Sunday, May 24, 2009


I Have No Shame

Those of you who visit this humble outpost of the worldwide interweb on a regular basis (have you nothing better to do?) may recall that I am no fan of erstwhile Celtic and Wales striker John Hartson.

In this post, I placed him third in my list of most disliked Mhanky Mhob players. And in this one, I compared his dazzling good looks to those of the fatally wounded Darth Vader when he removes his mask at the end of Return Of The Jedi.

But last night, on a night out for Mrs Wife's birthday, we were in the VIP bar at Fat Sam's in Dundee, where our fellow drinkers were Rangers midfielder Charlie Adam and Hartson, the latter presumably in the City of Discovery for punditry duties at today's clash between Dundee United and Rangers.

Anyway, I clearly have no shame, as here I am with Hartson. It's very rare that I'm the thinnest person in any photograph, especially when the other person is a recently retired professional athlete:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Ten - The Ten Best Football Matches I've Ever Been To

1: Rangers 3-1 Aberdeen, Ibrox, April 28 1996 (Rangers come from behind to beat Aberdeen through a Paul Gascoigne hat-trick to win the Premier League.)

2: Real Madrid 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen, Hampden, May 15 2002 (The Champions League final that was lit up by Zinedine Zidane's match-winning volley.)

3: Brechin City 6-4 Rangers, Glebe Park, April 29 1991 (The first game I ever attended, a testimonial for Brechin's Dougie Scott in which Ian Durrant scored a penalty and Mark Walters also played.)

4: Brechin City 1-2 Hearts, Glebe Park, August 19 1992 (1903 fans cram into Glebe Park to watch high-flying Brechin score a dramatic equaliser against Premier League Hearts, only for John Robertson to grab a late, and cruel, winner.)

5: Nottingham Forest 3-2 Bristol City, City Ground, April 11 2008 (Stunning match that saw Forest come from behind twice before Dexter Blackstock's injury time winner to push the club towards safety from relegation.)

6: Rangers 4-0 Celtic, Ibrox, March 26 2000 (Rangers romp to victory over a piss-poor Celtic side with two goals from Jorg Albertz and one each from Andrei Kanchelskis and Giovanni van Bronckhorst.)

7: Hibernian 6-2 Hearts, Easter Road, October 22 2000 (A Mixu Paatelainen hat-trick helps Hibs pummel a hapless Hearts side. It's not often you score twice away from home in a derby and still lose.)

8: Rangers 4-0 Raith Rovers, Ibrox, January 13 1996 (It may only have been Raith Rovers, but Brian Laudrup rips the Kirkcaldy side to pieces, although he fails to get on the scoresheet himself.)

9: Everton 2-1 Charlton Athletic, Goodison Park, April 15 2007 (Three goals in the last ten minutes see Everton take the lead, Charlton equalise then James McFadden win the match with a stunning solo effort.)

10: Scotland 0-1 Germany, Ibrox, March 24 1993 (OK, maybe it was no classic, but this international friendly was the first time I saw Scotland play. Duncan Ferguson hit the crossbar with an overhead kick, but Germany won thanks to Karl-Heinz Riedle's goal in the first half.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Shit Hits The Fan

Whoever said that getting hit by bird shit is lucky has obviously never had such a gift from an Aberdeen seagull.

It's like getting shat on by a flying alsatian.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Turn The Page

