Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Summer's Tale

A quiet June for me on the blogging front.

Everyone needs a break. Expecially if they spend too much time thinking about, writing about and watching Scottish football.

What have I missed?

A Romanov rant, this one wrapped up in an apparent defence of a convicted sex offender, followed by Hearts applying the handbrake and deciding on the course of action that most expected them to follow in the first place. Expect the unexpected with Vlad, if he is managing to get from A to B in the Craig Thomson case it's only after a detour via Z.

As an addendum to this toxic mix of badness and Vladness, Graham Spiers caught himself in another Twitter storm when he appeared to hint at trying to understand the position Thomson found himself in. I felt Spiers was wrong but I've not yet read The Times article where he further articulated his position.

Not having read the article didn't stop some. Within an hour or so of Spiers' tweet I saw the first hint of a campaign to get him sacked. Almost instantly these days can 140 characters you disagree with become 140 characters calling for dismissal. Bite sized hysteria for a soundbite society.

Hearts have found themselves in a couple of right old situations of late. A record fine for disciplinary problems was hurled by the SFA. Hearts had improved their record but were still the worst offenders over the course of the season. The precedent for record fines having already been set, the outgoing SFA disciplinary committee clearly couldn't resist one last hurrah.

Better financial news at Tynecastle with the decision that both clubs would escape punishment for the unsavoury scenes that marked their match with Celtic. This was the late season Tynecastle clash that saw Neil Lennon attacked.

That was a horrible evening and many remain of the opinion that Hearts should have been punished. I actually felt the SPL investigation showed that the club had been aware of the increased volatility of the game and had taken steps with their security partners to guard against problems. What the SPL seemed to concede was that it would be all but impossible to completely guard against the - thankfully rare and isolated - actions of a thuggish nutter who is drawn to an emotional sport that is attended by large numbers of people. That won't be good enough for some but I'd prefer to concentrate on stopping this happening again rather than ripping apart Hearts in society's ongoing and apparently never-to-be-sated search for villains, scapegoats and ever harsher punishments.

The ongoing arguments and stramash surrounding a British football team at the 2012 Olympics continue. I'm still of a mind that this is a non-issue, the arguments having the double whammy benefits of letting the Celtic nations flex their muscles while enjoying a bit of posturing and increasing interest in whatever side the BOA eventually cobble together. Everyone's a winner. Except the GB team.

Colin Calderwood is involved in a giant tease at Hibs. Will he go, won't he go? He probably will, confirming the growing conviction that Hibs are stable only in their instability. Rumours suggest that Hibs are haggling over compensation, money talks but uncertainty only adds to the impression of a club lurching from disaster to disaster without a plan.

Neil Lennon has an extended, and more lucrative, contract. Well deserved and no great surprise. The pressure to deliver will, of course, remain. Celtic have so far suffered much transfer speculation but held on to all their assets bar Fraser Foster. A deal with the 'keeper's parent club Newcastle might still be done. Elsewhere they are being linked with some impressive names. There will be more new faces and on the back of last season's impressive recruitment record that should mean a stronger side next season. But the uneasiness at suitors from down south bearing bank busting wage offers will remain until the window shuts.

Rangers have apparently failed to land a number of transfer targets. Unsurprising given the budgetary constraints new owner Craig Whyte has openly admitted he'll impose. A transfer crisis? Not as yet. But Ally McCoist will want to get some business done soon, if only to calm everyone down.

It's all been fairly quiet on the transfer front. A struggle right now to point to any massive, game changing signings. Hearts have done some solid business but the impression is a team with more strength in depth rather than a team transformed.

In Garry O'Connor and Ivan Sproule Hibs might have recaptured something Easter Road has lost. Or they might, giddy with nostalgia, have signed diminished legends. Either way the worry has to be that the likely managerial departure will knock Hibs preparations out of kilter. Given the season they endured last year that's bad news.

Money is tight across the division and nowhere is that clearer than at Kilmarnock where Kenny Shiels has seen an exodus of players. He signed up Jimmy Nicholl as assistant manager but it is being gazumped by wily old Craig Brown for the signing of Chris Clark that sums up the Rugby Park summer so far.

So that's a whistle-stop tour of some of what I've been missing. More speculation than real action in the transfer market, little sign of any real improvement to the quality on offer, an unprecedented situation involving off the field behaviour and a fair old sprinkling of teacup storms.

A very Scottish summer.

But our clubs are getting back to business. Celtic are in Australia, Hearts in Italy, Dundee United in Ireland and Hibs in total confusion.

The transfers shall increase, in volume if not in quality. The friendlies shall start coming thick and fast, managers across the land will seek to distance themselves from the Easter Road job.

Before we know it will all kick off again. Hopefully only in the footballing sense. We'll be flocking to games and poring over live scores, results, stats and betting odds from across Europe's leagues on sites like the new, searching for our fix of footballing heaven.

I will of course be covering it here. Not all of it. But some of it, in much the normal manner. Amazing how a holiday can revive and replenish. I'm at the stage now where I'm actually looking forward to the season getting properly started.

The gluttony we show in our search for footballing punishment is a true wonder.

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