About davidfarrellfaz

Ex Hibernian, Airdrie, Partick Thistle, Stranraer and Albion Rovers player. A-Licence coach and assistant manager with 18 years playing experience and 10 years coaching experience.

The Era Of Our Ways

It somehow feels like the end of an era. In fact, I had that same unnerving, niggling feeling a few weeks ago after the Scottish Cup Final, when we again threw away a two-goal lead. Although on that day, we at least managed to stumble over the line to clinch an unprecedented ‘Quadruple Treble.’ 

It’s been some ride the last 10 years, and of course, the elusive 10-in-a-row would have been the icing on the cake, but even the most optimistic of Celtic fans would have to concede that after a gallant defeat at Ibrox, 12 domestic trophies on the trot and nine-in-a-row, the dream looks over.

Yet, you never know…

Questions have to be asked of our season, and of that excellent performance at Ibrox on Saturday. To a man we were better (other than Allan McGregor) than Rangers and even when Celtic went down to 10 men, there was little between the teams.

From the depths of defeats to Ross County in the cup, and draws with St Johnstone, Hibs and Aberdeen; through a blundering European campaign that stuttered and stalled, to the unconvincing optimism of the last four wins, I witnessed a group of players on Saturday that had hardly been at the table all season and we have to ask why?

A team that fought and showed a level of commitment and desire that has been sadly missing for long periods of a season that promised so much and has delivered so little. I looked at Ryan Christie, a player with undeniable talent and a guy who has dug Celtic out of huge holes with big goals, chase and harry defenders and win balls on the edge of the opposition’s box. It was a trademark of his, but where has it been? I watched Odsonne Edouard chase, fight and bully centre backs and look every inch the £20m player, when so often he has looked disinterested. I looked at Kristoffer Ajer, screaming and cajoling, leading defenders, winning tackles, making marauding runs and taking responsibility when so often he’s been turning back and taking a step in the wrong direction before throwing his arms in the air and looking for someone else to blame. 

Is it coincidence to suggest, that the aforementioned players were among those who were rumoured to have wanted away in the summer among others? The board and the manager stood firm on that one, a decision most of us would have agreed with given the high stakes that came with this year’s league title. Unfortunately, we weren’t to know that too many would throw their toys out of the pram and leave their application levels at the playroom door.

I watched a team play without fear, who were motivated to try and gunsling their way out of the last chance saloon – a predicament they would never have been in, had they given the level of effort and desire seen on Saturday. 

Of course, Lenny and his staff cannot escape criticism. I’ll deal with the earlier part of the season later, but let’s analyse the game itself and the key moments that ultimately cost us the win. Firstly, it’s a red card. The pass is played with good weight and is dropping perfectly for Morelos. The direction of the pass is such that even though the angle may be tight – and given that it’s against Celtic he wouldn’t have scored – it’s still undeniably a goalscoring opportunity. Anything else is deflection. Nir Biton is caught on the wrong side. As a central defender on that side of the ball, you cannot allow the striker to be first into the space. Step into him, block the run, or drop off and make sure you get to the ball first. It’s amateur stuff, and for me Ajer is equally to blame. The ball hasn’t been switched quickly, so there is no excuse other than laziness for Kristoffer Ajer to still be 25-yards away from Nir Bitton. If he had moved over as you should when the ball is played wide to Tavernier, to close the gap between him and his fellow centre back, he is in a position where it only becomes a yellow card as he can now impact Morelos. But he’ll probably be ok with the fact that the perception is it had nothing to do with him. Deep down, he’ll know he should have been over. With his pace, it’s criminal.

Now for the corner itself. I’m not party to the inner workings of the Celtic Park staff and their responsibilities. Generally, the Assistant Manager will take control of set-pieces and decide formation, set-up etc with the First Team Coach. You’ll know from analysis all about the opposition’s general set-up, whether it’ll be an outswinger or an inswinger, who their main heading threats are, and you’ll have in mind who picks up who. These can only be finalised once the team lines are in, but it’s only a final touch-up. The work has already been done on the training ground and everyone will know their job. There’s usually a final run through with the boss when the teams come through in the dressing room to make sure he’s happy with your match-ups. Bitton takes Goldson, Ajer takes Balogun, Laxalt picks up Morelos etc… Something, however, has gone seriously wrong at Celtic this season, because our defending of set-pieces in general has been appalling and Ibrox on Saturday was a prime example. 

At corners, Odsonne Edouard is usually ‘first man’ in the front post area. It makes sense. Most forwards don’t like the responsibility of picking someone up, they don’t like the ‘defending’ bit. He’s asked to put his head on anything that is underhit (the bane of all supporters, the dreaded corner that hits the first man) and not allow anyone to get into the space in front of him. He’s normally quite good at it. Yesterday however, he was on the post and Calum McGregor was asked to occupy the front space. Calum is a wonderful footballer of many talents, but heading and being a tall, physical presence don’t strike me as being any of them. It’s inexplicable! 

To follow that, most teams will deploy their smallest, fastest guy up the pitch on the half way line to make sure the opposition keep two players back. It’s an age-old ploy and something that Jeremy Frimpong does every week for Celtic on the premise that he’s so small, he’d be of little use at a defensive corner anyway.

So, what do we do yesterday? Frimpong is back defending and finds himself marking Joe Aribo! There has to be six inches between them. It’s the biggest mismatch in Scottish football since Kevin McAllister was asked to pick up Dave McPherson in an Edinburgh derby. 

I heard it said it was unlucky that it deflected off McGregor’s arm and drifted past Barkas. That’s not bad luck, it’s consequential. Poor organisation and even poorer application. Would Aribo have got in front of Edouard if he’d been in his normal position? Would he have beaten someone, anyone, who isn’t six inches smaller than him in the air? Who’s making these decisions? Why has there been no improvement defensively throughout the season at defending corners and free kicks? Mind boggling, frustrating and avoidable, but like so much of the season it was entirely predictable that our downfall yesterday would be self-inflicted. 

I have to now give a bit of disclosure before I preamble what has gone before us – I am a Neil Lennon fan and have backed the board on most issues that have arisen over the last decade. I’ve been lucky enough to have been in his company and have shared a manager’s office with him for a post-match chat on a couple of occasions. The success over the last 10 years would not have been possible without Neil and the backing of the board, and to have guided us through a situation in those years – without the financial clout that the TV and media companies bring, post-Rangers – and still post the numbers they have on and off the pitch, allied to domestic dominance, was fantastic. I am also fairly certain that almost every Celtic fan was pleased at the end of the transfer window, when we had spent more than ever, retained all our major assets and covered every position identified.

Perhaps we can blame them for appointing the new Director of Football? Has he underestimated the standards required to make Celtic competitive both domestically and in Europe? The recruitment has not been good enough given the outlay and whatever the answer, we have now reached the crunch point.

Neil, is also not without criticism. To persevere with a back-three earlier in the season when it was patently obvious to most that it wasn’t working, was at best stubborn, and at worst, culpable. We were pedestrian, mundane and devoid of ideas. Some players were clearly angling for a move, whilst others were in the huff. This against the backdrop of a pandemic which denied the fans the opportunity to kick their arses in person and kick-start the season. 

There’s a basic tactical premise when you play with three at the back with Celtic. Almost every team will play with one striker against you. That means in your own half you are generally playing 3-v-1. The flip-side of that means in the opposition half, the ratio becomes 9-v-7. IN THEIR FAVOUR! 

No wonder we could hardly score a goal. 

Defeat to Ferencvaros was inexcusable, and pedestrian, late wins in Riga, Sarajevo, Dundee and Perth papered over the cracks. We could all see it but why couldn’t the Celtic staff?  The run which followed, has, unfortunately defined our season. Two wins in 12, including a disastrous Europa League campaign, defeat to Rangers and exit from the League Cup at the hands of Ross County, meant that on the back of draws at Aberdeen and Hibs, we were on the brink. It’s at this point the board and I differ. Lenny looked a broken man.

Implying in the aftermath of interviews that players who had earlier wanted to leave had chucked it. They needed direction, motivation and help, and right there, at that point, Lenny didn’t look like he was the man to do it. The board should have taken him from the firing line, done the honourable thing for him and saved him from himself. He was too loyal to too many players for too long. When you see the impact Turnbull and Soro have made in recent weeks, you have to wonder why they were kept under wraps for so long.

He was never going to resign. Too proud and too much of a Celtic man to do that and walk out on the club he loves. Unfortunately, too many of our fears from early in the season have now come to fruition and the Board need to take the responsibility for their part in that. They too have shown loyalty, which to all intents and purposes under normal circumstances would have been admirable and noble. But this time it just didn’t feel right, and now we find ourselves 19 points behind with a huge January transfer window coming up.

