Saturday, 16 November 2013

Another Scotland friendly? Better off with Kevin's Grand Designs

By Andy Ritchie

SO here I am, positioned in front of the telly on Friday night, pen poised to write down anything of Hampden significance. My head is good to go, but what about my heart?
Well, let’s say there’s little response from it. It’s possibly somewhere else, certainly not in this dear green place. Just call me the reluctant scribe. I’m on Scotland blogging duty, but I don’t really want to be.
My country is involved in a friendly against the USA and, for all I care, they might as well be playing Brazil. And even then I’m not even sure that would float my boat.
Bob Geldof didn’t fancy Mondays. Well, I don’t fancy football friendlies on Fridays. Or on any other night of the week, for that matter. And, within minutes of the kick-off, my mind is wandering so far away from the National Stadium that they might have to send out a search party to find it.
So I’m blethering to my companions, including my ma, and I’m watching the game: then I’m watching and blethering. And, yes, I’m considering changing channels. Hey, I’ve actually thought of turning over to Children In Need a couple of times but, no, let’s be professional about this - I’m supposed to be working here. Man, though, it’s bloody hard to be professional.
Wait a minute: I’ve drawn a little bit of inspiration. I’ve noticed that one or two of the Scotland players are sporting beards. I must improve my maths, it’s far more than one or two: there’s Fletcher, Snodgrass, Conway, Hutton, Hanley…and, wait a minute, is that a five o’clock shadow beginning to fall over Charlie Mulgrew’s face? And, God save us, one of the substitutes, Wallace, is wearing another. It’s a veritable explosion of hair - made in Scotland.
Quite the little statistician, aren’t I? If I’m not careful, I’ll be upsides with Wee Pat Nevin before long. But, listen, this is a serious consideration: I can’t remember playing in a team with so much facial hair. Okay, you were allowed to grow beards if you wanted to during the Seventies, but they weren’t at their most popular in this particular era.
I mean, we tended to go big afro and then even bigger afros. I can’t remember many pop stars or film stars with beards. They were for old men and down and outs. Oh, and Bluto, of Popeye fame. Now, those were some whiskers!
That didn’t mean we were short of those delightful little eccentricities. Dear me no. We tended to go for sideburns in the flavour of Mungo Gerry - and were very much into what we called the Tom Selleck porno moustaches. But beards? No.
And actually, I must admit: a wee bit of hair on your face isn’t too shabby. Some suit it better than others. Not for me, though. I looked like that wee animal that used to pop up on breakfast television: Roland Rat.
But here I am counting beards when I should be analysing what’s going on with Scotland. Truth be told, there’s not much going on. We (Scotland) are on our way to a moral victory. We are set to keep the run going and so that’s three games without defeat under Gordon Strachan. They did us 5-1 last time, so 0-0 looks better.
But I like a sting in the tail. I prefer something to matter. Tonight, the football is ordinary, to say the least. The Americans look as if they are just shaping up for a wee runabout. And nothing, or indeed no-one, is demanding my attention, other than this new fixation with facial adornments. Hey, international football friendlies are a bit like eating Chinese food. You can eat a No 132 and, about 35 minutes later, you’re hungry again.
It’s just two teams on the park and naebody is really worrying about what happens out of the whole exercise, apart from maybe the managers.
They say the crowd is about 25,000. Well, they say there are fools born every day. Who would want to pay money on a Friday night to leave the comfort of their firesides and go and watch this?
To my mind, it’s just a money-making exercise for the SFA. What they should have done is let everyone in for nothing. Or play it behind closed doors. At this time of year, it’s like saying: would you like to buy a ticket for the dress rehearsal of a pantomime? Maybe you would. I wouldn’t.
There are times when I am pulled out of my boredom. Is that Flower of Scotland I hear being sung? If it is, it’s a pallid version, a subdued and almost embarrassed version. But you can’t blame those poor fans: it’s hard to get excited about nothing. Besides, they are probably asking themselves why they’d bothered to come in the first place.
If we must, let’s talk football. Fletcher is up front with Snodgrass. I’d have preferred to see Fletcher playing closer to a wee guy like Naismith. But it’s just about all right. You can’t say that anyone is doing his chances any harm.
Barry Bannon? I’ve never believed that those whose arses are close to the ground can make significant contributions when things become physical, but he’s doing all right, using the ball and playing to his strengths. In these matches, though, players understand that they’re going to get another half tick on the ball.
Then we have the right-footed Conway on the left wing. This tactic seems to be flavour of the month with managers and coaches. This Andros Townsend boy from Tottenham has started something.
Tonight, the best chance of the match comes from the right. It works its way across the box and Fletcher plays it on to Conway, who skews the ball past the post - with his right foot!
A thought occurs here: do we need to suffer this again on Tuesday night against Norway? Here, is there anything else on? Maybe like the final of the World Bowls? Better, still another enthralling version of Strictly Come Dancing?
But, hang about, my ma loves Grand Designs. Maybe she’ll insist on a wee bit of Kevin McCloud. And who am I to resist? Besides, there’s a man who disnae wear a beard!

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