The Morton journey to Recreation Park in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, to meet Alloa Athletic in the first round of the Scottish Communities League Cup today.
Last season this competition was known as the Co-operative Insurance Cup. You'll recall that Morton beat Stranraer in the first round before losing to St Johnstone in the second. Rangers eventually won the trophy.
This year the sponsorship has passed from the insurance industry to the Scottish government itself. The reason why the insurers don't have as much money to flash around right now may be the same reason why the government has more -- crime. Holyrood is funding the competition with a million pounds seized from wrongdoers under the Proceeds of Crime Act. So at last the two sustaining plotlines of the Greenock Telegraph -- lawlessness and footie -- combine into a single senseless horror thrill drama.
Alloa Athletic, or The Wasps, dress in a yellow and black hooped jersey, with black shorts and socks. They have never won the League Cup, but did win the Challenge Cup in the year 2000. They have just been relegated to the Third Division, so you'd think this would be an easy win for Morton. But is it ever? Morton and Alloa last met regularly in 2007 when both played in the Second Division. Historically, which is more illustrious? Morton is more illustrious.
The motto for Clackmannanshire is Look Aboot Ye, sage advice at any time, and the Latin version Circumspice marks the inhabitants of Clackmannan as well-schooled and august. Unfortunately, a 2007 rebranding exercise saddled the tiny county with the barfy More Than You Imagine, which would make a good title for a greatest hits compilation, volume II, containing no actual hits. I notice that the University of Tennessee at Brownsville was also sold the motto More Than You Imagine in 2008, and that the government of South Africa nearly paid 470,000 rands for the brand this year before discovering it was already on someone else's cows. The moral: when approached by branding professionals, Look Aboot Ye.
From brands to tattoos: Sergio Agüero, late of Atlético Madrid, who has just signed with Manchester City, has this tattoo in Tengwar, or Elvish script, on his forearm, spelling his nickname Kun Agüero.
That bracelet, by the way, is made of mithril.
HT. Morton up 1 - 0 on a goal by Di Giacomo.
Jackson and Weatherson score. Morton win 3 - 0!
Slaughter of the week: Livingston 6, Arbroath 0. Upset of the week: Berwick 3, Partick 1.
We're looking for soccer clubs that kit themselves out like The Beano's Dennis the Menace -- red and black hooped jersey, black shorts, red socks. Stripes don't count. Neither do away kits or third jerseys. To date, having searched the top two, three or four tiers of about half of the UEFA region, we have identified two:
FC Midtjylland of Herning, Denmark; and NK Čelik Zenica of Zenica, Bosnia.
Are we content with two examples? We are not. Can the remainder of the Balkans produce another? Let us see.
Serbia. FK Sloboda Point Sevojno. Mainly black. Stripes.
Kosovo. KF Flamurtari. Also mainly black with stripes. KF Vëllaznimi, similarly mainly black with stripes.
Montenegro. You'd think a country named after a black mountain, with a red flag, would have some red and black teams, but no.
Albania. Flamurtari Vlorë wear red and black stripes. KS Kastrioti have the black shorts and red socks, but the jersey is striped.
Macedonia. FK Škendija and FK Vardar are that close too, but for the stripes.
Greece. Apollon Kalamarias are striped. Panachaiki have a red and black striped emblem, but wear plain red shirts. Greece, like Scotland, has a lot of blue teams.
Bulgaria. PFC Lokomotiv Sofia wear red and black stripes.
Romania. CSM Şcolar Reşiţa: Black socks and shorts, red and black striped jersey. CS Minerul Lupeni: Red socks and shorts, red and black striped jersey. Perhaps if they merged. You'd get AFC Rocar Bucureşti: Red socks, black shorts, red top with black sleeves.
Cyprus. Ermis Aradippou are as close as you can get and still be wrong. Again it's those stripes. On the Turkish side you have Hamitköy Spor Kulübü but, again, stripes.
Israel. Again, no shortage of blue.
Turkey. Eskişehirspor have black shorts and socks, and a red and black striped jersey. Gençlerbirliği Spor Kulübü and Belediye Vanspor likewise. TKİ Tavşanlı Linyitspor wear red shorts and socks and a red and black striped jersey. Turgutluspor likewise.
Armenia. Kilikia FC: Red and black striped shirt, black shorts, red socks.
Azerbaijan. Gabala FC: Red shirt with black details, black shorts, red socks.
Belarus. FC Belshina Bobruisk: Black and red shirt, black shorts and socks.
