“If you chuck it up their bum, they don’t get pregnant!”
That’s certainly what I was taught as a nipper, and it’s the tactic I’ve employed thus far in my twenty-eight childless years on this planet. But blow me down with a feather; haven’t I been sailing close to the wind? Clearly a few decades ago this practice was all the rage in primitive quarters – hence the genetic uncertainty and diverse and unusual collection of men employed at a number of SPL clubs.
On a different note, handsome Neil Lennon is riding the crest of a wave thanks to recent derby dominance. This is hard for us to swallow but it is time to face up to the stark reality of the cute wee troll leaving stinking skid-marks on our trophy come May. Nothing’s been won yet but we are reeling from two consecutive apocalyptic performances against his ragtag bunch; five goals lost and none scored in the two league games hardly instils confidence for the rest of the season.
Those of us that haven’t blanked out the misery of the failed ten in a row season will have spotted disturbing parallels with the current campaign; not least an ageing, increasingly clueless squad being held together by a weary-looking manager currently in training for the arm-folding world championships. That a rookie who’s definitely not due to grace the cover of Men’s Health is in pole position for the title really should grate; but one gets the feeling we’ve accepted our fate and are currently going through the motions on the basis of contract-fulfilment alone. The season can be rescued but there doesn’t seem to be any lead left in Walter’s pencil, and McCoist has thus far done nothing to suggest he’s a natural fit for the role.
Walter has never been a fan of tactics, instead preferring a back-slap and a fist-shake, but his increasing belligerence in this regard might continue to cost us. In December 2009 we’d lurched through a humiliating Champions league campaign and scaled the dizzy domestic heights of three consecutive 0-0 draws, with a defeat at Pittodrie thrown in for horrific measure. A crisis meeting was called and the players expressed their desire to alter the system they’d been enduring all season and lo and behold; we started playing with two up and two wide, scoring an impressive 19 goals in four games. It has since been regarded that this impressive run through the winter fixtures contributed significantly to our championship win, so we must now await the true impact of the latest clear-the-air talks held at Auchenhowie this week- we must hope that something is done, as we have we now regressed to the sort of football that would offend the sensibilities of Egil Olsen.
I’ve never been aggressively assaulted in the manner redolent of extreme Euro-porn head games but I imagine it’s not dissimilar to the feeling of watching Nikica Jelavic try to control a punted ball in the centre circle, with his back to goal and a six-foot Swedish bald guy up his arse. Similar ocular rape occurs when Mo Edu employs the curious tactic of playing the ball off his own face, usually under not-a-lot of pressure. Steven Davis is missed, given that before Thursday he hadn’t played yet this season, and I’m fairly upset at the news David Weir retired last summer but failed to tell anyone. Whilst there’s no doubt our players are better than they’re currently showing, managers often fall on their sword when their players simply stop responding to them. It happened to Advocaat, who couldn’t even muster a performance from his Dutch compatriots; instead it took Alex McLeish to put his arm round them before any progress could be made towards silverware. Similarly, players simply gave up under Paul le Guen, Smith’s return heralding an emphatic 5-0 victory as a potent signifier of our resurgence.
Whilst pampered millionaire players must take their share of the blame, so too must our manager reflect on his own failings. Football is a fluid game and one must react to events in-play. Whether it’s losing a goal, scoring a goal, having a man sent off or Gary Hooper dribbling so much the pitch becomes waterlogged, a manager has to be aware of the differing approaches required throughout the match. Walter simply reacts to nothing. A consultation with the clipboard can, on occasion, bring about the patented 70th minute ‘swapping of the left wingers’, with Vladimir Weiss usually being the player withdrawn (regardless of form) but if an opponent changes their system, you can be damn sure they’ll get the rest of the match to try it out as we will simply watch their experiment and hope it doesn’t pay off.
The Bank of Boogeymen will continue to get the blame whilst the real villain slithers off to his French vineyard; safe in the knowledge the present managerial incumbents would rather stab a baby than utter anything that may vaguely be construed at criticism of the man that made them millionaires. Walter can moan all he likes but his tip-toeing around Murray renders anything he says utterly redundant. When McCoist takes the reins he too will be constrained by the need to protect the absentee Chairman and the whole depressing cycle will begin again. Fundamental change is required if the club is to finally fulfil its potential and that means an entire new ethos. Le Guen didn’t work out but the theory was sound; we just never contemplated the notion we may not win the league that season thus when that scenario become a foregone conclusion, we threw him back in the Channel and went running to the man we jettisoned nine years previous. At the time it seemed absurd but in hindsight, with impending financial Armageddon on the horizon, it was a shrewd move.
Now we come to another crossroads and we logically should be re-appointing Dick Advocaat but something tells me he’s not going to be tempted by the budget of two cans of Tizer and half a Curly-Wurly. Of course, you don’t need huge budgets to be a success in Scotland; Lennon picked up a fullback at a car wash in Maryhill (probably) and one of their strikers' wages are (allegedly) being supplemented by a certain charity, thus we may in fact be better served investing in some coaches who demand more from the players than simply jogging slowly in a circle for ninety minutes, three times a week.
I’ll finish where I started; up the arse. If Walter can’t deliver the swift boot needed up said canal and recover some semblance of confidence and quality from this expensively assembled side, he’ll have failed his toughest test since returning and handing the baton to his equally culpable but less experienced side-kick, will only serve to prolong the misery en route to Doomsday.