Saturday, February 19, 2011

Old Firm Preview: The Rangers View

Old Firm match day four and the stakes are high for Rangers. Time, then, for a Rangers eye view of tomorrow's events.

And it's a pleasure to welcome Scott Johnson of The Footy Blog - recently voted Scotland's top football blog (ahem!) - to give us his blue take on how the match might develop.

So this is the fourth Old Firm game of the season so far…feels like the four hundredth really. And we have three more to come!

Ah well, at least as a Gers fan I know the passion will be there on Sunday. It is an important game for us, we need to try and gain the momentum back as in form Celtic are currently looking better than us.

There is added spice this time for two reasons: The Scott Brown/El Hadji Diouf feud and the fact we actually had an entertaining game last time.

Problems seem to be looming for Rangers though. This fixture comes in the middle of two Europa League games with Sporting Lisbon. In the first tie with the Portuguese side, Rangers lost a lead and that has been the story of their season so far in most of their tougher games. They also have a backlog of SPL matches and Celtic have the extra points in the bag, that’s pressure Walter Smith and his squad do not need.

Lee McCulloch is a big miss, never thought I would say that, and young Jamie Ness is struggling to last ninety minutes. Steve Davis has not been anywhere near as influential this season and Davie Weir is becoming a liability, just look at the Samaras goal in the last SPL Old Firm clash when McGregor had no confidence Weir could stop Samaras. Then there is the point that Celtic have out performed us twice at Ibrox in the last two meetings.

So with all that said Rangers have no chance, right?


It’s an Old Firm game after all. Form counts for very little, the best team on the day are prone to lose. Nikica Jelavic has come back into the side and settled in as the number one striker. He reminds me of Dado Prso, not because they are both Croatian but because of their tough natures, work ethic and team play, but he also adds goals.

Tactics? Well, 4-5-1 vs 4-5-1, simple.

So my prediction, well a boring draw is what my head says but my heart say 1-0 Rangers - Diouf with the goal!

Thanks again to Scott. can be found here or follow @thefootyblognet on Twitter here.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Old Firm Preview: The Celtic View

The fourth Old Firm game of the season is almost upon us. And what a season defining game it could be.

In the first of the Scottish Football Blog's three part preview I'm pleased to welcome Michael Gunn from TicTacTic - described by The Guardian as "an excellent tactical analysis overview site of Celtic" - to give us the hooped view.

With Rangers' games in hand theoretically putting them one point ahead of Celtic at the summit of the SPL, Sunday's encounter at Parkhead is one which Neil Lennon will feel is a must-win, but for Walter Smith, a must-not-lose.

Bearing in mind Celtic's ten man dominance in the most recent Old Firm derby, there has never been a better time to really go for the jugular, backed up by a capacity crowd baying for vengeance after losing 3-1 on the same turf in October.

Lennon has since gone through a myriad of trials, errors, new signings and tinkerings trying to find a formula that can not only do it in the SPL, but also in the big games. That shambolic loss at Celtic Park was preceded by a 16 match unbeaten run stretching back to the previous season. But the strange 4-3-3 with Stokes and Samaras on the flanks proved to be soft and exploitable.

Following this 4-3-3 we've seen forms of 4-2-3-1, 4-5-1, 4-4-2 and even a 3-5-2 in an attempt to shore up a porous defence. But finally Lennon has settled on two main setups, with well drilled individuals playing in the right positions, and an ambitious young squad.

The first is a straightforward attacking 4-4-2 with the flourishing Stokes and Hooper pairing supported by a disciplined midfield. Scott Brown playing on the right adds defensive stability in an area that other teams like to flood and meanwhile on the left Commons and Izaguirre provide so much movement and firepower, the opposing sides flank is neutered. This is the formation being used essentially against any “non-Rangers” side, and one the fans seem keen to see. But with the recent spate of goals, who can blame them?

The other main formation is a more conservative 4-4-1-1 that served so well against Rangers' in the cup with an unorthodox 4(!) centre-midfielders, Ledley, Ki, Kayal and Brown squeezed onto the pitch. It's a stout, possession based formation with at least 3 proper scrappers. Initially this led to Hooper being isolated, but with Commons working out where the space was and coming into the game, Rangers could not cope.

But to go with the cliché, where Old Firm selections are concerned expect the unexpected, so it's difficult to predict a lineup. Apart from the obvious Stokes or Ki / 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 conundrum, the most under-threat position will be Charlie Mulgrew's. Although he's been solid so far, he will be seen as a weak point and in a “siege” type situation a lá the opening 5-10 minutes of the cup game, his pure, defensive abilities will be under question, and therefore Lennon may opt for bona fide centre-back Thomas Rogne, who should be fit by now.

