Sunday, 17 May 2015


In education there's a weird situation where the more courses a teacher does, the more likely they are to be promoted. A lot of the more worthwhile courses take place during the day so an ambitious teacher will hardly ever be in the school, leaving their classes to a parade of supply teachers. And I'm not exaggerating here; I've seen some primary teachers spend as little as a few weeks out of a year in the classroom before disappearing altogether into the stratosphere of the education department. Since these folk are seen as being experts in their field, it's to them that governments turn when they're looking to shake things up a bit to improve results in our schools. The fact that these people have virtually no idea of what goes on in a day-to-day classroom doesn't seem to matter; just look at all those courses they've done!

And so, every couple of decades or so, they change the curriculum, and how it's taught, leaving ordinary teachers to cope with having to learn all the changes while still having to teach the pupils in their classes. Some of this can get ridiculous. When I first started teaching, we were told that learning by rote was a waste of time; the children needed to understand what they were learning. So pupils were not to learn their times tables but look at patterns; for example, how the nine-times table is related to the three-times table etc. And then, suddenly, inspiration struck the powers-that-be and every school had a visitation from on high to announce that they had a 'new' way of learning to multiply - you learned the times tables! The funniest part was that all the teachers were told that 'they had been doing the wrong thing' - as if it was their fault!

The same situation exists in football, with folk that have never kicked a ball in anger, or even dipped into their pocket to buy a match ticket, making pronouncements on what's best for the game in Scotland. The game was getting moribund in the 1970s so they came up with the brilliant idea of having a top tier with less teams in it. This was going to save Scottish football. Through the years this top league has been extended to twelve teams, contracted to ten, extended again, contracted, extended, contracted...In fact, I can't even remember off-hand how many teams are in the Premiership at present!

Things aren't particularly great in Scottish football again. Despite claims that the play-offs have made things more exciting and the resurgence of Aberdeen and the like; the fact remains that attendances are way down. So what bright ideas have our people at the top come up with to make things better? Why, a bigger top tier, of course! Well, bugger me with a bicycle pump; what a brilliant idea! It stands to reason, doesn't it? You won't get teams playing each other four times or more every season so it's bound to be better! Er...so why didn't they just leave the good, old-fashioned Division 1 where it was in the first place?

We all know what the real problems are with Scottish football. Firstly, it's too bloody dear! In a competitive market for entertainment, football has priced itself out of the pocket of the ordinary fan. I think I've mentioned before about the time I was going to treat my brother in law and his boys to a match at Celtic Park against Hearts. I nearly shat myself when they told me the price! Secondly, most entertainment these days is family-oriented and it's a brave man these days that'll insist on disappearing to the football on his own. And he can hardly take his family; can he? Nobody wants to listen to the appeals for blood donors for some Bathory-like treatment on the lower legs, while having to explain to the weans what a 'Fenian' is! That's the sort of thing that needs to change; not the size of the top league.

Now we've got that well-known genius, Barry Ferguson, telling us how to save the game. It's not how many teams are in the league, he tells us, it's which teams are in it. Of course, the main thing is having 'Celtic and Rangers (sic)' matches. But wait, Barry's in a generous mood; we need all our derbies - Dundee v Dundee Utd, Hibs v Hearts and...er...that's it. Graciously, Barry admits that promotion and relegation should be 'on merit' but, and it's a big 'but', we need a bigger league to make sure this lot never leaves the top tier. After all, as Ferguson points out, "The bigger sponsorship deals come to the table when the bigger teams and the bigger matches are involved. It stands to reason. The Champions League makes multi-millions because 
the cream of Europe are playing in it."

I can't be the only one that finds the Champions League nothing but a total bore. Rich footballing countries, like England and Italy, have umpteen teams competing, reducing the chance of some smaller team succeeding. It's the same teams in the knock-out stages year after year and I can't get excited about it at all. It should just be the champions from each country taking part in a knock-out tournament, with all the uncertainty and upsets that can bring; that sounds to me a far more exciting competition.

And that's what can make Scottish football exciting; the likes of Aberdeen or Dundee Utd pushing Celtic to the line and big teams like Hibs and Hearts running the risk of being relegated. It's the nail-biting stuff that makes it all worthwhile; something you won't get if the whole thing is fixed so that the league will be made bigger to keep certain teams in it. What's the point? It's like those games of football you'd sometimes get when you were wee, where a gang of thugs would threaten to kick the shit out of you if you won. You couldn't possibly win and you couldn't walk away either, since that would result in a kicking as well. That's the kind of football that appeals to Barry Ferguson, and others; a complete and utter waste of time, where the game takes second place to how much money can be made. Is that what we really want?

And then there's the ridiculous figure of Ralph Topping moaning at the BBC for not handing over enough money. After our football authorities and our media have been talking the Scottish game up as such a great product! Over the past few years they've told us about Armageddon, tainted titles, how 'Rangers' being missing from the top tier made things less exciting and then the SPFL actually paid BT Sports to show Sevco matches. I mean, what's not to like? And they wonder why broadcasters weren't exactly falling over themselves... Considering that any contract with the BBC would, of course, have insisted on them following Sevco's 'journey', it's surprising that the Beeb actually handed over any money at all!

Speaking of thugs, as I was earlier, I see that the guy that racially abused MSP Humza Yousaf, when he was selling the Big Issue, is a Hun. Who'd have guessed, eh? The headline says, 'Racists take note - you won't get away with your hate'. Unless, of course, the one being abused is of Irish extraction and the thug is calling him a 'Taig' or a 'Tarrier'!

Which brings me back to Nil By Mouth. The last correspondence I received was a link to a story about a Rangers-supporting workman being whacked on the back with a garden spade by a work colleague. The guy suffered broken ribs and had to have a stay in hospital but, as I e-mailed back to NBM, this shocking tale has nothing whatsoever to do with my query. I pointed out that I wanted evidence of Protestants being discriminated against in the WORK MARKET, the way Catholics were. I've received no reply as yet and am wondering if I'll get a reply at all!

Meanwhile, Jim Murphy has decided to resign. The Daily Record/Sunday Mail is up in arms about this, denouncing all the folk that had it in for him after Scottish Labour being wiped out. In a stirring encomium, we are told how Murphy's "five months as leader brought energy and ideas to a party that, quite frankly, hasn’t had enough of either for far too long. He is an experienced and committed politician and Scottish Labour have not had a surfeit of them either." Ideas? I don't remember too many of them coming from Murphy but he certainly brought energy, if that's what you call standing shouting at people in the street, surrounded by a travelling rent-a-mob. Instead of his trademark Irn Bru can in his hand, his way of campaigning was probably more suited to a bottle of Buckfast! Probably the most damning indictment that can be made against an MP like Murphy is the fact that nobody is going to notice the difference between his being there and not being there!

Finally, I see the chances of Mike Ashley getting his £5m back have been drastically reduced. Read about it here.

Ralph Topping yesterday.

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