|WINTER'S WORLD FEATURING RANGERS v CELTIC
27th March 2012
A week away from football in the sunshine of Lanzarote. Rangers were not playing but I did waste two hours of the sun and my life by going to a bar to watch a toothless Boro performance against Leeds United. A typically high intensity performance from a Neil Warnock side showed up the inadequacies of Boro's squad.
The game was dead and buried long before the erratic Barry Robson became the team's fifth red card of the year. On this occasion he was perhaps a little unfortunate but his total lack of discipline since he came to the club outweighs the fact that he is still one of the club's best players.
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Many cannot believe that Cheltenham passed me by as well. Not a single bet at the meeting but that probably saved me a few bob in the process. I missed out on my weekly online slot as I did not have access to my Skype and computer. A pity as I would have taken pleasure at having a pop at QPR's Mark Hughes.
He was right to be hurting after his side were denied a goal in the vital game at Bolton - another cry for goal-line technology - his rants though that officials should do their jobs properly were laughable on the back of his own ineptitude since taking over from the unfortunate Neil Warnock. Just goes to show that the grass is often not greener on the other side.
I arrived back home in the early hours of Friday morning and repacked to get back on the road for a weekend's speaking. First stop was Heywood in Lancashire and a packed Civic Centre to help raise funds for a junior football team. Fellow speakers were Ian Snodin and top comedian, 'Son of Nobby' John Stiles.
It was a great night and as usual everyone was a winner with funds raised for the club and everyone enjoying themselves. For the second night in a row I managed about five hours in bed then it was back up the road to Scotland. It would have been even less had I decided to head for Tannadice but instead I went into the centre of Glasgow to pick up some more memorabilia. As I left town I nearly got caught up in a march that featured flags and colours of a certain other team. Could have been interesting had they have known who was in the car!
Then there was nine. Celtic are further depleted as a second player is given his marching orders.
Alloa and a town centre that equals Leven in the bad comparison to Las Vegas stakes. Whilst getting ready for the gig in town on the evening news broke of respective defeats for both Boro and Rangers but those results faded into insignificance with the developments at White Hart Lane. My old mate Howard Webb was superb in handling the horrific situation, as were the supporters, players and medical staff.
Everything is put into respective on occasions like this and the football family pulls together. I join with every other decent person in the world in wishing that Fabrice pulls through.
I noted that some brain dead moron had evidently put some unsavoury comments on the social media networks. Scum like this deserve everything that is coming to them. It is one thing having a legitimate opinion but sick comments at times like this just don't make any sense.
I see plenty of examples of emails and tweets from pond life wishing death to others. It's a pity that when tragedies occur that these worthless individuals are not the ones that suffer rather than decent people.
Celebration time, another Rangers goal.
I worked on the evening with Rangers legend Willie Henderson, another cracking night and an auction that left the organisers flabbergasted and also very grateful. A very small Lodge that has been set up for a few years now thanks to the generosity of the attendees.
Anyone interested in booking me to host or speak at their event me 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.
Another few hours sleep before the trip back home and then on to Knaresborough for the Mother's Day meal at a local restaurant with the news that Celtic had bottled it at Hampden in the League Cup Final. I thought about ordering Killie pie though a few thousand others should be ordering humble pie.
The sad death of the Killie player's father was another massive reality check in terms of just what is important in life. Football is only a game after all.
That being said, just like Rangers fans getting carried away last November, the other lot have had the winds taken out of their sails, their treble dreams are in tatters but still no doubt some will continue to rejoice in Rangers' present predicament than face up to the reality that Lennon's team continue to bottle it when it really matters.
The greatest club game in the world, in my humble opinion.
Tuesday night and a night in watching Boro play at West Ham, a game that once again highlighted the lack of real quality in the Championship. At times it was dire, but at least Boro halted their losing run with a hard earned point at the Boleyn. Good performance from referee Scott Mathieson. No cards, albeit Bennett was fortunate not to pick one up for his retaliatory lunge.
