Thursday, 15 May 2008

Rangers Reputation in Tatters - Again

There is nowhere to hide for Rangers FC. The ingrained bigotry of a large section of their 'supporters' will be beamed around the world for all to see. The events in Manchester last night have left me almost embarrased and ashamed to be a follower of this famous Glasgow club. So much so that I am rapidly losing interest in Scottish football and the culture of drunken violence that it cannot shake off. It's one thing to have a few pints and engage in a bit of banter whilst following your team. It is quite another thing to attack innocent car drivers, rob local businesses and attack police with anything not bolted to the ground. The only thing that keeps me supporting them is the fact that I do not wish to be driven away from the club by these cretins.

As the prominent Scottish sports journalist Graham Spiers points out, the club have tried almost everything to rid itself of such vermin, but in my view Rangers will never lose this element of its followers from the social underclass. Alcohol and intoxication, and the primitive tribal aggression it precipitates, is deeply embedded in the Scottish mindset. Although it could be said to be a problem for the whole of the UK, it seems to be particularly raw in Glasgow. What struck me in the bar I watched the game was the number of female fans perpetrating the aggression and bigotry. That said, they can hardly be described as female. They waddle about menacingly with their pints of cider intent on getting as wasted as possible - there is not a trace of femininity in them at all. I myself was verbally abused by one such disconsolate lady when returning home after the game, simply for having the audacity to wear a suit (which I was wearing as I had gone to the pub straight from work).

So, all the hard work done by Rangers FC over the past 6 or 7 years through a variety of campaigns, has just been undone in one night of madness. All this is great news for Celtic of course. Players across Europe will take note of last nights events and probably list Celtic ahead of Rangers as a preferred destination, although that may already have been the case.

This is Graham's article in full, from the Times Online, and it is worth documenting:

"The chaotic post-match scenes at the Uefa Cup final in Manchester must be utterly galling for those thousands of Rangers fans who follow their team with pride and distinction, yet who must wonder how on earth their club is to be rid of the social poison at its core.
These recurring incidents of delinquent behaviour with Rangers fans on the road are becoming tedious as well as depressing for those of us who chronicle this football club's fortunes. It doesn't seem to matter what Rangers as a club try to do - and the Ibrox board have explored every conceivable road recently - they simply cannot gouge out the primitive element among their followers.

By sheer chance a colleague and I stumbled upon the clashes between Rangers fans and the riot-police around midnight in the centre of Manchester on Wednesday night. Earlier, in the media centre, we had received reports of a Zenit fan being stabbed, and of a number of Rangers supporters being apprehended over that incident, but what we found in the centre of town was something else entirely.

Three of us had gone back to a hotel to pick up some luggage and, one block away, the clashes between fans and the police were in full spate. We drove into a grid of wailing sirens. One Rangers supporter said to me: "It's like a war-zone down there. Some windows have been kicked in and there's fighting with the police." One colleague went off to pick up his bag and returned 10 minutes later, slightly shaken after having to pick his way around the chaos.

The experience earlier in the day in Manchester on Wednesday was also depressing. The blight of bigotry has haunted Rangers FC and, while the club has pleaded and pleaded with fans to stop singing their sectarian dirges, the evidence of Manchester city centre over that period suggested they have made little progress in winning this battle. A range of songs which bellow about "Fenian bastards" and "F*** the Pope" remain the routine chant of too many Rangers supporters. You couldn't walk 50 yards in Manchester city centre without being assaulted by one such chorus.

This is a sensitive subject for Rangers. The club has begged Scottish reporters and editors to play it all down, because it "harms the image" of Glasgow and Scotland. Rangers themselves have hired a PR agency over the last two years, asked to perform what is euphemistically called "damage limitation" when it comes to these repeated embarrassments for the club. The PR boys have a tough job.

