Saturday, September 04, 2010

England: The Story So Far

So England won 4-0 last night. All is well with the world. Hell of a manager that Italian boy, isn't he?

Elsewhere down south the annual cattle auction that is transfer deadline day has passed. As in Scotland the international break has come too early in the season to allow us to draw any firm conclusions about the English Premier League season ahead.

Still, as guest blogger Mark Briggs discusses below, we might just be able to find a few pointers about the drama to come:

We’ve hit the international break, so this is the ideal time to reflect on the start to the new Premiership season. In a handy combo for summarisers the transfer window has also closed. So who’s started well, who is squirming in their seat, and who did the transfer window treat well or poorly.

Well let's start at the top, well it’s the big 4 isn’t it. Isn’t it?

Well, yes and no. Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester United make up the top 3. Then Aston Villa have got themselves up there, despite being hammered by Newcastle and dumped out of the Europe League (still sounds weird).

Europe, of various kinds, looks to have caused a slight hangover for Manchester City and Tottenham who both had disappointing results after midweek games.

Blackpool sit comfortably in mid table (also despite being humped 6-0) and Stoke lie in the bottom three, but have picked up some very useful looking summer signings.

All this shows that looking at teams start to the season is pointless in terms of, well, points gained. So which individuals have caught the eye, and who looks a bargain, or a financial pain in the neck.

For all the sobbing about England’s golden generation (see previous posts) and the lack of replacements for them it’s young Englishmen who have caught my eye. Theo Walcott looks sharp, not just quick, and with purpose. Neither of these could be directed at him last season. This year he has had the summer off, and has started the season fully fit. These are also two things he couldn’t have been accused of last year. Twelve months ago Arsene Wenger complained the Walcott shouldn’t have gone to the U21 tournament, he needed rest and a proper pre-season. Whinge, whinge is what most people heard, but having got just that this summer, well, he looks on fire.

Andy Carroll caught my eye when Newcastle got relegated. Despite not scoring a hatful of goals there was something about him. A season of regular football at Championship level and he looks ready for the Premiership. It was the manner of his hat trick against Villa that was most impressive and his early season form must be making Carlton Cole look over his shoulder, nervous for his England squad place.

And finally Joe Hart. His performances so far this season have spectacularly made a mockery of Fabio Capello’s decision not to play him at the World Cup. Having kept Shay Given out of the team the only goal he has conceded so far is a penalty.

Questions remain over the rest of the City team, however. What is their preferred line up, important for when the big games come around, what style do they want to play, and how do you keep Given, Adebayour etc etc happy (or at least quiet) till January?

Liverpool have recouped more money than they have spent this summer, perhaps a statement on the teams behind the scenes troubles, and haven’t had the type of start that suggests they are ‘back’. Their quest for a second striker yielded no results, so hope now falls on Ngog to continue some bright form. Arsenal also failed to acquire a goalkeeper. This is the bad side of Arsene Wenger. We love the flowing football, the attacking intent, and the slicing open of a defence with one touch. But the stubbornness to not get a goalkeeper, because he believes in someone the rest of us have never seen, or because the one he was after cost 99p too much looks likely to turn round and bite him at least once this season.

A goalie gives the rest of the team stability, look back to the history of Manchester Utd between the Schmeichel and the Van der Sar years. If nothing else they lacked the aura. These two goalies put it in the opposition’s head; it is going to be hard to score today. Never mind generating chances, if you get a chance, in the back of your head you back the goalie to save it. Manuel Almunia is capable of spectacular saves, but he doesn’t give you that aura.

Staying with Manchester United, what can you say about Paul Scholes? He is simply getting better and better. At one point last year he came in for a few games and looked totally inept. The decision to keep him in the squad looked a sentimental one. Then he burst back into form and hasn’t looked back. At the moment he is playing like Iniesta or Xavi, and over the last few years at club and international level there is no higher praise.

