IT is one of life’s profound if ironic truths, that the worst of times brings out the best in people. And so it has been in the desperate hours following the death of Fernando Ricksen.

The tributes to Ricksen’s courage, bravery and of course, his footballing ability and achievements within the game, have been plentiful, heartfelt and genuine. But perhaps the greatest tribute to a man who will go down as a Rangers legend is that these tributes have come from all sides, with the petty rivalries with which we routinely fill our days coming some distance behind the need to pay respect to someone who embodied fight and spirit in the face of obstacles way beyond what the vast majority of us can ever imagine.

Very soon, rivalries will be picked up once again, and Ricksen, I would guess, wouldn’t want it any other way. When discussing Ricksen the player, the words you most often hear are those describing a ‘fierce competitor’. He was someone that the Rangers support grew to love, and opposition fans loved to hate due to his combative nature on the field of play. The sometimes-wayward path he took off the field heightened those feelings even more, endearing him to the Rangers support as something of a loveable rogue.

He embraced the rivalry between Rangers and Celtic and gave his all to ensure it would be the blue side of the city who would have the bragging rights. He didn’t always succeed, but how evident it was that he was hurting as much as any supporter in those moments simply made them take the Dutchman into their hearts even more.

There is so much to dislike about the all-consuming rivalry between Glasgow’s big two, not least the obvious and continuing blight of sectarianism that is still all-too prevalent when the two sides meet, or even when they don’t. To the credit of both sides of the divide, all of that is put to the side when major figures from either club pass from this mortal coil. It happened with Tommy Burns, when Walter Smith and Ally McCoist helped carry their great friend’s coffin, and with Sandy Jardine, Davie Cooper, Billy McNeill and many others.

Sooner or later, normality returned though. It was ever thus. But there is something deeply affecting about the way that Ricksen fought his long battle against motor neurone disease, and so bravely in the public eye to highlight the condition and raise funds for charity before eventually losing his battle, that perhaps will have a longer-lasting and more profound affect.

I am currently over in Rennes for Celtic’s opening Europa League group match against Stade Rennais, and when listening to Neil Lennon respond to the news at close quarters, you could see how deeply the passing of Ricksen had affected him. These weren’t the standard template tributary words that are dusted down when the occasion calls for it, they were from the heart and genuinely moving.

You see too the warm words offered by his great friend Bobby Petta, a man who almost ended Ricksen’s Rangers career before it had started by tormenting him in his first Old Firm game at Celtic Park, and you realise that there is much more to life than football in general, but also how inconsequential whoever is currently top of the tree in your particular city really is.

What footballing rivalries should do is enhance life, not overtake it. Celtic and Rangers players have been friends away from the park since time immemorial, and the majority of fans are too. This is the way that things should be.

Too often, perspective gets lost and hatred, religious or otherwise, is too readily on show. What a wonderful and lasting tribute to Ricksen it would be if his bravery has opened the eyes of the misguided few and shown supporters on both sides of the city that is possible to be the worst of enemies on the pitch while being the best of friends away from it, or at least having mutual respect for one another that transcends the rivalry.

The last 48 hours or so have brought out the best in Scottish football fans. It will never be a sterilised utopian environment, and Fernando Ricksen would be the last person to want it that way. But what he has shown in his battle against his ill-health, his desperate misfortune and in his eventual heartbreaking passing, is that football simply isn’t a matter of life and death, there are some things which are much more important than that.


AS their supporters will no doubt wryly observe themselves, it is never really plain sailing being a Partick Thistle fan.

Supporting any smaller club comes with the sure knowledge that you are signing up for a lifetime of twists and turns set to a backdrop of disappointment, with the hope that those fleeting moments of joy that so rarely punctuate the experience come along and make the whole thing worthwhile.

Even by their own heady standards though, the last 18 months at Firhill have been a heck of a ride.

From a top-six Premiership finish to relegation, the threat of a double-relegation, the departures of bona-fide club legends in the form of manager Alan Archibald, Kris Doolan and Chris Erskine, and now the departure of the man who replaced Archibald and showed those two players the exit door.

Gary Caldwell's departure from Thistle wasn't surprising given results on the pitch, but I wonder how big a role the timing of Doolan's well-deserved testimonial match on Sunday played in the timing.

Here you had a celebration of everything Thistle used to be in the midsts of a period where fans feel disconnected to the club, a glaringly stark contrast between the old days and the new guard. And with returning chairman David Beattie at the centre of it all.

That's not to say it was the wrong decision. But in trying to cut the ties to the past, Caldwell struggled to show fans the future under him was worth it.