COMPLIMENTS which aren’t really compliments hurt like hell.

Here are a few examples that in no way have been said to me or still lie within the depths of my ruptured soul...

“That’s really good, for you.” “Ah, bless you.” “At least you tried.” “That meal was lovely. What your sister does is…”

Oh, and here’s a tip. If, in any workplace assessment, the boss’s take on your in writing is “always tried his best and aimed to complete his tasks fully”, it’s time to go job hunting.

The translation is: "The employee is a moron who failed in the most basic tasks which a not very bright squirrel would be better at.”


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In football, I’ve always thought that such, cough, compliments came in two ways.

The first from us journalists when asked to do the marks out of 10 (the mannies). We would get to the deep-lying midfielder of a team we didn’t know or care about and pen: “Worked hard and did the ugly stuff well.” The word grafted was a life-saver.

And I always cringed when a manager – Gordon Strachan was a hell of a man for this at Celtic – described someone as a ‘good squad player.’ I’d rather a girl I fancied said to me: ‘Oh, I wish I could find a boyfriend like you.’

Translation: ‘You are probably not a serial killer but you are an ugly sod.’

Squad player: a professional footballer who turns up for work on time, isn’t annoying and trains well. A nice lad who probably does more hospital visits than most, but isn’t good enough for the first team.

They will get stripped for most games but never play until a cup tie against a non-league side who have forgotten to bring the kit and so have been told by the referee they need to play the game in their pants. And flip-flops.

Sure, at the big clubs these guys will be on decent money and receive win bonuses as well, however only a few pros are happy with such a life. All want to play every week.

Being that good squad player was always, at least to me, the accurate description of a player who would fill in now and then, not cost too much and would never angrily bang on the manager’s door.

Jonny Hayes has changed my mind on this.

This is a guy who was Aberdeen’s best player. He joined Celtic for a pay rise – no bad thing – but went from automatic pick to waiting until a team-mate was injured or a home tie against Stenhousemuir.


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No matter how Hayes played in these matches, and he always tended to do well, it was never going to be good enough for him to play in a proper game the next week. And yet he had to give his all in training and be a good team-mate – another Strachan favourite – knowing that on Saturday he would warm-up so he could be ready for the warm down.

Hayes did all of these things but it is to his huge credit that he was always, always ready. Even if it was to help run down the clock, the Irishman would have his shin guards on, ready for action. Then he was on it from the first second.

How many times do you see an unprepared sub taking an age to tie his boots and once on, give off the impression he’s still rather be sitting down? This is a bad squad player.

Hayes has been excellent for Celtic this season in Europe and at home, he scored at Ibrox and was man of the match against Motherwell on Saturday. And he rarely plays in his preferred position. He just gets on with it.

As Neil Lennon said: “Jonny has played in some big games for me – a cup final, a semi-final, a game against Rangers. He has not let me down. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea but he does a brilliant job for us.”

Why would Hayes not be your cup of tea? He admitted himself that he’ll hardly go down as one of Celtic’s great transfers but that doesn’t mean he won’t give his all and make a contribution during his time at the club.

Lennon spoke about offering Hayes another year and I agree. Why wouldn’t Celtic want to keep such a committed professional who if asked to carry a tree up a hill would reply: “Which one?”

A good squad player is invaluable to a team going for league titles. Steven Gerrard never had enough of them last season. At Rangers, the manager can now look at his bench and have a choice of who to put in that he knows will do a job for the team.


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The strengths and weaknesses of the squads either side of Glasgow might decide the Premiership. It will certainly be a factor.

Nobody is dreaming of a team of Johnny Hayes' but his manager, any manager, would love a few of his type to call upon in the knowledge they will be fit, sharp, ready and willing. Oh, and no dummies will be spat if they are back on the bench or in the stand the following week.

Hayes and his type never cost a lot. However, they are in their own way invaluable. Go on the squad men. And, yes, that’s a real compliment.


MATT Ritchie got 16 Scotland caps and scored three goals.

I could name so, so many deserving who never reached those dizzy heights but I’d just depress you. I’ll just put one name up there – Bobby Russell – who never played for his country even once.

Gordon Strachan chased Ritchie because he played in England and was therefore better than anyone up here including, at that time, Callum McGregor and James Forrest. I bet the wee man regrets that now.

Ritchie never wanted to play for us. He qualified through his dad so the Scottish gene is quite strong but his heart was never in it, which is fine if he’d said back then that he’d rather not bother.

The Newcastle United player has now retired from international duties due to family reasons. Bye, Matt. Don’t let the door hit you.