Hackwatching: Keith Jacksie and the Ghost of Christmas Pasta

If Donald Trump is a poor man’s idea of what a rich man should be then the Daily Record’s long-time infatuation with Lorenzo Amoruso is the equivalent: a scruffy Scottish hack’s idea of what a stylish Italian should be.

Mercifully there is a fair bit of distance between Amoruso and media punditry in this country, but every now and then he waddles into town and speed dials all of his old pals from the papers, secure in the knowledge that somebody will use him to fill up a few column inches.

For anyone who has forgotten him (that’s the vast majority of us), here’s a quick resume courtesy of our Crypt Keeper.

The word braggadocio sounds Italian but is actually English and simply means a loud posturing braggart who uses such bluster to conceal his own inadequacy. The word was surely coined with somebody like Lorenzo Amadiddi in mind.

Signed by Smith in the summer of 1997 as Rangers set off to conquer Europe and win 10-in-a-row, Amadiddi had previously played for Fiorentina. The Tuscan club were on some thing of a high, challenging for, if not actually winning, honours at home and abroad and were led by the dynamic Gabriel Batistuta. Italian football has traditionally produced top class defenders but despite the usual media hoopla about Rangers landing a real live Italian defender La Viola’s weakness was considered to be their defence and few supporters of the Italian club were sorry when Amadiddi departed for Ibrox… Where he promptly got injured and was out for eight months.

It seemed as though Smith had landed another Seb Rozenthal, a would-be world class Chilean striker who made Derk Boerrighter seem like the acme of fitness. But no, Amadiddi got fit and was in the team in time for it to be beaten into second place in the league by Celtic and to lose the Cup Final to Hearts (trophyless in 36 years by then).
Amadiddi saw himself as being in the grand traditions of Italian defenders. In his febrile imagination he combined the calm elegance of Maldini, the cunning of Baresi and the ruthless toughness of Gentile. He was, in reality, a cumbersome, careless pudding of a player whose ability to give the ball away to opposing attackers in key positions was in a class by itself until Celtic contrived to sign Gary Caldwell in 2006.

Promoted in the Daily Record as a suave handsome hunk who’d have starred in a remake of La Dolce Vita, he reminded me more of crummy cruise ship singer Lou Canova from Broadway Danny Rose and Carlos Del Gatos from the Frasier episode Voyage of the Damned. This was a ’Mediterranean Type’ even the sexually deprived Sybil Fawlty would have turned her nose up at.

European competition brought out the braggadocio in old Lorenzo like nothing else. In December 1999 against Borussia Dortmund, as Rangers sunk to defeat in the UEFA Cup, the Nigerian striker Ikpeba accused Amadiddi of using a racist insult during the game. The Rangers’ captain denied this strenuously but was then faced with making a humiliating climbdown when footage emerged of the Canovarro-esque defender clearly mouthing a racist epithet at the Dortmund player.

A year later Rangers chased a crucial Champions League game in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium against Sturm Graz. The visitors were repeatedly awarded free kicks in dangerous areas around the homesters’ penalty box. Every time a foul was given Amadiddi stepped forward to take the kick, shoving team mates out the way as he did so, then taking a long run up before bashing the ball as hard as he could. Every one of his efforts ended up in either the crowd or a nearby street. It was so pathetic that I remember watching the game in the pub and begging him to let someone else take one because my sides were hurting so much. He didn’t oblige and I fell off my chair.

In the final game of the same campaign Simone equalised late for Monaco to send Rangers out. Guess who made the mistake that let his compatriot in?

Amadiddi was a clown who spoke with an Italian accent reminiscent of Joe Dolce or Chico Marx but he was nevertheless lionised by the Scottish media. Even when he spat on James Grady – dismissing Grady as being a ‘crazy Celtic fan’ – he had in that twilight world of the newsrooms of the Scottish Sun and the Daily Record become the epitome of Latin cool.

