The Brave & Broken Hearted!

Wednesday 10th June 1998

What were you doing on the day above? I know exactly what I was doing. My little brother had just turned 4 a few days prior. After the birthday cake had been devoured & balloons deflated (or burst) it was time to look forward to the World Cup.

This would be my first, the first one I could recollect game by game. The first I would know exactly what was happening. I knew the players, the teams & the stadiums. Attracted by the kits, boots & balls. All now retro novelties worth a small fortune! I was obsessed by it all, caught up – all starry eyed & full of hope!

USA 94, was a vague memory – diluted by misty waters at the back of my head. I was 6 years old at the time – the stand out being Brazil winning on penalties as Italy’s Roberto Baggio launched his penalty towards the clear blue sky.

Euro 96 I will always remember, more so for Gazza’s genius against who else – Scotland! Then came Super Ally’s wonder strike with the outside of the boot into the top corner v Switzerland! Two stick out moments for me in that tournament.

So back to Wednesday 10th June, I was eagerly anticipating the first game of the World Cup. So much so that I think I may have bolted out the class room in excitement before the bell finally rang. In my mind I was like the Flash, leaving a wake of paper in a whirlwind as I took towards the door. Racing out the gates I dodged a few parents, dogs, cars & walls. A lung bursting run across the road, I knew the hill was coming but I took it in my stride. Head down I darted across the park, no time to hang about today lads – the game is on!

Past the shops I burst through the front door like a mad man, bag dumped at my arse, jacket in a heap – I reached for my football top & trackies. I was ready, in the melee of dancing through people I forgot about my mate, he wasn’t blessed with the pace & dancing feet that I had. He was a bit of a juggernaut so I imagine he left a few people on their bum on the way down the road. Finally – peering in anticipation he appeared.

All red faced & wide eyed he gave me the shout, again I wasn’t hanging about – I met him at the bottom of the stairs. We had approximately two minutes to make a decision on where we would watch the game. His house or mine, no pubs back then – we were 10 years of age.

Usually we would be seen strutting about on the field, kitted out for the kick about ahead but that could come later. We were about to watch the Mighty Scotland v the Boys from Brazil. We quickly decided on his, I grabbed some munchies & juice – there was no time to waste. I perched my derriere on the couch talking to his mum as I waited on him getting changed. The opening ceremony had just started, both of us shouting on him as he wrestled with his jumper. It’s bloody gorgeous outside and he’s wearing a jumper – still red faced from his 200 yard dash home from school.

For the next hour and a half we sat in silence – only cheering when John Collin’s, vintage predators and all stroked that ball into the bottom corner. We got beat 2-1, Tom Boyd scored an OG. I was fuming! 10 years old & fuming that Boyd scored that OG. For weeks I couldn’t understand why we came home early – a draw with Norway & defeat to Morocco. Heartbroken & fuming! It’s no secret I took it to heart.

The rest of my mates decided that they would support other teams, France, Holland & of course Brazil. I took to supporting the individuals – Ronaldo, Zidane, Del Piero, Denilson, De Boer, Veron, Ortega. I could go on forever.

I think it might have been round about this time I gave up the ghost with International Football, 10 years old & I had lost the romance that Scotland had to offer. Now more than ever I would support my club, Rangers.

For years I have stuck by my guns & shut out International football. It was too slow for me, no entertainment what so ever. Don’t get me wrong as I said above, I kept an eye on the Individuals & the Beautiful Argentina. The colours of the kit, the class they possessed as individuals & the man-like GOD that is Riquelme.

Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I switched on Sky Sports last Sunday & actually watched Scotland. Fearful when we conceded – I’m not going to lie about that but we done better second half & walked away from a potential banana skin with a 5-1 victory. Good start – well done lads.

The best things about the night was the return & performance from Robert Snodgrass. I was delighted for him. What a bloody tough time of it he’s had these last few season’s with injury. Great hunger, desire & let’s not forget he’s a talented lad. The boy from the East End of Glasgow was the shinning light, he gave me a bit of hope – he persuaded me not to reach for the remote to change the channel. Before his injury I enjoyed watching him and in some way missed him when he wasn’t playing. A real character.

We don’t have a World Class player to grab our nation or a game by the scruff of the neck & carry us through qualifications & tournaments, but we don’t need one. Some of our neighbours can vouch for that. I truly believe that if we were to keep Snoddy fit we are in with a fighting chance. Of course he can’t do it all by himself & if we get the right mix in the squad then we might just do it.

