Killie’s League Cup win: triumph tinged with sadness

At 65 minutes, we dared to dream.

Earlier, a nudge in the ribs at around 25 minutes with the ominous pronouncement that “this lot’s just not going to score today” was met with shushing from all around.  But it was clear we were all thinking it.

By that stage in the first half, Killie were bossing it:  the tactics were working.  A few heart-stopping moments early on with silly wee square passes – across the front of the goal!! – had given way to some nice but fairly ineffectual football.  By 30 minutes though, we were wearing Celtic down, even forcing them to make mistakes and spending more time in their half than in our own.

That first half was a great advert for Scottish football – few fouls, no cards, end to end stuff.  Willie Collum, despite what Neil Lennon said rather unsportingly in the immediate aftermath, had a great game.  He kept it clean and used a light touch.  A few scrappy moments at the start of the second half were sorted out quickly and authoritatively.  He allowed the football to flow, to everyone’s benefit.

The interval though, has to be the most boring half time I have ever witnessed.  A film played on the big screens with appalling sound levels (it’s a Hampden problem, get it sorted!).  A nice wee penalty shoot out, a heartfelt presentation to a child off to get potentially life-saving treatment in the US thanks to the generosity of football fans, and that was it.  Nae choons, nae atmosphere.  Sorry, but we deserve better.

And generally, the Killie fans did deserve better.  Squashed into a corner of the ground, all the better to give the best view to the “big team” who presumably deserved to be there and whom the authorities clearly expected to win.  How else to explain the shocking decision to have the Cup ceremony square in front of the main stands, watched by no-one, instead of moving it to where the Killie fans were corralled?

You can tell who’s used to winning.  When we scored – oh boy, when we scored – the Celtic fans started heading for the exits.  By the time Kilmarnock went up to collect the cup there was only a handful left in the ground.  Yet, I recall on the two previous League Cup Final occasions when Killie got a doing, insisting to the Big Chicklet that we stay to the bitter end and we applaud our team for their efforts and when they collected their runners-up medals.  Most other Killie supporters did the same.

That’s the difference when you support a team for whom winning is an occasion.  Not only do you savour every moment but you always travel more in hope than in expectation, and behave accordingly.

But yes, by 65 minutes we dared to dream, albeit with our hearts in our mouths.  Celtic certainly dominated the last 15 minutes and at times, it seemed like Cammy Bell was on a one man mission to keep us in the game.  He was outstanding.

Our boys didn’t give up, and over the 90 minutes, we probably had as many shots on target as they did.   The difference came through an inspired substitution by Kenny Shiels, who deserves plaudits for tactics which involved taking the game to the big boys.

A great cross in and bang.  I’d like to say I was on my feet as soon as van Tornhout struck the ball with his heid but actually, we were all on our feet by that stage anyway.  It might have been over in a flash, but all day the exact move has replayed in my mind – and no doubt will continue to do so for many years to come.  It was a great cup-winning goal actually;  a just reward for a real team effort.

And lo, Killie were in the lead.  Celtic 0 Kilmarnock 1.  Followed by the longest ten minutes of our lives.

We cheered, we jigged, we waved the flags and shouted ourselves hoarse.  Cmon the Killie!!  Scarves in the air and a rendition of Paper Roses, the fans’ anthem adopted by Killie supporters like the late Danny Coffey and John Dearie as a rejoinder to all the hate and violence that blighted Scottish football in their youth.  Yep, it’s nonsense but it’s our nonsense.  Then, at last, the final whistle.

There have been three times in my life I have been deliriously happy – the first two involved the birth of my children.  And no, that’s not an exaggeration.  To understand, you need to have followed a team through more dark days than light, through relegation near-misses and all the way through the doldrums of season after season playing for very little, bar the odd decent performance and uplifting, surprise win. Fifteen times Kilmarnock has tried to win that cup and it’s fifteen years since Killie won its last silverware; that’s how meaningful this triumph is.

Arrival in Kilmarnock to join the celebrations was met with the awful news that Liam Kelly’s father had died of the heart attack he suffered in the stands.  Folk were stunned and talked of little else: a terrible tragedy for him, his family and indeed, the whole Killie family.

Everyone set it aside for a short while to celebrate the victory with an open-top bus parade all through the town and on to Rugby Park.  It was lovely to stand in exactly the same spot as I did after the 97 Scottish Cup win to watch it all, seeing the famous John Finnie Street once again thronged with exultant supporters and townsfolk, only this time to be with my boys and to watch their faces as they joined in the celebrations.  These memories last a lifetime.

Rightly, attention today has turned back to Liam Kelly’s loss, for this will always be a triumph tinged with sadness.  Football often wears its heart on its sleeve:  this is one of those occasions.  Condolences have poured in from all around, with the most poignant comments from Kenny Shiels, the Killie manager.