The Board have decided that a review would take place in the New Year and now, on the back of delaying a decision that should have been made six weeks ago, we find ourselves in an even greater impasse. Do we give Neil the money to spend in the January window and let him continue? Do we give him no money and let a man who deserves so much more respect, amble towards the inevitable in the summer? Do we give him money to spend, and hope for a miracle whilst knowing he is unlikely to guide us to the Holy Grail and therefore put us six months behind in planning for next season? Or, do we take the plunge, make the decision to change manager now and sell those who don’t want to be a part of the next chapter? 

Some of them have patently let down both the manager and the supporters in their apparent haste to find pastures new, judging by the levels they reached at Ibrox on Saturday. The next week or two will see decisions made that are way above my pay level. Decisions that in my opinion, either way, should have been made six weeks ago after we lost our domestic domination to Ross County.

The fear factor of playing Celtic has gone. If we galvanise, prepare, recruit and refresh the playing squad, we have a group who showed at Ibrox that it won’t be long in coming back. However, after what’s gone on in the last six months, an awful lot of people at our football club need to take a serious look in the mirror. Players, management, directors and staff need to ask themselves one question – “Did I give it my all?” 

On the evidence of what I watched on Saturday, collectively, I’m not sure there are many who won’t see someone else when the mirror looks back at them.

David Farrell


Sporting integrity is a rare commodity in Scottish football. Clubs will discard players, coaches and managers and disregard contracts at the drop of a hat, if it means saving a few bob. We are in unprecedented times during this current coronavirus pandemic and there seems to be no limit to the amount of traction the dreaded ‘sporting integrity’ tagline is being wheeled out as some sort of badge of honour. In Scottish football in particular, it’s a phrase masked in tribalism, self-interest and false honesty, often used as a stick with which to beat the other side into submission when we want to champion a cause. In this instance, that cause is the Scottish Premiership season and there are all manner of theories as to what we should do next, and in almost every case it is self-interest that will be the overriding factor in determining a club’s stance, rather than some sort of warped take on ‘integrity.’

There are three possible outcomes to the current impasse. The first, is end the season now, declare Celtic champions and all other finishing positions remain as they are. The second, null and void, and the third, finish the season and play out the final eight games no matter when that may be, before the next season starts.

Rangers have very firmly pinned their tail to the donkey. In a surprise of cataclysmic proportions, they have decided that their preferred option would be to end the season now and declare the season null and void, go back to square one and forget that 179 games have already been played in a season of 228. That’s 78%. Who’d have thought it?! Apparently the ‘integrity’ of the competition would be compromised if the current finishing positions were finalised. All manner of former Rangers players have been rolled out to the press in order to back up their stance that null and void should be the only outcome. In the last few months, Rangers have lost to Hamilton, Kilmarnock and Hearts and dropped points to St Johnstone and Aberdeen. There is a 13 point gap at the top of the table, albeit Rangers have a game in hand and two derbies still to play, but are we really to believe that Rangers still think they can win the title? Sure, it’s mathematically possible, but the realistic, honest definition of that phrase is ‘probably impossible.’ The truth of the matter is that the gap is more likely to get bigger in the final eight games, rather than diminish. It should have been Frank Gallagher making that statement from the Chatsworth Estate rather than Stewart Robertson from the Blue Room. It lacked humility and class. Mr. Robertson is also on the board who will have a major in role in deciding the outcome and how we move forward when this crisis is over so could reasonably be expected to have a conflict of interest. Where is the integrity in that? If there is an argument for null and void, then the one thing that absolutely does not back it up is ‘sporting integrity.’

TV money and distribution rights are paramount to the survival of many clubs and an essential part of the contracts drawn up by sponsors and TV companies. Champions League and Europa League qualification is entirely based around final league positionings. Neither of these scenarios is possible with a null and void outcome which makes it all the more unlikely. Are we to believe that these competitions next season, with all the money they generate, will be null and void too? Unless we partake in a bizarre game of finishing position bingo, it would seem well-nigh impossible that the null and void brigade will get their way. Although, of course, it’s still mathematically possible.

For my own part, I have to admit to being embarrassed at my own reaction. I make no apologies about being an ex-footballer and a Celtic supporter and most of you will know that I follow my team up and down the country week-in, week-out. When I first heard about the suspension of the season I was devastated. The thought of a historical nine-in-a-row and potential quadruple treble being snatched away was mind numbing. I reacted emotionally and could think of nothing but the self-interest and selfishness that blights Scottish football. I was wrong. The seriousness of the current pandemic, made me, in the ensuing days, recognise that there are things I need to think about above my football team. My emotional reactions based on my loyalties and love of my team, were at best misguided and at worst, shameful. I can only hope that when this current crisis is a long and distant memory, we can all self-reflect and recognise what to prioritise.

For what it’s worth, I will now be happy to abide by whatever decision the authorities decide is the best for everyone. My own personal preference is that we somehow, finish the current season before starting the next one. Sure, it might be a logistical nightmare, but if integrity really is the buzz word then playing the season to a finish and making sure everyone gets their rightful reward, should be the only priority. If it means pushing back and shortening next season then so be it, but if we are to preserve the integrity of the competition, then we must do everything possible to see the season out. Every Celtic supporter I know wants this to happen. There can be no arguments and no dissent on any part when the league is won after 38 games. It would also ensure that Scottish football does not eat itself because the ensuing fallout and meltdown to a ‘null and void’ season or a title that has been won before all games have been played, would put the last eight years of acrimony in the shade.

Finally, what of a declaration of Celtic as champions and all finishing positions standing as is? As I have stated previously, I will be happy and humble enough to stand by whatever the authorities decide. I will be utterly honest and say that without the season finishing, it would leave a slightly bittersweet taste in my mouth, but if we get the title and nine-in-a-row is declared then the powers that be will have exhausted all other possibilities. After all, we are always encouraged to look at the record books when questioning the validity of a title* win. Celtic are currently 1/100 with the bookies. I’m certain there’s hardly a Rangers supporter in the land who would take a punt on us losing it. There can be no question that given current standings, Celtic deserve to be champions. Very few, if they wish to keep their so called integrity intact, could argue with that.

David Farrell


Scottish football has seen a worrying spate of on and off field incidents in recent months, but punishing the subservient majority, is NOT the answer.

I’m being demonised. My crime is to dust off my old retro kit, trek up and down the length and breadth of the country and go to watch my football team. I’m a mature, passionate supporter of the beautiful game being made to feel as though I’m a second class citizen, and on occasion, a danger to society.

I love nothing more than taking my son to watch our team play every week. That team is Celtic, and really everything in my garden should be rosy, but it’s not. And the truth is, I’m sick of it. Sick of not being trusted, sick of being forced into narrow pens like pigs on abattoir day and sick of being threatened with not being able to watch MY team play, because SOME OTHER imbecilic runt threw a coin, tossed a bottle or clambered three feet on to the hallowed turf to celebrate a goal.

MP’s, media sages, journalists and our beloved authorities are ravenous in their pursuit of football fans. I don’t know what’s behind it, but there’s a momentum gathering that doesn’t look like it will stop until the good, ordinary punter is chased away for good, leaving behind a minority cesspit that will tarnish the game forever. Ordinary football supporters are being singled out for perverse preferential treatment right now and ‘strict liability’ is their rod with which to beat. Well, not on my watch.

Two-and-a-half years ago I left my role as Assistant Manager at St Mirren. After 18 years as a player and 10 as a coach, I was out, tossed like an old sweaty sock on the dressing room floor to fend for myself and see if I could recreate that unenviable buzz in some other form. I decided at that moment to go back to my first love of watching Celtic full time, home and away. My boy and his Dad, just like I’d done with mine, traipsing all over the country (and occasionally Europe) for our footballing fix. I’d never really gotten away from it in truth. Even through my playing and coaching days, I still took the opportunity to go and see them whenever I could, sometimes to the ridiculous extent that I could even play against them one week and be a guest on the supporters bus the next. I’m still convinced that my old manager at Hibs – Alex Miller – didn’t trust me to give as much against Celtic as he did in Rangers games and Edinburgh derbies. I had a good spell in the early 90’s where I made the squad most weeks, and yet I rarely seemed to pit my wits against my heroes. He really should have known better. I’d have kicked my Granny, two-footed my sister and trampled over our elderly neighbour no matter what colour of shirt they had worn for a £300 win bonus.