It has been the start we hoped for, goals flying in from everywhere, many of them from Chelsea who have carried on as if the summer didn’t happen. Now switch your attentions to Euro 2012 before we really get this season going and into the autumn months, where the football really starts to count.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Lithuania v Scotland: A Chance Missed

Do we think it's all over?

It’s probably best not to be too fatalistic. But Scotland make it hard. And 0-0 with a limited Lithuania side is a massive blow to our already slim chance of reaching Euro 2012.

I actually felt there were some positives, especially in the first half. It was certainly a much improved performance from the Sweden game a few weeks ago.

But even in that first period the chances were few and far been. Barry Robson was charged with control of the set pieces.

And, given Lithuania’s apparent fear of Scotland hitherto little know attacking reputation, he was given plenty of opportunity. He rarely delivered.

When a free kick did afford Stephen McManus a glimpse of chance it was Darren Fletcher who delivered it. Why either manager or players didn’t relieve Robson of his duties at that point we will never know.

There was, as ever, the gnawing fear that our failure to get a goal in the first half would be an issue in the second half.

So it proved as the game wore on and Scotland increasingly lost their shape and composure. Kenny Miller, who put in his normal willing shift without really threatening, looked ever more isolated.

Again we might have expected more from our midfielders. Fletcher’s struggles to impose himself within the restraints of the Scotland team continue, Scott Brown was anonymous except when being drawn into foolish niggles.

The recalled Steven Naismith had a couple of half chances but displayed a hesitancy that a team creating so little can ill afford.

Given Scotland’s dominance of the first half there is a strong argument that Craig Levein should have made a change or two sooner.

The defence looked sound enough and both Alan Hutton and Steven Whittaker were able to get forward as the manager must have planned they would.

Comfortable but not ahead there should have been a willingness to get somebody - Boyd, Dorrans or McFadden - on earlier. It might have meant a change to the shape of the midfield but a team enjoying possession like Scotland did in the first half shouldn’t be scared to take a calculated risk in the search for a goal.

That, though, might not be the Levein way.

Still, it would have been nice to have at least tried. That the final substitution was Whittaker coming off for Christophe Berra in the dying moments as Lithuania suddenly looked to offer a threat of their own was a perfect summary of a big opportunity lost.

The manager was left to bemoan the lack of protection offered by the referee. In fact Cuneyt Cakir had a reasonable game.

He punished Lithuania for their niggly start to the game and wasn’t scared to show his intent with yellow cards in the opening stages.

The truth is Scotland squandered the free kicks they were awarded. Our fault, not the referees. Players like Brown, Fletcher, Robson or Hutton shouldn’t be trying to hide behind the referee on nights like this.

I wrote before the game that I expected Levein to bring organisation and spirit to the Scotland team. They were certainly more organised tonight.

But they lacked the spark that they needed to take advantage of the situation they found themselves in. There is little doubt that this is two points dropped.

Given the opportunity to provide a statement of intent Scotland failed.

It is difficult to see either Spain or the Czech Republic being so profligate on their trips to Kaunas.

One match played. And Euro 2012 has never looked so far away.

Scottish Football Podcasts Part One

I was asking around on Twitter a couple of weeks ago to try and get some sort of definitive list of Scottish football podcasts.

Then I thought: "Why do all the work myself" "Maybe there's a better way to do this than simply posting a list."

So the plan is to give any podcast-ers who would like to introduce themselves and tell people a little about their shows the opportunity to do so in their own words.

First up is Andrew Gibney, blogger and pod-der at the almost eponymous gibfootballshow. Judging from his tweets he also watches more football than Opta. He's fitba' crazy and he must have an understanding other half:

Hi my name is Andrew I am the host and editor of the gibfootballshow podcast, after the World Cup in South Africa I was inspired by The Times and Guardian podcasts and thought it would be fun to try my hand at a new type of medium.

My aim was to provide people a different way to view the blog, we are in an iTunes era where people can listen to all types of shows while on the move, so instead of having to sit and read a blog post on my views you could have a listen on the bus to work or on their lunch.

