August 2001


Rangers are told to play in a war zone before common sense intervenes. An overview of Euro results and prospects. A sharp reminder of where Scotland stands in the eyes of the rest of Europe. And a laugh at Kevin Keegan's expense (why not?).



It comes as a shock to realise just how little Scottish football is regarded beyond the Cheviots. Its not just the well-documented ignorance of our game in England. This writer has lived on the wrong side of Hadrian's Wall for nearly 30 years yet still gets surprised when the start of the Scottish season is ignored in the English press while vast acres of press coverage is given to the likes of American Football.

It's even more galling to find out how inconsequential we are considered on the continent. The German, French and Scottish seasons started on the same day and your correspondent happened to be in Spain at the time. Full results from the two big Leagues appeared on Spanish teletext straight away. The SPL not at all. The same was true of the sports text services of France, Germany and Italy. CNN eventually provided the Scottish results- some four hours after the final whistle!

Interestingly enough, all the above services had plenty of information on the English Premiership which was three weeks away from starting up.

Of course the best way for the Scottish game to get itself noticed internationally would be by excellent performances on the pitch both from our European entrants and the national side. In this regard Celtic's victory over Ajax in Amsterdam and their subsequent qualification for the Champions League is a welcome boost. It would appear that Celtic have a reasonable chance of making it to the second stage. But if they are to make it then home victories over Rosenborg and Porto are a must. They also need to take something from at least one of the away games and draw at home with Juventus. That would give them eight points and a fighting chance of going through.

Prospects for our other European entrants are mixed. Rangers should progress comfortably into the second round of the UEFA Cup providing they get over their elimination from the big one. The trip to Dagestan holds more fears than their opponents. Hibernian have a tough draw against AEK Athens. If they manage to avoid defeat away that would be a tremendous result. On the face of it Kilmarnock have a good chance to go through at the expense of Viking Stavanger. No Norwegian team has ever beaten a Scottish side in Europe (something Celtic will draw comfort from as well). But it should be remembered that it is Viking who are the seeded team here and they can hardly be dreading a trip to Scotland.


Remember, until Bohemians visited Aberdeen last season, no team from the Irish Republic had beaten a Scots side either. The bottom line is this though. Defeat against teams from Greece, Norway and/or a team from Russia no one had heard of before the draw was made, and it will be further confirmation of the miserable standing of Scotland in Europe.



Yeah sure, we've heard the jokes. The Foreign Office are advising British nationals not to travel to Dagestan. Great. If its only Brits then there's no problem for Rangers. And we've heard the one about it not being right to send a team into a city riven with tribal conflict and less than 100 miles from a province that's been almost at war for over 30 years. So the Russians are refusing to travel to Glasgow.

But jokes apart, David Murray is absolutely spot on in refusing to send his players to Dagestan. Hands up anyone who thinks UEFA would insist on Barcelona, Juventus or Man Utd going there. Thought so.

Resisting the temptation to ask Rangers supporters what it feels like to be one of the little guys at the mercy of powers beyond their control, we have to ask a simple question: who is best placed to issue advice on travel to this part of the world? The suits in Whitehall? Or the suits in Nyon?

Whitehall gets our vote. The Foreign Office doesn't issue 'don't travel' warnings lightly. If it isn't OK for a businessman or a backpacker then it isn't OK for Rangers or any other team for that matter. Or,come to think of it, the match officials.

Why don't UEFA send a couple of their executive committee members on a 'fact-finding' visit if its so safe? They're quick enough to close a ground or force a team to play behind closed doors if there's any trouble inside a stadium, so why can't they see sense here? If it isn't possible to guarantee the safety of a visiting side then the match should be played at another venue. Failing that, UEFA should not allow teams from war zones to take part in its competitions.

And the SFA need to show more balls too. It just isn't good enough to meekly accept this crazy decision. If the numpties of Nyon insist on this tie being played and Rangers are fined or expelled for refusing to risk their players lives, then the SFA should organise support from other national associations to force these clowns from office.

Could the SFA organise that sort of coup? Well, remember, if Rangers are expelled then someone else will have to go to Dagestan in the next round. And no country fancies that right now. Of course if one of the big guns is drawn to play there this website predicts here and now that the game will be played at a neutral venue and UEFA will cite a "deteriorating situation" as their excuse.


Martin O'Neill and Dick Advocaat are both guilty of sanctimonious humbug. O'Neill complains about Juventus getting a last minute penalty in their Champions League match in Turin. Perhaps he now appreciates how thousands of non-Old Firm fans feel having seen dodgy decisions go the way of the Big Two for generations.

O'Neill's Celtic currently have the lowest bookings count of any side in the SPL. Is this because they are the cleanest side? Certainly not, as anyone who has witnessed John Hartson in action can testify. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that 60,000 punters are screaming at referees and their assistants week in week out.

When the same thing happens abroad, O'Neill shouldn't be too mystified. Unsurprisingly, he has nothing to say about the penalty awarded to Celtic five minutes before Juve's. Nor does he complain when domestic whistlers see things his way.

Advocaat is now complaining because Rangers have to play a one-off UEFA Cup tie in Warsaw. Why? Rangers fought long, hard, and (in this website's view) correctly to avoid having to play in Dagestan. Even to the extent of threatening to withdraw from the competition altogether. So why whinge now?

The follicly-challenged one says the game should be over two legs. But UEFA, having belatedly taken the right decision concerning travel to Makhachkala, have to think about both teams. If a 'neutral' venue could have been found for the first leg that wasn't too far from the trouble-torn region, then Advocaat would have been right.

As it is he is demonstrating that streak of arrogance for which he is renowned (and which might ultimately prove to be his undoing). Warsaw is a fair venue. Neither team will derive any advantage from the tie being played there. And it would be silly to play two matches there. The whole object of two-legged ties is to give each team a fair go. Otherwise European competitions would be drawn on the same basis as domestic cups. First out of the hat plays at home.

Given that Advocaat found the idea of playing in Makhachkala objectionable, where does he propose the two legs be played? Both at Ibrox perhaps?


The Guardian produces a 28-page tabloid sports section every Saturday. Yet it devotes absolutely no space whatsoever to Scottish football other than the fixture list. Just one of the reasons why this website has binned their free live feed in favour of Total Football’s.



Believe it or not, the former bubble-permed bampot has taken to the world of technology. The Help Desk Institute (no I didn't know either) held its 14th annual conference in London's Hilton Hotel and not-so-special K was guest speaker at a seminar on motivational skills.

According to the PR fluff, Keegan's talk was on "how to apply the motivational techniques and team-building skills he used as England manager to the world of business."

So, at best it's ten minutes of Dire Straits while waiting for an answer from the friendly help desk people, and at worst it's global recession.




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