Scottish football is known for its eccentricity and 2018 was no different. The only problem with finding ten things to highlight the best of another bonkers 12 months in the SPFL was limiting it to such a small number.
10Dick Campbell storming on to the pitch to confront the referee An irate manager confronting a referee is the type of thing you see every game. What you don’t tend to witness all too often is a manager storming about 20 yards on to the pitch to remonstrate with the official while the game is still going on.
We give thanks to Dick Campbell for this spectacular example of a coach completely losing the rag after Arbroath were denied a penalty against Ayr United – in fairness, it was an absolute shocker of a decision.
Campbell was punished by the SFA for his actions, though if the governing body thought its sanction had convinced the veteran gaffer to mellow they were very much mistaken. He was again sent to the stand later in the year for furiously chastising the referee during a league meeting with Raith Rovers. More of the same in 2019, please.
9Rangers’ Scottish Cup semi-final meltdown “Rangers” and “meltdown” had to be included in here somewhere after The Banter Years showed a few tentative signs of stopping but ultimately ploughed on during 2018. While this probably comes behind losing 5-0 to Celtic at Parkhead as the club’s nadir for the year, seeing as Brendan Rodgers’ side clinched the title, there was a lot more going on during and after the Hampden debacle.
Having run Celtic close in their previous league meeting, a 3-2 defeat at Ibrox, fans went into the game with at least a modicum of quiet optimism that things could go their way. Instead it was a complete disaster.
Two goals down before half-time, Graeme Murty decided to withdraw Andy Halliday. The midfielder’s poor form around the time should have negated his place in the starting XI, but his substitution still appeared a desperate attempt at pinning the blame on a scapegoat by the head coach. Halliday was furious and visibly remonstrated with his boss as he left the field.
At the end of the 4-0 defeat Alfredo Morelos and Greg Docherty had to be separated as they almost came to blows, and then there was the supposed bust-up in the dressing room afterwards. It was reported that Kenny Miller and Lee Wallace had lambasted Murty in front of the whole squad, though the players’ victory against the club after an SFA appeal and hearing would suggest things weren’t quite as they seemed. All in all, a sorry mess for Rangers fans and more than enough comedic ammunition for the rest of Scottish football.
8Living- ston say goodbye to manager Kenny Miller because he refuses to stop picking himself The best part about this is that Livingston were 100 per cent right. Not only was Miller picking himself, he was also doing that “free role” thing he did for the past couple of seasons at Rangers, where he chased the play absolutely everywhere like a hyperactive puppy. It’s commendable for someone of his experience to put in such a shift in every single match, but not what you need from the only striker in the team.
He also tried to change Livingston’s identity a little and make them pass it out from the back a bit more, while he relegated fans’ favourite Alan Lithgow to the bench in order to select Steven Saunders. The Lions immediately picked up their previous form when Gary Holt took over.
7Police get involved after Rangers fans kick over a sandcastle in Stonehaven Operator: “Hello, 999, how many I help?”
Irate man: “Yes, I’d like to report a crime.”
Operator: “And what sort of crime was that?”
Irate man: “Well, you see, these Rangers fans kicked over ma grandson’s sandcastle...”
Kicking over a three-year-old’s sandcastle is a pretty low thing to do. These fans acted like idiots and deserve to be told they acted like idiots and should apologise for their lowly actions. But it says a lot for the attention around the Old Firm and their support that this became national news. The police referred to this as a “completely unacceptable” destruction of said sandcastle, which makes me wonder how they’d react if they saw the tide quickly approaching.
The best quote came from David Officer, the man who reported the incident on Twitter, who said, “they seem to have spent their summer brawling and stabbing other fans, and now resort to kicking over toddlers’ sandcastles and shouting at OAPs,” as if this was an example of crime escalation. “The stabbing and fighting was bad enough, but this will simply not do!”
6Leigh Griffiths quizzed about “flat earth” and why you don’t see “bendy waaater” The 2018-19 season was just eight days old when we were presented with a glorious example of Scottish football’s eccentricities: Leigh Griffiths, in a car outside Parkhead, being quizzed about why “you don’t see bendy waaater”.
It’s the kind of thing that can happen anywhere but still seems so perfectly SPFL. After all, how many other leading strikers around Europe would even bother to stop for someone approaching their car outside a stadium in the first place? They’d be off in a flash. Griffiths was not only happy to chat to the man, he also had no objection to it being filmed.
Oh, and Leigh, for future reference, the next time a fantasist asks why water doesn’t bend, thereby “proving” the earth is flat, say this: “The water is held in place because of the gravitational pull Earth is exercising on it, forming a sort of shell that flows with the shape of the object holding it in place. So water is bending to a ball – the Earth.” (Accessing a flat-earther thread on Reddit to find this handy explanation was a terrifying experience.).
5Craig Levein’s “natural order” comment This is an appreciation of a series of events which stemmed from this, rather than just the comment itself, which was just a cheeky throwaway line in a post-match press conference. (As an aside, it was tempting to put Levein’s ascent to Scottish football’s No 1 troll in this list, but that doesn’t really count as a “moment”.)
