London: A Story in Pictures

Scotland played England down at Wembley last month, I was there, we got beat 3-2 but it was still a highly enjoyable trip. Here is some pictures with some stories behind them which will be some sort of attempt to describe that particular Wednesday. And briefly the Thursday too.


So, first of all I will tell you I have absolutely no idea who the guy is behind me on the lion. While trying to find somewhere to go for a pee I decided to have a go at climbing up on a Trafalgar Square lion and after getting a helping hand of a punty up the tail i shimmied along to that position and asked Blackie (on the ground) to take my photo. He told me to climb up on the head like everyone else but let me tell you here and now, its a fair distance off the ground you are on that there lion, maybe 14 or 15 feet up? Plus its very slippy and i had a pair of stupid Flossy shoes on with no grip and was half cut and basically too scared. So i just sat there. At this point that other fella climbed up and sat behind me. I didnt want yo go any further and he was blocking my way back. I commented to him that this was maybe the most awkward I had ever felt in my life as I straddled a big lion with another man I dont know’s legs wrapped around me.In saying that to him the realisation dawned on him too of the situation and he screamed at his pal to quickly take his photo so he could get down. Eventually they did and we got down by sliding down the tail.

Oh, and I am not touching his leg.


These are the shoes I was talking about. But here we will talk about the travel arrangements there as i merely go changed into the kilt and that after a quick shower in the hotel when we got to London and took this photo as we walked in the hope we would find a tube station. We left Kilmarnock at around half 5 (instead of 5 as expected cos two guys were late) and as expected some folk were kilted up from that time and would only wear that till they were back in their house on the Thursday night. On the bus was a fella wearing a kilt with an England top, I overheard someone asking the reasoning behind this choice of attire, the answer was something to do with friendly relations or something, not anything particularly interesting. He did get interviewed at Westmorland Services by a guy with a big TV style camera. He also seemed to be a main man in the running of the bus which had the whole busses carry out in cool bags and also ice, actual dods of ice for folk drinking spirits or wine. This sort of thing is not common in any bus I have ever been on. There was even Killie pies if you wanted them, they were cold mind you but you could have filled yer boots should you have wished. I tried to get my head down for some kip with the plan of starting drinking around 9am but keeked an eye open to see the fella beside me tucking into a pie with his can of Strongbow at the back of 6.


These phone boxes were between Trafalgar Square and the train station to take us to the ground. In Prague for the infamous 4-6-0 game a good friend and London travel pal David Alexander slept in a phone box as he couldnt find his way back to our apartment in the area known as Praha 5. This was just so he knew that there was somewhere for him to get his head down should he fail to find our hotel this time out.


The train out to the game was fairly entertaining, the England fans in our carraige were in the most part having s great time. Singing and laughing and joking. All except one guy whose face was like thunder. Absolutely raging he seemed that all us jocks were down having a great time in his country. His demeanour got the attention of loads of folk beside us and even the police on the train ended up coming up and standing just over his shoulder for the remainder of the journey.

wpid-IMAG1414.jpgThis is our taxi driver back to the hotel from the chip shop just around from the underground station we got off at. A chip shop I should add that we got a bottle of beer in while we waited on the chips frying, different world down there in London, wouldn’t get that in the Welbeck chippy. But back to our taxi driver. I don’t know his name. He is from Pakistan however and liked cricket. Martin and I threw all our limited knowledge of Pakistani cricket at him. Shoaib Akthar I think I managed to come up with, then Sachin Tendulkar and Mularitharan who are Indian and Sri Lankan cricketers and not Pakistani. We may or may not have also spoken about kabaddi and whether or not our taxi driver had played it at any point in his life. It was a good chat and he agreed to a wee photo on arrival at our destination. Good guy.

wpid-IMAG1514.jpgThis is the reciept from Burger King at Charnock Richard, which is a service station we visited on our way back home to Scotland. I have no idea if there is a place called Charnock Richard but they do have a Burger King/KFC in the flyover between the north and south parts of the services (its even called “Burger King Bridge” and that’s where we ate, right by the window too, watching the cars zoom underneath. Always wanted to eat on one of those. One less for the bucket list.