I've been reading a lot since I moved from being a car-bound commuter drone to a train-bound commuter drone, and I've tried to get a broad range of reading material - fiction, non-fiction, humour, biography and history.
And seeing as how this far-flung outpost of the worldwide interweb is supposed to be an outlet for my opinions, here are my short reviews of the last few tomes I read.
Yes We Have No - Nik Cohn: Disappointing travelogue of a tour around "alternative" England, including travellers' camps, National Front members, witches and an Indian boxer. Promised much more than it delivered.
Trussed - Shiromi Pinto: Entertaining, fast-paced novel about three intertwined lives - Sri Lankan dominatrix Vinda; her cousin and Elvis impersonator Angel; and bail bondsman Regis. Read in a week and thoroughly entertaining from beginning to end.
The Final Whistle? - Harry Reid: Interesting, well-argued look at the problems facing Scottish football and the possible solutions to those problems. A few years old, so some things have changed - Gretna's demise being the most notable. A few strange idiosyncracies in Reid's style, surprising in a former editor of The Herald, were infuriating, but all in all, a worthwhile read for fans of Scottish football.
Gangster - Lorenzo Carcaterra: Fantastic novel about New York crime boss Angelo Vestieri's rise from sickly immigrant to the most powerful man in America. Written by the same author who wrote Sleepers, the book followed the standard Godfather/Goodfellas route, but was all the better for it.
The Great and Secret Show - Clive Barker: Sprawling fantasy novel recommended by a colleague, who said it's her favourite book. Describes the interwoven lives of people touched by "The Art" - the secret key to unlocking the mysteries of Quiddity, the true heaven. Strong start and finish, but a lull in the middle of a very lengthy novel meant it was a struggle at times. Worth a read, but never going to feature in my favourite books list.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Thought I Had My Own Key

Now that I've entered the final few months of my 20s, I'm at a curious "man child" stage in my life, or so it seems.
There are strange factors of my life that would seem, on the face of things, to be incompatible.
I have a mortgage and several pension plans, but I can regularly be seen wearing Oasis, Supergrass, StarWars and Batman t-shirts.
I read The Times and an average of one novel or work of non-fiction a week, but also read comics and graphic novels.
I spend eight hours a day analysing the worldwide oil and gas industry, examining trends and predicting how things will progress over the next five years. But I know far more about British and European football, and can still recite with relative ease the host nations and finalists of every World Cup since the first competition in 1930.
Rather than visit the historic cathedrals and battlefields of the Midlands while on holiday this year, I instead attended two football matches and spent a day on Skegness' fairground rides.
What does this all mean? That I'm a well-rounded individual who can leave the office behind at 4.30pm every day and instead immerse myself in the alternate worlds created by Marvel, DC, Nintendo and Sony?
Or that I'm a big kid who needs to grow up?

Monday, May 18, 2009


I like food, and I like eating.

Coupled with this startling revelation, I'm also lazy, so convenience food features more regularly in my diet than is probably recommended.

Take beans on toast for example - from can and bread bin to stomach in under 10 minutes. Perfect.

But I think that even I would baulk at Whole Chicken In A Can - yep, a whole bird in a massive tin that allegedly cooks in 15 minutes.

America, this is why large portions of the world hate you.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Here's the video footage of the Kyle Lafferty / Charlie Mulgrew "headbutt".

As much as I thought that Lafferty made a meal of it at the time, even without the benefit of an instant replay, I did think that Mulgrew brought his head forward.

The pair of them should have been booked for handbags at ten paces (or half a pace in this instance). For Lafferty to hit the ground holding his face like that is inexcusable, and I hope Rangers fine him.

I want Rangers to win the league (a dream that just took a step closer to becoming reality thanks to Celtic's 0-0 draw at Hibs), but I want them to do so fairly, not through resorting to cheap tactics like that.

Season 2008/2009: Match 26: Rangers v Aberdeen

I was down in Glasgow yesterday for what will probably have been my last match of the season, Rangers against Aberdeen.

Many people think that the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic is the most heated in world football, and it's certainly up there. But in terms of poisonous atmospheres, it has nothing on this clash.

Within minutes of kick-off, Aberdeen's fans were singing sons glorifying the horrendous tackle that almost ended Ian Durrant's career more than 20 years ago. There is no love lost between the two groups of fans at all, a fact that nearly 20 years of mediocrity for the Sheep Shaggers has done nothing to dilute.

In the run-up to the match, when Rangers moved ahead of Celtic to the top of the SPL a week ago, there were brief thoughts that this could prove to be a title party for Rangers. Had Celtic dropped a point midweek and Rangers beaten Hibs, a win yesterday would have returned the title to Ibrox.

