersburg Stadium

This was the nearest thing I saw in St Petersburg to an Art Deco building:-

A Decoish Building, St Petersburg

Peter the Great statue, photographed through coach windows so the statue is difficult to make out; a modern building behind.

Peter the Great Statue, in St Petersburg

St Petersburg (iii)

A touch of the new (and temporary) and the old.

Fifa 2018 World Cup fan park:-

FIFA, World Cup 2018 Fan Zone, St Petersburg

Reverse of fan park + canal and bridge:-

A Canal in St Petersburg + FIFA World Cup Fan Zone

Main road aspect:-

St Petersburg, FIFA World Cup Fan Zone

Contrast that with this typically Russian building right beside the fan park:-

Building Opposite Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

But just over the road from that:-

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

The stunning Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood:-

St Petersburg, Church on the Spilled Blood

The church’s peculiar name arises because it was built as a memorial over the spot where Tsar Alexander II had been assassinated. Unfortunately it was swathed in scaffolding last May.

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg, from Field of Mars:-

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg From Field of Mars

Martin Peters

The football player who was “ten years ahead of his time” (at least according to Alf Ramsey) and one of a select few – English footballers to have won a World Cup – has died.

Had Wolfgang Weber not scored for Germany in the last minute of normal time Martin Peters would have been known as the man who won that World Cup as it was he who put England into the lead in the 78th minute.

As it was, Ramsey told his players, “You’ve won it once. Now you’ll have to go out there and win it again,” but it was team mate Geoff Hurst who grabbed the late glory.

All in all Peters had not a bad footballing CV.

Martin Stanford Peters: 8/11/1943 – 21/12/2019. So it goes.

Spartans 0-0 Dumbarton

Scottish League Cup (Betfred Cup) Group H, Ainslie Park, 14/7/18.

And so it begins again. It only seems yesterday that we lost the play-off final yet here we are again, playing competitive football.

Well, I say competitive, but this had all the feel of a pre-season game. Given it’s mid-July and the World Cup hasn’t even finished yet that’s not so surprising.

We never looked in danger of losing a goal, though. But nor did we look much like scoring in the first half. Things improved in the second when we looked to raise the pace a bit and especially when Andy Little and Calum Callagher came on for Iain Russell and Ryan Thomson, both looking much livelier than the pair they replaced.

It was an odd sort of game not helped by the sunshine (football in Scotland isn’t meant to be played in such temperatures) and a clash between our new away strip’s red shorts and those of Spartans meaning we came out wearing the new black home shorts with the new away red shirts. We looked like a Brechin City tribute act.

And so to award the bonus point to separate drawn teams we went to a penalty shoot-out. We won. Only the second time I’ve seen us win one.

Another Sons fan gaily remarked afterwards that the last time we won a shootout (the one I saw) we went on to win the league. Early days, son. Steady on.

Still there were signs the new players were beginning to gel. I liked the fact that former (and new again) Son Ross Forbes kept demanding the ball in midfield. We also seemed to change formation a couple of times throughout the game. That’s a potentially good innovation.

And so my first visit to Ainslie Park passed off relatively quietly.

The World Turned Upside Down?

You may have noticed there’s a rather large and important football competition taking place at the moment. (A swift glance at TV schedules would be enough to tell you that.)

Four years ago I expressed my fear that a period of Germanic hegemony was upon us. Notwithstanding Portugal’s efforts at the last European Championships the young German side which triumphed at last year’s Confederations Cup boded well (or ill, according to view) for that prospect.

It seems that hegemony is not to be. In three performances of stunning inadequacy Germany have been so poor as to finish bottom of their group, only a moment of individual brilliance on the part of Toni Kroos yielding them a solitary win over Sweden.

It’s been a topsy-turvy sort of tournament what with England playing well (so far) and Argentina, like the Germans, struggling badly – but still managing to reach the second round.

I’ve not been overly impressed by anyone – though I thought Colombia looked good against Poland. But that may have been because the Poles were totally ineffective.

Brazil seem unbalanced to me; too much in thrall to their star player, Neymar, who doesn’t look fully fit. Belgium may be dark horses but haven’t played anybody of standing yet.

Judgement must be reserved till the knockout games. Too often before, a good showing in the group has unravelled at the next step.

But… Could this be Uruguay’s year again? They’re the only side yet to concede a goal.

(Cue a Portugal win on Saturday.)

Chile 0-1 Germany

Confederations Cup Final, Krestovsky Stadium, Saint Petersburg, 2/7/17.

To slightly amend Gary Lineker. Football is a simple game. Twenty-two plus men chase a ball around a pitch for 95 minutes, and the Germans win. Even if it’s their B-team.

Well, they might not have got to the final of the last European Championship but after this tournament who can doubt the strength in depth the German national team now has?

It’s a frightening thought for the other possible contenders for the 2018 World Cup.

Mind you, had it not been for a dreadful mistake at the back by Marcelo Díaz the game might have ended 0-0.

Still, Germany took that golden opportunity and Chile, despite their domination of possession, failed to take any of their chances.

And Germany always looked capable of getting another goal whenever they forayed up the park.

Not bad for a country whose normal first choices had been given the close season off.

For Joachim Löw it’s a good selection headache to have.

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