Celtic in Europe – The MON Years: Part 1

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Free 74 page PDF on its way to subscribers this weekend to pass the time until the real thing starts next month.

“Fantastic memories of one of our better European campaigns.”
Sid et Doris Bonqueurs – Jeunesse D’Esch

“Try the reindeer burgers next time you’re in Finland. Cheaper than the beer.”
H. Jakey – Helsinki

“There were men from near the Bordeaux…”
Charles de Goal – France

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The Zen of Nakamura


Happy birthday Shunsuke Nakamura, our erstwhile legend of the free-kick.


Shunsuke Nakamura was a Gordon Strachan midfield stalwart for four seasons, scorer of some of the most thrilling goals we’ve see at Celtic Park in recent times and the man who gave the Parkhead DJ the chance to dust off his Vapors single (it could have been worse had he been a fan of that cringingly naff ‘Aneka’ – real name Bella McGlumpher or some such – record)

This was the transfer that we were all assured by the likes of the Rectumsport staff was not going to happen. Following the Artmedia nightmare it became very clear that Celtic wouldn’t be taking any part in the 2005-06 Champions League, therefore the logic of the Darylls dictated that without the lure of European football the man from Japan wouldn’t be interested in coming to Scotland in order to go mano y mano with Ross Tokely and the rest of Hammer Throwers Inc.

With clubs like Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid sniffing about we were led to believe that the aforementioned DJ might be spinning ‘Jilted John’ for us over the tannoy. Yet, without indulging in too much of a crude national stereotype, the Japanese are nothing if not honourable, not to mention inscrutable. Promises had been made, and so it was that Naka came to Glasgow and made his Celtic debut against Dundee United on August 5th 2005.

First impressions were favourable, to say the least. His first touch was immaculate, he could find a team mate with a pass virtually every time he got the ball, he was able to keep possession and he played with his head up – and not up his arse either. By the standards of 90% of the SPL this put him on a par with Zico. Unlucky not to score on more than one occasion, his manager was quick to praise his Man of the Match performance. Naka himself, speaking inscrutably through his interpreter, declared himself to be reasonably happy with his contribution to Celtic’s afternoon, pledging to work on his cardiovascular regime in order to catch up with his team mates, some of whom were just finishing their second slice of pizza and wondering what he was on about.

Deployed mainly wide on the right of midfield by Gordon Strachan, despite having a left foot that stood comparison with Lubo, Naka went on to become a regular starter and was one of Celtic’s main creative threats throughout a season that he finished by picking up a Championship medal to go with the League Cup badge won the previous month.

The following season Naka became the first Japanese player to play in the Champions League when he turned out against Manchester United at Old Trafford. His growing reputation as a free-kick specialist was cemented that night when he scored a Naka cracker to bring us level at 2:2. It might have been enough to earn us a creditable away point had Giggs not conned the ref with an outrageous dying swan routine to win the home side a penalty.

Revenge was sweet in the return at Celtic Park, though. Once again Naka flighted home an amazing strike past van der Sar which seems to get further out each time you watch it. This time the Holy Goalie saved the mandatory United penalty and we qualified from the group stage for the first time.

Apparently, apart from endlessly practising inscrutable free-kicks at training in a manner best described as inscrutable, Nakamura also practises qigong to help his concentration and delivery at dead balls, a set of breathing and movement exercises often taught in association with Chinese martial arts. It seems that Qigong’s slow external movements help stimulate the internal organs by promoting the flow of the body’s internal energy or qi.

Certainly different from Kris Boyd’s ten pints of lager and a crate of Monster Munch training regime.

In between the games against United Naka had scored his first Celtic hat-trick in a 4-1 defeat of Dundee United at Tannadice – and not a free kick among them.

He won Goal of the Season that year as well for yet another memorable effort, this time chipping the ball over United’s Derek Stillie from somewhere near the touchline to secure a comeback point at Celtic Park.

His second league medal was secured when he won the game at Kilmarnock with yet another brilliant free-kick. The emotion he showed as he ran into the crowd swinging his jersey hinted that the mask of inscrutability might be in danger of slipping were he to hang around CP much longer. Later the same evening he won the SPFA Player of the Year award, followed in May by the Hacks award and the Celtic Fans’ award.

A knee injury picked up in the Champs League qualifier against Spartak kept him out for the first three months of the next season, but he was back by January to play his part in the run-in, most notably with arguably his best goal in the Hoops, a vicious swerving drive that left Allan McGregor looking as if he’d just had a night out in Loch Lomond with Bazza.

During his final season with Celtic he was definitely not the player of old, caught up in the general malaise and looking as if he had half an eye on his exit route. Before the January transfer window there was already speculation that he wanted to return to Japan in order to let his wee boy start school in his homeland and play out his final years for his first club, Yokohama. The fact that he ended up at Espanyol just proves what I was saying about him being inscrutable.

