Wednesday, 12 March 2014


By Jim Black

SANDY LYLE has long since given up on his dream of European Ryder Cup captaincy.

The only one of golf’s so-called “Famous Five” – Seve Ballesteros, Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo are the others – not to be afforded the honour, Lyle must have secretly hoped that he would be in the running when Gleneagles was chosen as the venue for the biennial match.

But the 55-year-old Scot was yet again overlooked. Instead, Paul McGinley was chosen, not altogether surprisingly, given that there was a feeling within the corridors of power that it was appropriate to appoint an Irishman for the first time in view of the success enjoyed by their golfers.

McGinley recently named Scotland’s Sam Torrance and compatriot Des Smyth as two of his vice-captains and will appoint two more once his team is finalised in early September.

That leaves the door open for Lyle, but I suspect the remaining spots will go to current players, with Paul Lawrie, Thomas Bjorn and Jose Maria Olazabal seemingly very much in the frame.

But surely there is a place for Lyle, not as the tea-boy or the JCB driver – roles, he says, he would willingly fill.

An assistant to Ian Woosnam at the K-Club in 2006, when Europe triumphed by a record points margin, the two-time major winner is entitled to believe he is due the courtesy in his homeland.

Lyle lives just 40 minutes from the venue and would walk all the way to Auchterarder to be part of the team.

How about special advisor to the captain? Or why not senior Ryder Cup ambassador with special responsibilities for promoting the event on the global stage?

As Scotland’s most successful post-war golfer, he is generally regarded as one of the game’s good guys, a respected figure popular with his colleagues and the public alike.

If they could give Nick Faldo – I refuse to refer to him as “Sir,” an honour he was unworthy of, in my humble opinion – the job of captain in 2008, when he demeaned the role in a bumbling fashion that had his players and his peers cringing in equal measure, surely his great rival is deserving of far greater acknowledgement.

It would be an opportunity missed if Lyle were to be overlooked and a decision that would reflect badly on those charged with ensuring that the Samuel Ryder trophy remains in European hands.

MEANWHILE, I am once again forced to pose the question: What the hell are ScotRail playing at?

This is not the first time I have visited the subject of weekend rail travel and I fear it will not be the last.

A month after experiencing the loutish behaviour of a section of Aberdeen fans on the Saturday evening “cattle train”, I had the misfortune to encounter Scotland rugby fans behaving every bit as badly, if not actually far more menacingly.

I refer to the 7.50pm train from Edinburgh to Inverness in the wake of Scotland’s defeat by France at Murrayfield.

On they poured at Haymarket, headed for various stopping off points in deepest Fife, it turned out.

I am reliably informed that rugby supporters are a much more civilised breed than their football counterparts; a jolly, lager-swilling lot who refrain from acts of violence and intimidation.

Really? Not this particular bunch of morons who invaded first class as their right despite having purchased second class tickets.

When one unfortunate traveller, who had paid for the privilege, tried to claim his rightful seat he was informed by one of the yobs that he was a “sheep-s......g b.....d” and “who the f..k” did he think he was?

Well, actually he was a bona fide traveller, entitled to the seat he had paid for. But this was a matter of complete indifference to my fellow travellers.

Mercifully, there was no act of physical violence in the wake of the verbal sort, but the atmosphere remained tense, to say the least.

When those same rugby fans departed at Kirkcaldy one of their number, a lady (???) stated sarcastically in a stage whisper, “They’ll be delighted that’s the scum gone” for the benefit of the occupants of the compartment they had invaded.

Yes, madam, you are indeed scum – you and your kind.

But the most worrying aspect was the absence of a ticket collector.

Earlier, having taken one look at the situation, she turned on her heels and fled only to resurface after Perth, when the refreshment trolley also miraculously appeared.

When asked why it had taken two hours for her to check our tickets, she replied that the train had been extremely busy.

I’ll remember that next time I purchase a second class ticket and use the first class facilities!

You really couldn’t make it up.

But ScotRail employees not doing their jobs appears to standard practice these days. 

I wonder what the excuse and justification will be when they carry off some unfortunate traveller in a body bag?

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