Monday, January 30, 2012

Andy Ritchie and the Scottish Mavericks

I'm slaving away trying to come up with a greatest Scottish league XI for the The Away End's current search for the best of the best.

I've actually already had my vote but now I've been asked to put something down in writing and I find myself with too many names, too many options.

Should I only vote for players I've seen? That restriction would still allow for a hell of a team.

A team that would remind us of the gems we've cherished amid the gloom of the last 25 years.

Then there are the players who, through an accident of birth, I didn't see play. But I thrill to their stories and I'm convinced at least some of them should be included.

And, this being a Scottish league XI, there are those players whose legends are confined only to this country. Or even to their own clubs.

Willie Hamilton would fit in here. Not many more than a 100 league appearances for Hearts, Hibs and Hamilton. An abbreviated career and one often spent at hungover odds with his bosses. But Jock Stein and Pat Stanton reckoned him to be one of the most talented players they'd ever seen. Not bad judges those two.

Perhaps they provide a persuasive argument for the inclusion of a maverick.

A maverick like Hamilton. Or like Chic Charnley, arriving at Old Trafford with his boots in a plastic bag, leaving Billy McNeill to shake his head and ask "if only?"

Chic, scoring from the halfway line, thrilling fans enough for a fanzine cover to tag Pelé the "black Chic Charnley.

Chic, getting chased on the training pitch by a man wielding a Samurai sword.

Or a maverick like Andy Ritchie?

When David Beckham was in his free-kick scoring pomp for Manchester United it was Morton's Ritchie that Alex Ferguson chose to compare him to.

Overweight, moody, lazy. When I hear Ritchie described in such terms I warm to him more and more.

I'm increasingly thinking that my team must include such a richly talented loose cannon.

But which one?

Hamilton? Charnley? Ritchie? Or is there another maverick I can't afford to ignore?

Enjoy Andy Ritchie doing what he did his best. And then let me know your thoughts: which of the Scottish league irregulars should I be prepared to try and tame as I manage the greatest Scottish league XI of all time?

Have your greatest Scottish XI say at The Away End

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