Graham Spiers, God, and Dermo67’s Corner Kick

26 Feb

Good Morning,

At around half past ten or so on Sunday night, Mr Graham Spiers,who is best known as a Journalist, Sports Writer and Broadcaster sent a tweet out into the cyberspace of the twitter world.

It read as follows:

“I’ve been to church, I’ve played with my kids. But only a happy Scotsman knows the joy of Sportscene coming on, followed by#MOTD. Terrific!”

Shortly afterwards, he went on to reveal that he was also sitting with a can of Czech Lager which came from the Co-Operative, and that the product concerned was “bloody great”.

I do not know how many articles I have read by Graham Spiers over the years– but it will certainly number hundreds. I would have to say that sometimes I agree with his assessment of a football match or other sporting activity, at other times I don’t. I also do not agree with all of his opinion pieces on people or situations within sport, yet on the other hand I find myself in agreement with much of what he says at times, and when he and his pen wander off into some slightly odd territory or area, then as often as not I learn something that I did not know before— which is “bloody great.”

This is as it should be, as If I agreed with all that Graham Spiers said, and knew all that he knew– then I would be Graham Spiers– or he would be me! Two Graham Spiers’ may just be acceptable in the world– two of me would be a pandemic with potentially disastrous consequences for the rest of humanity!

One area where Mr Spiers and I part company in our thinking and point of view is in relation to what football teams we follow. He has long avowed that he is a follower of Rangers Football Club ( in whatever incarnation that may be ) while I follow Celtic Football Club……. and never the twain shall meet……. or so it would seem.

Another member of the Twitterati is someone who goes by the handle Dermo67.

Unlike Graham Spiers, who I have only ever exchanged fleeting words with when out walking (the man would not know me from Adam), I have personally known Dermot for something like 30 years.

Dermot has an advantage over Graham Spiers and I when it comes to discussing football matters, as for one fleeting moment in time it appeared that he might just earn a living by playing the game! Hard as it is to believe– and trust me when I say it is very hard to believe– our Dermot once made a fleeting appearance for Everton FC by coming on as a substitute in a first team match! Apparently the most notable incident from this sporting appearance was when he took a corner kick. I can only presume it was a dreadful corner, because other than that single game, Dermot never played for Everton again— in fact I don’t believe he played for any senior team again– and he would be disappointed if I let this matter pass without adding that having seen him play football ( and having played football with him ) I can fully understand why!!!

For the last 30 years or so Dermot has worked in the Railway industry ( or as he put it to an elderly relative at my wedding ” I’m in the travel Industry” ) where he has been involved in either the setting up of trains and carriages or in track maintenance. Pieces of track, Railway sleepers, carriages, engines— they are all inanimate objects, and with my sincerest of apologies to all train spotters, are mere lumps of metal and wood with no soul or heart. By contrast Dermot is very much a people person– with an engaging, rough and ready personality which is lost on pieces of wood and lumps of metal.

A number of years ago, Dermot received a phone call from a paid member of the social work department. The man had obviously heard about the famous Everton corner kick, and for whatever reason took the view that his time at Everton made Dermot the perfect candidate to coach a youths football team which was based at a community centre in what might be described as one of Glasgow less salubrious areas.

To prove that bizarre and illogical decisions come in groups, not only did Dermot agree to take this task on board, but he decided to ask yours truly to help him with the coaching– and even more bizarrely  I agreed.

When I say that this community centre was in a rough area I should explain that many of the kids came from in and around the one infamous and notorious street, and in due course we would find that any team plans would have to be changed at short notice because someone– sometimes more than one– had suddenly been taken into custody or had been forced to spend some time at her majesty’s pleasure. A cat with a tail down this neck of the woods was most definitely a stranger!

On the first night when we went to the club and took whoever was there for training —- I think we had just ten boys. Despite the low numbers, Dermot had them running, turning, jumping and doing exercises. To be honest I watched somewhat dumbstruck at just how he in particular interacted and essentially took charge of a bunch of youths he had just met. I have no hesitation in saying that it was both inspiring and impressive– he made it look easy and fun. For my part, I followed his lead and eventually, drawing on old videos and little past experience, we had them work with a ball– passing in triangles, pass-lay it off -shoot exercises and so on.

