Friday, February 04, 2011

Hampden Happiness

To Hampden last night, tuxedo-ed up and on best behaviour.

The SFA Grassroots Awards presented by McDonald's and The Sunday Mail.

Easy to be dismissive of the SFA and it's a target I'm loathe not to take a kick at when I think they deserve it.

Obviously problems with the development of young players persist. The SFA and our professional clubs are both culprits in that long term failing.

But there is good work going on. Whether that's McDonald's supporting clubs and training coaches or the SFA's regional network doing their stuff across the country.

So while we bemoan the lack of youngsters coming through, wait impatiently for a golden generation, we shouldn't forget a lot of the work being done by those organisations and volunteers across the country.

Volunteers who can give hundreds of children a love of the game. Not all of those children will be the next Kenny Dalglish but they are learning about football, about life and being given a structure that many of them might struggle to find elsewhere.

And that, in my opinion, is a good thing and deserves to be applauded.

One of the many things about the Conservatives idea of a "Big Society" that unsettles me is the unspoken suggestion that people that don't care at the moment, aren't already willing to get involved and be proactive.

I've been lucky enough to work in a couple of jobs where I've seen that participation, done quietly and without shouting, every day.

Similarly the people celebrated at Hampden last night are already making a difference and have been making a difference for years.

Not just with children and youth football. Last night also saw women's football, adult football and disability football recognised.

Take away Sky's bombast, millionaire bad boys and the SPL's self preservation lunacy and many indeed are the ways that this silly game we love can make a big, big difference.

More to follow on the winners over the course of next week. It would probably be bad form to "scoop" the media sponsor of the event before Sunday.

> Guest of honour last night - with no disrespect to Neil Doncaster - was Kenny Dalglish. Among his other high profile roles, Kenny is Macdonald's head of Scottish football.

I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of chat with him before we were ushered to our seats. No major grilling from me on Fernando Torres or Andy Carroll. I find it hard to be Jeremy Paxman when I'm wearing a bow tie and drinking from a champagne flute.

So the conversation revolved around Stornoway black pudding, a mutual Hibs and Liverpool acquaintance and whether or not Sir Geoff Hurst has a photo driving licence and, if the answer is yes, should that have been enough to get a knight of the realm on a flight to Belfast.

Thus my incisive investigative reporting concludes that Kenny Dalglish is more approachable and down to earth than you might expect and more willing to interact with "ordinary people" than many a Hibs manager I've met.

And that, I feel, says a lot about the man.

> Why was I there?

Obviously when you're putting together a guest list for a night celebrating Scottish football, my name appears just after Kenny Dalglish, slightly above Craig Levein and yards and yards ahead of Stewart Regan. No?

Actually I was a guest of the sponsor with the golden arches.

Bloggers are still often pretty much ignored by the football world. Other, more forward thinking industries, have embraced the concept of blogging, of new media.

Football chooses to ignore, belittle or, in the case of fixture lists, chase and threaten.

Writing this blog is much like being a Hibs fan, a tale of frustration, occasional enjoyment and the odd laugh with very little chance of rewards or baubles coming your way. I knew that when I started and I expect and accept it now.

But as football blogging continues to grow and continues, irrefutably, to improve I do feel that football is missing out on an important way of connecting with fans.

So kudos is very much due to McDonald's and their communications officer Steven Birrell for keeping abreast of all forms of football media and extending an invitation. Steven, incidentally, is a Dunfermline fan. Which, if nothing else, suggests he can recognise a good bridie when he eats one.

More than that, he gave me the rare chance of a visit to Hampden with no risk of my team losing. The luxury.