Stranraer goalkeeper David McGurn has revealed he found out about his side’s glamour draw with Celtic thanks to one of his Hoops-daft students breaching a classroom ban on mobile phones.
The 35-year-old is a lecturer in Sports Science at Cardonald College by trade and he was midway through a tutorial yesterday when news of the lucrative tie filtered through – via the fan’s sneaky smartphone.
McGurn told Capital City Press: “I actually found out from one of the students in the class. He said ‘congratulations’ and I said ‘what are you talking about?’ He told me that Stranraer had got Celtic.
“My first reaction was ‘how do you know? You’re not supposed to have your phone out!’
“I’ll let him away with it this time, since he was giving me good news! He’s a Celtic fan – we have a good mix of Celtic and Rangers fans in the class – so he’ll be hoping I get hammered.
“It’s an absolutely brilliant draw for us. You either want a very winnable home tie or you want Celtic at home. We’ve been lucky enough to get the latter. The boys have already been texting each other and it’s superb for the club.
“Hopefully we can make a bit of money, get some coverage from the tie and, ultimately, we’ll give it our best to get a result.”
McGurn is targeting a remarkable Old Firm double after a fine Scottish Cup campaign last season, which ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat against the eventual winners Inverness at the quarter final stage.
He was between the sticks for Raith Rovers when they produced one of the shocks of the fifth round by claiming a 2-1 victory over Rangers at Ibrox.
He recalls how the Fifers were written off ahead of the tie, having been beaten 4-0 and 6-1 by the Gers earlier in the campaign – however, goals from Ryan Conroy and Christian Nade were enough to send Grant Murray’s men through.
Now on loan at Stranraer, McGurn knows that result will pale into insignificance if the League One side can somehow find a way past the Premiership champions.
The Rovers Hall of Famer said: “Going to Ibrox, no-one gave us a chance but we dug in, we worked hard and we beat them.
“Especially in a cup game, down at Stranraer, absolutely anything can happen this time round. A lot of teams don’t enjoy coming down to Stair Park and, although I’m sure they are professional, hopefully we can make it a difficult place to come for Celtic.
“No-one will give us much of a chance but, knowing the boys in that dressing room and the attitude we have, we’ll go out trying to win the game – even against Celtic.
“Make no mistake, we have a good team. We’ve had a scrappy start to the season, with a few disappointing results, but we are an experienced side with plenty of quality in there.
“Of course Celtic will be massive favourites, and rightly so. We’re not daft. But we won’t be there to make up the numbers.”]]>
Fans’ favourite Michael Weir reckons Hibernian can maintain their title challenge to Rangers this season – because the players have now got to grips with playing for the club.
Weir, who lifted the League Cup with Hibs in 1991, grew up a supporter of the club and is desperate to see his boyhood heroes returned to what he believes is their rightful place in the country’s top division.
The Easter Road outfit face a battle to get there this term, however, as they chase Rangers at the top for the title and the one automatic promotion spot.
The uncertainty of the play-offs means the pressure is on to continue an incredible run of 14 wins in their last 15 matches to challenge Rangers at the summit.
And former winger Weir, who played 247 times for Hibs over two periods in the 1980s and ’90s, believes the current success is down to the squad embracing those high expectations on their shoulders.
The 49-year-old said: “I think they’ve improved massively. The manager has gone down the route of getting younger players and he’s picked them really well.
“He’s trying to get a style of play that suits the Hibs, because the Hibs have always been a team who play attacking football, all the way through from when I was young.
“And I think the players have grown in stature as well. The experience of last season has helped them and also the players who have come in have started to get to grips with the club.
“This is a big club, people forget that. This is a club that means you have a lot of expectation on your back when you play for the club.
“I think they’re starting to handle that and I think the supporters are starting to realise they’re on the right route.
“It’s going to take a wee bit more time but hopefully if they can get out of this league this season then I think the club will move on no end.”
Down to the wire
Defeats to Dumbarton and Rangers, and a draw at home to St Mirren in the opening weeks of the season, instantly gave Hibs a mountain to climb in chasing a Rangers team that proved unbeatable in the league until the Easter Road side won a ding-dong battle last month.
Weir is now hopeful Hibs can maintain their current run of nine consecutive victories to have a chance of pipping Rangers to the title in April.
In an interview with Hibs TV at a Show Racism the Red Card event, ‘Mickey’ added: “I think it will go right down to the wire. But you’ve got other teams as well, there’s not just Hibs and Rangers.
