Olympic Football, St James’ Park, 29 July 2012

And so, the Group D odyssey continued for me and my younger brother Martyn, with a trip to Newcastle and the mightily impressive (though somewhat lopsided) St James’ Park. Again the cheap seats had afforded us a nonetheless tremendous view; like at Hampden, in line with the edge of a penalty area at one end of the field. St James’ seats are somewhat closer to the field, which must make the atmosphere of a Tyne/Wear derby rather impressive.

On this Sunday evening though, it was the more wholesome, happy Olympic atmosphere which pervaded the arena. Having seen two cracking games in Glasgow, we were both looking forward to seeing all four Group D sides in action once more. Up first this time was Japan v Morocco, followed by Spain v Honduras.

The Japanese chaps high-five one another before kick-off.

Japan v Morocco, 17:00

And so to the football. Once again (much in keeping with the Olympic spirit), both sides’ anthems were wonderfully observed by the 26,000 or so (i.e. half-full) in the stadium. We were on the look out for our man Kensuke Nagai, a player who had set a high watermark for hard work as far as we were concerned in the first march against Spain.

That man Noureddine Amrabat was the first to make an impression this match, bustling his way through the middle of the Japanese defence before being stopped in his tracks by Japanese captain Maya Yoshida. Things continued much in that vein for the first 20 minutes or so of the match, with Amrabat once again providing class for the Moroccans, along with his elusive team-mate in the middle, Zakaria Labyad.

At this point the egregious Mexican waving began, though I did feel slightly more enamoured to it this time round. The fans in the far corner seemed to be controlling things, with their boos (if the wave didn’t make it round) and cheers (if it did) probably confusing the 22 gentlemen on the field no end.

The second half of the first half belonged to the chaps from the Far East. First, a brilliant chase and control from Kiyotake found the Japanese creative outlet, Otsu, in the middle. His shot was turned turned wide by Moroccan keeper Amsik for a corner. Amsik was then at the centre of some minor controversy a few minutes later.  A strong header from a Ogihara corner was directed pretty much straight at the Moroccan keeper. He saved, then appeared (from where I was sitting anyway) to carry the ball over the line. Thanks to the gift of Sky Plus and BBC Olympics 12 HD, I can however confirm that the referee was bang on in not awarding the goal. Half-time was upon us swiftly thereafter.

Japan came into the game rather more in the second half. After both sides scoped one another out for the first 15 minutes or so of the second period,  Japan’s best opportunity of the match up to that point came in 63 minutes. Nagai drove at the heart of the Moroccan defence, the ball found its way to Kiyotake whose shot hit the underside, hit Amsik, and then spun gratefully into the be-beiged Moroccan keeper’s arms. A lovely run through the middle from Otsu soon thereafter was well matched by Amsik, then some excellent work through the middle from Yamaguchi unfortunately resulted in him directing the ball aerially towards Sunderland.

Some second half action from Morocco v Japan.

Japan were on top now, but they were, as they did against Spain, spurning some cracking opportunities. The opening goal finally arrived in the 84th minute of proceedings. A relatively speculative ball over the top from Hiyotake found Nagai sprinting through the channel. Amsik committed himself too early; Nagai dinked it beautifully over him and into the far corner.

Morocco had the last chance of the match deep into stoppage time. Just as I had been praising Yoshida’s performance, he got sloppy and allowed Labyad to wander through and force a save from Gonda. Yoshida made up for his error, however, with a great block from El Kaddouri, who had the goal at his mercy.

And so Japan had pulled another good win out of the bag with a resilient performance. Yoshida (despite his last minute error) had been excellent at the back, with Otsu linking the play and advancing beyond the front line beautifully. It was also fantastic to see our man Kensuke Nagai finally get himself on the scoresheet. I may sound like a corrupted MP3 but I can’t help but again praise Amrabat from the Moroccan side of things – why they took him off with 20 minutes left I’ll never know as he caused Japan far more problems than any Spaniard managed on Thursday. I genuinely think the Moroccan striker could do a job for a lower-end Premier League team.

This is why football, and indeed sport, is a wonderful thing – one team delighted, the other devastated.

St James’ didn’t quite live up to Hampden’s inter-match “entertainment” – there were no giant beachballs anyway. After some shoddy pre-match videos and two plays of Muse’s Olympic theme with obligatory inspirational video, it was time for match 2.

