Brian Monteith: A loser’s game from kick-off

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Once upon a time, in fact almost exactly a year ago in an Edinburgh City Council office a phone rang . . . Trrring, Trrring. Trrring, Trrr . . . “Hello, Dave Anderson, city development, we aim to please.”

“Haalo, Mess-ter Ander-son, zis iz Vitalijus Vasiliauskas, director of ze Haart of Meed-lothiann footbaal club. Just call me Vitali. I vould like to meet you to deescus stadium development. Vee tink you can help us.”

“I’d be delighted, delighted I would be, my office next week?”

“Certainly Mess-ter Ander-son, I shall bring my colleague David Southern.”

The three men met and discussed the constraints surrounding the development of Tynecastle Park and, should it prove financially unrealistic to deal with these, how they might explore developing a stadium on a council-owned site.

At the meeting the official said he would be willing to commit initial council funding of £15,000 to carry out an appraisal of the development options if Hearts would match that sum, and he proposed a joint group to oversee the completion of the appraisal exercise. Many months passed until the consultants produced their report saying Tynecastle Park could not be developed

The deputy leader of the council, gruppenführer of the local nationalists, The Right Honourable Stephen Cardownie, was given a copy of the report.

“Jenny, Jenny, you seen this?” Cardownie said as he crashed into the council leader’s room like a bull looking for a torero. “This is brilliant news, this’ll get us both re-elected nae bother!” He thrust the report down in front of her.

“What, what Stephen? What is it now?” said Jenny Dawe, nursing a headache caused just by the sight of the effervescent councilor. “If it’s another way to make the trams reach Leith I don’t want to know, I don’t want to hear about those trams ever again.”

“Naw, it’s no the trams, it’s Tynecastle! You know, where the Jambos play, down Gorgie way?”

“What about the Jambos, have they gone into administration?”

“Naw, it’s brilliant news, our officials have been talkin’ to Vlad’s man Vitali and the consultants have come up with a great idea – we build that stadium we always wanted out at Sighthill wi’ the Hearts rentin’ it from us, wi’ E’nburgh Rugby there too. The likesay Elton John can play there instead o’ Easter Road, at least half o’ E’nburgh will love it?”

“But my dear Stephen, what will the other half think? And what will it cost? We’ve no money, remember,” said Dawe, her head still buried in her hands. “And I thought it was meant to be an athletic stadium?” she added, realising Cardownie was serious.

“Don’t worry aboot the Hibees, whit they gonna do, vote Tory? Aye right,” Cardownie laughed and sat on Dawe’s desk, blocking her exit so she had to listen.

“Listen, I’ve got it aw’ worked oot. We call it a community stadium, borrow the money tae build it an’ Hearts an’ the rugby boys pay the rental that covers the loan. Never mind about the running track, we can redevelop Saughton later.” Cardownie folded his arms and grimaced, he thought he had all the angles covered.

“But my dear Stephen, what if Hearts go bust, they are more than £34 million in debt and what if they don’t pay on time, I thought they had a bad reputation for not paying managers and players until they were taken to court?” Dawe was distracted with worry. “And we will be accused of favouring the Hearts, it will just be another stick to beat us with.” Now she was distraught.

“Aw stop yer worrying, Jenny, I’ll take care o’ it. Ye can trust me. Just tell everyone we’re no as biased tae the Hearts as that Labour lot were. Just say Eric Milligan an’ Buckie an’ everyone gets the picture.” Cardownie winked and stormed out of the room.

A few days more passed and then the story was all over the Evening News and the football websites were in meltdown.

“Jenny, Jenny it’s Steve here,” as Cardownie spoke to her voicemail, “Listen, the proverbial’s hit the fan wi’ that Hearts idea, I suggest we play a straight bat for now, deny being biased like I say, then go tae ground.” Cardownie hung up, he had more calls to make . . .

Back in Dave Anderson’s room Tom Buchanan, the councillor in charge of economic development, was wearing a stern face.

“So Dave, see it as a learning curve, avoid anything with football clubs,” said Buchanan. “I’m going to have to kill this whole idea, I know it’s your job to explore these sort of things with local businesses, but Jenny’s taking pelters and on the back of the trams we can’t afford to be any more unpopular than we already are – and we certainly can’t afford another loan. God knows how we’re going to pay for the tram loan!”

With that Buchanan got up and took his hounddog look out of the room.

It was all quiet and David Anderson counted himself lucky it was over.

Trrring, Trrring. Trrring, Trrr . . .

“Hello, Dave Anderson, city development, we aim to please.”

“Hello Dave, it’s Rod Petrie here, listen, I’ve got an idea . . .”