THERE hasn’t been much to smile about in Scottish football over the years. Never getting beyond the first round of a tournament, losing games to so-called “minnow” nations, and the negativity of that ultra-defensive 4-6-0 formation.
But enough about the past 12 months.
Scottish football hasn’t been without its characters over the years. John Lambie, best known as the manager of Partick Thistle for three separate stints was one such character. Fond of cigars and pigeon racing, he is regarded as a Jags legend. During a match, striker Colin McGlashan was involved in a clash of heads with an opponent. On being told that McGlashan was concussed and didn’t know who he was, Lambie replied: “Great. Tell him he’s Pelé and get him back on.” McGlashan played an incredible 22 seasons of football, including a brief spell with Cowdenbeath, known as the ‘Blue Brazil’. Coincidence? We think his 210 goals in 609 appearances suggests otherwise - and so might many Partick fans.
Gordon Strachan enjoyed a rather successful career as a footballer, mainly for Leeds and Scotland, but he gained a reputation during his management career as a bit of a wisecracker. Manager of Celtic between 2005 and 2009, Strachan ensured the assembled media were never short of a quote or two, but really gained most of his reputation whilst manager of Southampton, with some cheeky one-liners and a dollop of sarcasm. However, following the enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona’s famous comment about seagulls and trawlers, Strachan quipped: “If a Frenchman goes on about seagulls, trawlers and sardines, he’s called a philosopher. I’d just be called a short Scottish bum talking crap.” The original, now legendary quote was “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”, which Cantona uttered to the waiting media upon successfully appealing a prison sentence for attacking a fan. Strachan’s self-deprecatory humour perhaps sums up Scottish football better than any other quote could.
Legendary manager Jock Stein spent a successful period of time managing Hibernian before moving through to Glasgow, hoping to emulate the success he enjoyed at Hibs, with Celtic. To this day, he remains the most successful Hibs manager (statistically speaking, anyway), and with Celtic, was the first British football manager to win the European Cup, when Celtic defeated Inter Milan 2-1 in Lisbon. Somewhat prophetically, in 1966, after Celtic had won their first league title under Stein’s stewardship, he delivered the following call-to-arms: “It is up to us, to everyone at Celtic Park, to build up our own legends. We don’t want to live with history, to be compared with legends from the past. We must make new legends.”
With the Lisbon Lions, made up entirely of players born within 30 miles of Glasgow, he achieved this very feat the next year, with Liverpool manager Bill Shankly telling him “John, you’re immortal now.”
Some of you may remember Berti Vogts, the first (and to date, only) foreigner to have managed the national side. He had a good pedigree, he’d been a good player in his day (once memorably snuffing out the threat from Dutch master Johan Cruyff) and the nation felt that perhaps the SFA had unearthed a gem in appointing Vogts. However, looking at the team Vogts picked for his first match in charge, a friendly against the then reigning world champions France, suggested otherwise. Players such as Stephen Crainey and Dougie Freedman would be facing Zinedine Zidane and Youri Djorkaeff, to say nothing of a young Arsenal striker called Thierry Henry.
If anything, you had to admire Vogts’s confidence when asked about the quality of the French side Scotland would be playing against: “Zidane and Vieira? They’re only names. I think we can win this game.” Following a first half masterclass which saw France score four, and then add a fifth late in the second half, the Tartan Army got the impression that perhaps “wee Berti” wasn’t quite the right man for the job. A series of less-than-impressive results, including a 4-0 reversal to Wales and a 6-0 thrashing in the Netherlands only added to the misery, the lesson being that it’s never wise to be too confident...
Sir Alex Ferguson
And finally, who better to tie up our five Scottish football quotes than Sir Alex Ferguson? There was a joke doing the rounds recently that if Sir Alex had stayed at Pittodrie for his entire managing career, he’d still be younger than Craig Brown. But we digress. Fergie has been responsible for some quite pointed remarks and blunt statements. Who could forget his amusing reference to the 2003 Premiership title race, when he referred to it as “squeaky-bum time?” Or his quite brilliant distrust of the Italians, summed up in this comment: “When an Italian tells me it’s pasta on the plate, I check under the sauce to make sure. They are the inventors of the smoke screen.”
Sir Alex is certainly in a league of his own, in a variety of ways. But one remark stands out from the rest. It wasn’t particularly pithy, it wasn’t even that insightful, but we reckon letting Fergie have the final word is the best way to bring this brief list to an end. When Manchester United pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in European football, during the 1999 Champions League Final, and scored two goals in the 91st and 93rd minutes to defeat Bayern Munich 2-1, Fergie’s initial comment after the match was the memorable: “Football. Bloody hell.”