Friday, May 21, 2010

A good day out

Clearly there wasn't much to do back in the late 1970s.

So dull were our lives that we took to the links. To watch Alan Rough play golf with Tim Brooke-Taylor. In Cumbernauld.

What's it called?

Madness, I think.

he Scottish Football Blog

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The first preview

21 day to go.

Just three weeks until the World Cup starts.

Here's the thing. I absolutely love it.

There are reasons not to. Reasons, some would say, to hate it.

Scotland not there. England there. Scotland not there. Fifa representing the very worse kind of globalisation. Scotland not there. Corporate behomoths getting richer as the game becomes ever more corrupted by money. Scotland not there.

And I care about those things. Some of them I care about a lot. Some of them not so much. But I do care.

Yet somehow I am able to suspend disbelief, embrace the hype and forget about Scotland's failings because I get to enjoy a month of as much football as anyone could want.

I love the wallcharts, I'm in heaven if there's space to include goal difference in the group tables - although I never had the patience for Panini. I love the preview supplements in the papers. I love that this is, sometimes, world class football available free to air. I love that people who don't like football spend a month either learning to like it or really pissed off.

Scotland not being there, that's the elephant in the room. But 204 countries tried to qualify for South Africa. Only 32 made it. Are 172 countries supposed to take no interest in what is, truly, a global event?

England being there. The rhinoceros in the room, warily eyeing up that elephant. I am not buying into the Anyone But England stuff. Bit bored of it all. Actively supporting them? No. Pretending to suppport whoever they are playing? Absolutely not.

Anyway, England have the world's most hypocritically moralistic press and that whinging, imbecilic fourth estate seems to hate them more than enough for all of us.

Yes, I find the media hype surrounding every England throw in annoying, often it makes my blood boil. But that's not the players fault, has nothing to do with the manager and can't be blamed on the decent fans who follow them.

And the world's a smaller place now. There's thousands of other places to get commentary when England are playing. Embrace the global village and the lingua franca of football.

So, free from the worries of watching Scotland and without a misguided jingoistic hatred of England, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the spectacle.

And, if you are so minded, keep visiting the blog where I'll be covering the World Cup along with the usual feast of Scottish football.

A word from our sponsors

"The World Cup on The Scottish Football Blog is brought to you in association with..."

Not really. But I must mention the kind gentlemen at who saw their way to ensuring I can enjoy the World Cup in style.

I can never really make up my mind who to back at these events but this time I've taken the not wholly controversial step of picking Brazil as my team to follow. After all we've played them so many times that Brazil are pretty much the Scotland of the southern hemisphere. Kind of.

And now I can cheer them on in my very own Brazil World Cup jerseys as provided by SoccerPro and which are, of course, brilliant.

Seriously, they are good guys who said I could slag them off if I wanted but the service was first rate and the gear is actually great quality. Doesn't quite make me look like a samba soccer star but you can't have everything. (In my head it completely does make me look like that anyway.)

They've also covered me for World Cup kickabouts with a pair of Puma soccer shoes. Obviously football footwear has made giant strides since my day because these are the bees knees. I'm also told by those in the know that they look equally good when worn as part of one's everyday outfits. So take that, my trusty old Hush Puppies.

OK, advertorial almost over. Thanks again to Trevor at SoccerPro. Much appreciated and it is great stuff.

The last review

Another day, another review of the season.

Actually this one is the start of a monthly overview of all things Scottish football across on Albion Road:
This is turning into a really depressing review, isn’t it? It wasn’t all bad. Honestly. 39 year old David Weir played every minute of every league match as he captained Rangers to the title. He was rewarded with a host of Player of the Year awards. Few would grudge him the accolades although his teammate Steven Davis, at the heart of so much that Rangers do well, would have pipped him to the gongs had the voters cast aside sentimentality.

Rangers achievement in winning the title – leaving aside the flimsy nature of Celtic’s opposition – was proof of what a decent manager with a committed, hardworking team playing to their strengths can achieve. Financial uncertainty means Walter Smith’s future remains unclear. If this is to be his last hurrah then he leaves as one of the Ibrox greats.

Dundee United’s Scottish Cup win was a welcome break on the Old Firm’s stranglehold of the silverware. Combined with third place in the SPL it was a real statement of intent about United’s plans for establishing themselves as the best of the rest. The Scottish Cup also gave us Ross County and their incredible run to the final. Their win over Celtic in the semi-finals was one of the biggest results Scottish football has ever seen and sparked life into a season that provided little cause for enthusiasm. We’re all due the Staggies a big thank you.
And that is pretty much that as far as 2009/2010 in Scottish football is concerned.