The pod started as a solo recording, mainly just recording my views on the world of football, it has now expanded to a 3 or 4 person podcast where we dicuss the current football issues, predictions on upcoming games and I hope to be able to provide the listeners with a broad range of subjects so far we have covered football in not only this country and Europe but as far a field as the USA and Mexico.

When I invited fellow bloggers to join me in the pod I was overwhelmed by the amount of replies from all over the country and abroad, which should make for some interesting recordings in the future.

Just as an example on the show so far have been Gav Stone from the excellent site Les Rosbifs, Charlie Anderson (@Luciano Says on twitter) who is an expert on Scandanavian football, Chris Mayer a fellow blogger who covers not just the English Premier League but French Ligue 1 and other European Leagues, and Brent Atema one of the co-founders of the Global Football Today website all the way from Austin, Texas.

As a host I am still developing my style and the direction of the show, feedback so far has been very positive and I hope with future guests and the discussions, hopefully the pod can grow and grow.

Over to you: if you've got a football podcast dealing with Scottish football (or mentioning Scottish football occasionally, or based in Scotland - it's not a narrow classification) then feel free to drop me an email with a few lines about your show. I'll be delighted to post them and give you some free publicity.

Alan Gow: A Drastic Change

The Scotsman strikes again.

Tell you what is a disgrace, the subbing in "Scotland's national newspaper" at the moment.

You might not know what Alan Gow looks like. But the national team captain?

Lithuania v Scotland: Let's Get Ready To Rumble

Scotland launching a qualifying campaign for a major championship with a tricky away tie. What can possibly go wrong for Craig Levein's bravehearts?

Loads and loads and loads can go wrong. But it doesn't do to look at a glass half empty. No. Onwards and upwards.

The team, the chosen eleven for the manager's competitive debut, will line up like this:

McGregor, Hutton, Weir, McManus, Whittaker, McCulloch, Naismith, Brown, Fletcher, Robson, Miller

Hmmm. A few things spring to mind. David Weir's return makes him Scotland's oldest ever player. It's a remarkable achievement for him and it should return a certain stability that was lacking in the back four that played against Sweden.

But it's a fairly depressing indictment of the talent available to Levein.

Lee McCulloch will be the holding midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 formation. It's a return to favour for the a player who looked to have ended his international career. I'm a touch surprised that Paul Hartley wasn't picked in that role but it would seem to be a position that suits McCulloch.

And Steven Naismith is back after a long absence from the starting line-up, meaning there is no place for James McFadden, whose reputation as a talisman might just be slipping a bit after more than a few anonymous displays. Still, not a selection I was predicting.

Whittaker (slightly worried that a defender who doesn't always inspire confidence will be playing on the other flank from his normal berth) and Hutton will be expected to get forward from full back and, with McCulloch sitting in, the rest of the midfield must offer support to Kenny Miller, restored his traditionally lonely role up front.

We've also got a right to expect that Miller will have brought his early season domestic form with him to banish memories of his apparent profligacy at this level.

It's not a team that has got me shouting from the rooftops. But it was never going to be. And there's a lot of changes from the Sweden game. That has to be a positive.

Organisation and spirit: the two things I thought Levein could bring to Scotland. Well, now is the time to start showing that he can deliver.

Lithuania are no mugs. But a defeat tonight and we might as well give up. It's a Scotland team that looks like it has been designed to be cautious. But they can't be too cautious because a draw would be a big blow to our chances of getting second place (if I'm be presumptuous enough to expect Spain to win the group).

I'm almost entirely unmoved by the prospect of tonight's game. But I want some excitement, some sense of anticipation.

I think we all do. So there's the challenge: these are the eleven men who need to restore the pride, the passion, the reasons to believe.

Don't let us down, boys.

> I can't get excited but I can still moan. Friday night internationals. Gie's a break. Friday nights are for either a restorative nap or a barrel load of beer. Although, now that I think about it, Scotland are probably capable of inspiring both.

In Bed With Maradona

Some of you might have seen on your trundles around the world wide web a new football site called In Bed With Maradona. If you haven't visited yet you should check it out.

