WINTER'S WORLD FEATURING RANGERS v HEARTS AND MIDDLESBROUGH v BARNSLEY
8th March 2012
A weekly look at my take on all that's football and my travels.
Friday and a trip to Greenmount Cricket Club in Bury, a club that the Neville family have close links to. A packed club house in the Log Cabin and I was warmly welcomed as the late replacement for the unavailable Jan Molby. I worked for the first time with a Blackpool based comic and he was different, coming from a stand up background. We shared similar interests and beliefs and got on very well.
The auction amazed even the locals and on leaving the organiser stated that I have made them more money than I had cost them. That is usually the case and the best advertisement for putting these events on even in these difficult financial times. Anyone interested in booking me to host or speak at their event can be assured that as well as speaking I will give maximum help to fundraising on the evening with my auctioneering skills. Contact me regarding availability by clicking here.
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Saturday morning and for the fourth successive weekend I headed north of the border, this time again for a Saturday afternoon at Ibrox followed by a Sunday afternoon. Pre-match, Ibrox was treated to a display of banners, flags and streamers as supporters' groups from far and wide brought colour and vibrancy to a near packed stadium.
Rangers started brightly but as is usual against Hearts were given a very physical game with Ian Black never far form the action. The referee chose to speak to players rather than take stronger disciplinary action, a course of action that can sometimes backfire on a match official.
In fairness, despite there being little other than pride at stake it wasn't a bad game, though goalmouth action was not too evident.
Tuesday night and a windswept night at the Riverside as Boro entertain Barnsley.
A Steven Davis goal in first half added time at least lifted spirits as winter returned to Scotland. It was Baltic in the back of the Govan rear.
Lee McCulloch appears to be fair game for thuggish centre backs since he went back up front and today was no different, though at times especially in the penalty area he perhaps makes too much of a meal of it!
Hearts equalised with an excellent strike from public enemy number one and then despite what had gone on in the penalty area at the other end Hearts were granted one and duly took a match winning lead. The third goal in the game meant my pre-match punt had come up but that did not bring too much joy.
I have to admit it is impossible to feel other than aggrieved about penalty decisions at the game because other than through bias you can never tell what has actually happened in the penalty area other than the most blatant of offences. After watching it on TV with the numerous replays it is far easier, a facility that the match officials do not have.
McCulloch did appear to have been nudged by two defenders but his exaggerated actions probably made the ref's mind up that he was looking for it. The penalty that was given appeared even softer. Holding and blocking in the box needs to be eradicated but replays showed that Goian looked very harshly treated and I do not know what the referee thought he saw.
Let's give the 'away' end to the Red Faction. A paltry 330 visiting fans and thousands of empty seats do little for lifting the atmosphere.
As we all know the result meant little other than pride. The support had been magnificent in terms of numbers but once again thousands headed for the exits in the last ten minutes. This is something I cannot understand. We weren't losing 4-0, it was 2-1 and the traffic dodgers obviously put getting home or to the bar as a greater priority than cheering the side till the final whistle.
Do they go to the cinema and leave before the end? In moments of passion do they pull out early? Whatever the reason it is becoming a habit now. Hopefully the next game at Ibrox will not see the same happen, a show of defiance and support means full seats at the end of the game as well as the beginning!
The one positive to come out of the game was the performance of young Rhys McCabe. He understandably tired towards the end but prior to that he was outstanding. He and others like him make well be the future!
After a quiet night in Bathgate, Sunday lunchtime was another cracking gig with The Goalie (16 weeks off the sauce, would you believe!!), the excellent but outrageous Joe Cammy and myself, the afternoon brilliantly compered by Shuggie Naismith.
Lodge was the winner with a good profit on the event and a great afternoon had by all. After the speeches I conducted the auction and the generosity of the audience was exceptional, not only for Lodge funds but also for a local Special Needs school. £1,100 raised by a Rangers signed shirt. Signatures from players who may not be playing for the club for much longer!
Ibrox awash with colours as pre-match the supporters' club's parade their flags and banners.
I got back home just in time for MOTD2 and the fiery Tyne/Wear derby. I had spoken on BBC Radio Newcastle last week about the game and the referee's attitude to controlling such a hotly disputed encounter.
Not surprisingly Lee Cattermole was the catalyst for all that was unsavoury. Forty seconds in and he gets himself booked, leaving the referee no alternative but to caution him. He can be a very good player but more often than not he is stupid on the pitch, something he emulates off the pitch as well.
He has received banning orders from local pubs and is facing another court appearance for criminal damage. His recklessness on the pitch means he is never far away from a card. Post-match he got sent off and now faces four more matches suspended. At least the complaints were not about the referee as yet again Mike Dean was strong and did what he had to.
Tuesday and before heading off to the Riverside more agony from Ibrox. Players leaving, one in particular caused me some raised eyebrows. Gregg Wylde has great potential but has been a bit part player under Ally, not getting much game time. He declared he has not been able to sleep with worry and has left not taking any monies that he might be entitled too.
I hope that really is the case, but I won't be surprised if he is snapped up very quickly and gets a good signing on fee in the process. Call me sceptical but the players won't lose out financially in the long run, will they?
I recall back in 1986 when Boro were on the verge of going out of existence and Peter Beagrie jumped ship. Boro fans have never forgiven him but his career hardly suffered did it? There are players at the club who will be hurting badly and to those the supporters relate to. They will continue to play football and earn good money even if it's not with Rangers. It's the supporters who always suffer.
With heart and hand and sword and shield, no surrender is the message from the Blue Order and Union Bears on Saturday at Ibrox.
The Boro game, like so many in the Championship, was not a classic. An expected below average crowd with the visitors bringing a paltry 330 supporters and many Boro fans no doubt saving their money for the Leeds game on Sunday.
Despite a bright first fifteen minutes with home debutant Adam Hammil impressing with his pace and trickery, the game faltered in front a crowd that were hardly inspiring the players. The Red Faction were unusually quiet.
A header from Seb Hines gave Boro the lead but then they were, as is often the case, hanging on a bit before an error from keeper Luke Steele gave Bartman the chance to lob him and seal the victory.
Post-match Keith Hill was happy with his side's performance but not the result. Mogga was just grateful for the points, philosophical as usual.
Despite Boro's nine wins on the road this was their first double of the season. A bit like Rangers, impressive away but always struggling to turn it on for the home supporters. Twelve games to go and the realisation that due to holidays and speaking commitments home and abroad the likelihood is that I will only be able to attend one of them.
On top of that I have also accepted an engagement on the night of the Championship play-off final at Wembley. I was not going to turn it down and tempt providence. Better to have it in the bag then perhaps have to pull out should we be successful.
A bright start. Rangers players head back after celebrating Steven Davis' opening goal for the second successive week.
Last weekend was great for my charity bets and if only Boro had not been greedy it would have been four out of four as 2-1 became 3-1. So thanks to William Hill, the monies raised so far this season is now £71.49 for the Great North Air Ambulance. Odds are often better online than in the offices. click here to open an account.
This week's predictions are on the charity page of my website and you can see them by clicking here.
Myself and Anthony Vickers have both agreed to do a piece for the Red Faction fanzine that the Boro's young loyal fans are planning. Wednesday and Catterick races, then Thursday and off to sun for a week. Watching Boro play Leeds with a pint in my hand in the sun is preferable to a seat in the stands before another busy weekend with gigs in Lancashire and Scotland.