I trundled along to the cup semi-final (St Johnstone vs Aberdeen) on Sunday apathetic and lacking any real desire to watch the match. Although St Johnstone are my home team and I do like them to do well, but my my feelings were mixed at best. It was the first time I had returned to Ibrox since Rangers public hounding and inevitable banishment to the lower divisions. It was strange to go there and not see my team play and my mood wasn’t helped with the various shouts from fans regarding their new status. A bit like watching another couple shag in your bed.
It was a dreadful day. The biting wind leathered your face and the incessant drizzle began to soak throw my thin hoodie. A cup of coffee didn’t really help but I took my place in amongst the usual hollering farmers backed by their squeaky sons. Half way through the first half a couple of fans came up to a nearby steward to remonstrate and complain about other fans blocking their view. It was a fair enough point especially as the other fans were bulky, middle aged skin eds. It sparked a lively debate between the fans with the blocked claiming unfair and the belligerents pleading their rights to a view also. At one point it looked like there may be a bit of a tumble but fortunately the security was able to coax the skins down on their arses wit the Police looked on from afar, ready to pounce. Shortly after Aberdeen took a deserved lead and Saints looked dead in the water and facing another semi-final heartache.
I made my decision to leave even before the half time whistle. The Liverpool game had started and I wanted to watch the game in some sort of comfort. Fickle fan, yes but they are not my team. As I was the only fan making my way home early the subway was empty and only 10 minutes from Partick station. When I reached my pal’s house the Liverpool vs City game was just underway as it had be delayed due to the Hillsborough memorial. Meanwhile St Johnstone clawed their way back into the game and recorded an historical win to seal their first ever Scottish Cup final. Despite this I still stood by my hasty decision.
Best strike of 2010 by a mile. If there was no net it would have walloped on of those vuvuzela -ers in the back row,
25 years since that awful day in Sheffield when 96 fans never came back from a football match. I was only 13 on that day but a dyed in the wool Reds fanatic. I remember watching the news in disbelief and calling on my Mum to witness the awful events on the TV. At first it didn’t look so bad but as the death toll gradually increased it became clear that we had a terrible disaster.
Some people may claim that Liverpool fans have clung on to this disaster and almost become defined by it, but who wouldn’t? Certainly not the family and loved ones who have suffered then been lied to and blamed for this national disgrace. The investigations are still ongoing and still there will be lies uncovered and new claims of corruption and downright criminality laid before the Police and politicians.
And this is what is so galling for the families: The lies that were perpetuated by the odious, Sun newspaper, through Police leaks and insider information, unbelievably trying to blame the victims, many children, for the disaster, claiming they were hooligans or casuals steaming drunk. The Police choosing not to admit their own negligence and failings but again blaming the fans, standing back and refusing to accept culpability in any way. The government of the time headed by Margaret Thatcher who relished in her destruction of the working class trade union movements and her open hatred of football supporters and the north. We all know she was architect of the cover up in the ensuing years.
Like many of these disasters the truth will never totally known and the families will go on reliving that hellish day a quarter of a century. The years will pass into decades and beyond but the 96 and all those who suffered should and shall be never forgotten.
Scotland moved up to 22 in the World Rankings today. That’s a move of 15 places from 37 in the last month or so, 3 places in front of Bosnia and Algeria and 6 places ahead of Ecuador (all of which have qualified for Brazil). The last time we reached such exalted status “wee” Broon was in charge and we were on our way to France 98.
It really makes a mockery of the whole FIFA system as in reality the top 24 teams will all be competing in the World Cup in June. A true reflection would have Scotland at 40-50, and that is being kind. Granted their seems to be a nice wee dose of optimism with Strachan following our end of group purple patch but I’m fairly certain it doesn’t merit a position in the relatively lofty heights of 22nd in the World. But will we take it?? Dam right, especially if it in imbibes the players with some sort of faux delusion of greatness and spurs us on to an historic win in Dortmund versus De Germans.
It is not inconceivable that wee further progress with a win in the coming friendly with Nigeria, move into the top 20 and beyond. It’s a pity this has no bearing on our Euro 2016 seeding with the draw already being made.
On what of the other pretenders??
Naturally the Spanish hold top spot as both World Cup and Euro Champ holders, followed by the Germans and Portuguese. Next their is the South American block of Colombia, Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil. The remaining top 10 is made up of Switzerland (yes), Italy and Greece (again, yes). England hover around at 11 with Holland, Chile, USA etc in and around the top 20.
It’s difficult to measure this against World Cup chances. Brazil are rightly the favourites for the trophy with the benefit of home crowds but i feel they will come up short especially if they lose Neymar or Oscar . Similarly Portugal would be captain-less and severley lacking without Ronaldo. You could probably go through all the main teams and pick out main players that would be missed with maybe the expectation of Belgium,although losing Hazard would be tough to contend with.
So I’ve created my own table (deliberately not including odds as its too difficult and fairly boring).
My Rankings based on World Cup chances :
1 ) GERMANY – although no European team has won the trophy in the Americas I feel that the Germans are favourites to win the trophy. Thanks mainly to a core of Bayern Munich and Dortmund stars but also with a couple of EPL favs and strong coach in Joachim Löw. They always make it to the latter stage, often to the semis and barring disaster or some sort of mitigated implosion will be in the final shake up.
2 ) ARGENTINA – With little Leo rampaging at will through hapless defences supported by Di Maria, Arguero and Lavezzi the Atgies have the best forward line and scoring potential to worry any defence. Victory in their neighbours back year would be doubly sweet as well.
3 ) COLOMBIA – Making their first World Cup since France 1998 the Colombians are sweating over superstar and talisman Radamel Falcoa who is still recovering from injury and has a 50/50 chance of playing in Brazil. Still, with Jackson Martinez and Teofilo Gutierrez in attacking cover and James Rodriguez in midfield they should pass into the last 4 at least.
4 ) URUGUAY – Luis Suarez is the worlds in form goalscorer bagging goals every week for Liverpool. It is his chance to shine this summer on the biggest stage. Diego Forlan will be keen to impress in his last tournament and the brilliant Edison Cavani eager to bag some goals.
5 ) HOLLAND – SPAIN – PORTUGAL – I don’t honestly see any of these teams winning the World Cup but expect them to challenge in the last 8, depending on the draw. I feel the Spanish are reaching the end of an era and their players ageing, also other national managers wising up on how to combat the tiki taka football. Similarly, the Dutch may have Robben and Van Persie but will miss Strootman in the midfield. If Ronaldo can drag Portugal to the quarter finals without picking up suspension or injury it will be a victory in itself.
5 ) BRAZIL – Even with home crowds cheering their every move I can’t see the Samba Stars winning the trophy and once they start faltering these fans will be on their backs immediately. They are putting too much faith in Neymar who is not a match winning difference of a player.