In his four seasons at Celtic he gave us some fantastic memories, some wonderful goals and provided the club with an exposure in Japan that must have been worth millions in terms of commercial spin-offs. According to David Thompson, Celtic’s former commercial director, “Celtic are now the third most popular Scottish brand in Japan, behind whisky and Sean Connery. Their popularity has even led to the creation of a word for Scot – “Scoto-rando-jin” – whereas in the past Scots were referred to as being English.”

It was easy to see why Peter Lawwell and the bhoys in the boardroom were eager to get Naka’s successor signed in order to keep the profile up in the far east. 140,000 Nike Hoops tops a year wasn’t to be sniffed at.

Nakamura left as still something of an elusive (nay, inscrutable) character, but he does come across as someone who enjoyed his experience at Celtic

If only he’d had an extra yard of space!





The Zen of Naka: The Journey of a Footballing Genius by Martin Greig; Mainstream Publishing; 240 pages (8 pages of colour pictures); £16.99 hardback

Far from your normal book about a footballer as Martin Greig tries to unravel the complexities of our very private Japanese midfielder.

His early life and football career are covered in detail, of course. Because Naka is so private, very little is known about him as a person (even in Japan) so it was interesting to find out about his upbringing, the reasons for his move to Italy then to Celtic and to get an insight into the dedication that has gone in to making him arguably the best technician we’ve had since Lubo.

As well as focusing on Nakamura, the author also gives us a fascinating overview of the development of football in Japan since the Second World War (and if you want to find out more you should get a hold of ‘Japanese Rules: Japan and the Beautiful Game’ by Sebastien Moffett). Greig goes to some lengths to interview the coaches and teammates who knew the young Naka, as well as tracking down Philippe Troussier, the man who left him out of Japan’s 2002 World Cup squad (a huge blow to the player).

Troussier’s interview is one of the highlights of the book, as is the resolve shown by Nakamura to get over this disappointment to get where he is today.



Also described in the book are the professional Naka followers, and what an eclectic, not to mention eccentric bunch they are, including the one who took up Scottish country dancing while a teenager in Japan, so fascinated was he with all thing Caledonian.

As Greig notes, “there are clear parallels with Henrik Larsson, even if Nakamura isn’t, yet, as revered. The Swede appeared cool and aloof when he arrived, but as the public admiration grew, so Larsson’s inscrutable veneer began to peel away and his charisma shone through – and so it is with Nakamura”.

Not your average footballer biography in more ways than one. I enjoyed it.


World Cup Celts


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Good luck to all our players as the World Cup gets underway in Russia. An appearance at the World Cup finals might rightly be considered the pinnacle of a player’s career. This year Celtic will be represented by Tom Rogic, Mikael Lustig, Dedryk Boyata and Cristian Gamboa.

Ex-Celts John Guidetti, Jackson Irvine and Ki Sung Yeung will also be in the squads of their respective countries.

For a brief look at the Celtic’s links (however tenuous) with previous tournaments it’s over to the all-knowledgeable Tom Campbell and George Sheridan, who compiled this entry for their Celtic Encyclopedia:


Uruguay 1930: Jimmy McGhee, an outstanding Celtic player of the 1890s, emigrated to the USA in 1910 and his son Bobby played for the States in the first ever World Cup (scoring the second goal in the competition in a 3:0 win over Belgium). Incidentally, he also played at outside-left for the New York Giants against Celtic in the 1931 tour of America.

Italy 1934: Julius Hjulian, although a Swede by birth, played in goal for the USA against Italy in a 7:1 defeat. Julius had turned out for Celtic reserves in 1925-26, including a Second XI cup tie against Rangers.


Switzerland 1954: Willie Fernie and Neil Mochan represented Scotland against Austria (0:1) and Uruguay (0:7). Former Celt Tommy Docherty also played. The Celtic squad were taken to Switzerland to watch the competition and to learn from it.


Sweden 1958: Willie Fernie made his second appearance in the World Cup finals when he played against Paraguay (2-3). Bobby Evans and Bobby Collins played in all three matches that year, against Paraguay, Yugoslavia (1:1) and France (1:2). Evans became the first Celtic player to captain Scotland at a World Cup finals in the match against the French while Collins became the first Celt to score at the finals in the game against Paraguay. This was the 500th goal netted in the competiton since its inception.
In the same tournament Bertie Peacock appeared in every match for the surprisingly successful Northern Ireland team.


Germany 1974: Danny McGrain, David Hay and Kenny Dalglish played for a Scotland side undefeated against Zaire (2:0), Brazil (0:0) and Yugoslavia (1:1). A fourth Celtic player, Jimmy Johnstone, did not participate in any match although he had left the bench to warm up during the closing stages against Yugoslavia.
Wim Jansen represented losing finalists Holland in all their matches. Accordingly, three future Celtic managers played at this tournament.


