West Highland Way in a Day

News, Sport

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Glasgow window cleaner and fitness fanatic, Ryan Kinnaird has completed an epic challenge of cycling the West Highland Way in under a day to raise money for the Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity.

Ryan 1

Photo – Iain Smart

Ryan cycled the 96 mile route on Saturday 14th May in under 15 hours, starting at 5am in Fort William and reaching the finishing in Milngavie just before 8pm and raising over £1,600 for a good cause.

Ryan stated “I had been training to do the West Highland Way in a day for 3 months and yesterday I completed the full north to south route in just short of 15 hours fully supported. Having ridden the route several times over 3 and 2 days this was a personal challenge. This was one of the toughest things I have ever done”

 

He continued “The training and prep to do a day like this is crazy. Mentally challenging to say the least. The weather is an important key factor in getting a good time too. Having done several training runs, I had been caught in the wind, rain and snow. It’s not fun being blown about the top of the Devils”
The ride from Fort William to Milngavie was followed by support driver David Grier, who carried supplies and equipment and met Ryan every 2 to 3 hours wherever possible. As Ryan intended to travel light, the support van was essential to the success of the challenge as it carried food, spares and other equipment.

Ryan 4

Photo – Iain Smart

To maintain his energy levels, Ryan consumed gels and sandwiches every 40 mins, he also had to drink 500 ml of fluids every hour to stay hydrated.

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Ryan Kinnaird

Ryan has recorded a blog of his journey

Fort William to Kinlochleven
On the day of the start I got up at 4,40 to set off for 5am. I had to wake my mate up that was sleeping in his camper, he was the support. I was staying in Ossians hostel. Soon after we were a short distance to the new start which is on the high street. As it was still getting light it was cold. I opted to hurry the standard start pics.
5 am start and I was off yeeeeehaaa!!!

This first section I would take in the long climb up the zigzags across from Ben Nevis. I never had anything to eat for breakfast because I knew I would be eating every 40mins. Last time I done this climb on a full belly I nearly died. I flew this section with ease, sun was warming the air but still chilly. I reached the top of the climb and remembered time to eat a sandwich, then the count was on every 40mins after. The descent was awesome as the trails where dry and the bike just rolled so nice. Everything from Fort William to Kinlochleven was effortless. I had been training for months so legs were strong enough to handle anything. The sun was in my face for a good few miles which was annoying. I was aiming for 2 hrs to KLL. If I got to the top of the decent into KLL in under 2hrs I was laughing.

Looked at my speedo exactly 1hr 50 Yaaaas!!!!. Nailed the downhill section. Buzzing for my next stop.

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Kinlochleven to Devils Staircase

I would say one of the toughest mountain bike climbs in Scotland.  I was kind of dreading this climb. 2 weeks ago I had to walk most in the wind, rain and snow. I set off with the mindset let’s not blow up!!! I had still a long way to travel and had some other hefty climbs left over the distance. I was meeting my support at the other side of the Devils . I only opted for a single 500 ml of fluids to take. I stuck to carrying my 2 gels and sandwich in tinfoil. Parts of the Devils staircase I had to walk so I choose to eat my solids at times like this. I smoked the first section up leven rd. If you would have been around you would of heard me screaming with joy at the top of the climb YAAAAS!!!!. If you know the Devils it’s a technical climb I had a very good climb up it only having to walk very little. I smashed a time of 55 mins on strava from bottom of Kinlochlevven to the top of the Devils knocking nearly 20 mins off of my last attempt 2weeks ago. I love the Devils descent and raced to the bottom to meet my support, Dave G who is my best mate. Without him this would never have happened.

Bottom of Devils to Bridge of Orchy.
This section is a long stretch passing the Kings house and up along the side of Glencoe ski centre. In bad weather this can be brutal as it’s so exposed. The weather was amazing, the sun was splitting the sky. It’s a bit of a long drag of a climb past the ski centre. Once you are past this climb it feels like you are descending forever. That’s the rewards of climbing though. I was still sticking to my food routine. I knew after this downhill I had a beast of a climb before the downhill section to bridge of Orchy. The climb is not for the faint hearted. I think any good mountain biker would be challenged on this. Legs feeling strong, I climbed and past some walkers coming in the opposite direction looking at me with discontent. Climb over and another sandwich down 😋 time for another cracking decent. Arrived in bridge of Orchy looking for Dave but forgot I had told him to meet me at the station. Rolled into the station in under 5 hrs. I was buzzing with this time and moving quick. I wasn’t wanting to wait either few hugs replenish food and drinks and I was off again.

