Tag Archive | "scottish football"


Scottish Football: Introducing The Bloggers’ Manifesto

Posted on 07 April 2010 by JamesHamilton

It’s hard for an incomer to get used to, but Scotland is just the most extraordinary and spectacular country.  One of my favourite drives is the drop down off the M9 into Perth. If you’re passing through the city, you’ll negotiate a series of roundabouts on the city’s edge, and you’ll see signposts pointing, temptingly, to something called “The Stadium.” They make it sound like the Nou Camp, but the signs actually refer to the home of St Johnstone F.C. , McDiarmid Park, and they commemorate a superb gesture by a local farmer, Bruce McDiarmid. Bruce gave St Johnstone £400,000 worth of his land for a new ground “as a gift to the city” when Asda bought up the old ground. He’s not one for the spotlight, and had to be strong-armed into accepting any kind of recognition for his generosity.

The story of McDiarmid and St Johnstone is just one reason why any manifesto for the future of Scottish football must tread carefully. McDiarmid Park is not the only patch of football soil here hallowed by love, locality and belonging. Forget local franchising or careless tinkering with clubs. The people in the stands and behind the scenes aren’t there for the glory but for other, deeper things.

More Than Mind Games is getting together with Left Back In The Changing Room and The Scottish Football Blog and others to produce our own McLeish Report – in the continuing absence of the real thing – and we think there are ways to move forward without committing ambitious, short-term vandalism.

But there has been ambitious, short-term vandalism. The worst of it happened a long time ago. Key weaknesses in Scottish football have their roots in the determination of the Home Nations to each have their own football association. Nineteenth century decisions have left the UK with one proper association and three corner shops. But merger is about as off the table as an idea can get. In this instance, we have to use what we have. Fletcher, Gordon and Bellamy will never see a World Cup, just as Giggs and Hughes didn’t, all so something something something could be preserved and protected, the same nameless and unidentified piece of memorabilia that was deployed to keep Scottish players out of a UK Olympic team.

So we have to achieve what we want to achieve with what we have. That calls for clean lines and specific goals. These can be hard to come by in a game as ruled by fluke and slapstick as is football..

So what are the goals? Many Scots would settle for a return to the late ’60s and early ’70s, where a sustained period of extraordinary club success led, eventually, to the unbeaten Scotland team of World Cup ’74 and a competitive draw with champions Brazil.

But that was then, and Scotland has a population of 5 million, the same as New Zealand. Too many other, newer footballing countries have organized themselves at a time when Scottish kids have, bit by bit, chosen against football for other things. We can’t have it all anymore: we have to choose.

The current blip aside, Scotland’s clubs have a good recent record in Europe – two Old Firm UEFA finals – and European club competition success might be the goal to go for. It would be important that this not be an Old Firm goal alone – and of course, the Old Firm already do prize European success. But excluding half of the country’s biggest city, to say nothing of Old Firm supporters elsewhere, from a share in success, is not acceptable.

If European club success is the goal we choose, then the steps we take are clear. Improve the skill level of young Scottish players – of which much more anon: this is always key, whichever goal you choose. Plug Scottish clubs into the European club culture via a cup competition or a merger of leagues – ideally the leagues of e.g. Holland and Belgium. Build the domestic league and cup programme around European nights to give teams time to prepare.

Then again, the Scottish national side have been closer to qualification for World Cups and European Championships than the national humiliation myth is prepared to accept. If it hadn’t been for the Flower of Scotland bullshit at Hampden against Italy, if there had been just one more goal against Norway – this says, to me, that the gap is narrow and can be crossed if the decision is clearly taken to do so. And by “making the decision” I mean, for instance, providing international contracts of the cricketing kind for non-Premiership Scottish internationals, I mean a sustained effort to persuade Scottish-qualified players to pull on the blue jersey, I mean giving Craig Levein a decade should he want it and I mean setting time goals: a play-off in 2 years, qualification in 4 years, a tournament second round in 6.