Fast forward 25 years, and I’m back on the other side of the white line. Arranging weekends and work shifts around where and when we are playing on any given day of the week. Away fixtures at 3pm on a Saturday are a thing of the past. 16 years it’s been, 16 years since Celtic had that privilege for a League game. That’s the price we pay for prostituting our undervalued product to the bloodsucking executives of Murdoch’s empire.

And what do we get in return? Contempt, poor treatment and intimidation; that’s what.
I’ve missed one away game since that fateful day in September ’16, when St Mirren sacked me and consigned me to a life of happiness and contentment as a spectator. Dave King’s selfish, misguided decision to reduce the allocation at Ibrox, meant that I was unable to get a ticket for the greatest show on earth, and ensured that many thousands of Rangers fans with it, would also have to make do with a reciprocal view of the match from their own front room the next time Rangers visited Celtic Park. On the back of all those experiences bar Ibrox, now is the time for me to highlight some of the treatment of our fans. Now let me make this absolutely clear – I cannot speak for any other sets of away fans because I don’t know how they are treated at Celtic Park, but I do have a very good Rangers supporting mate who never misses an away game, and speaking regularly it is evident that our recollections at many grounds in Scotland, are remarkably similar.

It is also important to emphasise at this point, that an element of the support does not help the situation with their behaviour. Alcohol undoubtedly plays a part. I, like many punters at most clubs, enjoy a beer at an away game, but with that comes responsibility. With ‘sold out’ signs up at every away ground, tickets are at a premium and with the magnificent, halcyon days of the ‘lift over’ long gone, entering the ground with forged tickets is back on the increase, as is the age-old practice of ‘doubling up.’ Smuggling flares and smoke canisters into the ground is also an issue, although I fail to see why we seem to have such a problem with it, when many countries in Europe seem to actively encourage pyrotechnic displays Guy Fawkes would be proud of, judging by the weekly images I catch on social media. Overcrowding before and during the games has become a serious issue and on many occasions, police and stewards are most definitely not helping with their manner and ill-judged plans.
It is much more by luck than judgement that a serious incident hasn’t occurred before now.

I hadn’t been to Pittodrie in years as a supporter. Heading past the harbour on the bus evoked memories of being sneaked into the Welly Boot pub with the old man, before making our way down to The Paddock end and latterly heading, in my teenage years, to the Beach End. My nostalgic view was clouded somewhat when I realised there was to be no more romanticism as our bus sped through town, past a steel 15ft high fence, through the gates and straight into the footprint of the stadium. Horrendous. It felt like a G4S van entering Barlinnie. That we were being transported like condemned sheep to Aberdeen of all places, was the greatest irony of ironies. A walk around the exercise yard (sorry, bus park) later and we were ready to walk the final gauntlet. A 50-yard line of uniformed officers and stewards showed us the way through two ticket checks and a body search before we could enter the stadium. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the matchday experience in Scotland. Throw in a police bus search on the way up, where an officer who couldn’t answer if they had stopped rugby coaches the previous week and checked their bags for a fly can of Charger, coupled with the handing out of free cans of Guinness and lager in Princes Street to those attending Murrayfield and I’m sure you can see where I’m coming from.

And yes, of course they found nothing.
At Tynecastle last season (where the entrance to the new turnstiles are a well-known bottleneck) we were forced onto the pavement to ‘queue.’ 1800 fans squeezing from the width of a road to the width of a pavement must have seemed like a good idea in the police planning room. Especially when a line of officers, police dogs barking, horses and stewards stood a mere one yard from the kerb. Hostile and intimidating, this was 30mins before kick-off, not a last minute rush, and the ensuing crush including supporters being manhandled and jostled, only served to emphasise how poorly Scottish football treats its lifeblood. A serious incident was only avoided when the police line was forced to move back to allow well-meaning punters, to come back off the kerb as there just wasn’t enough room. Ah, the matchday experience.

At Rugby Park and Easter Road, there was serious crushing outside the ground caused by the erecting of barriers, which force the supporters down a narrow chute on the entrance road to the ground and then out beyond to disperse at the turnstiles. I get it, I honestly do, but it doesn’t work. Some of the worst crushes I have seen are now taking place at these initial ‘pens’ where hordes of people are now being shoe-horned into troublespots, 100 yards away from the turnstile. There’s nowhere else to go. At Kilmarnock, when we eventually managed to negotiate our very own Pamplona, we were faced with 16 turnstiles, only eight of which were open and of course, another crush. We missed the first eight minutes. The matchday experience.

These are serious incidents, due in no small part to operational, stewarding and planning failures by the police and the safety authorities that are inadequate at best, and downright dangerous at worst. Inside the ground isn’t much better either, with overcrowding in many away sections a serious issue. Stewards and police either turn a blind eye to what’s going on, or ‘wade in’ causing further mayhem. There has to be a vigilant, proactive, robust response that doesn’t further inflame, but at least does something.


Let me stress, these situations aren’t happening in isolation they are examples of what’s going on up and down the country every weekend and how normal, ordinary punters are being treated. For two-and-a-half years now I’ve watched this. Safety is being compromised and I refuse to be intimidated or see it swept under the carpet any longer by authorities who can’t tell the difference between the unbridled joy of a last minute winner that briefly spills on to the pitch and an actual pitch invasion. We’re not all to blame. The mindless idiots who throw coins, bottles and missiles during matches, deserve to be punished. Ban them for life, jail them if you have to, but don’t blame me. That’s what strict liability does and it’s no more the answer than banging down the doors of teenage football fans during the night to ask them “who threw that?”

It’s important to put in context that on an average weekend in Scotland only 0.03% of fans cause trouble and yet MP’s, journalists and so called ‘football people’ want to close stands, ban away fans and dictate how we travel to and from games.

Imagine a reporter landing a haymaker in the press box, causing all sorts of mayhem and then the following week the club closing the media section to ALL journalists. Or an MP starting a rammy in the Commons bar (I know, too far-fetched that one) and the next day, the House was off limits to ALL members. Stretching it a little? Maybe, but that’s your relevant analogy to closing a stand or banning away fans for the actions of the mindless few, right there. Punish the fools, the clowns and the idiots who want to misbehave and throw things – they’re very easy to spot at most away games – but don’t punish me. I’m a rational, reasonably intelligent fan who loves the game, but don’t dare demonise me for wanting, like many fans of many clubs up and down the country, to support my team.

Strict liability won’t deter the loonies, but it might just be the final straw for many bread-and-butter punters, who’ve never been in trouble at a football match in their lives.

David Farrell


“We had 18 corners though.” A regular, post-match exclamation on the back of yet another poor performance. That the result of the match was a 2-0 defeat, and the particular stat used to try and impart any kind of positive spin on a poor day at the office, has no relevance to the scoreline, seems lost on a manager under pressure. Press conferences reek of irony, as journalists gleefully thrust microphones under quivering chins, and all manner of recording devices sit on the table in front, blinking red and occasionally bleeping, just to let him know they are taking note of every, single word, awaiting the ‘foot in mouth’ moment that captures the headline.

It’s a self-preservation mechanism of course. No one likes losing and everyone, even the best, like to find excuses for doing so. The last thing you want to do when you go in front of the press after the game (although it would be refreshing to hear it more often) is hold your hands up and admit you were shit. They know their observations will be the following days headline and this is their opportunity to convince you, the punter, that what you’ve just suffered and just about managed to make it through ‘til the last, harrowing, minute of the 90 without losing your voice, wasn’t actually as bad as you thought. He clearly doesn’t realise that you’ve only just managed to keep your precious, 25-year-old ceremonial scarf that has seen many, many similar defeats over the years, around your neck rather than lob it trackside, frustrated at the lack of invention and quality from the aforementioned corner after corner.

Mark Twain summed it up perfectly with his immortal observation; ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’ and in an era where we have more close up cameras than a Ron Jeremy movie, video analysis and the information gleaned from it have become both a useful tool and a comfort blanket in equal measure.

On a weekend where several managers have lost their jobs, it is far more important in my opinion that managers look beyond the stats. Fans will quickly see through an attempt to pull the wool over their eyes. One defeat in six, will suddenly become one win in seven on the back of another loss the following Saturday when the run contains four draws and they’re fed up with your defence losing soft goals and suffering through yet another drab, performance.


Whilst stats should NEVER be used in an attempt to cover up a poor run of results, or another defeat, there is no doubt that video analysis and the information gathered should be used in order to gain any type of advantage you can when preparing your team for a particular challenge. Indeed, as I alluded to last week, if you’re not using whatever means you can to give your team an edge, you are being contemptible. One incredible thing that came out from the weekend was that Liverpool players, under Jurgen Klopp, are running on average more than 1km more per game than they were under Brendan Rodgers. An incredible statistic at any level and I’ll leave you to make of it what you will.

