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.

97
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?

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Being on the Telly and the Subsequent Attempt to Master the Art of Self Deprication

The following is in no way the view of The Killie Trust as a board more the opinions and feelings of a guy who happens to be on the board.

This time last week i was sat squeezed inbetween two gentlemen, on my right as i look out, a representative of Hutchy Vale B.C. whom i am assured have produced many Scottish professional footballers over the years and on my left, Barry Richmond, chairman of the Killie Trust and who will be for the rest of this blog post be called Baz. In front of me was DUFC and national team coach Peter Houston, SPL man Neil Doncaster, SFL man David Longmuir as well as Mark Wotte the new chief of youth development and other such people making up a kind of whos who of Scottish football. We were sitting waiting on the panel of Steven Pressley, Rod Petrie, Craig Levein, Stuart Regan and Jim Traynor taking their seats in front of us so Rob Maclean could kick off the taping of Scottish Football: The Debate.

Rob Maclean, the tv just doesnt do him justice. A very handsome man in real life. Cut from stone he is.

Why i was in such illustrious company? Why i was dressed so casually? I will try and explain now.

At work that afternoon i had a voicemail from Baz asking me to call him back when i got the chance, Baz is quite downbeat on an answering machine, i thought i had ballsed something up in my role as press officer/communications/social media type thing i try and do. I hadnt though, its just his telephone manner, he was calling to see if i wanted to go to this debate thing which was a follow up to Traynors documentary Match for Europe shown the night previous. Having watched the doco and commented to friends and colleagues that it was half an hour of stating the obvious, we’re rubbish, germany and holland have the right idea, grass roots football is way forward, i still decided to go.

I did delay my decision to check in with the wife, only five months married and have arsed up plans before so just made sure i hadnt committed to anything prior. I had, ikea, but i brushed that aside like the alpha male i am (agreed to give up my saturday to go instead (pussy)) and called back to confirm late afternoon.

Now at this point i was completely unaware as to what we were going to, in my mind it was going to be like Question Time with a panel and a assorted audience of varying backgrounds and a fans of several clubs. I did know it was invite only at this point, though not to the extent of its exclusivity.

With the QT idea in my head i rushed to get ready post work, pre pick up. I would normally have worn a tshirt and jeans but actually consciously chose a shirt as didnt want to seem too underdressed but in a biggish crowd it woudnt make too much of a difference anyway. Oh the irony.

The drive up we spoke of how neither of us really knew what we were going to but Baz had been filmed for a segment of the doco which was left on the cutting room floor. That footage i am sure would have given some good insight into fans views and given that it was a show about improving a product to make it more attractive to fans some input from said people was sadly lacking from the broadcast. In my mind it seemed that this was why we were asked, the interview was cut but here is an invite, in fact here is two, bring someone else. Me.

Dunno if you were supposed to hand this back in, a nice little memento.

On arrival we got our visitors passes and were taken to the green room by a nice woman. Out of the car i reflected that under his overcoat Baz was dressed much like me, check shirt and jeans though he paired this classic look with shoes, im still young and trendy so i had plumped for my trainers.

We entered the green room and my heart sank, shirts, ties, blazers and brogues and nowhere near the amount of people to constitute a big QT style audience like the one in my head. We took a seat and had a quick look at the set up of where everyone would be in the studio and its at this point we realised the rarified company we were keeping.

The squad list to be submitted. Things to note: the placement of John Speirs and Barry Richmond originally compared to where we ended up being seated. And no Michael Johnston. Sole Killie reps, Baz and me.

A look at the photo above shows who was all there. It also shows that originally Baz and myself were to be behind one another over at the end as far away from panel as could be. Imagine my surprise when i got downstairs to the studio and there on the back of the seat dead centre on the back row (of two rows) John Spiers and Barry Richmond. Now i decided against pulling up the spelling error on my surname because i was excited and nervous about being in a tv studio. Plus i bottled it. Baz and i then took off our jackets to reveal the extent of our father and son style nearly matching outfits. Side by side in tablecloth glory our check shirt look seemed likely to stand out.

