SPFL: Elephants, Albania’s president & Mussolini’s granddaughter – BBC News

You will have your moments that best illustrate the unique footballing terrain we plough in Scotland. You might even have an entirely different top-20 than the one below. I will have accidentally overlooked some pearlers, I know that. I apologise, humbly.

I’m fully expecting a tweet about why I missed out the time an Arbroath striker claimed to have been abducted by fembots in his previous life or why I omitted the fantastic story of Elgin’s kit man, who used to be a roadie for the Rolling Stones and actually co-wrote Jumpin’ Jack Flash.

There’s so much slapstick in the Scottish game no mere mortal can cover it all, but here’s a heartfelt attempt at an alternative season review, from 20 to 1 with weirdness pretty much everywhere.

20. Glen Schreuder’s glasses

When Glen Schreuder’s glasses got broken as he celebrated Aberdeen’s Scottish Cup win over St Mirren at the end of February, the club took the unusual step of tracking him down, buying a new pair, and getting Sam Cosgrove to present them to him at a special ceremony.

The photo of a somewhat bemused Cosgrove and a beaming Glen was posted on the Aberdeen website. Most of the reaction was the usual feelgood stuff, but one fan was having none of it.

Cosgrove hadn’t hit the back of the net in the league for two months at this point. “Sam should be practising goal scoring instead!” he blasted. There may also have been a few expletive-laden references to the big striker being in need of a pair of specs of his own.

19. Doncaster v BT Sport

BT Sport’s broadcasting deal has now ended, but it’s widely acknowledged that their coverage of Scottish football in recent years has been passionate, insightful and fun. Therefore, quite what possessed the chief executive of the SPFL to have a go at them is hard to fathom.

“We will see the Scottish game given the profile and coverage it deserves next year by [exclusive rights holder] Sky Sports,” said Neil Doncaster, before adding that broadcasters “hadn’t given it [the SPFL] the love they show other leagues.”

That appeared to be a needless and unfair pop at BT. In response, their main presenter, Darrell Currie, called Doncaster’s words “pathetic”. Given BT could now potentially claim up to several million pounds in liabilities following the Premiership being finished early, getting stroppy with them was probably an ill-advised move.

18. What did Alfredo mean?

The moment when Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos was sent-off in the closing minutes at Celtic Park and the almighty row that erupted in the aftermath of the gesture he made when leaving the field.

To some it was a disgraceful throat-slashing signal aimed at the Celtic supporters who’d been abusing him all day. To others it was simply him saying that the game is over and we’ve won – a well-known hand movement in Colombian culture. What did Alfredo mean when he did it? We all lost the plot a little on this one.

17. Clap for Stevie G

Before the Thursday night NHS clap, there was the eighth-minute applause for Steven Gerrard – eight being the number he wore with such distinction for Liverpool in his playing days. This was in early March, just after the Rangers manager had come across as utterly crestfallen in the wake of their Scottish Cup exit to Hearts at Tynecastle.

The eighth-minute clap came in their next game, at home in the league to Hamilton Accies. It was meant as a pick-me-up for the manager. Rangers lost that one, too. The only clapping being done on the full-time whistle was the sound of the Accies players celebrating a huge win. All of it was set against a backdrop of outrage inside Ibrox.

16. Fort William’s child ultras

It seems that things turned ugly when Fort William played Strathspey Thistle at Claggan Park in March. The behaviour of the, er, notorious Fort William Ultras was the subject of a condemnatory statement from the club’s chairman, Peter Murphy.

“Following unacceptable behaviour of The Ultras Supporters Group over a number of games this season, we have taken the decision to ban the group from home games,” it read. “They will be able to gain entry only individually if accompanied by a parent.”

His words begged the question – just how young are these Ultras? And were they sent to bed early as punishment?

15. Elephant pops the question

Pellie the Elephant has always lived life on the edge as Dumbarton’s mascot, right from the time he started making iffy gestures to away fans and culminating with that dreadful moment when he showed his backside to a group of sweary Morton supporters.