Argentina 1978: Ex-Celts Lou Macari (Manchester United) and Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool) represented Scotland, as did future Celt Alan Rough.
Wim Jansen again played for Holland and once more reached the final.


Spain 1982: Jock Stein was the Scotland manager, while Danny McGrain, ex-Celt Kenny Dalglish and future Celt Alan Rough played in the tournament. Also in the Scotland squad were Gordon Strachan, Joe Jordan and John Robertson, all of whom would later take up coaching positions at Celtic Park.
Martin O’Neill captained Northern Ireland on their march to the quarter-finals and Dr. Josef Venglos was the coach of the Czechoslovakia national side.


Mexico 1986: Paul McStay and Roy Aitken represented Celtic at this tournament. Ex-Celt charlie Nicholas (Arsenal) and future Celt frank McAvennie (West Ham) also played for Scotland. Gordon Strachan was to be remembered for his aborted celebration following his goal against West Germany.
Dariusz Dziekanowski played for Poland.


Italy 1990: This was a vintage year for Celtic representation for Scotland with Paul McStay and Roy Aitken, ex-Celts Maurice Johnston, Alan McInally and Murdo MacLeod all featuring. Gary Gillespie came on as a sub.
Pat Bonner, Chris Morris, Mick McCarthy and Tony Cascarino played for the Republic of Ireland.
Lubo Moravcik turned out for Czechoslovakia (managed by Jo Venglos again) and John Harkes, who had been fielded for Celtic reserves, played for the USA.


USA 1994: Pat Bonner and Tommy Coyne were standouts for the Republic of Ireland while Tony Cascarino made a cameo appearance, as did Roy Keane.
Sweden finished in third place with Henrik Larsson having made five appearances for them.
John Harkes again turned out for the United States and Russia was captained by their goalkeeper Dmitri Kharine, who would sign for Celtic six years later from Chelsea.


France 1998: Tom Boyd, Craig Burley, Darren Jackson, Tosh McKinlay and Jackie McNamara played for Scotland while former Celts John Collins (Monaco) and Derek Whyte (Middlesborough) were also in the squad.
Marc Rieper and Morten Wieghorst turned out for Denmark.
Pierre van Hooijdonk played three times for Holland and scored once.
Norway’s goal in a 1:1 draw with Scotland was scored by Vidar Riseth.


Japan/ South Korea 2002: Two Celtic players played for Sweden in that year’s tournament, namely Henrik Larsson and Johann Mjallby, Larsson scoring three goals. The Swedish goalkeeper Magnus Hedman also later joined Celtic.
Henri Camara played for Senegal and it was his ‘Golden Goal’ that eliminated the Swedes.
One time Celtic ‘keeper Shay Given played for the Republic of Ireland who were coached by Mick McCarthy.
Du Wei was in the China squad and Maciej Zurawski played for Poland.
Juninho came on as a late substitute for Brazil in the World Cup final and picked up a winner’s medal.


Germany 2006: For Poland, Artur Boruc and Maciej Zurawski played well, as did Shunsuke Nakamura for Japan.
Henrik Larsson was still scoring goals for Sweden while his former strike partner Mark Viduka turned out for Australia.
Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink came on a a substitute for the Netherlands as did Thomas Hitzlsperger for Germany (he had played two games as a trialist for Celtic in 2000).


South Africa 2010: Giorgios Samaras and Ki Sung Jeung appeared in all three group games for Greece and South Korea respectively. Landry N’Guemo played one game for Cameroon (managed by Paul Le Guen) while Shunsuke Nakamura made one substitute appearance for Japan in a defeat to Holland. Edson Braafheid also made one substitute apperance when he came on for Holland in the 105th minute of the final to replace Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
Emilio Izaguirre played against Spain and Chile for Honduras and Efraim Juarez made two apperances for Mexico, claiming the distinction of being the first player to be yellow carded in that year’s tournament.


Brazil 2014: Emilio Izaguirre appeared twice for Honduras. Efe Ambrose played in all four of Nigeria’s games as they qualified for the knockout stage of the tournament, eventually losing to Argentina in the last 16. Giorgios Samaras did likewise for Greece, scoring a 93rd minute penalty against Ivory Coast in the final group stage game to take the Greeks through where they lost on penalties to costa Rica. Fraser Forster travelled to Brazil as part of the England squad but didn’t feature in any games.
Ex-Celts at the tournament were Landry N’Guemo (Cameroon) and Mubarak Wakaso (Ghana).
Kolo Toure (Ivory Coast) and Cristian Gamboa (Costa Rica) would join the club later.


World Cup Willie: Arthur Ellis and the Battle of Berne

Every World Cup should have at least one Donnybrook, if you ask me. In 1954 it was Brazil v Hungary. The referee that day was Englishman Arthur Ellis, already a legend in his own head. Gordon Thomson in his book The Man in Black looks at the ref who blazed a trail for self-important egomaniacs everywhere to start writing autobiographies.