I didn't do awards this year but very briefly:
  • Player - Steven Davis (if he'd already turned 40 he'd have swept the board. And that comeback victory over John Higgins was a joy to behold)
  • Young Player - Anthony Stokes (20-plus goals for a non Old Firm team is exceptional. To do it for a team that stopped playing in February is all the more remarkable.)
  • Team - Dundee United (best of the rest, a cup win, recovered from both the loss of their manager and a mid season wobble.)
  • Manager - Danny Lennon (brilliant promotion against a backdrop of misery.)
So onwards to 2010/2011. With a World Cup to negotiate on the way. Bring it on.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

From silverware to black gold

English friends, and those friends subjected to nothing but English football, are often surprised when the conversation turns to footballer's pay packets.

The relative (and in this, as in all things, it is relative) pittance earned by players in Scotland, especially the SPL, is a source of some bemusement.

Lee Wilkie provides an illustrative example.

Following his horribly premature retirement - and fresh from his emotional role with Dundee United at the Scottish Cup final - Wilkie is now setting his sights on a career in North Sea oil.
The former Scotland international defender said: "Next week my life is moving in another direction as I'm off to Aberdeen to do an offshore survival course. Mark Kerr helped set it up for me because he's got a friend who works in the industry.

"So hopefully soon I'll be going offshore to start and I'm really looking forward to it."

Wilkie spent his entire career playing for both clubs in Dundee and, while he knows he has made a decent living over the years, has not made enough to retire.

He added: "A few folk will maybe be surprised, but we're not all John Terry or Frank Lampard earning huge money.

"I've no regrets about the career I've had and wouldn't change a thing. I remember when I was in the Scotland team one of my mates was a plumber and was earning more than me.

"I used to look at the likes of Barry Ferguson and Christian Dailly and hope one day I'd make that sort of money. But it just wasn't to be and I don't feel bitter about it.

"The vast majority of guys still need to work after they are finished with football and I have to say I'm looking forward to the challenge of doing something different." The Scotsman
Another example of how football's money rush has pretty much bypassed Scotland.

Ears to you, Gary

Who'd have thought we'd be applauding Gary Lineker?

The jug-eared ladies man who has managed to turn insipid blandness into a lucrative second career.

The rather smug purveyor of obesity inducing fried snacks who made a funny face when Paul Gascoigne cried in 1990.

Suddenly he's a hero.

Well, not quite. But Lineker's decision to quit his column at the Sunday version of a newspaper that sounds very like the Waily Wail should be applauded.

The Match of the Day autocue reader has felt the need to act after the distasteful sting operation on Lord Triesman and the ensuing fall out for England's 2018 World Cup bid.

I've no great interest in England hosting the 2018 World Cup.

But I've got some sympathy for Triesman. A man guilty of stupidity perhaps but not much more than that. Stupid for talking out of turn and stupid for being the sort of man who is attracted to the sort of woman - even if only platonically - who takes a tape recorder in her handbag when she's going for a meal.

A question for the Mail on Sunday though. Is "uncovering" that stupidity in the public interest? I fail to see how. And will the Mail on Sunday take any responsibility if the England bid fails? Or will they simply blame the committee that they have done so much to undermine?

An English story with no relevance to a Scottish football blog? Perhaps. But it's my blog.

And there is a knock on effect. The level of distrust between those involved in sport and the media will only grow while we sit back and leave this "journalism" to fester.

That robs the fans of insight and it increases the distance between punter and player. That is not healthy for any of us.

So hat's off to Gary Lineker. A principled stand that deserves a little recognition.

Before he annoys the hell out of me during the World Cup.

What he says

You can read Linker's explanation for quitting here.

Again I've no real interest one way or the other in how England perform in South Africa. But Linker's point about the press "undermining" the build-up to big tournaments is valid. There's a schizophrenic element to the English media that I find fascinating to observe. Almost wholly destructive, yet uniquely critical, any success that an English sporting team has is despite the attentions of their media. Given the role they think they hold at the centre of national life it is a bizarre position for journalists and editors to pursue. England's welcome to them.

What they say

Roy Greenslade has blogged on the, fully deserved, backlash against the Mail On Sunday on The Guardian's media site:
The MoS is trying to escape from its responsibilities in this matter. It made a severe error in publishing a story obtained from a woman who, as the London Evening Standard revealed, was recently treated for mental health problems.

David Bond, incidentally, raises all sorts of questions about the story's provenance in his Monday blog that require answers.

The MoS would do well to own up to its mistaken editorial judgment. Its readers, and England's football fans, deserve an apology.

Real classic

A bit late with this one - it was 50 years ago today that Real Madrid taught the world to play. Well, not quite.

