February 2002
Herr, Ayr and everywhere

Berti Vogts takes over as Scotland manager. Ayr United reach their first major Final. And a Kilmarnock fan welcomes BOTH developments!



This website has held back from joining the siren voices hailing the appointment of BERTI VOGTS as Scotland coach until the announcement was made official. With the news confirmed that the man who led Germany to victory in Euro 96 will succeed Craig Brown in charge of the Scots as of March 1st, now is the time to throw our twopence worth in.

Firstly, congratulations to the SFA in getting their man. They refused to yield to the press lobby which vociferously demanded an immediate appointment every time there was a dearth of Old Firm stories. Getting it right is more important than rushing the job. Scotland's next fixture is at the end of March against France. There will be no competitive matches until next season when the Euro qualifiers get under way. So there was no need to go for a quick fix.

As for Vogts himself, there have been a few doubts expressed in some quarters. Let us address the critics main points.

1) He's not Scottish. We could answer glibly and say neither are a few of the players. But the top Scottish bosses - Sir Alex Ferguson and George Graham - ruled themselves out of contention. Others, like Gordon Strachan who demanded a home-grown appointment, didn't hang around long enough to be asked. Strachan happily took over at Southampton and is doing a decent job there. Who else was available? Kenny Dalglish? How long before he decided that the only pitch he was interested in involved a putt afterwards? Kenny is close to a modern Don Quixote - Man of La Manga.

Alex Miller and Jim Jefferies are both looking for jobs. In the bad old days this would have been the route the SFA went down. Let's face it. Before Jock Stein the Scotland job was hardly as prestigious as it should have been. It was given to Ian McColl who had never even managed at club level. Other appointments were made from middling domestic clubs like St Johnstone ( Bobby Brown and Willie Ormond) and Clyde (John Prentice). Willie Cunningham even turned the job down to stay with Falkirk!

Ormond apart, none of these managers was a great success. Yet it was either that or the bragadaccio of Tommy Docherty and Ally McLeod. When Stein left Leeds to take up the post, at last the job of Scotland boss was filled by a top class manager. After going down the internal route with Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown, the SFA have again appointed a man in the Stein mould. Nationality is irrelevant. Yes, it would have been preferable to have a Scot in charge but there are no Scots available who have a record that can be compared to that of Vogts.

2) His best days are behind him. Well, we'll see but at 55, Vogts is the same age Stein was when he became Scotland boss. He's a couple of years younger than George Graham and five younger than Fergie. He's younger now than Bobby Robson was when he took England to the World Cup semi-finals in Italy. He's also younger than that great chancer Terry Venables. Sure he's spent the best part of a year in a footballing backwater in Kuwait (if the desert can ever be a backwater). But there isn't a coach in the world that would turn down the sort of money on offer there.

3) He was a failure as boss of Germany. Yeah, the sort of failure we could do with. When Franz Beckenbauer departed in glory after the 1990 World Cup he could see that the long era of German dominance was drawing to a close. Vogts won the European Championship in 1996. Simple as that. Of the four major tournaments played in under his command, the Germans won one, made the Final of another (Euro 92) and the quarter-finals of two World Cups. That record bears comparison with all the big European powers over the same period. How many trophies were won by England, Italy or Spain between 1990-98? Answer: As many as Scotland. Denmark and France were the other European countries to lift the big prizes. Finally, consider this. Vogts led his country to two major finals inside six years. Only Brazil can make the same claim.

To conclude, yes we know we we have a shortage of natural talent but that's been the case for a number of years now. In particular we lack strikers and we aren't the most blessed nation on Earth when it comes to goalkeeping. Vogts , if he was unaware of our problems before, certainly won't be by the end of his first week. But the SFA have made a bold move and it deserves to pay off. Just as long as we don't go looking for miracles we will surely make progress under Vogts. Lastly, here's one to ponder: what sort of incentive must this be for Vogts to return to the Germany that has written him off as Scotland boss in the 2006 World Cup?

He may not be our Sven-Goran Eriksson but he could well be our Jack Charlton.


These are some of the most difficult words this writer has ever had to cast into cyberspace, suffering as he does from that congenital disorder of the football supporter; rabid, incomprehensible, paranoid loathing of local rivals

So, with teeth firmly gritted and hands trembling as they write, this diehard Kilmarnock fan declares:

" Congratulations to Ayr United on reaching their first major cup final and here's hoping you can make St Patrick's Day an even more unappetising date than usual for Rangers fans by winning the League Cup."

Phew, that took some doing. Usually, the non-old firm fan has no problems when it comes to this kind of game. We simply support the side that isn't Rangers/Celtic. But now I have an inkling of how it must have felt to have been a Dunfermline supporter when Raith Rovers recorded that famous League Cup victory over Celtic.

So why should local rivalry go by the board now? Well, for one thing, what does yet another Rangers League Cup win add to Scottish football? Absolutely nothing. A win for Ayr, as outlandish as it seems, would be a triumph for the underdog, it would gain valuable recognition for them as a club and for the Scottish Football League. It would also be the first time since the foundation of the SPL that a major trophy had been won by a team other than the old firm.

For most of Scottish football outwith Ibrox an Ayr victory is something to be desired but for many Kilmarnock supporters it is something to be feared. Taunts at the workplace, added to the fact that Killie have now lost to Ayr four times in a row in cup competitions will be hard to bear. The supporters will lose one of their songs : "Ayr United, Ayr United, one for Colin, never Will" (think about it).

But look at it from the point of view of the rest of Scotland. Ayr have been consistently successful against SPL sides in knockout tourneys in recent seasons. To get to this Final they have eliminated two of Scotland's European representatives (Kilmarnock and Hibernian), without conceding a goal even though both games went to extra time. They played against Killie for well over an hour with ten men. OK, their penalty against Hibs was as soft as one of Mr Softee's supersoft soft ices, but so what? As Franck Sauzee said, Hibs performance was so poor that they didn't deserve to win. Ayr did. And they deserve to on March 17th as well.

But before I get blackballed from Rugby Park for life, let me ask my fellow Killie fans this: Isn't it about time we cheered on the little team instead of regarding them as a threat? If this were an Ayrshire junior team in the Junior Cup Final, we'd want them to win. And, in a way, that's what it is. I mean, this is a team that BOASTS of having Sydney Devine and the Record's Bob Shields as fans - something most clubs would want to keep quiet about (incidentally, this game must represent a dilemma for Ayr "supporter" Shields whose column can normally be found singing the praises of David Murray.).

Things have reached a desperate state when some Kilmarnock fans have taken to writing "C'mon the Gers" on KFC websites. Get a grip guys. The Ayr mob are only doing what non-old firm fans have been saying supporters should do for decades "support your local team"

It's their first Final in 92 years and it'll probably be another 92 before they get the chance again. So let's not whinge on the sidelines, pretend we're temporary Huns, or even compare Ayr to England in the World Cup Final. Be generous. Give them your support. A little team like Ayr needs it. If it helps, be patronising towards them. Offer to find them someone to build a trophy room even - it won't be Bill Barr, he builds everywhere except Somerset Park. And remember, after the match, they will still be black-and-white shite.



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