The beautiful game looms again; in a short time we will be off and will no longer have to put up with tennis; golf; cricket and other less satisfying sporting pursuits; we can concentrate on the beauty and skill of the greatest game ever devised and no longer have to concern ourselves with sporting headlines which relate to some South African rugby baboon trying to gouge out an opponent’s eye; you need proper training and skill for a manoeuvre like that. Don’t get me wrong I like watching tennis when the players are evenly matched which is rare; golf can be exciting over the last couple of holes of a tournament if the score is close and cricket has redeemed itself as the choking grip of the traditionalists slacken, but they are not the same.
I was lucky to see some great players in live action; earliest memories are of Di Stefano; Puskas & Gento strutting around Celtic park to a 3-1 victory, Pele at Hampden and the precocious 18 year old Maradona at hampden swaying past two Scottish players and sending the goal keeper the wrong way for a goal which made us all think about the future of this kid with the sublime skills, Dennis Law’s reflexes and Best’s speed and skill were memorable. The greatest? My money goes on Charlton probably unpopular with some but I couldn’t see a flaw in his game; I have never seen him play badly and the standard he set himself was tremendous. I saw him many times; too many some might say as he always caused the Scottish fans so much misery but he was uplifting; fast, fit and strong with great skill and immense power and accuracy in each foot, the nearest I’ve seen to the complete player.
The game has gone a bit daft in financial terms and Scottish Football has never been in a more serious position; teams could go under and the financial gap between us and England and the continent is huge, it could be some considerable time before we see a Scottish team compete in the later stages of a European competition.
The only long term way forward is coaching and rearing our own players but when Wigan can take a kid like McCarthy from Hamilton it looks like a long hard struggle, whether you favour Celtic here is not important but when they lose out to Wigan it is serious; the kid can’t say he chose Wigan to win medals or to play in Europe and that is grim for the future of our game. Money talks and when it comes to Football it shouts and bawls; perhaps it requires legislation to bring the game to its senses; is Alex Ferguson for instance a great manager or is he a very rich manager? It can’t go on like this for ever surely. I would urge the smaller teams to threaten to strike unless there is a redistribution of wealth all over the game; what would Man. Utd. Real Madrid or Juventus do if no one agreed to play them? Just a thought.