NOBODY does outrage and indignation quite like sports fans with a sense of grievance. Climate protesters, religious zealots and neighbourhood busybodies don’t get a look-in when it comes to the group most likely to take offence whenever they feel their civil liberties are being threatened. Quick! Up this hill to the moral high ground as fast as we can!

Season ticket? Check. Lucky pants on? Check. An inability to see the irony in abusing someone for the entirety of an afternoon and then almost fainting with offence should the victim respond in any way? A big check beside that one too.

A bit of pantomime booing and jeering never harmed anyone. There is always a minority, however, who take it to the next level, singling out individuals for a sustained barrage of abuse. Crowd noise will often drown it out but there will still be elements that make it through to its intended target.

Most players know better than getting involved. There is enough at stake in the sporting sense without adding a crowd interaction element into their shift at work. For some, however, the goading goes too far. There are only so many times someone can be poked with a metaphorical stick before they decide they have had enough and react.

Ben Stokes may be a whiz with a cricket ball and bat but even he can only stomach so much verbal trash being aimed in his direction without responding. The England player may have been okay the other day with being taunted about his ginger hair but the comparisons with Ed Sheeran were beyond the pale. Nobody deserves that.

Reports suggest the perpetrator – a middle-aged South African man – had walked more than 50 metres to abuse Stokes as he walked off the field. The fan got what he wanted – a nibble at the end of his fishing line. Stokes bit and called him a “four-eyed c***”, something that was picked up on the television footage and may not have played particularly well with sponsors Specsavers.

Leigh Griffiths was another who had enough of the crap this week and threw – heaven forfend – some tape in the direction of some Kilmarnock fans who, according to Celtic manager Neil Lennon, had been abusing the striker as he took his seat in the dug-out. The fan in question then sprang from his seat to walk along to give the player yet another mouthful.

Some might argue that abuse is just part of the territory. That professional athletes should aspire to a higher standard and not respond whenever someone is chirping incessantly in their ear and saying some not very nice things about their mother.

Maybe so. What often makes the situation so ridiculous, though, is the reaction from those who have spent all that time trying to provoke a response and finally getting one.

At that point there is so much drama it could fill an entire West End run. Grown man swooning or going weak at the knees at being flicked the vickies by a frustrated player. Throngs of bodies almost falling over each other in the rush to reach the nearest steward to report the use of a bad word. The hypocrisy is frankly staggering.

And yet it is nearly always the player who is hammered in that situation, not the supporters who spent hours trying to cajole him into biting back.

Stokes issued an immediate apology and has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee and handed one demerit point from the International Cricket Council for his actions.

Similarly, the Scottish FA may decide to take a look into the incident with Griffiths and decide a course of action is required. Quite possibly getting them to wrap their Christmas presents given how easily he was able to get the tape off his fingers.

The fans shouting the abuse, of course, will get off with it as normal.


There was something rather heart-warming about last weekend’s Scottish Cup tie between St Mirren and Broxburn Athletic.

It seemed half of West Lothian had made the journey through to Paisley. The official away attendance was given as 1600 although, given the numbers spilling out of pubs and bars throughout the town centre, it looked to be considerably more.

The streets teemed with Broxburn’s red and white. And then yellow when bladders started to overflow and emergency action was taken to relieve the situation.

For what is “the romance of the Scottish Cup” if not the opportunity to travel to a town on the other side of the country for a day on the skite?

There was even an old-style pitch invasion to add to the throwback feel. Questions over who had lobbed a trainer at St Mirren’s Cammy MacPherson as he went to take a corner were answered as a one-shoed interloper came on and started haring around the field as if he was expecting to find it somewhere near the halfway line.

Only once back at the advertising boards did he lose his swagger, stopping briefly before throwing himself rather ungallantly on to the track. If Dick Fosbury had drank eight pints before competing in the Olympic high jump final it would probably have looked something like this. The spirit of the cup lives on.