But 50 years to the day since Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3 in what is still regarded as the definitive European Cup final.

At Hampden of course. Where else?

Would it be particularly Scottish to point out that the most famous, celebrated game to be played out at our footballing citadel didn't involve one Scottish player? Possibly. So I won't.
No one who was there will forget the 1960 European Cup final between Real Madrid and Eintracht Frankfurt.

Today is the 50th anniversary of that iconic match, a breathtaking 7-3 triumph for Real that moved a generation of Scots. In what many describe as the greatest game played, Ferenc Puskas scored four, Alfredo Di Stefano three, and a crowd of 127,620, almost all natives, stayed behind for an hour after the final whistle in recognition of what they had seen.

Alex Ferguson, Andy Roxburgh, the entire Celtic team, many of whom would go on to become Lisbon Lions: all would later admit that the glistening spectacle of pristine white on the emerald Hampden turf made a big impression. The Times

Lennon strikes lucky

A quick disclaimer: this is all very much unconfirmed at the moment. But it looks as though Neil Lennon is very close to being given the Celtic job permanently.

The Guardian is reporting that a warm recommendation from Martin O'Neill helped convince money man Dermot Desmond that Lennon was the man for the job.

Now The Celtic Underground is reporting that:

As I write this Neil Lennon has just won his final game as temporary Celtic manager. The reason…The next Celtic fixture will be played under the permanent management of Neil Lennon.

On 30th May last year we informed you that a verbal agreement had been reached to appoint Tony Mowbray. Tonight, almost exactly 12 months later, the same source has informed us that nominations committee has unanimously agreed to the appointment of Neil Lennon.

As we have reported on a number of occasions since New Year, Lennon has been at the forefront of the boards thoughts when looking to improve performances on the park. The first indications of the boards faith in Lennon’s ability to turn the clubs on field fortunes around came when the board sought to get Mogga to replace Grant with Neil.

So nothing official yet but it looks very like the job is his to keep.

I wrote last week that I consider the appointment a risk. I stand by that although I concede that he performed admirably as caretaker.

It will be interesting to see who Celtic bring as the experienced hand to help the novice.

The aim is simple: win the league. Lennon knows that better than anyone. Now it's time to prove he's up to the task.

And another thing: I'm also delighted that this will finally put to rest the rumours linking Craig Levein with the job. That would have been a kick in the teeth that Scotland fans do not deserve.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Money, managers and madness

Feeling a bit like an obituary writer at the moment, trying to find nice things to say about the season that has just passed.

It's not been all bad. Just some of it. Maybe most of it. Definitely not all of it though.

I've penned a paragraph or two for Inside Left's ongoing series of 2009/10 reviews:

It’s been intriguing and frustrating but it could hardly be called vintage. Half the clubs in the SPL failed to score an average of a goal game. The teams finishing in first, sixth and eleventh have a combined debt creeping towards £80 million. It’s hard to see how that can be sustainable in a country of our size with ever diminishing interest in the game.

Inside Left supremo Seb has had his say as well:

We said it before in another article on this site so we wont go down the road well travelled, but Rangers deserved their title. Despite all their problems, they won the league at a canter. A League Cup would have been matched by a Scottish Cup had it not been for United, and the less said about the European adventures the better, but worthy champions they are. The won the league against a backdrop of financial woes, but with every day bringing news of tax demands, a will-he-wont-he buyer and a bank-induced “buy one, get one free” players sale, it might not all be such plain sailing next season.

And John Hislop has taken a more indepth look at what was a fairly strange season at Easter Road:

Following the Hibs should prepare you for moments like this, but I was still in a state of shock next day. In fact that was probably the reason that a Tory got elected in Scotland, because even now, I have no idea who I voted for, and I suspect most Hibbys were the same.

All the articles above are available at the always reliable Inside Left. Read them!

Taxing times at Ibrox

I wonder how flat that championship champagne is now.

Rangers continue to lurch from embarrassment to humiliation off the field as their financial problems grow. And grow. And grow.

Here's a round-up of some of the latest news. But remember folks, we can't be too cocky, whatever the problems they still won the SPL by a country mile. What does that make the rest of us?


The club fears the fine, combined with interest of £12m and possible additional penalties, could reach up to £54m.

Combined with its existing debt of about £30m – which it is under pressure from Lloyds Banking Group to repay – this could leave Rangers owing almost £80m.

An Ibrox source described the situation as "desperate", and said: "We're already struggling to pay £30m we owe the bank. Another £50m could tip us in to the abyss of administration. (The Scotsman)


Arsenal received a demand for more than £11million in 2005 after it emerged payments were being made to players in offshore trusts. The difference between the Gunners and Rangers is the English side could afford to pay.

