More important than life and death

Football may have returned in an empty guise in England but here one of the most grievous losses to the football calendar is that the first annual match for the Spirit of Shankly Cup has been postponed due to the virus. It should have been played this month between four teams from Liverpool and four from East Ayrshire, named after and commemorating Bill, the legendary manager and man.

I only ever spoke to Shankly twice, both times after he had retired from managing Liverpool in 1974, which it was clear from the conversations that he deeply regretted. He was only 60 and, arguably, he went at the peak of his greatness, which may well be at the point one should go, but there was undoubtedly more to come from him.

There was the sense, too, that he was deeply hurt about the lack of recognition, not from the Liverpool fans, but the directors of the club. He was even banned from Melwood, the training ground. He died of a heart attack in 1981, one which was, perhaps, already broken.

The tournament was initiated by the unofficial Liverpool supporters’ union, Spirit of Shankly, whose devotion to him started with pilgrimages to his birthplace, Glenbuck in Ayrshire, and paid for the memorial there to “The legend. The genius. The man”. From Anfield with love, as it says on the stone.

That memorial has now been moved to sit in the centre of where the now-razed village was, the last remnants of which were destroyed by the giant machines which tore open the countryside looking for coal. Glenbuck had been a pit village – Shankly’s first job was down the mine – but when the Liverpool supporters first sited the memorial in 1999, it was down the hill from the havoc which was going on further up the path.

Where the houses were, and the football field where 50 men who would become professional footballers played, is now a heritage village although there are no people to make it live. Shankly didn’t play for the village team, the Glenbuck Cherrypickers, but for Cronberry Eglinton, in the nearby one, which he used to cycle to on his bike.

Contrast this with the company that ravaged the area, Scottish Coal, which went bust in 2013, making almost 600 people redundant and leaving an environmental clean-up bill for others of more than £70 million.

Bill Shankly didn’t even get to become a director of Liverpool FC. He lived in a modest semi-detached house in Bellefield Avenue in Liverpool. There’s a recreation ground right next door named after him. His legacy, in football and beyond, however, will live forever.

A local beef

Memo to Tesco. Where’s the beef? Six months ago almost 80% of what it stocked was Scotch. Today, not even a single Aberdeen Angus steak. Zero. Local beef has disappeared from the shelves.

It’s nearly as bad with Scotch lamb, down from almost 70% to 14%. Sainsbury’s, quick to trumpet that its fruit and stuff is Fair Trade, doesn’t have any local lamb (ditto Asda) and its local beef is a measly 9%. Most of what there is comes from Ireland, which presumably will cost even more to buy once we are properly out of the EU.

The contrast with the two German so-called budget operators, Lidl and Aldi, couldn’t be greater. All of their beef and lamb is sourced in this country. So, go German if you want Scottish.

Complete tweet (1)

When angry, boozed-up protesters shouting right-wing slogans invade Glasgow's George Square looking for a peaceful march to confront and turn on the police when they’re denied the opportunity, there’s a simple explanation for what motivates them. It’s the mix of heat, testosterone and lockdown.

At least that’s the reasoning Muriel Gray comes up with. You may remember her, the one-time Yoof TV presenter turned mouthy pundit, but if she passes on testosterone at least she does know something about buildings and heat. The Glasgow Art School has burned down twice on her watch as chair of the board of governors.

At first I thought her tweet was satire, which doesn’t translate too well on social media, but apparently not. She appears to believe that a spell of decent weather, raging hormones and isolation can turn a peace-loving young chap into a violent, raving bigot.

What was the name of that show she was on again? The Tube. Yes, that’s her.

And (2)

Andrew Wilson, the SNP seer, may have done more to wreck the case for Scottish independence than the combined forces of the union, first with his prediction of years of austerity after – right forecast, wrong cause, Nostradamus – and last week when he said in a BBC interview: “What’s clear to me is the UK is set to be the worst-performing economy in the developed world and Scotland’s probably going to be a bit worse.”

Oh, but wait a minute, apparently Wilson didn’t say that at all. The Scottish Government’s financial supremo, Kate Forbes, denies he did, it’s fake news, the dastardly media is at it again.

Referring to a Times headline, although it could have been any paper, she wrote in a tweet: "Worst in world" in quote marks because the paper knows its (sic) untrue."

I don’t know if she uses the Alec Douglas-Home economic method – a box of matches to "simplify and illustrate" economic documents – but she’s surely a graduate of the Humpty Dumpty school of language, that words mean exactly what she wants them to mean.

Bum steer

Another event to bite the dust is the annual Angola Prison Rodeo, which takes place in April, when 30,000 spectators flock into Louisiana State Penitentiary to watch prisoners being chased by bulls, not even armed with matadors' swords, of course. It was former rodeo star Jack Favor who masterminded and popularised the show, which raises about $500,000 for prisoner’ charities. Favor is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame for bringing down and roping a steer in the world record time of 2.2 seconds.

The garlanded cowboy was sentenced to life imprisonment in Angola for a double murder, hence his rodeo involvement, on the testimony of the prosecution’s star witness. He served nine years until his wrongful conviction was erased and the real killer, the guy who gave the damning evidence against him, was convicted. Merely an everyday story of US miscarriages of justice. "Cadillac Jack" Favor was awarded compensation. Just $55,000 or around £44,000.

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