Football

Playing For Scotland

Man. Folk go on and on about milestone birthdays. 40 is the new 30 and all that nonsense. I was OK with 30. I was even OK with 40. Heck, I got a trip to New York out of it, so who was complaining? For me, it was turning 27 that hit me hard. It wasn’t the thankful realisation that I’d managed to outlive a handful of over-indulgent rock stars and dodge membership of the 27 Club, it was the sudden, sobering dawning that I’d never get to play for Scotland.

I’ll explain.

When I was a wee boy I collected football cards. My hero was Kenny Dalglish and this card below was my favourite.

It shows a proud Kenny, arms aloft as he celebrates scoring in the dark blue of his country, possibly after he’s beaten Ray Clemence in the England goal at Wembley in 1977, when Scotland won 2-1 and a large handful of over-enthusiastic supporters returned up the road with half the Wembley pitch stuffed into their sporrans. The Wembley turf was originally taken from the Bogside flats, a good 5 iron from where I’m typing, so in effect, they were bringing the grass back to its, eh, roots.

Kenny Dalglish, Forward, it reads. And on the back it continued; Kenny Dalglish: Age 27, Clubs: Celtic and Liverpool. Scotland Caps 35 (or so, I can’t remember the actual number.) I wonder what I’ll be doing when I’m 27? I pondered as an 8 year old. I wonder if I’ll have as many caps for Scotland as Kenny does?  I needn’t have worried. When I was 27 I was working in the best job I might ever have, behind the counter of Our Price, as likely to play for Scotland as I was to get the call from Oasis who were needing a replacement for Bonehead. I did genuinely feel disappointed, that my life was somehow unfulfilled.

Fast forward to a few years ago. Steven Naismith was playing for Everton at the time. An ex-pupil of the school I taught in, he was the local hero; the young guy who’d made it in football, from learning his trade in the local team, to signing for Kilmarnock as a school boy before moving on for a record fee to Rangers (no!) before moving on to Everton. Community-minded, Naismith regularly handed in football tops and memorabilia to the school for auctioning off at school fairs and fetes to help top-up school funds. Cornering him one time about the fact the school football team wore the very same strip he had played in the best part of 20 years previously, Steven organised for a whole new set of strips for the team. But that’s not what I want to focus on here.

One time, he brought in a Scotland top – an actual, match-worn, embroidered badge and grass-stained number 10 shirt. It hung in the office for a week or so, waiting on the Christmas Fayre when it would be raffled off. I was in the office late one night after school, photocopying some stuff, when his Scotland shirt started winking at me. Before I knew what I was doing, I’d popped it over my head – the silky material didn’t half crackle at the unexpected size of my barrel chest and, just as I’d popped through my first arm, the depute head teacher appeared in the room.

What’re you doing?” she asked rhetorically, with a look on her face that can only be pulled by experienced teachers who’ve caught out mischievous wee boys.

“I’m, eh, trying the strip on,” I wagered.

I won’t tell anyone if you won’t,” she said conspiratorially.

With an alarming burst of crackling static and complaining stitching, I pulled the jersey back off, turning it inside out in the process, righted it and hung it back on the hanger. The rest of my colleagues were none the wiser, but I’d finally succeeded in pulling on the dark blue of Scotland. It felt good, if a little tight.

Today I turned 50. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but so far it’s been OK. I know I’ll never play for Scotland. Or windmill through a solo on the Barrowland’s stage. But I’m OK with that. I’ve lost two pals who never made it to half a century and last week’s daily medicine dose looks like the sort of lucky bag of goodies that would’ve constituted a decent night out for Bobby Gillespie in 1990, but I have a loving family to nurse me through my shonky health and for that I am grateful.

D’you know why they call 50 a round number? It’s because as the inescapable big number creeps ever-closer, you realise that that wee overhang that sometimes gets in the road of you fixing your belt has suddenly become a hideous hulking blobby mess that stops you from even seeing your belt. Yes, 50 is a round number because (unless you’re very lucky) you’re one round number yourself by the time you reach it. Before you know it, you find yourself spending your free time on a treadmill – not a metaphorical treadmill of life with all its mundanities or anything like that, but an actual moving treadmill, with running and panting and wheezing and sweating and everything. Previously when I wrote about this I’d managed to fast-track myself from 7 whole minutes on the thing before collapsing in a heap, to a whole half hour’s worth of running before collapsing in a heap. Nowadays I’m up to 40 minutes and counting. I’m almost enjoying it too. Slow and steady, nothing that would trouble even your most part-time park runner, but heading in the right direction. Nearly at 50, as it happens, although it’ll be a wee while before I match my age in running time.

Rocket From the CryptBorn In ’69

Woo! Yeah! Guaranteed to blow the grey straight off yer hair, they say. Stax sax blasts! Scorching electric guitar! Moon-esque drums! A st-st-stuttering breakdown and a sudden, abrupt ending. Just like my career in a Scotland shirt.

