…Or, A man’s a man for a’ that
A recent Edinburgh derby match gave ample insight into why Scottish football remains in the grubber.
In the second half Hibs and Hearts players started kicking each other instead of the ball as the game descended into farce, with two red cards.
Incredibly, BBC radio pundit Michael Stewart endorsed the nonsense on the pitch. “It’s a man’s game,” he barked, to coos of approval from the studio.
It’s nearly 20 years ago since another media rent-a-gob, Craig Burley, was ordered off for a wild lunge in Scotland’s 3–0 defeat by Morocco at France ’98.
Unless Scots soccer chiefs get real and open their eyes, the male national team’s tournament history will end FOREVER on that pathetic note.
The game has changed radically since the early 90s tipping point when Dutch superstar Marco van Basten was literally booted out of football.
At Italia ’90 Ireland would lull rivals to sleep with goalkeeper Bonner’s time-wasting antics – then bludgeon them with a sudden long ball.
While Cameroon dispensed with the lulling and reached straight for the bludgeon, threshing their way to the quarter-finals.
As TV money flooded in the elites running the game thought: “we’re not having that” and rewrote the rule book in their own favour. But it seems Scotland never got the memo.
The idea of Scottish football as a game for rough, tough manly men is very old.
Irish-born Jimmy Quinn, Celtic star of the 1900s, famously played with his blood trickling down into his boots.
Dubbed The Mighty Quinn, he shrugged off spittle in his hair and sectarian epithets ringing in his ears to rattle in goal after glorious goal. He rammed it down the thugs’ throats.
Then and for many decades afterwards, Scottish sectarianism – hatred of Irish Catholics – was the dynamo powering football north of the border.
But it’s petering out. Until their demise under the Liquidation Act in 2012, Glasgow Rangers had been the poster boys of this ugly tradition.
Even today, only in Scotland could a midfielder like Celtic’s Scott Brown, a blow-hard and a card-magnet, be venerated.
He’s a necessary evil against the gurning cloggers and hammer throwers in Scotland’s one-horse league. But he’s readily found out in The Hoops’ brief Euro forays.
A sea change is called for. Whatever they’re doing now isn’t working. Scotland’s “man’s game” is a laughable relic from a bygone era.
Until Scotland finds a way to churn out some male Kim Littles and Jennifer Beatties, and fewer Scott Browns, there will be no progress and no ascent.
A man’s game indeed! Michael Stewart you utter wally.
Fact stranger than fiction in the topsy-turvy world of women’s football
When Celtic face Rangers in the new year, the only thing in question will be the margin of The Hoops’ victory. Right? Well, yes. But also no. Over in the women’s game Celtic are starting from scratch after an exodus of top players, while ever-improving Rangers look to build from a position of strength.
Rangers Ladies of Glasgow are that rare beast in the women’s game: a club three times older than their ‘parent’!
That’s because Rangers men entered liquidation in 2012 then started a brand new Rangers club, at the bottom of the pile.
Many of the characters involved in Rangers, old and new, have a whiff—no, a stink—of criminality about them. Think “antagonist in TV’s Taggart“.
The male club died a grubby, cheat’s death. But Rangers’ vibrant women’s section proudly lives on, with much about them to admire.
Since their 2008 formation, it’s always been about the football for them. A club where all are welcome. No perma-raging riotous fans, no dodgy far-right politics, no hating Catholics. Universally respected as friends and rivals.
In other words, nothing like their deceased parent!
In this day and age, the quaint nomenclature ‘Ladies Football Club’ doesn’t always sit right. It’s just a bit twee. Celtic don’t use it anymore. In fact Celtic’s female section are so right on they won’t even use ‘Women’ to separate themselves from the male club. Which is fine … except no–one knows what to call them.
But ‘Ladies’ is a good fit for Rangers, harking back to the brown-brogued rectitude which was the old club’s self image.
This season past the Ladies were inundated with messages praising the work of young manager Kev Murphy and all at the club. The team’s star player is even named Erin – the Irish word for Ireland!
In the upcoming men’s game Celtic’s second-raters will wipe the floor with the third-and-fourth-raters playing for Rangers. That’s a given – if this version of Rangers even last that long.
But far away from the noisy crowds, the cruel hilarity on one side and impotent, delusional bigot-rage on the other, the real contest is just warming up.
Next season’s Scottish Women’s Premier League will see an altogether more authentic meeting of genuine ‘Old Firm’ rivals, where good football is sure to win the day.
Rangers and Glasgow City
One of the old Rangers’ many unsavoury stunts was their orange away kit in the early 2000s.
Redolent of the Catholic-hating Orange Order (a sort of 17th Century version of the British National Party) the offending items clumsily pandered to the worst elements of the support. It was a huge seller!
Glasgow City LFC had the same kit, and just like old Rangers they knowingly smirked it was ‘tangerine’.
There is no evidence of any Scottish sectarianism at Glasgow City – ever. But questions remain over their grotesque orange kit choice. In the west of Scotland it represented a dog whistle, if not a clarion call, to knuckle-draggers.
The successful women’s club quietly dropped their ‘royal blue’ trim a few years later and replaced it with black. But the orange, now acknowledged as such, remains to this day.