That was a long time ago, but mud sticks. What joy, then, to hear the happy news that Pellie has, er, changed sex and is getting married. Kinda. On 29 February 29 – leap day – while dressed in Pellie’s costume, Dumbarton fan Jen McKee proposed to her slightly stunned boyfriend, Bob Cowie, before kick-off in a game against Raith Rovers. Thankfully, Bob said yes and vowed to make an honest elephant of her. Dumbarton won 1-0.

14. Wafer thin

Watch: How did Keatings’ appeal against this booking for diving fail?

Finally, we understand the point of the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup – it’s all a ruse to attract social media hits. It has to be. How else could the second yellow card given against Inverness’s James Keatings stand when it was blatantly obvious that the officials got it lamentably wrong when sending him off in the semi-final and thereby ruling him out of the final?

Inverness posted the video of the incident on their Twitter page and it was watched 1.5m times, including by Gary Lineker, who retweeted it around the world. A Scottish FA panel upheld the decision to ban Keatings before admitting that one of members, for some peculiar reason, didn’t watch all the footage that was sent to him.

They then overturned the decision on the basis of Rule 101, which reads something like, ‘We’ve made a roaring hash of this so let’s just drop it and forget it ever happened’. The ban was lifted and Keatings was free to play in a final that hasn’t yet taken place because of coronavirus.

13. Whyte’s world

Craig Whyte’s book got massive publicity when it came out and it seems that it was a bit of a bestseller among Celtic fans, if not Rangers fans.

It’s clear that the former Ibrox chairman is still struggling in the self-awareness department given some of the things that he has written. “It seemed that everyone I came into contact with tried to shaft me,” he wrote. It’s safe to say that not many will accept Whyte’s self-portrayal as an innocent fall guy in Rangers’ implosion.

12. Covid statement table

All credit to @LewisCumming on Twitter for cataloguing the number of statements that were issued since the Coronavirus hit. The league table is 16-strong with Rangers coming out on top. Hearty congratulations to them.

Hearts finished second in this parallel universe, the SPFL came in third, and Clyde were fourth. An amazing effort in the top flight and one that required no league reconstruction. Celtic didn’t even make the top 16. Frankly, Neil Lennon must go.

Almost 200 statements were released in this time period alone. The English Premier League has so much to learn.

11 Bomb’s away

Inverness’ stadium was shut down abruptly in February when a bomb was found buried in the sand on the Moray Firth, uncomfortably close to their home ground. The expert moved in and managed the incident. The club updated an early message: “The bomb has now been exploded.”

It wasn’t the last of the incendiary stuff in Scottish football. A few more (verbal) bombs were detonated once the SPFL set in motion the resolution that brought an end to the season.

10. West Hammered

When West Ham published their financial accounts, Maryhill FC’s riposte instantly became a contender for social media missive of the season. “West Ham have posted losses of £28.2m, while vice-chair Karren Brady earned £1.14m. Maryhill Juniors posted record profits of £17.50, while our president, Tam, is owed six quid for sock tape. Who would you rather be?” Maryhill all the way.

9. Alfredo’s car and a private investigator

A second entry for the Rangers man. This is the shocking story of the sinister character seen tampering with Alfredo Morelos’ sports car. For a long time now the club, and its supporters, have felt that the Colombian has been the target of disgusting abuse – he has been – and here was the latest and most troubling manifestation of it.

Then reports emerged that the tamperer might be an undercover investigator employed by Morelos’ wife. We haven’t seen backtracking like it since Michael Jackson and his fans did the moonwalk, although Morelos and his wife did both issue denials.

8. Horse face

A Celtic fan – we must use the word ‘fan’ advisedly – was jailed for 10 months in February for punching three police horses in the head before a cup tie with Airdrie.

It’s not exactly the kind of treble that anybody at the club would want anything to do with. The charmer was on bail when he lashed out. He was also banned from every football ground in the UK for five years.

7. Tape gate

When substituted Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths flung his sock tape at a Kilmarnock fan who had been haranguing him, the first reaction was to check if the supporter still had a pulse. After all, sock tape is well known as a lethal weapon when chucked at somebody from a distance of 10 yards.

Still, in obvious pain at being hit flush by the sticky paper, the fan heroically called in the police and complained about a grievous act of violence. Griffiths didn’t look bothered.