But how do you use the information and the endless hours of analysis to your advantage?

As soon as the weekend’s match is finished, your mind immediately turns to your next opponent. As the manager suffers his way through the after match press conference, the assistant will usually be finding out who’s fit, who’s suspended and who’s likely to be available for the following Saturday. The video analyst will be sought out (if you’re lucky enough to have one) and a copy of the game you have just watched will be despatched into the Louis Vuitton (Primark) toilet bag.

You use every possible resource you can to gain an advantage and in Scotland, outside the big guns, things are ALWAYS done on a budget. We used our contacts at Dundee University to have intern production media students, film games for us. We were fortunate that the great Dundee broadcaster Dick Donnelly’s son Ian, a Dundee fan, had developed a sports analytical programme called Focus, that was being used by sporting organistaions worldwide, and we used our Dennistoun charm to convince him to procure his services for the best of ‘mates rates.’
All of this meant that by 6pm on a Saturday as we left the ground, we had DVD copies and a laptop programme of the match that highlighted everything from corners, free kicks and set-plays to turnovers, attacking plays and defensive situations.

Sunday nights would be spent poring over hours of video action, pulling what little hair I had left from its roots and screaming at defenders on the laptop screen. Taking notes in order to highlight individual errors and moments our ‘shape’ was awry and left us vulnerable. Our defenders must have dreaded the sight of me walking toward them, with laptop under one arm and pen in paper in the other before Monday’s training, seeking out that week’s hapless combatant. Because that’s it you see, players rarely enjoy video analysis, because there’s no hiding place. You scream and shout after a game and tell a player where he has gone wrong and they will stand up and deny it ‘til the cows come home, but when they are presented with the evidence in full, high definition, there aren’t many who would still argue that they weren’t picking the guy up who has just scored the last minute winner.


We also had two ex-managers – John McCormack and Dennis Newall – watching our following two weeks opposition. By Sunday night we had a dossier on them and by the time the players had arrived for training we had a match report sitting at their place, preparing them for the week ahead and giving them an idea of the opposition, their shape and their patterns of play.

We’d do deals with opposition coaches and swap DVD’s of matches, to give us a further insight into how they would play. We’d use the highlights on the BBC website. Club websites provided the most comprehensive coverage of previous games but were often password protected, but I’d use my contacts at the college to gain access to those clubs sites I used to work with, all so I could use the information to gain a little more knowledge of our opponents. To gain that extra one percent.

If they’d scored a lot of goals from crosses we might need to sacrifice our full backs and ask them to go tighter on wide players, giving centre backs greater than normal responsibility. If they scored a lot of goals from set pieces, we’d play higher up the pitch to avoid giving them away in more dangerous areas and if they lost goals as their lumbering defenders struggled with balls in behind, we’d have to consider playing with our quickest striker. Even though he often played like a braindead corpse. That’s why manager’s sometimes make changes in personnel that you, as a fan, never understand and play players seemingly out of form, or bring people in from the cold. Because the stats, and the knowledge and influence of video analysis, told him to do so.

And then, after Monday training, armed with more stats than a mathematician explaining Pythagoras Theorem and a video presentation George Lucas would have been proud of, we’d go through everything. What we could improve on, what we should have done better, what couldn’t have been any worse, the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses and then, the formulation of the plan and how we, as a group of warriors, are going to beat them.


What was also important was always to finish on a positive. A 10-minute montage of all the good play, crosses and goals. Last ditch slide tackles and crunching challenges, alongside bullet headers and periods of dominance, would have them bouncing back out of the door feeling great about themselves again, without realising they had just been battered over the head with Captain Caveman’s club for the first hour. All that was missing was a Haka.

I sometimes wished we could have gone out and played the game there and then on the Monday afternoon.

And that’s why, on Monday night, Jose Mourinho said that he felt ‘betrayed’ by his players.
He had given his team all the information they required to win the game and had prepared them as best he could. Warning them of the opposition’s strengths and encouraging them to exploit their weaknesses. He had given them everything in the hope that they could turn that one percent in their favour, that the small margins, so often blamed by managers for a run of defeats, can be minimised to such an extent, that they take on little, or no significance.

But the game isn’t played by pen and paper, nor can it be won on computer screens with elaborate video presentations. It’s played by footballers, and whilst there is no question stats and analysis are a key element of modern day football, please don’t credit them for winning, never mind losing a football match. In doing so, you might just find you become just another statistic yourself.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk on all formats and from most good book shops.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell


I was a sceptic. If it ‘wasn’t football then it wasn’t worth watching’ USED to be my mantra, but in recent months i’ve taken in the Glasgow Rocks basketball at the Emirates, Glasgow Tigers speedway at Ashfield Stadium, and this weekend, the latest venture into the unknown on ‘family Sunday’ was to visit Braehead, for my first ever taste of Ice Hockey.

Braehead Clan v the Edinburgh Capitals was to be my introduction to the fast, physical world of pucks, goal tenders and delayed penalties (thankfully I had a Clan regular in the row in front who explained that particular nuance to me.) I chose this game because in my ignorance, I assumed the two main cities would be engaging in a local derby. In fact, I was surprised to learn, again from the my new found Clan sage, that ‘our’ rivals, were the ‘spit’ Fife Flyers. Now there’s something novel for a start, a rivalry borne of competition from the two best teams, rather than tribalry. It’ll never catch on. There were 2,300 spectators in the Arena, which in itself was an admirable feat. To put that into context, more people watch Ice Hockey at Braehead than at any football ground in League Two, League One and the Championship (outside Hibernian and Rangers.) A feat even more remarkable when you consider they had played at Braehead just 20 hours previously, on the Saturday night, in front of over 3,000. We are truly blinkered as to what is going on right under our noses, and indeed, what is on offer.

The game itself lasts for 60 minutes, three periods of 20. Although with breaks in the game and a further 20 minutes between each period, the whole experience takes up two and a half hours. But it doesn’t feel like it. The interaction between fan and sport never stops with every break in play punctured by an MC/DJ, banging out a short musical interlude, relative to the previous play. An opponents indiscretion is met with a sombre, requiem march to the sin bin, allowing home fans to mock mercilessly, whilst an altercation or rough house tactics are met with ‘The eye of the Tiger’. All very staged, and yet all very entertaining as the ‘Purple Army’ buy into every idio-synchrosy.

The interaction doesn’t stop during the period breaks either, prize draws, giveaways, ice dance displays and opportunity to get your ‘Clan-gus’ selfie as the hairy, 6ft, ceremonial Highland coo’ of a mascot, tours the stadium to pose with adults and children alike.

And whisper it, there’s even a bar. A bar where you can buy a pint and take it back to your seat. But don’t tell the Scottish football authorities, because they can’t trust me to have a pint without thinking I might be about to start the next Hampden riot. I had four, and I enjoyed every, single one of them and at £3:80 a pint, not unreasonable given how much you can be fleeced at stadium bars, cinemas, concert venues and any other bastion of the ‘captive audience’.

One thing that did become slightly irritating (although only to me it seemed) was the continuous stream of ‘sponsored by’ announcements. Whilst being absolutely understandable and totally necessary to maximise revenue in an under exposed sport, the “assist sponsored by….”, “goal sponsored by…” and “sin bin sponsored by…” did become a slight distraction.

The only other minor negative I had was the fact that there wasn’t one, single fight! That’s what we all used to watch Ice Hockey at the Olympics for wasn’t it? I’m led to believe, that the fights, like thick footballers and the fact we’re all millionaires, are a stereotype that is rarely the norm in the game these days. No doubt for the better. The entire evening was both hugely enjoyable, and entertaining, and whilst we didn’t always know what was going on in terms of the rules, there was enough going on around the whole package, to keep us engaged.

We were guests of Braehead Clan, had we paid for our two adult and two child tickets, our overall admission price would have been £52. When you consider the average for SPFL top flight football is around £25, it has to be said that for two and a half hours entertainment, the value is there for all to see.

Samantha, Lewis, Hannah and I thoroughly enjoyed our day…. ‘sponsored by Taxi for Farrell’, and we would recommend to anyone to give it a try. Other, more publicised sports could learn one or two things about fan engagement, that would be to their benefit. They try very hard at Braehead Clan and as a west coast based team, delivering what it says on the tin to over 3,000 people every week, they deserve more exposure. Give them a try, have a beer, and if nothing else, enjoy the experience. I know we did.

Oh, and the Clan won 2:1, but there was so much going on I hardly noticed.


