Wednesday, January 18, 2012

David Weir Says Goodbye

Fare ye weel, Davie Weir.

The Scottish Football Blog has often been facetious about the Methuselah of Scottish football.

Unfair that. Davie Weir was playing at the highest level in Scotland in his 40s and I'm often too lazy to play dominoes in my 30s.

Perhaps unsurprisingly Weir and Rangers will part company this week. He's set to move on. Not to a retirement home but, indefatigable warrior that he is, to a new club in England.

It's proved to be an unexpectedly elongated addendum to his career, the sojourn in Glasgow.

The end has been predicted before. There was a stage in one of the 2008 Uefa Cup games against Sporting Lisbon when I thought Weir would finish the match like Monty Python's Black Knight, relentlessly positive even as his body fell apart in front of us.

But on and on he went. In Jeremy Kyle years he was old enough to be a grandfather to some of his colleagues. He never seemed to let that phase him.

I've always had the impression of him as a good guy. That's probably because of too much exposure to Falkirk fans who used to vouch for his decency back in the 90s. He's done nothing much to dispel that impression though.

To continue playing for so long he's obviously taken a common sense approach to looking after himself. That shouldn't surprise us. He's always seemed a sensible sort. Even his career trajectory - an education (albeit at an American university) then launching his professional career at Falkirk.

From Brockville to Hearts and then on to English riches. It points to feet-on-the-ground progression rather than a head-in-the-clouds explosion followed by an inevitable implosion.

Now it looks like an old-school career. One that money, agents and football's general hysteria makes less likely a generation (or two) on.

It's worked. A Scottish Cup with Hearts. A role in Everton's unlikely progression to a top four finish. Then trophies galore with Rangers.

And he's shown a quaintly old fashioned readyiness to answer his country's call despite the ups, downs and even deeper downs of Scotland's fortunes.

A link too to Scottish football's sunset moment. By my reckoning Weir and Christian Dailly are the last of the outfield players who made up Scotland's 1998 World Cup squad to still be playing.

We'll not again have a Scotland player who lived through the miraculous World Cup qualifying period that stretched for 28 years from 1970.

A last bridge to those bitter sweet but happier times.

Weir has carried on through managers, bad results, famous wins. And he's carried on while younger men have fallen by the wayside. From a debut in 1997 through 69 caps and a final appearance against Spain at Hampden 13 years later.

There have been times at Ibrox when the passing years have made him susceptible to pace. But pace was never his main attribute.

There's been carping aplenty about what opposing fans saw as a mature - if not sporting - ability to influence referees. But opposing fans always have such moans.

Whatever was said Weir soldiered on. Often he looked older than his years, adding to the abundant jokes about his age.

But he always looked happy enough when picking up trophies. And he's done that with metronomic regularity in his years at Ibrox.

Latterly it's been the vogue to project on to Walter Smith the idea of a manger with infinite wisdom. Even then you'd be hard pushed to imagine that Smith knew exactly what he was signing.

Of course he knew about the quality, the benefits of the experience. But you don't sign a player approaching his 37th birthday and expect to get five years service, over 200 appearances and eight trophies.

Or both major player of the year awards in the player's 40th year.

But that's what Weir delivered. A five year career at Rangers after making his debut at 36. A 13 year career with Scotland after making his debut at 27. It's a good advert for starting late.

Slow but steady wins the race. As Weir's old school friend Aesop might have said.

It's been a successful five years at Ibrox. But it's also been a fairly tumultuous time. Weir provided a steadying focal point on the pitch.

I'm not a Rangers fan. But it's been a fascinating five years to watch.

Weir arrived an elder statesman. He leaves a highly decorated, grand old man.

Proof that an SPL twilight can enhance a career.

And, as policemen appear to be getting younger and football stars appear almost embryonic, here was a craggy faced old codger to give us all hope.