How I avoided England v Germany in 1990 with help from Ben Elton and Hugh Laurie.
We all know Ally Begg. TV producer, former boy band member, former TV presenter, makes excellent AFC videos with football A listers, comes over like a thoroughly decent, self effacing bloke, and most importantly a passionate Dandy. Big on Twitter, big on Facebook, he’s Afc celebrity royalty. Dundee Utd have that drunk woman from the telly, we’ve got Ally Begg.
I appear to be sucking up. Or about to say something not that nice, maybe.
I don’t know him, but I’ve met him. A long, long time ago.
1990 to 1993 I worked in the old caseroom at Aberdeen Journals as a layouter. We had a five aside football team that played twice a week, every week. This was a phenomenal achievement, a phenomenal piece of perseverance, as we never once won a game in that time. That may have changed after I left.
We played at Sheddocksley Sports Centre in Mastrick. Not far from the Journals building at Lang Stracht, not far from where quite a few of the guys in the team would have lived.
I don’t remember anyone else who worked at Sheddocksley Sports Centre, but there was this one guy who appeared for a few weeks I do remember.
Sheddocksley Sports Centre
White, flat, overhead strip lighting. The least flattering lighting that can be found. The stench of heavy duty disinfectant, possibly undistilled bleach, a lot of stale sweat, and I’m getting just a hint of hangover farts and a dash of Kouros. Welcome to Sheddocksley Sports Centre. Every sports centre in Scotland.
He looked like Tom Cruise. But much, much taller. Ally Begg is the only person in the history of anything, who has looked good, in an Aberdeen District Council shell suit. It is almost impossible to describe the unnatural juxtaposition of someone who would shortly be joining a boyband, to this council building. What the fuck is he doing in here, what is he even doing in Scotland, making the rest of us look and feel bad.
But that’s not why I remember him. Despite the fact we always lost, we’d started out losing 28-0, we’d gotten better, (it’s been pointed out to me a new player had joined, by the player! Ego?) and we were closing in on games losing 7-4, 6-3. This was bringing out the competitive edge, this would involve trying to pull in outside help. One of the guys must have asked Ally to join the team. Of course he’s good at football. Gritted teeth. I forget the rest of the game, I know we lost, but I remember very, very clearly being shouted at for making a mistake. By Ally Begg.
I am an artist, with an artist’s sensitive soul, and two left feet. The bad man shouted at me. That’s why I remember Ally Begg.
Oh we’re not done yet.
After the Journals I moved to London. I’m at my desk drawing, listening to the radio one evening. It’s either Radio 1, or Capital Radio. A boy band is being interviewed. I’m not really paying attention.
It starts to become clear something is wrong. The USP of a boy band, is very good looking people, who dance and sing/mime a bit. However being interviewed in a radio studio, they are just some blokes talking. There is clear inter band tension. The normal show business professionalism has been eroded by either shaggin’ too many groupees, taking too much drugs, or just getting on each others nerves 24/7. This is car crash radio. This sounds like it could end in a fight.
Now I’m listening.
One of them is Scottish. I don’t know how many boy bands there were back then. Probably through the Journals I’m aware that bloke from Sheddocksley Sports Centre is in a boy band, I don’t know which one, I won’t have remembered his name either back then. Pre-internet.
In true Smash Hits, Just Seventeen magazine, bubble gum nonsense style, the interviewer is asking incredibly inane questions that listeners are calling in with. I still remember two of the questions.
What is your favourite thing?
Each member answers with various stock answers, it comes to the Scottish one, he answers ‘chocolate’. A perfectly fitting boyband member answer. This is pissing one of them off, I’m fascinated at what’s going down.
Next question. What do you hate the most?
Various stock answers.
Our man, the Scottish one answers:
Wait for it.
At this there is an audible, ‘oh for fucks sake’ from the other band mates, followed by ‘there goes that demographic from the fan base’. And I am on the floor laughing. I think I’ve found our man. And, I’ve just forgiven him for shouting at me during the game.