The following week the numbers went up to fifteen, then twenty two, then  thirty… and so the numbers grew and grew.

This was all at a time when Graeme Souness had taken over at Ibrox and Rangers were seemingly winning everything in sight and just getting stronger and stronger. It was a dark time to be a Celtic Fan. Some of the boys who eventually joined us at the club had been training with Rangers Boys Club– but for whatever reason– they decided to come and train with this makeshift raggle taggle football club in the community centre instead. When asked why, they said that the training was more fun, more hands on and more structured. How true any of this was I have no idea– all I know is that each week more and more boys came and seemed to enjoy the experience– to the extent that we had to move out of the community centre and into a local school which had a bigger gym and a playing pitch.

Training went from one night to two, then two nights to three as the boys literally begged– I kid you not– for more and more training sessions.

Now what has all this to do with Graham Spiers I hear you ask?

Well it would be fair to say that most of these boys were Rangers fans– not all– but certainly most. Further it became apparent to one and all– it was never in any way hidden– That both Dermot and I were fervent Celtic fans. This was never an issue even when we came to choose a set of strips– which the boys offered to procure in their own inimitable fashion at very little cost and with no regard for the law whatsoever– and what colour the strips should be!

Eventually, we entered the team into some kind of summer league ( I can’t for the life of me remember how or who arranged it ) where we played local church teams and others including the team that were regarded as favourites for the competition who were simply referred to as ” The young baptists”.

Our wee team did not win that league– but they did not lose a game– winning a few and drawing the rest. There was a real structure about them– one boy was to be nicknamed ” Ma baw McGurk” and being bigger than most he was coached into doing nothing other than winning any ball that was loose in the middle of the park and then passing it to more skilful guys to his right or left. These others were to be attached to “Ma baw” by an imaginary rope and so were always on hand to get the ball from him. Of course young McGurk would announce this tactic by repeatedly shouting ” Ma baw” at every opportunity– with the dual effect that his team mates knew he was about to get the ball and the opponents knew that he was about to get them if they stood in his way. I would describe him as an agricultural midfielder– a necessity in amateur football!

Eventually however the bold Dermot and I had to give the whole thing up as it was becoming ridiculous  We were now taking training 4 nights a week and playing on a Saturday– had we allowed it the boys would have played Saturday and Sunday leagues. There was no funding, no semi government structure at our backs, nothing—- and I have no doubt that when we walked away- to use a term of modern parlance- the whole thing regrettably fell apart.

Dermot had a wife and young family– I had a girlfriend who would become my wife– and to be honest the football was ruling our free time altogether. It was just impossible to continue.

Years later I recall going to Goals sports centre in Drumchapel on a Monday night for a regular 5 a side game. The day before, Rangers had won the league with a 3-0 victory at Celtic Park with Stephane Mahe being sent off and Hugh Dallas being hit on the head by a coin. The images of Dallas’ blood stained face and the ugly scenes from the game had been running constantly on Sky news with all sorts of reports that the mood in Glasgow was “ugly” and concern being expressed by the Police about the possible behaviour of both sets of fans during the week. The Police were apparently on alert!

As I went to my game that night I wondered if the usual show of Celtic and Rangers strips in the communal dressing room would be toned down or if there would be a show of superiority by Rangers fans to be met with a degree of resentment or depression by the various groups of Celtic fans– although I should add here that my own group always played in AC and Inter Milan strips.

Well, I only wish what I saw in that dressing room had been captured by television cameras. There were far more Rangers strips than normal as a result of the victory at Celtic park the day before—- and there were far more Celtic strips than normal as a result of the defeat at Celtic Park the day before! The banter in the dressing room was very funny, good natured, fun, friendly and most importantly with not a sectarian hint about the place.

Which takes me straight back to Graham Spiers who chose on a Sunday night to tell anyone who is interested that today he had gone to his church, played with his kids and was now sitting down to watch the football with a beer…. end of article.. or tweet in this case.