Spain v Honduras, 1945

Again, after the anthems, the Honduran players gave the crowd a good round of applause. From that moment on we were right behind them. Which we would have been anyway, because being East Fife supporters, Martyn and I are well used to it. Spain, predictably, dominated the first 5 minutes or so, and things were looking rather ominous for our new Central American brethren. There were rather more Hondurans in Newcastle than there were in Glasgow (perhaps there’s an enclave in Jesmond), and they were given something to shout about after 7 minutes.

Completely against the run of play, Honduras composed a nice move down the left. Roger Espinoza picked up the ball on the left edge of the area, exchanged passes with Mario Martinez, before a sweet left foot cross to the near post. Jerry Bengtson outjumped Jordi Alba and powered his header past De Gea (headed down!), becoming the joint-top scorer of the tournament as a result.

A near-side tussle in the first half.

Spain seemed rather shellshocked for much of the rest of the first half. On 29 minutes, Mata fired one across Mendoza when perhaps Muniain (playing in this one, and what a difference he made) was in a better position. Isco then volleyed not far off target after a sustained spell of Spain pressure. Right on half-time, Mata had his and Spain’s best chance of the half, shooting agonisingly wide of Mendoza’s right hand post.

Half-time arrived, then, with Honduras in the lead. There was a heated atmosphere developing between the players, not helped by Martinez writhing around “injured” on the halfway line, then opportunistically getting up when Honduras were on the counter. As it was, the Central Americans probably deserved to be in front, for their work rate and tenacity if nothing else.

The second half was about as much of a deluge as anyone is likely to see in football without a goal being scored. Spain were largely relentless from first to last. However, on 51 minutes, the first real chance of the half went to Honduras. Good work down the right led to a cross to the tireless Espinoza. His header rebounded off the upright, agonisingly just out of reach of the onrushing Bengtson. It would have been interesting to see how Spain would have reacted to going 2 behind

As it was, they stayed one down, and then proceeded to throw everything at the Honduras defence and their 5″7 keeper Mendoza (he’s taller than his deputy in the Olympic squad too). Firstly, a wonderful surging run from Muniain ended with his shot drifting just wide of Mendoza’s left hand upright. A similarly excellent driving run through the middle  a couple of minutes later resulted in his shot hitting that very post. On 72 minutes Rodrigo (who came on as a sub in this game, having been deservedly dropped after his showing against Japan) forced a wonderful save from Mendoza, tipping the Benfica striker’s header round his right post. Things were getting relentless now but the Hondurans were just about holding firm.

On 79 minutes, Rodrigo was again set free, but a combination of brave goalkeeping and just-about-sturdy-enough defending kept him out. In the process, Mendoza injured himself. Now, how injured he was, given Martinez’s reaction to his “injury” in the first 45 – I’m guessing it wasn’t too serious. What it didn’t justify, however, is Iker Muniain’s behaviour, attempting to barge into the Honduran keeper to get him off the ground. The resultant yellow card was one of the more deserving of the 13 given out by the Venezuelan referee on the night.

The referee’s performance was called further into question when the game reached its last minute. Another good run through the middle from Rodrigo saw him appear to be tackled from behind by Velasquez. On seeing the TV footage, there is no doubt he got absolutely nothing of the ball and a lot of Rodrigo’s ankles. As it was, the Venezuelan referee turned the claim down (one of three the Spanish had in the last 15 minutes) and Juan Mata was booked soon after for getting in his face (he seems like such a nice chap on Twitter too).

By this time chants of “HON-DU-RAS!” were floating round the stadium, and so it was that Honduras had the last decent chance of the match. A good surging counter attack found the ball at the feet of the controversial Martinez. His shot was very weak, but was spilled out for a corner by De Gea (and wasn’t too far from going in). The volume climbed all the more. A last-gasp set piece for Spain saw De Gea move forward to no avail.

The final whistle blew and the crowd stood to a man to salute their Central American heroes (other than the people who left early, presumably because there were tailbacks on the A167(M)). The Spanish players did not seem to share this sentiment, however, and instead decided to harangue the referee, with Muniain in particular (again) being pointlessly niggly and, frankly, a bit of a bully.

The Spanish show that, as well as being good winners, they can also be very bad losers.