“There’s other teams who could cause problems. They may not necessarily win the league, but they can cause others problems, and that’s where the knife-edge will come into it.
“We’re positioned well, it’s just all about consistency and winning football matches. There’s no better feeling than going every week and picking up the points.
“Success breeds success and that winning feeling is the only feeling worth having in that changing room.”
Meanwhile, head coach Alan Stubbs has admitted his side have been handed a difficult tie in the Scottish Cup after being drawn to face Raith Rovers away from home in January.
Stubbs said: “We’re obviously familiar with Raith Rovers and we know them well. The match will be a tough challenge, but I’m sure they’ll be saying the same.
“We’ll put it to the back of our minds for now – there’s a few weeks until the game so we’ll concentrate on the next few matches and look forward to the cup game when it comes around.”
Peter Houston has backed Mixu Paatelainen to spark a revival at Dundee United – if he can use his Europe-wide contacts to unearth another couple of signings in the New Year.
Houston, who won the Scottish Cup with United in 2010, met up with the new Tanandice boss over a cup of tea when Falkirk hosted the Tangerines in an under-20s match last week.
With the way things are going for both clubs – with United struggling at the foot of the Premiership and Falkirk tucked in just behind Rangers and Hibernian at the top of the Championship – there remains the possibility they could face each other across the dugouts in a play-off at the end of the season.
However, Houston is hopeful Paatelainen can turn things around in the second half of the campaign, with the aid of some fresh faces to add to those of former Borussia Dortmund and West Ham defender Guy Demel and ex-Liverpool and Atletico Madrid striker Florent Sinama Pongolle.
Houston said: “I was talking to Mixu last week and he has a good head on him, he’s a good manager.
“The good thing from United’s perspective is they still have a lot of games to play.
“All it needs is a run of three or four wins on the trot, which is what every manager is looking for. It’s harder to do in the Premiership, but all of a sudden you’re back in the mix.
“And I’m convinced that with a wee bit of ‘dishing and dashing’ in January they can do that.
“Sometimes a bit of freshness can make a difference and they have two fresh players in with Pongolle and Demel.
“I’m convinced that will give the players around them a lift. Sometimes a couple of new faces can quickly change it.
“So if they add a couple and they are the right type – and Mixu will have his own ideas about who they may be – they can lift the club.
“Mixu has a wide knowledge of what is going on in Europe players-wise, so I think his contacts within the game will point him to some players who will improve them.”
Houston, meanwhile, is determined not to allow the prospect of a Scottish Cup run derail Falkirk’s league ambitions.
The Bairns were unlucky losers in May’s final against Inverness Caley Thistle and will retain hopes of again progressing deep into the competition, despite being drawn to face Dundee away in the fourth round.
The Championship outfit missed out on a promotion play-off spot last term after making it to Hampden, but Houston is hopeful they can fight on both fronts this year – even if the league is his priority.
He added: “I think successful teams and good teams can handle both, and I would like to think with a year’s more experience we could do that.
“The run in the cup was fantastic and we’d love to do that again.
“But good sides can put their league form to one side when they have a cup-tie, and they also don’t let the cup distract them from where they want to get to in the league.
“I have got to try and get that mentality within our boys where nothing distracts us.
“The league is our bread and butter, the national cup is there to be enjoyed, but the biggest aim for this football club is to get back into the elite group.
“That’s our biggest focus. We want to get into the play-offs, as I have said before – but if we were to go on the same run as last year I would be more than delighted.”
Raith Rovers have been dealt a massive blow after it emerged skipper Jason Thomson will be out for up to two months with a broken bone in his back.
The former Hearts defender has already been sidelined for a month with a back injury but the true extent of the problem has only surfaced following an appointment with an osteopath last week.
The full-back heads an extensive injury list that manager Ray McKinnon admits leaves the Kirkcaldy club ‘down to the bare bones’ for Saturday’s home clash with Rangers.
Defender Lewis Toshney is a major doubt with a hamstring problem and forward Mitch Megginson has medial ligament damage.
Both of them missed Saturday’s Scottish Cup win over Elgin City and, since that 2-1 victory, the Fifers also have doubts over Kyle Benedictus, Ryan McCord and Grant Anderson, whilst Mark Stewart has been playing through the pain barrier for weeks with an ankle problem.
It is likely to be Friday before McKinnon has an idea of the line-up he can field against Rangers and he admits it is not ideal for such a massive test.