Killie will celebrate and savour its triumph – it’s too important and too rare not to.  But the Killie family will also rally round and look out for one of its brightest young stars and his kin:  it’s not for nothing that the club motto is “confidimus”.





Predictions for 2012

Before I consternate you all with my innane predictions for the coming year, I thought it would be amusing to humiliate myself by revisiting last year’s ones:

  1. The Scottish Budget will pass at the first attempt.  This one worked!  And yes, there was a bit of huffing and puffing along the way, but nothing as dramatic as previous years.
  2. Labour will hold the most seats after the Holyrood election but won’t form the next administration.  Aye well, everyone called this one wrong, except the pollsters.  Whom we all refused to believe.  The whole prediction suggested it would go down to the wire for Labour.  Yes, I am contrite and yes, I am feeling silly.
  3. The SNP will remain in government, with the support of the Conservatives in return for baubles.  Partly right but obviously without the dreaded Tories’ bit.  Thank goodness.
  4. The unholy alliance with the Tories will prompt a resurgence of the left in the SNP.  This was always wishful thinking.  But the burd continues to live in hope…
  5. The UK coalition government will last at least another 12 months.  An easy one to get right, in hindsight.
  6. The first UK Minister to resign on conscience grounds will be a Conservative not a Liberal Democrat.  Has anyone resigned yet?  Apart from David Laws, who had gone before this prediction was made?  Wasn’t there some Tory PPS over Europe?  Zzzz….
  7. The UK will vote no in the AV referendum – but Scotland and Wales will vote yes.  Again another partial victory – very disappointed in the Celtic nations for going with the mainstream for once.
  8. Wales will vote yes in its referendum for legislative powers for the Assembly.  Hurrah it did!
  9. Tavish Scott will resign as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and will be replaced by Margaret Smith.  Again another partial one – and the replacement idea was based on them experiencing near total wipeout in the May 2011 elections, leaving Margaret Smith as the only woman standing in one of the supposedly safest seats in Scotland.  Little did I know….
  10. Iain Gray and Ed Miliband will survive the year in their respective leadership posts.  Another half point, though in actual fact, Gray did survive for most of the year, thanks to the antediluvian electoral process for choosing a new leader.  Miliband, it has to be said, has rather limped to the 2011 finish line.
  11. Scotland will not qualify for the Euro 2012 finals.  “As usual, we will be there or thereabouts right to the last, prompting much unjustified optimism, as usual, and hope that this time will be our time.  As usual, we will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”  Yep, that was about the size of it.  As usual.
  12. Celtic will claim the SPL title on the last day of the season (thanks to a controversial refereeing decision elsewhere), Hearts will nearly finish second and the mighty Killie will finish fourth.  Gosh, how wrong can the burd be?  Though Killie did finish fifth which was the source of much rejoicing in this eyrie.
  13. A Scottish band will win the Mercury Prize.  Nope, even though King Creosote and Jon Hopkins shoulda won it.
  14. A Scottish newspaper title will fold.  Right but not for the reasons I predicted.  All the main contenders lost readers by the bucketload but made it into another year.  Except for one, the News of the World.  Still, I’m bagging the points.
  15. We will have a heatwave summer.  Scotland’s weather is nothing if not unpredictable.

Fifteen predictions, five completely right (if a little wonky on the rationale), five partially right, five wholly wrong.  There’s a nice symmetry to that.

So what of this year?

  1. There will be no referendum on independence in 2012.  I’m starting with the easy ones.  Not even if the UK Government decides to throw its weight around: it really isn’t that brave.
  2. The SNP will increase its number of councillors by at least a third and will win overall control in more local authorities  The SNP’s triumphant steamrollering of the opposition parties will continue with the local government elections in May.  Indeed, the results will actually be reined in by the performance of some weel kent local worthies clinging grimly on by virtue of reputation rather than performance.  There will be fewer rainbow alliances across the country and more of that sea of yellow.
  3. But it won’t take Glasgow. I’d like it to but I think the mountain is too big to climb.  Too many factional interests, not enough cohesion, too little groundwork, not enough focus despite the best efforts of some.  And old habits really do die hard.  Labour will use all its tricks, nefarious and other wise, to get a vote out.  The result will be no overall control and either a minority administration or some hard bartering to form a coalition with the various Tory, Lib Dem and Green cohorts.  Labour won’t give up power in the jewel of its crown without one helluva fight.
  4. There will be no Ministerial casualties from the Scottish Government  I know, not much of a prediction is it.  Okay how about this:
  5. There will be some kind of a two day wonder/scandal involving a high profile MSP or Minister but it won’t result in resignations or reshuffles.  We’ll all get righteously indignacious and then forget all about it.  Twas ever thus.
  6. There will be a Ministerial resignation from the coalition government and it will be a Liberal Democrat.  If only to make way for the return of a rehabilitated David Laws.
  7. Teachers will go out on strike, for more than a day.  In Scotland, not elsewhere in the UK.  There may well be more public sector strikes but the Coalition government is cleverly playing a game of divide and rule so we are unlikely to see the country grind to a halt as we did on 30 November.  But the teachers have got fire in their belly, even if their grievances are largely undeserved.  Expect lots of ranting from the burd if they do.
  8. Youth unemployment will rise to 30% Despite the best efforts of our new Minister and indeed the whole Scottish Government, proving that state intervention with limited powers can only go so far.  Providing more mettle to the SNP’s arguments for independence, more sticks for the Opposition parties to beat the SNP with, but none of it will matter.  The shame will be Scotland’s – a generation lost.
  9. A Scottish player will be in the Team GB Olympic football squad.  This will preoccupy us all more than is healthy but actually the sky won’t fall in.  It will dominate the headlines, the back pages, the Twitterverse, the blogosphere and bore the pants off everyone.  Ultimately he won’t play.
  10. Andy Murray will win a Grand Slam.  And certain elements will celebrate by trying to declare him Scottish not British despite the best efforts of the BBC.
  11. Kilmarnock will end its League Cup drought and win it for the first time in 2012.  Just as soon as we’ve disposed of the local rivals in the semi-final.  A doddle until you look at the cup form over the years.  Gulp.
  12. A Scottish artist/band will win the Mercury prize.  And I shall continue to predict this until it happens.  Either FOUND or Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells, surely.