You'll find a new section has been added called "Scotland" and that's where you'll be able to find my fortnightly missives on the state of Scottish football.

Given their almost total lack of exposure anywhere else my first article deals with the season ahead for Rangers and Celtic. Nice to give a shout out to the minnows.

But I've promised that will be the last mention of either of them for at least three articles:

The early season international break seems as good as place as any to dive into this new, regular run-down of events in Scottish football.

After just three rounds of fixtures there’s still uncertainty about the season ahead. But some things never change.

Already Rangers and Celtic sit atop the SPL. They’ll remain there in May but it’s too early yet to predict who’ll have the bragging rights at the end of season.

As is traditional in any discussion of the SPL I’ll be concentrating on the big two here. But I’ll do you a deal. Unless something spectacular happens over the coming weeks I promise that neither Rangers nor Celtic will appear in the next three installments of these fortnightly ramblings.

There's an ever growing roster of writers on In Bed With Maradona and I'm delighted to be part of the team. It's a site for football fans, pure and simple and is developing into quite a resource.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Partick Thistle Fans Boardroom Conspiracy

A guest post from a concerned Partick Thistle fan. Seems the Jags Trust, Scotland's first supporters trust and an instrumental force in saving Thistle, isn't as welcome as it one was at Firhill.

I don't know much about the story. And there are probably two sides to it so feel free to respond. An interesting read though:

A football club is nothing without its fans...

...but that doesn’t seem to be the view at Partick Thistle, where the first supporters trust in Scotland was set up in 1998 after the “Save the Jags” campaign prevented the club slipping into administration. The Jags Trust’s reward back then was to be gifted one fifth of the newly created shares in the club and a promise of a place on the board. This new dawn for Scottish football saw hard working directors Brown McMaster and Tom Hughes being gifted the same amount of shares as “custodians”, in order to make sure that control of the club could never again be held by one individual and the club would never again sleepwalk into a financial crisis.

Fast forward to 2010, where the club has just told the Jags Trust (after discussing the matter at two recent board meetings) that its latest board nominee has not yet been invited to join the board. This doublespeak (they’ve not said no, just not said yes) seems to indicate that the club now has a problem with the concept of supporter representation on its board, at a time when Stirling Albion’s move to fan ownership has only recently been announced.

To the outsider looking in, the trust’s announcement on its own website holds little in the way of a clue as to what the heck is going on in the Firhill boardroom. The club chairman, Allan Cowan, who was instrumental in the 1998 fans campaign, has reportedly told the Jags Trust that it needs to “concentrate on activity which directly benefits the club”.

This is confusing, since, amongst other activities in the recent past, trust members voted to merge their own, profitable fundraiser, with the club’s new scheme, allowing the club to take direct control of an income stream that is vital to continuing to pay its debts. Jackie McNamara’s loan signing last season was funded by the trust, prompting the chairman to say “without their financial assistance we would have been unable to bring Jackie to Firhill at this point and our grateful thanks are extended to the Jags Trust”.

It seems that as one boardroom is being opened to the fans at Forthbank, the door at Firhill is being closed in the face of an active and supportive trust. At least two board meetings have now taken place with no representative of the fans present, a development that can only be viewed with suspicion in the absence of any reasonable explanation.

Thistle fans are entitled to wonder what on earth is going on in the boardroom that will not stand the scrutiny of their representative, while fans of other clubs with a place in the boardroom will now be looking over their shoulders in case the habit is catching. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt watch this with interest – here’s hoping that it can be sorted out soon and that it will all turn out to be a misunderstanding, because if it isn’t then there’s a clear message to Thistle fans that they are not welcome at the top table.

John Hughes Going Nowhere, Yet

What do John Hughes and William Hague have in common? Not, admittedly, all that much.

But yesterday the Hibs manager and the Foreign Secretary were both subjected to a frenzy of speculation and rumour that, it seems, was entirely unfounded.

The big gossip in Scottish football seemed to surface about 6.30pm when a radio station apparently reported that John Hughes had left Hibs.