He left for Blackburn Rovers in 2003 to bolster his prospects of being picked for the Azurri and promptly sank without trace.

His latest visit to Glasgow in early December 2018 saw Keith Jackson roll out the red carpet and treat us to a column that you would swear was yet another attempt to outdo Jabba’s infamous succulent lamb piece. It appeared under the headline: Lorenzo Amoruso opens up on his Rangers career in what was the time of his life.

When Lorenzo opens up you just know that Keith will be ready and waiting to suck it up.

“Those long Italian locks are a thing of the past. If truth be told he’s thinning a bit on top not to mention a little bit broader almost everywhere else. But, at the age of 47, there’s still something of the film star about Lorenzo Amoruso.”

I tried to think of the fat balding actors that Amoruso reminded me of. The one that sprang to mind was this:

hacks hardy
“As he fixes a scarf stylishly around his neck in the hotel lobby – large parts of which are under renovation – a couple of star struck workies approach and ask for a selfie.”

I wasn’t sure if Keith meant that large parts of Amoruso’s neck were under renovation, but he made the Italian superstar’s accommodation sound like Alan Patridge’s travel tavern. As for the workies, I think Keith was confusing ‘starstruck’ with mistaken identity. There is a picture to accompany the story showing the be-scarfed Lorenzo. He looks like Quentin Crisp would have looked had he taken up competitive pie eating.

“Amoruso obliges and then strides out the front door back onto the streets of Glasgow City centre, chest puffed out as if he’s never been away. It’s more than 15 years now since he kicked his last ball as a Rangers player. Nevertheless it does feel as if part of him never quite managed to make it all the way home to Florence.”

Mostly his hair by the sound of things. Certainly not his stomach…

“A brisk five-minute stroll later he’s settling into a seat in one of his old favourite eateries in the basement of the city’s Prince’s Square. And all those old memories have pulled up a chair too.”

The old memories probably had to ask Lorenzo to move up a bit as he was taking up too much room. If Keith is to be believed it didn’t take Amoruso long to start bullshitting as he immediately launched into full braggadocio mode:

“You know, I could have gone to Manchester United instead of Rangers,” he says as he fires back an espresso. That was probably the biggest sliding doors moment of my career. But I always say, if I could go back in time, I would make exactly the same choice In life,”

He forgot to mention ‘richer player’. The £639,000 EBT along with hidden side letter must have slipped his mind. And espresso? Did his eaterie not have any Baillie’s or is he still in rehab?

“But it’s funny because when you are living through it you don’t actually realise how much you are achieving. Now, after 20 years or whatever, you look back and say we did a good job. Especially now that Rangers have not been winning trophies for some time. It gives our era even more value.”

Lorenzo’s era was actually peak EBT years. If we ever do get some honest governance of the game here we’ll see how much value is put on these trophies with asterisks beside them.

“The chest is swelling again. Amoruso always did have a healthy respect for himself.”

The head is swelling, more like, along with the ever-expanding waistline.

“But it was when I came to Glasgow that I had my best time. In Italy I played a different role. The idea people had of Lorenzo was a hard man, not very good with the ball at his feet. A man marker.”

Anybody who speaks of himself in the third person belongs in the same hermetically sealed tube as the ‘do you know who I am?’ brigade. And the idea people had of Lorenzo was partly correct – he was a crap footballer.

“But I did that in Italy because my partners were not very good at it. When I came to Rangers I was playing beside guys like Craig Moore and Colin Hendry. They were the hard men. So now I had the opportunity to express myself football wise and I loved that.”

That would be Craig Moore, £1,5 million EBT with hidden side letter would it?

“Sometimes on Instagram I like to put up clips of goals or action from my time at Rangers. There are some young people, maybe in their twenties, who only have rough memories about my time at the club. So thank God there are videos so that people can see it for themselves.”