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The Man of Every Match leads out the teams at the Bernabeu

By 1954 the referee was beginning to become as famous as the game itself, at least in his own mind. Arthur Ellis proved the dictum that a book should never be judged by its cover, unless it’s about art history, of course. The handful of out of print referee biographies that lie gathering dust, but mercifully not value, in London bookshops, paint an idyllic picture of the British referee in post-war international football, which is at once factual and gravely misleading. To suggest that by 1950 the referee was becoming a popular source of post-match conversation is certainly beyond doubt. Newspaper reports of matches and contemporary radio programmes confirm the growing interest in the behaviour of the man in black. But to imply that he was responsible for the spectacle of the match in the first place – which perhaps unwittingly is nevertheless what referee biographies often do – is stretching it a bit.

Ellis more or less started the trend for referee books in 1962. An avuncular man, he was nevertheless so consumed by his own worth that he compiled a football weltanschauung – The Final Whistle – as a bookend to his glorious international career. Ellis is best known for his part in the ‘Battle of Berne’, the infamous 1954 World Cup Quarter-Final between Brazil and Hungary.

In the course of the game Ellis controversially dismissed three players resulting in mini-riots in the tunnel and in the Hungarian dressing-room after the final whistle. The scene culminated in the podgy Hungarian hero Ferenc Puskas (who was injured and hadn’t even played in the game) bottling the Brazilian centre-half, Anheiro, with a glass soda siphon. Ah, the good old days.

Ellis, you may recall, ended his ‘glorious career’ on another field of play, as Stuart Hall’s prancing sidekick on It’s a Knockout. It was Ellis, indeed, who coined the phrase ‘They’re playing their joker’.

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But The Final Whistle – ‘as told to Steve Richards’ – is no joke; it’s pure unashamed hagiography. On the cover Ellis, resplendent in stiff, starched white collars – half Errol Flynn, half Frankie Howerd – stands on the centre-spot smiling a knowing smile. The sun lights his large face and all around him two national captains and a balding linesman follow the flight of a flipped coin. Here, clearly, is a significant figure.

His book confirms this. “The most famous international referee of all time has retired after thirty years with the whistle,” the sleeve notes gravely intone. “His career abounds in excitement, drama and danger,” they continue, “His full and exciting life makes a remarkable story… this book recaptures all the thrills.”

This, we are by now beginning to suspect, is an important book. And one festooned with insert pictures confirming the international repute of its protagonist: Ellis enjoying fun and games with a bushy-haired Bruce Forsyth; Ellis receiving a bunch of flowers from the captain of the Russian national team in 1954; Ellis chatting pitch-side to a young German man in a wheelchair; Ellis posing with a Central-American beauty queen; Ellis relaxing on Argentinian President Juan Peron’s yacht. In one picture the phantom-like Ellis appears on the shoulder of the king of Sweden as the monarch meets the German national team, his beaming face eerily recalling one of Stalin’s more bizarre revisionist exercises. Woody Allen’s Zelig and its pale imitator Forrest Gump were still decades away.

Britain’s post-war referees saw in the game’s rapidly expanding boundaries the opportunity to become stars in their own right – and they seized it with gusto. With financial rewards scant and regular televised football still a distant dream, the referee to the world stage in his quest for recognition. The referee became a personality, although he was seldom treated with the gravitas he felt his position merited.

Ellis was undeniably an extremely capable referee, who officiated in three consecutive World Cup finals between 1950 and 1958. He claims, however that the “wonderful” experience of being involved was continually dampened by FIFA’s blatant disregard for the referee in general, and his wallet in particular. “Financially the tournaments were a dead loss for the referee,” he says. “I’ll give you the figures. The daily allowance was £4 18s plus hotel and travelling expenses – it should have been £10 – and we were not paid a penny for handling a match, even if it was the final of the World Cup.” It nearly prompted Ellis to take drastic action: “If, like some of the referees, I had had wages stopped for time off back home… I might have been compelled to send my wife back out to work.” This was the 1950s.

Bitterness at not being given enough respect is clearly Ellis’s abiding memory of the World Cup. “The referee, who becomes the prominent figure of the match if he makes a vital… decision, is just an insignificant minnow, it seems, when FIFA get down to sharing the spoils. In the showpiece of world soccer, staged only every four years, he is surely entitled to a reasonable financial return for his services, even if he isn’t there to entertain.”

But entertain he did. If recognition was what Ellis craved then he certainly got a bundle of it in 1954 following his part in the ‘Battle of Berne’ fiasco. Mostly, it must be said, from Brazilians threatening to have him shot. In fact, the Brazilian team were largely to blame for the whole incident.

They took the field that day in a state of collective hysteria. Geraldo Jorge de Almeida, the best known commentator at the time, visited the team in their dressing-room before kick-off to call upon them to avenge the deaths of the many Brazilians killed in Italy during the war. Quite what this had to do with Hungary wasn’t clear.