Any plan, of course, depends on Scotland producing a glut of good young players. This, ultimately, is the most important goal – the others can’t go on without it. Fortunately, although Scotland’s supply line has suffered recently, there are cheap ways in which it can be quickly revived. Revive Trevor Brooking’s late 1970s Daily Mail “learn skills in your back yard” comic strip, which needed only a wall and a tennis ball and time. Get futsal in every school in Scotland, give it a Scottish name and get a major, national, televised competition going, on STV or BBC Scotland, with winners commemorated at Hampden and given praise and coverage. Get Simon Clifford on board and give him a free hand in training players up to the age of 18.  Set up a major, national, televised skills competition and have skills as a non-contact sport for boys and girls who might not ordinarily enjoy competitive sport. What about Rob Marrs’ suggestion of a Scottish Football Centre of Excellence?

But what about the thousands of volunteers who have for years given up weekends and evenings unpaid to keep Scotland’s youth football going? Won’t they feel devalued, or sidelined?

The volunteers have been neglected for years. It’s getting better, and the SFA deserve praise for that. Nevertheless, many volunteers would join in a change of direction with pleasure were they given the proper facilities to do the job properly.

So I would call for the mass production of all-weather facilities to help those volunteers. Glasgow has shown the way forward here, with Toryglen in particular. Team up with other sports, and aim to have, within ten years, more all-weather facilities for football per under-18 head than any other country in the world. Put them where people are, in densely populated areas, and where this is not possible, close streets to traffic and actively encourage children to play there (windows don’t break like they used to..) with proper surfaces, ground markings and maintenance.

Lastly, if we can’t go European, there are changes we can make to the Scottish league structure that will help. It is mad, really, that Celtic and Rangers haven’t left for the Premiership – mad that they weren’t invited in at the inception. But the examples of Portugal and Holland show that having two effectively Barclays Premiership clubs playing alongside a set of Blue Square Premiership clubs doesn’t have to result in bad football overall. In recent memory, Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen and Dundee United have all made the same point in their different ways too. Is it time to recognise the various “little leagues” that exist in the Scottish Premier below Rangers and Celtic? Why not institute a trophy for 3rd, and another for, say, 6th? Rob Marrs has wondered about merging the English and Scottish league cups, or about cutting down the number of league matches played to help smaller clubs sustain a title chase.

What do you think? We’re keen to get as many interested writers and bloggers on board as we can – with the goal in the near future of coming up with a joint document which will be splashed in the hope of influencing the course of events in a real way.

Please add your thoughts, suggestions, criticisms, ideas etc. in comments and I’ll promote them in subsequent posts. We have a real chance of being heard here, so let’s use it and help start Scotland on the road to being the best football power of its size in the world and on the road to giving its young people all the fun, enjoyment and benefits of taking part in the world’s game.

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How Much Can Football Books Tell Us?

Posted on 01 March 2010 by JamesHamilton

Noticing the lack of decent writing about the post-devolution Scottish experience, Gerry Hassan turns his attention to the superior insights available in – of all places – recent books about Scottish football:

On the issue of football’s importance in Scotland, recently I wrote about the lack of defining books about modern Scotland post-devolution. I know that some of my non-football loving friends are not going to thank me for this train of thought, but it seems the nearest we have come – more than in any other area – is in the serious football book.

In particular, Archie Macpherson’s ‘Flower of Scotland? A Scottish Football Odyssey’ and his ‘Jock Stein’ biography are magnum opuses about the journey of modern Scotland. They are not just football books, about what happened in this or that game. Instead, they tell passionately the accounts of men involved in football, the players, managers, owners and coaches, as well as the fans, the dreams of the often grim, working class communities the Jock Steins, Alex Fergusons and Jim McLeans came from, and how football was both a kind of glue and form of escapism.

Macpherson’s two books are beautifully written and, for anyone with a passing interest in Scottish society, paint a vivid picture of the heroes, villains and flawed figures who made up the game. People like Willie Waddell, the Rangers manager who endured the tragedy of the Ibrox disaster in 1971 when 66 people died, keeping his composure, as all around lost theirs. He won the European Cup Winners Cup for the ‘Gers the next year, but was a man ultimately destroyed by his alcoholism.

Anyone who has spent time with the best football writing will know instinctively that this is correct: that football can provide a new slant and a fresh perspective. This is as true of recent Scottish political and cultural life as it is of the Victorian and Edwardian history that I’ve been writing about here. Football is both unthreatening and familiar. We don’t expect it to shed any light, so when it does, it does it with superlative force. The clicheed history of Victorian and Edwardian football – its whiggish progression from “toffs” (boo!) to professionalism (seen as the triumph of the working man: hurrah!) – is set in concrete, but so staggeringly wrong and misconceived that any attempt to correct it immediately illuminates the society around it in new and creative ways.

