Monday, July 07, 2008

The Miller's Tale: Same Old, Same Old

"But in my opinion he's the best all-round Scottish striker at the moment. Boydie (Kris Boyd] has his goals, Faddy (James McFadden] has great talent and a wee spark, but pound for pound you'd have Kenny starting in your team before anyone."

Ally McCoist on Kenny Miller. Not, perhaps, what the Rangers fans want to hear. The Rangers supporters were so against this signing that they stopped their Scottish Cup celebrations to protest about it.

Partly it's his recent history with Celtic. But partly it is his poor goalscoring record. Not many players have played for Celtic and Rangers. Miller has failed at them both. He is not the player you sign if you want to turn your back on a reputation for dourness. Neither is Kyle Lafferty (10 goals in 83 league games) although he does have potential. And Andreas Velicka will have a lot to prove.

McCoist says Rangers have to emulate Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. I'm not sure the Dutch ideal of total football is strikers who don't score.

Time will tell. But Walter Smith and McCoist looked on last year as a success. Expect more of the same from Rangers this season.

Book Review: Best and Edwards: Football, Fame and Oblivion by Gordon Burn

Duncan Edwards and George Best. Entwined in Manchester United’s history and mythology. Separated by only a few years, they may as well have been from different worlds.

Edwards, the man child, the phenomenal athlete who would run all day for Matt Busby and who stood to conquer the world. Best, a man child in a very different way, the prodigy who did conquer the world.

One life snubbed out on a snowy Munich runway. One life snubbed out by an inability to cope with a world that his talent had created.

Edwards was the epitome of a lost breed of footballer: he trained and he played to a phenomenal level. But when he was done he went home, went to the cinema, shyly courted a girl.

Best provided the blueprint for every player who has ever had the world at his feet and then pissed it all away.

Burn brilliantly examines their backgrounds, their motivation and their character. Bobby Charlton overshadows the book: sensible, dull Bobby, forever dealing with survivor guilt, battling to keep Big Dunc’s memory alive as Best created a new reality for footballers that Charlton could never understand.

Matt Busby is here to, more complex than the genial patrician of United legend, looking on them both as sons. And never understanding how he had lost them both.

Burn comes to grips with immortality: Edwards, still talked about in hushed tones, but remembered in the name of a boarded up pub that attracts nothing but junkies. And Best, remembered in full technicolour, but also as a gaunt, broke drunk who took every second chance and flung it away on booze and birds.

In their own ways Edwards and Best created the Manchester United we know today. They also created the idea of a modern footballer. One was left to go blameless into eternity. The other was left to kill himself.

Burn transports us back to Manchester in the late fifties when Edwards ruled the roost in a quiet understated way, full of optimism but level headed to the end. And then to the 1960’s when Best, always too complex to enjoy optimism, turned the professional dream that Edwards had into something squalid and dirty. Faced with the twin temptations of football and celebrity Best chose the latter. When he crossed that line the end was as inevitable as it was painful.

Burn handles all this expertly. We end up with a study of the nature of fame and celebrity. Munich denied Edwards the chance to live with celebrity. Charlton survived and chose the route he thought best honoured Edwards. Best chose the route that brought him adulation, the route that a hundred reality TV stars dream of. It was a life that Duncan Edwards could never have imagined and a life that George Best could never escape.

Welcome Annan

Congratulations to Annan Athletic on becoming the latest club to join the Scottish Football League.

By staying clear of the central belt the SFL have followed the pattern of recent years. By choosing Annan they've at least given the fans who didn't go to Gretna games the chance to not go very far to not watch Annan. You see, it all comes together.

The process did seem to throw up the possibility that the closed league structure may soon end. The pyramid system, much whispered about over the years, could finally become a reality to end the stagnation of our lower divisions. I'll believe that when I see it.

If it does happen how about a complete change of structure? The SFL, SFA and SPL. Scotland does not need three jealous, bickering, blazer filled organisational relics running the game. A streamlined body working for the good of the national team, all clubs and all fans.

Utopia beckons!

Hibs Endure Euro Misadventure

The sun didn't shine on Leith yesterday. In fact it rained on Rod Petrie's latest European parade. Another drookit Intertoto disaster.

Before the game Mixu didn't so much dampen down expectation as concede defeat. And so it came to pass. Now the players are back far too early and the club has a pointless trip to Sweden to contend with.

And, crucially, fans that weren't convinced by Mixu last season have a lot more ammunition to write the big Finn off. Mission accomplished? Given the manager's apparent discomfort about the whole escapade you find yourself asking just how much the board actually consults with the football staff. Was John Collins right?

For all the smug posturing at Easter Road about Mad Vlad, Mr Petrie and company continually prove that there is more than one way to mismanage a football club.