Wednesday, 1 November 2017

A new start

A wee trip to Pittodrie next week and a friendly against the once mighty Netherlands, a former world great against a 19 year old failure. Can't wait.
The vision of an Archie Gemmell 1978 wonder goal is so remote and irrelevant as would a replay of the Euro 88 Dutch victory. We can't live on past memories nor can the men in Oranje. Where to now?
If I had a pound for every time I was asked where has it gone wrong the I would have £8 in my pocket and that is just from yesterday. Who should be the new manager? Sir Alex Ferguson of course, however in the likely event of him being quite busy just now and unavailable the question is ' Who will be the new manager of Scotland?' All applicants should be aquainted with Albert Camus' book on eternal failure, or was that written by The Tartan Army?
Qualities, the ability to make the best of not bad players. Patience and impatience, oh and must be a masochist. Tactical genius and in training sessions endless routnes of late goals followed by the booting the ball out the park. The ability to grab failure from glory.
Netherlands at Pittodrie, the start of something new or more of the same? We will be wearing a new strip, better than the last one? Yes of course that was terrible.
One thing please, let Malky Mackay enjoy his one game as Manager and on Friday he can return to his day job, the really important one.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

It is with sadness that Westa announces the sad passing this morning of Janet Hopkins, original member of both Westa & The Partick International.
In her 88 years she was a mainstay of Partick Thistle & Scotland, indeed her mother washed the strips for the Jags. Bill Shankly was a house guest during the second world war. Alan Rough and the Alan Hansen family were friends. When Thistle won the League Cup beating Celtic 4-1 in 1971 she was at Firhill to meet the bus returning with the trophy only to discover nobody had the key to get into the stadium.
Janet & her late husband Sam were ever present on the busses run by Jim Brown and the late and great Tommy Madden, 3 world cups and 2 Euro Championships, younger Westa members eat you hearts out, in fact Sam & Janet's honeymoon was the 1967 Wembley 3-2 win when we very temporarily were World Champs.
For those members proud of their 10 points she was at every home international in Glasgow,London, Belfast & Cardiff from 1947 onwards, no Ryan Air or Easy Jet then. She witnessed Wembley heartache in the 1955 -7-2 defeat and even worse the 9-3 humiliation courtesy of Frank Haffey. Mind you there would be the joy of the 1962 2-0 win over the Auld Enemy at Hampden after 25 years of home defeats.
She was a member of the short lived breakaway Summerston Young Farmers Supporters Club formed to travel by bus to the Dublin 1987 Euro Qualifers where chairman Jim Brown insisted they dress up as farmers to beat the travel ban on the Irish ferry.
Janet & Sam were the winners of the Westa 2003 Trip of the Year Award for their good humour both their and back on the bus to Amsterdam for the Euro Qualifiers play-off 6-0 debacle.
She was a star guest in the audience for Tam Cowan's TV show where she took at least 10 goes at introducing the next guest.
I include a picture of Janet at the world famous Westa Burns Supper where she loyally said the Selkirk Grace.
It is always sad when we lose one of the Westa family as we have occasionally do, each a legend, each a Scotland fan.

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.