McKinnon, who is relishing the prospect of back-to-back encounters with Hibernian in the New Year after yesterday’s Scottish Cup draw, said: “Jason had a scan and it showed a fracture in his back. We’re not really sure how long he’s going to be out for but it could take up to two months to settle down.
“It’s a real blow for the club and for the lad, because he’s an important player for us and we were really hoping to have him back.
“There’s quite a few others we’re monitoring and we’re keeping our fingers crossed for the weekend.
“Mitch and Tosher missed the weekend and Benedictus, Anderson and McCord haven’t trained this week. Mark Stewart’s been brilliant playing through an ankle injury as well.
“We’re down to the bare bones and we’ll just have to see what we’ve got available on Friday.”
Colin Nish has urged Cowdenbeath not to lose sight of the task of seeing off Arbroath this weekend after both sides were handed the incentive of a plum tie against Rangers at Ibrox in the next round.
The pair drew 1-1 on Saturday and will now fight it out at Gayfield this weekend for the right to earn a money-spinning trip to Govan in the New Year.
It is a fourth-round draw that has added an extra slice of excitement to Saturday’s replay and Nish is hopeful it is an opportunity his players can grab with both hands.
The Blue Brazil boss commented: “It’s a big draw, but we’re not through yet and it probably adds a wee bit to the next game.
“A cup run for the likes of Cowdenbeath is all about the finances, getting a run for the supporters and the players enjoying it.
“Realistically, we’re not going to go on and win it, but you want to put in a run and you want to make some money for the club – and this would be a great way of making money for the club, getting a tie like that at Ibrox.
“It’s a huge incentive for us to get through, but it’s also a huge incentive for Arbroath and we do realise that.
“We’ve got a job to do first, but we know now who we would play in the next round, and it would be great if we managed to get through – and we’ll be determined to do that.
“If it can give us that extra wee bit to get through then great, but it will be a tough game because Arbroath are a decent team and they’re at home.
“It doesn’t change a lot, really, in terms of what we’ve got to do, because we’ve still got to go up to Arbroath and win.
“The only difference now is we know who we would play in the next round and it is the tie that a lot of people involved in Cowdenbeath would like.”
Dunfermline manager Allan Johnston is convinced Scotland needs bigger leagues after facing Ayr United in the first of two matches in the space of just a fortnight.
The Pars progressed past their League One rivals to reach the fourth round of the Scottish Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 victory at Somerset Park at the weekend.
After hosting Brechin City this Saturday, the Fifers then return to Ayr in 10 days’ time for the second of four league meetings between the sides.
It is a familiarity that Johnston insists was thankfully missing when he played south of the border with Sunderland and Middlesbrough, as well as during loan spells with Birmingham City, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday.
And, after Falkirk chairman Doug Henderson called recently for a return to larger leagues, Johnston believes playing each team just twice over the course of a league campaign would be a welcome move.
He said: “That’s probably the problem with Scottish football – you play the same teams too many times.
“If you look at last season, Dundee United and Celtic played each other something crazy like seven times. It just gets ridiculous.
“We need bigger leagues, just to freshen things up.
“I think it’s better for the fans when you go and see different teams in different grounds, rather than ending up with wee vendettas between people when you’re playing them so many times.
“Playing in England, I much preferred playing teams home and away. It was great going to different grounds and different clubs.
“You really looked forward to going to clubs because you were only going to play them once away from home.
“It was brilliant and a real occasion. It was good for the fans as well, so I think bigger leagues would be better.”
10-year-old Aron Anderson, from Da Skerries on Shetland, is the only pupil left at his school after older students moved on to Lerwick Academy earlier this year.
He has no children to play with at breaktimes, his best friends are a dog, ducks and a flock of sheep and the other kids only come home at weekends.
A kind-hearted Scot was so moved by his plight that they have rallied an online community to give the boy a Christmas he won’t forget.
And now thousands of people have agreed to send the youngster as many Christmas cards as they possibly can.
Ross McMahon, who posted the plea on Reddit over the weekend, wrote: “Last week, I was moved by the news story of ‘Britain’s loneliest schoolboy’.
“At the time, I said we should do something to make him feel less lonely. I thought it would be very nice if we all sent him some Christmas cards.
“I really want him to get a big massive smile on his face, so please, write a wee message in the card to show your support too!
“We have 20,000 subscribers on here and even if 1% of you send a card that’s 200 cards to a lonely boy to cheer his Christmas right up.