Football

Score Draw

In 2005 the Berlin based Scottish artist Douglas Gordon came up with the idea of creating a film about Zinedine Zidane. Zidane was at the time arguably the finest football player on the planet; an attacking midfielder who played the free-roaming number 10 position while wearing the number 5 shirt for Real Madrid, playing with equal measures of flair, balance, vision and aggression. Zizou could make things happen and had the ability to change games with an ambitious pass or turn of speed or selfish zig-zagging run. His unpredicatable Gallic temper that simmered just below the surface added the extra edge that set him apart from his peers.

Gordon and his film-making partner Philippe Parreno set up 17 cameras in strategic points around the pitch before a league game at the Bernabeu between Real Madrid and Villareal. They were designed to capture every facet of Zidane’s game over the 90 minutes and didn’t disappoint.

With precious little fanfare the film begins as the game kicks off and ends on the referee’s final whistle. It’s relatively low on budget yet high in concept. The excitable Spanish TV commentary tells the story of the game, but really, that takes second place. Zidane is on screen for (almost) the entirety of the match, sometimes without the ball and sometimes with. You get a real feel for the speed of the game as the ball flashes on screen and just as quickly off again, set on its way by the outside of Zidane’s right boot or acutely richocheting as the number 5 clatters meaningfully into an oncoming opponent.

Those 17 cameras miss nothing in Zidane’s game; the awe-inspiring strength and skill, the disgruntled shouts to less tuned-in teammates, the occasional stroppy spit, the dirty looks to the referee, to the temper-flaring fight that leads to a red card and Zidane’s premature end to the match. If the filmmakers had written a script it wouldn’t have been any less perfect.

For the entirety of the film, the Spanish commentator and ambient crowd noise generated by 80,000 fans compete with a superb understated score by Mogwai. Film maker Gordon was a huge fan of the band and to get them on board he showed them a rough cut of the film soundtracked by their remixed Mogwai Fear Satan EP. Blown away by the concept and the clash of football and music, Mogwai agreed to get involved and set about creating an instrumental soundtrack.

The finished result plays underneath the film. It’s slow, quiet and understated, the polar opposite of the film’s subject matter, yet it works brilliantly. Sometimes you’ll forget it’s playing only for a ghostly thrumming guitar or phased out section of white-hot feedback to melt back into earshot. Pick of the bunch for me is the brooding Black Spider where vibrating clean-amped six strings allow ample space for a glockenspiel to pick out a simple melody as a lazy drummer half-heartedly adds percussive splashes in the background. Like its subject matter, it’s a beauty.

MogwaiBlack Spider

Football, Gone but not forgotten, Six Of The Best

Six Of The Best – Stuart Cosgrove

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

 stuart cosgrove 1

Number 20 in a series:

Stuart Cosgrove is, to most folk in Scotland, the owner of that distinctive voice with the Tayside twang barking and cackling its way out of the tranny each Saturday afternoon between 12 and 2. “Ah yes indeed Tam!” could almost be his catchphrase. As co-presenter of BBC Radio Scotland’s Off The Ball, he’s a bringer of much needed humour and mirth to suffering Scottish football fans up and down the land.

The most petty and ill-informed football show on the radio‘ is a must-listen to in my house – it’s the central part of my pre-match warm up before I head off to Rugby Park to watch my team lie down to whoever they’re up against that week. Although primarily a football show, there’s a fair smattering of music references. Sometimes, one of the guests will be of that ilk, other times Tam and Stuart will discuss their musical preferences, with Stuart the black music obsessed yin to Tam Cowan’s cabaret ‘n crooners yang. And there’s always a record to play out with, a thematically-linked song that encapsulates the mood of that week’s big (or petty) talking point. It’s my favourite show on the wireless by some distance.

stuart cosgrove

In the 70s, Stuart was a buttoned-down and baggy-panted Northern Soul fan, a collector of rare 7″s who was fond of hopping on the overnight Perth to London train and disembarking at Wigan just in time for the Casino to open. In the 80s, Stuart indulged his musical passions further by writing for the fanzines before graduating to the NME and The Face. He was an early champion of electronic dance music and his job gained him access to all sorts of musical royalty, from Stevie Wonder and Jimmy Ruffin to Prince and the hallowed halls of Paisley Park. He’s long-since moved onwards and upwards (would you still want to be writing for NME nowadays? What/who could you muster up any enthusiasm to write about?) and is now a high heid yin at Channel 4. Somehow, inbetween the radio work each Saturday, working in London through the week and going to as many St Johnstone games as he can fit in, he’s found the time to write a book.