My phone started vibrating like mad, Tweets appeared, emails were sent.

By coincidence I arrived at Easter Road’s 1875 function suite at around 7.05pm yesterday evening.

And who was already in position ready to take place in a quiz organised by Hibs’ sponsors. Why, surely it was the newly walked-out Mr John Hughes. As bold as brass and most definitely sitting in the stadium rather than storming out of it.

“A lot of rubbish” was his standard response to the inevitable questions regarding the reports.

And, this is an admission that pains me, his team beat mine. Although he did appear to have roped in a couple of ringers. (The players team led at the halfway stage before fading badly: a quiz based metaphor for Hibs' normal pattern during a league season.)

So it was a nonsense that appears to have been a case of somebody failing to get an interview and putting two and two together.

That’s football and it’s hardly on a par with the intrusive gossip that Mr Hague and his family have had to cope with.

But the rumour interested me less than the reaction to it.

The fans I was with gave no sign of being upset at the thought of a Yogi-less Hibs. More than one ruminated that they “hoped” it was true.

The Easter Road support have slipped away from John Hughes. Fans can point to six home defeats on the bounce and last week’s loss to St Mirren as being symptomatic of a wider malaise that has shrouded the team since around January of this year.

The reality is that Hughes’ form in those months has not been good enough.

Knee-jerk reactions are, of course, what fans do best. And an Easter Road board that craves financial stability will have no desire to be fishing around for yet another new manager in the near future.

But even there we can maybe see some fault-lines developing. Alan Gow didn’t impress many supporters during his spell with Hibs last season. But the manager is a big fan.

With Anthony Stokes lost on deadline day and Gow still available Hughes might have hoped to bring him in. For whatever reasons that didn’t happen and Gow has signed for Motherwell.

If Hughes feels the frostiness from the terraces is being matched by a reluctance from the board might he begin to consider his own position?

Last night somebody joined up a loose series of dots and came up with a pattern that fitted Hughes’ departure.

That was wrong.

But that so many fans were happy to believe it, that there were clues appearing that suggested it might be true, could just mean that Hughes and Hibs are now entering the last days of their relationship.

Hughes wasn’t going anywhere last night. Don’t be tempted to bet big on him still being around for the annual quiz next year though.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Transfer Anarchy To End?

UEFA supremo Michel Platini has again been giving us his man of the people, greed is bad routine:

UEFA president Michel Platini has declared the new regulations to halt excessive spending will bring an end to the transfer market "anarchy".

The organisation are set to gradually implement new financial fair play rules from next season in attempt to keep a lid on club debt and create a level playing field.

These measures could put a halt to the influence of billionaire benefactors such as Roman Abramovich and Sheikh Mansour on the sport, and the ex-Juventus and France superstar backs the governing body's action.

He said: "For years and years we were in total anarchy but the clubs asked for the rules because they knew they could not continue.

"We can see already that the clubs are spending less as they look to balance their books.

"This is because the first time the break-even rule will kick in is in the coming year, the 2011-2012 season.

"It's very soon and this means that the strategy to say 'I can now go and spend hundreds of millions' doesn't work because we will see it in two years at the latest.

"Transfers have not been as crazy as in the last few years, they are pulling up their socks and the clubs are making special efforts to comply with the rules."

The legislation will allow owners to inject €15 million (£12.3m) a year into their clubs up until 2015, and then €10m (£8.2m) until 2018. This cash cannot be a loan, which is an approach already taken by the Manchester City and Chelsea hierarchy.

We'll see.

One thing that struck me yesterday though.

The transfer window and the apparent rush to get signatures and close deals is a stupendously bad way to run a business.

I understand the need for a transfer window - although I'd prefer it to end before the league season starts - but I can't see how it encourages a sensible financial approach.

Yesterday may have been quieter than some windows of the crazy, recent past (Sam Allardyce and his Bolton helicopter springs to mind) but even so, it seems a strange way to reconnect the game with a degree of financial sanity.