wpid-20130830223103772.jpgTrafalgar Square was a sight to be seen. When we got off the train on our way there, there was Scotland fans tellin g us we were going the wrong way (must have been going to Wembley early) so we would have been forgiven for thinking we got there too late as it was starting to empty. It wasn’t, was still jumping. The fountains were full of fairy liquid and also folks empty cans and most likely urine. There were fans everywhere, I climbed on a lion as I mentioned earlier and saw plenty o blokes go down to their scants and climb to the top of the fountains. Never saw the guy that got lifted, missed him by about an hour I was told. Saw a good few people I knew and saw a few tramps eyes light up at the booze they would be able to get their hands on from what was left lying around. The sightseeing buses that passed and all the tourists walking around the outside clicked away with their cameras. Must have been some sight.

wpid-IMAG1411.jpgWembley isnt spelt as I always thought. or maybe it is but when you see it written in seats when the stadium empties after the game it doesn’t look right, this cant be a mistake that no one has spotted surely? Is it not Wembeley? Actually, that looks awful, its definately Wembley, my mistake. The ground clears fairly quickly and when it does you realise how massive it is. After the game we went down the 18000 stairs to the exit (singing “i want to go home, I want to go ho-oame, wembleys a shitehole, I want to go home” regardless of the fact that it was anything like a shitehole) and took a long road for a short cut to get back to the train station as the way we avoided i am sure would have took us onto the big underpass right to the station.

wpid-IMAG1392.jpgWhen we got off the train out to the stadium, the train with the potential mental case English fella, we stated about wondering what to do. Premier Inn had bouncers on their gates as their bar was opened up and folk were drinking on their grass. Others were lined up to get in. I needed a pee but the bouncers wouldnt let me in, ended up peeing behind someones car in a car park (i asked him if it was alright first) we kept walking toward Wembley and decided to try the next pub, can’t remember the name but when we lined up to get in the bouncer asked as what we were doing as we could just go in, well once we had put the last remnants of our carry out at the door for pick up when we left. Couldn’t believe it, there was room to move about and ten minutes later we had a seat. I had a email sent out the week before about Scotland only pubs around the ground, it must be one of them. I was good, and ended up being the only pint I had, while away. in a pub.

wpid-IMAG1400.jpgAnd then we left the pub and it was raining, the wee weather apps on all our phones hadn’t predicted this, warm but a little cloudy they said, but here we are. I have no idea if this is Wembley way, or if its called that at the new ground but this was our walk up to the ground and from here it looked pretty cool.

wpid-IMAG1407.jpgAnd i guess there was the game. In which I felt we played really well but in the end couldn’t beat a very ordinary team. On the way down we spoke of just scoring a meaningful goal, an opener or an equaliser or something would be a brilliant feeling, to get that was brilliant, the opener felt as if we could take the roof off the place, what a feeling. I however missed Kenny Millers second goal as I wasn’t aware the second half had started. Was just down on the concourse waiting on the toilet queue thinning out when the roar went up and everyone rushed to the tv screens that are dotted everywhere hanging from the ceilings. Also down on the concourse were a few of the guys I was with. They were waiting on food from the stall only to be told there was no burgers left. He took a pint of lager instead and then tried to get the beer up to his seat by assuring the steward that it wasn’t a pint of lager at all, rather a burger. The steward never accepted this logic and he had to drink it downstairs. It was a valiant attempt nonetheless.

And that’s that I suppose, a brilliant few days on one of my favourite places in the world. With a more favourable result it could have been as good an away trip as Paris in 2007.

Hopefully the revive the fixture more regularly, and if it transpired that all the games were down at Wembley then you wouldnt get too much resistance from me.

Space Time Continuum

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.

Scholes (cheek injury swelled his head to 1 and a half times normal) celebrates with his Killie team mates after beating Falkirk 1 nil

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.

This never happened. Well it did and it didn’t, read on…

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?