Most mental moments of the 2016/17 SPFL season (pt 1)

June 6, 2017

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Season 2016/17 was filled with moments of brilliance and packed full of drama. There were also plenty of things which made us laugh. In this two part series, we’ll be fondly remembering some of the funnier moments from the season just gone.

Joey Barton getting his arsed handed to him

Silly to think now, but last summer many of us thought the Rangers Banter Years might be over. Mark Warburton’s side had finally escaped the Championship with some style and they’d begun throwing money around pre-season. The most eye-catching signing was, of course, Barton. The midfielder still appeared to be at the top of his game – having helped Burnley achieve promotion to the Premier League and with Dyche interested in keeping him – so his signing by Warburton appeared to be a real coup. In reality, it was only the next chapter in the bulging Banter Anthology.

Barton’s decision to warm-up for the season by playing golf tournaments meant he started the season half-cocked and was gloriously nutmegged by Hamilton’s Ali Crawford in the opening league game. He struggled to impose himself through any of his appearances, before his nadir at Parkhead. He never got near Scott Brown all afternoon – the much anticipated battle between the two was barely worthy of the name– and for Celtic’s fourth, Barton found himself suddenly playing centre back. He failed to reach the floated cross to the back post, where Moussa Dembele stood in splendid isolation to score his hat-trick. Barton lay prone on the Celtic Park turf, perhaps mentally crafting a pleading email to Sean Dyche.

Barton’s other job – being a gobby shite on national radio – got him into bother soon after and a training ground altercation with Rangers supporters’ spirit animal, Andy Halliday, sealed his fate. Barton spent his imposed exile from Ibrox promoting his autobiography across the country and whining about the injustice. He did return to Burnley once an agreement was reached on his contract termination, where he pretended he’d been built up as a Neymar or a Messi by the media. Good riddance.

Richie Foran grows a horrific beard

It turns out that Richie Foran is to stylish facial hair what Donald Trump is to modesty. Foran’s thick collection of wiry pubes – which grew downwards from his neck – gave him the impression of someone who had stumbled, neck first, into a vat of adhesive genital hair and who had, coincidentally, also been robbed of all the mirrors in their house.

His commitment to keeping the pube neck-beard, despite the revulsion of everyone in Scottish football, was commendably stubborn. He did eventually happen upon a razor, but if Foran was hoping for a reverse-Sampson effect, he was mistaken. Samson, after all, wasn’t an inherently bad football manager.

Rod Stewart draws the balls

The last time someone had as much fun drawing balls as Rod Stewart did for the Scottish Cup, Michelangelo was figuring out how much stone he’d need to sculpt David’s nethers. The cup draw is usually a sober affair – in every sense – but not on this occasion. To avoid the clear, but possibly litigious, observation that Sir Rod was absolutely blootered, let’s just say he was in ‘high spirits’ the day he was asked to draw the home teams, after an afternoon watching Celtic. Let’s take you back…

The Excelsior Stadium, Airdrie, 22.01.17,

Hopping about excitedly beside SFA President, Alan McRae, Stewart begins his performance by conjuring the spirit of Rod Hull; fashioning his arm into an emu shape to fish balls out of the bowl. Once he’s picked a ball, he pulls it out and shouts the number – as loudly and gleefully as he can – in the general direction of the television cameras.

In-between, as Alan Stubbs pulls out the away balls, he giggles like a schoolboy who’s typed 80085 into his calculator for the first time and cannot wait to show his pals. The task of waiting his turn does being to wear on Stewart though and, halfway through, he lets out an exasperated sigh. This part of the draw is so boring.

McRae and Stubbs continue dutifully as they move towards what Stewart calls “the big boys.” Unless Ian Wright is doing one for the FA, there’s remains a degree of impartiality about cup draws. That polite courtesy is torn asunder as Stewart pulls out Celtic’s ball, accompanying it with a ‘yes!’ and an exaggerated fist pump. He, disappointingly, fails to mutter darkly about ‘typical SFA bias’ and ‘the establishment’ when he gives Rangers a home tie in the next go-round.

With the draw concluded, Stewart gives us a final thumb-up and jovially intrudes on McRae’s final piece to camera (“David, back to you. Where are you?”), cementing his place in the pantheon of surreal Scottish football moments.

Martin Waghorn fails to bully schoolchildren on a fish supper run

There are so many great aspects to the 35-second clip of Martyn Waghorn’s confrontation with a school boy. There’s Waghorn, replete in grey jogging bottoms which emphasise his huge arse, carrying a large bag filled with fish suppers (the professional athlete’s meal of choice). There’s the fact he’s clearly taken offence to something a literal child has said to him on the way out of the chippy. There’s the insouciant look of the school boy on being confronted by professional footballer, Martyn Waghorn. ‘I’ve abused better players than you, pal,’ the look seems to say. There’s the off-hand way the school boy continues to munch down on his lunch as Waghorn faces him down, completely unperturbed. Finally, there’s the way Waghorn stalks off, clearly unable to terrify a school boy into backing down. God bless Scotland’s children. They are the future.

Falkirk’s Hot Tub (a short story)

“Yes!” exclaims Kevin, punching the air as he does so.

Sandra looks up from her book. She’s never seen Kevin punch the air about anything. Not even when she agreed to marry him.

“What’s happened?” she asks.

“You know that competition I entered?”

“No…?”
“Did I not tell you about it? The Falkirk one?”

“No.”

“Oh.” Kevin cannot hide his excitement. He clearly cannot wait to explain it. “I went in for competition and…I won!”