Maybe Michel the Red should turn his attention to that next.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Co-Operative Insurance Cup Third Round Draw

With football fans across the world desperately searching for the latest transfer news and Jim White doing his man-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown-because-of-the-excitement-of-it-all routine, today seems like a strange day to schedule a national cup draw. Especially one that sees Rangers, Celtic, Dundee United, Hibs and Motherwell feature for the first time.

But Scottish football’s administrators are a strange bunch so the Scottish Football League held the draw for the next round of the Co-operative Insurance Cup at Hampden this afternoon.

I dare say Jim White will be able to muster more excitement for the news that Ryan Babbel has gone to the toilet today than a lot of people will for the lesser of our two cups.

But still. Someone’s going to have a Hampden party at the end of all this.

The draw is:

Rangers v Dunfermline
Kilmarnock v Hibs
Aberdeen v Raith
Falkirk v Hearts
Celtic v Inverness
Ross County v Dundee United
St Johnstone v Queen of the South
Brechin v Motherwell

Two all SPL ties as Mixu’s Killie take on Hibs and Celtic and Inverness reignite their cup rivalry. Tricky trip to Brechin for Motherwell, Raith might fancy a wee drive up to Pittodrie and Dunfermline won’t be greeting at the thought of an Ibrox payday.

Just thought that I’m probably not supposed to list the fixtures.

So I’ll not tell you when they’re being played. But it might be a good idea to keep Armenian Independence Day and the American Business Women’s Day free this September.

Francisco Varallo

Francisco Varallo might not have been a household but the announcement of his death means that none of the players from the 1930 World Cup final between Uruguay and Argentina still survive.

Varallo was on the losing Argentinian side. On his 100th birthday he told FIFA:

''However, in my whole life I've never felt such a bitter pain as losing that World Cup final against Uruguay in 1930. How I cried that day. Even now when I look back it still makes me angry.''

"Everyone asks me about that match, in which I shouldn't have played because I was very young, I didn't have experience. Sometimes I prefer not to remember what happened in Montevideo."

Until very recently, when he was overtaken by Martin Palermo, Varallo was also Boca's record goalscorer.

Interesting to wonder what Varallo thought of the modern game. Telling also that the pain of defeat was still so strong eighty years later. Eighty often turbulent years for football and for Argentina. But that, I suppose, is what international football should be all about.

Who Do You Think You Are?

The story surrounding a possible England call up for Everton's Mikel Arteta rumbles on. Craig Levein has now added to the debate:

"The way I understand it, the home associations have an agreement," said Levein. "I'll tell you how I know. I tried to get Shola Ameobi at Newcastle a while back [to play for Scotland], because he has not played for England but has lived in the UK and has a British passport, so I thought he might be able to play for Scotland. But we had changed the rules."

Levein described the rule as "more than a gentlemen's agreement", adding: "Maybe England are thinking of challenging it but it only came in a year ago.

"I just used Ameobi as an example because he was somebody who had a British passport but it fell down because he didn't have the educational qualification. I understand that it's a newsworthy story but I don't want to go into enormous detail about Arteta. All I'm saying to you is, the way I understand it, they can't cap him."

My own view is quite simple. Arteta shouldn't be playing for England, Ameobi shouldn't be playing for Scotland.

I actually agree with some of the recent changes in the eligibility rules, especially those regarding education.

It seems to me they reflect a changing society. And I'm an old, liberal romantic. I'm convinced that, say, an Afghan-born Glasgow educated twenty year old pulling on the Scotland strip would do a lot to promote our understanding of immigration, asylum and a multi-cultural society.

In Ameobi's case I'd argue that living in England since the age of five makes him eligible for England not Scotland.

But Arteta's is a very different case. He arrived in Glasgow to earn a lot of money, he wasn't escaping from the persecution of Barcelona's reserves.

Since moving to Everton I've been blissfully unaware of his reinvention as a son of John Bull. If I moved to the United States for five years to earn a million dollars a year (very much open to offers, by the way) I'd not be worshipping the Stars and Stripes, I'd be a product of a global economy. That shouldn't be what international football is about.