The boys who were Rangers fans who came to the football taken by Dermot and I all those years ago never asked us if we went to church, what we thought about the Pope, what we thought about the Protestant Churches whether they be Baptist, Episcopalian,Methodist, Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland, Anglican, High Anglican or whatever—They didn’t want to know about Catholicism, Seminaries ( not that we could have bloody well told them anything about seminaries! ), Rosary Beads, Lourdes, The Virgin Birth, Transubstantiation, Confessionals or ringing the bell and swinging the thurible– they just wanted to play football, boast about girls, avoid the polis, take the mick out the two old Celtic supporting guys, talk football and have a laugh.

Religion and religious practice had nothing to do with the price of eggs.

The guys in the dressing room at Goals that night never mentioned religion– again they wanted to do nothing more than have a laugh and talk football with people from different groups all joining in– knowing that there could so easily be a tension given the previous days result if the wrong thing was said or the wrong attitude taken. It seemed to me that with absolutely no effort at all both sets of fans avoided that scenario naturally.

As I say, I wish the Cameras had been there to see that as it showed a very different scene to the “war zone” Glasgow type image that Sky seemed to be running ad nauseam.

Religion is not everyone’s cup of tea. I know many atheists and agnostics– as well as Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and followers of various branches of Christianity. I have never understood why anyone’s religion should be anyone else’s business and I am mystified why in this day and age someone’s religion should have a baring on what football team they support– or what football team they even dislike.

Like Graham Spiers I went to church on Sunday for a chat with God. He and I have regular chats– not just on a Sunday either– and no doubt our chats are different to anyone else’s– even different to those who sit in the same church as me in much the same way that any conversation will be purely personal. I enjoy going to church– just as I enjoy going to the pub, or going to a game, or going to bed, or the shape of a good looking woman or anything else that is absolutely dead normal… to me at least.

Personally, I find that God doesn’t say much in our chats! I tend to do all the talking while he or she just seems to take a bit of note about what I say and then gets on with the job– quietly and effectively– a bit like Joe Ledley really.

Some people (like my own Children) don’t speak to God at all– and again that is their privilege and choice.

So there I am on Sunday night and my Twitter timeline tells me that Graham Spiers— Husband, Father, Beer Drinker, Football fan, Rangers Fan, has been to church, spent time with his kids and was now sitting down to watch the football!

And there was I— Husband, Father, Beer Drinker, Football Fan, Celtic Fan– who had been to church, spent time with my kids and who was now sitting down to watch the very same football– only I had a cup of tea to Graham’s Beer!

It struck me how the Rangers fan and the Celtic fan was not that different– in fact our similarities far outweigh the differences— yet that is rarely highlighted in the press or on the TV as if it is a closely guarded secret never to be spoken about or commented upon. When the media do report on Celtic and Rangers fans doing something together it is reported as a special event or as if it is something unusual– especially in England. Yet I know that this happens every single day– and I have no idea why it is not reported or mentioned as a common occurrence.

Anyway, I was delighted to see Mr Spiers announce to all and sundry that he had been to his church, had enjoyed his kids, and was looking forward to his beer and his football— I only wish that others who seek to link religion and football did so in the same way– we would all be better off for sharing Graham’s point of view.

I wonder if there is an agenda somewhere —– Is it not the done the thing to mention that many Rangers and Celtic fans actually do get on and do things together? Is there more mileage in banned songs, offensive chants and giving space to the headcase minority who hurl bile at one another across the internet? Or is there far too much emphasis on the notion that where you get the Rangers fan and the Celtic Fan then ne’er the twain shall meet?

Meanwhile. as I have been typing this diatribe, God has been sitting over there in the corner picking out his runners and riders for today………….. and  while I know that actions speak louder than words, honestly Big Man there are times I do wish you would share a few thoughts in advance!!!

Not only that– seeing as God doesn’t often say too much or answer any questions directly I wonder— Is God a Billy or a Tim? Or is his idea of purgatory being a fan of Dundee FC?

Who knows? He is one of they thrawn buggers—- I’ll need to have a word in his ear!


8 Responses to “Graham Spiers, God, and Dermo67’s Corner Kick”

  1. Dermot February 26, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Hmmm I recognise some of that pal.

  2. Auldheid (@Auldheid) February 26, 2013 at 5:01 pm #


    There is a book being published this summer (June) called Bigotry and Scottish Football. There is a foreword by Jack McConnell and most contributors are from the world of academia, but two supporters one from Celtic and one from Rangers were asked to contribute. The Celtic one follows your theme to a “T”. It may even be longer if you can believe that, but only because there was a minimum word requirement that you would have skooshed.

