19 January ~ Celtic travel to Morton today for a Scottish fourth round Cup tie that assistant manager Mark Venus has declared to be "a really difficult game against a team that is going to be fired up." It's also against a team that has won twice at home all season and is third from bottom of the Scottish First Division. Still, given Celtic's recent form and the fact that in the Cup anything can happen blah blah, Venus was asked if the game had "banana skin connotations". As though he'd just belatedly emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, Venus replied, "I don't know what a banana skin is. I think it's something that's left after you have a banana, isn't it?"
Yes, it is. But listen carefully – the reporter was perhaps wondering if Celtic might "slip up". However, he did not literally mean that the Morton ground staff would spend this morning peeling bananas, then spreading them across the Cappielow turf in the hope that Celtic players will skid on them and fall over helplessly, while the home team takes advantage to score, and the crowd roars in raptures of not just celebration, but comic delight too. It's more of an imaginary banana skin, Mark.
Perhaps Venus is tired of answering the media's cliche-clogged questions and so is giving deadpan responses to any journalists using tired metaphors. Had a reporter asked him if he was as sick as a parrot after the 1-1 home draw with SPL bottom side Falkirk at the weekend, Venus might have said: "I don't think I've ever seen a tropical bird vomit, have you? And never having been a polly with a malaise myself, it's hard for me to ascertain whether or not any negative sentiments I underwent at the final whistle would in any way equate with those of a poorly parakeet. Next question."
If you win at Morton, Mark, will the lads be over the moon? "Currently, Celtic Football Club has no plans to transport its players into Outer Space for a look down at the lunar landscape, either by way of reward or as part of a roundabout plan to jettison Georgios Samaras or Marc-Antoine Fortuné by releasing them into the dark beyond and then watching as they float around aimlessly, similar to the way they did on Saturday. Next question." Football's a funny old game, eh Mark? "Football indeed boasts a long history as a sport, but no one at Celtic Football Club is laughing right now."
Mister Venus's endeavours to humiliate journalists by sardonically highlighting the banality of their queries is to be applauded and perhaps eventually will see the game's media shamed into asking players and managers interesting questions instead. But it's going to have to work both ways. When Venus says that Morton will be a team "fired up", does that really mean they'll dip their shorts in paraffin and then hold a match under their arses just before kick-off? Then again, it could be just what Scottish football needs. Ian Plenderleith