Here’s the blurb;

Detroit 67, The Year That Changed Soul is the story of the city of Detroit in the most dramatic and creative year in its history. It is the story of Motown, the breakup of The Supremes and the implosion of the most successful African-American record label ever, set against a backdrop of urban riots, escalating war in Vietnam and police corruption. The book weaves through the year as counterculture arrives in Detroit and the city’s other famous group, the proto-punk band MC5 go to war with mainstream America. The year ends in intense legal warfare as the threads that bind Detroit together unravel and leave a chaos that scars the city for decades to come.

 

It’ll be right up my street, and no doubt many of yours too.

Ahead of its publication at the end of March, Stuart somehow found the time to contribute to Plain Or Pan. Keeping with the Detroit theme, Stuart tells us his six favourite Detroit musicians. In what must surely be a serendipitous moment, most of them have graced this blog countless times already.

 

Marvin Gaye
The original black crooner who wanted to be the black Sinatra but ended up fronting the greatest album of all time ‘What’s Going On.’

Marvin GayeInner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

David Ruffin

The bespectacled lead singer of The Temptations was the most complicated character at Motown and at war with himself. He eventually died of a drug overdose.

The TemptationsMessage From A Black Man

Aretha Franklin

The Queen of Soul came from a famous Detroit family whose father was the city’s most flamboyant preacher.

Aretha FranklinSave Me

Mary Wilson

Often seen as ‘the other Supreme’ caught in a bitter war between Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, but her voice effortlessly floated from jazz, to soul and even opera.

The SupremesAutomatically Sunshine

Ronnie McNeir

An outsider who often won local talent contests in the Motor City but was in his sixties before he joined The Four Tops as a stand in for the legendary Levi Stubbs.

Ronnie McNeirLucky Number


Jonnie Mae Matthews
The godmother of Detroit soul and a pioneer who had a voice rougher than sandpaper and smoother than silk.

Jonnie Mae MatthewsThe Headshrinker

 

Stuart Cosgrove is the author of Detroit 67. You can read more about the book and its author on the Detroit 67 Facebook page. Afterwards, you’d best get on the good foot and pre-order your copy from here (or your usual online book retailer.) I’ll see you at the front of the virtual queue.
detroit 67
Cover Versions, Football, Hard-to-find, Most downloaded tracks

Ramble On

One of the greatest pleasures in this blogger’s life is the daily digestion of blog stats. At any given time I can see who’s visited here, where they’re from and what the most popular posts and downloads are (currently the Jake Holmes/Led Zeppelin one). I can also see who’s Googled what and arrived at Plain Or Pan either by sheer good luck or misfortunate malapropos. Current visitors include those looking for What Brand Of Cigarettes Does Keith Richards Smoke?, Pain or Fantasy and my favourite, African Jungle Horse Sex. I can just about understand why trouser arouser browsers looking for Teenage Fanny are directed here. I just hope the sad old bastards leave with a new-found appreciation of the Bellshill Beach Boys chiming guitars and honey-coated harmonies. But don’t stand anywhere near me at the next TFC gig, or you might just get a punch in the face. OK? I wrote something about the Stone Roses a wee while ago that said the bassline on Something’s Burning sounded like it came from the heart of Africa itself. And a long while ago I wrote about Johnny Wakelin’s In Zaire being total jungle funk, but how Google pointed a slevvering sexual deviant looking for quirky equestrian delights towards this mighty fine site four times in one day is beyond me.

Off course, there’s an underlying seriousness to all this. Clearly, people are using the internet for purposes other than tracking down obscure records by musicians only a handful of people have heard of. Whodathunkit, eh?

On a lighter note, the football transfer window closed at midnight on Tuesday night. This is a nerve-wracking time for fans of any club, but especially for fans of the less-fashionable, poorer clubs. As a Kilmarnock fan I’ve had to endure the pain of seeing our star players being snatched away from us at the stroke of midnight by ‘Sir’ Walter Smith and his satanic promises of first team football and the chance to wear the badge of the team they’ve “always supported since I was a wee boy“. To be fair to my club, the last time this happened they held out spectacularly for a decent sum (£2 million I think) for Steven Naismith. But this was only after failing miserably to command a fee any greater than £400,000 (to be paid in instalements, not even in the one go) for the services of Kris Boyd the season previously, a player who went on to score about 17 gazillion goals over the next few seasons (many against us), helped his team to a European final and cemented his place in the Scotland team, before getting his dream move to a bigger club. That’s Middlesborough, if you didn’t know.

The internet was buzzing on Tuesday night. Fans forums were in meltdown as everyone logged on trying to find the truth amongst the rumours, the rubbish and the rest. This year’s big worry was whether or not our star midfielder and captain, Craig Bryson, would be off to join up with recently departed Killie boss Jim Jefferies at Hearts. The rumour mills were in over-drive. At various points leading up to midnight he was at Tynecastle undergoing a medical, he was being sold for £400,000, he was being sold for £200,000 plus a player in return. At one point he was even off to Ipswich. Truth is, none of this was correct. By midnight, Hearts had had a couple of cheeky bids knocked back and Bryson remained with us.