As a club Rangers are very familiar now with having to issue declamatory statements in the aftermath of such scenes as Manchester. A recurring phrase - and it was used again by Rangers yesterday - is that it is "a small minority" which ruins it for the rest.
The problem for Rangers is, this isn't a small minority of fans at all, but a large minority of them which indulges in such drunken, or aggressive, or bigoted behaviour. It is an on-going blight upon a very proud and distinguished Scottish institution."

As a sideline, congratulations to Zenit St Petersburg - a fully deserved victory.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Hernandez's Haute Cuisine

Potatoes are one of Mother Earth's most versatile edible gifts. I love few things more than a nice big steaming, creamy pile of mash. The beauty of mashed potato is that making it is easy, fun and flexible. For the perfect mash, boil some floury potatoes such as King Edwards or Maris Piper until tender - usually about 20 minues (test with a knife). Drain, peel and mash, then add a large knob of unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons of creme fraiche, one tablespoon of dijon mustard and a liberal amount of chopped flat leaf parsley. Season with 4 or 5 scrunches of black pepper (salt should not be necessary) and mix the hell out of it until smooth and creamy. Your mash should slowly slide of the spoon when held vertically. Perfect with a couple of thick butchers pork sausages :-)

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Exiting the Abyss

It is now 4 full days and nights since my return from the city of Carlisle. Unfortunately the mental scars and psychological effects are very much evident. I have lost my appetite. I have become distant, confused, unfocused, de-motivated. I am slowly losing the will to live.

The day began in relaxed fashion. Bellies full after a fry up and cup of tea, we merrily set out for our first pre match ale. It was delightful. A few more jars in various establishments and we soon set off to Brunton Park, via an unsuccessful sleeping bag collection trip. Pre match atmosphere. Colourful, friendly, families, horns, flags, balloons, stuffed mascot foxes. Kick off. Rumours of favourable scorelines from other matches permeate the stadium. YES, DONCASTER HAVE BEEN PULLED LEVEL! IT DOESN'T MATTER, FOREST HAVE PULLED FURTHER AHEAD. Final whistle. Sadly Carlisle failed to gain the 3 points required, with a rotund Darren Anderton pulling the strings for Bournemouth in the midfield. In the end it would not have been enough anyway, with Forest winning elsewhere. Then the pitch invasion. Angry men, eager to salute their heroes one final time this season, voice their displeasure. Atmosphere begins to turn sour. Oh dear.

Pub. 6pm. Need to work quickly. Heavy elects for full bottles of wine (no messing about). The educated locals enter the fray, clad in Ben Sherman short sleeves. Ted Baker sweaters. The bars begin to fill up and the atmosphere adopts a sinister tone. Never mind - lets go for a Chinese and recharge our batteries/line our stomachs. THIS WAS A VERY GOOD MOVE IN HINDSIGHT. Our party is reduced to one Heavy and one Toad, so inevitably the quiz machine gets a feed. Thankfully we avoided any unsavoury incidents. And so to the end game. Heavy and Toad enter the Globe bar, popular with goths, students, Scousers and bikers. Did I mention the barman is a wife beater and apparently a high ranking member of the BNP? Perhaps not, but it would not surprise me. Drunken games of pool ensue, accompanied by unfortunate juke box choices. We Built this City on Rock and Roll.

3AM - chucking out time, Heavy and Toad wander ahead, get lost, respect the Queens Highway before slashing heavily in our friends back porch. Sleeping bag and wine collected from a mad Scousers living room. Heavy and Toad return to base, and set up camp in the sparsely decorated/furnished flat. Toad waits until Heavy is asleep then does the gentlemanly thing. He enters Heavies sleeping bag, removes his trousers.....retrieves the door keys from his pocket and heads out to Rouge :-) Sunday, although lethargic I am buoyed by a Liverpool victory and crawl to the train station an broken man. I love Carlisle.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Cumbria's Dark Secret

This Saturday I will be taking a huge leap of faith into the unknown as I venture south of the border to visit a friend of mine in deepest, darkest Cumbria.