Other results on the night such as Leeds' 7-3 home defeat to Forest show the unpredictability of the division. I don't suppose anyone picked on the correct score for that game!
Thursday and the loan window closes without Boro adding to their squad. I am sure that Mogga would have liked to add numbers to the ranks. Were the players that he felt would benefit the promotion push not available or was it down to finances? We will never know.
I must admit I was surprised with the appointment of referee Colin Webster from County Durham for Boro's game with Bristol City. On Tuesday he actually reffed even closer to his home, taking charge of Hartlepool's game with Oldham Athletic. A very capable and experienced official but being placed under unnecessary pressure by reffing teams so closer to his base.
I know from experience that when I reffed at Newcastle and Sunderland I received comments from managers and players from the opposition and even the home fans suggested that being a Boro fan I would be biased against them. Ridiculous but a problem that should never have arisen. OK, ref a local derby, but officiating a local side against one from the other end of the country just provides ammunition should any controversy happen. It was a game that unfortunately I would miss as a speaking engagement in Southport on the evening meant I couldn't see it.
Pre-match at Ibrox on Sunday, colour and noise is equal supplies, an electric atmosphere.
As the Sport Relief weekend approached I watched the programmes I had Sky Plussed featuring David Walliams and John Bishop. Total respect for these guys who went far beyond the norm in putting their bodies through hell to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the charity. I wish my body was capable of doing what theirs did.
Talking of Superstars, Sedgefield races on Friday saw the appearance of probably the greatest ever jump jockey, AP McCoy. He had travelled all the way north for just one ride in the final bumper race on the card, riding the 1/3 favourite Forward Flight. He had a battle on his hands and only won by ¾'s of a length.
Small fields and short priced horses was the order of the afternoon but being out in the fresh air was good enough for me. After racing I watched the TV Rugby League game between Wigan and Warrington and once again saw evidence that this sport provides much more entertainment than football.
You might win the title, but you won't win it at Ibrox. Then again Celtic would not be allowed to, would they???
Saturday and for the third consecutive week no match to go to. I was speaking at Southport on the night so a bit too tight to go to the Riverside then do the 150 miles trip to be there in time. Other games were a possibility enroute but to quite honest I couldn't be bothered. I was going to get my football fix on Sunday with the Old Firm game.
The evening event was for a local football club that has several teams at all ages. I was working with London comedian, the wheelchair bound Tony Gerrard, who gets away with murder because of his disability.
It was one of those nights that was very flat. The MC, who thankfully did not enlist my auctioneering skills, was banging his head against a brick wall, with little or no money coming from the floor. The room did not help as it was large with the audience spread out. No complaints from anyone but it just was one of those nights. They happen.
That's for you. Rangers players applaud the supporters after the thrilling victory over the other lot.
The clocks going forward did not help. Despite a relatively early finish it was still 1.45am in new money when I got to sleep and I was up again just after 6.30am. Then 200 plus miles to Glasgow, the first 30 miles across country to the M6 then up to Penrith for a rendezvous with the lads that travelled across from home.
Geoff was present and as Kenny was working it was a chance for Leo to experience his first Old Firm. We passed the Barrow CFC supporters mini bus, full no doubt of occupants confident of seeing their heroes win the title. Every Gers fan's worst nightmare.
Motherwell's defeat at League Cup winners Kilmarnock had set up the distinct possibility of that happening. Rangers would also create history by losing four games at home on the bounce for the first time if it happened. For the first time coming to Glasgow we noticed police checking coaches, no doubt looking for alcohol. As if!!
Ibrox, now sadly retired from racing, meets his new friend as he starts to enjoy his retirement. He may do some three day eventing or dressage in the future but he gave us all much enjoyment in his career.
