everything in football. Barry Ferguson appears to have made an art form out of
delivering the two-fingered salute with as much effect as he can dictate the
mood of a match.
Birmingham City midfielder sounded the death knell on his career with Scotland
over a year ago when he publicly flicked the V-sign during a World Cup
qualifying game against Iceland at Hampden Park, but there remains room for
telling deliveries far from the madding crowd.
was banned by the Scottish Football Association for his conduct on a fateful
night in Glasgow. At the age of 32, he clearly feels he has gone beyond the
stage of seeking redemption. In the final act of his broken covenant with
Scotland, he yesterday found an interlude to give his country two fingers for one last, unfortunate time.
Scotland manager Craig Levein, perhaps still suffering night terrors from a 2-1
win over Liechtenstein achieved in the 97th minute, was well within his rights
to go, cap in hand or not, to Ferguson and invite him to the Euro 2012
qualifiers in the Czech Republic on October 8 and Spain in Glasgow four days later.
finds himself in the unique position of being a Scotland manager rebuffed three
times by the same player over the past six months. The door that Levein said
will "always be
open" to Ferguson must now be barricaded forthwith.
Levein's plea bargain is
embarrassing only in
the sense that it serves to illustrate the paucity of talent available within
the country, not that Ferguson was not worth pursuing.
be said that the player was well within his rights to decide against rejoining,
even if one cannot help conclude that this is a somewhat tawdry and pitiful way
for such a rich player to finally retreat from the international spectrum.
declares his career with Scotland on 45 caps. He will always cut an unfulfilled
character at national level, no matter how he chooses to reflect upon it.
As such a
principal figure with Rangers, Ferguson is revered and reviled in equal
measure. He holds the record for a Scottish player in Europe with over 80 appearances for the Glasgow club, has numerous
trinkets and captained Rangers to a UEFA Cup final.
the outstanding Scottish midfielder of his generation, but declining standards
in his homeland has deprived him of the chance to appear at a major finals.
Ferguson's ill-advised behaviour contributed to his own downfall, but others must
examine their own conscience
in helping the player conclude the matter in such clinical fashion.
The SFA, a
biting tabloid press and the holier-than-thou attitude of some Scotland fans
will have helped Ferguson to decide that it was really not worth the hassle.
Not when you are a millionaire, have a family to look after and are attempting
to prolong one's club career in the world's richest league.
Less than a
fortnight after he was saying "never say never" regarding a comeback, he has now said
was yesterday talking about not wanting to feed a 'media frenzy' if he returned. He has a point.
suffer heavy defeats to the Czechs and Spain with Ferguson at the heart of the
team, there are those who would seek to condemn him, to make him a scapegoat in
times of adversity.
That is the
way it works in Scotland. That is the way it has unfortunately always worked.
McAllister once called time on his career with Scotland after being roundly
booed during a Euro 2000 qualifier in 1999 against a slicker Czech Republic
side than the one Scotland will face in Prague next month. Scotland lost 2-1
before a sickened McAllister opted for retirement.
has probably decided he does need more galling incidents to visit his family's doorstep. He owes his country nothing.
reached his nadir in 'Boozegate' when the then national captain began revelling in copious amounts of alcohol at the
team's Loch Lomond hotel after a 3-0 drubbing in the Netherlands in March,
escape a national stereotype of heavy boozing, the story goes that several
players were under starter's orders at 4 am. They didn't hang up their glasses until around
lunchtime on the Sunday. It became a long hangover.
and the Rangers goalkeeper Allan McGregor were not happy about being singled
out and consigned to the substitutes' bench against Iceland for various
alleged acts of drunkenness.
shenanigans were not left behind with the bar bill as two fingers glided up and
down brass necks during the match.
claimed they were delivering their personal riposte to the media's coverage of
developments, but their gestures apparently caused such a swelling of moral
outrage among the public, however false that may be in these decadent times,
that they were ripped from the squad.
were handed down by the SFA. The players were fined and suspended by Rangers
for tarnishing the name of the club.
life does not mean life in Scottish football. The 'life' ban was lifted the moment George Burley
was sacked as Scotland manager a year ago, but Ferguson remains in self-imposed
sure he is going to be welcomed back with open arms," said a spokesman recently for the Scotland
supporters. What is it with football fans and their mock standards? Some expect
players to be whiter than white when their own behaviour is not that of country
Army, Scotland's brand of fans, remain some of the international game's finer comrades, but when lardy men hurl obscenities, expose
themselves in kilts, urinate in foreign lands and stop just short, as Rab C
Nesbitt says, of malkying a few grouse, their conduct goes out of the window.
It is hypocritical
of a high proportion of football fans, not only those who follow Scotland, to
berate players when their own contributions to society can be judged harshly in
the Palace of Wisdom, but rarely is.
It was not
Ferguson's finest moment, but neither was it an act of high treason. He was not hung, drawn and quartered, but
the SFA opted for severe punishment. That they let him know the news via fax,
which as the player himself rightly said, was unbecoming of such an
Ferguson wish to play for his country when a sense of amateurishness appears to
clamp itself to the game's ruling body? It is a question that must be raised. Are the SFA fit
Ferguson turned his back on Scotland for what he perceived as cack-handed
treatment by the SFA when he was suspended for a dozen games after doing three months
in jail for headbutting an opposing player in the mid-1990s.
and times of Barry has been bookended by similar acts of calamity and
contrition over the past decade.
sullied his formative years at Rangers.
then 22 and hardly Andrew Moray at Stirling Bridge, visited Bothwell Bridge
Hotel wearing a club shell suit hours after he had been sent off during Rangers' 6-2 defeat by Celtic in
injury in a street brawl. He was fortunate his coach Dick Advocaat retained
enough faith in his promise not to empty him out of the club, but has
prospered in latter years.
Birmingham's recent 0-0 draw with Liverpool, he became involved in a fine running
battle with Steven
Gerrard in which most onlookers estimated that Ferguson had enjoyed the better
moments of their meet and greet.
continue to bestow his charms upon his club, but his divorce from Scotland is
permanent. The Birmingham manager Alex McLeish, a former Scotland player and
manager who showed faith in Ferguson after 'Boozegate', need worry no longer about the
player's legs creaking under the strain of demand elsewhere.
There is to
be no room for reconciliation between this gilded midfielder and a country
desperately in need of his perceptions. There is to be no final hurrah.
should rejoice at such a regrettable outcome.