Maybe there was another boy band with a Scottish member who didn’t like Rangers back then, who knows…
Update: After a wee chat with Ally on Twitter (cheers Ally) ‘That was definitely us’.
It was the beginning of the Souness era. We had been top dogs, they were trying to take that from us, spending vast sums of money.
I was at the game, tensions were very high. They had signed a Gothenburg Great, Neale Cooper from Aston Villa. As I remember, there was a photo in the Evening Express of Neale training with the Aberdeen squad a couple of days before the game. It had come that close. It was heartbreaking. A tie that always would have had an electric come poisonous atmosphere was dialed up to eleven. The Aberdeen support were angry and upset. Not just in the stands.
There had been difficulties between Aston Villa and Aberdeen when Neale left. Haggling over the fee by Villa. When it didn’t work out, and Aberdeen tried to bring him back, they started haggling the other way. I believe ‘Deadly’ Doug Ellis would have been there then, quite the ‘character’. On a point of principle, Aberdeen backed out of the deal. Souness stepped in. Something very similar happened when Peter Weir was to return to Scotland from Leicester. So he went to St Mirren. Aberdeen FC directors’ principles.
At the game, who scores for them, but Neale. The atmosphere is just horrible. So many emotions. A couple of odd things I remember at the game. Two old guys in front of me, criticising the Aberdeen players during the warm up, they never stopped moaning. There was a lot of noise, unfortunately all my ears could hear was those two. As if it was the only channel my antenna could pick up.
I also remember the photographers after half time. Something very new then happened. There were far more photographers back then for a game like that. Print media was bigger, and no digital photography. It was one nil them at half time, almost all the photographers went behind the Aberdeen goal (expecting Rangers goals) for the second half. We won 2-1. The photographers were behind the wrong goal.
The tackle. I had a good view. For the first and last time at a football match, I turned my head away instinctively. At the time, you’ve no idea how bad someone is hurt, the only instinct, hope Simmie isn’t sent off. The two old guys in front of me, then come into their own. ‘Didnae look like a foul to me’. No word of a lie.
After a very long delay, off goes Durrant. Very unprofessionally, on a physio’s back.
The sad but ominous site of Durrant piggy-backed off. The two old guys, ‘Well that’ll be Rangers excuse the morin’. I’m warming to them now.
Afterwards was horrific. The Glasgow media showing themselves for the vile, dangerous, pig ignorant arseholes that they are. Simmie was in a Scotland squad at the time, forced out, never picked again. Every game, they’d bring it up, we were their biggest rivals. I’d say also the Glasgow media wouldn’t have enjoyed the Ferguson years. This was payback now Fergie was gone.
There was another element with Souness. As a Scotland player playing for Liverpool, then Sampdoria, he was deeply unpopular with the Glasgow media. Any bad Scotland result or performance and the Glasgow media would blame the strutting ‘Anglo-Scot’. The ferocious back peddling they then had to do when he took over at Rangers, to prove their loyalty to Souness, was nothing short of sick, and also kind of funny.
Whatever footballing rivalries, no matter what is done, or said in the height of passion of a football match, no-one wants another human hurt (seriously hurt).
When I first became a Pittodrie season ticket holder as a student it was the Porterfield years. Not that much excitement. One of my fondest memories was one sunny day at Pittodrie, Simmie after being out for a spell injured, starting to warm up from the substitutes bench. The buzz, the atmosphere, the anticipation, the sheer love that came down from the support just as he warmed up, was amazing.
He made a mistake, we are all human, let him and Durrant forget it. What is the worst in my opinion, is the absolute legend that is Neil Simpson, a sensational hard, but fair and incredibly skilled midfielder, (look at that goal against Waterschei) is remembered for THAT tackle, and not everything else. Neil Simpson is a legend. Show him the respect he deserves.
My connection with world class footballer Zlatan Ibrahimović.
Painting Eoin Jess onto blackboards in London, because it had to be done.