The Hondurans, meanwhile, were naturally delighted, to the point where a few of their players, including Mendoza who had been excellent, climbed into the crowd to acknowledge the effort of their countrymen to come to Newcastle to support their team.

The one final gesture was a lovely one. In the warm-up, it was clear that an older lady had been hit by a wayward shot from a Honduran and had been hurt badly enough to need some first aid from the stewards. At the end of the match, the culprit became clear, as Roger Espinoza made his way to that end of the ground, apologised to the lady in question and handed her his shirt from the match. A frankly outstanding gesture, and one very much in keeping with the friendly Olympic atmosphere in the ground. An0ther quality day’s entertainment from Group D of the 2012 Olympics – the Japanese might well be worth keeping an eye on in the later stages.

Scores and scorers on the day:

Morocco 0-1 Japan (Nagai)

Spain 0-1 Honduras (Bengtson)

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Olympic Football, Hampden Park, 26 July 2012

The Olympic football was something I’d been really looking forward to since I booked tickets for Glasgow and Newcastle a number of months ago. OK, so the draw hadn’t been massively kind (Spain being the only obvious highlight), and I’d accidentally picked to see all 4 teams in group D twice (Thursday’s experience will be followed tomorrow by the same teams in Newcastle), but I was really looking forward to seeing some Olympic sport. Olympic football may suffer from various naysayers who say it’s pointless as it’s not the pinnacle of the sport, but again, I couldn’t help but be enthusiastic about it.

Martyn (my younger brother) was also looking forward to it, and so it was that we turned up at Hampden at about 11:30 full of expectation for the day’s entertainment. Two games were available for our delectation: Honduras v Morocco (which would turn out to be Martyn’s first international match) and the theoretical main event, Spain v Japan.

The Moroccans and Hondurans line up for their national anthems in front of a not entirely full Hampden.

Honduras v Morocco, 12:00

To the action then, and first up was the alleged “diddy” match of the afternoon, between Morocco and Honduras. The first obvious thing was that this was not going to be your average crowd. Both anthems were well respected, with about 80% of the crowd standing for both the Moroccan and Honduran ditties, and they cheered both teams equally thereafter. When the Honduran players clapped the crowd before kick-off, we perhaps were swaying towards the chaps from Tegucigalpa.

It was pretty difficult, however, not to get caught up in how well the Moroccans played in the first half, and how well their band of musical supporters were keeping the crowd going. Morocco’s first good chance came when I was standing in the pie queue. A free kick from the left was planted on Houssine Kharja’s head rather nicely; his glancing header was wonderfully tipped wide by Jose Mendoza (Honduras’s 5″7 (yes, that’s 5 feet and 7 inches) keeper).

Morocco then took the lead on 40 minutes, somewhat out of the blue given the previous 39 minutes had been mostly sparring between the two sides (though Morocco had got a lot of joy up the Honduras left). It was an absolute peach though – some good work through the middle from Morocco found the ball at Barada’s feet, who swiftly volleyed low and hard into the bottom corner for 1-0.

Half time came with Morocco in the lead then. Martyn and I were pretty impressed with the Moroccans, particularly goalscorer Barada and (even more so) one of their overage players, Stephen Ireland-lookalikey Noureddine Amrabat. Arnold Peralta had probably been the pick of the bunch for Honduras, a buzzy, pacey midfielder who was perhaps not so easily knocked off the ball as the rest of his team-mates.

So to the second half, and Honduras came out at the break with rather more purpose and determination. This paid off after 55 minutes. Maynor Figueroa (who came rather more into things in the second 45 minutes) marauded down the left, hit a weak-ish shot which was deflected past the bamboozled Amsif in the Morocco goal by the fantastically named Jerry Bengtson.

Jerry’s day got a whole lot better 10 minutes later. A good run down the right and a searching ball across from my man Peralta was interrupted by Eddie Hernandez being felled in the area. Penalty for Honduras (a bit of a soft one too). Up stepped the aforementioned Mr Bengtson, who, after 3 or 4 minutes of petulance from the Moroccans, particuarly from Amsif, side-footed it very calmly down the middle of the goal for 2-1.

Jerry Bengtson, about to (briefly) give Honduras the lead at Hampden.

That lead lasted all of 2 minutes. Morocco’s best move of the second half ended with the ball at the feet of Labyad, who dinked it beautifully over the (short) Honduran keeper (via a deflection) for 2-2. Game on again.