Thank the Lord indeed for giving Lorenzo the inspiration to post videos of himself on Instagram. What a loss for humanity if these clips go unviewed. What a comfort for all the people he disfigured in row Zs around the country with wayward free kicks.

“And yet, even though that old footage takes him back to a very different time and place, Amoruso is acutely aware – and right up to speed – with the present.”

And now we come to the real reason why Lorenzo has been trundled out again. Operation Continuity Myth, chapter the umpteenth.

“As much as he is proud of his own successes in this city, he can take no pleasure at all the travails which beset his old club after he left for Blackburn in the summer of 2003. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, his cut price £1.4million sale was perhaps an early indication of the unthinkable disaster which was coming down the pipe.”

“Liquidation and ignominious death” is the phrase you just know Keith is searching for. ‘Unthinkable disaster’ is a bit tame by comparison but I suppose he can blame the subs.

“He says: “The club was having problems financially when I left which is why they sold me. But I never imagined it would get so bad. I had not even a clue.”

Poor Lorenzo. He must have spent many a sleepless night wondering where all that £639,000 that was pouring into his bank account was coming from. If only there was someone at the club he could have asked.

“This is a club with millions and millions of supporters all over the world. How can a club like that be relegated? I had a real problem trying to understand that and I don’t want to go into it because, in my opinion, something was very wrong about what happened.”

So there we have it: “millions of fans… relegated… something very wrong.” Three myths spewed out in the time it takes to wolf down a large forkful of penne arabiata. Keith could easily have been holding up cue cards as he sat opposite.

“But the escalation to get back to where Rangers belong has been very difficult. He nods and says: “Rangers as a club has winning trophies in its DNA. So my feeling is, if this team can win one trophy, then they can build up from there. It’s like when a vampire gets a taste of blood, he wants more and more and more.”

He’s almost right with the vampire/ undead simile, although I think zombies might have been more apposite, but the DNA, when examined, is more likely to reveal ‘cheating’ rather than winning.

“Amoruso, as it just so happens, is busy thumbing his way through the lunchtime menu.”

Jeez, he’s hardly digested brunch!

“He pauses as if for dramatic effect and adds: “Listen, they actually have a chance this season. The league is very tight at the top and Celtic seems not to be winning the games that should be easy on paper. Maybe after a few years they have got bloated by their own success. The belly is full of winning easily. With all respect, they have not had much competition.”

The dramatic pause is straight out of the succulent lamb sketch. The bloated belly, well that’s just Lorenzo staring down at his own midriff.

“Rangers have to take advantage of the fact that there’s a new, positive atmosphere behind the team. That’s important because I have seen teams before who win titles even when they are not the strongest or most talented team in the league. Sometimes it comes down to something as simple as spirit and hunger… And yet, from afar, he suspects he may have spotted the first signs of a possible momentum shift.”

Then again it could be just Lorenzo belching and passing wind.

 

Hackwatcher

 

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The Ref’s Notebook

ref referee

The recent Livingston v RIFC game saw yet another violent incident involving supporters of the visiting team. On this occasion the assistant referee was hit by a coin which resulted in the match having to be stopped while the official was bandaged up.

As the BBC Sport website reported it on October 3rd: “Assistant referee Calum Spence received a cut on the back of his head after a coin was thrown during Livingston’s 1-0 win over Rangers on Sunday.”

Not, “after he was hit by a coin thrown by a Rangers fan during Livingston’s 1-0 win…”

To comment on the incident the Beeb trundled out one of their rent-a-gub ex-referees, in this case Kenny Clark: “The referees strike of 2010 has not brought about the improvement in behaviour towards officials. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring about the change in the culture we would have hoped for,” Clark said of the strike.

refs bbc headline

The BBC’s reporter added:
Scottish referees went on strike in November 2010 claiming undue criticism and questioning of their integrity by managers and the media that had led to some receiving death threats.