The head of the Brazilian delegation then launched into a protracted speech about patriotism and miracles. Suffice to say the team – and its entourage – were being deliberately and successfully cranked up for action: they knew they were about to face the best team in the world. That the game was actually completed at all was down to Ellis. Although he sent off three players and was later accused of favouring the mighty Magyars, his severe actions were certainly warranted. One of several neutral commentators to praise him after the final whistle was an Italian who described his performance as “magisterial”, adding that Ellis’s slightly dictatorial refereeing had been “necessary and legitimate”.

The Brazilians, of course, fabricated a conspiracy theory to suit their needs. One of the country’s leading referees, Mario Vianna, approached Ellis at the end of the battle wielding a huge microphone he had snatched from a reporter and accused Ellis of being a Communist agent. Later the Brazilian delegation made a formal complaint to FIFA, insisting that Ellis had “refereed the game in the interests of international Communism against western civilisation and Christ.” This was a tad harsh, although Ellis’s name remains a profanity in Brazil even today.

Ellis clearly enjoyed the powers refereeing afforded him, even if on occasion they didn’t amount to much more than the ability to control violent conduct on the football pitch. In particular, Ellis did not like linesmen who questioned his supreme control of a game. “Some men” – we are left in no doubt as to which man in particular he is referring to – “are at their best when they are in full command, but they are unable to play second fiddle.”

Having thus exempted himself from their lowly rank, Ellis goes on to explain how to be a good little linesman. “The first duty of a linesman should be to ensure he arrives early. The referee will want to give his instructions and explain his methods of control.”

In Ellis’s case the ‘methods of control’ were probably inspired by the absolute monarchy of Louis XIV. “A good linesman will follow instructions carefully. Some don’t!… Linesmen should appreciate that the signals they give are indications to the referee of some incident they have observed, but they should also appreciate that they do not give overriding decisions. A linesman should be an assistant referee and not an insistent linesman.” Despite this queasy stab at wordplay, there is no suggestion whatsoever from Ellis that this might merely be a playful reminder of who’s boss, a verbal nudge and wink. Instead, the dressing down of football’s flag waving minnows continues apace with a stern lecture on etiquette. “A linesman should never carry his flag unfurled or raise it just halfway. As a signal, the flag should be raised high and waved smartly.”

Should there be any lingering doubts as to Mr. Ellis’s regard for his ‘assistants’, one of the chapters in his book is called simply ‘Linesmen I Don’t Like’.

Those Brazilians never stood a chance.

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The Battle of Berne

For a description of the match between Hungary and Brazil refereed by Ellis you’ll go far to better this one, penned by a contributor to Wiki. Where else will you find a goal described as “Julinho slalomed in to stroke a curling drive the ball knuckling into the top right corner of the net from the opposing side of the penalty box in one finest speculative efforts seen at the tournament”? What exactly was Csibor “foraging on the flanks” for? And what kind of stores did Brazil surge forward with at the end of the game?

The much fancied 1954 quarter-final between Brazil and Hungary was enthusiastically written about by the press covering the game as the “unofficial final”. For fans, organizers, and journalists alike the match’s ascent and buildout, had finally arrived. Hungary’s captaincy for the game with their talismanic captain Ferenc Puskás out injured was conferred upon József Bozsik, the era’s most gifted midfielder and the game’s nonpareil winger Zoltán Czibor spelled the injured captain Puskás at inside-left.

On June 27, 1954, even without their captain, the Magical Magyars summoned varsity capital effort and skill early on. After three minutes, Nándor Hidegkuti took receipt of the ball from the left side of the penalty box. In a scramble for it, half the Brazilian team funneled to the area with the quickest of speed where pandemonium reigned before Nandor Hidegkuti mightily plowed into the ball with violence through a wall of defenders to evoke high emotion in the 60,000 who had gathered.

Minutes later, Hidegkuti momentarily dwelled on the ball before lofting an arch from midfield, and inside-forward Sándor Kocsis outleapt the tight two-man marking to steer a long header into the net. 2-0 Hungary after 7 minutes.

The proud Seleção was ill at ease by the jarring pace of the immediate two scores put upon them by the Hungarians. Both teams strove in an attrition battle royal to stem the other’s advance and arrest developing plays through a policy that courted injury, unrelenting combative hard fouling that saw players clashing fiercely in contention for the ball. The game became erratic with continual interruptions after each free kick was awarded; an unheard of sum of 42 free kicks saw many piercing challenges lack respect and some were violently brutal. Of these, the tripping that felled forward Indio in the penalty area was converted from the penalty spot by Djalma Santos, 2-1.

By the 60th minute, the game was 3-1 and seemingly out of reach for Brazil, who did everything they could to keep within the match. Shortly afterwards, Julinho slalomed in to stroke a curling drive, the ball knuckling into the top right corner of the net from the opposing side of the penalty box in one finest speculative efforts seen at the tournament, 3-2. József Bozsik, a deputy member in the Hungarian parliament, taking umbrage and feeling that he was tackled unfairly, retaliated by punching Nilton Santos and soon both were in fisticuffs.

