YOU may not have been aware of this, but Aston Villa star John McGinn paid a visit to Fir Park on Sunday to watch his brother Paul in action for Motherwell. I, on the other hand, couldn’t miss it.

As a Lanarkshire local, my various social media feeds have been chock full of pictures and videos ever since of beaming kids (and more than a few adults) cuddling into the Scotland hero, who appears to have spent most of the afternoon posing for selfies with every kid in the county.

McGinn, while one of the nicest and most accommodating men in the game, is far from alone in giving up his time in order to do this. Footballers know that such demands come with the territory of the career they enjoy, and for the most part, they are happy to oblige.

As well as not wanting to let down their adoring public, there will also be a recognition that if they do turn down even one request for a photograph – no matter how many they may have forced a smile for already that day – they can be painted as the one being unreasonable. Though stronger words may often be used by the ‘snubbed’ party.

As a parent of two football mad boys myself, I am eternally grateful for these small sacrifices that players make. Particularly as the advent of camera phones have not only seen such requests rise exponentially, but have also left them wide open to sabotage from opposition supporters at the wind-up.

So it was that Kilmarnock striker Kyle Lafferty agreed to pose for a picture with a supposed ‘fan’ on a night out this week, who subsequently put his arm around the former Rangers man before shouting ‘Up the Celts’.

The purpose of this of course is to set the bait, get a rise out of the target, and catch their reaction – the angrier the better - on camera for the world to later enjoy on social media. Hilarious, I’m sure you will agree.

Lafferty should know this, of course, so let’s get this straight; there was absolutely no justification for what he then appears to have said to this not-at-all pathetic wind-up merchant, allegedly using the word ‘fenian’ in his hugely misguided retort.

Kilmarnock have launched an investigation into the incident and rightly so. Whatever punishment falls the way of Lafferty if found guilty of using such a term will be deserved, and on his own head be it.

Those who would defend the Northern Irishman by saying some Roman Catholics use the term ‘fenian’ to refer to themselves must surely know that reclamation of a word by any community doesn’t lessen the derogation of them when it is used by others.

Neither though does Lafferty’s disgraceful rhetoric excuse the actions of the grown man who instigated the entire incident in the first place.

You may not have much or any sympathy with Lafferty given how he appears to have responded, but sadly, this is far from the first time that a footballer has been the victim of such nonsense. The only surprise is that there haven’t been more headlines about players reacting angrily or even violently when placed in such humiliating positions.

Former Celtic captain Scott Brown in particular has been the victim of these jolly japesters – or massive prankers, if you prefer - on numerous occasions over the years, proving that the existence of moronic trolls is one of the great unifiers across the Old Firm divide.

The more of these incidents that take place, the less likely players are in future to pose with fans for pictures at all, preferring to be thought of as ignorant or arrogant than being caught up in an even bigger controversy if their reaction to being played for a fool is deemed to be over the top.

That would be a huge shame for the thousands of fans (the vast majority of whom will be kids) who would dearly love a photograph alongside their heroes, and who treasure such moments and the keepsakes that come from them.

Lafferty of course comes out of this one particular episode in a terrible light, but for all you budding Jeremy Beadles out there, you should also know that disgust with his actions doesn’t lessen the disdain which the vast majority of people hold for you.


SEEING as I mentioned John McGinn at the top of the page, I couldn’t let the column pass without toasting the Tartan Army talisman as he gets set to earn his 50th Scotland cap tomorrow.

It may be my upbringing watching Dougie Arnott’s expert use of his prodigious posterior at close quarters, but I have always had a soft spot – if you will – for footballers who know how to use their rotund rear-ends to their advantage.

For those not familiar with him, Arnott was a diminutive Motherwell striker who terrorised Scottish defences in the 80s and 90s through his clever movement, and he often made up for his lack of height by holding off challenges from hulking opponents through the shrewd deployment of his derriere.

Richard Gough, no less, called him the toughest opponent he had played against, quite the compliment when you think of the calibre of striker the former Rangers captain had gone up against. In season 1992/93 alone, he faced Eric Cantona of Leeds, as well as Alen Boksic and Rudi Voller of Marseille.

In later years, Scott McDonald was also a fine proponent of the technique, but never did I think I would see a player who may well even surpass Arnott in the craft. But then there was McGinn.

Perhaps no other player in world football would have been able to literally butt his way onto the ball to score that goal against Ukraine on Wednesday night.

His name will now deservedly be etched on the Scotland Roll of Honour, and when he retires, surely a cast of his most famous asset would be a fitting addition to the Hampden museum.