Tuesday, 13 May 2014
BACK STABBING IS MAKING IT A DIRTY GAME
BY JIM BLACK
FOOTBALL has become an increasingly dirty game - and I am not talking about the physical nature of the sport.
Back-stabbing and blatant wheeling and dealing by individuals out to make a quick buck at the expense of those who support the once great game has turned football into a shadowy, grainy image of its former self.
But even by the current standards of duplicity and dirty tricks, recent distasteful events have cast another dark shadow over Scottish football.
My initial instinct was to say hell mend Hearts for the club’s treatment of its former manager, Gary Locke, his backroom staff, and several players.
Likewise, St Mirren, for their treatment of Danny Lennon, and Hibs chairman Rod Petrie, for immediately distancing himself from the latest Easter Road crisis.
Rangers Football Club, meanwhile, continues to be run in a manner that beggars belief and suggests that the inmates have indeed taken over the running of the asylum!
One is tempted to hope that good fortune deserts those responsible for discarding Locke and Lennon, Petrie, for his cowardly refusal to stand up and be counted, and Rangers’ chief executive Graham Wallace and an incompetent bunch of directors - some of whom are patently unfit to hold the role – for their continued bungling.
But to do so would be disrespectful and unfeeling towards the thousands of loyal fans who follow the fortunes of the aforementioned clubs at considerable expense.
After the Hearts fans had shown a loyalty above and beyond the call of duty to keep the club alive, they were rewarded with renewed hope of a much brighter future under Ann Budge, the new owner with a successful business background.
Their optimism was sadly misplaced. Budge has shown herself to be a “Hearts-breaker” rather than a visionary.
The Budge revolution has begun with the axing of loyal staff, most notably Locke, a Jambo through and through, and man who did a quite remarkable job in largely impossible circumstances.
Hearts were never going to survive in the Premiership on the back of a 15 point deduction and a signing ban. That they managed to stave off relegation for as long as they did was largely down to Locke and his assistant Billy Brown.
They also departed Tynecastle having left behind a rich legacy of young players who, I believed, would have made Hearts a good bet to be promotion contenders next season.
Robbie Neilson has replaced Locke as first team coach. Craig Levein has been appointed to the role of director of football.
Remember Levein? He is a former Hearts footballer who achieved some success as a player, but precious little as a manager, including a disastrous and largely hugely embarrassing spell as Scotland coach.
Budge attempted to explain her betrayal of Locke and the others in a waffling statement that added insult to injury.
Bottom line is the 66-year-old so-called Queen of Hearts has behaved in a manner little better than that of a cut-throat.
She is guilty of a huge misjudgement. She emerged from her first day in charge without a shred of credit and already thousands of Hearts fans are questioning the future under the new Iron Lady.
Will she eventually hand over control, as promised? Don’t bet on it. She appears to already have been caught out in a lie when she claimed she had not spoken with Levein prior to her takeover.
But Budge will do well to remember that the majority of Hearts fans regard Locke as one of their own and will be quick to round on her if the expected renaissance fails to happen.
Personally, I would not be at all surprised if Hearts is plunged into a new crisis a year from now although I hope, for the fans’ sake, I am wrong.
Officially, St Mirren did not sack Danny Lennon they simply did not renew his contract. It was Lennon’s reward for winning the League Cup and keeping the club in the Premiership.
What more can a provincial club with limited resources expect? I know the chairman Stewart Gilmour reasonably well. Indeed, I have socialised with him and find him pleasant company. But Stewart is in danger of taking up residence in La-La Land if he imagines that his beloved Saints can do very much better under the stewardship of a different manager.
Petrie, meanwhile, is Scottish football’s Teflon Don. Having launched a verbal assault on his manager, Terry Butcher and the Hibs players for the abject failure to avoid the SPFL play-off, he conveniently forgets that he is the man who appoints and then sacks managers at a rate that is almost as dizzying as a roundabout.
So, Hibs current plight has nothing do with Petrie, then?
And, finally, Rangers – that once great club situated on Glasgow’s south-side.
There was a glorious opportunity to begin again post-David Murray and rebuild a strong foundation. Instead, those who have followed have dangerously weakened the existing one.
The general consensus is that it will take Rangers a decade to reassert themselves as a power in Scottish football, capable of challenging Celtic.
From where I’m sitting, under the present regime, that is an extremely optimistic time-scale!