Cold Reading in June (Part 1)

 ‘The lady spent a lot of time alone before passing?’ asks the Irishman.

‘Yes’ squeaks the woman.

‘Can I reiterate that she wore pink, I know I’m right. And there’s a gentleman beside her who was in the spirit world prior to her passing. Do you understand me?’ he asks.

The woman squeals a little then says, ‘Yes, my father, he died in 1961’.

The woman’s mental collapse is swelling to an inevitable explosion of emotion. Like observing an unopened tin of beans boil in a campfire, you know what’s going to happen, but you can’t stop watching. The hushed audience share my captivation, nobody dares squeak nor sniffle.

‘Ok, I get a feeling that the lady is trying to connect with me. She’s not trying to upset you. I’m not trying to upset you but she’s trying to convey the love that she had for this man,’ says the Irishman.

‘Uh, huh,’ squeaks the woman in reply.

‘And she seems to have a lot of girls or female relations?’

‘Yes, she had a sister.’

‘I’m also getting some military connection. Also, with the gentleman. Was he in the Navy? I’m getting a regimental, proud man? The woman says you have a very, busy mind just now?’

‘Yes’, replies the woman whimpering.

‘She is trying to highlight the things that are bothering you. Your mind is at a million miles per hour and you have hundreds of thoughts. Take a step back and stop worrying about others. You have no idea how you are affecting others. The lady is reiterating that. Be selfish.’

‘I cannot be selfish’ squeals the woman.

‘Take time for you.’

‘Why didn’t she tell me she loved me when she was alive?’ bawls the woman.

I lean back in my chair and scan the audience for some sort of reaction, but everybody is staring with intense concentration upon the medium and his targeted prey.

 ‘That’s unfortunately something I can’t answer but I do believe this lady has seen the ripple effect of her actions. I assure you of that. We have a beautiful journey to take in crossing over, but she realises how she acted. She has a hell of a lot of love in her heart,’ continues the Irishman.

I feel mortified for the woman. I’ve never seen somebody so completely fall apart in front of an audience of strangers. In a few short minutes the she disintegrated from an enthusiastic devotee into a trembling wreck. And all because she had just apparently conversed with a long dead Aunty. She’s too upset to answer the medium properly instead managing an affirmative, long snort into the microphone. I can’t help raising a smile at the piggy reply, which doesn’t go down well with the surrounding audience who glower at me during their bout of wild applause.

The woman believes she has just conversed with her long dead Aunty. This supposed supernatural feat can only be achieved via mediumship which is the psychic channelling of the spirits of the dead through mediums such as the Irishman. If this miraculous phenomenon is genuine then I’ve finally witnessed the conclusive evidence of not only spirits but also the afterlife, the supernatural and even ghosts, subjects that have fascinated me for most of my life. A fascination that I can pinpoint to a specific time, place and story.

GLASGOW, 1980s

Although I am a country boy my mother is Glaswegian so my small family and I would regularly troop down from Highland Perthshire to visit my Granny in her high rise flat in the Gorbals (an inner-city district lying on the south side of the Clyde). After initial warm greetings, and while the adults were talking, my wee brother would sprawl on the carpet to draw pictures while I would either gaze out at the magnificent view of the city or read football books and magazines. Aunties and Uncles would gradually gather to trade gossip and share stories with our parents, all laughing hard into the wee small hours. As the night wore on our Aunties would always set about terrifying my brother and I with dreadful tales about ghostly visitations from long dead relatives or horrid experiences with clairvoyants and local weirdos. One night after we had both been sent to bed with a headful of these dreadful tales, my Uncle Alec popped his head into our room and handed me a paperback book with the advice ‘If you like ghosts, get a load of this lot’. The book was already beat up and the pages yellowing but on the cover was an eerie, old castle with the title ‘Scottish Ghost Stories’. Inside the stories were arranged alphabetically from Aberdeen to Whitburn with each tale no more than three pages long. There were grey and green ethereal ladies, headless monks, howling banshees, spectral hounds and wailing widows, the full gamut of Scottish, supernatural tales. I devoured half the stories that night and read the remainder the next day.  Of all the stories, one dubious tale ensnared my attention and buried deep into my blossoming imagination.