“I hope you do me proud and send some nice festive cheer.”
The post has attracted hundreds of comments, with some people from as far away as Canada and New Zealand agreeing to send a card.
One subscriber asked: “Would a Hawaiian themed Christmas card in the place of a postcard be ok? What a sweet idea.”
Another wrote: “Michigan here. Sending one this week to make sure it gets there in time.”
One person added: “I’ll send him a card from Saudi Arabia!”
Speaking about the response, Ross said: “There are so few people living on the islands anymore, so it’s really easy to forget that it must surely get lonely there.
“Aron had brothers and sisters at the school, so it wasn’t so bad. But now that they’ve moved on to bigger and better things, he’s been left on his tod.
“It was a kind of spur-of-the-moment thing to decide to send him some cards. I thought it was a safe and cool way to send some festive cheer.
“When I phone up the school to let them know I was planning on doing it, they said they were sure it would put a smile on his face, and that’s what this time of year is all about.”
Aron’s mother Denise said: “This is going to be his first winter as the only pupil so it’s hard to tell how it will be for him.
“I do feel sorry for Aron being all by himself at the school – but he really is happy. Spending a lot of time with adults has made him quite grown-up, but he does enjoy trips to the mainland to meet other children.
“I just wish we could go back ten years. It would be lovely to have some more families here. And if any did decide to come, there is already a 10-year-old here for their children to play with.”
Anyone wishing to send Aron a card should address it to: Aron Anderson, Skerries School, Skerries, Shetland, ZE21 9AS]]>
The chef tweeted that his last ambition was to win three Michelin Stars in the home of gastronomy – France.
After that, Ramsay said football management could be on the cards. And given his fiery temper, Ramsay, 49, could give Sir Alex Ferguson a run for his money in the “hair dryer” stakes.
Making the comments during an interview for travel magazine Silverkris today (TUE) he said: “I may retire in two years. I have one ambition left and that’s to win three Michelin stars in France, which we have a huge push for this year.”
And while retweeting the story on his Twitter page he added: “I might go back to football in two years time…Management.”
Scots-born Ramsay, who was signed to Rangers FC at 15, was forced to quit the sport after suffering a number of injuries including injuring his knee and smashing the cartilage during a training session.
After he received Michelin stars for the third time, for Amaryllis in Glasgow in 2002, he said that “without the upset at Ibrox, I would not be the chef I am today”.
At present the top TV chef holds 14 Michelin star restaurants and has been awarded 16.
Ramsay’s revelation over his new career goal has sparked dozens of messages from fans speculating which football team he could manage.
Dave Thackeray wrote: “Chelski would take you right now in a heartbeat.”
Vid Petelin said: “Come to United.”
And Mark Gibson wrote: “Will end up managing NUFC at some point soon.”
One fan even suggested that Ramsay sticks to the culinary theme and sets up a chef’s football team.
Dave Watts wrote: “Why don’t you try and set up a chef’s footy team called the Takeaways?”
The 49-year-old Hell’s Kitchen star also took to Twitter last night (MON) to hit back at “sick minded” trolls who criticised a photograph he shared on Sunday evening showing his daughters wearing short skirts.
Almost immediately after posting the image, the proud dad was bombarded with comments criticising how the girls were dressed with dozens of fans saying that the girls were “dressed like hoochies” – slang for a promiscuous young woman.
Others claimed the chef should be teaching his offspring “self respect”.
The Hell’s kitchen star responded to a fan on Twitter saying, “Like they have any right to suggest what our daughters wear. Hilarious. What next.”
And when asked by a fan why anyone would comment on how his kids dressed, he responded: “Sick minded people, my job is to teach my son how to respect girls”, before going on to write it’s a “father’s duty” to do so.]]>
Vettriano suffered a crippling set of injuries in April after falling down the stairs of his Edinburgh home in the middle of the night – landing heavily on a flagstone floor.
The nightmare stumble dislocated his arm and badly injured his right hand – the same he uses to paint – as well as splitting open his head, leaving him needing stitches.
The injuries left the 64-year-old requiring extensive physiotherapy and plunged him into a deep depression – where, he says, he nearly gave up on painting for good.
But now the Fife-born artist has revealed that the fateful fall occurred after he tripped over his “man bag” on his way to making a midnight snack.
