Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Dignity FC, My Arse

The Centenary Scottish Cup Final in 1973 was the first Old Firm game I saw. Until then I hadn’t even heard of Rangers. All I cared about was Celtic. I was never told to hate anyone. I didn’t know anything about Catholics and Protestants even though I went to a different school from the other boys in my street.

Apparently, even though I'd attended the semi-final against Dundee, dad wasn’t allowed to take me to Rangers games because of the level of drink and violence that accompanied the fixture. And with dad being an alcoholic, mum feared I’d get lost in the crowd or hit on the head with a flying bottle whilst on the front line of any carnage.

So Dad and I settled down in the living room; he on his chair by the fireplace with a bottle of J&B whisky and lucky scarf, and me, hair cut like Kenny Dalglish, wearing that year’s Celtic top, drinking a glass of limeade. The TV was black and white but that didn’t matter, I never knew anything different, and the hoops were instantly recognisable. It was working and the picture was steady.

You’ll find more detailed reports of the actual game elsewhere but here is a six year old’s memories of how the drama played out.

Kenny Dalglish ran through and slotted the opener past Peter McCloy to put Celtic one up as Archie McPherson shouted, “Must be!”. Dad and I jumped around the living room. I’ll always remember Kenny’s face as he ran away arms aloft, looking like it was the first goal he’d ever scored in his life.

Many years later I saw him score his last goal for Scotland against Spain. That same smile filled his face as much as the dust covered everyone on the terraces as they too jumped for joy at what was, even by Kenny’s standards, a special goal. For me, Dalglish’s face whenever he scored a goal was what football was all about. Sheer unadulterated joy.

But I digress.

Back in 1973 Rangers scored twice to give themselves a 2-1 lead. Dad assured me all was not lost, we were the best team in the country and one of the best in Europe. And when George Connelly equalised from the spot we both knew there was only going to be one winner.

Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Tom Forsyth scored one of his only two goals ever for Rangers that day. It was a goal remembered by all who witnessed it and many more who will have seen replays through the years. He didn’t beat several men and chip the goalkeeper. He didn’t lash out and thunder a thirty five yarder into the top corner. He didn’t rise above the Celtic defence to bullet a header past Ally Hunter.

The ball hit one post, rolled along the line and hit the other post. Tom Forsyth swung a leg at it, almost missed the ball and just caught it with the studs on the bottom of his boot. Three-two Rangers. It was one of those goals you don’t need YouTube to refresh your memory.

Dad was gutted. I was gutted. He went all quiet. I went all quiet. He switched the TV off. I grabbed my ball and headed down to the patch of green at the bottom of my street.

I dribbled up and down the thin layer of grass, commentating like Archie McPherson, and screaming, “Dalglish…Must be!” as I slotted the ball past the imaginary Peter McCloy. As I turned to receive the adulation from the imaginary thousands watching from the imaginary terraces I noticed a man crossing the road towards me.

The first thing I noticed was how his football top seemed to be at least one size too small. I wasn’t an expert but was pretty sure belly buttons were usually covered up. As he neared he tripped on the kerb but, although stumbling, managed to stay upright.

I gathered my ball and stood with my left foot on top of it.

“Awright, wee man,” he said when he reached me. “Whit wiz the score th-day?”

I found it surprising that someone wearing a Rangers top wouldn’t have watched the game live on TV like I did, but maybe he had been working and missed the game. I answered politely, “Rangers won 3-2.”

“Really?” He sounded genuinely surprised.

“Aye, it wiz a great game. Ye should’ve seen it. It wiz on the telly.”

“Ah’m sure it wiz. Geez a hit ay yir baw.”

I rolled my ball over to him.

“Did ye see Tam Forsyth’s goal?” he asked as he tried to keep the ball up but couldn’t get past three before losing control.

“Aye. Ah seen it. The baw rolled alang the line and…” I wondered how he knew Forsyth had scored a goal if he hadn’t seen the game or knew the score.

“Wiz it as good as this?” he asked, before chipping my ball up and blootering it miles away.

“Whit did ye dae that fur? That’s no fair.”

He started laughing. “Fuck off, ya wee Fenian bastard. Get back tae yir ain country if ye don’t like it here. We arra peepil!””

I just looked and wondered what he could possibly mean. I was born in and had only ever lived in Scotland.

He turned and walked away, bursting into song. “Hullo…hullo…we are The Billy Boys…hullo…hullo…you’ll tell us by our noise…we’re up to our knees in Fenian blood…surrender or you’ll die…”

In tears, I ran for my ball in the opposite direction, fearing for my life.

That day sticks in my memory as the day I discovered Rangers the football team and their supporters.  My age of innocence was at an end. I had discovered what my being a Catholic in the West of Scotland meant to those who considered themselves to be the natives and rightful heirs to the mountains, glens and lochs of Scotland.

That bigoted sense of entitlement and superiority has never been far from the surface of Scottish society over the decades of my life. It was reinforced during the David Murray years at Ibrox as he used the bank and taxpayer's money to buy success in the domestic game. They were a big fish in a small pond and weren’t shy about letting the small fish know that they needed the big fish or the small fish would die.

Now the people who run that small pond have been backed into a corner.

Tuesday the 29th May 2012 will be remembered as the day the big fish finally got too big for their own good.

 An SFA panel opted to conjure a twelve month transfer ban from thin air instead of handing Rangers a tougher punishment, but Rangers didn’t appreciate the SFA were actually doing them a favour by not expelling them in the first place. They claimed they were hard done to.

The SFA’s rule that a disciplinary panel can punish clubs with any punishment they deem fit proved too ambiguous for the Court of Session in Edinburgh. They are probably correct. The SFA have been caught with their pants down.

So now FIFA are getting involved.

Do the SFA now bow to Rangers or FIFA?

There can only be one answer, especially if the SFA want to keep their independence and not become part of a British FA.

At least one year’s suspension of SFA membership has to be considered. Don’t be surprised if the SFA again bend over backwards to help Rangers and end up handing down a suspended one year’s suspension…even though it’s not in their list of punishments.

But what if FIFA pushes for more?

What if Rangers get expelled?

No doubt Rangers fans will see this as the perfect opportunity to apply to join elsewhere: i.e. England. Unfortunately for them they have a better chance of starting their own league in the British Virgin Islands than being accepted into England. At least they can still wave their Union Jacks there and not have to pay any tax.

So, there you have it. My first full memory of a game will live with me forever, even though it ended in defeat. My last memory of an Old Firm game will also live with me forever and, thankfully, it ended with a victory.

Did I seek out any six year olds wearing Rangers tops, blooter their ball away and shout sectarian abuse at them? No, of course not. I haven't led the life of a saint but I have more dignity and respect for others regardless of their race, socio-economic status, health issues or religion in my little finger than Rangers and their imperialist supporters ever had, or will ever have.

Maybe, just maybe, when they rise like a phoenix from the ashes they will be shed of their 'we are the people' sense of entitlement and show a degree of humility and respect to all corners of Scottish society. But don't hold your breath.


  1. You are obviously well balanced which comes through in your writing.

  2. I will review my writings and take a close look at my thoughts and feelings throughout the saga once it comes to and end. I suggest everyone should do likewise. Hopefully we will all have discovered something about ourselves and others that can acted upon to make the country a better place for our kids and grandkids to live. Thanks for dropping by. Every opinion carries equal weight of importance.