Ukraine. FC Hirnyk-Sport Komsomolsk have a black and red striped emblem, but I can't find a picture of the uniform.
Russia. OOOHHHH!!!!!! FC Amkar Perm wear a red and black hooped jersey, black shorts and white socks! Oh! So close and yet so far! FC Khimki: red and black striped shirt, black shorts, black socks. And OOOHHHH!!!!! FC Metallurg Lipetsk wear red and black hoops, black shorts and black socks! That is so irksome.
So that's the UEFA zone. 53 countries and only two genuine Dennis the Menace style football clubs. (If I've missed one, leave a comment.) I'll keep track of both Mydtylland and Čelik Zenica and post their news and standings at the end of my Greenock Morton reviews. And as the season progresses I'll continue on around the globe looking for other Dennis the Menace lookalikes. D (Dennis picture source.)
Today is the 36th anniversary of the final splashdown of an Apollo capsule. The Apollo-Soyuz Test Project was a one of a kind orbital mission that featured the first docking between spacecraft from different countries, presaging the comings and goings at the International Space Station today. The docking module that Apollo brought into orbit was basically an Apollo-Soyuz adapter, with incompatible docking systems at the two ends. The one at the Soyuz end became the model for all later docking systems, and the Americans, Russians, Chinese, Japanese and European Space Agency all use versions of it today. This mission was the one and only space flight for Deke Slayton, the last of the Mercury Seven astronauts to make it into space, his career bookending the first phase of the US space program.
After ASTP the Americans did not put an astronaut into orbit for six years, including the entire Carter administration. The space shuttle launched in 1981, and the final shuttle mission landed just the other day, closing the second phase of the US space program. It will be several years before Falcon/Dragon, or Atlas/Orion, or some other American combination starts hauling astronauts into orbit. In the meantime, though, and unlike the late Seventies, US astronauts will continue to get into orbit aboard the good old reliable Russian Soyuz.
Robert McCall painted the Apollo-Soyuz image above. He is perhaps best known for his 2001: A Space Odyssey posters.
Greenock Morton head for the SW corner of the compass today to play Third Division club Stranraer in the first round of the Scottish League Challenge Cup, or as it is now styled, the Ramsdens Cup, after the pawnbroker. It was at about this time a year ago that The Ton visited Stair Park to meet The Blues in the first round of the League Cup, and won 7 - 1. Stranraer's worst showing ever was an 11 - 1 loss to Queen of the South in 1932, so that's something for the Greenockians to aim for this time, over and above a win. So far this pre-season the Ton have not scored more than two goals in a game.
Q: Which is more illustrious, Morton or Stranraer?
A: Morton, easily.
Q: Though, Morton and Stranraer both got to the fifth round of the Scottish Cup last year, where they were eliminated by Inverness CT and Motherwell respectively. And when they met head-to-head in round four of the 2002-03 Scottish Cup, Stranraer won.
The Greenock Telegraphpoints out that all but four of Morton's last 21 cup draws have been away games, and a comment adds that if it were Celtic there'd be outrage.
Here's a thought. Stranraer is closer to Belfast than to Ayr or Dumfries. The Stranraer-Belfast ferry takes only three hours to make the crossing. If Stranraer FC were ever to become disgusted with the SFL they have the practical option of applying for entry into the Northern Irish league. The SFL itself has an English member, Berwick Rangers.
The Ramsdens aka Scottish League Challenge Cup is contested annually by the 30 clubs of the SFL. 30 is an awkward number for a knockout playoff system, which works best with powers of 2 (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 etc.) Last year the organizers dealt with it by giving two clubs a bye into the second round. This year they have instead upped the number of participants to 32 by adding the top two Highland League teams, Buckie Thistle and Deveronvale. The Highland League is unofficially regarded as the fifth tier of Scottish football. Buckie Thistle reached the fifth round of the Scottish Cup last year, and with their 5000-seat stadium would be a strong candidate for admission to the Scottish Football League if some existing SFL club were to fold (or take the ferry). To date the SFL has poached Inverness Caledonian and Thistle, Ross County, Peterhead and Elgin from the Highland League.
Morton are playing without recently signed defender Andy Graham, who broke his cheekbone during the Renfrewshire Cup game.
Wow. Morton win 8 - 0, with four goals each by Jackson and Di Giacomo. Other teams to advance are Hamilton, Livingston, Partick, Raith, Falkirk, Dundee, Ayr, Stirling, Annan, East Fife, Elgin, Peterhead, Forfar and Berwick. Dumbarton and East Stirlingshire play tomorrow.