Firstly, it provoked an irritated response from Neil Lennon. As the Hibernian boss stated in the aftermath of Hearts’ 1-0 win at Tynecastle in the Scottish Cup: “What does that mean restoring the natural order? I don’t understand that. What is the natural order? Is it Hearts beating Hibs every time? It’s just a crock of cr*p. It’s not good. It’s a pretty poor statement to make and I think it’s disrespectful to my club, my players and me.”
Both managers addressed the issue the next time they held a pre-match press conference, where they provided memes which should circle around Scottish football’s social media world for years to come. Levein, with face full of mischief: “Regrets? No, it was a good laugh, wasn’t it?” Lennon, with a face like thunder: “I didn’t find it funny.”
The Easter Road manager would eventually see the lighter side when Hibs easily defeated their rivals 2-0 at home in the next fixture, telling the BBC: “If the natural order means being 12 points ahead with a game in hand, I’ll take that all the time.” This game also spawned the moment, perfectly captured by an SNS photographer, of a glum-looking Craig Levein watching his side lose with a massive green-and-white banner reading ‘NATURAL ORDER?’ in the background.
4Barry Cook decision at Partick Thistle v Morton Striker shoots. Striker scores. Team celebrate goal. Other team grumpily punts ball away. Referee awards throw-in.
This was a refereeing catastrophe for the ages. Official Barry Cook and his assistant somehow missed Kris Doolan’s effort hitting the back of the net then presumably looked on in puzzlement as the home side all ran off cheering.
This was Les Mottram levels of bewilderment, which is of course a fitting comparison as it occurred at the same end of the same ground where the previous champion of “Worst Scottish Football Refereeing Decision” claimed his honour. And just like when Dundee United attacker Paddy Connolly slammed the ball off the stanchion in an early 1990s league fixture, which was followed by a Thistle player picking it up and handing to the goalkeeper to boot away, the horrendous decision didn’t actually have any impact on the final result.
3Willo Flood’s summer Oh boy, what a month Willo Flood had earlier this year. It began with the Ladbrokes Premiership play-off semi-final. Having held a 2-1 advantage over Livingston in their first-leg encounter, Dundee United did what they’ve done on multiple occasions in the last couple of years and exploded like rat-bags in the closing stages.
They lost two goals in three minutes and were faced with taking a one-goal deficit into the away leg. They were then forced into doing so without their experienced midfielder when Flood completely lost the head, pushing an opponent in full sight of the referee, thus earning himself a red card. As he walked from the field he shouted at the United bench and then angrily pushed away the BT Sport camera filming his undignified exit. With his contract due to expire, United’s draw in the second leg meant it was the last time he’d pull on the tangerine shirt (surely!).
But that’s not all. Flood landed on his feet by securing a full-time contract with a club in the same division, swapping Tayside for Fife and a deal with Dunfermline Athletic. Or so we thought.
It emerged after just nine days that Flood would be leaving the club after receiving an offer to play for Bali United. He had a clause inserted into his contract that allowed him to leave for a club abroad if any were looking to take him on. So off he went, quickly appearing in a terrific social media post from Bali United heralding his signing, as it showed clips of his meltdown followed by Flood proudly stating: “that was my past, this is my future”.
But that’s not all! Okay, so it turned out Flood wasn’t actually eligible to sign for Bali United because the Indonesian league had a restriction on foreigners who weren’t coming directly from the top league in their nation. No Premiership for United, no move for Flood. With Dunfermline having secured other targets he didn’t have a route back to East End Park and is currently without a club.
2Goalkeeper injured by runaway cow There’s something about this that’s so quintessentially Scottish football. It perfectly encapsulates the humble eccentricity of the game north of the border. There’s barely anything else I can add to this section. The title itself is perfect. It fully explains why it should be included in this list and why it’s placed so high within it.
I don’t even remember the goalkeeper’s name [ed: Sam Henderson]. In a year’s time I’ll probably forget which club he was playing for [ed: Queen of the South]. But for decades to come I’ll always recall the tale of the goalkeeper injured by a runaway cow [ed: correct].
1The Betfred Cup semi-final farce Where to start with this? So many strands, so much outrage, and all for two matches that were complete damp squibs in the end.
Having two games at Hampden probably would not have produced a Scottish football version of The Purge, as some were hysterically predicting, but having fans of four clubs converging on the same area of Glasgow a few hours apart probably wasn’t a great idea in hindsight, seeing as Hearts v Celtic couldn’t go ahead in another city with an early kick-off without an elderly fan being accidentally bottled by one of her own.
Then there was Aberdeen raging at their kick-off time, Hearts raging at their kick-off time, and then Celtic raging that their game was the one eventually moved out of Glasgow when the SPFL finally saw sense and booked out Murrayfield. (One underrated aspect of all this was the SRU humming and hawing over whether they would hold the game at the national stadium on “short notice” – like they didn’t want the extra money for doing so.)
Then Aberdeen were left a little red-faced when, having fought so hard to have the game moved to a better time and secured a decent allocation, found that their fans were treating the match with the respect usually given to League Cup semi-finals.
Then there were the games themselves, which while being void of much quality did have Steven MacLean fondling Eboue Kouassi’s testicles and Umar Sadiq thinking a penalty was an easier chance than an open goal. Glorious.