Happy Christmas

 

It could simply be that people are weary of protesting or have realised that Chris Robinson isnít just going to get lost.†† It could simply be that the team isnít losing matches hand over fist.††† It could be that other teamsí financial losses have put things into a truer perspective.†† It could be of course because Hibsí chances of finishing third have shrivelled like a salted snail.

 

But the furore is slowing dying down and those who demonstrated from November last year to November this havenít really succeeded in their aim.††† Iím not saying it was therefore not worth it, but it gave a lot of joy to our enemies to see us like that and gave the media the sniff of blood which it exultantly made into a weeping wound never giving it a chance to heal.†† Hearts are easy meat, typified as puffed-up Grandiose Edinburgh needing its shins kicked by the gadgies, radgies and bag-carriers of the Scottish media.†† And too many Hearts fans obliged, being pictured with banners and placards, and looking as disgruntled as Oor Wullie does when his tannerís rolled down the drain.††† For years now individuals connected with the Federation of Hearts Supporters Clubs are asked for a quote by the Evening News: so it becomes ďHearts fans slammed the Board blah blahÖĒ†† Iíve said it before, and Iíll say it again, newspapers only want to sell newspapers, and theyíll start a non-story and then deliberately manufacture situations to put a little heat under the pot to keep it bubbling nicely.†† Now, certain clubs (Rangers, ManU) stop dealing with the media entirely because they realise itís out to get them.†† And you know what?†† Theyíre also absolutely right.†† And I think certain Supportersí Associations should consider this option very carefully.†† Is the Sunday Mail on Heartsí side?†† Isnít it common knowledge that the Evening News is biased against Hearts?†† Iím the second-least paranoid Hearts fan there is, but even I know that.

 

However, time passes and times pass, and there was bound to be a backlash which, if not exactly pro-Robinson, asked for some perspective.†† Even at the time of his departure, the split pro/agin Jim Jefferies was roughly 2:1.†††† Along with all his brilliance, he had made mistakes, some pretty crazy ones at that, and his whole post-match demeanour had begun to permeate through the team and its performances.†† Some folks werenít too unhappy to see the back of him because they were fed up with the front of him.††† So it wasnít too much of a surprise to read in a recent No Idle TalkďAnything to say for the defence?Ē the number of people who put forward a cogent argument, if not defending Robinson, then accepting the reality of the situation, and while many mistakes had been made weekly effigy-burnings werenít going to take us forward.†† Now, none of us knows the facts Ė who was responsible for contractual dealings, buying players (good and bad) and the rest of it.†† If the rumourís true and JJ got Leigh Jenkinson simply to demonstrate to CR what meagre talent £50,000 would buy us, can we cite the £100,000 Portsmouth trousered for Fitzroy Simpson against him?

 

So the Boardís line seems finally to have become, if not the truth, then established thinking.†† David Weir wrote a summary of the situation along these lines in The Scotsman, which was then printed in the match programme.†† The message is that Hearts are currently paying the price for having speculated in order to accumulate.††† And to be blunt, there isnít one of those who has demonstrated outside Tynecastle who wouldnít have mortgaged their children to win the Scottish Cup. †††We are suffering from the delusions of grandeur born when Jefferiesproduced a superb side to challenge for the League and win the Cup.†† I know this to be true, because I was Self-Deluder-In-Chief.We had followed the yellow brick road, and entered the Wonderful Land of Oz.†† Well, just like Dorothy and Co, we discovered that the Wizard was nothing more than a little man behind a screen operating everything with push-buttons and mirrors - a charlatan, nothing more.†† But we believed because we wanted to believe.††† We were fooling ourselves, and thatís what makes people angry: not that theyíve been had, but because they fell for it.

 

Because they see ridiculous sums of money spent on pretty duff Nationwide players, Hearts fans are expecting equally ridiculous sums to fill Heartsí empty coffers.††† For only Pounds Two Million Rangers bought Kenny Miller, the most gifted natural striker Scotlandís produced since John Robertson, so that should give fans a gauge of the worth of Scottish football players.††† Wolves wouldnít have paid Hibs the three mill Rangers sweated out of them.†† Sure, Colin Cameron was worth Pounds Four Million to Hearts, but Wolves are not running a charity (though you might have been forgiven for thinking so for the last 20 years).†† And if Cameron was going to go - which he was, because he wanted to - then I think Hearts at least did the decent thing by Cameron and not put obstacles in his way.††

 

I know the English Premiership has shaken its head saying Nay, Nay, Thrice Nay, but even Ė especially - in these times of prospective diminishing telly revenue the bigger set-ups will be desperate to maximise their income and bring down their debts, so hang on to your hats on this one.†† So thoughts about the potential departure of Celtic and Rangers from the Scottish set-up arenít generally worthwhile considering theyíll do what the hell they want.†† Predictions of Premier League meltdown without them are all very well, but thereís precious little we can do. However, Ebbe Skovdahl was the first person recently to publicly declare it would be a Good Thing, and I wonder if the climate of opinion is changing, either because people believe it might actually be a good thing, or because since itís going to happen we might as well get used to it and make a virtue out of necessity.