As I said I’m delighted he’s back in the game. Robert Snodgrass you beautiful hairy bastard!

So here’s to you big fella for giving this 28 year old a bit of hope. I’m not saying I’m going to jump on the bandwagon when things are going well & then take a nose dive straight off again when it hits the fan but you know what? I’m going to get behind the team & support them but lads – just don’t break my heart again!

 

 

 

 

 

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Creativity & the Killjoys 

Pass – Pass – Stop – Pass – Pass – Pass – Stop!

Pass – Pass – Stop – Pass – Stop – Stop!

Talk for a while and then do it all over again!

YouTube has polluted the minds of footballing connoisseurs world wide. Albeit for the good, the bad and the damn right ugly it’s a massive source of the game today. 

Young kids can watch the heroes of yester year, the older generations can reminisce – basque in the memories of what was and shake their heads in disgust at what it is now. It also allows me to see everything I can about the game I love, admire and share with everyone I meet. 

I enjoy the visionaries of football, young or old I just love them. I grew up wanting to be entertained, I grew up wanting to entertain, I craved creative players the ones who played on the edge and brought danger to opponents week in week out. 

You would be forgiven for thinking I only admire players who pass, that’s half the battle – I admire technicians but hard work comes first. I love players who excite me, ones who have the beauty of mind to unlock defenses and create something out of nothing. I don’t see why you would hinder or eliminate players who have those little moments of magic. I have to give coaches and managers alike massive praise who encourage creativity and freedom, the one who allow players to entertain and express themselves. 

Podcast after podcast I like to provoke people’s thoughts, pull them away from the tv screens, analytical reports and coaching manuals. I will make them think about why they love the game and how they first fell in love with the sphere. 

Being creative isn’t all about beating someone in a 1v1. Visionaries, a world I will repeat time and time again – players who can play 3 passes ahead of others, ones who see pictures and how they will develop. Space invaders who pop into areas and damage teams with a killer pass, movement or goal. I like seeing players who want that ball regardless of the players surrounding them, speed of thought is important and that is developed as time goes on. 

I want players to make the defenders think, give them decisions to make. Get them with their back to goal and drive at them with pace, it’s something defenders rarely want – a position they don’t like to be in and the closer you get to them the closer you get to their goal!

I’m a self confessed admirer of all of the above. I’m at home when I see composure on the ball, elegance in attack – creativity & imagination in possesion, clever movement off it. 

Don’t get me wrong I love the dirty side of the game, you heard guest of EP09 Matty Flynn giving me a little nod for doing his dirty work for years. I loved a tackle, like to read the game – break play up and move the ball. As the years went on I became a visionary, yes the ones I keep talking about, maybe round about the age of 11/12 I had a little dabbling in the more attacking side of the game and I liked it – from then on in I would play with some beautiful players, ones who would bring the best out in me and allow me to express myself on a weekly basis. I’m not sure what they thought of me but I loved playing the beautiful game with each and everyone of you!

So here is my plea to you, a parent, a coach, a team mate – please do not kill off a player who possesses the above qualities or skill set. They may not have it all but encourage them to enjoy the game, allow them to be themselves and show off what they have. 

Give the players the freedom to express themselves, show them you trust them and believe in their ability – if they make a mistake then help them, solve the problem, fix it and tell them to try it again. The rewards and emotions when it comes off will be priceless.

On that note I’m off for a sleep with one though in my mind, Damn I wish I was still playing! 

 

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Life

It is days like Saturday that can give life a little nudge and put it all into perspective. 

After a podcast I tend not to dwell on them or write about them. Don’t get me wrong there has been a split second after every recording that I want to jot down some words and fire them out through this blog but I never do it. In the end I don’t think there’s a need to, it’s there for everyone to hear.

After that stop button has been hit I will edit the podcast, upload it and appreciate the moment for what it was. I say this time and time again but there is something special about bringing out people’s stories, stories they had forgotten all about, stories that they haven’t told in a while and appreciate you asking – their eyes tell most of the story I just happily sit and listen. 

Saturday’s podcast hit a nerve with me, Amy was very open, very honest and spoke about the problems and issues that arose for her after she lost both her grandparents. I too was in that position as a player and didn’t think too much about it at the time, youth and naivety played their part there. As a coach I had never experienced anything like I have over the last year. I lost my Aunty, Uncle and Gran in the matter of months. It’s not something I’ve spoken about but there was an emptiness inside me as my loved ones departed the show that we call life.