The pot is boiling. The lid is insecure and just about managing to maintain parity as it rattles and wobbles under the constant battering. Simmering, the ingredients are in the mix and the broth is taking shape, but still you can’t quite get it right. You’ve been working on it for weeks and here it is in front of you, but it still doesn’t look the way it should and the end result is disappointing. Should you change the recipe and be a little more adventurous in the hope that it brings about the desired outcome, whilst risking upsetting the balance and ruining it altogether?

All the while, the lid is still uneasy. Making that noise only releasing the pressure will ease, whistling and screaming in your head for you to do something. You’re standing there at the side of the pitch and your lid feels like it’s about to blow off. Looking lost and wondering whether to stick or twist on the back of four straight defeats and praying that the final 20 minutes of cooking time produces a feast, worthy of a king (or a chairman).

Pressure, that’s what it feels like.

The recipe

I’ve been asked hundreds of times what pressure is and heard an equal amount of times the old analogy that football management isn’t REAL pressure. “Putting food on the table,” that’s REAL pressure.

Whilst the reality of that particular social situation cannot be under estimated, it doesn’t mean that football coaching and management does not bring with it, its own, very real, type of pressure.

Where else can you literally be three or four weeks from losing your job on a regular basis and turning up for work every morning fearing the sack? Not everyone has the luxury of a million pound pay-off and a lucrative contract to fall back on. Football is a unique industry and whether your target for the season is avoiding relegation, mid-table mediocrity, the play-offs or a title challenge, the pressure builds in equal amounts when you’re not winning.

Throw into the mix that it’s almost December, with the busy Christmas period round the corner and, the madness that is the January transfer window. Chairmen up and down the country deciding whether to stick with the devil they know or put the meagre pay-off in Santa’s sack and give their loyal aide the heave ho-ho-ho.

Boiling point

There are tell-tale signs when a manager is feeling “the pressure.” After match press conferences are first port of call for the dead giveaway. A gaffer in the midst of a winning run and sporting one of the chairman’s newly gifted cigars in his top pocket will generally be composed, assured and as guarded as he always is. On the other hand, four defeats on the trot and simple, run-of-the-mill questions are met with terse, confrontational answers or long-winded rants. Referees decisions and performances are questioned, tactics are backed to the point of delusion and even the fans will get it in the neck.

It’s a release mechanism. Just the same as releasing that button on the top of the pressure cooker, you feel as if you are being backed into a corner and rather than have the power of rational thought, the natural instinct is to come out fighting. Swinging punches at the pitch, the linesman, the press and the board and it’s only when you wake up the next morning in the cold light of day that you read the headlines and see none of your haymakers has even remotely brushed its target.

And now, you’re under more pressure.

The old immortal lines about ‘not reading the papers’ and my own particular favourite – “I don’t look at league tables” are trotted out. Really???

In this modern age of tactical and performance analysis, if you don’t look at league tables and know how many goals you have conceded against how many you have scored then you’re not doing your job. I don’t know a manager these days who doesn’t know how many times his star striker farts in the warm up, never mind how many goals they’ve lost from set pieces. It’s an insult to the intelligence of every man, woman and child who follows football to suggest otherwise.

The ingredients

There are other more obvious signs ON the pitch. Chopping and changing of formations and line-ups and players playing out of position as managers under pressure, become so desperate for a result, they tinker and tamper so much that any kind of consistency and level of performance is less likely than flagging down a taxi on a Saturday night.

And then, there’s the greatest insult and possibly the biggest sign of all. A change from, flowing, attacking open play to football’s equivalent of a cup of Horlick’s. The dreaded 4-5-1. Safe, unattractive football. The most negative system of play ever created and generally employed by managers who, feeling the pressure, have decided that the best way to take something from the game, and cajole a team devoid of any defensive capability, is to hold on to ‘nil’ for as long as is humanly possible (or 90 minutes) in order to nick a point. In truth, by that stage, the nail, pinning the initialled coat to the dressing room wall, is usually no longer shaky, but is lying on the floor.

At Dundee, we were under pressure from the start. A couple of new kids on the block, trying to make their very own marky mark in the game. The club were languishing mid-table in the First Division, and we managed with a squad of free transfers, vagabonds and trialists to drag them up to third. The second season was much better and we were only just pipped for the title and finished, very respectably, runners-up. The expectation of the following season brought with it the pressure that we HAD to gain promotion.
Injuries, suspensions and an indifferent start to our third season all combined to ensure that by early October, we were under pressure. Nine points off the top and we were aware the heat was on.

And then, we did it.

The end product

4-5-1 against a mid-table Partick Thistle at Firhill, where we felt that a point away from home would keep us in a job for another week. We managed an awful 0-0 and in actual fact we COULD have nicked it, but as our star striker’s breakaway effort slipped agonisingly wide with 10 minutes to go, we were safe in the knowledge that we’d at least earned a point and a stay of execution, although predictably, there would be no let-up in the pressure.

We lasted a week.

After reverting back to our normal 4-4-2 the following Saturday at home to Ross County, we lost 2-1 and our fate was sealed as we were sacked three days later. The pressure had been mounting, but at least our last throw of the dice had been to revert back to the tried and tested formula that had brought us a modicum of success over our first two years.

The lid was now off the pressure cooker and the disappointment is almost matched by the relief that you no longer have to feel like that.

And yet, within days, there’s an aching and an urge to get back in there and turn the heat up again. Because no matter how crazy it feels, and how difficult things become, the pressure is just another one of those things, coaches and managers live with. And there’s one thing that is so much worse, and that’s living without it.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk on all formats and from most good book shops.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell



That’s what we’re doing this weekend.

Not a single mince pie’s crusty edge, bitten off in unbridled footballing pleasure nor a ball kicked in anger, as the Euro Championship play-offs kick off.

We should be playing this week at the very least, looking forward and giving ourselves a glimmer of hope, stumbling our way through a home and away tie before falling at the final hurdle, gloriously and inevitably. Talk the game up we are continuously told. On the back of what? Realism and abject failure? The bottom line is we blew it because we were not good enough.

Don’t tell me that we’re producing players, because we’re not. The demise of Rangers and the ensuing financial fallout has allowed most clubs to get their fragile houses in order, but there are still very few players coming through to allow us to compete at elite level. As a country, our Under 21’s last qualified for the final stages of a major tournament 19 years ago. The National side then went on to qualify for France ’98 just two years later – sadly our last appearance in the latter stages among football’s good and great.

I wonder if anyone within the corridors of power has made that particular link yet, that an excellent feeder side makes a competitive National side and whether or not they are still prepared to say that we are producing quality from our youth programmes, because frankly, among all the bombast and bluster, it’s not happening.

Year after year of football ‘development’ initiatives failing to provide a glut of players the financial investment should have guaranteed. Trumped up performance schools and investments in playing the ‘Dutch’ way, have failed to secure us a place at the top table. They should be done under the Trade Descriptions Act.

Any club’s youth programme should be judged on the number of players it brings through to it’s OWN first team, not the amount of discards littering the lower leagues. Players who become REAL saleable assets, or at the very least given more than a paltry 20 appearances, whilst being lauded as the next big thing before being forgotten about quicker than an Amsterdam weekend. Celtic and Rangers are the biggest players and the biggest culprits. I’m sick of hearing about Aiden McGeady and Alan Hutton, the last two to roll off the youth development production line.

That’s ONE player each, from the big boy’s game of poker whose chips were able to be cashed in for more than the price of a set of tracksuits, a dozen balls and an initialled coaches jacket in 14, barren years, since the money pits of Murray Park and Lennoxtown were created. It’s no wonder our National team manager was toying with the idea of throwing in the towel.

Given the tools he has at his disposal, it’s understandable why he was twitching uncomfortably in his seat.

Ginger snap

Unusually, Gordon Strachan, found himself in the enviable position of being a manager in demand, on the back of, what was ultimately, a failed European Championships qualifying campaign. There can be no question that, given the circumstances, there were far more positives to be taken from this failed campaign than there had been from many others. Positive performances against some of the better teams in the group had meant that at least at some points during the programme, we had reason to believe.

Given that there were no credible alternatives swinging the Grim Reaper’s scythe and the very influential media had decided that on this occasion, the sword was mightier than the pen, his bosses at the SFA very quickly made it clear that they wanted him to stay, meaning there was unlikely to be any outcome other than continuity.

Certainly there were none of the outward signs that he had lost the players. There was no petty indiscipline on the pitch. No stupid kicking the ball away or needless cautions and no negative, front page headlines that often blight an International trip. These are all good signs for a manager trying to instil a spirit and togetherness into a squad.

Players talk and they, just like the managers, all have individual ‘go to’ guys in the media who will be more than happy to allow some gossip or team news to seep seamlessly from the team hotel. But even if all the signs were there that the players were happy enough to stick with the devil they knew, I’m not 100% convinced that Mr Strachan himself wanted to remain in the dark blue.