Brazil energetically surged forward with their remaining stores, but Didi hit the crossbar in what would be their last chance to draw level. Soon after, Djalma Santos put aside all ideas of playing soccer to pursue Czibor about the field livid in a fit of rage. In the final minutes of the game, Czibor was seen foraging peripherally on the flanks, found his bearing and supplied Sándor Kocsis with an aerial cross who firmly headed home the final score, 4-2.

The last moments of the game was little more than a running sparing match between the two great teams. Brazil forward Humberto Tozzi kicked Hungary’s Gyula Lorant prior to the whistle and was genuflect on bended knees not to be sent off by referee, Arthur Ellis, who doled out the game’s third red card. Nilton Santos and József Bozsik walked off the field after their explusion.

As the game concluded, the excesses and tensions on the field continued unabated off of it. Wild rumors broke and circulated that a spectating Ferenc Puskás allegedly struck Pinheiro with a bottle causing a three-inch cut, while most reports hold a spectator culprit and not the Hungarian captain. Hamstrung throughout the game, an incensed Brazil gave vent to frustration by having their fans, photographers, trainers, reserve players and coaches invade the pitch with the Swiss police powerless to impose rule on the tumult and disorder that followed. In the tunnel of the stadium, Brazilian players smashed the light bulbs leading to the Hungarians’ dressing room and ambushed the Magyars in their quarters where a melee in virtual darkness occurred, there broken bottles, fists and shoes were used as weapons. At least one Hungarian player was rendered unconscious and Hungary manager Gusztáv Sebes ended up requiring four stitches after being struck by a broken bottle.

Years later the game’s English referee Arthur Ellis commented, “I thought it was going to be the greatest game I ever saw. But it turned out to be a disgrace.”

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Earwig: on death, politics, booze, music and Jesus

A belated happy Administration Day to all of my devoted readers, both Sid and Doris Bonkers. By way of a card I give you but a small reminder of that day six years ago when we all learned to love jelly and ice cream again in the shape of this message that appeared on social media back in the day. Bill Miller, eh? Memories, memories.

earwig coffin

Death, politics, booze, music and Jesus – all subjects which seem to have featured prominently in my recent contributions to this blatt. All we need is Pot Noodle for a full house.

Indeed the story below seems to combine elements of the above. A favourite boozer of the Sevconians which, we hear, was wont to provide for its patrons the kind of music they bang drums to during the summer – bites the dust due to lack of funds and is then resurrected in another guise, although none of the bluenoses seem too keen to claim it as their own.

It even has a Miller connection!

earwig gay bar

“One day all of your bars will be attached to gay saunas,” to paraphrase a famous GB banner.

There are places inside Ibrox where corporate patrons can booze, of course, one of which is named “Club Europe”. “Think tapas, antipasti and other menus inspired by the continent as well as an extensive selection of Europe’s best wines and beers,” says the brochure.

Think one round then yer oot, says Sid’s review on Trip Adviser in a subtle (for him) allusion to the fourth best team in Luxembourg.

earwig billy cianis and his drinking goatAbove: This is what a real Ibrox hospitality suite should look like. Somewhere a man can relax over a few beers with his goat and his Satanist mates

There used to be a famous bar beside Ibrox. The Edmiston Club. World renowned artistes would play there on a Friday and Saturday, such as, er, Anita Harris. She’s seen performing there in The Big Clubs documentary made by that German bloke back in the 70s, schmoozing the crowd with patter like “You’ve been a wonderful audience” as they launch into a chorus of the Sash during one of her torch songs. It must have been the equivalent of the bush tucker trial for singers at the time. “Get through this,” says the agent, “and I’ll get you Blackpool for September Weekend.”

And then the venue lost its lustre, became a call centre during the reign of Sir Cheatalot before finally being sold to Charlie Green. At which point Brian McNally of the Daily Mirror had this exclusive published onFriday, 5 October 2012:

RANGERS want to turn Edmiston House, the building behind the Copland Stand, into a money making casino with a five star restaurant and cocktail bar. And the club expect former owner David Murray, who owns the near derelict building, to hand it over to Rangers for a token payment.

Maybe he could use the pound coin that ace conman and trickster Craig Whyte gave him for ownership of Rangers in May 2011. A deal which plunged Rangers into crisis, saw them put into administration and docked ten points, followed by liquidation and exile from European football, the Scottish Premier League and demotion to the Third Division.

Wow, quite a lot happened to them in that last paragraph, didn’t it? Plunged into crisis, administration then liquidation, with the corpse being subsequently exiled from European football then demoted to the third division. McNally finishes with a flourish:

Now I can exclusively reveal just what lay behind the determination of the new Rangers owners to get Edmiston House back from Murray. For the new Rangers regime want to turn into a money making casino. The new scheme is a downscaled version of David Murray’s oft touted grandiose, but never off the drawing board blueprint for a casino and five start hotel as part of a new Ibrox village complex.

