London Hearts Supporters Club

Don’t Let The Door Bump You On The Ass, Franck!

The Chief Grouser was sick when he heard Sauzee had got Das Boot – after he stopped laughing…

God knows why I should be so bothered – certainly not for Hibs’ sake, obviously, nor their tear-stained fans – but there is something about this whole Franckie-Says-Au-Revoir business that irks me. It bothered me a lot less, strangely, that a whole load of Hearts fans (though not that many, come to think of it) were giving it large a year and a bit back: don’t get me wrong, they were in the main right to feel so aggrieved, but within a few months they’d all shut up. Those who thought Robinson should go back in November 2000 and joined the demonstrations you might think should still be out the back of the stand shouting for his blood after we’d thumped Dunfermline 7-1 in February. The game against Livingston last November was a complete disgrace, too, but it was a question of well-paid professional footballers (in the Hearts side, just to make that plain) making basic errors against a very useful side (who are unlikely to be as useful ever again). It was a right sore one, and Craig Levein said it was the Worst of the Worsts and wouldn’t happen again. So happens he was right. I’m not pretending everything in the Hearts garden is coming up roses (though there’s enough manure to hope for a fine harvest) and Levein still has to answer questions about tactical and motivational skills (Question One: Got Any??) but if you’ve followed Hearts since Nineteen-Oatcake then the last two years won’t have come as a terrible shock. Things come and go, and come again. And always have. The 1913 Internet was a rare old affair, as moustaches bristled with indignation and Kick-Back was flooded with cablegrams from all corners of the Empire:

“Sir, It is with Out-Rage that I read in The Glaswegian Despatch that the Heart-of-Midlothian are to vend Mr Percival Dawson to Black-Burn Rovers for Four Thousand Guineas simply as to afford a monstrous carbuncular structure to allow in dozens more riff-raff who will simply lower the tone. I am returning my leather pouch of matchday tokens in disgust.

I remain, Sir, A Pompous Bore (Corstorphine)”

Of course, not everyone had access to the internet in those days, and those who did had to wear black tie and tails and stand to attention for the National Anthem when they switched off. (I rather suspect one or two Kickbackers probably have that last bit still.) But, as one of Kickback’s correspondents wrote some time ago, the advent of e-mail has allowed – and sadly encouraged - a lot of people to demonstrate their stupidity in public. In the dark dark days of the late 70s, anger was dissipated by smashing windows, kicking someone’s head in or (more truthfully) getting drunk and ranting about it in the pub till you fell over. You simply wanted to be heard. By the following morning, as a wittier correspondent wryly recalled, the urge to bash off a letter to Dixon Blackstock of the Sunday Mail had subsided. And the worst thing about the internet is, as any grouser knows, you are now indelible. You cannot contact the Webmeister and say “Your Honour, I move my last remarks be stricken from the record.” It can (and will) be held against you. No matter how much rubbish you spout in a pub on a Saturday evening, you’re not the only one who’s drunk and by morning no-one will remember a word you said. Kickbackers should go down the pub more, a preferably not one I’m in at the time.

But now we’ve got half of the Hibbies jumping up and down like Rumpelstilskin and the other half dabbing their face with a scented handkerchief. What Is Going On? And more to the point, why the hell do I care? But I do, and I’m depressed at the short-term thinking of the nitwit internet generation who think that Everything In The World Points To Them in The Here and The Now. This is this stupid bastard internet/Pop Idol generation, the one that voted OK Computer the best LP of all time nine months after it came out. So self-important, no idea of perspective, of the past and of the future. So now Hibs fans think that Franck Sauzee is A Hibs legend. Man, that really tells you what the current crop of Hibs fans think about their team’s recent history – and about history in general. For them, 1998 was Year Zero. Now, Joe Baker is a Hibs legend. Tommy Younger. Pat Stanton. But Le Soze? Dearie me, the man wasn’t around for much more than three years.

If Hibs do all right over the next few years (and they probably will, it grieves me to suppose), all will be forgotten. A few will whisper the heresy – He Wisnae Actually Any Good! Of course for a few, Sauzee’s star will shine even more brightly because of the could-have-been syndrome, just as I think Craig Levein would have been the greatest ever player to play for Hearts had he not been injured. I still think that. But at least I realise I’ll never know and that it doesn’t matter, not now or then. This modern fetish of having to give something a name just means the essence is lost. Truthfully, a legend should be someone you never saw. To call John Robertson a Hearts legend is missing the point. Just say “John Robertson.” Then you’ll know what I mean.