Had the final game been a dull, narrow victory over Georgia, in front of a half empty Hampden, where the crowd may well have been looking for a victim rather than the hero lauded by the alcohol fuelled Tartan Army on the back of a three day jolly to Albufeira, the decision to stay may not have been so straightforward.

The pictures of the group celebrating a 6-0 victory over Gibraltar, and the sound of the manager’s name being chanted among endless renditions of Flower of Scotland, may well have been replaced by an angry mob, baying for a scapegoat. Had that been the case, I’m not convinced Gordon would have been swayed to carry on by that particular Polaroid.

With there being no other viable candidates for the job, let us all hope that on this occasion, the loyalty shown on both sides, is rewarded with success.


Remarkably, given the circumstances of our failed campaign, Gordon’s assistant was in a similar position of demand as Mark McGhee returned to management in a club capacity at Motherwell. They always say you should never go back to a club, either as a player or a manager and there are many examples over the years as to why that old adage usually stands up, but what are the real reasons behind it? Why is it so difficult to go back?

The main reason is that generally, if you are being asked to make a return to a football club, you will have been successful first time round. That in itself brings a lot of pressure as clubs will very often have the same administrative staff, office bearers and groundsmen who will have worked with you before and, they will immediately expect the same level of success that you brought previously.

That in itself can bring instant, unrealistic demands, given that you are now sitting 2nd bottom, when you left them as they were sitting 2nd top.

There will have been the inevitable change in playing staff and that, alongside the familiarity of wee Jessie the tea lady, are the main reasons why it will be so difficult, second time around.

The previous manager has been sacked because the team hasn’t been doing well, you need to rebuild, bring in new players and harness that same spirit you had only a few years before. Crucially, you need to weed out the troublemakers, the guys who have had so much of a negative influence around the place that the previous manager would have been better instructing ACAS to do his half time team talks. And all the while, those trusted staff, the ones who you could have hung your Stetson on last time round are starting to question whether or not you are the same, successful manager they remember.

A team rebuild is what almost every incoming manager has to do, but against the backdrop of familiarity, those in and around a football club are a lot quicker to turn against you when they have already experienced how good your methods WERE.

I wish Mark McGhee every success at Motherwell. He has a very difficult task in winning over a group of players, battered almost into submission by the former regime. I was vocal at the time that I could not understand the powers that be there, employing someone who from the outside, seemed to have very little knowledge of the Scottish game. At least on this occasion, they cannot be accused of such folly, however, as soon as Mark hears those inevitable murmurings of “he’s changed” from behind the scenes, it will be time to look over his broad shoulder. I hope for his sake, as with any manager, he gets a few early wins and that those murmurings are still a long, long, way off.

Finally…. What’s going on at Chelsea?
Jose Mourinho, so long the ‘Special One’ is currently in the unusual position for him, of going through a very difficult period. Make no mistake about it, something is not right. A team as talented as they are, with the financial clout and depth of squad, should not be going through such a horrendous run.

Without knowing what’s going on behind the scenes at the Bridge, I can only speculate, but it is very rare at a football club that two such high profile spats as those with John Terry and Eva Caneiro, will not have had an adverse effect on spirit. There is no question that earlier in the season, Jose was looking to make a statement, by leaving out his captain Terry. Publicly decrying such an influential figure at a football club is a huge, egotistic call and, if Terry decided that he would become a negative influence around the dressing room, I’m sure he would not find it too difficult.

Gathering allies would be no Herculean task given his stature and power within the club and, on the back of a few dodgy results, it would seem that those within the dark blue dressing room are siding with Terry rather than the manager. One thing is absolutely certain, they will both deny it and say everything is ok, but their relationship, on the back of a public spat, will never be the same again.

The Eva Caneiro situation will only have exacerbated whatever rift there may exist between the players and management. I hear Miss Caneiro was a very popular figure among the players (get your mind out of the gutter) as more often than not, physios and medical staff at football clubs are viewed very much as friends and allies of the dressing room. A very high profile removal of someone so popular will have done nothing for what seems an already fractious relationship between Jose and the players.

He is an incredibly successful and experienced manager and has achieved things I could only have imagined in my wildest dreams, but he will have to quickly find a solution to the situation he currently finds himself in and re-invent the spirit and trust he is famous for.

Should results continue as they have been, the Special One, could, for the first time in his illustrious career, become the Chosen One, for all the wrong reasons.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk As well as Waterstones Glasgow and on all other formats.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell


I’d sit mesmerised, watching the TV screen as the ball was launched from one end to the other. Back and forth; the quality of play wasn’t great, but just to be involved in it (albeit at living room level) was a whole new ball game. Manoeuvring your goalie – a very loose term for the animated rectangular, one-inch bar making its way up and down each side of the screen – to protect your end, whilst trying to fire it past the hapless nondescript at the opposite side of the telly.

FIFA 16 this wasn’t, but to me, Pong, was as close as I could get to playing football on the semi-colour, Ferguson 16-inch in the main room.

In truth, it was very little like football, and much, much more like table tennis (hence the name I suppose) but regardless, I had Peter Latchford at one end and Peter McCloy at the other, desperately trying to ensure that Latchford wasn’t having one of his off days, and if the score got just a little too one-sided, and the Girvan Lighthouse was having a stormer, there was always the reset button to take it back to nil-nil.

Funny that, but I never did manage to lose any of THOSE early derbies.


From there we moved on to the ZX Spectrum and Galaxians and my first taste of Football Manager. Graphics were a thing of the future as matchstick men moved around the portable TV with all the stealth of a Subbuteo player on crack. And finally, magnificently, the Atari. The console that spawned the immortal Sensible Soccer and my brother and I’s first taste of sibling rivalry. Tiny players, careering around a 2d pitch with the finesse of a ballerina and a shot like Mons Meg. It became an art to position your midfielder, in between the dark and light green lines of the pitch, just inside the line of the post and drill an unstoppable cannonball into the bottom corner.

The difference to then and now though, was that these games never took the place of our football. Playing after school for a couple of hours, up for dinner and then back out ‘til it was dark. Only then was there time for a game of Space Invaders. Occasionally you’d snatch an hour after dinner, cumbersome console in hand, whilst waiting on the rest of the boys to finish theirs. Staggered dinner times as fathers came home from work were always a bain, as it meant the three-a-side couldn’t start until all the rest were finished.
Nowadays it’s as much as you can ask to get them to leave their room and come down FOR dinner.

The world is evolving alright. The digital boom has created a generation who have so much else to do, where everything is at their fingertips and the bedroom has become a social hub. They watch each other on tablet screens, whilst playing against each other on TV screens as they talk to each other on mobile telephone screens. It’s entirely our fault of course, providing everything they need to become an online whizz, whilst bemoaning the fact that they “don’t go out enough.” And then, we wonder why we aren’t producing any footballers anymore.

Would you have gone out as much with all that very obvious entertainment at your beck and call?

It’s a difficult conundrum, and one that will be almost impossible to overcome, balancing the demands of peer pressure with doing what’s best.

I don’t have the answer to that one I’m afraid, but when I first started playing professional football, Social and Media were the names of two different nightclubs, and not the very obvious distraction they are today. Facebook and Twitter were as much a thing of the future as Marty McFly’s DeLorean and the internet was a figment of Bill Gates very virulent imagination. In an age where social acceptance has become very public, players need to recognise and be very wary of their responsibilities.

The world of social media is a perilous one and rarely discriminates between high and low profile


Recent cases including those of James McClean, Leigh Griffiths and Fraser Mullen, as well as past, high profile examples like Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole, Mario Balotelli and John Terry, all serve to highlight the dangers of the internet and social media.

Facebook and Twitter has become everyone’s ‘go to’ guy in times of need, want and boredom, and footballers it appears, are no different. However, why should they be?

I would never judge the rights and wrongs of what Leigh Griffiths said, I have always been of the belief that if footballers do wrong, then they should be dealt with by the appropriate authorities. If those authorities happen to be either the SFA’s disciplinary panels or the highest court in the land, then so be it. Trusting the judiciary system and taking your medicine is a fundamental of the democratic fabric.

Neither should it be for fans from any side of the football demograph to call for further punishment in some petty, ill-informed act of tribal retribution.

So have we come to the point then, when players need to stop using these very public forums? Frankly, yes. If players cannot trust themselves to attend a football match without singing an offensive song, or have a night out without sharing a shisha pipe with the next radical fundamentalist, KNOWING they are most likely to appear on Bebo, then they need to revert back to the attractions of the ten-minute freeview in order to amuse themselves.

