Friday, 21 July 2017

Scotland Women's Fitba

You know it's a Scotland trip when at the airport a Scotland top is spotted, a pint of beer is nearby.
You know it's a Scotland game abroad when there is a march to the game.

You know it's Scotland in a major final when as plucky underdogs we unfortunatley read and follow the script and suffer a defeat in the first game.

However the Scotland top in the airport was one of 2, the other being my own. No kilts or tartan in sight but plenty of voices discussing the football . 

Well you non believers, it was not only fun it was brilliant. It was the Euros and a game against England, The Auld Enemy, what could go wrong?

The day itself was fitba in the truest sense. A mixture of fans, Scotland's as always more evident. There was a meeting of old tartan army friends, always a pleasure. Chatting to the proud parents of the players was a joy. Goalie, Shannon Lynn's mother and father flew in from Toronto, more family joining from far and wide. John and Gill Beattie still there although injured Jennie Beattie, Scotland star is at home and distraught at missing the finals. Caroline Weir's mum and dad so proud and a squad of Vailla Barsley's family all with the name on the back of their Scotland shirts. Wee Erin Cuthbert of Chelsea, her mum in the airport so excited before the match.

Was this the tartan army? Surely not as I spotted as many cappuccinos as biers. A fans zone littered with kids playing keepie up with no crates of biers littering the square.

You know it's a Scotland game when that excitement and nervousness pervades the day.

On leaving our hotel on route to the game we joined the end of the march to the game. Over 100 fans, Maw, Paw, Granma & Grampa on their way to the Stadium in the lovely and cultural city of Utrecht. Weans, dozens of them , all with flags and pink tops. Waving and whisling to the locals along the canals on the way to the game. A game in a major final. Haud on, just the Women's Finals. 
You know it's a Scotland game when the march back to the city centre is one of silent grief at another defeat. 

You know it's Scotland, we lost, 6-0 by the way. I was only dissapointed the next morning, I will not patronise the team as plucky losers, I have seen it all before. I will only forgive them if they win the next 2 games and qualify for the next round. 

Scotland Women's Team make us proud, even more proud.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Alan Hansen Westa Guest

All those years ago, when we were going through a bad patch The West of Scotland Tartan Army were approached by the BBC to take part in an TV special. Alan Hansen, former Partick Thistle Player would be investigating where it had all gone wrong for Scottish Fitba, he was not the first looking for the answer and as of 2107 he would not be the last.
The camera team arrived at our Sunday meeting, last Sunday in the month, all invited. A table was arranged upstairs in the Iron Horse, West Nile Street , Glasgow.
Our esteemed Chair, the late and most wonderful Tommy Madden asked that Alan in return would address our meeting, all Scotland fans by the way. He was approached by the director, we had not been deemed important enough at this stage to meet the great man. The answer came back...a big NAW.
Tommy said thanks very much and promptly went elsewhere for a pint.
Mr Hansen, late of Liverpool and Scotland eventually relented and agreed to say a few words to the lads & lasses, all Scotland fans by the way.
We were interviewed, asked our opinions. Filming ended. Looking back our views on Scotland,  ' The Failure Years' were incoherent and incomprehensible , not unlike our then team selection.
Mr Hansen did then address the assembled WESTA membership. He was excellent, funny, informative and I suspected a proud Scot, proud to have played for Scotland and as a lad proud to have travelled to Wembley.
Questioned on Graeme Souness, he was  also as  I suspected a proud Scot and was part of a grand assemblage of Scots playing for a superb Liverpool team, a team that ruled Europe.
However, we home Scots have always has a jaundiced view of the Scot having made it big down south, the dreaded 'Anglo'.
Famous 'Anglos'; Kenny Dalglish, Denis Law, Billy Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Joe Jordan. Bill Shankly, Matt Busby, jings loads of them and more, many more.
Alan , sorry Mr Hansen got so much stick playing at Hampden, for Scotland by the way he would warm up beside Graeme Souness, multiple European Cup winners by the way, World class by the way. Graeme got all the stick.
At the end of the meeting as stand in Chair I asked the assembled members, all Scotland fans by the way, to give Mr Alan Hansen the traditional Hampden greeting and boo him as he left the pub. Iwas joking of course and of course the WESTA memers booed him as he left.
Our garbled views on the demise of Scottish football was of course not used in the programme. A few months later Bertie Vogts got the Scotland job. I rest my case.
In 2004 Wales hammered Scotland 4-0 in Cardiff. Later in the Holiday Inn Express the highlights were on Match of the Day. The pundit was one Mr Alan Hansen who slaughtered the team and the defence (sic).
I laughed through tears of frustration and emotion.
1979 , Cardiff Home International. Wales 3 Scotland 0. Centre half covering John Toshack was a certain Alan (Mr) Hansen. At this stage in his excellent career John was slower than me, I am now 59, John scored a hat-trick.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