I can remember it clear as day, it was the Saturday afternoon we beat Aberdeen to secure our place in the Semi Final of the Scottish Cup. The sun was splitting the sky, the smell of burning Astro filled the air as we made our way from Toryglen with a good performance and victory under our belt. My gran was in the Victoria infirmary just over the hill so I popped in to see her, she was doing okay but after a long time talking she managed to convince me to go get her an ice cold bottle of Irn Bru. She clung on to that bottle with all that she had, eventually dosing off dreaming about it. That gave me a giggle. 

We spoke about everything and anything that day but the last thing we spoke about was my team and how we were getting on. She was chuffed with takes of the League cup triumoh in June, delighted when I told her we would win the league in our next game and shared my excitement at the chance to win the Scottish Cup. My gran watched me grow up out in front of her house playing football so she knew how much I loved the game and how much it would mean to not only me but the players to win the Cup. 

I could sit and talk about them for hours, I could talk about football for days but she was getting tired. Just before I left we made the agreement I would win the cup for her. Still holding onto her bottle of Irn Bru she took a sip then decided it was time for a rest. All the talking drained her, not to mention the heat in her room. 

As I was walking out the door she reminded me that I was to win the cup, accompanied by her cheeky smile and a chuckle she dozed off. Goodbyes and loves were said before I went to catch the bus. I was going to win that cup for her, the team would have no issues in winning it at Toryglen. 

Sadly that would be the last conversation I had with her, days later she passed away. I spent my nights occupying myself with football, football and more football among other things.

That day of the final at toryglen there were no nerves or feelings towards the game. Maybe confidence in the players I had worked with over the last three years but that was about it. It was to be my last game with my ever talented squad of players. I don’t feel I took in the occasion with them until they lifted the trophy. That’s when it all hit home. When I held it I could only think of one person, we did it gran – we won the cup.

Ps. I’m not known for showing emotions, stone heart some call me but my eyes didn’t half fill up writing this – what a woman, what a team and what an achievement. 

Oh and my gran left us all with her own little mischief as she always done, telling everyone who would listen that I  would win the cup for her and I’d retire from football because I had made enough money. What a character! I am still wondering where all that money is.

Have a good day!

Bye now!

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Only two Paul Gascoignes

Imagine being inside the mind of this man…

…I don’t think you’d come back the same person but what an adventure it would be.

Back in the day when I was parading about the stade de cresćent in front of my house, hair shaved into a number 2, head to toe in the famous blue of Glasgow Rangers I idolized this very man, he was immortal to me…untouchable. Any game at any time I always portrayed the role of Gazza, I really did believe I was him. I really did believe that if I dropped the shoulder and went past someone that I was Paul Gascoigne. Was this not what every kid done…dared to dream?

Depending on which side (blue or green) of Glasgow your grew up with he was either the Hero or the Villain. He was a great Hero and at times could be an even better Villain to opposition supporters, always at the wind up but no matter what you could not deny his talent or ability to turn on the charm when needed.

What a mesmerizing footballer and a character. Something that seems somewhat of a dying breed in today’s game, this guy could play and I mean really play.

He could strike fear into any player running at them with the ball, a bag of tricks with a decent change in pace when he got moving. He really got fans on the edge of their seats when he dropped the shoulder, shuffling the ball from left to right, shimmying his way past one, two, three…arms out protecting the ball like a gorilla would it’s young, defenders now unsure wether to make a move incase they were made to look silly, gaining yards on the pitch gliding towards goal with each step and with the goal in his site he would stroke the ball into the corner giving the keeper the chance to see the net bulge…cue another unforgettable celebration.

Fast forward to the modern day and as I’ve said before there are no characters like this man on the pitch anymore. Football has left a massive whole in his life, providing a struggle all too many are familiar with. Hopefully one day he can fill the void football has left him, in a positive way.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting him a few times in his days at Rangers, one time I will never forget was when he let me stand beside him while he was getting interview after the game, he treated me like his mate ( i was 8 years old) and introduced me to all his team mates. A few days later he would be lifting the league trophy at Tannadice, a landmark for the club (9 in a row).

We all have our heroes, our idols who we have grown up watching on the edge of our seats, kids now a days will say Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Neymar…

Nah they’re not for me.

Paul Gascoigne is mine and always will be.

There’s only 1 Paul Gascoigne…

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