I could trill on with more – a household name charity will get into serious financial difficulties, the Scottish Government will introduce a same sex marriage bill but allow a free vote to get some of its Ministers off the hook – but I won’t.  Twelve’s enough and again allows for symmetry in the win, lose, draw categories at the end of the year.

And it leaves some room for you to add your own.  Go on, you know you want to…

A flutter on Friday 8 April

Something old…

That’ll be the burd then, who dared to venture out to a gig on a school night and is suffering for it now.  But oh, it was worth it.  The Airborne Toxic Event?  Awesome.  The best gig I’ve seen this year, and possibly will do all year.  They played a stonking set for more than an hour with a blistering version of Innocence to finish and then came back on for an encore and that is when the party really started.  Forty minute encore – cursory single track encore players please take note.  I’ve not seen a venue bouncing off the walls like that in a long time.  

They don’t get here very often but I’ll definitely be looking out for them when they do.  And a wee plug – they finally have a label deal in the UK and their new album is out on 23 April.  I’ve already got it in my diary….

What else?  Oh, Mother’s Day.  How could I forget last Friday?  So for my mum, and your mum, and a’body’s mum – this beautiful track from Alela Diane.  And this from Peggy Sue, a band I’ve been meaning to post about for yangs.  How could I have omitted them from the Buddy Holly flutter?!  The more I listen to their album Fossils and Other Phantoms, the more I want to listen to it.

…something new

The new FOUND album has been pretty much on a constant loop in this house and you too can stream it from the band’s website.  Then please, go buy it!  Current favourite tracks?  Erm, Blackette?  You’re no Vincent Gallo?  Or possibly Machine Age Dancing?

Ahh, a brand new, hot off the press album from the Raveonettes.  What d’ya mean they’re starting to sound a touch derivative?!  Actually, with each album their sound grows darker.  The trademark reverb and sound layer is still there, as on this track, Ignite, and it all adds up to a very satisfying whole and a perfect Friday soundtrack!

…something borrowed

It’s April which in Edinburgh means only one thing.  The start of the Festival season.  It kicked off with the launch of the International Festival’s programme for the summer (okay, that was in March) and I have to say I was totally nonplussed at the inclusion of so many of China’s cultural symbols of its state apparatus.  Do you think the Chinese get to see what we do?  Hmm.

On a brighter note, the Edinburgh International Science Festival kicks off on Saturday and it is definitely one of my and the chicklet’s favourites.  And just to show we are not cultural philistines, we in this nest love the Puppet Animation Festival.   Then there’s Ceilidh Culture with a host of highlights and incorporating the Edinburgh International Harp Festival. 

Who said the arts were in trouble/being slashed out of existence?

….something blue

Fare thee weel, then, Mixu.  Your nation called and you answered.  Good for you and well done Finland on recognising this man’s football management skills.  You will recall, if you were a flutter follower way back in August, that the burd was far from optimistic about the prospects for Killie FC under the Finn.  I am delighted to have been proved wrong. 

Mixu Paatelainen turned fortunes around at Kilmarnock, breathing new life into tired old legs, securing the services of some great talent through loan deals, and instilling a work ethic and a really classy passing game.  Kilmarnock are sitting high in the table and have played some of the best football in the league this season.   Aye, it was good while it lasted and here’s hoping the next manager keeps it up.

Mixu – we salute you and thank you for allowing us to hope and dream again.   And we wish you every success in your new role as Finland’s national manager.  Just not against we Scots, if you please!