Gerry’s review of the Scottish football writing scene is far more thorough than I am capable of, although I’d second his recommendation of Hugh McIlvanney’s collected articles, and raise a plea in mitigation for Harry Reid’s The Final Whistle which Gerry thinks less of than I do. I’ll certainly be following up some of his list, especially Bob Crampsey’s biography of Jock Stein (Stein is a central football figure, but also an essential part of any full understanding of the way the UK lost its footing in the years after the Oil Shock of 1973).

This excellent list of Gerry’s doesn’t set out to hide the obvious point, that there is always going to be a degree of luck involved when a football book manages to enlighten its readers about anything beyond the game. How far can that go? and what do we want from football books, anyway?

Because surely no one goes to football to find something to read. Not at first, anyway. Cricket is a different matter – all that time spent waiting to pad up needs to be filled with something, and you’ll want more than just Irish whiskey and cigarettes… I went to football to play, first and foremost. But you can’t play forever. Then I went to watch – but you can’t always get tickets, and you can’t always get to a pub with a big screen. Only after all that’s done with are there books.

Which is why football books have such short lives. Fever Pitch aside, I can’t think of a single title that has been able to sustain multiple reprints. In cricket, C.L.R. James goes on forever, and so will Gideon Haigh. Hugh McIlvanney is a match for either of them, but just you try finding a copy. I bought mine in a remainders shop on the Charing Cross Road for £1.

Long games have the better chance of generating literature. So cricket, baseball and golf are understood to be worth the author’s attention and to be capable of providing wider social and political commentary and metaphor. The game of football itself – the playing side of it – almost never is.

The best football books, as Gerry’s review demonstrates, are mostly about what goes on around and off the pitch. All of the interest is in the characters of those involved, in the geography and nature of their upbringing, in the changes they experience, and in the aftermath of their fame and triumph.

Even in Fever Pitch, which describes match action about as well as prose writing is capable, actual play matters more in what it means to the fan than in what it is in itself. A cover drive (lovely phrase) is enough on its own. Jim Baxter playing keepie uppie is meaningless without centuries of context, and even then only to those of a certain frame of mind.

The longer ago a particular game gets, the less important gameplay becomes: almost no one watches Mitchell and Kenyon’s Edwardian matches for the same reason they click on the “Video” tab at 101 Great Goals.

When you try to look at the match action on its own, and draw out meaning from that instead of just pleasure, you enter the realm of the strange and bizarre. Take this, for example:

..the symbolism of football is that much more pronounced, starting with the very mechanics of the sport: the aim of the game is to shoot, thrust or shove something small and white into an opening. It doesn’t take the genius of Sigmund Freud to work out what’s simulated here. Derek Hammond takes a similar view. The origins of football go back to ancient fertility rituals, the historian argues in (David) Winner’s book. ‘These are pre-Christian rituals which only survived because they were in places everyone forgot about. They were probably part of the original heathen, naturalistic British religions which were about the earth and the sun, and killing and fucking.’ (From Englischer Fussball: A German’s View of Our Beautiful Game by Raphael Honigstein).

Or this, from the same source:

By contrast, the highbrow, left-leaning German broadsheet taz appreciated goal-keeping legend Oliver Kahn as ‘an aesthete of the anal’ whose one and only concern was to make sure that ‘nothing came in at the back’. Taking their cue from Schümer, taz realised that Kahn never enjoyed ‘the striker’s orgasmic joy at scoring’ – because he knew he was the one getting shafted. ‘I’m the arse,’ Kahn once said about conceding a goal: ‘a feeling of loneliness grabs hold of me’. Who but a certified maniac would want to engage in such an existentialist fight against the odds?

Obviously there’s the chance here, if you want it, to laugh at over-the-top, misdirected sociological and sexual theorising.

But it’s the attitude that most offends me: these stupid, repressed footballers, so far below our own impeccable levels of enlightenment.. added to (brief digression follows) the shockingly stupid missing of the real sexual point of football. It’s not simulating sex at an unconscious level – it’s simulating battle at a very conscious level, and one of the principle points of that battle is to impress women (YMMV, obviously), or to feel entitled to impress women by working our way up the on-pitch pecking order.

I’ve felt that: haven’t you? The need to run harder, tackle more determinedly, go in where the boots are flying to impress a girl who might not have been at pitch-side but who you were always aware of in your head, metaphorically looking on?

