Friday, 4 April 2014


By Andy Ritchie

WE - meaning Scotland’s youth team - were about to go off to sunny, sunny Spain and I was having multiple orgasms at the very thought of it.

Hey, I was only 16 and therefore full of fun and devilment. A round-robin youth tournament lay ahead, but first I was intent on basking in the imaginary limelight.

So, when a photographer from the Scottish Daily Express approached those of us who played with Celtic and Rangers, asking if he could snap us with our reading material, we were up for the cup.

A couple of the guys had chosen Shoot magazine to accompany them on the trip. Me? As we were having a bit of a carry-on, I’d gone straight for the top shelf and got myself a copy of Playboy.

Just when the photographer was about to go to work, an SFA official called Ernie Walker arrived on the scene and called me over. He asked me how my parents would feel if they saw me reading a lads’ magazine. Just as important, he asked me how Celtic FC would feel.

He reminded me that I was representing not only them but the Scottish nation. You could call it an impact talk. He uttered only about three sentences, but the message hit home immediately like a bolt from a crossbow.

I hate to imagine what would have happened if Ernie hadn’t been on the scene at Glasgow Airport that day. There I’d have been, back page on the Express, making an absolute backside of myself.

But I was lucky enough to come across an administrator who knew his way around potentially embarrassing situations.

The question that ought to be asked now is this: where are such like-minded administrators in today’s world?

Press the fast forward button and pinpoint one of today’s embarrassing situations. Stop at Leigh Griffiths, a few long-necked Budweisers on a none too lazy Sunday afternoon and you’re on the money.

When he received his summons to appear at the SFA for that video, I immediately thought of Ernie Walker.

Ernie, of course, went on to become secretary of the SFA for 13 years. How would he have handled that situation with Leigh and his singing Hibs supporting pals? Somewhat better, I would suggest, than Vincent Lunny. Ernie certainly wouldn’t have needed a compliance officer to bring people to order.

Lunny is the c.o. of the ruling body. Here’s a guy who seems to appear every time something like this happens. He must spend hours trawling the websites to find out things about fitba players.

What’s this man doing? Is it a real job? Couldn’t he be doing something better and more constructive than picking through the bones of a lot of nonsense.

Don’t for one moment think I’m attempting to vindicate Griffiths. I’m not. He should get the proverbial boot up the backside for what he did - there are no two ways about that. 

But this officious rigmarole seems OTT. I think the SFA are just being petty. It does smack of someone trying to justify their existence.

The punishment should have come from within the player’s club. Hopefully, getting rapped over the knuckles by his own hierarchy would mean a lot more to him - well, it should mean a lot more - than being savaged by an SFA sheep called Vincent Lunny.

Which brings me back to my point about this chap’s role: jobs like this take money out of the game and we struggle at times to provide things that would be beneficial either to the top end of the professional gig or the amateur end.

But the SFA inevitably provide money for some things that are trivial, But we shouldn’t be surprised, for they are trivial people.

Look, I don’t know a lot about Stewart Regan, but I don’t see a lot happening within the game that I could congratulate him for. No, I can’t say I go to sleep counting the accomplishments of Stewart Regan.

Anyway, these punishments seem to be selective, rather than across the board. Morton’s Rowan Vine apparently made uncomplimentary signs to Cowdenbeath supporters when he was sent off the other night.

I didn’t see Lunny sending a letter to the club asking Vine to come up and see him. Is it only because there were 500 people there and really nobody gives diddly squat about it?

I don’t remember, either, Paul McGowan being lettered by the SFA for being drunk and assaulting policemen. No, it’s my belief that Lunny looks for nonsense and is getting his 50-60 grand a year and Vauxhall car for absolutely nothing.

He should only be getting involved if the club involved don’t do anything, if indeed they thumb their nose at the situation. That’s the time the shadow of Vincent Lunny should fall over proceedings.

Hey, I know times have changed, but one phone call from Ernie Walker would have diffused this situation. I can hear what he would have said: “It’s not in the best possible taste,”

As a result, the morals would have been improved, and it would have made a better impact on the individuals who were causing the situation.

This current SFA hoopla was all so unnecessary . It needed someone just to stop guys like Leigh Griffiths in their tracks with some sensible advice, rather than putting them on the back page.

Maybe Griffiths thinks it’s smart because it’s on the back page. But it’s not smart and he should know that. But I still contend that it was up to Celtic, not Lunny, to deliver the sermon.