Football, outings and assorted finery.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

That's why they're champions...

Certainly a lot of people having differing opinions on exactly 'why' indeed.

Suffice to say the Hearts support’s opinion didn't quite match with those eminating from the traveling support after Saturday's lunchtime game was brought to a close by the hapless Craig Thomson.

Thomson (the ref as supposed to the Hearts left back) was his usual inconsistent self. He was equally bad towards both teams but the award of the free kick which lead to the eventual winning goal for Rangers was a clear gaffe. The incident appeared to be nothing more than two players going for a 50-50 ball with their feet at the same height and quite how Thomson saw enough to warrant awarding the free kick in Ranger's favour was baffling. I've even chated with several Rangers supporters who concurred.

Anyway us Hearts supporters can moan all we like. Free kick or no free kick, Rangers wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) have scored had Eggert Jonsson tracked Naismith's run. Similarly I doubt any Jambos would have maintained any greivance over the questionable five minutes of extra time had Kevin Kyle maximised his fine opportunity to score in the 92nd minute. John Robertson commented on Radio Scotland that when the amount extra time is announced you simply have to get on with it, it's available for both teams to use as they wish and he’s absolutely correct. It's galling, sickening and dissapointing for Hearts supporters that Hearts took nothing from a this game but I guess that's football.

So before I become even less impartial I should probably talk about the game itself. Like most of the Hearts games I attend (essentially the bread and butter of my domestic football), it was less of a day out and more of a chance to meet up with my Dad and spend some time watching our team. As such, and partly due to the midday kick off, we dispelled any notion of visiting the pub and headed straight for the ground. After parking at nearby Saughtonhall Ave we made the short walk down the lane and up Wheatfield Street to Gorgie Road. The street was has adopted its usual guise before games against the Glasgow clubs (or Hibs) with Gorgie Road having become an edgy mix of Hearts fans and travelling supporters, many of whom were enjoying a liquid lunch comprising mainly of Buckfast Abbey’s finest tonic wine. I'm kind of hardened to it now but if anyone has never witnessed and Old Firm travelling support it really has to be seen to be believed. Sure, there are some normal folk amongst the other, more interesting specimens but you have to make and effort to find them. At least that how it seeems. If you just close your eyes and imagine the stereotype, you'll find that the reality does not differ too greatly.

Jim Jeffries continued his touchline ban.

After braving the blue (or orange) clad hoardes outside the ground we assembed in our usual seats. The atmosphere was building nicely and as usual the Rangers fans had been allocated (and sold out) the entire Roseburn Stand.

The away end.

The calm before the storm.

Interestingly the stadium announcer made a pre-match statement requesting that all supporters refrain from taking part in any racist, homophobic or sectarian actions, a futile gesture really given that the Rangers fans still gave us a rendition of their usual tunes. Without getting into the whole 'define what's a sectarian song' debate it does ultimately come down to how you classify a sectarianism and I'll wager that many Rangers fans would be of the opinion that the songs given an airing on Saturday were legitimate ‘traditional’ tunes in support of their team. Whilst that remains their prerogative, I'm equally convinced the the majority of like minded, fair thinking people would agree with me in my belief that songs such as The Sash, No Pope of Rome, Build My Gallows (all sung with gusto on Saturday) are not only sectarian and offensive but that they have no place in a football stadium. As usual though the stewards took no action and journalists from the Sunday press (perhaps through fear of reprisals?) made no mention of these songs in the following days papers, nor the chanted enquiry as to who the 'fenian in the black' was following another poor refereeing decision.

The game itself, whilst not showcasing the highest level of skill ever seen on a football pitch, was like many SPL games nowadays in that it was fairly evenly matched, fast paced and exciting. It was somewhat nostalgic to see Rudi Skacel back in a maroon shirt and when he scored a typically tenacious goal after 12 minutes it was almost like he'd never been away. It brought back memories of George Burley's short stint as Hearts manager five years hence and Rudi's memorable goal at Celtic Park when he managed to pounce upon a defensive error and put Artur Boruc in spin before despatching the ball into the net.

The game resumes after Skacel's goal.

Despite going 1-0 up. Hearts rode their luck on several occasions in the first half with Rangers hitting the post and Hearts defenders clearing the ball off the line on a couple of occasions. Weiss looked a constant threat and Kello did well to save a stunning overhead effort from Jelavic at close range.

James Beattie makes his way inside for a half time pie.

The second half continued in the same vein. Hearts looked threatening on occasion but Rangers coninued to go close, when Lafferty equalised after 70 minutes I felt a draw would be a fair result. Obviously the gods of fate felt differently and when Naismith cut into the box and fired low past Kello to take the lead and effectively win the game for Ranger in injury time both the Rangers bench and the away end descended into absolute bedlam.

What happened next has been well documented, Naismith for some unexplained reason chose to ignore his own supporters behind the goal in front of him, turn in a different direction and perform an animated, some might say inflammatory, goal celebration right in front of the Hearts main stand enclosure. This sadly was the cue for numerous missile to be thrown onto the pitch in his direction, with linesman Willie Conquer being caught in the crossfire by a pound coin (...surely with a name like Willie Conquer, he's always going to be prone to 'going down easily'....ahem).

Whilst Naismith's actions were ill advised, ultimately he was entitled to celebrate where he did and whether he acted unprofessionally or not, there can be absolutely no excuse for the throwing of missiles. Hearts have realeased a statment to that effect and have started investigtions with a view to identifying those involved. Naismith should probably have acted with more sense and one suspects a non Old Firm player might have found himself in the receiving end of a disrepute charge (or certainly a yellow card which, as Naismith had been previously booked, would have equated to a sending off) for celebrating in, arguably, such an inflamatory manner. The majority of the Scottish press decided not to highlight any role Naismith may played in the ugly proceedings. The Scotman hinted that celebrating in front of the most volatile area of Hearts supporters wasn't the smartest move, but it was left to The Guardian to make a clear suggestion that whilst the response was completely unjustifiable, Naismith's actions were inappropriate.

Obviously some lads from Northern Ireland.

I expect little to come of the incident other than for Hearts to once again boost the SFA's Christmas party fund by way of being ordered to pay a hefty fine. Such is life in the world of Scottish football.

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