Bridge of Orchy to Tyndrum
This section is one of the quickest section for me. I blitz this section in just over 40 mins, being 6th fastest on strava. The terrain varies in intensity with long descents and long gradual climbs. One of the climbs you are walking for a good bit. I remember spotting a few bikers ahead. Me being me I decided to try and pull they bikers in. It wasn’t very hard as they weren’t moving quick. I stopped to chat to the boys. They were good lads and were doing the distance over 3 days, they had left earlier from the Kings house. Chatting for less than a minute with them . The shock on their faces once I told them what I was doing. I set off for the descent to Tyndrum, I wasn’t racing downhill or anything. I could hear a bike behind me, I think one of the guys behind wanted to prove something. Ain’t winning any trophies on fire road descents pal😂😂. I put the boot down rolling into Tyndrum ahead of schedule.

Tyndrum to Inveranan
I was ahead of schedule looking good for my time on the top section. The weather was getting very hot by this point. I was still religiously sticking to my eating and drinking plan. The climbs over and into Crainlarich are very steep through the woods. I pedaled quite slow up the hills that were steep and tried to gain speed on other sections that weren’t as steep. Lots of rolling hills with ups and downs. I even earned a KOM on strava on one of the descents whoop!!! Whoop!!. It’s a bit of a push with loads of uphill on the right side of the A82 of the WHW all the way down to Inveranan. They have loads of works on the trails just now so sign posts could easily direct you the wrong way as I found this out earlier having to detour. Not losing much time I was flying into Inveranan 7hrs 20mins. The descents coming down that side are fast and easily rolled to save energy. I was so happy to see Dave’s face at this point, he was phoning me 10 mins before my arrival thinking I was running late. The next stage was the hardest by far.

Inveranan to Inversnaid hike a bike

This is a very tough section but not as tough as everyone goes on about. It’s a hike a bike. The terrain in places you can ride, even myself been a good techy rider found it hard to gain rhythm. I hiked this section in 1hr 40 on a training route. I biked from drovers to Milngavie 57km with the weather brutal. In the dry I thought I would have smoked it. I was so wrong as the weather was starting to take its toll on me after 100km on the legs. I was tiring but still pushing through. I only had enough supplies for 2hrs worth. I was meeting Dave in Rowardennan and I prob wouldn’t see him for at least 3 hrs. Playing with this in my head was probably slowing me down and I was mentally torturing myself. I came up with a plan to top up my bottles with just water when I arrive at inversnaid. I knew I had An hr to go to meet Dave after inversnaid. I remember arriving at Rob Roy’s cave and thinking amazing I only have a short push and then back pedalling the bike to inversnaid. I was a lot slower this time 2hrs 30mins. Hurrying into the hotel to top my bottles up with water. I was guzzling water down, I needed it. Short phone call to Dave to tell him I’m safe and I would be an hour. Great feeling to be back on the bike. I had one caffeine gel left which was enough. I spread the feeding times out a bit more so that I had enough to get me to next meet at Rowardennan. I absolutely was in agony for that full hour. My wee toes on my feet were throbbing. After hiking, biking and been on the bike for 10hrs would do that. From inversnaid to Rowardennan is a mixture of techy and long climbs that drag for ages. On fresh legs I wouldn’t even think about the climbs. Climbing over and descending into Rowardennan was an amazing feeling. I was very close to finishing. Meeting Dave was good, he was handing me drinks, gels and sandwiches. He was asking me to many questions. I knew by this point I was running on empty but was willing to push through once hydrated and fuelled again. All I could think about was conic hill and the climb. I was just over 11hrs to here. We hadn’t discussed our next meeting point and this was a confusion for me. I took as much as I could fit in my jersey and pockets. I Told Dave to meet me at the beach tree in 3 hrs. This gave me 1hr along the shore, 1hr up conic and 1hr to the beach tree to meet him. Totally doable 👍.