The last notable action of the game occurred on 72 minutes. Zakarya Bergdich pointlessly kicked Mario Martinez after they got into a bit of a pointless tussle on the halfway line. Morocco were reduced to ten men; game on for Honduras.

Or so you would think. Rather than pushing on, the Hondurans seemed reasonably happy with their point. The match petered out, the last notable point for me being the (correctly) warm applause given to Noureddine Amrabat on his substitution; he was rather a class above his team-mates.

And so the first match was over. And what a match it was. Both sides had gone for the win, both had moments of great quality and there were 4 goals for the wholesome crowd to enjoy. What more do you want.

The first match, then, ended at 13:50. Spain v Japan kicked off at 14:45. What happened in between was largely a mass chucking balls about in the crowd game, and then the dreaded Mexican waves began. I despise Mexican waves (I can’t quite explain why, but it just feels like enforced, compulsory “fun” more than anything), but Martyn enjoyed himself so it wasn’t all bad. We did get our first glimpse of the players at about 14:15, and in a lovely touch, the Japanese squad approached the stand and bowed to the crowd before they got on with their training. Wonderfully respectful and very much in the spirit of the day.

The Japanese corner of Hampden. They didn’t stop for the entire match either.

Spain v Japan, 14:45

Things got underway with Hampden rather more full than it had been at 12:00 for the start of the Honduras v Morocco game (which I don’t get – pay for 2 games, turn up for 1. Why?). A lot of the crowd had turned up resplendent in red shirts, awaiting a Spanish masterclass in possession football. Although the Spain side did not contain Xavi or Iniesta, the likes of Juan Mata, Javi Martinez and Jordi Alba should still have produced some wondrous tiki-taka to blow Japan away.

This seemed to be the way of things with the two opening salvos coming from the Spanish. First, Benfica striker Rodrigo dragged a shot wide. Then Juan Mata cut in from the right and fired off a fierce shot with his left which was well dealt with by Gonda in the Japanese goal.

However, one thing was apparent from the first minute; the Japanese were not going to be tiki-taka’d out of the game. They kept a very high line throughout, and pressed the Spanish back four in particular with some tireless running from their front 3. In the 34th minute, Japan fashioned a corner on the near side, which was floated to the middle of the penalty area. Yuki Otsu, the Borussia Moenchengladbach forward, found himself there, utterly bereft of markers, and bundled one easily past David De Gea for the opening goal. Cue bedlam in the Hampden crowd who had rather sniffed the fact that the underdog could be about to bark big-time.

The Spanish defence were often being caught in possession due to the Japanese pressing game and this drew a chance for Keigo Higashi; however he could only stick it across the face of goal with nobody on the end of it. 3 minutes before the end of the first half, things got even better for Japan. Kensuke Nagai (more of him later) caught Inigo Martinez in possession and bundled his way towards the Spanish goal. Martinez took his revenge on the pacey Japanese forward, yanking him down by the shirt on the edge of the area. The American referee Mr Geiger was left with no alternative (in my view) but to send off Martinez and leave the World and European champions a goal and a man down at half time.

The second half has to go down as one of the most engrossing second halfs  I’ve seen at a football match. There was something particularly great in not having too much emotionally invested in the game, though like the majority of the crowd I was right behind the Japanese. The first 15 minutes or so of the second half was incredible from a Japanese perspective; had they taken the chances they’d made, they would have been 4 or 5 up and Spain would’ve looked very much unlike World champions. Some wonderful midfield passing and incisive counter attacking set up Nagai, Higashi and Kiyotake in fairly quick succession; a combination of good goalkeeping and woeful finishing preventing Japan from extending their lead.

Spain then came back into it, threatening but never breaching Japan’s defence, led with aplomb by Maya Yoshida and Hiraki Sakai. Mata again provided Spain’s best chance of this spell, his near-post drive being uncomfortably turned round the upright by the pink-clad Gonda.

Nagai had been running his backside off the entire game; his tireless chasing and harrying of Spanish defenders had got the crowd completely on the side of the Asian giants. In 87 minutes, he again robbed a Spanish defender and bolted through on De Gea’s goal, only for his shot to be hit straight at the Manchester United keeper and be put out for a corner. One last chance came in stoppage time; a wonderful run down the right this time from Higashi, but Yamaguchi’s finish unfortunately left a lot to be desired.