“Well done, Kev,” says Sandra, “What did you win?”

“An exclusive session in a hot tub! Just the two of us.”

“Oh right. That’s…good,” says Sandra, surprised. This sounds better than she was expecting. She thought he’d won a dirty old strip, or something else she’d have to bin in six months’ time. But a hot tub? Well then!

“Where’s the hot tub? Which spa are we going to?”

“Spa?” The thought had never even crossed Kevin’s mind. “It’s at the Falkirk stadium, Sandra,” he replies, as if it’s the most obvious response in the world.

The Falkirk stadium? I didn’t realise they had a spa in the stadium?” It’s not a great prize, a spa in a bland room within the bowels of the football stadium, but Sandra’s had a long few weeks. She’ll take it.

“They don’t, Sandra” says Kevin, laughing. What a dafty his fiancée could be sometimes. “We’re going to be watching the game from the hot tub! It’s going to be brilliant!”

“Where…where’s the hot tub?” Sandra’s tone had turned to resignation. Any hope she had is curdling, beginning to smell. It’s now only good for the bin.

“Pitchside!” Kevin explains, exasperated at his partner’s failure to understand.

“We’re going to be watching a football game at Falkirk Stadium beside the pitch, in a hot tub?”

“Aye! Superb, eh? We’ll be chilling out, relaxing with the bubbles, while the boys do the business on the pitch a few yards away.”

An image suddenly pops into Sandra’s head. It’s of her ex-boyfriend, Steve. Steve hated football. He was a bit of a nerd, but he was a nice guy. And, again, crucially, he hated football. Why did she leave Steve? She couldn’t remember anymore. Whatever the reason, it might have been a mistake.

“Who’re they playing?” She grits her teeth.

“Dumbarton.”

*

Two weeks later and Sandra is standing beside Kevin, pitchside at Falkirk Stadium. They’re both wearing white dressing gowns and are flanked on either side by a couple of models. The hot tub sits just in front of them, grimly sat at the back of a flatbed truck. She can hear the bubbles gurgling. She trades some banal small talk with the model on her side. She refuses to acknowledge Kevin.

A photographer motions to the four of them.

“Just turn this way for me, folks. Big smile,” he says.

Sandra, with a long sigh, turns to face him. Her lips barely crack.

Lincoln Red Imps beat Brendan’s bottlers

It’s strange to think that such a successful season for Celtic began with one of the worst defeats in their history. Concessions can be made – it was Rodgers’ first game; Saidy Janko played 90 minutes – but it shouldn’t detract from a monumentally guff result for The Invincibles against a group of part-timers whose local rivals are a species of small monkey.

After a goalless first half in The Rock, it took only three second half minutes for Ministry of Defence police officer, Lee Casciaro, to knock in the game’s only goal past Craig Gordon. With Celtic struggling, Rodgers made perhaps the only mistake of his reign so far; bringing on Nadir Ciftci in an attempt to rescue the game. Obviously, it failed. His side would, inevitably, win the second leg, but no one wants to remember that.

Graeme Murty’s headstand

Graeme Murty was one of few Rangers employees to leave season 2016/17 with any dignity, after a spell in caretaker charge following Warburton’s departure. He didn’t depart the scene with his pride completely intact, however. No one who performs part of a gymnastics floor routine in the Dens Park technical area can claim that.

Having just watched Harry Forrester scoop over a gilt-edged chance to equalise against Dundee, Murty manages to transition smoothly from head-on-hands-in-disbelief, to rolling-backwards-in-shock, to full-on-handstand-for-no-reason. At some stage, around the apex, you sense he realises what he’s done is quite silly, but he gamely styles it out. 8.6 for execution.

Zak Jules is no John Hannah

Motherwell’s acquisition of Zak Jules on loan from Reading was their own Sliding Doors moment. Jules, unfortunately for Well, was not the ‘happy’ plotline. Instead of unearthing a gem to help them into the luxurious safety of sixth place – as happened when fellow Reading defender, Nigel Keown, moved to Partick Thistle – they were lumbered with a staggeringly uncomfortable centre half, prone to spectacular gaffes which did little to ease Well’s relegation fears. The own goal in a hammering at home to Dundee – a totally unnecessary backwards header, under little pressure – and his part in Ross County’s winner in May – failing to let an innocuous ball roll out of play, before putting his fellow centre half in perilous trouble with a rocket of a pass – are, perhaps, the two most memorable mistakes. The story, at least, ended on a positive; Motherwell survived and Jules inexplicably earned a call up for Scotland’s Under-20s.

Wato Kuate’s Gavin Gunning moment

It was fitting that Kuate’s moment of madness came at the spiritual home of the ridiculous tantrum. A year after Gavin Gunning walked off with the match ball in a fit of pique so delicious you could have awarded it a Michelin Star, Kuate decided that this season’s Play-Off semi-final was the perfect moment to offer his own twist.

Having played like the friend you invite to make up the numbers at 5’s despite him last kicking in ball in 2003, Kuate received a stern warning from teammate and real-life ProStars figurine, Mark Durnan, to buck up his ideas.

It was at this point that the spirit of Gunning descended from the heavens (Grimsby) and took hold of Kuate. He remonstrated wildly with Durnan, was hooked by Ray McKinnon and, as he stormed off, made repeated gestures to the booing Dundee United support. After being told he’d never play for the Terrors again, Kuate recently announced his glee that his former teammates had failed to get promoted. What a man.

 

Written by Andy Harrow


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