Talking of Pat Stanton, I’ve been chortling at his doughty effort at making sense on the Hibs website – what was I saying about putting yourself on record? He gives quite hefty opinions every week, and if you put them all back-to-back they point to a man who really doesn’t know jack. He is also wonderfully capable of coming out with some fair old garbage-style pub-talk “People criticise Franck for standing with his arms folded during games, but Franz Beckenbauer won the World Cup doing that” (!!! I Kid You Not!) – he’s more of a leg-end than legend. He was a spectacular failure as a Hibs manager, which gives him some insight into Sauzee, I suppose. But it is for the future to confer legendary status, even if Stanton is now “a Hibs ambassador” the way former heavyweight boxers become ‘celebrity hosts’ at Las Vegas casinos. Everybody knows them. That’s why they’re there. In Pat Stanton’s case, “professional greeter” sounds uncannily accurate at the moment. A legend has to build, not be built, and Hibs fans have constructed their own Eiffel Tower overnight, worshipping him as their own Golden Calf like the Israelites did when Moses went off for some tablets. That one ended in tears as I remember.

It also tells you just how bloody desperate the last few years have been for Hibs fans, that they have come out of the long dark tunnel and now think they’re in the Garden of Eden. If they hadn’t beaten Airdrie in the 1997 playoffs thanks to some Monkey Magic I don’t think they’d’ve come out of the First Division in ’98. Ol’ Jacko did more to keep Hibs alive than a defibrillator and I would respectfully suggest his contribution is more worthy of Hibs’ remembrance than A Man Who Made Hibs Feel Good About Themselves). What leaves me totally bemused is how these Hibernian fans seemed to think that, following a good season (though a much better half-season) they had entered the Age of Aquarius and were about to assume their Rightful Place In The Celestial Firmament. Where did they get this notion from? Promotion, then 5th place, 3rd place, 2nd in the Cup and think they’re in the Promised Land.

Where did these Hibs fans get this notion from? Hats off to them for not having an inferiority complex, but in their case it’s misplaced. They are actually inferior. They’re living in a land of pixies where everyone’s happy in Happyland. Dolts. Point is, if Franck Sauzee's a legend, what does that make Alex McLeish? Who was it that bought Paateleinen, and got him to play the best football of his career? Who got Latapy? Who got that fighting spirit, the teamwork that a superior team must have to blow away inferior teams in a lower division? Was it Le Soze? Hardlement pas, je pense! No-one doubts his qualities as a footballer – he won a European Cup (and no stain should attach itself to Franck simply because Bernard Tapie bought Marseille’s victory with bribes and inducements) and his leadership on the park which brought the best out of much-inferior players alongside him was unsurprising. George Best made some decent Hibs players look damn’ good by passing the ball in such a way that they couldn’t help but run into space and control it. Sauzee was the same, and for a few months Hibs exceeded the sum of their parts. Now they equal the sum of their parts, and boy, does it show. Sauzee was great but not all that great – he wouldn’t have been at Hibs otherwise. A diamond looks much like another diamond if they’re in a cluster, but a single diamond set amongst a lot of quartz, rhinestone and tin seems to shine more brilliantly than it really does. Take away the diamond, of course, and all you have left is a bit of quartz, a rhinestone, and tin. And it’s starting to rust.

Hear that nauseating sound? It’s Hibernian fans masticating. They’re trying to have their cake and eat it. The Problem's Been Going On for A Year Now, they all bleat, yet they’re the same ones who last August were trumpeting Definitely 3rd, Good Chance of 2nd, yakkity yak. Some really thought they were a better side at the beginning of this season than the one before. When they got 13 points out of a possible 39 after last season’s shutdown and Hearts got 17 (and let’s not embarrass the suffering souls with the goal difference tallies) I think that demonstrates the progress McLeish was making. London Hibs, Gord Bless Em, have a wee poll counter thingy: “Where Will Hibs finish in the Premier League this season?” I can only assume it’s not updated on a weekly basis. It gives you a choice of 1st to 6th, and then “Other”. Presumably next season it’ll be 5th to 12th, and “Other”.

So bye bye Franck, ya poor innocent dupe. You can enjoy the sunshine now, cause it ain’t in Leith and neither are you.

26 Feb 2002

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