Vettriano – whose work regularly fetches hundreds of thousands at auction – said: “I don’t sleep very well, it was three in the morning and I thought I’d go down to the fridge and get something.
“My foot got trapped in the strap, I was three steps from the bottom and I am glad it was just three steps because I landed on flagstones.”
“I put my hand out to protect my fall and dislocated my shoulder. At first I did not realise, because I have never had an injury in my life.”
But the injuries put Vettriano out of action for eight months – the longest period he has ever gone without painting – during which time he nearly gave up on painting.
He said: “I really started to get very worried, and with the worry came some depression.”
“I went on antidepressants as well. I couldn’t work at all, and it became quite chronic, my depression.
“It’s OK saying, ‘Well, I will have a month off’, but at the end of the month, nothing had changed.
“And then I began to think: ‘Well, you’ve had a good innings. You’ve made an impact, a small impact on the world, on Scotland.’
“It was the way my mind was working: ‘Well if I have to retire now, who cares?’
But now Vettriano is set to return to painting in January – after a new set of physiotherapy has used paintbrushes and an artist’s maulstick as a props to ease him back into the studio.
He added: “I put it down to my own fault for not working on it immediately. And sometimes I have to remind myself of my age. I am not 24 anymore.”
Vettriano – born in Methil, Fife – only began painting as a full-time career at the age of 40.
His most famous work – The Singing Butler – is the most popular art print in the UK, and the original fetched £744,800 when was auctioned in 2004, breaking a Scottish record at the time.
But his work has not always been received kindly by the art world.
In 2002 Sandy Moffat, then-head of drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, said: “He can’t paint, he just colours in.”
And 2005 internal emails obtained from the National Galleries of Scotland revealed that then-director Richard Calvocoressi also had a low opinion of the painter.
In an email he wrote: “I’d be more than happy to say that we think him an indifferent painter and that he is very low down our list of priorities (whether or not we can afford his work, which at the moment we obviously can’t).
“His ‘popularity’ rests on cheap commercial reproductions of his paintings.”]]>
The 39-year-old, known only as Mark or by his nickname “Pel”, works in the cold and rain on one of the busiest shopping streets in Scotland.
But after one fan posted online that he had given Mark a present of paper, pens and a cushion, dozens of kind-hearted shoppers in Argyle Street, Glasgow, followed suit.
And the original post, by musician Gerry Crowley, has been shared over 5,000 times.
Gerry, from Castlemilk, Glasgow, posted on Saturday: “On Argyle Street across from M&S there’s a wee homeless guy selling his drawings.
“I asked him how much and he said 20p. Couldn’t stop thinking about him freezing in the cold rain doing his wee drawings with s****e felt tips.”
Gerry added: “Told him I had a wee present for him. When I gave him the art set he burst into tears. He said no-one has ever given him a present before.
“The lack of expectation from a man so used to having nothing broke my heart.
“He said he draws because it’s the only thing that makes him feel happy. He doesn’t like asking folk for money so he sells his drawings and the police leave him alone.”
Gerry finished: “If you see him on Argyle Street have a chat with him and buy one of his wee drawings.”
Mark usually draws cartoon characters, which he copies from children’s books. He first makes outlines with a biro, before colouring them in.
Pel is now being given fresh art supplies by well-meaning strangers, as well as hot drinks and burgers from a local takeaway.
In one 20-minute period on Monday, at least six passers-by stopped to talk to Mark and two well-dressed elderly ladies handed over bags full of pens and coloured paper.
Jessica Collier, 24, security guard from Glasgow, said: “Somebody sent a post saying if you went past, to say hi to him, so that’s what I just did.
“I was just passing. I saw him drawing there and I was like – that’s the guy from Facebook. He’s not even asking for money, he’s just drawing.”
A local trader, who asked not to be named, said: “He refuses to beg. He never bothers anybody, he’s just a really nice wee guy.”
A delighted Mark, originally from the Gorbals, looked into one of the bags he had just been handed and said, with a huge grin: “That’s brilliant – I needed a pencil sharpener.”
He added: “I can’t believe this.
“I started drawing them when I was six years old and I was in a children’s home. Just doodling and that. I never really got into a career.
“I never really sold pictures before. I just started selling them a month ago. They’re doing quite well, they’re taking off. It’s OK.”
Gerry’s original act of kindness was widely praised online..
Brenda McKenzie wrote: “You have the Christmas spirit, God bless.”
John Joseph Gillen wrote: “A real uplift for a Monday morning.”]]>