Arrived at the WRC just after 10.30am, parked up and made for the ground. Geoff had to have a look in the club shop and that took twenty five minutes. That was still not enough time though as he had another session post-match, which wasn't a problem as we couldn't get back to the car until those lot were clear of the ground.
Into Bar 72 for some banter with the Leven lads, then into the cauldron. This was an even better atmosphere than last season's Easter Sunday game. Everyone I spoke to had taken a little bit of the odds that were as high as 3/1 for a home victory.
When was the last time Rangers were 3/1 to win a game anywhere, let alone at home? I must confess I didn't partake, I just went for three goals or more in the game. Recent results did not inspire confidence and let's be honest, worthy champions given the opportunity to win the title at Ibrox would not fail, would they?
At long last, the first photograph of my first grandchild. Something I have longed for and September should see the arrival of a new Winter.
Why oh why can't we play Celtic every week? The crowd are up for it, the players are up for it, the atmosphere is second to none. Rangers played with a high intensity that we rarely see against the other ten SPL teams. If they did they would blow them away.
That is exactly what they threatened to do early doors. Aluko's brilliant opening goal set the standard and whilst there were a couple of wobbles at the back, Rangers looked dangerous every time they went forward.
The cause was helped with the first red card, a correct decision, though obviously Neil Lennon did not see it that way. His pre-match claim that he would show dignity started to falter and he was subsequently sent to the stands, or a quiet room as his presence in the main stand may just have caused a few problems.
Post-match he claimed that Celtic were never going to be allowed to win the title at Ibrox. Explain!
Rangers played as well as I have seen a team with an extra man, moving the ball quickly and tiring their opponents as they chased lost causes.
TV's Derek Thompson interviews record breaking champion jockey Tony McCoy before his one and only ride at Sedgefield on Friday afternoon.
A game with three cards sounds like a war but in fact by OF standards it was quite tame. All cards were fully justified and at the stage where Celtic went down to nine men a rout could have been on the cards. The champagne was going flat and the jelly was having a hell of a wobble.
After a period of silence - in fairness to them the away support decided to have their party anyway - and the ground was bouncing. Leo looked bemused - we are not used to this at the Boro.
The goals went in securing my bet and it could have been embarrassing, Celtic kept going and helped by a needless penalty and red card had us looking at the watches. A second goal and thankfully full-time. A few minutes longer and the hard work of the majority of the match could have been wasted.
Celtic will win the title within the next two games and credit to them, their long winning run featuring a free scoring team meant that even without our ten point deduction they may well have won it anyway.
The off field problems have ruined the season, but performances have also not been up to an acceptable standard. The frustrating thing though is as we have seen in the two home games against Celtic we still could have made it four in a row. This result, insignificant in the overall run of things, was a massive morale booster to the supporters and the players and management.
Let's finish the season on a high and go unbeaten. Winning at their place won't change who wins the title but it will make us all feel a darn sight better.
A great day, a thrilling match and those who want Rangers to go under want to have a long hard look at themselves. This game is and always will be so special, second to none and one I look forward to attending for many years to come.
Sporting Superstars. Trainer Sue Smith was going for her second treble in two days with Forward Flight in the colours of JP McManus, represented by husband and former show jumper Harvey Smith and champion jockey AP McCoy.
Back home and I watched another Super League game as St Helens blew away the Leeds Rhinos. Great entertainment.
Following on from a blank weekend whilst I was away, the next was good for my Charity bets even if I committed sacrilege and backed against the Boro. Unfortunately my fears were proved correct as Boro, for the second game in a row, were given a hammering, this time by Birmingham City. So thanks to William Hills the monies I have raised so far this season is now £742.49 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 will appear on the charity page of my website.
This week I'm off to Market Rasen races and at the weekend speaking down south. Saturday morning and as it would be a killer to get to Motherwell for the lunchtime kick off, I may head further south to Brighton for the Boro game or homeward for Hartlepool v Sheffield United. Then it's off to Spain for some work out there for a couple of days.
Enjoy your football.
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