I was at Ibrox in 1996 the last time Rangers won the title by beating Aberdeen at home, when Gazza scored a magnificent hat-trick for a team containing Goram, Gough, McCoist and Laudrup and I had visions of repeating that day yesterday.

Of course, that dream collapsed with a Celtic win and a Rangers draw midweek, but the title chase is still on.

Today's squad has nothing like the quality of that 1996 side - Barry Ferguson in his prime might have made the bench, as would Allan McGregor, and Pedro Mendes might have scraped into the squad, but I doubt that any of the other players currently at Ibrox would have made the starting eleven for that side that secured an eighth title on the bounce.

Ferguson was restored to the squad for yesterday's clash, starting on the bench, his recent injury and the furore surounding his Scotland squad misdemeanours having subsided. Also on the bench were Nacho Novo and John Fleck, Walter Smith opting to start with the KKK trio of Kris Boyd, Kenny Miller and Kyle Lafferty.

It was Lafferty who made the headlines, but for the wrong reasons. The big Ulsterman flew into a challenge on Charlie Mulgrew with his studs up, sending the former Celtic man flying. When both players were back on their feet, there was an exchange of words before Lafferty went down clutching his face. From where I was sitting, it looked as though Mulgrew had moved his head forward, but I was fairly certain there was no contact.

A flurry of text messages from Aberdeen fans of my acquaintance, which included the words "cheat", "embarrassment" and "disgrace" confirmed my suspicions - Lafferty had gone down in a blatant attempt to get his opponent sent off.

He succeeded, Aberdeen reduced to ten men with 72 minutes of the match still to play. With the title chase likely to come down to goal difference, Rangers would never have a better chance to pile on a few goals.

But they were horrendous. The couldn't create anything, with Miller too far wide, Boyd cutting a lonely figure up front and Mendes unable to wield his usual level of control over the ball, and the first half seemed to be dying a slow death when referee Stewart Dougal and linesman Graham Chambers conspiring further to inject a bit of excitement.

Racing into the box, Madjid Bougherra slid into the six-yard box in pursuit of a through ball. His studs caught Aberdeen goalkeeper Jamie Langfield in the face, and the linesman adjudged the challenge to be dangerous play, Dougal giving the big defender his marching orders.

So it was with Steven Whittaker at centre back and Steven Davis at right back that Rangers started the second half.

Again, they failed to make much of an impact, struggling to create much against a resolute Aberdeen defence.

Finally, with an hour gone, Smith introduced Ferguson and Novo in place of Mendes and Boyd, and within seven minutes Rangers were 2-0 up.

The first came when Ricky Foster, at full stretch, turned Kenny Miller's cross from the left beyond Langfield. Then, two minutes later, Miller himself netted from a Nacho Novo cross.

The sense of relief within Ibrox was palpable.

I've been a recent critic of Barry Ferguson's, as I think that he's been a liability, winning a place in the team on reputation rather than merit. There's also a near unbearable arrogance around him, as evidenced by his behaviour when with the Scotland squad.

But his introduction yesterday reinvigorated Rangers, and his passing was more direct than usual, opening up the Aberdeen defence more easily than any of his team mates had found it in the previous hour.

With Rangers two goals up with 20 minutes to play, the chance was there for the Ibrox side to chase more goals in an effort to boost their goal difference.

All such hopes were dashed in the 77th minute when Michael Paton scored a soft goal, the Rangers defence unable to close him down before he could shoot.

Rangers were then faced with a difficult choice - chase more goals and risk conceding again and dropping two points, or shore up at the back and settle for a win, albeit by a single goal.

They opted for the latter, and moved back to the top of the league ahead of Celtic's match today. Should the Mhanky Mhob win against Hibs, they will return to the summit for the start of next Helicopter Sunday.

Do I think Rangers will win the league? Blind optimism says yes, common sense says no. Too many times poor refereeing decisions, odd team selections, poor form and mediocre players have conspired against the club to believe that there will be a dramatic enough swing on the final day.

