Tough tackling Raff puts his foot in where it hurts

As I was waiting on the Leith Athletic team bus to take us across Middle Earth and into the dark reaches of Glasgow on Saturday a forcible kick from behind me landed square on my posterior.

As anyone who is well-schooled in the art of football dressing room antics will know, such schoolboy actions are commonplace and therefore, on turning round I was already preparing myself for swift and painful retribution on the offending party.

However, rather than see the grinning face of one of my childish team-mates, I was instead greeted with that of former Daily Record and Scotsman crime reporting guru and now successful PR man Stephen Rafferty.

Raff is an old mentor of mine and he, along with other Scottish media stalwart Scott Douglas, stand guilty of launching my media career when they gave me a job at Deadline Press & Picture agency many moons ago. At the time I was suffering from post-university blues, working part-time at a British Gas call centre and being rejected from junior reporter roles at every local country bumpkin newspaper imagineable.

So it is always an enjoyable occasion bumping into Raff – either by chance or on the media social circuit.

This chance encounter, I am delighted to be able to report, is because Raff’s eldest, Liam, has firmly nailed his colours to the wall and signed for Leith Athletic’s under-17 side.

With his old man being a staunch Hibby, there was never any real chance that the Young Raff would be turning out for a team on the wrong-side of the city but it is always good to see young talent join the Leith ranks. The club has a fantastic youth set up catering from kids at five-years-old right up to the (even bigger kids) in the full amateur side so there’s no doubt young Liam has made a good choice.

I’m told he is a tough-tackling, no nonsense centre half who strikes fear into the hearts of opposition strikers. I can’t say that I’m surprised – his dad built his reputation on going in where it hurts, tackling Scotland’s criminal fraternity and digging up hard-hitting exclusives. And, as these pictures on Scott Douglas’ blog show, Raff wasn’t averse to sticking his feet in to get things done either.

However, next time Raff, I’ll settle for a tap on the shoulder rather than a boot up the jacksie!

Stupid interview questions leave me sick as a parrot

I feel that, at 27-years-old, I am too young to be a fully paid up member of the Grumpy Old Man society but sadly I often find myself shouting obscenities at the TV or radio when I hear sports journalists firing inane, random and completely pointless questions at the country’s sporting stars.

One recent incident springs to mind when, following Rangers’ victory against Hearts in the League Cup semi-final, captain Barry Ferguson was asked at the end of the interview whether he would prefer to play Dundee United or Aberdeen in the final.

Amid my wild-eyed rant at the TV I was just able to make out Bazza’s response along the lines of: “We don’t care who we play in the final. The most important thing is that we are there.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who could have predicted Ferguson’s asnwer before he had even uttered his first syllable which begs the question, why on earth was he asked it in the first place? The BBC journalist in question – unfortunately I can’t remember who it was – should have had an array of other more relevant questions to ask and, if he didn’t, should have done the decent thing and ended the interview early rather than waste precious seconds of both Ferguson’s and the viewers lives by blurting out the first pointless question that came into his head.

But amid the litany of stupid questions asked in post and pre match interviews, there are thankfully a few cracking answers which show the interviewer up for their ineptitude and lack of planning.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is well renowned for his quips and I have listed some of his best below.

The England football team also had great fun with the media during a World Cup campaign (I think it was in 1998) where the players had to mention as many song titles in interviews as possible without arousing suspicion. If anyone can get a hold of the clips anywhere it is quality viewing. I can’t find them anywhere.

But the all-time winner must go to Walter Smith when, during his first spell in charge at Rangers, he let rip at broadcaster Chick Young after taking offence at his line of questioning.

Thanks go to PR man and former crime journalist extraordinaire Stephen Rafferty who, on his blog (here) at Sure PR, reminded me of the clip. (the audio is slightly behind the visuals but you get the picture!)

If anyone has any other examples of great interview answers from sporting stars then please post them below.

Gordon Strachan quips:

1. Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?” Strachan: “Velocity” [walks off]

2. Reporter: Can I ask you about Augustin Delgado [an underperforming player Strachan had purchased for Southampton] Strachan: I’ve got more important things to think about. I’ve got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Augustin Delgado.

3. Reporter: Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are the right man to turn things around? Strachan: No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for the job and I said, “No, I think they should have got George Graham because I’m useless.”

4. Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result? Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.

5. Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you? Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.

6. Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it? Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.

7. On Wayne Rooney : It’s an incredible rise to stardom, at 17 you’re more likely to get a call from Michael Jackson than Sven Goran Eriksson.

8. Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie [one of Strachan’s players] deserves to be in the England squad? Strachan: I dont care, I’m Scottish

9. Reporter: You don’t take losing lightly, do you Gordon? Strachan: I don’t take stupid comments lightly either.

10. Reporter: So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were better than you today? Strachan: What areas? Mainly that big green one out there….