Alas, Charlie was a bit too keen to start the redecorating and in the process of removing the fixtures and fittings managed to uncover a whole load of asbestos. Very expensive to remedy and most probably under the same to do list as the possible Regents Street Disease in the main stand (see NTV 254). Now one of the centrepieces of the Ibrox village complex is as attractive as downtown Chernobyl. Security for a Wonga loan from Close Brothers indeed.

No shortage of idiots to populate that village I would argue. All of the signatories to Willie MacRae’s Parliamentary motion, for example (see NTV 256) including Willie’s fellow religious zealot and politician Gregory Campbell.

As a guardian of all things cultural, Campbell is ever-vigilant. He once made the gaming company EA Sport apologise for mistakenly including A Soldier’s Song as the anthem for Northern Ireland in its Fifa computer game and in March 2013, Campbell raised a successful parliamentary motion to stop a one-off concept car made by motor company Kia from ever going into production. The show car was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show, and was named “Provo” after the Italian word Provare, meaning trial or test.

Like Willie, he is involved in fundamentalist evangelical groups and while Gregory hasn’t cut any discs himself (as far as we know) he does take a keen interest in music. In December 2008, for example, he had a go at the singer Dido for her song “Let’s Do The Things We Normally Do”, which referenced lyrics from “The Men Behind the Wire”. But his special bile is reserved for James McClean, who stated on his Twitter account that his favourite song was the Broad Black Brimmer. “I’ve been watching him closely and knew he would slip up sooner or later,” said Campbell.

“He’s sad, bitter and pathetic,” said McClean.

In the wake of this the Tones invited Campbell to come and see one of their concerts. I don’t think he has taken the invitation up as yet.

So, Gregory, if you’re in the house instead of moshing at the front of the Wolfies and you’re fed up listening to Willie McCrae singing about the old wooden cross, then may I recommend you fix yourself a Pot Noodle and listen to this album by three ravers who go by the name of The Faith Tones. Just because it’s wholesome and not in the least bit disturbing or creepy.

earwig album

Toodloo the Noo
The Earwig

looklike doncaster and vern
looklike fergus and alfred

Oleg Romantsev: Russia’s Brian Clough

ussr romantsev

Oleg setting his players a fine example of how to keep in top condition for professional football.

“I played a joke on the players once,” recalled Oleg Romantsev, Spartak Moscow’s legendary 90s manager, speaking in 1998. The [last game of the] season had ended and we were on a charter-plane back to Moscow. I was sat on the last row, playing cards, and could see the flight attendants preparing the champagne.

“So, I pulled on this joke rubber apron someone had bought – it was in the shape of a woman’s breasts – and took a tray of glasses. From the rear of the plane I came first to Egor Titov [club captain and star midfielder]: “Champagne?” “Yes,” he replied, without looking, but as he turned I stuck the breasts into his face. In horror he raised his head and saw me. Egor fell into hysterics while I continued through the cabin. It was a huge success.”


Yet Romantsev (a Russian Ferguson/Clough/Lobanovskyi figure all in one) was, at least 95 per cent of the time, a very different character as a manager.

Indeed, he was the classic disciplinarian, forever barking at his charges, screaming at them, demanding everything they had to give and then a little more.

Romantsev was not even a carrot-and-stick kind of manager – he didn’t much care for carrots, literally: “I grew up on potatoes, bread and milk. The cult of the meal is something I never did… For me food is a necessary process of introducing into the body proteins, fats and carbohydrates.”

And in a way, that is Romantsev in a nutshell: simple efficiency. Anything that cannot contribute to the overall good should not even be countenanced. They may as well not exist. “I did not really need my wife’s wonderful cooking,” he said.

Romantsev would set about his task as manager with an obsessive zeal, often pouring over his squads’ every mistake, usually ignoring any positives from their performances.

By doing so he created an atmosphere of heightened tension where no player felt that they could ever relax – unsurprising, maybe, for a man who, legend has it, only ever slept a maximum four hours per night and would read five books every day.

And that same player who was laughing so hysterically at Romantsev’s tomfoolery that night in the plane, Egor Titov, is the same man who told Marc Bennetts (author of Football Dynamo) that the reason he, arguably Spartak’s best midfielder of the 90s, never left the Red-Whites despite strong interest from Bayern Munich, was because, “Honestly? I was afraid to go to Oleg Romantsev’s office and tell him I was leaving.” Titov’s laughter was, perhaps, rather more than a little nervous.

Indeed, Romantsev was an intense, unbending, morose, difficult and eccentric character, often all at once.

A classic tale is one that tells of a Russian journalist approaching Romantsev, smoking a cigarette all alone next to the team bus, and asking him for a few words. “What?! Can’t you see I’m talking to the doctor?” snarled the manager in reply.



