Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Some SPL Predictions

We are but a heartbeat away from the new season. So time for some very unscientific predictions:

First managerial casualty:

Mixu. Almost certainly. If the rumours have an ounce of truth in them then a humping by Clyde could mean he's away before the start of the season. To be swiftly followed, I'd guess, by Rod Petrie.

Third place:

Dundee United. I've got a feeling that Craig Levein (man least likely to be sacked) will have got United even stronger this season. Could be third at a canter.


I've got a feeling Hamilton might make a strong enough start to survive. So take your pick from St Mirren, Kilmarnock and Hibs (see above).

A season of reasonable contentment:

Falkirk. Top six again. A cup run. Yogi's stock will rise further.


Celtic again I think. There's a chance Rangers might struggle a bit this year. Celtic might not need to do much to keep the title.

Last Chance Saloon:

Csabo Lazlo. Just because the Heart's job is last chance saloon in perpetuity. Jimmy Calderwood, bit of an enigma at Aberdeen - needs to get the fans back. Kenny Miller, surely now is the time to deliver.

Wattie You On About?

A plaintiff cry from the manager's office at Ibrox: "Trust me and shut up."

Walter Smith has been hurt by the critics as they've lashed out at both Kenny Miller and Smith himself.

"If their reason for not liking him is because he played for Celtic, personally I thought those days were past. They are for me, so if that's not acceptable to everyone else there's not a great deal I can do about it, except do what we are paid to do and hopefully win football matches.

"If the player has been here before and people's reasons for not liking him are because they don't think he is good enough, then that's fine. But my opinion matters and I think he will be good for the team. That's how I look upon him. Everyone is entitled to their opinion."

Couple of things in there. "I thought those days were past" - really? And does Uncle Watty also think that the morning before Old Firm games the fans of both sides go to multi faith church services and pray for peace?

"Don't think he's good enough" - well, as I've written before, they don't.

"Everyone is entitled to their opinion" - yes, they are. But by rising to the fans the manager looks a bit small. The old "but my opinion matters" line is not really becoming in a man of Wattie's experience.

The final quote that really matters though: "I just see that Kenny is a player who can help the team in the manner we play at the moment." Which can be translated, again I've written this before, as "same old, same old."

Rangers are going to be playing the same way this season and if the fans don't like that it might be a long year. The risk for Smith is that the team played to their limits to achieve what they did last year and still missed out on the big rewards. Can they hope to repeat even those heroics this year? I don't think they can.

And if that is the case then the signing of Miller might go from being a cause of some disgruntlement to a focus for a whole lot of ire and the pressure on Smith will start to build. Might not happen that way. But it just might.

A New Leaf?

Could things be turning around at Vladimir Romanov's Tynecastle circus? Vlad has promised to get "less and less" involved with the team, says he'll listen to Csaba Laszlo's opinion and has been waxing lyrical about happy, smiling players.

Still not much action on the transfer front, and the results in pre season haven't been brilliant, but is there a glimmer of hope for Hearts fans? Time will tell. But it seems there's a real chance that it'll be the maroon side of Edinburgh who have much more to laugh about this year.

The Greed That Binds

"It's incredulous that, despite our attempts to explain this rationally to other clubs, some of them refuse to accept our approach."

So says ex-knitwear model and current Rangers chief executive Martin Bain about the reaction of the "tiny ten" about the Old Firm's decision to add a 5 percent handling charge on to the sale of away tickets for their fans.

First a small point of order: Mr Bain can be "incredulous" if he wants but, I would argue, "it" must be incredible not incredulous.

Secondly: There is a way of rationally explaining things. Claiming to not be working in tandem with each other, Celtic and Rangers sent out exactly the same letter (word for word) on the same day. Some coincidence that. That smacks of the two big beasts ganging up on the smaller kids. That's bullying not rational explanation.

Mr Bain also suggests that the proposal is in the best interests of his club. That might well be the crux of the matter. The best interests of Rangers. The best interests of Celtic. Not the best interests of the other 10 clubs.

The reaction from the "tiny ten" is because:
  1. They either pay the extra 5 percent themselves or charge the Rangers and Celtic fans. They can't afford the hit themselves but if they charge the fans, who will immediately blame the home team for the price hike, they risk falling attendances. They can't afford that either. Catch 22.
  2. As one club director said: "What next?" 5 percent now 15 percent next season. There comes a time when the other clubs feel they have to make a stand against the Old Firm. Now would appear to be that time.
  3. By bouncing the other 10 into this the Old Firm create a interesting conspiracy theory. We're always told by Parkhead and Ibrox that the problems they have with crowd behaviour comes from their away fans. If, as seems likely, the other clubs cut Rangers and Celtic out of the ticket distribution they can say they have washed their hands of their away support. Therefore Celtic and Rangers as clubs are entirely blameless for any problems that occur. Again, the "tiny ten" are backed into a corner.
I hope the rest of the clubs hold out on this one. It seems always to surprise fans of the Old Firm that other supporters often lump their clubs together as one focal point for hate. It's episodes like this that explains why that happens.

Because while the fans get lost in rivalry and one upmanship the two clubs act in concert to force the whole of the SPL to bend to their will.

Maybe now the other 10 can say "enough is enough."