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Danny Stewart: The season of goodwill never really got started in Scottish football

© SNS GroupIt was not a good festive season for Stephen Robinson or Alex Dyer
It was not a good festive season for Stephen Robinson or Alex Dyer

Given the blizzard of marketing hype, it can be easy to forget that the Twelve Days of Christmas do not actually begin until December 25.

The festive Christian season officially ends on Tuesday, Twelfth Night.

Put in the context of non-religious terms, it lasts longer than the leftovers from even the chunkiest of turkeys.

Viewed in a Scottish football context, that is a depressing thought.

Why? Because it means the racist letter sent to Kilmarnock manager, Alex Dyer, was delivered to Rugby Park in the middle of the season of goodwill to all men.

Not just any old season of goodwill, either, but the one slap-bang in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

While the content was not made public, the fact Killie passed the anonymous missive straight to Police Scotland for investigation spoke volumes.

In an impassioned statement, they described it as “a disgusting act” and pledged to pursue the strongest possible action against the individuals involved.

Which might be easier said than done.

Some newspapers made play of the fact the sender had not even been able to spell Dyer’s first name correctly. Instead of Alex, it read Alec.

However, the vehicle of delivery speaks to a degree of caution from the culprit.

Post the message on social media and, if it is serious enough, there is a fair chance you will be hunted down and prosecuted.

Putting pen to paper points to a degree of premeditation.

This is not a case of someone shouting out some verbal abuse in the middle of a match.

That would be an offence, too, and would be judged no less severe than a letter or email when the time came to determining punishment.

With games still being played behind closed doors because of Covid-19, it will never be known if, in the normal run of things, the culprit would have chosen to vent his or her anger at the match itself.

In the first wave of the pandemic back in the spring, there was much talk of the need for people to endeavour to be kind in these most-challenging of circumstances.

When professional sport made its welcome return at a time when most of life’s normal distractions were still off the table, a similar sentiment was voiced.

The message was of unity and of real-life putting football, amongst other things, into perspective.

Not just in terms of Covid, but also in the fight against racism, with the taking of the knee before matches quickly becoming an accustomed part of the game.

It did not last.

Bad results, it turned out, were still enough to drive fans to a fury.

Angry scenes erupted outside Celtic Park when the hosts were beaten at home in the Betfred Cup by Ross County at the end of November.

When they drew at home to St Johnstone in the league a week later, there was another protest, at which two men were arrested.

From within the game, at least, there have been shows of solidarity.

Neil Lennon got plenty of support from his peers at a time when there was a clamour for him to lose his job as Celtic manager, and he was among the first to speak out about the letter sent to Dyer.

Especially strong was another Northern Irishman, Motherwell boss Stephen Robinson, whose side played Killie last Wednesday.

A day later, he resigned.

Robinson, who received a death threat to his children while he was manager of Oldham Athletic in 2016-17, described Dyer’s treatment as “incomprehensible”.

“It is 2021 we are going into, not 1821, and I find some of the abuse unbelievable. Hopefully we can stamp it out,” he said.


But he won’t be around Scottish football, having come to the conclusion he has taken the current Fir Park squad as far as he can.

Covid restrictions robbed the country of the chance to link arms in a crowd for the singing of Auld Lang Syne at Hogmanay.

The merits, though, of taking “a cup of kindness yet” – and raising a glass in goodwill and friendship and holding to the sentiment – remain undiminished.

Not just for the Christmas season, but for the whole year round.