Killie and Paper Roses… some of us know why

Could there be two better examples of the gulf that exists at the heart of Scottish football culture?

At one extreme sits the petty boycott by Rangers fans of their Scottish cup tie with the mighty Arabs.   Now, there are many reasons not to fancy a trip north-ish in January.  The weather for one.  The rather notorious attitude of stewards and local police to away fans, of all hues.  But this is much more base.

According to Rangers Supporters Assembly which organised the boycott, at last here is the opportunity to “send a clear message to those who tried to destroy our club”.  Which is somewhat breathtaking in its arrogance, given that the people who tried and managed to destroy Rangers football club were those who ran it, those who stuck two fingers up at the normal rules applying to everyone else and decided to embark on a cunning wheeze to avoid tax liabilities thereby giving Rangers an unfair fiscal advantage over clubs like Dundee United.

The aim is to starve the Arabs of a cash boost from a full house, ignoring the fact that Rangers also stands to lose out on its share of gate money.  Arithmetic is clearly not a strong point at Rangers.

Punishing fans and other clubs might give a visceral short term thrill but does the whole game no good at all.  There will be a tat for this tit somewhere down the line.  And it’s way past time that fans of all clubs realised we all need each other and should look out for each other, for the good of our national sport.  But then showing solidarity with the wee diddy clubs was never a priority for either half of the Old Firm.

Thank goodness then, for the likes of Killie, my own club.  Today, in a way only Killie could, it made a rare foray onto the sport section of Reporting Scotland.  Not for its footballing exploits but for its fans.

Today the Killie fans had a date with Marie Osmond and the warmth of her reception surprised her.  But not me.

Paper Roses has been the unofficial anthem of the club – or at least, its supporters – since the 70s.  The reporter suggested no one knows why.

But actually we do – or at least, most of us do know the widely accepted explanation.

Paper Roses was adopted by a group of supporters travelling on a bus to an away game at a time when violence and bad behaviour was beginning to dog Scottish football.  Some fans decided they wanted no part in the ratcheting up of rivalries and wanted to make a statement to that effect.  What they could not decide on was how.

Then, Marie Osmond came on the radio singing Paper Roses and the fans decided that was it.  Here was a harmless, guileless song with a rather twee tune.  It was perfect.

So every time, vitriol and hatred were chanted in their direction in an attempt to force a response, the reply came by way of a chorus or two of Paper Roses.  It took the sting out of things and made those who sought violence look rather stupid.  Killie fans in the vanguard of designing innovative approaches to reducing violence in our society – who’d a thunk it?  And the song stuck.

This, at least, is the story I was told by one of the fans on that original bus journey – the late and sadly missed Danny Coffey.  Although I know other stories abound…

No one cares anymore about its origins;  it’s enough that the fans have an anthem which is uniquely theirs and which even today, still makes its point.

And it was lovely to see fans getting to show Marie Osmond how to sing it properly.  Tunelessly, silly big grins and with scarves aloft.

If only Rangers fans could learn to take themselves a little less seriously, then Scottish football would be a far healthier and happier sport.