Maybe I'm being old-fashioned. Craig Levein would probably think so:

"From my point of view, my job isn't to decide who is Scottish, it's to win football matches. Take away the rest of it and keep my mind on that one thing, and I would be happy to play anybody.

"I mean, it depends what you think about the current grandparent rule. A lot of guys I played with for Scotland were effectively English. So what's the difference?"

What is the difference? Maybe when all is said and done the difference is purely emotional. As fans we want to have some link to our national team. That can be difficult when you need an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? to work out why your goalkeeper has been picked. It might be impossible when your star midfielder is, by every measure, Spanish.

"My job isn't to decide who is Scottish." Well, enquiring about Ameobi would suggest that Levein does sort of see that as his role.

The rules, as they are, are messy and "gentleman's agreements" are probably not the best way to run international football. The status of the international game is falling. But a kind of international transfer market is not the best way to halt the decline. It might be the best way to ensure that decline is irreversible.

A simple solution, one that wouldn't solve every case but would be an obstacle to what I can see being a football equivalent of a land grab for the best available talent, would be to say that any age-group caps over the age of 18 dictate that you can only play for that country.

OK, so some footballers aren't the brightest. But if you don't know what nationality you are by the age of 18 then there's something massively wrong.

The starkest conclusion is depressing. Levein has looked at the talent pool and decided that forty year old defenders and Nigerian-born English attackers are his best options for success.

Aye, we're doomed right enough.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Remembering Leeds United

I’ve received an email from Eddie Taylor looking for some insight into Leeds United’s Scottish connection.

Obviously I am far, far too young to remember the 1970’s heyday of United. So if you’ve got any particular recollections or information add a comment or contact me and I’ll pass them on to Eddie:

I'm writing for the official Leeds United magazine on the club's seemingly unbreakable Scottish connection – paricularly as we've just signed two more Scots, Ross McCormack and Neil Collins.

I'm also going to be speaking to Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray about the Elland Road "clan", but I really wanted some insight from more of a fan's perspective. If you have a few seconds, I'd love to know...

1. Whether in the 1970s particularly there was any allegiance to Leeds amongst Scots with all the Scottish players in the side? Did people want Leeds to do well because they had four, five, sometimes six Scots in the starting line up? Or, frankly, was that just the way football was back then – with every major club having two or three Scots?

2. That 1974 World Cup side in particular had a strong Leeds flavour... Lorimer, Bremner, Harvey and Jordan in the starting side, with McQueen also in the squad – in fact all the goals in the
tournament came from Leeds players. (Scotland even wore all white and used sock tags!) As Leeds had just won the championship, was there a feeling that Scotland was in the ascendancy football-wise at this time?

3. What the achievements of someone like Billy Bremner at Elland Road mean to people north of the border?

4. To what extent did that continue with the likes of Strachan and McAllister then coming to Leeds and helping win the title in 1992?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Super Sunday?

Part two of this weekend's spectacular six.

All four of our European dream teams are in action. A prospect that makes the mouth water.

Hearts v Dundee United
Last week United were involved in one of the strangest European confusions I've seen since a holiday rep offered me a day trip to the world famous continent of Morocco. In tricky circumstances they acquitted themselves not too badly against a team that is, simply, better than them. A slow start to the season though and that makes a trip to Tynecastle a bit daunting. Home win.

Motherwell v Celtic
How do you defend a two goal lead in a European second leg. I wouldn't look here for answers. No clues about winning a home tie against nine men either. But some standard SPL fare to get us all back on an even keel. We'll have that by the bucket load. Scoring draw.

St Mirren v Hibs
Hibs seem to be the TV choice of the moment. Understandable given the 16 goals scored in their four competitive matches so far. Unfortunately they've conceded 11 and only scored five. Rumours swirl around Anthony Stokes, a transfer that would leave John Hughes a bit short handed up front. In the meantime they might just secure an away win today.

So far: Bad day at the office yesterday means it's only 6 out of 15.