First of all, let’s get the side-splitting hilarity out of the way. The Evening Shark-Jump actually publish the following line about Mark Warburton taking his side to Celtic Park on Saturday:
“But now the 53-year-old will have to go behind enemy lines in the search for three points.”
Dear me! It sounds like they will be dropped in by parachute in scenes reminiscent of Operation Market Garden/ Arnhem during the Second World War.
Anyway, let’s get down to business…
The Clumpany always enjoys it when a celebrated EBT recipient is invited to pontificate about Scottish football. And if it forms part of a ‘brand parity’ exercise which rams the counterfeit ‘Old Firm’ down our throats then so much the better.
You can only salute that kind of ‘front’.
Add in the claim of an ‘Exclusive’ and stretch some inane observations to produce multiple articles and you have absolute gold.
And so it was that the Evening Shark-Jump thrilled its readers this morning by bringing us the ‘thoughts’ of Alex McLeish. Fresh from telling the BBC that without the sort of spending undertaken during the EBT years Rangers could not have kept pace with Celtic, the recipient of a £1.7m EBT stepped up to give us his thoughts on this weekend’s Celtic v Sevco fixture. Or “Celtic v Rangers*” as it is called by the really hard-of-thinking.
McLeish’s insights were truly remarkable:
Yes, the pieces really do keep banging on about the ‘Old Firm’ in a trying-so-hard-it’s-embarrassing sort of a way. It is almost as pitiful as the ESJ’s repeated description of Celtic and Sevco being ‘title rivals’. A phrase which may belie an arrogant assumption on behalf of the media, Sevco fans or both that just because there is ‘a’ Rangers in the top flight it must by default be in with a genuine chance of winning the league.
You can only wince at the sheer hubris on display.
Look beneath the headlines of the three pieces and you will find some truly wonderful observations such as:
“When you play for Rangers, it doesn’t matter your quality or what your level is, people expect you to win. When you pull on that shirt, you are expected to win and that is the pressure from the fans.”
“Rangers are going there and they can lay a marker down for the season. It is important that they don’t go too many points behind.”
“It is still early in the season but it is important for Rangers not to slip too far behind.”
“When you are in this game, you crave playing and managing at the highest level. You are at the highest level in Scottish football with the two biggest clubs in Scotland and in the world and you have to relish that challenge.”
[THE TWO BIGGEST CLUBS IN THE WORLD?! STEADY ON!]
“It is important to keep your calm and keep cool in an Old Firm game. You don’t want to reduce your resources by getting a man sent off through stupidity. Discipline is, first and foremost, very important for the players.”
“During that 90 minutes, he is not your pal because you want to do everything that you can to win.”
Ground-breaking stuff, eh?
In the interests of balance, I should point out that the ESJ also managed to get some views for Celtic fans from Charlie Nicholas:
And also from Martin O’Neill, whose thoughts (at the time of writing) were the lead item on the Celtic section of the ESJ website:
Oh dear… ‘Brand parity’, eh?
You won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t fully agree with the quotes from O’Neill who suggests that competition from ‘a’ Rangers might help Celtic to raise their performance levels. The same could be said about other clubs – many of whom aren’t surviving with the help of loans. What’s more, we should also remember what happened the last time this ‘same club’ was plying its trade in the top flight. If its rule-breaking and financial doping had the effect of improving Celtic’s performances I think I would rather have gone without!
Nevertheless, it was preferable to hear from O’Neill – who knows a thing or two about winning trophies fairly – than McLeish, whose success at Ibrox was underpinned by some rather unfair practices. Not that you would have known that from the ESJ’s coverage:
“The Old Firm clashes gave McLeish some of his finest wins and most crushing defeats during his trophy-laden spell at Ibrox that saw him win seven major honours and the Treble in 2003.
A series of the biggest names to have graced our game in recent years were involved as McLeish took on Hoops sides managed by Martin O’Neill and Gordon Strachan.
The mixture of a will to win, atmosphere from the stands and pressure on the shoulders of the players has proven to be a potent one over the years.”
It seems that detailed facts and context are things more likely to appear in other newspapers’ sports sections. Although perhaps not in those of any Scottish title.
Brace yourself for further painful ‘Old Firmery’ and asserted ‘brand parity’, and