The title of one of my favourite movies, Any Given Sunday, comes from the book, in which Tony D’Amato, the head of the Miami Sharks American football team says that, in the right circumstances, on “any given Sunday” any team has a chance.
This is why we all love football so much, because we get this particular truth and we all have great memories of massive days when it didn’t seem, at the start, that we were going to watch anything particularly remarkable.
Liam Scales is facing one of those weekends. If we don’t sign a centre back who can go straight into the team the odds are high that Scales will be playing alongside Lagerbiekle at the heart of our defence. This kid is about to find out what he’s really made of. On any given Sunday, anything can happen.
We are going to learn a lot from those 90 minutes of football.
Back in the sands of time, local magistrates had absolute authority in matters of life and death. If the magistrate felt that there was some dubiety in a case that came before him, he could decide to exercise a little discretion and leave it in the hands of the God’s.
That is the origin of an expression that will be familiar to us all today; the “trial by fire.”
The trial by fire was one of three distinct tests to “determine” innocence or guilt. If you survived these tests – the trial by fire, the trial by water or the trial by combat – you were free, although what state you’d be in to “enjoy” your freedom was pretty much up in the air.
When I think of Liam Scales going into that Ibrox cauldron, the trial by fire seems apt.
There were two ways to subject someone to the trial by fire; you either made them walk three paces over a red-hot ploughshare or you made them carry a hot iron bar over the same distance. Your innocence or guilt was established by whether or not the bandaged wound had healed sufficiently after three days for “God’s judgement” to be revealed.
Most Celtic fans have already passed judgement on Scales; I say let the trial by fire decide what to do with him.
If he passes that test, he need never take another one. Because he will have proved what he’s made of and we’ll know if we’ve got a player or not. More to the point, he’ll have learned something about his own talents which will stay with him for a long time. He will grow in stature and self-belief. It will be his making, or it’ll be his breaking.
I couldn’t tell you, right now, what I think will happen this weekend. The thought of him playing should fill me with fear, especially as he’s going to be up against one of the most physical Ibrox forward lines any of us has seen in years. They were built for this game, make no mistake about it. Their manager bought these guys to rough us up.
In the movie, Willie Beaman emerges from an injury crisis which flares up during a game; the starting quarterback, Cap Rooney, gets hurt early in the match and then Tyler Cherubini, their second string QB, gets stretchered off within minutes of taking the field.
Beaman, who the film reveals later was a hot-shot prospect played out of position by his former coach, which led to an injury and a collapse in his value, status and morale, takes his place and over the next few matches proves himself to be a magnificent footballer … although a dreadful leader and team player, at least initially, when his narcissism grows to momentous proportions.
The movie is about him learning to appreciate that teams, not individuals, win games and with his new found humility comes a greater understanding of what it means to be a leader.
I don’t expect that a successful 90 minutes will turn Liam Scales into an ego driven monster, but if he comes through this massive test the manager will be forced to take another look at him and so will we, perhaps as a solution to our left back issue.
Scales deserves it. He went out on loan last year and so impressed Aberdeen that they wanted him back, on a permanent deal, and I think he might even have gone out on one and we’d never have seen him again.
That has happened before; Ryan Christie was a great signing for this club, criminally underused and underappreciated, he was allowed to out on loan and returned to the club with most people fully expecting him to be sold.
And do you remember what happened? An injury crisis afforded him his opportunity to shine. He grabbed the red-hot iron bar in a cup tie with Hearts, produced a superb display, and never looked back. The team that he was on loan with who wanted to sign him? Aberdeen. How gutted would they be at lightning striking twice?
For reasons which are completely mysterious to me – because I know I should be dreading this – I find myself perversely looking forward to the game. Who knows what our starting lineup will look like or how it will perform, but if Liam Scales starts my advice to him would be to ignore that sensation of walking on red hot iron and focus on the ball.
Because, as the trailer for the movie says, on any given Sunday heroes will rise.
He might just be the man everyone is talking about at the end, in all the best ways.