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Livi, We Hardly Knew Ye

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It's maybe slightly hypocritical for a fan of the club which gave Ian Black a wage for four years to complain about excessive physicality in football, but hypocrisy has long been a central pillar of the game, and anyway Black failed to enforce anything much during his (mercifully ended) spell at Rangers, except perhaps the all pervasive sense of gloom hanging about the place.

So it without a shred of irony that I type an attack on LIvingston's backward tactics in last night's game and the media's failure to chastise it as they surely should.

I've seen Livi a few times, playing Dumbarton. I nip over the Erskine Bridge quite often if not at Ibrox, primarily because I like the drive there and back but also because I find Dumbarton's 'stadium' endlessly fascinating, in much the same way that TV's Time Team found wrecks and ruins interesting. Which is appropriate enough, since wrecking and ruining was plainly Livingston's tactic last night. And this is not usual for that team.

Burchill's Livingston generally play decent passing football, and have beaten Dumbarton on the occasions I've seen them qute easily. Completely missing from their play was the brutality we saw last night, so it can be inferred without fear of contradiction that Burchill sent his side out with the clear idea of harassing and niggling Rangers out of their stride. Nothing wrong with that, except for a minor detail: the harassing and niggling went straight into assault.

Anyone of a Rangers persuasion will already feel that the ref let down not just Rangers but football itself. But like Scotland's rugby side, there's nothing we can do about refereeing mishaps. What we can do, though, is call out the people who decided bringing the WWF to Govan on a dreich Tuesday night, to wit, one Mark Burchill.

It's bizarre that a slight and nimble striker such as Burchill was should decide that brute force would be the option to choose - we saw when his side played a bit of football that they could get in behind us quite easily. Perhaps, bored by their reign as Petrofac Champions, Livingston had decided to perform a Gregor Stevens tribute act., and in any case, given Ally's reign at Rangers it's possible strikers just make crap managers. Whatever the reason, the people who can hold Burchill to account signally failed to do so - the broadcasters.

When Radio 5 started covering the EPL, one of the best things about it was that Alan Green, whatever his other faults, ripped any player who couldn't pass or control a ball live on air to millions. Not wanting to be so slaughtered, the players improved. Had the pundits last night politely but firmly slated LIvingston's approach for what it was - backward, completely futile, bad for the game - they'd have done the game a service. Instead, they bottled it, protected their pal, and shat all over Scottish football, the very thing from which they earn their living.

Burchill should have been castigated, as should his clobbering 'players'. Deeming their tactics acceptable as brave, or spirited, just leaves us standing still while the rest of the world gets ever further ahead. No doubt the same people who didn't see anything wrong with the studs up challenge, the forearm smash, or the continual, haven't-seen-that-since-primary-school shirt tugging will be handsomely paid to mull over why the National team keeps failing.

Holding a mirror up on radio might not be very interesting to listen to, but it would be, in part anyway, an accurate answer as to why Scotland is crap at football. Gutless, cowardly, lickspittles! First to the mic when a disgusting foreign type takes a dive or kicks out, strangely silent when it's someone they may have known for a few years. They do no service to the game. Burchill did no service to Livingston. Shame on the lot of them.

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