Friday, December 01, 2006

A Bitter Taste for Hibs Fans

Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown.

It’s getting a bit boring, this saga they’ve engineered.

They’re young men and they feel they should get paid what they’re entitled too. Fair enough.

They’ve drafted in Willie McKay as their agent, no doubt impressed by tales of his life in Monaco and his incredible story of how he made Jean Alain Boumsong a millionaire.

But the players were happy enough with the contract extensions they signed only recently. And that should put Hibs in a position of strength.

Except player power is becoming an unstoppable force and it looks unlikely that this will end happily for Hibs fans.

McKay has already stated that Hibs have proved they are “selling club.” Aside from the fact that all clubs, except maybe Chelsea, are now selling clubs, McKay seems to have been going out of his way to antagonise Hibs.

He may be doing right for his clients but the media campaign that the Glasgow tabloids have allowed him to orchestrate has done the public profile of agents few favours.

Brown and Thomson would have been better shutting up and living up to their potential at Hibs this season. The summer would have been a far better time for these discussions.

Instead they’ve made themselves look like mercenaries dabbling in the ugly side of football.

It seems like being a footballer no longer suffices. Players now want to be painted in the media as spoilt and manipulative as well.

If Thomson and Brown do go they will leave Hibs, like so many others, with nothing but ill will. Many Hibs fans will actually want to see these two favoured sons fail.

They’ll have nobody to blame but themselves.

Larsson to Light Up Premiership?

Something of shock move for Sir Alex Ferguson today as he signs up Henrik Larsson on loan.

It will, of course, leave some Celtic fans scratching their heads about why the golden boy wasn’t persuaded to stay at Parkhead. And why the Scottish league leaders couldn’t have made more serious attempts to get him back in the summer.

For United fans it might be greeted with no little bemusement. But an experienced striker who can offer an alternative to Saha might help freshen things up for the title run in after Christmas.

His stay will be brief but, in his three months at Old Trafford, Larsson just might prove to be a far more valuable acquisition than Schevchenko at Chelsea.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

McCarthy on Road to Big Time?

Spare a thought for 16-year-old Hamilton Accies midfielder Jamie McCarthy.

Being linked with Manchester United must be nice, but it surely brings with it a whole different kind of pressure.

Let’s hope things work out for him. Other teams are in the chase but United would appear to offer him the best chance of development. Sure Rangers, Celtic, Aston Villa and Bolton are big clubs.

United, though, are on a different planet. A move to Old Trafford offers a genuine chance at becoming world class.

As Liam Miller would testify it doesn’t always work out but when it does the rewards are incredible.

And two Scotsmen should offer McCarthy hope. Brian McClair and Darren Fletcher have passed Sir Alex Ferguson’s all important loyalty and reliability tests.

He, in return, has stood by them. He seems to like at least one Scot in his dressing room.

McCarthy might well be a name to watch!

No Return for Casuals

Well done to Lothian and Borders Police for arresting the Hibs and Hearts casuals involved in disturbances in Edinburgh last month.

The eight arrests, made after dawn raids on addresses in the Edinburgh area, are said to be just the beginning of police action after the incident.

Good stuff. Let’s hope those found guilty are properly punished and barred from football.

And barred for life. Earlier this month Izak Cowie, a 38 year old nutter and a member of Airdrie’s infamous Section B casuals, was banned from every football ground in the UK until 2009.

Leaving court he spoke some rubbish about returning to the game to see Airdrie in the SPL in three years.

He should never get into any football ground again.

The problem of casuals has never really gone away. But for a few years it was underground and, to an extent, out of mind.

If recent events in Edinburgh show that it is returning to the fore then the football authorities should begin to crack down hard. Lifetime bans are a start. Any clubs that aren’t seen to be dealing with the problem should face harsh penalties.

There is no room in the game for this brand of violent head case.

Reports in Edinburgh suggest that some of the people who were involved were forty something men who were returning to the battlegrounds of their youth.

Ask yourself what forty year old that would willingly go out and have fight after a football match? And if he chooses to do it he should be locked up.

Football has moved on. Not all the changes have been for the better. But the casual problem has no place in the modern game and no place in modern society.

Back from the USSR

So he’s back.

Chapter 752 in the Tynecastle saga as Valdas Ivanauskas returns to the club and promises to focus on getting three points on Saturday – although at least the hapless Mr Malofeev and his translator managed to avoid dropping into the British manager’s cliché handbook.

Still that Valdas is prepared to risk his health to work for Vlad the Impaler and has started making the right noises about Steven Pressley should come as a relief to Hearts fans.

But the questions remain.

On the park the team needs a victory. Teams they swept past last season are holding them to draws or worse.

Can Valdas reignite the passion in a team that looks disjointed and flat?

Will he be allowed to do it his way or will Romanov continue to have his say? And how many Hearts fans believed Romanov when he said that he doesn’t influence team selection?

Will UEFA and the SFA step up investigations into the way Mr Romanov does business?

Will the January sales at Tynecastle make Princes Street look like a ghost town?

Recent events off the park are a step forward. Ivanauskas is a sign of stability. The truce between supporters and owner will settle the team.

But this story is certainly not over. And the unanswered questions might yet point to more gloomy days ahead.

A Lesson in Lennonism

Has Kevin Thomson realised that the nonsense he helped create around Hibs last week was over the top?

After the ridicule he found heaped on him following his farcical Daily Record ‘column’ last Tuesday, today he was in a more conciliatory mood.

No mention of his mummy and his yearning to free her from the chains of wage slavery.

Rather positive talk about winning silverware and fighting for second place. Even some well placed displays of his Hibee credentials – and his distaste for Hearts.

If this really is a sudden change of heart the reason behind it might well be hidden later in the column. Thomson’s half hearted protest about his disappointment with Neil Lennon for trying to get Scott Brown sent off can’t conceal the nagging admiration he must feel for the Celtic captain.

Lennon is much maligned by fans up and down the country. Often the criticism is fair. And as Hibs battered Celtic for much of the match Lennon must have wondered why he still puts his body through 90 minutes week after week.

More than once Guillame Beuzelin made Lennon look as lumbering and dimwitted as a carthorse approaching the knacker’s yard.

But from somewhere Lennon found the strength to orchestrate the comeback. Referee Mike McCurry will not be proud of the way he allowed the Irishman to dominate him in the second half.

Thomson thought Lennon looked “beaten” when Hibs went two up. Lennon doesn’t know the meaning of word. With Beuzelin and Ivan Sproule tiring Hibs needed the pace and work rate of that other, allegedly, want-away Hibee Scott Brown.

Lennon sucked Brown into a personal dual – which they were both lucky didn’t result in red cards – and the young midfielder was duly posted missing.

Thomson too, trying to play the captain’s role for which he is not yet ready, spent too much energy trying to placate Brown. Lennon and Evander Sno duly took over the midfield.

He didn’t score but it was Lennon that hauled Celtic back into this match. If he wonders why he often doesn’t get credit for contributions like that he need look no further than the way he taunted Brown after Celtic’s equaliser.

Neil Lennon is not a man many people could claim to like as a footballer. Much of his game is psychological. It’s ugly. But he gets away with it and it gets his team results.

Physically and mentally he has a strength that Kevin Thomson and Scott Brown lack. They’re more likely to discover that strength learning in the heat of the SPL with a wonderfully talented Hibs side than toiling with their old mates Derek Riordan and Ian Murray in the reserves at Parkhead or Ibrox.

Maybe Kevin Thomson has realised that in time to pull back from the brink.