There are a number of Scottish Fitba heroes who have humbled the Auld Enemy; Law, Baxter, Last Minute Reilly, Tommy Walker and more. Walking along Battlefield Road Hampden bound I prayed to God, any God for a hero. Thousands marched more in hope than expectation as we have not the players nor the talent of the past nor our illustrious opponents. The Tartan Army, Scotland fans were drawn to The National Stadium as Bonnie Prince Charlie’s sodjers were to glorious failure. An act of Newtonian Gravity sucking us in to inevitable defeat.
With Scotland there is however always a however. The atmosphere was electric. The England players so tall, so confident they exuded over confidence knowing victory would be theirs as of right. It is the rule of historical fact.
However Hampden had its Roar back, and some. Our players, our heroes took occasional control and when relinquished we the Scotland fans roared and roared until we got it back.
England scored, as they always do, victory was theirs, it always is. However. A free kick mile out. ‘He will never score from there’, and he did. Yes he did. Mayhem in the stands.
Another free kick a minute later. ‘He won’t score from there, again?’. Yes he did, yes he did. Mayhem and madness. My lungs burst, my ears rung with the Hampden roar. Hugging, mass hysteria and more. Yet, this England we are playing. They of course equalised when we passed the precious ball to them for no particular reason.
Last Minute Leigh Griffiths scores 2 goals, brilliant goals that will live in the hearts of Scotland fans forever.
What a game, what drama, what a noise. We snatched a draw from the jaws of victory and defeat, from misery to happiness to misery. The 90 minute mutual dislike for our English friends ended with them applauding us and us clapping them in return. Class. I think they appreciated the Hampden Roar.
See Scotland, see Scotland, what would we do without them, what would they do without us?


Thursday, 23 March 2017

The price of failure

A 1-1 draw against Canada not however against the run of play. £15.00 & a decent seat in Easter Road, I initially thought not a bad for a meaningless friendly, however I was to buy the ticket, thought at first I was going to get paid for watching Scotland. I had prepared an invoice and if necessary had a purchase order prepared.
However, talk of a boycott against Gordon Strachan, really? Am I right that a Scotland fan boycotting a Scotland  game is really somebody just not bothering to turn up? A legitimate act of defiance or a part-time fan who is more interested in the party when abroad? Just asking.
Dissapointment, poor play, hopeless, these  are  not  modern phenomenon. We may just  not be winning at a lower level, our passionate indifference, it may be terminal.
If I had a £1 for every time I was asked what has gone wrong with Scottish football I would have £23, not bad for a days lack of an answer.
Contrary to the radio report this morning there was no mass booing of Scotland at the end of 90 minutes of boredom, worse there was the rustle of despair.
Where do we go now? Will a victory on Sunday, kick off 7.45pm by the way, will this victory rescue our campaign? Unlikely & probably irrelevant as we are likley to stagger, huff puff and wander into the England game where we will face an enormous gulf in class as well as height.
The Under 17s have qualified for the finals & there is at last a wee peek at a positive future. I for one do not hold my breath. Shame on me.
My social media is full of clips of the good old days, I am more guilty than any at searching the past for heroes with hobnailed Hotspur boots, but even I weary at clips of Faddy in Paris.
I herbey declare that all clips of Archie in Argentina be banned herewith. Baxter & Law ripping England be banished from our screens.
We as fans must face up to our player's inadequacies, demand more from our clubs, coaches & poor poor players. Football is more than success, more than the money & talent dripping from England's leagues, there should however be a glimmer of  hope.
I am a Scotland fan, I have no hope. if anybody finds my  hope let me know.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Westa in Edinburgh