Rowardennan to beach tree via Conic

The Loch Lomond shore is an easy ride with good paths up and downs. Few techy features but nothing to shout home about if you are a mountain biker. I rolled into the car park at Balmaha. Start the climb up the footpath of conic. I haven’t biked this direction before. It’s steep right till you hit the first gate. It’s now bike on shoulders till the top of the first set of steps. I was making fairly good speed up the hill but it was very tough. Couple of guys I got chatting to took my mind off the steepness. They were moving slower than me so I pushed on with the last stretch to the top. That was tough. Descent time was not that fun down. Hands were on the brakes Trying to stay safe rather than going for it like I usually would. I forgot after the descent I had a good few climbs left before I was meeting Dave at the beach tree. I soldiered on still eating like mad and double dropping gels. My pockets were full of gels. Once you are past the top of Drymen you have a load of roads to negotiate. I granny ringed all the road climbs, I was just desperate to finish now. Loads of gates were annoying me along the flattest section of the WHW to the Beach Tree. It’s fast and i covered ground here very quick and arrived on schedule or before. Topped up on last fluids, caffeine shot this time round.

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Photo – Iain Smart

Final stretch to Milngavie

I knew from here I was going to do it in 15hrs. I had 10km left and had the last climb of the day to do. I was gonna slowly spin up the Yeti climb the back of Mugdock park. It’s a climb on a good day but not after 150km. Slowly but surely I made it to the top. In my own head it was complete. I felt with the last climb done it was just a straight finish to the town centre. My energy and spirits had been lifted by a shot of caffeine. I booted the last bit through Mugdock park overtaking a group of riders along the way. I felt I was getting faster and faster. I rolled into the town centre minutes shy of 8pm after setting off in Fort William at 5am. Family and friends waiting and cheering. I was deranged and had to take a minute to realise what I had just done.

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Ryan 2

Photo – Iain Smart

 

I was recording my ride on strava and was gutted to see my phone was dead and out of battery. I only managed to record 120km. It’s done know and sitting in the house tonight I couldn’t be happier. I owe my life to my friends and family for supporting me. Vicky Logan you are my rock and world. David Grier I couldn’t have done it without you. Thanks West

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ryan-Kinnaird

Field of Dreams

Entertainment, Sport

As Neil Diamond so eloquently put it “Everywhere around the world, they’re coming to America, Every time that flag’s unfurled, they’re coming to America. Got a dream to take them there, they’re coming to America.” Just like his song lyrics, I followed my American dream and I now find myself studying at the University of California, immersing myself in the culture and traditions that make up the fabric of attending an American University.

One major tradition is sport; it cannot be avoided while navigating your way around an American campus. The Addidas tracksuits sported by the athletes, soccer players, basketball players, volley ball players and baseball players in lectures are testament to the vast amount of budding sports stars in California.  The only sport that seems to be missing at the University of California, Irvine is American Football. A football team is expensive to form and to run, from building a stadium and maintaining it, to the large numbers of players involved in playing the game and the subsequent scholarships and funding. Rumour has it they build a Science library at UC Irvine, for the same cost as setting up a football team.  But if I’m honest, American football is not really my thing. I tried it at Glasgow and if I’m honest I think it sounded cooler than it actually was, for me it’s too technical and stop start, with lots of calculations and yardage to count, math’s was never my strong point, so it was never going to be my sport.

The lack of a football team at my University is no great loss. In fact I wasn’t even that enthralled by the Superbowl, aside from the razzmatazz, fanfare and early drinking in a bar, the actual game was quite boring; confounded by the fact it was technically won by a guy falling on his arse with the ball and scoring a touchdown in the last few minutes of the game. I prefer other American sports, such as basketball and baseball. I recently took in a College basketball game at the UCI Bren Centre, with a crowd of 4,000 in attendance for a midweek game, and it was being televised live on some obscure ESPN channel. They really know how to put on a show and the game was like a mini NBA game, with all the same side shows and displays from cheerleaders. The court they play on, is also used by Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers, as part of his early morning training regime, I’ve not spotted him yet, but I doubt I will as he trains at 6 or 7am and I’m still in my American dreamland at that time of the morning.

