ONE of the most disconcerting things as you hurtle towards 40 - as appallingly, I am at present - is just how much you start to sound like your dad.

Nothing against the old man, but I always found his disdain for the music and styles of the ‘90s that dominated my young life to be the rantings of the fuddy-duddy. The wailings of yesterday’s man. So it is with some alarm that I now catch myself making similarly disparaging remarks about the things my own sons seem to enjoy.

The FIFA console games? A scam since they went online. Watching videos of other kids playing their own computers on YouTube? A nonsense. Or even worse, watching American weans unboxing toys? Absolute tosh. And the charts these days? Don’t get me started.

But even as it dawns on me that my approaching middle age brings with it an envy-fuelled resentment of those who still have it all laid out before them, there is one thing that has been brought into Scottish football culture by the young’uns over the past decade or so that I actually find quite enjoyable.

It puts me at odds with most of the other grumpy old men up the back of the stand, but the ‘Ultras’ that have emerged at many of our Scottish clubs are, on the whole in my book, a very good addition to the game.

From the Green Brigade to the Union Bears, the ‘Well Bois to the Fair City Unity and far more besides, these groups of mostly young folk bring atmosphere, colour and a passion to the terraces that – at their best – add immeasurably to the occasion of going to the game.

In true grouchy old git style though, the younger readers among you may have sensed there is a ‘but’ coming, and it is a rather big one at that.

Since the return of supporters to grounds after the sterile hell-scape that football was played out to at the height of the Covid pandemic, the eagerness to provide that backing to their teams and bring that atmosphere to the occasion has often spilled over into the unsavoury.

At its least serious, but nonetheless hugely annoying and disruptive, it has manifested itself in the tennis balls and toilet paper protests we have seen at Dens Park this season from fans of both Celtic and Rangers.

The latest such occasion was on Sunday, when a protest against the Sydney Super Cup organised by the Union Bears saw a vitally important match for their team in the context of their title defence disrupted not once, but twice, with fans raining objects onto the field of play at the start of both halves.

Once was bad enough, but when it happened for the second time – particularly as Rangers were coming out focused on overturning a one goal deficit to save their title hopes – even the patience of their own players snapped.

This column might run close to 900 words in addressing the conduct of these supporters, but Allan McGregor needed just two. ‘F*****g a*****s’, the famously succinct Rangers goalkeeper was seen to utter, cutting right to the quick. And who could argue?

The concerns of these fans over the Old Firm ‘friendly’ may be legitimate, and as paying customers, so too is their right to protest. But it seems that all too often, these fans groups don’t only want to bring attention to such issues, but make sure they are the centre of attention in the process, whatever the cost to their own team.

What has also been evident, and far more alarming, is that as these Ultras groups have grown and become more emboldened, so too has the frequency and volume of songs that had thankfully been slowly ebbing away from our terraces in the years prior to their emergence.

The spectre of sectarianism never disappeared, but there is no doubt whatsoever that in recent times, the old songbooks – particularly during away games after a day on the sauce – have been given a right old dusting off.

Some things, I am big enough to admit, were certainly not better in my day. It has been a depressing spectacle to see and hear the old standards coming back around into fashion once more.

I’m not saying that these fans should pay up and shut up, and nobody wants a sterile atmosphere, but just because you bring so much to your club’s following doesn’t mean you have free reign to besmirch your club’s reputations.

The result of such behaviour has been the tarring of all supporters with a similarly distasteful brush, and a growing resentment from the – perhaps not silent, but certainly less audible – majority towards these groups. And a rising suspicion that the Ultras see themselves as the self-appointed spokespeople for their club’s entire support.

Fanbases are broad churches, but one would hope that Ultras groups can stamp out this sort of nonsense and once again thrive as a vibrant and vital part of their supports - and the Scottish game - rather than a frequent embarrassment to it.