The article asserts that some officials at the time had received death threats. In fact, this story appeared in the media following in the wake of the infamous Dougiegate scandal, when Dougie McDonald was forced to resign after a match between Dundee United and Celtic during which he gave a penalty to the Hoops, changed his mind then tried to get linesman Steven Craven to lie on his behalf by saying that the assistant had overruled him. Hugh Dallas was involved in the subsequent cover-up as well and when it all came to light Celtic demanded an apology.

The media line in the following weeks was that the linesman (Craven) had quit because of abuse and threats that he and/or his family had recieved after the penalty incident at Tannadice (by inference, these threats had come from disgruntled Celtic supporters). This assertion is KNOWN to be untrue.

An SFA “source” briefed journalists with this titbit when it became known that Craven was about to resign. The linesman (Craven) is on record categorically denying he had received ANY abuse or threats. But the briefer knew exactly what he or she was doing of course and once in the public domain, this disinformation was accepted as fact and repeated.

Craven himself went on record to say that that he resigned for two reasons.

First, he was falsely made the scapegoat for the penalty incident and secondly he claimed a culture of bullying in Scottish refereeing which stemmed, in the main, from Hugh Dallas the head of the SFA referee’s committee (subsequently himself resigned or sacked, after forwarding a sectarian email): ”I decided to quit a few days later. I’d had enough of Hugh Dallas and John Fleming (the SFA referee development officer),” Craven told Mark Guidi in an interview that appeared in the Sunday Mail.

The story regarding threats to refs reappeared after Willie Collum gave a penalty to Rangers at Celtic Park without seeing the player – Kirk Broadfoot – go down. Indeed TV pictures showed later that Collum had his back to the incident. Similarly the “threats” against Collum that were reported in the media remain unsubstantiated – there are no police reports nor direct quotes from the ref.

Following on from this, the decision by some of the country’s referees to refuse to officiate games in Scotland in 2010 was officially reported as being in protest at the abuse and intimidation received from managers, players and supporters (again, the unspoken reality is that they were pissed off with Celtic F.C. alone), despite there being little or no evidence that there had been significantly more abuse than in any other country and certainly nothing to suggest any significant increase at the time.

Of course, the fact that a referee lied to a football manager – Neil Lennon – about a decision and then repeated that lie in his written report with the complicity of three other officials and that he then told his boss (Dallas) what was going on and that his boss then went along with the lie was going to cause controversy.

And of course the club concerned (Celtic) was going to want an explanation and an apology at the very least. Wouldn’t any club feel the same way?

Why did the referees choose to act? Cutting through all the innuendo and inference it was patently obvious that their action was directed at one club – Celtic.
ROBBIE FOULER

Great Honest Mistakes of Our Time: No.2,343 – Changing the Laws of Physics

honest mistakes ref

April 1989 and the world is about to be introduced to a size 5 leather Mitre football that defies all known laws of physics and movement. Isaac Newton, had he been alive, would have been eating his words.

Celtic were playing Rangers (RIP) in the final league derby match of the season and had to win to have even the faintest hopes of retaining the league title they won in a blaze of glory 12 months previously during the Centenary season. But the joy of that seemed a long way off then.

The summer of 1988 had been a disaster of our own making. In key areas of the team we required fresh blood. Tommy Burns and Billy Stark had been outstanding but both were over 30. Roy Aitken was a similar age and behind the scenes there was trouble brewing as star striker Frank McAvennie was agitating for a move back to London. You will be unsurprised to hear that his model girlfriend was a major motivation in this request.

Even without these issues the fact was that our squad was very small as we were about to find out.