    I’ve seen the other chapters that all have their interesting views and the one by the Rangers chap is very encouraging.

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan February 26, 2013 at 5:36 pm #


      That is really good to hear– don’t get me wrong there are those who are hell bent on this kind of stuff but as Positive reporting has never been tried i wonder what effect that may have.

      Also if you read the accounts of, or talk to any of the Lisbon Lions or listen to the words of the late Sean Fallon they will say the same kind of thing. Bertie Auld talks about roomimg with and being looked after by Bobby Shearer when he got his Scotland call up– and Sean talked about overcoming bigotry in applying to Pollok Golf Club by having Willie Waddell as one of his referees.

      Neither of these facts brought bigotry to an end– but they did serve to show that such bigotry was not to be entertained by footballers in their own personal relationships– a sign to others perhaps?

  3. bobmcfarlan February 26, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    nice cosy civilsed picture painted herein. I almost went aahhhh at the end of it.
    Like a USA true entertainment script (it was long enough)Happy ending , God s in his Heaven etc.. I am guessing this story attempts to show a different side of or put bigotry in context
    Well I dont believe in God but I do have kids and Sunday nights and a sense of reality.
    Hatred of tims exists,as evidenced by horrific assault even deaths and threats to celtic supporters/players/ managers over the past ten yrs.
    Contempt for celtic/catholic/tim/bead rattler/ginger /plastic paddy paedos/fenian is alive and being fostered from somewhere!! Where is that do you think?

    I like Graham Speirs ,I like his truth,but even he can go only so far for the sake of his own sanity.
    Christian love wont solve this problem ,clinical psychology might,and an end to poverty

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan February 26, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Bob– there is no doubt there are bigots and the bomnbs threats and bullets you mention prove your point and there is no point whatsoever denying it.

      Nowhere do I say that this situation does not exist nor do I suggest that it has not been worse over the last wee while.

      The Point that I am getting at is that there is a whole element out there– even in the most deprived and poor areas of our country — who do not automatically concern themselves with religious bigotry and in football terms kids in the main just want to play.

      In my own life I think I have only ever come across a rancid bigot once– and he was a bank manager! Whatsmore I could not figure out his problem or why he was behaving in the way he was– I found it most odd. Then one night i was talking about this and a friend of mine who is a lifelong Rangers supporter,and had a big involvement at Ibrox through his family, simply suggested that the man I was talking about was a Mr X. When I told him he was bang on the money he simply said ” The man is a cold unadulterated bigot– he is deeply anti catholic. I know because he has the same attitude to a number of my clients all of whom have an Irish name. Report him to the bank and have him removed!”– By the way my friend is married to a girl with a very Irish Catholic name!

      And so it proved— I had someone else deal with him and very quickly that there were irregularities in his bank records which could not be explained satisfactorily and he was removed.

      That was twenty years ago– the boys football team was before that.

      Yes bigotry is fostered– all we can do is work towards where it is fostered less and less often until it is banished forever—- and pointing out that many Rangers fans want no part of it can do no harm— I think— and hope.


      • bobmcfarlan February 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

        well BRTH you are obviously a decent chap.
        Un hombre afortunado to have met only one bigot in life
        Do you get out much?
        ha ha just kidding keep up the good work,
        all best

  4. John March 10, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

    Dermo67 also told me that story about the corner kick when he was on holiday one year. He may be good at corner kicks but he’s rubbish with tennis and made some stupid excuse about not having any trainers.

    • Brogan Rogan Trevino and Hogan March 11, 2013 at 7:55 am #

      Good Morning John,

      It is funny you should mention Tennis as he and I regularly exchange views on the subject of a Tennis match which took place in Crail many a year ago. I appreciate that the weekend was interspersed with a regular alcohol intake with Messrs Justerini and Brookes featuring regularly, however Dermot’s ability to conjure up a mental image of some kind of Tennis victory never ceases to amaze me. As far as I was concerned he would have been better standing on the other side of the net with a fishing rod– it would have been as much use as the tennis racquet in his hand! Hopeless!

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