Despite tales of rubber breasts, Oleg Romantsev was mostly an extremely stern and frankly rather intimidating, chain-smoking, omnipotent kind of presence. Omnipotent being a particularly apt word.

He ascended to the role of Spartak manager in 1988, landing the championship at his first attempt. By 1993, after a second league title the previous year, he was elected by the players as president of the club when former chairman, Konstantin Beskov, fell out with Nikolai Starostin – Spartak’s founding father. He then went on to win the 1993 championship in his dual role.

Now in a unique position of strength (the only person who could sack Romantsev was Romantsev) and with three championship titles in four seasons, he set about creating what some critics have argued as the greatest club side Russia has seen, certainly the greatest the Russian league has ever seen.

And he did it with a ruthless develop-and-sell policy, based on an extraordinary nose for spotting talented youngsters from all across the former USSR, that could put Fergie to shame. According to Jonathan Wilson in, Football behind the Curtain, “at one point, player sales accounted for 70 per cent of their [Spartak’s] annual budget.”

Great Russian players like Valery Karpin, Dmitry Alenichev, Viktor Onopko, Igor Shalimov, Dmitry Radchenko and Sergei Rodionov all starred for Romantsev’s early teams, before being sold to western European teams in order to help fund the Red-Whites’ next incarnation.

Egor Titov, Ilya Tsymbalar and Andrei Tikhonov (who actually both left Spartak due to fallouts with Romantsev), the Dmitrys Khlestov and Ananko, and Vladimir Beschastnykh’s were the few that lasted most of Romantsev’s 15 years at the helm.

Over those fifteen seasons, he amassed nine league winners’ medals (in addition to the one he won as captain of Spartak in 1979) including three in a row from 1992-1994, twice by 11 points, and then one every year for the five seasons between 1997-2000.

And really that should read six seasons, for a Romantsev squad in all but formality won the 1996 Championship too. The man himself (who had also been Russia manager since 1994) was on national team sabbatical, with Euro96 in mind, at the time, but his number two, Georgi Yartsev, stood in for him that year, landing top spot by virtue of a playoff game with Alania Vladikavkaz.

Combined with an ability to constantly build and re-build his sides, cashing in on his stars to create constant revenue at a time when Russian clubs were still struggling to get to grips with the new fangled idea of capitalism in sport, Romantsev also implemented notoriously harsh training sessions.

Usually held in camps, these infamous sessions are known as “sbori” in Russian and inspire icy dread in even the most hardened Russian pro. But under Romantsev, the sbori became an even more fearsome beast that, according to numerous Russian journalists, resembled something from a Special Forces regime.



To use the old cliché, Spartak were ruled by an iron fist. Only, it turned out that Romantsev was mortal too and on Thursday 19 June 2003, the untouchable man was sacked.

For many a year since taking up the reigns at Spartak, Romantsev had been marked as the chosen one. Starostin even referred to him as ‘Golden Boy,’ and upon Starostin’s death in 1996, Romantsev inherited Spartak Moscow lock, stock and barrel.

But the honour was really a terrible burden for just one man – even if that man was Oleg Romantsev. And, with being national coach to boot, Romantsev’s health was already nose-diving as the millennium approached.

In 2000 one of Russia’s biggest oil companies, LUKoil, agreed a landmark sponsorship deal with Spartak (who’d previously declined any affiliation to the increasingly numerous and wealthy super businesses backed by oligarchs grown rich from ‘gangster capitalism’) and Romantsev sold his stock to Andrei Chervichenko – LUKoil’s senior director.

For the next three years Chervichenko became the object of Romantsev’s mounting ire, often accusing the new chairman of not respecting Spartak, all at a time when Romantsev’s long-assumed drink problem became an open secret: “The once genius trainer descended into an alcoholic haze, detached from reality and the players around him,” wrote Bennetts in Football Dynamo.

For a while the results kept coming. Just about. Romantsev’s ability could still pierce the vodka-fug and he managed to bring home league titles in the first two years under Chervichenko.

But where once the margins between first and second were great (twice between 1992-1994 Romantsev won the title by 11 clear points), Spartak were now scraping over the line.

But once Romantsev assembled a group of journalists on the eve of the 2003 Russian Cup Final to announce that Chervichenko had been trying to throw the result for $1.5m, Romantsev had crossed the line finally and fatally.



After his sacking Spartak had six managers in six years. It’s said that Russian footballers can only perform if someone brings a strict order to their life, the more rigidly imposed, the better.

True or not, what cannot be disputed is that none of those six managers won a single title between them to ease the passing of a man who won nine – plus four domestic Cups, won a club record 401 games as manager and reached the semi-finals of the European Cup (1990-91), the Cup Winner’s Cup (1992-93) and the UEFA Cup (1997-98).



Alex Jackson

The Bugle Chronicles: No. 64

bugle dastardly

bugle dastardly2