One such dream I had, was to watch my first baseball game at a legendary and historic stadium, like Wrigley’s in Chicago or Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, but life has a funny way of not fulfilling your dreams. For instance, I always dreamt I would lose my virginity to a Swedish Olympic Volleyball player, but that never transpired.  So I made a compromise, I took in my first baseball game at the Anteater Stadium here at UC Irvine, to watch UCI take on UC San Diego. It was a warm, balmy night and the stadium was alive with the sounds and smells of a ball game. The organ music was being piped through the loudspeakers and hot dogs were grilling in the food kiosks behind the main stand. Proud parents and relatives took their seats to watch their respective connections.

I was captivated by it all, from the uniforms of the teams, to the national anthem at the start of the game and the stars and stripes swirling above the large, logo infested scoreboard. This was America in all its glory; I was basking in some of its finest and most cherished heritage, which essentially, when boiled down, is just a very glamorous game of rounder’s.  But that’s what they do best; they manage to elevate mundane or ordinary things to a higher status, by adding tinsel, trimmings and a lathering of Americana. I bought into it hook, line and sinker. I slurped on my big gulp soda, I munched my nachos, although sadly not from a Homer Simpson style nacho hat and I wolfed down my hot dog. The only thing I couldn’t manage to do, was bring myself to whoop and cheer as enthusiastically as the locals, there was no point in trying to compete, as nobody can come close to the American enthusiasm for sport. So I opted for a mix of polite clapping, with the odd nod of approval thrown in for good measure, the likes of which can be witnessed on football terraces across the UK, by people who believe they could have done the same thing as the star player. In some weird way, I think I did. In my head I was saying things like “I was quite good at rounders at school” and “How difficult can this actually be?” I also realized that the majority of the players, were not exactly the most svelte or toned of athletes, which again encouraged my mind to wander and consider that as long as you can hit the ball very far, you can afford to be as out of shape as you like, as you can just walk around the bases, while chewing on your tobacco and saluting the home fans. This is why I like baseball, as it leaves the door open for us non-athletes. I could never keep up with the pace of a College basketball game, I would need an oxygen tank and paramedics on standby, to even attempt it. But get me one of those pinstripe uniforms and the tin hat, give me a few weeks in a batting cage and I reckon I could be taking my place at the plate. Just like the other players, I would have my own theme music, probably something Scottish based to milk the crowd and then I would aim to send the ball high over the illuminated scoreboard and out into the Californian wilderness. It’s probably at this point I wake up, but hey we have to keep dreaming, in the hope they one day come true.

Scottish Giant hungry for another Super Bowl

Sport
Getty Images

Lawrence Tynes

As Americans prepare for one of their greatest sporting traditions ‘Super Bowl Sunday’ where the New York Giants take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, not many will realise there will be a Scotsman out there on the field at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Amongst all the fanfare, cheerleading, ticker tape and fireworks there will be Lawrence Tynes, the Scottish-born New York Giants placekicker who was born in Greenock in 1978.

Tynes is the son of a US Navy SEAL who was stationed in Scotland and a Scottish Mother. He spent the first 10 years of his life in Scotland before moving to the United States with his family.

The self-proclaimed Celtic fan is no stranger to the Super Bowl as he won the title in 2008 with the Giants, making him the first Scottish-born NFL player to have won a Super Bowl ring. Another record he holds is that he was the first player to score NFL points at the new Wembley Stadium when the Giants played the Miami Dolphins in London on October 28, 2007.

Tynes who kicked a 31-yard field goal in overtime against the San Francisco 49ers to send the Giants to Super Bowl XLVI has told the Celtic View of his love of Scotland and of Celtic. “My roots are in Scotland. This is where I was born,” Tynes said. “Even if I don’t have the accent any more, I’m still Scottish, and it’s great to know people will be supporting me back home.