Top seed, surely not? Westa's first ever home trip was to Edinburgh for the Euro Qualifier 10th October 1998 and we were top seed in a group that included The Czech Republic, 1996 Euro Champions.
Westa had successfully negotiated their first foreign trip to Lithuania and a 0-0 draw with the only casualties being member's livers. A month later we were to meet in an Edinburgh brewery adjacent to Tynecastle with the prospect of an easy home win against Estonia.
The Ayr branch of Westa took an early train and were soon mixing with the Tartan Army in the capital. Following the France World Cup there was the emergence of the various organised TA group’s and this gathering was a chance to mingle with fellow foot soldiers and share stories and drinks.
I have a memory of a pal not going to the game as he had been left in charge of a dog in a pub, Shambles perhaps, must ask him one day.
The game itself was a stramash, emotion and more. 1-0 down at half-time sub Billy Dodds equalized and then trailing 2-1 with 15 minutes to go the group’s prospects were, and not for the first time looking glum. An own goal and a late Dodd’s goal had Tynecastle rocking. 3-2.
‘Gets the ball and scores a goal, Billy Billy  Dodds’ was the refrain, he was to be for a period a Scotland goal scorer , nearly of note.  The next game was The Faroes at Pittodrie.
Westa Members headed to the poshest hotel in town, The Roxburghe at Charlotte Square. Owned by Sir David Murray there was a rumour that he had personally invited us. I am not convinced as I would have kept the ticket and if he did he did not stand his round. A raucous night was had by all, kilts aplenty and we were graced by the presence of Marjory Nimmo, honourary patron in chief of the TA.
She was doing her royal tour, acquainted with all we paid our respects, there was however a crisis when her bag was nicked. A near riot ensued and the subsequent whip round raised enough money to send her on an all expense trip around the globe.
Missing the Westa bus the Ayr branch were on John Grigor’s bus arriving at 2 or 3am to the St Andrew’s pub where we were welcomed to a lock-in for a deaf club. One brief drink and a taxi home.
My wife was accurate in her explanation; prior to my introduction to Westa I drove to Hampden for home games arriving back barely 2 hours after the final whistle.
That all changed thereafter, home games became an adventure and like a Scotland game, a stramash.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Westa Player of The Year

Tales of The West of Scotland Tartan Army. POTY

During the darkest hours of Bertie’s reign we were faced, not once but twice with the classic dilemma. As a democratic body the choice of Player of The Year was devoid, not of a winner but nominations.
The list of past winners included Christian Dailly and Don Hutchison. Christian was nominated and chosen because, well because he was, and is Christian Dailly. Don Hutchison, scorer of the winner at Wembley, a cracker against Germany and a truly all round good guy. We somehow got the trophy to Christian at West Ham and The Don courtesy of Westa member Andrew Gibson who hand delivered it to a presumably bemused Don at  Leeds Utd training ground.
The following year BBC TV were, I kid you not, filming the Westa Player of The Year award ceremony. The nation awaited our announcement, however we had no nominations, none. The various defeats and humiliations Scotland had suffered left us bereft of hope never mind a hero.
Our best score of the season had been a fortuitous 2-2 draw with Spain in Valencia with an 80th minute floodlight failure ensuring a draw & a wet lap of honour for the Tartan Army
Lights, camera & action. The Chair stood and addressed the members and a million viewers. No name was inscribed on the trophy, no actual winner was chosen.  We assured the BBC the winner was a closely guarded secret. The hapless, most say hopeless Chair stood and announced; ‘The winner is………………………………………’
 ‘The Spanish electrician’ shouted a Westa Wag. Problem solved, the winner however to this day awaits the prized trophy.
A year later & we were facing the same dilemma, or were we? The Women’s team were becoming an attraction for some of us, and the committee chose a Woman. The choice was narrowed down to the one that worked in Greaves Sports, we could nip down & invite her personally.
Scottish Football’s most prestigious night, our Player of The Year. The wonderful Vera Pauw, Team Manager & our chosen player attended as honoured guests, Mhairi who to be honest looked bemused as well as honoured. They were roundly cheered and as Mhairi left the Iron Horse she looked even more bemused.
I humbly suggest that following the success of Scotland’s Women’s Team they be honoured as Scottish Fitba’s team of the Year. They are off to the Euro’s in Holland & so am I.


Monday, 1 August 2016

1966 and all that

Just imagine if we won the world cup, jings Scotland beat England a year later 3-2 and we live eternally on a such a futile victory.
I am slightly dissapointed on behalf of my English chums that there has been no street parties, an achievement so magnificent a national holiday should have been granted. The remaining players, plus Jimmy Greaves honoured in David Cameron's last honours list, an act of sheer gratitude on behalf of the nation of England.
A Scottish peek at the few documentaries this past week would have revealed a bunch of relatively ordinary lads who conquered the world, with the added advantage of playing at home and at Wembley Stadium to boot. England deserved to win, the 3rd goal may have been not quite over the line, however the Germans have punished England ever since and seemingly a major part of their masterplan was to include penalty taking compulsory in Schools ever since. Alan Ball it turns out was a great guy, Bobby Moore a likely lad. As for Sir Bobby Charlton hero the world over, Scotland included.
I was 8 in 1966 and like most of Scotland at the time supported England. This changed a year later when we won 3-2, played keepie-up and to this day honoured and remembered as our greatest victory over any world champions. The game was in fact a Euro qualifier, we drew later with Wales, lost to Northern Ireland and went out with a creditable 1-1 draw in the return 1968 England game.
We complain that our English friends go on too much about 1966, why shouldn't they?