By Jim Thornton:
He’s Not the Messiah; He’s a Very Spoilt Boy
Another Scotland game, another round of flak for Craig Levein over why Steven Fletcher isn’t being picked. (Just to remind everyone, it’s because Fletcher texted Levein – yes, texted, not spoke face-to-face with him or even phoned – to let his manager know that he’d a petted lip about being left out of the side and was taking his baw hame.)
Levein’s critics cite his refusal to call Fletcher and ask him to come back into the fold as an example of his poor man-management skills.
Man-management? Don’t they mean child-minding?
Fletcher’s a decent enough player, but he’s not a Dalglish or a Law; it’s only in his own version of fantasy football that he’s a world-beater. Do you really think they’re dancing in the streets of Sunderland now he’s signed for the Black Cats? Or would they rather have had Darren Bent back? Or even Nicklas Bendtner?
Why the big clamour for Fletcher’s return anyway? We’re talking about a man who’s appeared eight times for Scotland (won two, drawn two, and lost four), and scored one goal in the process. Norman Stanley Fletcher’s got a better record.
So what makes people think he’s the answer to a nation’s prayers? How many games have we lost or drawn in his absence that we would have won had he been playing? If you believe Fletcher’s apologists, he’s becoming a better player after every game he misses. We’ve got seven World Cup qualifiers between now and next June, so, if I were you, I’d be down to the bookies smartish to get your money on him being FIFA’s next player of the year.
Was It Something He Said?
To put Fletcher’s case into context, Henry Morris of East Fife scored a hat-trick on his debut for Scotland against Northern Ireland in 1949, and was promptly dropped by the selectors, never to appear for his country again. Now that’s what I call hard done by.
Blue and Green Should Never Be Seen
I wonder if there’s a player in Scotland for whom the tabloids can’t dig up an Old Firm connection.
You know the idea. Someone who’s been a stalwart for a wee diddy team over the years, but who’s referred to as ‘the former Rangers/Celtic player’ because he once played a trial for their under-13s. For example, take Pat Stanton, arguably Hibs’ greatest player outwith the Famous Five. Yet I’ve seen him described as ‘the ex-Celtic star’, totally blanking his much longer and much more illustrious career at Easter Road.
And it’s going to get worse this season with Rangers in the Third Division. Before every game, we’re going to be told about an opposition player who was a boyhood Rangers’ fan who can’t wait to run out at Ibrox. Or was a bhoyhood Celtic supporter who can’t wait to have a run out in the bath at Ibrox.
So, to even things up, I’m going to start throwing in Clyde references at every opportunity, no matter how tenuous the connection. For example, Lionel Messi will be referred to as ‘the most skilful Barcelona player since former Clyde legend Steve Archibald graced the Nou Camp’, and Pat Nevin will be ‘the former Chelsea and Everton winger who learned his trade at Clyde under the guidance of future Scotland manager Craig Brown’. See how easy it is?
But I’m going to draw the line at mentioning John Brown’s Bully Wee credentials. Bomber was quite simply the worst manager ever to occupy the Clyde dug-out. You’ll have to go a long way to find a Clyde supporter who’ll argue otherwise. The former Rangers’ legend, as the tabloids would have it, had only two plans of attack. Plan A was to shout loudly at his players; if that didn’t work, Plan B was to shout even louder. And unfortunately what he was shouting was a load of piss to start with.
Didn’t think much of Man Utd’s new red, mottled top when I watched them against Everton the other night. It clashed too much with Fergie’s nose, if you ask me.
Le Garcon Done Bon
QPR enfant terrible Joey Barton is in discussions about an ambitious loan move to Marseille. He’ll have to raise his game, though, if he’s to hold his own against the crème de la menthe in the French league.
I don’t predict much entente cordiale between him and the French referees, however, and can see the cartes rouges mounting up tres vite. Especially if he goes tete-a-tete with the opposition like he did against Man City last season. N’est- ce pas?