Amongst all the Bryson rumours was a rumour about another player joining Hearts. Every team has fans’ favourites. Maybe not the most technically gifted set of legs in the team, but the one with the biggest heart, worn on the sleeve with pride. The player who’s first to question the referee’s authority whenever he feels a sense of injustice. The player who’ll give away the ‘clever’ foul and take the ‘clever’ booking for the team. The player who kisses the badge unironically cos he means it (maaaan), the player who, when a goal is scored, is the first to run to the crowd and not his teammates to celebrate, a player who can whip up a frenzy of excitement on the terracing by the sheer mention of his name.

At Killie, Manuel Pascali is that player. A tough, no-nonsene pro he breaks down attacks with a crunching tackle before distributing the ball wisely to a team mate. Not wisely distributing. That would infer that he’s incapable of anything other than giving the ball to a teammate to do the hard bit. No. I mean distributing the ball wisely, whereby at lightning speed he assesses the situation and from all his options picks out the best pass that’ll put his team on the offensive. He’s a bit like one of those Dutch or Spanish holding midfielders that slugged it out in that tetchy World Cup final a couple of months ago. Only not as good, or he’d be at a bigger club. Which takes me back to transfer deadline day and stupid rumours. Not only was Bryson going to Hearts, Pascali was off too! In fact, he was currently undergoing a medical and was about to put pen to paper. Noooooo! This was a disaster! While we were getting all hot under the collar about our star midfielder, our old manager had only gone and thrown a cat amongst the pigeons by pinching Pascali from right under our blue and white noses. Manu! How could you? Except, of course, he hadn’t. As all this drama was unfolding on the football part of the internet, over on the social networking section my close personal Facebook friend Manu Pascali was exclusively revealing we were  not to worry, that he was sitting “at home watching a DVD” and that he was “Killie Til I Die!” Heroes, eh? Dontcha just love ’em?

Also over on Facebook, another friend had posted a video of lost Talking Heads‘ classic This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody). I’ve got Arcade Fire doing that I said. What, with their quirky nature and choice of instrumentation, it’s a song that suits them perfectly. So, for you, Mr Big Stuff and any other Arcade Fire fans (and there must be a fair few, given that they’re currently (ahem, cough) burning up the charts, here’s some rare Arcade Fire.

This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (taken from a 2004 CBC Radio 3 Studio Session)

Cold Wind (from the Six Feet Under TV series soundtrack)

No Cars Go (from the 2003 and re-released in 2005 Arcade Fire ep)

Poupee de Cire, Poupee de Son (Serge Gainsbourg cover, released on one side of a joint tour 7″ single with LCD Soundsystem. Sung in French. Or is that French Canadian?)

And if you haven’t done so already, you need to try this. Arcade Fire video +  Google earth images of your address + some animated birds = pretty fantastic viewing experience. Warning – takes a wee bit to load. But it’s worth the wait.


Football

Pretty Girls, Pretty Boys, Have You Ever Heard Your Mama Say Noise Annoys?

Aye. Noise annoys. If you’re having a rare old time watching the World Cup but because of this you feel you don’t have the time to catch up on reading your favourite blogs, why not combine the 2 by clicking here.

Thanks to the good people over at the Teenage Fanclub forum for the tip. Argentina to win by the way. Definitely not yer Engerlaha-ha-ha-nd.

Football

WANTED! WANTED! WANTED!

One ticket for this Saturday’s Ayr Utd v Kilmarnock Scottish Cup Tie. Must be for Killie end. Your price paid (as long as it’s face value). Any kindly folk out there who can feel a dose of the sniffles coming on or have stupidly changed their mind about going to what will be the game of the century, please contact me via the ‘About Me’ section. Thanks a million!

OCH082

Football, Gone but not forgotten, Hard-to-find

Burns’ Immortal Memory

Tommy Burns died today. He always seemed like a decent man to me. All the cliches are out – “football man“, “family man” etc etc, and for once they’re all true. I never met him, but I often cheered him on/cursed him from the sidelines when he was playing/managing for Kilmarnock. He was a majestic midfielder before taking the hot seat in the dugout, and he worked a miracle by dragging us from the despairs of the lower leagues to the dizzy heights of the Premier League. He also played over half a thousand times for some other provincial team, but we’ll gloss over that part.

Trash Can Sinatras ‘Worked A Miracle’ (1991 demo from Shabby Road, Kilmarnock)

Trash Can Sinatras ‘I’m Immortal’ (1991 demo from Shabby Road, Kilmarnock)