The story took place in 1930’s Glasgow and more specifically an elaborate lecture hall of Glasgow University. Every month the Society of Parapsychology would meet to discuss and debate all things paranormal, and at one of these meetings they decided to hold a séance and attempt to summon some spirits from the other side. They gathered in a darkened room, sat around a table, held hands then invited any spirit to give them a sign. Expecting the usual table knocks and flickering lights they were instead horrified to witness one of the attendees start to shake, tremble, then growl in a strange, disembodied voice. The growling voice identified herself as a Spanish woman who after years of abuse by her husband had been deliberately buried alive in the local necropolis. The woman begged the group to investigate her claims and bring her awful husband to account for her murder. Such was the detail of the description the society immediately set about researching the spirit’s claims eventually finding her death certificate then burial plot in the massive Victorian necropolis in the east of the city. A decree of exhumation was obtained, and her coffin unearthed and removed to the University. When the coffin lid was removed on the underside there were scratch marks and tears at the inner fabric. The woman was lying on her side with her knees pressed hard against the coffin walls and her fingers were pushed deep into her mouth as if she was trying to expand her throat to the disappearing oxygen. The husband was duly arrested, convicted then hung from his neck providing the woman with righteous retribution. The vengeful spirit is a well-used trope in ghost stories, but more interesting to me was that this tale provided irrefutable proof of the ability of the living to speak to spirits of the dead as in this case only the dead woman could provide the vital evidence that delivered her husband to the gallows.

Thirty years later and I still have this story is still tattooed on my mind. Unfortunately, the book has long since collapsed into ruin and another copy has never been found despite a huge amount of searching. So, I decided to try to witness the conversing with spirits of the dead first-hand. Previously, I’d found Halloween séances to be farcical shows of amateur dramatics more suited to the superstitious Victorian age or bad horror movies. Similarly, Ouija board demonstrations were open to the manipulation and control of the performance creators. My only alternative was to attend a medium show where supposed psychic mediums communicate with spirits then relay their message to relatives or loved ones in a gathered audience. Luckily for me there seemed to be renaissance for this type of entertainment and a renewed popularity in Spiritualism that hasn’t been seen since the post-World War One years. Through a bit of careful planning and with little good fortune I managed to book four separate medium events, all in Scotland and all around the month of June.

Magic 22 : World Cup and seeding ramblings

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.

 

1  Spain 1460
2  Germany 1340
3  Portugal 1245
4  Colombia 1186
5  Uruguay 1181
6  Argentina 1174
6  Brazil 1174
8   Switzerland 1161
9  Italy 1115
10  Greece 1082
11  England 1043
12  Belgium 1039
13  United States 1015
14  Chile 1011
15  Netherlands 967
16  France 935
17  Ukraine 913
18  Russia 903
19  Mexico 876
20  Croatia 871

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.

 

World Cup Classic goals: David Narey 1982

Famously described as a toe poke by big chinned gobshite Jimmy Hill, Narey leathered home this opener versus Brazil in 1982. It sparked a brief belief that we might actually beat Brazil in football’s grandest tournament.

As per usual the hubris was cruelly dashed as Brazil got upset and ripped 4 past Alan Rough without reply.

Many Scots prefer the famous Archie Gemmil mazy versus Holland in 1978 but that is mainly to do with it’s inclusion in Trainspotting. For me, Narey’s is the best.

Scotland : Look to the Euros

Unbeaten in our last 5 matches, which has included away wins to Croatia, Macedonia and Poland it seems Scotland are in a long awaited purple patch of relative success. It’s a pity it doesn’t really mean anything.

Gordon Strachan has come in at the tail end of a failed campaign and instilled a coherent playing style and format that could see us qualify for a major tournament for the first time since France 1998. Although the team is not changed much since last year the inclusion of Ikecha Anya, Chris Burke and Ross McCormack together with a spattering of new starlets has made us at least competitive and no longer group cannon fodder.

World Cup qualification was scuppered long ago-before it had really started, thanks in the main to Craig Levein and a squad bereft of confidence and belief. Scotland supporters shall once again watch through the TV cameras and will have no team to cheer on in Brazil (barring those playing England). But although Scotland’s group was no means kind with the exception of Germany, Scotland should be confident of at least play-off berth.

Group D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar.

With the top 2 qualifying for France 2016 Scotland’s main competitors should be The Republic of Ireland and Poland although Georgia are no dummies. Gibraltar should be the whipping boys in their maiden campaign but remember the Faroe Isles??

The Republic of Ireland are similar to Scotland in that they have no main superstars but rely more in a combined team effort of Premier League and Championship players. Their main danger lies in new coach Martin O’Neill who has a detailed knowledge of Scottish football from his time at Celtic. The ex-Aston Villa coach will be eager to impress in his job, especially as if mooted, Scotland’s home time is staged in Celtic Park. Robbie Keane is still a threat despite being in the twilight of a prolific career and Shane Long and Wes Hoolahan are dangerous players given the opportunity. Added to this Ireland have the two Scottish born midfielders playing for Everton in James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady.