“I want to come back to Scotland. I want to take my wife over, and I think my kids are old enough now – they’ll be five in the summer – for this kind of trip, and to go to a Celtic game would be awesome.”

But for now Tynes has the small matter of Super Bowl XLVI to think about and added “The past couple of months I’ve just focused on our football, but once the seasons over, I can get back on the Internet and start following Celtic again.”

The Scottish-born NFL star is hoping this game can boost his recognition in the land of his birth as he explained “I went to a hockey game here in New York last week at Madison Square Gardens. They showed me on the big screen and 18,000 people gave me a standing ovation, which was pretty cool, so 60,000 people at Celtic Park would be even better.”

Tynes who scored the first and last points (5 points in total – including 1 field goal) in the New York Giants’ Super Bowl XLII victory in 2008 explained he would like one more record added to his career highlights “Hopefully I’ll also become the first Scot to win the Super Bowl twice.”

*Full interview published in Celtic View

Kris Boyd goes from Turkey to Timbers as he joins MLS

Sport

In a move to revive his career Kris Boyd has decided to move stateside and join up with ex-Rangers player John Spencer at the Major League Soccer outfit the Portland Timbers.

The 28-year-old former Rangers striker was a free agent having terminated his contract with Turkish side Eskisehirspor and this paved the way for his move across the Atlantic.

Boyd experienced a dismal spell in Turkey and will now look to get his career back on track playing at the Jeld-Wen Field in Oregon, working under the guidance of ex-Rangers striker John Spencer.

The Scottish Premier League’s all-time leading scorer with 164 goals told the club’s official website: “I’m delighted to be in Portland and hopefully I’ll be over as soon as the visa matches up to be in time to be ready for the season.

John Spencer knows what it takes to be successful in the USA, having scored 37 goals in 88 appearances for Colorado Rapids he said: “Kris is a proven goal scorer at the highest levels of the game, and we expect that to continue here in Portland.

“We’ve been looking for this type of traditional number nine player and are very pleased we found him.”

The club’s owner and president Merritt Paulson added: “Kris perfectly fits the profile of the team’s needs and will make a huge impact. I’ve said from the beginning that we are committed to winning and will make a significant investment on the player front if it is the right fit for the organisation.”

After ten seasons in the SPL with Kilmarnock and Rangers, Boyd joined Middlesbrough for the 2010-11 season and also had a loan spell with Nottingham Forest, prior to his lucrative move to Eskisehirspor. He will complete his move subject to a medical and work permit.

NBA stalemate could signal the end of player power

Sport

The National Basketball Association (NBA) lockout could potentially signal a sea of change in the world of sport. The owners of the NBA teams have had enough of entrenching themselves in debt in order to build a winning side and have decided to take a stance. The NBA as a whole has been losing $300 million dollars per year over the past several years and 70% of teams are running at a loss each year. If they are successful in redressing the balance of power, they could potentially start a revolution in terms of how sports stars are paid and perhaps even reduce the influence of player power when it comes to financial matters.

The lockout which has forced the cancellation of the NBA season has stemmed from a breakdown in negotiations between players and owners.  The teams are struggling to cope with spiraling debt, caused mainly by the vast sums paid in player’s wages and in order to address this issue and to try to alleviate their financial worries, the owners have called for a salary cap of $45 million per team. The one stumbling block they have come up against is the rather tall brick wall of superstar players they have on their teams. They are the ones who hold all the cards when it comes to negotiating the multimillion dollar contracts that are crippling their franchises. The result of this stalemate is that there is no Basketball and the people who really matter, the fans, are being deprived of watching their favourite teams.

What has this got to do with other sports? Well change the playing surface and the ball and it could easily sound like the description of any British football team; multimillionaire players earning vast sums of money, which in many cases forces clubs into administration. The extortionate wages being paid in the British game has brought many a footballing giant to its knees, such as Leeds United and Portsmouth in the English premier league. They are both examples of clubs that were spending way beyond their means in terms of player salaries and transfers and ultimately it cost them their place at the top table of English football.