Football has never been unsensual or sexless. But it’s a case of everything in the right order. And a certain kind of sociological writing about football gets that wrong because it itself is consumed by an (unconscious/subliminal) desire to laugh at the lower class ruffians, presumably as an alternative to fearing them or envying their (compared to some academics) success with girls. So reads its alternately tinny and nasal, superior tone.

I don’t think there’s anything to learn here, either, about the origins of, and how to end, the current homophobia in football. Whatever that’s about, it’s not sacred symbolism, Freud or Oliver bloody Kahn.

And not all Victorians thought masturbation sent you mad, certainly not all doctors or schoolmasters or clergymen. Furthermore, ways of diverting young men from sex matter more in a world without modern condoms or any means of treating STDs that were, in the nineteenth century, more prevalent and more virulent than they are now. Something to consider, when mocking the likes of Victorian headmasters, reformers and sportsmen from a luckier age that has the benefit of latex and penicillin.

Bad attitudes aside, there is another thing to learn from this kind of tortured nonsense. It’s that football is only so granular: it only breaks down so far. Football can only explain so much.

The kind of focal length we’re accustomed to using in biography or in narrative history works well with football and yields a clear, useful  picture. Change the lens, and sense breaks down.

Football can show you something of Scotland. It can show you something of history and society. But it resists being cracked open itself like some great sociological Kinder egg. If what you want from football is evidence of someone else’s false consciousness and repression, football is just as likely to hand you evidence of your own.

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The Scottish and Scottish Football

Posted on 24 January 2010 by JamesHamilton

Gerry Hassan has expanded, generously to say the least, on my earlier post about the place of the Scottish national team in the minds of Scots. I’m going to begin my response by considering some of Gerry’s points. But his fasinating post has attracted exactly the kind of in-depth, thoughtful, informed comments that I’ve found more common in discussions of Scottish football by Scots than in equivalent discussions of English football by the English. That isn’t an anti-English comment – both countries suffer by comparison with the Netherlands – but I’m not sure how aware Scotland is of the presence within its borders of various manifestations of quality to do with the national sport and feel this particular manifestation is worth pointing out.


Gerry says of anti-Englishness:

One of the worrying trends is that you can see such a phenomenon across society: in the support for anyone playing the English at football, in the slow rise of a bigoted anti-Englishness, and related to it a kind of romantic, sentimental national feeling (I wouldn’t credit it with the intelligence of a nationalism) which mixes ‘Braveheart’ with ‘Whiskey Galore’.

I’ve not been in Scotland long enough to comment on longer-term trends. But I have had experience of anti-Englishness in Scotland: the experience of not experiencing it. “Hating the English” is one of those things that a small subsection of society get up to, and because (a) they themselves believe it and (b) they think themselves the salt of the earth, they think everyone feels the same way. Everyone who’s really Scottish, of course. Most Scots don’t seem to agree, and regard hatred of the English as (1) insulting to their English friends, girlfriends, wives, relatives (2) racist (3) dim.

It’s weather talk, code, not real. I’ve been warned several times about certain people that they’ll hate me because of my origins (I don’t consider myself English – I’m a Londoner, and other Londoners will catch something of what I mean even if they don’t feel that way themselves). Every time, without exception, the person to whom these dark mutterings referred turned out to be more inclined to open a second or third bottle with me and talk the sun back into the sky. I’ve come to read “I hate the English” as “I love Scotland, and I’m proud of it, for all its faults and shortcomings: I want to be warp and woof of this place of places.” Every time I drive up the A9 into Perthshire and beyond – every time a stranger takes me into conversation on some Glasgow suburban station – every time I smell the breweries on the Edinburgh air – so do I, but then I feel Gloucester Road calling me and pull away from the thought.

Football as an anchor point

Gerry has a three-point strategy intended to place football in a healthier place in Scottish culture:

First, to put football in its proper context in an age which we are constantly told by IT gurus and new economy geeks is constantly filled with choice and diversity, and yet which in many respects has become narrower and more conformist. Is football used by (mostly) men as an anchor point in a culture of chaos and confusion, and why do we not want to talk about that?