I travel with intense trepidation following my previous sojourn, which threw up a number of unpleasant sitations. Myself and a companion by the name of Roger B Smith travelled to Carlisle late last year, intent on enjoying a relaxing and leisurely weekend with a few friends, away from the humdrum of our daily grind. What transpired was a night of undiluted and unimagineable horror. Even the bravest of men would recoil in terror on hearing of this tale. I don't intend to go into detail (it's far too terrifying), but having been suddenly abandoned by our inebriated host, we were left without food, shelter or clean water. We were forced to fend for ourselves in the heart of a strange city and seek temporary refuge in some of the north of England's seediest and decrepit establishments.

On eventually finding our designated shelter, and having had to wade through endless piles of fresh human excrement whilst fighting off local savages, we forced entry through an upstairs window and attempted to set up camp. But our problems had only just begun. It quickly became apparent that we would have to endure a night of discomfort perhaps only understood by Bear Grylls or Ray Mears. Did Scott or Amundsen have to use telephone directories as bedding on the way to the Antarctic? No - they had sleeping bags and tents. It is simply impossible to put into words the feeling of sheer helpnessness on waking at 5am and discovering an empty pizza box draped over ones torso in the manner of a blanket. Sadly my friend Mr Smith is now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the ordeal.

All that is history though. The official reason for my visit this time is to attend a football match. The real reason however is the consumption of copious amounts of alcohol. I can only learn from past mistakes and come fully prepared this time, which is why I have wisely invested in a Berghaus v2000 Explorer Pro Sleeping Bag (£699) complete with a Dreamland Deluxe Pillow set.

Smith and Streat (below) - Happier Times

Douglas P Streat is a man without fear. A man without limits. A man who refuses to bow to social norms. An enigma. Here is a man who will toss full vodka bottles into remote agricultural holdings in a bout of sheer drunken aggression, only to return the following morning to retrieve it once sobriety sets in. Here is a man who drinks full bottles of Sambuca as a pre-breakfast tipple. Here is a man who regards three bottles of wine as a 'light refreshment'. Here is a man who thinks nothing of defecating on a public thoroughfare. Douglas P Streat is a man amongst men.

Liverpool Fall Short, Over to Rangers

So, Liverpool are out of the Champions League and so this bloggers interest in the English league ends until the new season in August. Why can't I support a harmless, normal club like Ipswich or QPR with none of the stress and tension involved in following the Reds? As harsh as it sounds, Riise's last minute own goal at Anfield did in the end cost Liverpool a place in the final. It changed the whole complexion of the tie and allowed Chelsea to sit back and play a tight formation, depriving the Reds key players of space. The extra 3 or 4 days preparation and rest for Liverpool's players did not show one bit. If anything, it seemed like Liverpool were the team who had just played a tough and energy sapping title decider. They somehow lacked the drive and urgency of Chelsea, especially in the first half. Gerrard and Torres again were disappointing overall. Does this prove my suspicion that 'resting' players before key games is actually counter productive in that it disrupts their momentum and takes the edge off their game? Yet again, the team only started pressing when it was too late. A familiar trait with Benitez's teams. But I will keep the faith with Rafa, at least for another season. With heavy summer investment I think we can get closer to the top two. The side did well to get to the semi finals but were just lacking that extra bit of quality.

Enough of Liverpool though, I must pick myself up and dust myself down in anticipation of Rangers' 2nd leg decider against Fiorentina. The tie is delicately poised, although Fiorentina are favourites to progress. However Rangers have proved they are a competent side away from home in Europe, and with Barry Ferguson and Kevin Thomson back from suspension, the midfield will hopefully provide more creativity for the front two. The game could go any way. I've had enough footballing stress for one week so hopefully the Teddy Bears will score a goal nice and early to settle my nerves and then wrap things up with a couple of killer goals from Stevie Davis and Bazza in the 2nd half. Somehow I doubt things will go so smoothly……..