During that summer we bought two players, both goalkeepers. One was an Englishman called Ian Andrews who had arrived from Leicester. He was young but had some promise in that he had won a couple of U21 caps for his country. The other was Alan Rough, former Thistle, Hibs and Scotland legend. He wasn’t young but had a cupboard full of Scotland caps and the experience of three World Cup finals behind him. The reason for both these buys was that we had no fit ‘keeper. Reserve goalie Alan McKnight had moved to West Ham to get first team football and Pat Bonner had knackered his back at the end of the season forcing him out of the cup final, but had, somehow, still been allowed to go to the European Championships with Ireland, where had been a star. However that tournament hadn’t done his back or Celtic any favours. He would be out for a couple of months and his absence contributed massively to our horrific start to the league campaign.

Of our first 8 league games we won 3 and lost 5, shipping 15 goals in the process, 5 of them at Ibrox on a day that was almost entirely blamed on Andrews. But the awkward truth was that our central defence of Aitken and McCarthy were far more culpable in the overall calamity.

Other stand out disaster performances came at Easter Road with a 3-1 loss and a home spanking from Aberdeen, again 3-1. Andrews this time was very much to blame and, like the crosses into his penalty area, was dropped shortly after never to be seen again (in truth his career never recovered from Ibrox).

Meanwhile over the river Rangers (RIP) hadn’t been sitting on their hands during the summer the way Celtic had. They had gone out and bought England right back Gary Stevens from Everton and striker Kevin Drinkell from Norwich City. After the season started they would also sign Andy Gray for a short while and would continue to add to their squad as the weeks went by. During the calendar year of 1988 they would add six players who went straight into their first team and a couple more squad players. We added no one and we had the smaller squad to start with. What did we want to happen?

In November we got some measure of revenge over Rangers (RIP) with a 3-1 win at Celtic Park, but in January our squad size was again a factor as we went to Ibrox without the injured Paul McStay and again came away with a hammering; 4-1 this time (as if it wasn’t bad enough we had taken the lead in both games at Ibrox).

Oh, and to add insult to injury, we lost McAvennie with a broken arm after 20 minutes, so that should probably read injury to insult, but you know what I mean. Just in case you are wondering, the challenge that broke his arm wasn’t deemed a foul, but you probably guessed that already.

In January Big Billy finally brought in a new player. We had played and struggled badly against Dumbarton in the 3rd round of the Scottish Cup and on the back of that we bought their centre half Steve McCahill.

He may have been a huge Celtic fan, he may be a nice guy, but there was no way he should have been anywhere near the first team squad at Celtic and that was about to be proved beyond a shadow of a doubt.

And so to the big match. Rangers (RIP) were well up for this one. They hadn’t won at Celtic Park for 10 years, but they had an almost unstoppable momentum and victory here to all intents would wrap up the league. They also had an almost full squad to choose from, the only notable absence being Ian Durrant who suffered a horrific knee injury the previous October that severely curtailed his career (say what you like about him, he could play and he was never the same player when he came back).

Meanwhile we had lost Derek Whyte to injury meaning that Steve McCahill would start. We had also finally lost McAvennie. After he returned from injury his demands for a transfer became public and he was sold in March. Despite his desire to leave his performances that season were often summed up with the phrase “1 man army”. His departure was a huge loss. Celtic lined up;

Bonner, Morris, Rogan, Aitken, McCahill, Grant, Stark, McStay, Walker, McGhee, Burns

Rangers (deceased) were in about us from the start, the tone set when McCoist beat Aitken in an early tackle. The Hoops were second to everything and we were a goal down within 4 minutes.Walters turned Rogan inside-out at the goal line and

was hauled down. From the resulting free kick Drinkell easily lost his marker and headed the ball goalwards. McCahill got in the way and deflected the ball past Bonner. Roy Aitken went absolutely spare.

They were running us ragged. After 31 minutes they were awarded another free kick 25 yards out. Ferguson hit it hard, Bonner could only parry the ball straight into the air and watch as it dropped into the net.

Two down and almost unable to get out of our own half, the manager reacted. He withdrew Stark and put on Joe Miller. It had an almost instant effect. Celtic began to hold the ball and make headway into their half. By the half-time whistle we had taken a hold of the game and early in the second half we scored.

