This week, the return of standing at top-flight football in the United Kingdom, more woe for Celtic and a slap in the face for Jim Goodwin.
STANDING UP FOR FANS
The SPL removed rules outlawing standing sections at its stadiums this week, a move that chimes perfectly with the will of what is probably a significant minority of supporters.
The league's barmy founding fathers decided 10,000 all-seater stadiums should be compulsory for member clubs. Those that meet that criteria today lampoon that ideal with row after row of empty seating. With attendances and bank balances heading south, the SPL have to give some of those not attending a reason to come back. For some, this game was made to be watched standing up and if police and local authorities allow it, that will be made possible once more shortly.
This may also end the widespread practise of supporters being removed from stadiums for supporting their team, which is kind of their job. The sight of a luminous steward getting a stony-faced copper to eject a pneumatic youth from an away section is often little more than those having least fun at a game taking it out on those having the most.
F*** PROVOCATIVE BANNERS
Celtic face a further charge from UEFA after a banner was unfurled at their Europa League match in Udine bearing the legend: F*** UEFA. This was, we can presume, a considered commentary on the fine imposed on Celtic by that body for pro-IRA chanting at a previous European fixture. In Italy, the same group of supporters let off a few flares. Both actions have resulted in a new UEFA charge against the club, who run the risk of incurring a 'repeat offenders' premium on their punishment.
The gauntlet had been thrown down. UEFA picked it up. The displaying of the banner, in particular, appears a stunningly stupid act. So much so that senior Celtic officials seemed to scarcely believe those behind it were fans of the club they had so wantonly placed in harm's way.
Neil Lennon put it best: "I'm surprised they spelled the words correctly".
GOOD WEEK, BAD WEEK, PT I
Hearts players got paid their November wage, but not their December one, due last Friday. They enjoyed their biggest win of the season, 4-0 at home to Dunfermline, but appear to have seen the last of one of their most valuable players, Andrew Driver. The winger was told to leave the matchday squad after a story broke on Saturday that he would be handing in a transfer request. The rest of the players finally put a complaint to the SPL, who will now investigate the unusual payment plan in action at Hearts.
The club's board claimed that they were talking to potential buyers as they try to sell up for £50 million, despite a debt of more than £30 million. Then one of the parties who had expressed interest in a takeover went public with details of the lack of details on offer. A bad case of buyer beware.
If there were mixed messages this week, the Hearts story will look clearer at the close of the transfer window. If the club remains in the hands of its disinterested owner, Vladimir Romanov, and senior players have been cut loose, as he plans, then the quality gap between Hearts and Dunfermline evident last Saturday may not be so great in the second half of the season.
GOOD WEEK, BAD WEEK PT II
Some fantastic goals in the SPL last weekend. Paul Dixon's late equaliser for Dundee United at Kilmarnock was a typically pure hit from one of the best ball strikers in the division, staying low and finding the corner like it was laser-guided. The goal that preceded it was even better, Kilmarnock's James Dayton cutting right across a shot that swerved into the top-left corner from a long way out and an unreasonable angle.
However, my favourite was the goal by Jim Goodwin that earned St Mirren a point at Motherwell. It lacked the technique of either Dixon's or Dayton's, but made up for it in sheer brutality. Goodwin caught it on the half-volley with a meaty swing and the ball accelerated ferociously past a valiant dive from Darren Randolph, Motherwell's keeper.
Goodwin is an old-school enforcer and the way he struck that ball kind of typifies the man. Earlier in the same game he produced a masterclass in the dark arts. Motherwell's Steve Jennings thought he was fouled, when really he was just on the end of a very firm, but legitimate sliding tackle. As play continued around him, he stood and remonstrated with the referee, before charging back into play and taking out Graham Carey of St Mirren, an innocent bystander in all of this. Jennings' foul was reckless and dangerous, Carey is a skilled ball player and Goodwin did his job, storming in to defend his team-mate and barging Jennings out of the way. Jennings responded by grabbing Goodwin by the chin, Goodwin gave him a short upper-cut to the gut on the blindside of the referee.
As an example of its art, it was as impressive as any of the goals we saw last weekend, the SPL did not see it that way and Goodwin received a two-match suspension. Now there is a decision worthy of a sweary banner.