November 2001


Rangers and Celtic face difficult tasks in Europe. ITV insult Scots by refusing to show Celtic v Juventus in the rest of the UK. Minnows shame Scotland by reaching the World Cup finals.



Poor Fernando Ricksen. The Rangers player was sent off against Paris Saint-Germain in the UEFA Cup for motoring offences. Motoring offences? Well, according to BBC Teletext, Ricksen was given his marching orders for receiving "two yellow cars." Listen up Fernando, it's bad enough being named after a dodgy Abba song, without having garishly-coloured personal transport. We have no sympathy for you here. Change the cars. Or buy a rickshaw.

And on the topic of Europe, what hope for the Old Firm? Precious little we fear. On the face of it, both Rangers and Celtic have a fighting chance of making the next round. In reality it could all end in tears.

The Ibrox side are level 0-0 going into the Paris return. The same situation as when they went to Turkey earlier in the season and were beaten 2-1 by Fenerbache. Rangers simply have to score in Paris. A 1-1 draw would see them qualify on away goals. It's a tall order, unlikely but not impossible.

Celtic have 'only' a 1-0 deficit to overturn against Valencia in Glasgow. In the past two seasons Valencia have travelled to Haifa, Munich, Eindhoven, Bordeaux, Heerenveen, Lyons, Athens, Graz, Old Trafford, Elland Road and Ibrox and either drawn or won. True, they have lost away games in the same period - against Fiorentina, Man Utd, Lazio, Barcelona, Olympiakos and Arsenal. But these were either group matches or ties the Spaniards won over two legs.

The last time Valencia lost a two leg tie was as far back as November 1998 when Liverpool beat them on away goals in the UEFA Cup.

For either or both of the Old Firm to triumph would be a major achievement. Sadly, the omens are not good



Hard luck Celtic. A stirring 4-3 win over Juventus wasn't enough to take them into the second stage of the Champions League. Their failure to register a single point away from home cost them dearly, as this website warned before a ball was kicked.

But the seven-goal thriller at Parkhead was seen by only a minority of TV viewers in the UK. Faced with a choice between the Celtic game, with everything still to play for, and Man Utd's match in Lille, ITV bosses stuck with the English team for live coverage. So the only viewers outside Scotland who got the Celtic match live were those (extremely) few people who subscribe to the ITV Sport channel.

The fact that Man Utd rested no fewer than NINE first team regulars demonstrates clearly what level of priority they put on the Lille game. Yet this game of little importance was picked ahead of the titanic tussle in Glasgow. A clear insult to Scottish supporters and a rank bad judgment. To make it even worse, the ITV Sport channel was made available for free to all ITV digital subscribers for five days. Oddly enough these five days covered Liverpool's match against Borussia Dortmund the night before the Celtic game but ended before the Parkhead match went on air. As Jim Royle might say: "coincidence, my arse"

This was also a bad piece of business as surely ITV would have picked up some subscribers had they been able to watch the goal feast in Glasgow. By the way, given the ubiquity of the man on their sports programmes does ITV stand for Its Terry Venables?

Congratulations are due to Rangers for a fine win over Moscow Dynamo in the UEFA Cup. Now comes the tricky part. Both the Old Firm are now in the third round of the UEFA Cup and this is the stage where Rangers have lost out in the past two seasons. So for either of the pair to progress further would bring a badly needed boost to the Scottish game. Before Rangers start to crow too much about the result in Moscow perhaps they should remember their defeat by Fenerbache which cost them a Champions League place. The Turkish side's record in the Champions League read: P6 W0 D0 L6. What was that Dick Advocaat was saying about how good a team they were? And as for Arthur Numan's comments about the Gers being capable of beating anybody "on the day" it raises the question of which day he had in mind? Septober 1st? March 32nd? Let's be charitable and assume the Dutchman meant February 29th.


Slovenia and the Republic of Ireland are both going to the World Cup Finals next year. Scotland aren't. Maybe someone (preferably Craig 'Statto' Brown) can explain why these two countries have been so successful. Neither of them has a full-time professional League on a par with the Scottish First Division let alone the pampered stars of the SPL. Neither of them can boast any kind of track record from their teams in Europe. And in neither of them does football have the automatic No.1 sport status it has in Scotland.

Yet they're there. We're not. And it can't be down to poor opposition either. Ireland eliminated Holland to get to the play-offs and were unbeaten against Portugal. Slovenia ousted Yugoslavia, then the highly-rated Romania. Anyone fancy Scotland's chances against any of that lot? Thought not. Still, the next time someone says that countries the size of Scotland shouldn't expect to get to the World Cup Finals, the Slovenes and the Irish join the more obviously talented Danes as the perfect riposte.



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