I can think of one important way in which the age has become narrower and more conformist, namely the prohibition of recreational drugs in the late 1960s. And one unimportant way: the rise of management-speak (although I think all that’s done is replace earlier forms of the same thing). I’m not sure, either, that we’re being told that the age is filled with choice and diversity: some commentators would like more, and others see diversity as a general good that gives breathing space to immigrants, ethnic minorities and social minorities (and that’s my view too). But Gerry’s core point is the use by men of football as an anchor point and maladaptive displacement activity, and here I have to plead guilty.

I don’t agree that we live in a culture of chaos and confusion – compared with the 1870s, or 1919-23, or 1946-50, or 1979-81, the UK is a laughing paradise. And compared with the period of industrialization and urbanization of the nineteenth century, life has been stable and unchanging to an unprecedented degree since World War Two. Compared to the lives my grandparents lived, my 40-odd years have dodged every imaginable bullet. So what about the use of football as an anchor point?

The bullets I didn’t dodge – parental breakups plural, having my skull fractured in a mugging outside my house, unemployment, business failure etc. – have left me at times, yes, taking comfort in something stable and ongoing and distracting. After my mugging, I determined not to let my attackers or the experience beat me, just as I’d refused them my wallet until I realised my injuries were becoming serious. I kept my same haunts, my same walk home. It was about as frightening as I could endure, but for the first week or so I managed. Then I met the same gang again, and they, recognising me, gave chase. I ran into a nearby shop, and, as I was no longer alone, they left me there. The shopkeeper had a television on behind his counter, and there was a match on. Memory says it was Leeds v Rangers in the European Cup. Memory also says that I watched it with the shopkeeper, and found that bit by bit the sheer ordinariness of it all and the shared company helped me pull myself together enough to get home. I moved away shortly afterwards.

Likewise, during the early credit crunch when the business I’d spent a decade building began its rapid break-up, I don’t think I missed a single Match of the Day, and my 3-DVD set of old MOTD editions – an at-hand reminder of earlier, relatively safer days – saw heavy use. “Look at his face!.. Just look at his face!…” that would be Franny Lee’s, and, next morning, my own, longer, dead-eyed one in the shaving mirror.

I’d regard the use of football as a comfort and distraction from problems as an entirely positive thing. The fact is, it only lasts a short while. In hard times, the information comes at night, as Martin Amis says, and I’ve known it turn up during daylight hours too,to check if you’re busy. That’s why I don’t believe that men are using football talk to dodge realities (I’m reading Gerry’s point as meaning “political realities”) and why I don’t believe men are talking about football instead of what they ought to be talking about. I agree that awareness and consciousness trump their opposites, but I don’t get to define those terms for other people, and in troubled times, you are all too aware, aware of things that are all too close, for any sustained conceptual analysis or bigger picture.

As fans of Simon Kuper know, in unfree political societies, football talk elides into political code and political representation naturally and automatically. The flipside is also true: where free political discussion, campaigning and voting are available, politics and football separate off, unless they are kept together by sectarianism on the one hand or by political self-consciousness (nostalgia for crowds of cloth caps being run together with Liverpudlian socialism, for instance, or the Guardian’s ethical World Cup).

Which leads me to want men to keep the football talk: if the UK really does abandon the free political culture of the later twentieth century – and I think the illiberal urge is at its zenith now, about to go out of fashion and into decline – then they’ll need it. It’ll cover a multitude of tiny, hard-won illicit freedoms, as it did in Nazi Austria and the post-War Communist bloc and as it does today in China.

Know Your History

Gerry’s second point:

Secondly, the Scots need to address some serious issues about their culture and society. Knowing a bit more history: both real and on the football field would be a good start.

Yes, absolutely. Scottish history is avowedly not a story of innocent kite-flyers repeatedly, pointlessly, intruded upon by rosbifs; Scotland is not under occupation nor has it been oppressed. I refer the reader to Alex Massie’s recent exchange with his readers over the issue of the Council Tax – it ends with his nationalist opponent resorting to the surreal claim that St Andrews isn’t really part of Scotland. Whether or not you support independence, it’s hard not to admire the efforts of the bulk of the SNP to create a vision of the country’s future that is open, forward-looking – a vision antagonistic to the paranoia and parochialism of the kind of nationalism that shapes  the Glasgow omnibus version of even recent Scottish history.