What's most annoying is that this Celtic team is as poor as its Rangers counterpart. Would any of the players have made it into the teams managed by Tommy Burns, Wim Jansen, Jo Venglos or Martin O'Neill? Scott Brown maybe. Artur Boruc at his peak. Maybe Aiden McGeady.

Financial limitations for both sides have limited the quality of player available to Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan. Rangers' squad looks old, slow and limited in creativity. I would never doubt the work rate of Weir, Papac, Dailly, Bougherra, Miller et al, but their abilities simply aren't up to the standards of previous Rangers teams.

A cutting down of dead wood would probably be on the cards for Rangers this summer were it not for a lack of credible and affordable alternatives.

But, as the song says, no surrender....bring on Helicopter Sunday....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Ten: The Ten Best Love Songs I Can Think Of Right This Second

1: Tightrope - The Stone Roses
2: Starlings - Elbow
3: Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
4: Here, There and Everywhere - The Beatles
5: Creep - Radiohead
6: Layla - Derek and The Dominoes
7: Oh Yoko! - John Lennon
8: Angie - The Rolling Stones
9: Something - The Beatles
10: There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hot Shot Hamish

I'm a bit sore today - our office football team played an 11-a-side match yesterday morning, with yours truly turning out in central midfield.

We only had 11 players, so everyone was forced to play the full 90 minutes. With the wind at our backs in the second half, we took a two-goal lead, both of them coming from my cultured right boot.

The first was a goal that, if David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo or Steven Gerrard had scored it, would be repeated ad nausem. Receiving the ball on the edge of the centre circle, I spotted the goalkeeper off his line and sent the ball over his head from somewhere between 40 and 50 yards.

My second was popped into the top corner from the edge of the box, and was captured on camera by Mrs Wife - I'm the blue-shirted player to the left of the defender on the ground:

But with the wind in our faces in the second half, we were unable to capitalise further and ended up losing 4-2.

And now my legs are stiff, my neck is sore and my right foot is swollen from a clash of studs near the end of the match.

But if Fergie needs someone to replace the suspended Darren Fletcher for the Champions League final, I think I should just about be fit. When was the last time Park Ji Sung scored from 40 yards?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Season 2008/2009: Match 25: Montrose v Albion Rovers

Exactly 10 months ago, I attended the first match of Montrose's pre-season campaign, a friendly against Dundee in which they were pumped 3-0.
A lot has happened at the club in the interim - they've had more managers than Newcastle, briefly threatened to reach the play-offs for the second consecutive season and have, on occasion, played some of the best football in Division Three.
It's all been a bit inconsistent though, and for all Montrose's pretty passing football, they don't score enough goals. But there have been indications recently that Steven Tweed is taking them in the right direction.
Anyway, today was Montrose's last match of the season, and neither they nor visitors Albion Rovers had anything to play for. But it seems no-one told the teams that, and they tore into each other at a frantic pace despite torrential rain.
The match had almost everything - three players (all Montrose) stretchered off, a nutmeg for the winning goal and Albion Rovers goalkeeper Jamie Ewings receiving a red card for a second bookable offence.
There was also a tearful farewell for Montrose winger Paul Stewart, who has been told his contract won't be renewed, primarily due to the cost of his travel expenses from the central belt.
How Steven Tweed will rebuild the side this summer remains to be seen - it's understood that the club intends to narrow its search for players to no further south than Perth.
But I am, for the moment, blindly optimistic that Montrose can challenge for the title next season. Christ almighty, if Dumbarton can win it....

Monday, May 04, 2009

Over The Moon

There's showboating, and then there's hitting a free kick like this.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Together Through Life

Well well well....oh well.....

Mrs Wife, myself and our friend Chippy went to see Bob Dylan at the SECC in Glasgow last night. Chippy had seen him before at Stirling Castle back in 2001, but for Mrs Wife and I, it was our first time in the same room as Mr Zimmerman.

I'm a big fan - I've got 20 of his 33 albums - and Mrs Wife knows enough of Dylan's music to be aware which songs are "the big ones".

