The Gaffer's Raging. His Boat's Got Two Up Front; RECORD SPORT GOES WHITE WALTER RAFTING Raft of New Ideas for Gers Boss
Byline: KEITH JACKSON
WHITE water rafting with Walter Smith. Sounds like one of Alan Partridge's programme ideas for the BBC.
Just after Monkey Tennis and Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank.
But it happened all right. It happened yesterday morning, along a six-mile stretch of the Tay - in water so cold it can actually turn certain body parts inside out - with Record Sport, albeit not over enthusiastically, tagging along.
Mind you, enthusiasm was in short supply at breakfast time in Ballinluig as the Rangers boss and his backroom team - Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant and Kenny McDowall - rolled into this little pit stop of a town just off the A9 on the road to Pitlochry in the driving rain.
"What am I doing here?" was Smith's way of putting it as he fixed himself a cup of tea at the Nae Limits activity HQ where he had to report for a 9.30am start. This was not a senior moment from a bewildered 63-year-old.
Old Man River knew fine well why he was there. A few weeks from now, in his last act as Rangers boss, he will lead McCoist, Durrant and McDowall to Idaho on a five-day, 110-mile buttock clencher of a challenge - in the name of the club's charity foundation. That's more than 20 miles a day on some of the most dangerous swirls of water and skull-breaking rocks anywhere in the world. He's here then to learn the ropes. No matter how reluctantly.
We all are.
The pre-paddle briefing begins and John, our expert guide, goes to lengths to point out that, by comparison with what awaits this lot in the States, today's trip is a strictly 'L' plates affair. Rapids, we are told, are graded on a scale of 1-6 in terms of speed and their potential to do serious damage to humans. We'll be introduced to a few 1s before going up to a couple of 3s. John smiles, reassuring no one. Safety He then explains that the Rangers party will plough through no fewer than 47 sections of wild foaming river, all with a category of 5', when they bid to make it along the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. "Fall into a 5'," he says, "and you're unlikely to get back out."
It's only the start of this safety talk but already Durrant's mind is distracted and unlikely to return to the room any time soon. He interrupts our expert guide to ask: "Hold on, so you're saying if we fall out of the boat we're going to die?" "Probably!" "Well that's great," says Durrant, fixing an icy glare on the guy from the charity foundation who has signed them all up for this, the latest in a series of fund-raisers.
"How come we get this one? Martin Bain gets to walk up Kilimanjaro and we get drowning? I could have walked up Kilimanjaro in my flip flops and Speedos."
Durrant is not letting this one go.
"Well don't expect me to make that phone call at the end of the trip," he says to McCoist soon after as the pair clamber into their wet suits. "Hi Ethel, it's Ian. Bad news, the auld yin didn't make it."
McCoist, whose face is beginning to redden with laughter, says: "It doesn't matter, he's stepping down at the end of the season anyway! …