6. Meta’s love affair with Celtic

Ilir Meta has given to tweeting about Celtic. A player’s birthday, a big victory, an anniversary of some sort and Meta is all over it, which is bizarre given that he’s president of Albania. “I like hiking and I’ve climbed the highest peaks in Albania and Kosovo and when I reach the summits I post photos of the Celtic jersey at the top because that’s where the club belongs,” he said during the season.

A friend of former Celtic and Albania player, Rudi Vata, the president regularly wears a Celtic top in his tweets. “Once you’re a Celt, you’re always a Celt,” said the former weightlifter. He’s planning a trip to Glasgow soon.

5. A Highland welcome

The French TV journalist, Renaud Marquot, became a very popular character at Motherwell around the turn of the year. Filming some documentary or other, the charismatic tourist struck up a relationship with the club’s fans, all captured on camera. He loved them and they loved him.

He went north with them for a game against Ross County on Boxing Day. When Declan Gallagher got a late winner for the visitors, the bold Renaud jumped from his seat in the stand and went a little too close to the pitch for comfort in trying to film the joyous reaction of the Motherwell faithful. Whereupon he was hustled out of there by a steward.

The quietly protesting Renaud appealed to the steward’s sense of fair play, his spirit of football. The response was not exactly the stuff of the United Nations. “There’s no spirit of football! Get out! You’re a disgrace!”

In that moment, Renaud learned a valuable lesson. Every second football person in this magnificent country is completely off their rocker.

4. Rod Stewart v The Green Brigade

Hoop-on-hoop aggravation started in November when the fans group let off flares in the home Europa League game against Lazio, thereby guaranteeing a Uefa sanction. Rod was exasperated and criticised the supporters for it in print. Cut to December and revenge time.

When the singer put a message out on social media congratulating Boris Johnson for winning the UK election, the Green Brigade saw their chance. They hoisted a banner that read, “Tories Not Welcome’ and, I’m paraphrasing here, ‘Go away, Rod.” That might have cut pretty deep.

3. Amy Macdonald v Tommy Wright

Gold-standard stuff, this. Internationally famous singer-songwriter takes on her husband’s former manager in a war of words. When Richard Foster left St Johnstone he did so after something of a bust-up with Wright. That clearly rankles with Amy, who went on BBC Scotland’s Off The Ball with Tam and Stuart and called the Northern Irishman “hot-headed”.

Wright responded: “If Mrs Foster wants to think that then fair enough,” he said of the hugely-respected star, who has sold millions of records worldwide. Amy had another cut, tweeting: “How do you like your eggs in the morning? I like mine with a wee sprinkle of casual misogyny on top.”

2. Man jumps a taxi

In June, Dunfermline Sheriff Court heard the story of a 36-year-old Celtic fan who jumped on a taxi and rubbed his privates on the bonnet in celebration of Celtic’s treble treble, an incident which sparked the tabloid headline: ‘Man Had Sex With Taxi’.

Later, the same person was allegedly seen attempting to perform a strange act in a residential area, an incident which sparked another tabloid headline: ‘Man Had Sex With Taxi And Garden Fence’.

1. Mussolini’s granddaughter

Peak daftness. To put it mildly, there was no love lost between Lazio and Celtic fans when the Rome giants visited Glasgow for a Europa League game in October – a match that Celtic won 2-1.

Some of the visitors walked through the city centre firing Nazi salutes. Relations went downhill from there. At the stadium itself, some Celtic supporters displayed a banner depicting an image of the dead Benito Mussolini’s hanging body. Celtic were fined for it.

Il Duce’s outraged granddaughter, Alessandra, immediately got involved, calling the banner an act of violence. She termed it Ducephobia, “a crime that doesn’t yet exist but which I propose to include in our judicial system”.

The to and fro carried on a while, even after Celtic went to Rome and won 2-1 again. Mussolini reappeared in cyberland in December, mocking the Celtic fans when their club lost to to Rangers. She tweeted the score, 2-1. Celtic fans retaliated by turning the numbers upside down so her grandfather could read them. Savoury, it was not. Scottish football at its craziest, it most certainly was.

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