No wonder smoothie Simon Pia is looking pleased with himself.

Simon and Wendy

When Simon Pia was axed from Talk 107 he moved off quietly and without a fuss and started planning his next career move.

When he resurfaced as the new spin doctor for shouty Scottish Labour leader, Wendy Alexander, I was a tad surprised.

I thought the Hibs-daft smoothie might have chosen to sup from something of a poisoned chalice. Really though, I should have known better. Simon’s been round the block and knows how to take care of himself.

It’s clear from this picture that he’s already found the ideal way to  defuse potential histrionics from La Labourette. He simply whips out his magic pen and, with a few soothing words, Oor Wendy immediatly falls into a rather glaikit-looking, glassy-eyed trance. Brilliant.

Simon sprung to mind in the past week, when the bloodletting at Talk 107 reached Night of The Long Knife proportions, with the demise of Mike Graham, followed by the sacking of “shock jock” Scottie McClue (which seemed to be the industrial relations equivalent of a particularly clumsy seal clubbing).

It suddenly became clear just how dignified an exit Mr Pia made earlier this year. When he was canned in favour of Dominik Diamond, there was no wailing, gnashing of teeth and no spat over who did what to whom. He simply retired from public view for a few weeks while sorting out a suitable new, high-profile berth for himself.

Somehow I can’t see Scottie McClue pulling of a similar job coup (McCoup?). He’s already made a bafllingly long career on the margins of radio by having a go at single mums and other council estate dwellers.

My favourite story about McClue came courtesy of my old chum Stephen Rafferty who was staking out the home of the DJ/presenter (real name Colin Lamont). If memory serves, Raff was looking into something to do with the misuse of periscopes in public.

The upshot was that during the stakeout he and the oustanding photographer Chris Watt had to quickly hide in the substantial hedge on the perimeter of McClue’s property – only to be outed by the startled DJ’s pet dog. It was comedy gold and Raff has dined out on the story many times since. You can read his own account of the tale HERE.

Animosity between the pair was heightened when McClue then turned up at work and used his morning show to berate and generally badmouth Raff and his Daily Record colleagues (of whom I was one).

The next time their paths crossed was at the launch party for the ill-fated Live TV (which gave the world topless darts and weather read by trampolining dwarves). Raff had his fill of the hospitality then spotted McClue – in full get up of bunnet,half moon specs, tweed jacket and fingerless gloves – chatting to two stately looking ladies.

To the horror of the middle-aged Morningside matrons, Raff waded in, got McClue in a, er, friendly hug (actually it was closer to a half nelson) and promptly half-inched his trademark bunnet. iN fairness it was only once incident among many a shameful going on that nigh. The upshot was a varierty of complaint to the editor, a summons in front of the scary managing editor Malcolm Speed for all those involved and a rap on the knuckles for Raff whcih saw him forced to work in Glasgow for a couple of months (a cruel and unusual punishment in anybody’s book).

Ahhhh … the memories.

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a pub – and they’re ALL Tony Cascarino

Tony CascarinoA nice wee PR package came together this week following an interview with former Celtic, Chelsea and Marseilles football star, Tony Cascarino,who is now the sponsored professional poker player with our client, Littlewoodspoker.com.

The big man is a great interviewee and let slip during our chat that he’d learned in the last few years that his dad was born in Scotland.

Now, this struck me as particulalry ironic, because Tony collected a hatful of Republic of Ireland caps and really made his mark when the Irish team lived the dream at both the 1990 and 1994 world cups. He was able to do that because his beloved mum, Teresa O’Malley, had an Oirish father. 

His grandpa on the other side of the family was Italian and everybody assumed his dad Dominic was English, but both the England and Italian squads of the time were brimful of talent, so his chances of international calls up with either of those nations were slim, to say the least. All in all his Irish heritage worked out just dandy – big Casc loved playing for Ireland and the Irish supporters loved him right back. Fans and players alike enjoyed a fantastic, fairytale experience along the way.

Except that in 1996 Tony’s mum revealed that she’d actually been adopted, so there was no blood tie with his Irish grandfather at all. In his autobiography, he wrote about the profound effect of the bombshell news and how it left him feeling like a fraud and a fake and took the shine of his time with the Ireland national team. Of course, he was being hard on himself and everyone in Ireland was totally laid back about the whole thing. Adoption made him as Irish as the Liffey and they loved him just the same.

As Cascarino filled me in on all this (in an accent so English, at times he sounded like Brucie Forsyth!) I had to ask why he’d never chosen to play the Scottish card instead.

The answer was simple. He’d never had a particularly close relationship with his dad and the older man had also been extremely cagey about the subject. After claiming he’d been born in Edinburgh, he’d refused to elaborate any further, except to say he’d stayed in the Scottish capital until he was five and then moved to London. In the absence of any concrete evidence about this situation, Tony had chosen simply to ignore it.

Without letting on I arranged for a birth certificate search just to quietly see if it was possible to confirm or deny his father’s story. The records system and Register House in Edinburgh is superb and it literlly took limits to come up trumps with Dominic Cascarino’s birth certificate from 1939. For a small sum we were even able to get a copy.

When I broke this news to Tony, he was delighted. Something that had always been a bit hazy and uncertain was suddenly laid before him in black and white as irrefutable fact. And so we had the story of what might have been – one of the biggest charcacters in the game could have qualified for Scotland and avoided all the angst that eventually overshadowed his time with the Ireland football team.

Whatever nationality the big fella chooses, he’s a gentleman in any language – so I wish him all the best as he’s back in Dublin this week to play in the 2008 Irish Open.

 I’m jsut not sure whether to wish him Good luck!  Buona fortuna! Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat! – or Gaun yersel big man!