Closer to home we have previously seen examples of teams like Gretna FC trying to buy their way to the top, it eventually got them there, but the time spent in the rarefied upper echelons of the top flight was fleeting. The bubble soon burst and they dropped out of the top flight, plighted with debt from players’ salaries. The solution was to offload the high earners who simply moved on to other teams willing to pay the going rates and the club was soon back down in the lower divisions.

If the same principles of the NBA lockout were applied to football in the UK, it could have as profound an effect as the 1995 Bosman ruling. Except it would now shift the balance of power from players back to the clubs. It could lead to a salary cap, a reduction in clubs operating debts and perhaps even make it a more level playing field, as with a salary cap enforced, teams would not be able to simply buy their way to titles and trophies. Instead they would be forced to nurture young talent and build teams consisting of maybe one or two superstars playing alongside local home-grown players.

The reckless spending has come home to roost for many teams, including Glasgow Rangers, who now find themselves in a precarious financial situation, most of which can be traced back to trying to spend their way to the Champions league. A few years of not earning the big money from UEFA and TV deals soon has an impact and they are now paying for years of living beyond their means. But this story can be associated with the majority of clubs in Britain. Perhaps chairmen up and down the country are watching events unfold across the pond and considering implementing some changes of their own in order to protect and preserve clubs for future generations of fans rather than succumb to the demands of the current crop of multimillionaire players who bleed their clubs dry.

Glaswegian takes on Galaxy

Sport

The build-up to the MLS Cup Final in Los Angeles made this game feel more suitable to Hampden than Hollywood. Rain poured for 8 hours in the City before kick-off, which turned the pitch into a mud bath and had fans seeking shelter under a sea of plastic ponchos.

One man who would have been used to this kind of weather was Houston Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat. Just four years ago the Glaswegian was plying his trade in the Scottish Third Division and considering walking away from the game altogether. Tonight he went head to head with David Beckham and his LA Galaxy stars in the showpiece of American soccer.

The 25-year-old and his Texan teammates sported an array of “lucky beards”, a tradition the Houston team had renewed from their two previous MLS playoff campaigns. Unfortunately their lucky beards and Moffat’s battling in midfield was not enough to stop the LA Galaxy stars from lifting the ultimate reward in US soccer, thanks to a Landon Donovan goal in the 70th minute.

Amazed at his rise through the ranks in such a short time and at the prospect of playing Beckham Moffat told reporters “It’s not something that would ever have popped into my mind,” He continued “Looking at it now, it’s remarkable. When I was younger, I thought there might be a good chance of coming up against him. But I wouldn’t have dreamt of it happening in LA, in an MLS Cup final.”

Moffat began his career in the lower divisions of the Scottish League, playing for Ross County and Elgin City. In 2007 Moffat moved to the United States to play for Cleveland City Stars in the USL Second Division, he was such a stand out in that first season he was named in the league’s Best XI.

His performances caught the eye of MLS scouts and he was soon snapped up by Columbus Crew. Moffat quickly became a fans favourite, in thanks to his work ethic on and off the field, but sadly his first season was hampered by a knee injury that ruled him out for the rest of the league campaign.

In 2010, he was selected in the MLS Expansion Draft by the Portland Timbers, managed by fellow Scotsman John Spencer. This summer Moffat was traded from Portland Timbers to his current team Houston Dynamo.

The tough tackling Scotsman has quickly made himself popular with the Texas soccer fans, thanks to his work rate in midfield and also with the sensational 40-yard goal he scored in August against his former team Portland Timbers. The top corner strike was named an MLS Goal of the Week with a potential nomination for MLS Goal of the Year.

Sadly, he could not repeat his wonder strike here in Los Angeles, but he did go close with a header in the 65th minute of the game, which glanced just past the Galaxy goal.

The game will be seen by many as David Beckham’s swan song here in Los Angeles, the midfielder, who played with a hamstring injury helped his side clinch the 2011 Cup and has capped his 5 years in California, knowing that attendances are up at games and the title is back at the Home Depot Centre.

For Moffat, who was cheered on by the legions of Orange shirted Houston fans, many of whom had travelled over 24-hours by road to the game, he battled to the final whistle, but he could not stop Beckham from adding another medal to his vast collection, as he brings the curtain down out on his Los Angeles career.