Poland were without Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski last Wednesday and should be a different outfit with their stars back come September. Poland have strength in the players they have plying their trade in the Bundesliga but little else. Łukasz Piszczek of Dortmund and Ludovic Obraniak of Werder Bremen give the squad a stronger spine than both Scotland and Ireland but in truth apart from that they are not overly powerful.

It would be wrong to discount Georgia on the grounds of their squad. They do not have many players in competitive leagues but they will definitely be a match for Scotland on their home turf. In my opinion the games against Georgia could be Scotland’s banana skin. Too often Scotland have stumbled against the so called lesser nations, we should not treat them lightly.

Germany will win the group with a couple of games to spare. With major players in the EPL and Bundesliga regularly playing in the latter stages of the Champions League each one of the squad members are worth 15 million plus. Whether coach, Joachim Löw hangs around after the World Cup remains to be seen. A point in Germany or Hampden would be quite a coup for Scotland, in reality keeping the goals down to 1 or 2 would be a success.

Gibraltar?? Hammer them into the ground both home and away as the goal difference may be crucial.

Scotland are awarded World Cup 2014

It has been reported at length-but mainly in my head that the Brazil World Cup will be cancelled and awarded to Scotland. In light of the recent riots and demonstrations FIFA have declared Brazil to be no-football zone for the foreseeable future.  

In recognition of their consistent underachievement and at times disastrous performance at tournaments (yes, we were at one time perennial qualifiers) Scotland have been given a historical bye into the tournament together with the award of hosts.

Despite being a small country, and with only 4 viable 20,000+ stadiums (Ibrox, Celtic Park,Hampden and Murrayfield) the calamitous Scottish Football Association (SFA) are confident they can pull it of. Indeed in many ways the matching of FIFA and the SFA is perfect.

At present details are brief but it is believed that in order to encourage competition and avoid complete embarrassment the hosts will be awarded one player from each of the confederations. However in order not to appear totally farcical the chosen players will be given new “Scottishized” names eg.Neymar becomes Nae-mare, and will undergo an intensive period of re-education in the Caledonian lifestyle, play and methods.

The addition of “see you Jimmy” Ginger wigs and small kilts were mooted as additions to the playing kit but in reality will not pass Health and Safety regulations.

In addition as hosts Scotland will be awarded with a 5 goal start to each game and their 1st round group will consist of the weakest qualified teams.

 

Scottish football edges closer to oblivion

 

Scotland has a population of around 5 million, similar to that of Croatia and Norway. The league system is compromises of 4 leagues: the SPL, First, Second and Third Divisions, with a 12, 10, 10, 10 share of clubs. In reality only the top two divisions comprises full time professional clubs.

 One shepherd should easily be able to supervise a flock of 42?

 Not so in Scotland, where we need 2: The Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football League (SFL).

Both of which look like toppling our national game over the cliff edge.

The SPL is headed by Chief Executive, Neil Doncaster and SFL –all those out with the SPL- by David Longmuir. While both men come from different backgrounds they share the same ability to use political language and the passive voice. They rarely answer any questions directly and never stick their neck out.

 Doncaster in particular has performed his role in a manner that would get most men shot in some countries. He has bundled his way through one mini crisis to another. It is amazing he still remains in his post.

 Longmuir is viewed by many to be a Rangers double agent, protecting the interests of the stricken Ibrox club above all. His eye on an Ibrox post in the long term.

Into this mix we also have the Scottish Football Association (SFA) – or Sweet Fuck All, as this is what they do. They have a simple enough task:

“The ultimate responsibility for the control and development of football in Scotland”

In the last 20 years they have, in various ways, run the game into the ground. The national team has not qualified for a major tournament since 1998 and currently are in 66th position in the FIFA rankings, between Libya and Togo (the same Libya who are recovering from a civil war).

 

 

Tis all comes on the heels of the McLeish report: an in-depth investigation into Football in Scotland, commissioned by the SFA. In reality this turned out to be a total waste of time, money and effort as most of the recommendations have been ignored. The messages seemed clear: the Scottish game is on its death bed and change is needed immediately. Nothing happened.

The current football associations “controlling” league football in Scotland are a disgrace. Their procrastination and bumbling is beyond farcical and would not be permitted in any self-respecting football nation. However, our national game is a far cry from the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s.The footballing public has all but given up on these fools producing any sort of remedy to our ills and now we are staring oblivion in the face.

What comes next is anyone’s guess.