Backed into a corner by the likes of Jim Traynor and Charlie Nicholas, George Peat and Gordon Smith demonstrated their mastery of the ancient samurai martial art of jujitsu – the core principle of which is the use of an attacker’s energy against him, rather than directly opposing it.
I bow deeply in the face of their art; I honour their skill.
Instead of sacking Burley after the August outrage in Oslo, Peato and Smithy allowed us the opportunity to fulminate and fury for a further month before the killing blow was applied by Eljero Elia at Hampden in September.
Yet even then, though we knew – deep down we knew – that Burley’s goose was cooked, the masterminds at the SFA toyed some more and allowed us to hope a reversal was underway. A trip to Japan facilitated a visit to their old ‘ryu’ for a refresher course (you wondered why that game was scheduled?) while we willed ourselves into believing the Yokohama reverse could be ignored on account of the call-offs, the distance, the stadium, the sake.
So we rode to Cardiff on an optimistic note, but were left beaten and bloodied as if we’d been jumped in St Mary’s Street at chucking-out time. “To the airport!” screamed Charlie, sans champagne. If the Tartan Army had an air force, we’d have shot down the plane.
But still, Peato and Smithy demur. Let’s meet, let’s talk it over. Giving us another day or two to stew.
And then: Burley no more; Butcher no more. Hegarty… no more. And no replacement, maybe not until February!
But instead of trampling over the body of Burley to get to the blazers, we stop to poke the corpse and opine over why it had to die. Instead of digging to understand the cause of our malady, we speculate on the next elixir – Levein or Smith? Souness or Dalglish? Dare we dream – Sir Alex Ferguson?
So dozens of articles; thousands of comments; and tens of thousands of words, as Christmas comes early for the Scottish football press. Let’s look at the odds! Let’s get a quote from MoJo! How much severance did we pay Burley, can we afford to buy out a contract? Does Smithy even like Levein? Will baby Boyd come back? The players are too thick! Jefferies is flattered! (How long can we spin this out – days, weeks, months?)
Thus, jujitsu. Peato and Smithy walk away, while we consume ourselves with nonsense, and the noise stops us from thinking.
In magic it’s called misdirection. And as in magic, you know it’s happening, but it’s compelling all the same. You might think Peato and Smithy are the magicians, but they’re not the clever ones; the smart kids are the editors of the Record, and the Sun, and the Herald, and the Scotsman. They’re the ones profiting from this collapse. Who are the losers?