We were asked to say our names and how we got to the studio to test levels and our reaction to the boom mic. In hindsight given my harbouring ambitions of being a stand up i should have looked dead on down the cameras lens and told them i swam the clyde to their pacific quay building in my Calvin Klein suit and only had the attire i have on now to change into which would have both got my comedy schtick over to a new crowd as well as address the elephant in the room which was the “brokeback Killie fan” look being sported, but i never, bottled it and told them i was John Speirs and i came by car while glancing at the boom and getting a wee silent look of a telling off by the director.

The show itself came and went in a flash, there was probably as many people working behind the scenes as there was in front of it. The debate was less a debate and more a running through the ills of the game with opportunities for the panel and certain members of the audience to deliver carefully considered soundbite filled answers. Well, i presume that they were carefully considered, i also assume that they were pretold what they would be asked in order to formulate an answer, some people on our row even had notes though i guess i have no real way of knowing what those notes were. They might have been a message list for Asda (probably Sainsburys) on the way home. However one person who wasnt pretold his question, is said pretelling was done, was Baz. His came out of the blue and he did well to pull together a decent answer to the question posed.

The infamous "chin scratch". I told the wife i did that so she could see my wedding ring. Also, the shirts.

While the show is being taped there are big tv screens showing what is been filmed (effectively the edit of the show) on the studio floor. On these I was able to see when i was in shot at any given time and watched myself wriggling around a bit. The twitching and the scratching wasnt any attempt to stand out in anyway i should add, more a reaction to the heat of being between two bigger guys and only having one bum cheek on each of the two chairs i was spread out over.

When it was done and they checked to see if the show was actually there (if for some reason it hadnt taped we would have had to have tried again, in hindsight maybe this would have been better for both halfs of the Killie Trust representation, i could have shown off some rapier wit on the sound test and Baz could have retooled his earlier answer in some way and removed the use of the term leisure dollars i would expect) we were taken back upstairs for something to eat and drink. On the way up we spoke about the shock of being put on the spot like that, i mentioned the leisure dollars thing and Baz asked me who said that, when i replied it was him he burst out laughing.

The canapes, if i can be so bold as to call them that, were great and Baz and i stood on the outside of the throng of Scottish football pressing hands and chatting earnestly. They probably all knew each other already though there did look to be a bit of networking being attempted by some in search for a bit of gravitas, if there was a baby in the green room i would suspect it would have been in danger of being kissed if you know what i mean. Feeling a little left out but reluctant to join in it was nice when a representative of The Spartans FC came to talk to us. He told us about the ownership model his club uses which was very interesting and we discussed the evening we had just experienced. We left soon after so as to be home for the screening on BBC1.

During the screening itself i dont think i have ever taken as many pelters online and through text and phone calls about anything in my life before. The wardrope malfunction was a keen talking point as on the 19in tv in my bedroom our bright shirts stood out a mile. Looking back on my facebook timeline it was mostly about the shirts, the rest of the discussion was actually about Scottish football and points raised in the debate, looks like i will be giving the SFA a month to approach us to donate the shirts to the museum at Hampden or i will have to torch mine for fear of putting it on to go out without realising and someone digging me up about it when out.

All in all it was a great experience and i was chuffed to bits to be involved in something with so many important people. Personally i think we might have been a bit stitched up and put dead centre in order to give the impression of two ordinary punter fans (in the broadcast Baz had his name come up on the screen as he spoke describing him as Kilmarnock fan rather than as Killie Trust Chairman as he was invited as) maybe it was naivity on our part to underestimate the importance and exclusivity of the debate or maybe it wasnt. All in all it was a nice bit of exposure for our Trust and got people talking about Scottish football. I enjoyed it, Jim Spence said hello to me.