My friend Greg, a Scotland and Killie fan, died on Saturday morning. He was only a few years older than me, but a couple of weeks ago he had a terrible accident which caused irreversible brain damage. His life support machine was switched off late last week and he passed away a few hours before his beloved Killie secured their place in next year’s Scottish Premier League.
The Dear Scotland contributors are taking a bit of “winter break” over the festive period so it seems like an appropriate time to look back at some of the most popular articles of the year. This article was originally published in May 2010.
Greg loved his football. I first met him in New York when he lived in Boston – he would travel down every weekend to play Sunday league and watch Scotland games. That’s a 4-hour drive each way, but he didn’t think twice about it. Greg was extremely enthusiastic for the game, massively knowledgeable about Scottish football, and generally full of life – which makes it such a tragedy that his was cut short.
The goalie in my Sunday league team, Jack, turned 50 at the end of April. He often plays two games every Sunday, spending much of the day away from his wife and daughter. He tore his calf muscle during the promotion run-in, but not only did he turn up (in his gear!) knowing he wasn’t going to play, he stood behind the goal when we were 1-0 down to act as a ball-boy and cut down on time-wasting by the opposition. That’s dedication. We got promoted.
Another guy I played with in New York, Gary, moved to Sydney ten years ago and has played regularly there since. He’s now thinking of hanging up his boots, but only so he can devote more time to coaching and administration.
Bill Shankly – On dispassionate players and being Scottish
In 1988 I visited Cappielow Park for the first time, to watch a midweek Morton-Falkirk game which turned out to have the lowest attendance of the season: a mere 2500 people turned up to watch. Even in Cappielow, this meant there was acres of space on the terracing, so I picked a prime spot on the halfway line. Five minutes before kickoff, with no-one near myself and my pal Steven, this old fella walks up: “You’re standing in my spot, son”. He’d been watching the ‘ton for decades, and I was indeed standing in his spot. I hope he’s still there.
Contrast any of these guys with Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the Spurs defender, in a recent Guardian interview: “It’s only a job. Yes, it’s a good, good job and I don’t say that I hate football but it’s not my passion… All people, everyone, when they go to a job, it’s for the money. So I don’t understand why, when I said I play for the money, people were shocked. Oh, he’s a mercenary. Every player is like that.”
Players, managers, coaches, scouts, kit men, tea ladies, groundskeepers, bus drivers… All over the country, in the professional leagues, in the part-time divisions, in the juniors, in the amateur leagues, people give up their time and spend their energy to maintain this beautiful game of ours. So while I can understand the argument Assou-Ekotto is making, and he is at least being honest with himself, I want him – and you – to remember that there are thousands of people out there who aren’t a bit like that. It’s something that Paul Le Guen, Tony Mowbray, and Vladimir Romanov failed to appreciate – love for the game makes a difference, and money can’t buy you love.
Tartan Army Paris March
Photo Credit : Barcelona Nil