As ridiculous as it sounds, clubs must also start taking responsibility and ban their own serial offenders from social media in order to save them from themselves.


If FIFA 16 and Sensible Soccer aren’t going to be enough to keep them occupied, maybe filling their time with media education and the odd visit to a local community programme in its place would be a better option. That one or two stray, and make no mistake about it, it is a very low percentage of footballers who have fallen foul, is no surprise, however it is usually nothing more than human nature. Misguided antics are rarely borne of deliberate harm, and as such, an understanding that few are being routinely provocative, should be taken into account.
In my day, social media and fan interaction amounted to no more than having a penpal in Malta and signing the odd autograph outside the ground.

Turning up at the Easter and summer coaching camps and end-of-season Player of the Year dinners was seen as part of your club duties. There is a common held myth among fans that players don’t like doing their club’s form of National Service. In my experience, it is only those at the very top level, earning Sky’s millions, who will turn their gold-plated noses up at such events. They’ll be happy to put an appearance fee in their over inflated pocket at a BT sponsored event, but such is their distance from reality and fan engagement, that, should they ever make it to a presentation night in the Tower Hamlets Working Men’s Club, they’d be back out the door quicker than Jimmy Carr’s accountant at the Taxman of the Year Awards.

Good honest Scottish pro’s are more than happy to appear at club events. People like Chris Millar, James McPake, Ross Draper and Kris Doolan will have no problem taking their place among the Lochee Social Club hierarchy. These guys are earning a ‘normal’ living from the game and know they will have to go and work in the real world at the end of their career.

Recognising the importance of the fans input to the club and showing that you are willing to engage and network, is all part of the next stage. Being seen in a good light, taking time with people and being seen to make the effort, can all help as you prepare for that walk into the wilderness of the working man.

There comes a time when those magnificent, fulfilling and occasionally crushing playing days are over and there is no longer time in the afternoon to work those fingers to the bone, trying to improve your rating on Call of Duty.

Preparation for life in the real world begins long before the time actually comes to call it a day. Having a well earned beer at the weekend is just as fulfilling after a week of training and a good victory, as it is at the end of a 48-hour week of manual labour.

Next time you are out, and you bump into one of your heroes, or maybe even one of your rivals’ star players and you pull out the latest iPhone to get an adoring picture with him, remember that he may NOT be earning the millions that you think he is, and that he is probably more than happy to be there, engaging and listening to your stories of how you’ve supported the club for 30-years and this is the worst team you have ever clapped eyes on.

And hopefully it will make you think twice about posting it the next morning in the hope that you get him into trouble, or, God Forbid, that you get your own 15 minutes of cyber fame. After all, his only crime might just have been that he was enjoying himself.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available to pre-order from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk All pre-orders before the November 1st release date will receive a signed copy and free delivery.

Online video previews and some funny stories are available to view here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=LhNoUigAoVg

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell


Break a leg

Could there ever be a more ridiculous way to bring someone luck than by wishing them harm? Surely only the most perverse chain of thought would believe that wishing some good luck, is in fact bad luck and, as a result, decide that the only way forward is to double bluff the leprechaun.

Try telling that to Luke Shaw as he lies in a hospital bed, recuperating from that horrific double leg break, that we all seen so visually during TV coverage last week. Forget the fact that he is a very wealthy, ‘lucky’ young man. It’s the sort of injury that is more common than it seems, as up and down the country over the course of a season, many players suffer the dreaded ‘tib and fib.’ Snapping both the tibia and fibula shin bones is a career threatening injury, and even though he will be afforded the best medical help which the biggest club in the world can offer, his recovery will still be long, with huge mental and physical barriers along the way.

Mental strength and physical hard work during rehabilitation are the only way to get back to fitness from such an injury and to that extent, all the oxygen chambers and advanced medical science will help him no more than they would help the part-time player from the Conference suffering from the same, devastating blow.

The recovery position

High profile cases such as those of Luke Shaw and Henrik Larsson, only serve to highlight the vagaries and downsides of modern football. Injuries are the most difficult and frustrating side of the game for a player. Torn hamstrings, torn groin, torn calves and a torn quadricep (thigh) muscle. Torn ankle ligaments, a detached medial ligament, a dislocated kneecap, a fractured rib, a calcaneal heel spur and a ruptured plantar fascia (that’s the bit that holds the front and the back of the sole of your foot together), may sound like a chapter from the British Medical Sports Injury journal, but it is in fact a list of the serious injuries which I suffered throughout my career.

To say I was an expert would be stretching the definition to its limits. I was a walking episode of Casualty. You know that bit at the start when the innocent bystander crosses the road, and manages to get to the other side without mishap, and yet, you just know, something much more sinister is about to happen to him 10 minutes later, I was that man. I’m certain there were times they were filming me coming out of the tunnel and Charlie Fairhead was in the dug-out with the First Aid Kit and a magic sponge.

A lot of my career was spent recovering from injury, playing whilst struggling with injury or going through rehab until I got to the point where I was able to play again, ‘til the next injury.

Treatment rooms became my nemesis. They are lonely, difficult, mentally draining places where the daily double dose of shortwave and electro-magnetic pulses, become a ritual akin to that of a car battery being jump-started back to life, gradually regaining more power before finally managing to find the energy to motor into action. Albeit this was no 16-valve, twin cam, fuel injected, piece of athletic engineering. This was more like an old banger, desperately in need of repair and patching up, just so it could get through another pain-filled 90 minutes. It was a vicious, unforgiving cycle.

On track

The rehab has already started the minute the physio strides onto the pitch and straps the affected limb. Immobilising the break and encasing it in an inflatable splint to prevent further damage, is the first step on the road to recovery, providing of course, the relevant first aid men are capable of carrying the stretcher without as has often been witnessed, comical unforeseen mishap.

At that point the hard work really begins. Injured players are always first to arrive in the morning for their short spell of electro-magnetic energy, coursing through ruptured vials in order to aid the healing process. For a short while you feel normal again, a part of it all as the rest of the squad arrives for training and you can get in on the jokes and the banter for 30, glorious minutes and then it’s over as they head off to training and leave you to your very own solitary confinement. Months of it, gym work, strengthening, recuperation and double sessions without the hint of a ball. All so that on your belated return, the physical condition is there to allow you to get to performing at your best.

But the self-doubt creeps in and the inevitable two questions pop-up; Will I ever play again? Will I ever be the same player again? That’s when the mental side becomes a tougher test than the physical one. Watching your team mates, week in, week out, whilst sitting with a leg brace or whatever contraption the medical team have decided is the best way to protect your particular, damaged part of the body is difficult. Results may be good, but when you’re not contributing and playing, football clubs can be very isolated places.

Because that’s it you see; there is ALWAYS a doubt that you’ll play again. Even the strongest of players will have doubted themselves during the arduous months of rehab, pounding gym sessions and cycling contests against a bloody computer screen. Don’t believe all those players who say they never had any doubts that they would play again after a long term injury, because EVERYONE has doubts. It’s a human facet, whether it be Luke Shaw with the power of Manchester United’s medical department behind him, or the left back at FC United of Manchester, the brain doesn’t distinguish between the haves and the have nots.

It will be a long difficult road back to fitness, but the months of not seeing a ball, never mind kicking one are always worth it when you get to pull on that strip again, whether it be at the Allianz Arena, or Moss Lane, Altrincham.

Unlucky break

Through all those injury-laden seasons, I was ‘lucky’ to never have broken a leg. My ‘tib and fib’ were one of the few things that remained intact throughout my career, although there was one occasion when I was close enough to a player to hear the injury, rather than me having to feel it.

Edinburgh derby reserve games weren’t for the faint hearted. Young players scrapping to make a name for themselves, and senior pro’s revelling in the mini rivalry, determined to show they still had ‘it.’ On this occasion, Hearts had Sandison, Crabbe, Kidd, Neil ‘Chuck’ Berry and wee John Robertson among their ranks.

Robbo was a brilliant striker, a predator in the box and an absolute nuisance but one thing that was always overlooked about this wee man was that he was as tough as they came. He knew how to look after himself and was no shrinking maroon.

The game itself was a typical tight, tough affair and midway through the first half, Danny Lennon received a pass, only to turn and lose control of it, only slightly. At this point, as I’ve said on previous occasions, the player losing possession and now stretching for the ball, is the one under threat and at breaking point as he now has to reach, with no momentum, leaving himself open to the full force of a head on collision.

This was not so long ago remember, when you could throw the kitchen sink at a tackle, without the worry, like now, of being yellow carded just for turning on the tap.