I do not understand how this has come as a surprise to Rangers, but, if the worst case scenario comes true, they will have major problems. The champions are already £30million in debt, their management team is out of contract and leading players are being sold or are moving on.

Add in a whopping big tax bill and the interested parties considering making an offer for the club are likely to head for the hills. It’s a grim time indeed for the supporters. (Mark McGhee, Press And Journal)


The Ibrox hierarchy met with the money men a week ago to establish what funds would be available to strengthen the playing squad.

It is believed the bank have again tried to impose cuts to the wage bill, with a total sum of £5million allocated to Walter Smith for wages and transfer fees, but this was resisted by chairman Alastair Johnston and chief executive Martin Bain.

They are acutely aware that Smith needs financial backing with just 14 outfield players, and two goalkeepers, currently signed up for next term.

Should Lloyds refuse to budge and continue to rule Rangers with an iron fist, then Smith may decide to walk away.

He knows he’ll lose Danny Wilson in a £2.5m switch to Liverpool, while Madjid Bougherra – who is believed to have seen a possible move to Hamburg collapse after they sacked boss Bruno Labbadia – is also expected to leave.

Smith wants to keep Nacho Novo, Kris Boyd, David Weir and Kirk Broadfoot, but knows that there will be little left to play with under the current plan. (Evening Times)


Alastair Johnston, the Rangers chairman, last night criticised the style and substance of Andrew Ellis’s attempted purchase of the Ibrox club, describing it as “way too prolonged” to prove of any use to the club’s board of directors.

Johnston also expressed dissatisfaction at Ellis’s lack of contact with him. The Ibrox chairman has attempted twice to hold a meeting with the London-based developer about his intentions, to no avail.

Johnston was speaking after returning to his International Management Group base in Cleveland, Ohio, having spent the past six days in Scotland trying to resolve the Rangers ownership question.

On that issue there is not good news. “I don’t see any imminent resolution of a new owner for Rangers, so I believe we are going to have to plan and budget on a ‘no change in ownership’ basis going into next season,” he said. (The Times)


So no money, a playing budget under threat, no clarity in the position of the manager and a takeover bid that's going nowhere. Happy holidays.

Monday, May 17, 2010


I thought this was a cracking photo.

The player is Bryan Deasley who scored Forfar's second goal as they beat Arbroath to clinch their place in the Second Division:
I was delighted to shoot Bryan Deasley fire home Forfar’s clinching goal – I’ve known the wee man for about five years and he’s not had the best of times in his career in the last couple of seasons. Good to see something nice happen to him – and it helps to know a player when you are trying to get his attention for a ‘celly’ pic – Ta for this one wee man. I’ll add to this post once I’ve sorted out what’s going to the paper.
I suppose you could say "this is what it means."

Picture reproduced with permission: please visit davidyoungphoto.

Click here for more pictures from the game.

Click here for more of David's football pictures.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Not so Blue Brazil

Those of us who want our football measured against fairytales and romantic epics were left disappointed yesterday at Hampden.

Our fault, we were looking in the wrong place.

Cowdenbeath today sealed promotion to the First Division with a 3-0 win at Brechin.

It's the first time they've reached the second tier in 20 years.

That would be an achievement in itself.

But there is more to this story. Cowden only reached the Second Division thanks to Livingston's relegation to the Third Division.

They've also managed to get promoted with no money. Not just a bit skint. Totally potless. Impecunious to the point of disappearing.

Somehow Danny Lennon has managed to galvanise his players against that bleakest of backdrops and they've responded in the best possible way.

Remarkable really.

The money questions won't disappear, Spartans might still be waiting in the wings, a takeover bid prepared.

Let's hope not. In their own way Cowdenbeath are an iconic name in the Scottish game. They've shown resilience in turning a season that was all about survival into a season that brought success.

Sadly many of our clubs now fight their biggest battles in lawyer's offices and banks rather than on the pitch.

Thanks, then, to the Blue Brazil for showing that football can still provide some salvation.

Brechin 0 (0) v 3 (0) Cowdenbeath - Mbu 17, Wardlaw 25, 45

Around the web:


Elsewhere: Martyn Fotheringham and Bryan Deasley gave Forfar a 2-0 win against Arbroath to clinch a spot in the Second Division.

Promotion and relegation

First Division

C: Inverness Caledonian Thistle
R: Airdrie
R: Ayr

Second Division

C: Stirling Albion
P: Cowdenbeath
R: Arbroath
R: Clyde

Third Division

C: Livingston
P: Forfar