When full-time came, the delight in the 37,000-strong crowd was palpable. A genuine shock result had been witnessed, and the sheer joy on the faces of the Japanese players made it all the sweeter. As we began to file out, we noticed that again some of the Japanese players had come to acknowledge the crowd and bow; we had to stop and applaud as they had put in a wonderful performance, particularly that man Nagai.

The Japanese players acknowledge the crowd post-match. Nice touch.

For both Martyn and me, it had been a surprisingly excellent day of football. Two sides of a similar level going at it hell for leather in the first game; a well-earned shock result derived from tactical nous and hard work in the second. Roll on St James’ Park tomorrow for Japan v Morocco and Spain v Honduras.

Scores and scorers on the day:

Honduras 2-2 Morocco (Bengtson x 2; Barrada, Labyad)

Spain 0-1 Japan (Otsu)

Some Rangers Precedents

The home ground of AC Pisa 1909. And former ground of Pisa Calcio. And Pisa SC.

The “newco” situation which the new Rangers FC (Sevco Scotland Limited) currently find themselves in is not a new one when we consider some of our European brethren. The SPL, on voting on the identity of “Club 12” today at Hampden, has the opportunity to do the right thing and select either Dundee or Dunfermline for the 12th spot in the SPL (or if they have any sense, have a play-off in the next week or two). If they pick Rangers, they make Scottish football look like an absolute laughing stock. We Brits often like to look down our noses at Italian football administration (perhaps with some justification given Totonero, Calciopoli and Calcio scommesse); when it comes to dealing with “Newcos”, however, they get it close to right.

Fiorentina

AC Fiorentina was founded in 1926, playing at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in the beautiful Italian city of Florence. They chased the dream in the 1990s, and briefly into the early 2000s, under the ownership of Vittorio Cecchi Gori. Top-notch players such as Gabriel Batistuta (Batigol himself), Luis Oliveira and Rui Costa meant for much of that time period, Fiorentina was a side to be reckoned with, though never quite at the top table.

Cecchi Gori chased that aforementioned dream to the point that, in 2002, with Fiorentina more than $50m in the red having sold Batistuta, Oliveira, Rui Costa, and indeed the whole shop other than Angelo Di Livio, the Viola was declared bankrupt.

What then, you ask? A fudged campaign from the FIGC (the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio – i.e. the Italian FA) to get the men from Firenze back in Serie B? Not quite. A new club (ACF Florentia Viola, who quickly became ACF Fiorentina) was told to start again in Serie C2. A win of their C2 group and a helping hand from some Catania-based controversy got ACF a double jump to Serie B. From there, a play-off victory ensured arrival back in Serie A, where they have since remained. Perhaps not a perfect example of how to run things after an insolvency event, but certainly fairer than a vote straight back into the top flight.

Pisa

Staying in Tuscany (what Tuscans seemingly lack in football administration skills they do make up for in pretty much everything else), the local team in the Leaning Tower town are currently in their third incarnation. The original Pisa (SC) was founded in 1909 and went bust in 1994. The team was to start again in the Eccellenza (the sixth tier of Italian football, 1 below Serie D). Things went relatively well (though never hitting the Paul Elliot-signing Serie A highlights of Pisa SC) until 2009. when the club went bust again, this time after trying to chase promotion to Serie A and ending up in Serie C1 instead.

The newest incarnation (AC Pisa 1909) started in 2009 in Serie D, and now plies its trade in the Lega Pro Prima Divisione (formerly known as Serie C1). Again, it would appear that our Italian cousins know how to deal with sides which go bust and are reformed.

SSC Napoli

A final example from Italy, and another (then) fallen giant which has since come very good again. Napoli went through its heyday in the late 80s and early 90s, with the contributions of the likes of Diego Maradona and Careca vital to 2Scudetti and a UEFA Cup (when it was still worth winning).

Much like their Tuscan friends, however, chasing the dream became rather a hefty financial burden and by 2004 Napoli was declared bankrupt, with debts standing at a relatively hefty €70m.  The club was subsequently reformed (by film producer Aurelio De Laurentiis) and forced by the FIGC to start again in Serie C1 (there’s a pattern emerging here).

