Play the Gemm-ill?
By Jim Hamill
Embedded amongst the, by and large, morbid post mortems,
in the press, following the exposure of the national team's frailties
in Paris, was a minor and somewhat incidental piece which
failed to provoke any of the righteous indignation that it presumably
hoped to secure. This was the news that Scot Gemmill is thinking
about retiring from the international scene because he has not been
allowed to play for Scotland as often as he thinks he should have.
Simultaneously, Rab Douglas is supposed to have had a shouting
match with Berti Vogts about his non-selection
In Gemmill's case the gesture is about as empty as ITV Digital's
bank account and is an exercise in self-deception not witnessed
since an unnamed emperor of lore cavorted about in the buff, to
the amusement of all concerned.
His argument goes that he bided his time when Collins and
McAllister occupied the midfield berth in the team, only
to find that the likes of Lambert, Cameron, and now Ferguson
and Matteo have jumped ahead of him in the pecking order.
Apparently his father has been standing in the wings abetting this
display of pique.
OK maybe it is not unusual for players to decide to announce their
international retirement. Witness Collins or Shearer, but a Collins
or a Shearer, he is not. He is not even a Gemmill, if comparison
were permitted to be drawn with his father.
Somewhere here, and in the case of Douglas, a notion seems to have
crept in that selection of the national team should be done on a
democratic rather than meritocratic or even autocratic (i.e.
on the managers say so) basis.
Given this situation, it is hard to see what Gemmills gripe
is. I suspect that most people would think that the players he cites
are better than him. While Cameron may have other qualities, the
rest have all played at a higher level, on the European stage. This
compares more favourably with Gemmills journey from struggling
in a struggling Nottingham Forest side to struggling in a
struggling Everton side. So who would really notice if he
decided he was not available for selection.
There is a West of Scotland condition identified by either Hugh
or Willie McIlvanney known as "I kent his faither"
syndrome. This is characterised by a cynical disregard for the abilities,
or denial of talent, of anyone to emerge from the midst of your
community; "I kent his faither so he cannae be that guid"
In a perverse reversal of this logic, Gemmill seems to have gained
from the maxim "his faither was guid, so he must be handy
I wonder if his son will be any good.
The great moment has arrived the SPL
has split into two groups for the final five games of the season
and the occasion was marked by tense, nail-biting climaxes at
games all over the country. Actually there was a bit of interest
at East End Park but everywhere else the top six/bottom
six split was met with one almighty yawn to no-ones
Just what is the point of this split? Lets look at what
the remainder of the season has in store for the two respective
halves of the SPL: In the top half, we wait with somewhat less
than bated breath to see if Celtic, having won 29 of
the 33 games played thus far can manage to win one more time
in five fixtures to claim the title. Elsewhere, you will get
generous odds against either Hearts or Dunfermline
being able to dislodge Aberdeen and Livingston
from the UEFA Cup slots. In the bottom half, St Johnstone
with five wins all season need to win all five
remaining and hope that either Motherwell or Hibs
lose all theirs to avoid the drop. Ludicrous doesnt begin
to sum it up. The season is over, just when it was supposed
to be reaching its climax.
Contrast this with the English premiership. There, at least
three clubs still harbour genuine championship ambitions. At
the bottom things are so tight that Middlesbrough can
travel to Old Trafford, knowing that likely defeat will
leave them three points from relegation. Instead, they win and
are catapulted into the top half of the table!
Its the same all over Europe. In Italy, Spain and
Germany for instance, both title and relegation contests
are certainties to go down to the wire. In Scotland, it was
all done and dusted last autumn.
So, I repeat, what is the point of the split? Some teams will
play 18 home games and 20 away. Others the reverse. Some will
have faced easier opposition three times at home, others more
difficult foes three times away. Hardly fair, and reminiscent
of the bad old days when teams in the lower divisions met three
times a season. And while there is still a remote form of contest
going on between clubs placed 3rd6th, what incentives
are there in the bottom six, with the spectre of relegation
absent. No one is going to get enthused over the fight for 11th
between Motherwell and Hibs.
The fact is our clubs have shown no courage. If they really
wanted to add some spice to the split then it would have taken
place after 22 games when each club had met the others twice.
That would leave a further ten games in both sections. The split
would come into play at the beginning of the year when there
was still something to play for and every team in both sections
would play the same opponents an equal number of times at home
Of course that would reduce revenue from Old Firm fixtures
even further for those clubs that missed out on the top six.
So instead we get this craven cut-off with five games to play.
Scottish football has never been able to get the balance right
perhaps it never will. But that doesnt mean that
we have to put up with one the stupidest ideas ever to be inflicted
on the game. The answer, as far as the split is concerned, is
simple. Do it properly at the half-way stage
or not at all.
Perhaps the whole exercise can be best summed
up by the two hayseeds from The Fast Show:
Wot you think bout that there SPL split then?
Sall a load of old bollocks.
Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale
has reacted strongly to complaints by Leicester about racist
elements following the Yorkshire club and has said he is determined
to eradicate such behaviour from Elland Road. He wants help
in identifying the culprits. This website supports Mr
Ridsdale 100% in his efforts to rid the game of this evil. As
proof of our backing we offer him this photo: