The butterfly effect is a plot device commonly used in Hollywood to drive the narrative of some of its biggest films. Its when characters travel back in time and change a moment in the past and it subsequently has a knock on effect on the future. Marty McFly rectifies a butterfly effect by having to engineer his parents getting together (after having arsed up their original moment) as that particular effect would have resulted in him ceasing, in the reality he left in 1985, to exist in Back to the Future. Similar stuff probably happens in the Ashton Kutcher and Richard Gere film actually called Butterfly Effect too, but I haven’t seen it.
This all seems a bit long winded and ultimately shite start to an article about football. Sorry for that. What I am trying to get at, by setting up that premise, is the what if of going back in time in football and changing an event which could in turn upset events that have happened since. Like……..
What if Alex Totten had actually signed Paul Scholes for Killie. Not everyone reading may be aware of this urban myth/absolute fact but its my understanding that back in the mid 90s when Totten went down to watch Colin McKee and subsequently spot Neil Whitworth and sign both in a double switch from Manchester United he actually had his eye caught by a wee ginger guy at Man United’s training ground. “who is the wee ginger fella, wouldn’t mind him” is how the story goes (in my head) of Totten’s conversation with Alex Ferguson while they watch the first team train and discuss the transfer of McKee and Whitworth. “he is yours for a million” Fergie replies. Totten declines because Killie don’t have a million to sign on a player and finalises the half millionish deal for the other two and heads back up the road, two Man United starlets in his back pocket from the “cant win anything with kids” era and the expected plaudits of the Killie fans and media at such a coup. You must have heard that story, it was from a bygone time where Scottish teams actually went down to the Premiership and paid money for some young reserve players rather than taking a wee lend of them for shop window purchases before they head back down to get booted about Walsall’s ground in another move to get them ready for the “greatest league in the world”
However, there isn’t a great deal any fan could have done about this really, no flap of the butterfly’s wings to generate this fork in history, not unless at one of the fan rallies when Bobby Fleeting was describing a brave new future a fan with incredible foresight piped up with the pertinent point that a eighteen thousand seat stadium probably would be a bit big all things considered, maybe just over ten would suffice. Now as a sound bite its not exactly awe inspiring but nonetheless those words stuck in the mind of Mr Fleeting and when it came to the stadium roughly about half a million pounds was saved and put past for players. Then on that fated day in Manchester when SAF (or AF as he was known then) offered up Oldham’s most famous fan, Alex Totten would say “yes thanks, a million quid is doable” and Killie would have a new number 18.
Eventually 18, most likely an 8 or 10 in the old 1 to 11 system we had then.
So history is changed forever and in the books it read that Paul Scholes signed for Killie and not McKee and Whitworth. Whitworth wouldn’t have scored that 30 yarder at Tanadice and McKee wouldn’t have been utter utter mince in the semi final v Dundee United and subsequently replaced with Gary Holt in the replay. An outcome Scholes wouldn’t have had any effect on due to him being out injured (a broken cheekbone from training, a common Killie training ground injury back then) and missed out on the final which went the exact same way incidentally although Holt played both semis. So Scholes or Scholesy as we would have known him as, by now he would probably be coaching a lower league English club or starring in a Scottish independent film in a non speaking role or driving a taxi or something, I don’t know. At this point you might be thinking that the move ended in a bit of a disaster for him given how his life could have (actually did) turn out.
But he did get a shot at the Champions league, as in 98/99 he came into his own after Christmas when everything seemed to fall apart and his part in the midfield trio of Durrant, Holt and himself took the first SPL title away from Glasgow since Dundee United done so when Jim Mclean managed it with Hamish MacAlpine and a squad of six players or whatever the ridiculous stat is. What a Euro campaign that was, qualifiers then group stages. 100 years of Rugby Park celebrated in the Champions league, Wooft. But that’s a story for another day. Then in 2004 he celebrated his testimonial year with a sell out v Oldham.
Another lovely by product of the move was that in the Scotland England playoff he wasn’t there to score a double at Hampden and as such Scotland went through to the finals of the back of Don Hutchison’s Wembley header. We never got out the group stages though, some things never change.
You might be wondering what happened to the other people involved in this transfer back in 94. Well, Man United’s history didn’t change too much, without his goal in the 99 Champions League quarter final the still went through to the semi and then the final in which he missed due to suspension. In 2005 Quinton Fortune took the second penalty of the FA Cup final and scored meaning the spot kicks went to sudden death but Wes Brown hit one into orbit and the trophy was Arsenals like normal. Also without Scholes in the midfield Juan Veron was a stand out for Man United with Roy Keane and Argentina won the world cup off the back it. I won 50 quid from the sweep I had the Argies in that year on the back of a great tourney from the man the United fans called Little Witch so it was good news all round. England managers also caught a break as they didn’t have to go into every tournament begging Scholes to come out of retirement and as such leaving their actual midfielders feeling undervalued. They still won nothing though which is nice.
Finally, Colin McKee and Neil Whitworth stayed in England and had reasonable careers, I think, I mean I don’t really know because they never appeared on my radar having never actually signed for Killie. Funny how that happens.
So there we have it, one mere flap of the butterfly’s wings back then results pretty much the same for everyone except we get a league win, the Champions League tune played in front of a packed 12000 capacity Rugby Park a trip to the Euros for Scotland. Well everyone bar Scholes himself who didn’t have the career he could have had, but hey, cant keep everyone happy.
Now what would need to happen to make sure that Killie never signed Andy Smith?