I agree with Gerry that there are, if you want them, credible ways of addressing Scottish history that nourish rather than tear down, encourage rather than depress, unite rather than divide: the story of the national football team is one of those. (I think I can speak for both Gerry and myself in deploring, ultimately, the idea that the discipline of history has to be “for” anything, let alone this). I’m old enough, for example, to remember the excitement around the 1978 Scotland team of Dalglish and co. – excitement, that is, in the Home Counties of England, and to remember the sheer force and pleasure of the reflected glory felt in England as Scotland beat the team of the tournament with the goal of the tournament. Humiliated? Who was humiliated? England wasn’t even there: they hadn’t come close to qualifying.

What to do about the Old Firm?

Gerry’s third point:

Finally, it would be great to do something about our football, the sad awfulness that is the Scottish Premier League and the nature of ‘the Old Firm’. Maybe getting them to commit to the Scots domestic game for the next ten years and engage in a root and branch transformation, which would involve Celtic and Rangers seeing their successes as interlinked with the success of Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen and Dundee United.

I waver over the “Old Firm.” As a small boy who didn’t know anything about a row between any Catholics and Protestants, I started supporting Celtic because I liked their name, and was delighted, once I could read properly, to find out that they’d once won the European Cup and were actually quite good. Lucky, happy accidents: I picked up my English team by turning on the FA Cup Final by mistake in 1976 and, being a good little Brit, cheering on the losing team..

Holland has the same “problem”, for instance, of domination by a pair of big clubs, yet still produces stunning footballers. My favourite foreign team of recent years is Ajax 1995. And, given enough determination, other Scottish clubs can compete: Hibs are coming up fast on the Old Firm, and not as a one-off one-season blue streak. Hibs have worked hard to build infrastructure, and have a period ahead of them now when Celtic and Rangers will be hobbled financially. There’ll be at least one league title at Easter Road to show for it.

Root-and-branch transformation might well happen, too: the blogs are shouting for it, the former First Minister is putting a plan together for it, the new Scottish manager wants to be involved in it, there are no illusions in the media about skimping on it, and there are men and women – especially in Ayr and in the unsung Highlands – who aren’t waiting for anyone else and are getting on with it themselves. In Edinburgh, there isn’t just the new Hibs training complex: there’s also Spartans, one of the most inspiring non-league clubs in the UK.

I’m pessimistic, for now, about the national side. As I said in my initial post, I think the job is beyond the reach of anyone at the moment. Football, I think, is where the English go to be stupid: where a literate and intelligent country lets its hair down. Sir Trevor Brooking is a lonely figure down there sometimes. The Scottish value intelligence and its expression as a positive thing  – just read the comments on Gary’s post – and are able and willing to put proper minds to work on the national game. That won’t, however, stop the mass media going all Greater Serbia over the national team, but, then, perhaps those reporters don’t, in the end, know anything about the game.

Sportscene is filmed on a depressing, recession-blue set inside what appears to be an abandoned refrigerated warehouse. The presenters wear the expressions of doomed men. To the right of the screen flicker latest scores from little clubs playing in cold places at the end of single-carriageway trunk roads. Two retired players with earthworm complexions discuss Motherwell and Falkirk. What they have to say is articulate, intelligent and interesting. But in context, it feels like something is coming to an end here.

I do think something is coming to an end. It goes for the whole of Britain that, when the last of the comfortable predictions has died out and all is dark and wet and frightened quiet, good things are beginning. So it is, I think, for Scottish football. It’ll take many years for it to reach the national side, for reasons I’ve discussed before. But the worst is over, before we know it or are aware of it. It feels like 1980 in Scottish football: all unemployment queues, dodgy auction surplus shops in the High Street and no one to vote for. There are people in the jungles of Scotland who fight on unaware that that early ’80s recession has been over for thirty years. The football one’s over too, for all that it doesn’t yet show. When it does, it’ll become clear that the Scots pulled themselves out of it, on their own and on their own resources, and it’ll be a point of pride in the end. But even in my own, sunny version of Scottish football history, it’s been a low and bitter period for all kinds of reasons.

Getting back to the good days is like leaving a capital city by train. You do it through tunnels, and each time you think you’re out and free and can stop swallowing to unpop your ears, you’re back in the dark again. By the time you hit the suburbs, you’ve lapsed into a sullen acceptance of bad artificial light and your fatty, middle-aged reflection in the window and the filthy wire-strewn brick beyond it. Forty minutes later, everything’s been fields and sunshine and rich oaks and dude ranches and good times out there for as long as you can remember.

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