Despite playing in Italy’s third tier, Napoli still attracted crowds of 50,000 to their behemoth San Paolo stadium (they seemingly don’t do walking away in Naples).  A failed tilt at promotion to Serie B in 2005 was followed by a successful one in 2006, with promotion to Serie A following the year after. Napoli has since again established itself as a fine footballing side, with quality attacking talent. They took the pill, and came back fighting.

RBC Roosendaal

A switch now to the Netherlands. RBC was again a fair to middling side who played for four seasons in the Eredivisie in the mid-Noughties. They also, on the back of their success, built a shiny new 5,000 seat (2.5 times bigger than New Bayview) stadium. Relegation from the Eredivise in 2006 led to floating around in the second tier until, on 8 June 2011, RBC was declared bankrupt with (comparatively) measly debts of €1.6m. RBC then proceeded to start again, playing the 2011-12 season in the wonderfully-named Vijfde Klasse, the eighth tier of the Dutch game.

Thus, there is plenty of precedent out there (most of it Italian) as to how a “Newco” club should be dealt with. The SFL chairmen made entirely the right call on Friday by putting the new Rangers into the Third Division (never mind that 4 divisions is far too many for a country of Scotland’s size). One hopes that today the SPL chairmen make a similarly correct decision. The argument could (and will) be made that the clubs above do not have the comparative commercial clout in their own countries compared with that of Rangers in Scotland. Nevertheless, Napoli and Fiorentina in particular are big clubs (perhaps not up there with Juventus and the two Milan sides, but big nonetheless); their reputation was not enough to save them from being bumped down the leagues on their re-establishment. The same must and should (and looks like it will) apply to Rangers, for the credibility of the Scottish game to remain intact.

Media Round-up: Craig Burley and Gordon Smith, with a bit of Henry McLeish

Craig Burley, yesterday (joke and picture courtesy of @countytactics on Twitter).

At various points over the last few days, I’ve wanted to do posts on here ranting about the utter ignorance and lack of respect displayed firstly by Craig Burley, then by Gordon Smith, and finally from former East Fife player and First Minister Henry McLeish in relation to the SPL/SFL/SFA/Newco/Rangers/Sevco saga.

Rather than dissect each one word for word, I thought I’d pick a few choice quotes. What chills me to the bone about these articles is that, if Scotland becomes an independent country, this is what will pass for informative “national” journalism in our independent nation. Man alive.

Turning firstly, then, to Mr Burley’s article in the Daily Record. Fresh from knowing nothing about Euro 2012 on ITV, he turns to knowing nothing about Scottish football.

Up first, we have this gem, in the context that the SFL chairmen “MUST” vote Sevco into the Scottish First Division:

“Chairmen of part-time teams who are nothing more than afterthoughts in the psyche of our national obsession, yet suddenly they have been handed the most important decision in the history of Scottish football.”

Now this quote is incredibly disrespectful (and wrong) on a number of fronts. Firstly, thousands of us (myself included) follow part-time teams – calling them “afterthoughts” is just a total misrepresentation. This line also discounts completely the work these clubs and their coaches do (often for nothing) in improving the grass roots game, bringing through young talent and giving kids in their respective towns something to do of a midweek evening. This applies not only to current SFL teams (again the one I support included – East Fife are about nto take on 12 modern apprentices) but further down the leagues; Spartans for example have 600 kids playing for them in various teams every week. To describe these efforts as an “afterthought” is frankly horrendous – these are the very core, the very root of our “national obsession.”

“I’ve heard comments from clubs like Cowdenbeath, Peterhead insisting they must start from scratch in the Third – who are these people and how are they qualified to make a decision that will affect clubs 10 times their size?”

Er, Donald Findlay QC used to be the vice-chairman of Rangers, and now he’s the chairman of Cowdenbeath? And all these clubs have been run within their means for a number of years and not gambling the house and tax compliance on success?

“So better to trim the dead wood than give them the power to kill off one of the two clubs that matters most. In short, it’s better them than Rangers when it comes down to a stark choice of who should go.”

Two points here. One, this isn’t particularly a decision the SFL clubs want to take; this has come about because of (a) the SPL no vote and (b) the dereliction of duty (other than bandying various disaster-inducing amounts of money about) of the SFA. Two, how dare Craig Burley deem which clubs are dead wood and which aren’t. Like what happened with the economy and the banks in 2008, the Rangers situation is a financial correction; no-one should be too big to fail.