Miller gathered the ball in his own half and made his way down the right. He gave it to McStay, who played in the overlapping Morris whose cross was gathered by Walker and beautifully finished in off the post.

Hope.

We had almost completely turned the tables on them, we were the ones on the front foot and finally the pressure told. Another cross from Chris Morris was intercepted by Gough, but he mistimed it and the ball skidded off his boot towards Mark McGhee. On the way it hit Gough’s hand and fell dead. Penalty!

After a discussion Joe Miller stepped up and hit the weakest penalty you’ll ever see. It was easily saved.

Disaster, but still we kept at them until there came the moment that defined the game.

Again Morris was played in, this time about level with the 6 yard line (his previous crosses had been level with the 18). He appeared to overhit it. Mark McGhee was close to their keeper Woods, but careful not to give away a foul. Woods was struggling as the ball came closer. He missed it and the ball hit the inside netting at the back post.

Delirium and chaos on the terraces, redemption from two down and a missed penalty.

At high pressure matches like this I’m always nervous about the referee. I always check that he has pointed to the centre spot before celebrating the goal and there he was pointing and running away. Time to smile!

But suddenly he stopped. The linesman had raised his flag. The Celtic players surrounded the ref as he walked over for the dreaded “consultation”. He then signalled that the ball had gone out of play!

So let’s get the story straight; Chris Morris hit a cross that went out of play, back in and then back out again (because it crossed the goal line and hit the net) all while going up and down at the same time?

Not since the magic bullet theory postulated by the Warren Commission has there been a more ridiculous assertion. After the ball left Morris’s boot it remained untouched until it hit the net. Woods never got near it, neither did McGhee. For this theory to have credibility there would needed to be a hurricane force wind blowing instantly east and west at the same time. There wasn’t. There also wasn’t any great fuss made in the match reports by the press. It was simply accepted that the ball must have swung out of play, then back in… er, then back out again. Nothing odd in that.

As the man once said “You canny change the laws of physics”; obviously the second part of that phrase must have been, “unless you need to preserve a lead for Rangers (RIP) and then you can make up anything you want!” But given that Star Trek is set in the 23rd Century and Rangers (RIP) died in the early part of the 21st I suppose we can understand why the second bit lost its relevance and popularity.

Anyway, with that Celtic finally ran out of gas. Heartened by a penalty save and a sympathetic linesman Rangers (RIP) held out. The league duly followed but Big Billy had one last hurrah as we fought out a hard won 1-0 win in the cup final, Joe Miller making up for his penalty miss with the only goal and that goal was far more valuable.

In truth the league was long over before that penalty miss. Funnily enough, that cup final is the source of one of their main refereeing gripes – their cornerstone evidence that Celtic were always the favoured team – when Roy Aitken stole a throw in. Yes, you read that correctly; we once got a throw-in that we shouldn’t. It was in our half as well, but from that we went into their half. They had possession but it was a poor clearing header and from that we scored the only goal. So ignore all the disallowed goals, denied penalties, broken bones that aren’t fouls and curious red cards. Thrown ins are the crucial point apparently. (If we were cataloguing all the throw ins we should have got against them that went the other way we would be here until the 23rd century._

That was the first of their nine in a row league wins, but you can look back and smile at that now because every one of them was simply another down payment on their demise as their ambitions rapidly overtook reality and the money started to run out.

The impact of this game on Celtic was that there was almost a mass brawl in the dressing room over who should have taken the penalty. Many thought that Aitken should have taken the captain’s responsibility and this game all but signalled the end of Steve McCahill’s first team career at Celtic. He became that most unwanted thing; the successful reserve captain. Ashtray on a motor bike.

The next year would see us humiliated with the Merde signing for us then them, the signing of inadequate players and the removal of legends either past their prime (Burns) or hounded out (Aitken). The dark years beckoned.
AB Murdoch