Sporting chokes strike fear into the biggest stars

Sport

The unraveling of 21-year old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy in the recent US Masters golf tournament was just the latest in a long line of sporting meltdowns. The sporting choke can strike at any time and has been known to affect bigger and more experienced names than the young golfer.

But he is in good company, ever since Devon Loch collapsed just before the winning post in the 1956 Grand National, the enigmatic failure has captured the British imagination far more than the uncomplicated winner.

With victory almost within grasp, the mind can play dangerous games with our sporting heroes. I’m sure more highly qualified people than me, with degrees in sporting psychology could explain the real reasons behind it, but ultimately I have to hold my hands up and say I enjoy watching them unfold. Not in a sadistic way, for it was not at all pleasurable watching McIlroy hacking around Augusta like me at the local pitch and putt. Yet witnessing this drama somehow makes our sports stars seem all the more human, they can fail just like us and it seems they can make mistakes after all.

When it comes to viewing sport, the meltdown is a must see. I mean who really wants to watch the safe pair of hands, the calm head or the steely determined sports star anyway? If they were all in this mould then watching sport would be no fun at all. For every Stephen Hendry I want a Ronnie O’Sullivan, I would much rather see the unpredictable, rash play of Ronnie, with his threat of walking away from the table at any moment hanging in the air, (as he has demonstrated in the past). And for every Michael Schumacher I want to see the flamboyance of an Ayrton Senna or the daredevil attitude of a James Hunt.

In truth there’s nothing better than watching millionaire sport stars throwing a temper tantrum in front of legions of adoring fans. So credit where credit is due to young McIlroy, for handling his public choke in front of millions around the world, in the manner he did. When he left the last green he gave a TV interview and conducted himself in a style befitting a golfer far senior in age and experience than his. In the aftermath he treated the defeat graciously, giving credit to the eventual winner Charl Schwartzel.

Personally speaking, if it had been me I would have been more ‘Happy Gilmore’ than happy go lucky at the end of that round. I would not have been able to conduct myself in that manner, I would have smashed my driver against one of Augusta’s pine trees, threw my golf bag in the lake and launched my putter into the ‘patrons’, but that’s why I’m serving a life time ban from my local pitch and putt course and not playing at the masters.

Other famous stars who have fallen at the final hurdle include great sporting names and icons such as Greg Norman, the ‘Great White Shark’ himself faltering on the last day of the Masters at Augusta. In football we witnessed the ‘divine ponytail’ Roberto Baggio famously choke with the final penalty for Italy at the World Cup USA ’94. He had carried his country to the final, scoring the winner in each round, but in the final against Brazil in what should have been his moment of triumph he watched helplessly as his kick sailed over the bar and with it, his country’s hopes.

Another iconic image from the world of golf was of Jean Van de Velde, trousers rolled up, standing in the burn playing the 18th hole of the 1999 British Open, only for him to triple-bogey and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, with the famous Claret Jug within pouring distance.

For every stiff upper lip and displays of sporting graciousness we also have the rebels of the pack. Those sports stars that wear their hearts on their sleeve and don’t care how many people are watching, if they aren’t winning it then as far as they are concerned nobody should.

When things weren’t going so well, Mike Tyson, once the most feared fighter on the planet, decided to take a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s ear during a heavyweight battle in Las Vegas in June of 1997. Likewise French football star Zinedine Zidane literally saw red at the 2006 World Cup Final, when he floored Italian defender Marco Materazzi with a head butt to the chest of the Italian defender, after he apparently insulted his sister.

In the normally sedate tennis world of strawberries and cream, Serena Williams let her emotions get the better of her, losing her U.S. Open Semifinal against Kim Clijsters in 2009, when she unleashed the following tirade to a lineswoman “ I swear to God, Ill fucking take this ball and shove it down your fucking throat.” An outburst that would surely have them choking on their Pimms at SW1.

