Posts Tagged ‘Football’

The Power of the Small: A Journey into a Hidden Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 19th 2014

Football is everywhere in modern life and no more so than in Scotland.

It is a partial story, concentrating on the theatre, drama and tropes of a very select few: the changing fortunes of Celtic and Rangers, the predictability of the Premiership, and an over-focus on a few clubs in the Central Belt (along with Aberdeen and the two Dundee clubs).

A whole array of football is missing from these accounts: the Scotland of the non-league game represents what is in effect a hidden Scotland. The biggest and most impressive part of this is junior football which covers 164 clubs in the country, and is nearly entirely absent from our media and public conversation, from the vast coverage of the game on TV, radio and papers, and which seems even beyond the reach and interest of Stuart Cosgrove and Tam Cowan’s ‘Off the Ball’, along with most football reporters.

At the start of January 2012 myself and my friend Eddie completed our tour of Scotland’s 42 senior football grounds and teams. We had deliberately undertaken the journey in a rambling, off the cuff way: to consciously not make it into a project or extension of work, and to do it with affection and love. It was also not just about football, but going to parts of our country with curiosity, as well as spending time travelling and blethering as friends. That experience concluded as I wrote about in ‘Scottish Review’ at the time, at a Peterhead v. Celtic cup game, and Berwick Rangers v. Stranraer. Read the rest of this entry »

The Saga of ‘Team GB’ and the Country that doesn’t know its own Name

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, April 21st 2012

This week the clock counting down to the London Olympics passed the 100 days to go mark, while the Olympic authorities announced their rigorous social media and Twitter guidelines like a rerun of some Beijing 2008 police operation.

The story of ‘Team GB’ the Olympic football project continues to offer more entertainment, bewilderment and anxiety with a ‘shortlist’ just announced of 80 players. Steven Fletcher, along with David Beckham is apparently included. Next week the draw takes place for the football competition with still a huge number of unsold tickets.

It is ‘Team GB’ that participates in the games, not ‘Team UK’.  The reason for this is shrouded in history. Great Britain was one of only fourteen national teams which competed in the first modern games of 1896 and then in 1908 the name Great Britain and the abbreviation GBR were registered by the Olympic authorities.

This is the conventional story put forward. That a UK which has undergone two World Wars, the loss of Empire and its changing role in the world, couldn’t bring itself to change the 1908 Olympic registration. If so, it says quite a bit about the nature of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Game Still? Punters, Pundits and Change

Part Three

Gerry Hassan

April 13th 2012

Celtic and Rangers never used to dominate Scottish football to the degree they do now. In this concluding piece, I am going to measure the degree to which the Old Firm’s near stranglehold on the game is increasingly driving fans away, then address the role of the media, and end with some observations about how we can change the game.

The scale of Celtic and Rangers attendances and the size of their support has long been one of the defining accounts of the Scottish game, like their love of silverware, dating back to the game turning professional in Victorian Scotland. Yet like the silverware story it isn’t really completely true and warrants further investigation.

If we look at the three periods of Scottish post-war football I previously identified a very clear pattern. In 1947-65, Rangers were the most popular side with an average home league attendance of 34,432, Celtic were on 23,834; Hearts were in third place with 21,720 and Hibs fourth with 20,641; these last two are respectively 63% and 60% of Rangers average attendances. Across the nineteen seasons Rangers were the most popular every season, but Hearts were second on six occasions and Hibs on four with Celtic second nine times (and on three occasions finishing fourth). The season 1960-61 when Hearts finished second was the last time the Old Firm were split in terms of attendances: fifty one years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Game Still? Games under the Shadow of Giants

Part Two

Gerry Hassan

April 12th 2012

The story goes like this. Scottish football has always been about Celtic and Rangers. Live with it. Get used to it. This is increasingly the way of the world: oligopoly, closed competition, success following money.

Leaving aside the early days of the Scottish game this perspective invites pessimism and fatalism. And funnily enough it isn’t true.

The economic, social and cultural forces of Scotland from Victorian times onwards favoured the dominance of Celtic and Rangers from the moment the game professionalised. But not to the suffocating extent of today.

The Three Waves of the Post-war Game

To illustrate the changing dynamics of the Scottish game and the drive towards greater dominance by the Glasgow two I decided to look at the pattern of the game over the post-war era. And split it into three distinct periods: 1947-65, the immediate post-war period which saw intense competition for all three domestic titles; 1966-86, the era of Celtic’s ‘nine in a row’ and the rise of ‘the New Firm’ of Aberdeen and Dundee United; and then 1987 to today, with the Souness revolution, Rangers ‘nine in a row’ and the transformation of Celtic under Fergus McCann. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Game Still? The State of Scottish Football

Part One

Gerry Hassan

April 11th 2012

This is an appropriate time to survey the state of Scottish football. Celtic have just been crowned champions and Rangers are in administration awaiting the next stage of that saga. It is the week before the Scottish Cup semi-finals, and that other important part of the Scots football tradition and fabric, the Scottish Junior Cup semi-finals.

In this piece and subsequent articles, I want to put the current state of our game in a historical context. I will examine changing patterns of competition, dominance, change and rivalry and in particular take the long view from the beginning of the Scottish game, look at the post-war era and the distinctive periods it contained, and at the nature of Scottish football attendances.
In covering such a broad sweep I will attempt to bring to the fore salient facts and patterns which are often overlooked in the pressure cooker, instantaneous reporting of much of our mainstream media. And in conclusion I offer some thoughts on how the game is portrayed and some observations about how the game gets out of its current position. Read the rest of this entry »