Turning next to Gordon Smith’s magnum opus, again in the Record. This is worse than Burley’s, in that it’s completely ill-educated rather than just boorish. This coming from a man who used to be the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association. The mind boggles. First up it’s this little beauty:

“It just wouldn’t happen. Real Madrid and Barca had massive debts of around £700million but came to an agreement with the Spanish government, who helped them clear it.

“Can you imagine that happening in Scotland with Rangers?”

This shows a total lack of awareness from a man who at one point was in charge of the commercial interests of Scottish football. Regardless of whether Real or Barca have been supported by the Spanish government (and given Barca are Catalonian first and Spanish second, this seems unlikely), they survive because they are in a position to service their debt. They earn millions from their TV rights, Champions League participation, stellar players and merchandising and the fact they have 80-100,000 capacity stadia to call on. All this means they (for now) can pay the mortgage, even if that mortgage is colossal.

“Manchester United are another club with a large amount of debt but you would never have a situation where club chairmen in League One or Two would be deciding whether they should get thrown out of the Premier League. It seems crazy.

Again, Gordon, Manchester United can service their debt through TV, merchandising, ticket sales, etc. etc. Also, the hypothetical situation you describe with League 1/2 chairmen (a) isn’t analogous to the current situation (the SFL chairmen can’t decide whether or not to let Rangers into the SPL) and (b) League 1/2 chairmen wouldn’t decide on that anyway, as the Football League and the Premier League (as in this country) are separate bodies. Cretin.

There is another big Scottish company struggling right now, Halls of Broxburn, and they employ a lot of people in their meat factory.

They are having serious financial difficulties but if someone comes in and takes them over, will they be penalised and punished?”

Few points here. One, Hall’s, if they are bought over, will be bought as a going concern. The new Rangers is a new company (hence “newco”) which must obtain entry to the Scottish Football League on the basis that it is an entirely new club. This seems to be something that various learned commentators (most of them writing in the Record) completely miss when dealing with the Rangers situation – it’s not the same company, and it’s not the same club, hence they have to be dealt with in the manner they are currently. Also, the analogy completely falls down on the basis that Rangers didn’t make sausages. Finally, the Hall’s situation is a serious one; 1,700 people’s jobs are at risk, and the closure could adversely affect both Broxburn and the wider West Lothian area. Linking the two in a “we’re all in this together” fashion is rather disingenuous.

Finally, turning to Henry McLeish, writing in the Scotsman. This is article angers for me for another reason; for a man who once called John Reid a “patronising bastard”, this article does patronising and then some. And as a former East Fife player he is not matching the views of his former employers!

“I congratulate supporters for putting integrity and good governance of the game to the top of the agenda. The fans have done a good job, but it’s now time for them to join us in 
addressing the other issues in Scottish football.”

So basically, thanks for shouting a bit, now let the big boys handle it. Great.Thisis the issue in Scottish football at the moment – how about we deal with that first before “addressing the other issues in Scottish football”? I’m pretty sure, Hendo, that integrity and good governance have yet to be dealt with, me old China.

“I don’t have any empirical evidence to justify it but, in terms of the research I did, there are a lot of clubs in a very precarious situation.”

I went on Google for a bit, then made my mind up that Stewart Regan and Neil Doncaster’s rhetoric about “social unrest” and varying amounts in the tens of millions must be absolutely kosher. For that reason, Motherwell are doomed.

For some less cretinous views on the current situation, see here and here (and yes, I know Rangers Tax Case is written by a Celtic fan. He is rather impartial all the same).

My view on this situation? Rangers in the Third Division is the only credible solution. Gretna and Livingston were treated in a similar manner; Airdrieonians, Clydebank and Third Lanark disappeared entirely. The Rangers fans themselves seem to want it (those I know anyway – some of them for slightly thrawn reasons, perhaps); only the “guardians of the beautiful game” at the top want to see sporting integrity thrown to the wind for want of a farthing. What Regan, Doncaster and co don’t realise is while Rangers in Division 3 will cause short-term financial pain, the long-term financial pain of hundreds of thousands of fans being alienated from the game and going to the Eastgate, Union Square, the Buchanan Galleries, the Overgate, the St James Centre or the Burns Mall on a Saturday instead – should Rangers go straight into the First – will be a rather bigger, and more real, figure.