Robbo, threw himself into the tackle, playing ball first and then catching Danny high on the shin in the follow through. It sounded as though wee Danny’s shin pad had snapped, but quickly became clear that it had been something less obvious. The ball broke to the side, and being only five yards away, I ran to help him. Most of the team could see it was serious and made their way over, and my first instinct was lift his leg and take some of the weight off it, protecting him and trying to ease some of the pain. The bottom half of his shin stayed on the ground and the top half, moved independently. It was clear at that point, his ‘tib and fib’ had gone.

Incredibly though, but not surprisingly, the only person in the ground not to have noticed was the referee. Waving play on, the ball was played to Tosh McKinlay who took one look up and smashed an unstoppable chip from the halfway line, into the empty net. Almost every player in our team was making our way to the stricken Danny, and that included big Stevie Woods, who by now was on the 18-yard line and running away from goal, without a thought for anything other than his team mate.

The harshest ever lesson in playing to the whistle!

Thankfully Danny, like many others before him and Henrik Larsson after, was able to show the mental strength and physical desire to overcome such adversity and have a good career, both in a playing sense and latterly, in a coaching one. I’m sure Luke Shaw, will recover in time and go on to have a great career, both in England and in Europe. It will be a long road and he has tough times ahead, he will have every possible machine, and medical expert available to help him, but nothing will help him recover more than the power of his mind and the strength of his character. One thing is for certain, it will be highly unlikely that you hear that immortal, good luck wish, ‘break a leg’ anywhere near Old Trafford, any time soon.

My first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available to pre-order from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk All pre-orders before the November 1st release date will receive a signed copy and free delivery.

Some stories and video previews of the book are available to view online at:

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell


This weekend, Aberdeen and Celtic will battle it out, like warriors in a north east coliseum, to see if either can gain an early advantage in the SPFL title race. Locking horns at Pittodrie in a sea of red, and an islet, tucked away in a far flung corner of the ground, of green. It’s a raw, intimidating ground where the fans are on top of you and their ire often spills over to become twisted and vengeful. They don’t like Celtic and Rangers up there, but why should they on the back of west coast bias and a system that in their eyes favours the ‘big guns?’

Most of us, fans, players and coaches, the real soldiers of the game, wouldn’t have it any other way. It makes for a wonderful atmosphere and a day trip that away fans all over the country relish and look forward to, and yet, there’s always that niggling bit of doubt as the buses, crammed to the brim, head north, with all the trepidation of a sheep heading to the abattoir. It’s always been a tough place to win alright.

On Saturday morning, the Celtic fans, like many others this season, will make the trip; a trip I made many times myself during the early ’70’s and ’80’s and they’ll be hoping for better luck than I had on many, many occasions.


Back then, the motorways were in their infancy and it really was a day trip. Our bus would leave at 8:30 and arrive at 1pm for a 3pm Saturday afternoon kick off. This was pre-Sky, where kick-off times never needed ‘consideration’ and weekends all over the country were planned in advance to accommodate where your team was playing that particular day. No last minute changes, no cancelled ferry bookings and no Sunday evening kick-offs.

You could pre-book the traditional stop at Forfar on the way home with confidence and never need to worry about missing out on a bridie because of a last minute switch to a Friday night.

Four and a half hours of Heaven, sitting with my Dad and Uncle John, listening to the songs and lifting my feet occasionally to dodge the remnants of the open can of Tennent’s, now dribbling its way down from the back of the bus. My Dad and Uncle weren’t heavy drinkers; they’d enjoy a pre-match pint (Bacardi and Coke for Uncle John) and probably manage two cans for the game. We’d make our way to The Wellie Boot, where the bouncer would always allow my Dad to sneak me into the corner, on the promise of a half bottle next time we were up, and then make our way to the ground.

In those days, hostilities were no less friendly than now and the away fans were ‘housed’ in the smallest end behind the goals, known as the Paddock, before later, in the mid-80’s being shunted to the Beach End. Crammed in, hunched on numbered benches that barely allowed the stadium to preserve itself as ‘all-seater.’

This Aberdeen team were good, they were very good. McLeish and Miller, Strachan, Archibald, Rougvie and Harper, McMaster and McGhee. Leighton in goal, who incredibly along with Archibald would go on to become a team mate of mine. I could never have foreseen that as I watched battering after battering from the confines of my illustrious Paddock bench.

In six years, I hardly saw Celtic score a goal, never mind take a point. There were 2-0’s, 3-0’s, 3-1’s, and a 4-1, a Frank MacDougall masterclass and games where Miller and McLeish played keep-uppy with John Doyle. Doing after doing and then, after a few years of suffering at the hands of Fergie’s mobilised Red Army, it happened…

Your T’s oot

September ’81 and we had followed all our usual routines and made our way, as always, warily and with just a little bit of fear, to The Paddock. Two cans of Tennent’s down the jacket sleeve and a can of Coke for the boy, through the turnstiles and we were in.

The game followed a familiar pattern at Pittodrie as Aberdeen took an early lead from the penalty spot and Gordon Strachan, after scoring at The Paddock end and wheeling away in obvious joy, was accosted by a Celtic fan who had managed to clamber past the police and onto the pitch. What the police were doing, that it was taking up so much of their time and allowing him to get past them so easily, I didn’t know. However, I was about to find out.

Amid dual disgust at losing yet another early goal at Pittodrie and the first can of Tennent’s being almost finished, the old man thought nothing of it as he received a tap on the shoulder. This was the year after the 1980 ‘Hampden Riot’ and alcohol, was now banned from Scottish football stadia, which meant this was no friendly “word in your shell-like” and, as Tommy Burns scored the equaliser at the Beach End just minutes later, we were escorted outside to join around 100 or so other fans who either didn’t have a ticket, or were suffering the same fate as us and had been unceremoniously asked to vacate the premises.

The decision was made to stand outside and wait for the gates to open at half time in order that we could sneak back in, or at least give the turnstile operator, the opportunity to accept the same half bottle as was proffered The Wellie Boot bouncer. It was all to no avail and it would be five minutes to go before we managed to slink our way back in, as the gates opened to allow the Glasgow masses to leave.

A huge cheer midway through the first half and another that shook the ramshackle Paddock roof, early in the second, coincided with various hand signals from the fans leaning over the wall, making sure we knew that we were heading home on the back of a 3-1 victory.
After around a dozen visits to Aberdeen, and a few heavy defeats, I had at last experienced a win at Pittodrie. I had seen 13 minutes of it and the fact I had only HEARD most of it, meant very little and ultimately became just another part of my Scottish football adventure.


As fate would have it, nine years later I would make my debut, at of all places, Pittodrie. They were not the team of the early ’80’s but still had a formidable squad – Snelders, McLeish, Robertson and Robert Connor forming the backbone and Jess, Ten Caat and Gilhaus the undoubted flair, but the best of all was to be my direct opponent Jim Bett. He had technique in abundance and used to glide across the ground as if he was playing in slippers. His, was the type of player I could only dream of being like, and on this occasion, all I could do was admire as he strode purposely all over the pitch, directing the team like a composer conducting his orchestra.

Aberdeen won 2-0, but if it hadn’t been for Goram, it would have been six or seven. I lasted 70 minutes before I was spared the anguish of having my 20-year-old nose rubbed in it, which would have been as much as I deserved, had I been able to get near enough to him.

It was a valuable lesson that making the transition from being a supporter to being a professional footballer would be a difficult one. I had a long way to go, but I now knew how far it was and what I had to do and at least on this occasion, I managed to walk out the front door at the end of the game, rather than being ejected out of the back door during it.

On my next visit to Aberdeen, I was ordered off in a reserve game, to preserve my unique record of failing to see out a match on three different platforms, so whilst I have fantastic memories of those early day trips north, it’s fair to say that it was far from a happy hunting ground for me and yet I still loved the place.

It was Scottish football at its raucous, intimidating best and whilst Pittodrie is no longer the cauldron Fergie and his all-conquering side of the early ’80’s had made it, the Celtic support will be making their way up the A90, with that same excitement and trepidation as I used to.

And due to the ridiculous 12:30 kick off time, they’ll have to leave even earlier than our bus did to negotiate the long and winding road, to their isolated corner of the ground. All they need to do after that, is leave their cans at the front door and make sure they don’t miss as much of the game as I did.

To read more about my debut and many, many other stories and insights, my first book – TAXI FOR FARRELL: FOOTBALL BETWEEN THE LINES is now available to pre-order from http://www.tecklebooks.co.uk All pre-orders before the November 1st release date will receive a signed copy and free delivery.

All material in this feature is the Intellectual Property of the author and as such may not be reproduced in print or for commercial gain without the prior permission of David Farrell