Then there is the sub division, the bubblers and criers. From Gazza at the 1990 World Cup to boxer Oliver McCall, who broke down in tears during the fourth round of a 1997 heavyweight title fight against Lennox Lewis in Las Vegas. And in the world of Tennis Jana Novotná, blubbing on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder after collapsing in a Wimbledon final in 1993.

In sport as in life, failure is only relative: it is how you handle failure that matters. And I applaud the way McIlroy handled his failure after the Masters. Maybe it’s a lesson to us all in how to conduct ourselves, but there is still that part of me that would have loved to see him smash his driver against a tree!

Old Firm: New era, age old problems

Politics, Sport

Glasgow was named as Scotland’s ‘artistic powerhouse’ this week, once again proud to be called a City of Culture. Ironically this announcement came the day before the Scottish Government held their Old Firm summit at Holyrood, to discuss the mayhem surrounding the recent Celtic and Rangers games in the city, a game the government described as “disgraceful”.

On hearing the news of this artistic accolade, the pride and excitement of Glasgow’s civic leaders was hard to contain. As Council leader Gordon Matheson stated in a recent interview with The Evening Times “We are a city that innovates in performance and takes pride in its cultural legacy. We celebrate the past, always with an eye to investing in the future…Glasgow is unique”.

Glasgow is unique indeed, a proud City, built from profits of the empire and now changed beyond all recognition from the age of the industrial revolution and ship building, that made the city of Glasgow famous across the world. However, this ‘artistic powerhouse’ also has a seedier side to its cultured image, this schizophrenic element to the City, that can boast so much in the way of attracting tourists, also has the power to utterly horrify the same revenue generating tourists, with sights of the alcohol fuelled bigotry that plagues the streets on the day of an Old Firm game.

The summit has been denounced by some involved in football, as nothing more than political point scoring. But what we have to ask, is why do we find ourselves in a situation where Politicians have to step in, in order to try to sort out the embarrassment caused by this football fixture. In 2011, Glasgow is still haunted by the spectre of bigotry and hatred that fuels the violence, hooliganism and vandalism. Some so-called ‘fans’ on both sides of the divide still associate themselves more with the outcome of the Battle of the Boyne than they do with present day Glasgow. They have not evolved to consider that this bigoted, narrow-minded outlook has no place in society or in a football game in the 21st Century.

The question arises, How do we halt this downward slide? and How do we stop the mayhem spilling out onto our streets at the final whistle? These are the questions the police, the clubs and the politicians will debate over long and hard. Firstly, we have to get back to basics and remember, that as corny and clichéd as it sounds, it is only a game. It is certainly not worth anyone dying over the outcome of this match. If I was able to make a suggestion at the summit, I would ask that both Celtic and Rangers hold a joint press conference in the week leading up to an Old Firm game, to show a unity and a stance against bigotry. The madness stems from what happens on the pitch, it is fuelled by alcohol and other social problems, but ultimately it comes from what happens on the football field. It is no coincidence that the more volatile the game, the more violence pours onto Glasgow’s streets.

Statistics from previous encounters have shown that on the day of a game, 300 arrests were made and domestic violence soared by 80%. Chief Constable Steve House commented that the games this season have put “an intolerable burden” on Strathclyde Police. A burden that is shared by the taxpayer, as it’s estimated this seasons games will cost £40 million in terms of policing, prosecutions and hospital care.

It is understood Celtic chief executive Peter Lawwell and Rangers chief executive Martin Bain will attend the summit with Mr House, Mr Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Also attending will be Strathclyde Assistant Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan, Strathclyde Police director of communications Rob Shorthouse, Celtic security chief Ronnie Hawthorn, Rangers security chief David Martin, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan, SPL chief executive Neil Doncaster and SFL chief executive David Longmuir. Surely between this meeting of minds, they can come up with a solution on how to tackle the problems arising from this fixture.

Other suggestions would be to encourage players to applaud each other off the park, as they do in Rugby, to demonstrate to fans that the rivalry ends at the final whistle and to show that nothing should go beyond the football field. Players have to realise, their conduct significantly impacts on social issues, their behaviour, their reaction to referees decisions and the way they play the game has an impact on the lives of those who live and work in Glasgow and have to live cheek by jowl with the two football powerhouses.