Chippy and I went along knowing full well that this wasn't going to be a note-perfect rendition of Bob's classics from the 1960s and 1970. We knew that a lot of the songs are unrecognisable until he and the band hit the chorus (and even then some of them remain a mystery). We knew that his voice is essentially buggered beyond repair, although it still sounds vaguely passable on his two most recent albums.

When he and the band arrived on stage slightly later than expected (we had been told he would begin his performance at 7.30pm sharp), Bob burst straight into Maggie's Farm. And it was good. Not "wow that sounds just like the version on Bringing It All Back Home" good, but good enough that we could recognise it.

The band were good. No, correct that, the band were REALLY good - as tight a blues band as you'll ever see. But Bob seems to be enthralled by the country/blues sound at the moment, and each song was twisted to fit that template.

Far be it from me to tell a man who started performing before my parents were born how he should be singing his own songs, but when 12,500 people have shelled out fifty quid each to see you, I'd be of the opinion that you should perform your best-known songs, and perform them in such a way that they're in some way connected to the originals.

Like A Rolling Stone was horrendous. And I think Bob made it harder for himself than he needed to. If he'd stuck to the original arrangement so that the crowd could keep time and sing along, all he'd have needed to do would have been to sing the "How does it feel?" line, and the audience would have drowned him out on the rest. But it was too slow and too bluesed up. Still, at least he played it....

....which is more than can be said for most of his back catalogue. OK, he has 500 or more songs to choose from. And he must be bored of playing some of the older ones. But there were few concessions to history. All Along The Watchtower (which started with the band playing opening bars so thunderous that Chippy and I were both convinced that it was Hurricane) rolled out, and it was one of the highlights of the show, alongside The Ballad of Hollis Brown from The Times They Are A-Changin', which has long been one of my favourite Bob songs.

But. But, but, but, but. There was no It Ain't Me Babe, The Times They Are A Changin', Subterranean Homesick Blues, One Of Us Must Know, Rainy Day Women, Hurricane, Knockin' On Heaven's Door or Mr Tambourine Man.

In the case of the latter, that's probably just as well. Blowin' In The Wind closed the show, and it was the undeniable lowlight, the simple beauty of the acoustic peace anthem ripped to shreds by a band overplaying and a singer-songwriter no longer able to sing.

If any other band or artist mutilated their back catalogue the way Dylan did last night, they'd be pilloried. Imagine if Paul McCartney charged fifty quid a ticket, played two Beatles songs and another two hours of songs from his two most recent albums, all the while singing like a stroke victim. Or if Michael Jackson decides to freshen up his back catalogue at his London shows this summer by giving them a hip-hop overhaul. In either instance, there would be condemnation.

But it seems that with Bob, the very fact that he's a catankerous old bastard, and a living legend, seems to forgive to all sins. I heard countless people leaving the SECC state that the gig had been incredible.

I'm not entirely downhearted - I've seen Dylan. When all is said and done, I can say I've seen the man in the flesh, and heard him perform Like A Rolling Stone and Blowin' In The Wind. If I ever visit the pyramids in Egypt, I'll do so in the knowledge that I won't see Tutankhamun wandering around and lording it over some slaves. And I suppose it's the same with Bob - I didn't go along expecting to see the man at the peak of his powers, but instead just wanted to say I'd been there, just once, when Dylan played in Scotland.

Now I can.

(As a post script, I address this to Bob - If you're charging people fifty quid a ticket to see you, let them take photographs. I had three Group Four security guards tell me that photographs were banned by Bob himself, two tell me to delete photographs I'd already taken (aye, right) and one jump in front of me with his arms outstretched with the express intention of ruining a photo.)

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Setting Off On Highway 61

Mrs Wife and I are off to Glasgow to see Bob Dylan today. So I'll leave you with the man at the peak of his powers.

Friday, May 01, 2009

21 Again

It's May Day today, which means it's my Granny's 83rd birthday - Happy Birthday to the world's greatest cook.