So, did you see all that sport on Saturday then? I tried to…
I spent Saturday in my hometown of Fort William, due to a timely offer in the Daily Record (other newspapers are available) which allowed me to travel 200 miles for £4. I had stuff to collect from back home and, bizarrely, it was cheaper for me to go back and collect the items personally than to send them to Glasgow.
As I sat down to watch the Inverness-Celtic Scottish Cup tie, I discovered I had done so prematurely, believing kick-off to be 12:15 instead of 12:45. This error lead me to flick over to the other live match on Sky, West Ham versus Millwall. This is famously a hot-headed affair. If Danny Dyer says it is, then who am I to judge?
The explosive nature of the match could not be questioned. Kevin Nolan, West Ham’s captain, was sent off after just ten minutes, yet West Ham went on to win the match 2-1. Although the battle was intense, one visual aspect of the match left me disappointed. It may have been a cosmetic feature of Upton Park on Saturday, but the decision to keep the entire lower tier of the Trevor Brooking Stand empty while all the Millwall fans occupied the top-tier for security reasons just didn’t look right. When a player scores, he looks for reaction from the crowd, regardless of the partisanship of the fans. Yet there was no opportunity for that on Saturday. Then again, if it made a safe time more insurable on Saturday, then I suppose it was for the best.
The Celtic match in Inverness followed, which Celtic won 2-0. As pleased as I was with that result (as a Celtic supporter, the prospect of travelling north is never one which inspires confidence after previous failures), what pleased me most was the selection of goalkeeper – for Inverness.
It is not because Jonathan Tuffey is a bad goalkeeper which made me happy he started. If anything, quite the opposite. As you may have read in previous articles, I have a fondness for Partick Thistle since I saw them play for the first time two years ago. In goal for Partick Thistle was Tuffey, who was outstanding on that first visit to Firhill (an overrated term I know, but trust me on this one). I tipped Tuffey for big things; he was in the Northern Ireland squad and at one stage linked with Rangers. He ended up signing for Inverness, where he has since lived a life in the shadows of Ryan Esson.
So you can understand my modest excitement to see his name on the team sheet for Inverness. Obviously I wanted Celtic to win, but with Tuffey in goal, to win by a smallish margin. A 2-0 fitted the bill quite nicely there.
The France-Italy match was scrapped from my viewing itinerary for the day, due to the necessities of coursework (as well as write for We Are Free Agents, I have the mild distraction of a degree to contend with), so I sacrificed a comfortable win for France for researching the Conservatives’ years in opposition. Well, as you can imagine, that was a fun three hours.
And so for the final installment of sport for Saturday, the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland and England. As regular followers of We Are Free Agents might have noticed in our Six Nations previews, there was a dangerous sense of optimism amongst the Scottish contributors. This was, after all, the year things would be different.
Of course it bloody wasn’t.
I admit to not being the biggest follower of rugby, I’m a hockey player and a football analyst. After watching the turgid events of Murrayfield on Saturday however I can claim to know one more interesting fact about rugby. It turns out that Dan Parks middle name is actually (excuse the French), “Fucking”. Every time he has been referred to in conversation these past few days people keep saying “Dan Fucking Parks!” after his error led to the winning try for England. Learn something new everyday, eh?
It would be wrong to blame the defeat entirely on Parks’ performance, as mediocre as it may have been. The ball retention of the Scottish forwards was abysmal - I’ve seen better handling in the John Terry race row. I do not know what reponse Scotland should adopt – though we at We Are Free Agents have made an attempt. A return to casual pessimism might be the key to moderate success (a win here or there is all we ask, heck, even the occasional try). Cardiff next weekend may be a good place to start.