 

Hearts played Dunfermline last month and 12 thousand people turned up.††† I quite understand the short-sightedness of saying this, but just as many would have turned up in an Oldless Firmless Premier League, and thereís an argument for thinking that it could well be more.†††† Thereís no doubt a deal of money would be lost in the short run(which is why everyoneís screaming about producing young players from within: entering the new financially-impoverished (though morally-enrichened) Scottish League set-up with big operating costs wouldnít be a happy scenario) but thereís every reason for thinking that Scottish football would once more become just that Ė Scottish.†† Quality would suffer badly in the short run, in the sense that the best players might have to seek richer pastures like Cameron did, albeit at Wolves and Wigan and Barnsley.†† However, for every departing Cameron one would hope for an emerging Simmons, and once younger Scots see older young Scots playing at the top level, and playing international football, things might not actually be too shabby.††† Craig Brown recently bemoaned the lack of footballing heroes on the Scottish international stage (fancy! I wonder how such a state of affairs came to pass??)so in 5 yearsí time Craig Gordon, Andy Webster,Scott Severin,Steven Simmonds,Tom MacManus, Ian Murray, Craig Dargo,Stephen McOnologue, Darren and Derek Young,Kenny Miller and others could be lining up against Brazil (albeit in a friendly, like) and inspiring youngsters to become footballers.†† Thousands of children see David Beckham curl in a free kick and thatís who they want to be.†† Scotland are right at the bottom of the skill cycle, just as England used to be, so we have to wait for the wheel to turn and for better young Scottish players to emerge and Iím unconvinced that the existence of Celtic and Rangers is a spur to growth.††

 

If we are left naked and freezing without the trickle-down benefits fromour two one-eyed Cyclopses,the product itself, Scottish football, would at least cease to be tarred with the orange-and-green brush.††† And irrespective of a bit of success which might presumably come Heartsí way (and for other clubs - including Hibs of course, Iím not kidding myself) then many more Edinburgh folk would find the image and the product a lot more attractive than they do currently.†††† In a city of half a million people, only 4% watch its two teams, and not much more than 15% give a toss about them.††† Even the gifted and successful 1998 Hearts sidecould not attract more than 17,000 people to watch.†† Why?†† Because Edinburgh is a middle-class city with middle-class money and the middle-classes find football irrelevant or distasteful or dreadful.And if you go to matches against Celtic and Rangers itís not difficult to see why people think this.††† Most of the dreadful games are against other teams, certainly, but these are products of the fear and lack of imagination in the Scottish game which the presence of Celtic and Rangers engenders.†† Teams (apart from Dundee) canít hope to compete skillwise with them: so they have to compete on a physical level, so when Dunfermline meet St Johnstone thereís often that nasty crunching sound and the less physical teams (traditionally Hearts and Hibs) often get caught in the crunch.†† Pretty it ainít, pretty unpleasant it certainly can be.

 

So their departure could result in a parochial yet rather entertaining Scottish League, although I suspect some of the Rangers scum who inhabit Glaswegian satellite towns like Wishaw will have trouble wrapping their heads around the fact that they will no longer be able to lord it over anyone else in Scotland on a Monday to Friday basis.†† They will be fans of a team which does not win on a regular basis, and the shock to their collective system could be quite grisly to watch.†† Celtic fans will never be anything other than Celtic fans, win or lose Ė they thrive in conditions of adversity, itís their identity, and the Celtic brand is well-recognised and consequently highly lucrative.†† Rangers, however, are triumphalists and the only consolation whenever theyíre second-best (as now) is the specious superiority they derive from their No Surrender Moral Protestantism.†† In the context of a British Super League, however, this entire philosophy will have nothing to bite on, especially when they start getting locked up for singing songs of incitement and hatred, so where these sad little people will go then is a question we cannot answer.††† Nature abhors a vacuum, of course, and I have a horrible feeling that Glasgow in general will be appalled to find out that everyoneís having a party without them, thank you very much, and their wounded egos will jolt the carpet-and-used-car showroom owners into resuscitating Third Lanark to give all the ex-Rangers bam-fans something to feel big about.††† A Scary Thought in A Happy New Year.