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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