Finally a special mention to Georgios Samaras who's New Year heroics seem to have been his only contribution this season. A fantastic “counter-attack” player, his height might be useful (given how aerially vulnerable Celtic were at the start of the month) but unlikely to start on Sunday.

These derbys usually see managers on either side selecting conservatively, so with the expected counter-attacking, deep Rangers 4-5-1, I suspect Lennon will start out looking for possession and solidarity with a 4-4-1-1. Stokes, McCourt and Samaras the impact options.

Lineup (predicted): Forster, Izaguirre, Mulgrew, Majsotorvic, Wilson, Ledley, Ki, Kayal, Brown, Commons, Hooper

Thanks again to Michael. You can find TicTacTic here for "critical analysis of all things Celtic." Or follow @Tic_Tac_Tic on Twitter here.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

SPL Today: Four In Hand

My predictions were made early this week to allow them to feature on The Commentary Box radio show on Monday (available for download now.)

Last Sunday evening I saw the results going this way:

Aberdeen v Kilmarnock: 2-2
Hearts v Dundee United: 2-0
Inverness v St Johnstone: 1-2
Motherwell v Hamilton: 0-0

Has anything changed?

Motherwell's midweek win over Aberdeen was a vast improvement on their six goal humping at Ibrox last Saturday. But as Stuart McCall has said this week he needs consistency from his side. I still can't see Hamilton scoring at Fir Park, but will Motherwell's new strike force of Sutton and Jeffers impress again?

Stick or twist? I'll go with my initial predictions with the proviso that they are likely to be completely wrong.

Four In Hand: A hostelry round the corner from the Leith San Siro now owned by Hibs legend Paul Kane. But also the games Dundee United have in store on the four teams above them. Some criticism of Peter Houston's side of late but fourth place is very much still on. Time to cut them some slack?

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Video: Roy of the Rovers

It's Roy of the Rovers day at the Scottish Football Blog, I've relocated to Melchester for one day only. Hope there's not an earthquake.

Grab a cup of nostalgia and enjoy Roy Race - the Documentary.

Roy of the Rovers on the Scottish Football Blog

SPL: Francis Jeffers Hopes For Motherwell Redemption

“His movement was excellent, obviously he has taken his goal well. He has created himself another couple of chances, he has got across the front of people.” (STV Sport)

Motherwell boss Stuart McCall was effusive in his praise of his new striker after Tuesday night’s win at Aberdeen.

All fairly run of the mill stuff after an SPL midweek clash.

But the striker in question is Francis Jeffers, last seen scoring one goal in nine appearances for Australia’s Newcastle Jets but once an £8 million Arsenal striker.

Back in the days when Arsene Wenger was less parsimonious he splashed out when Jeffers was seen as one of England’s bright young things after scoring 18 goals in 49 appearances for Everton and 13 in 16 England under-21 games.

Jeffers seemed to have the world at his feet. And then...nothing.

Unable to break into the Arsenal first team he managed just 22 league games, with a Premiership return of four goals.

Money, it seems, doesn’t always buy goals.

Since then Jeffers career has frittered away. A loan spell at Everton ended when he fell out with David Moyes - just as his original move to Arsenal followed a fractious relationship with Walter Smith.

Between 2004 and 2010 he played for Charlton, Rangers (loan), Blackburn, Ipswich (loan) and Sheffield Wednesday.

In that time he managed only 101 league games, scoring just twelve goals. 54 of those games came for Sheffield Wednesday with a return of five goals.

Undoubtedly he’s been unlucky with injuries. But his time at Sheffield Wednesday saw him transfer listed after headbutting Port Vale’s Tommy Fraser. Combined with the early run-ins with Everton managers it suggests that rumours of “attitudinal” issues might not be too far off the mark.

Yet here is a player who Arsene Wenger once hailed as a “fox in the box,” a player who scored on his England his debut, who seemed set on a stellar career path. Wenger is not infallible but Jeffers’ fall from grace has been dramatic.

Football can be a callous game, the line between success and failure is finely drawn.

Maybe Jeffers career was needed, the high profile warning to all the young millionaires the game now creates. If you think you’re untouchable, that life and football will bend to your will, you are mistaken.

Today an £8 million move to Arsenal, in a few years a failure to score in eight SPL games for Rangers.

I can’t quite imagine what it must be like to be the subject of a multi-million pound move to a club like Arsenal when you are just 21.

I suspect, however, that at no point in that particular life experience do you ever imagine that in less than ten years you will be looking to Motherwell and Stuart McCall for a final shot at redemption.

But that is where Francis Jeffers finds himself.

I don’t know him. I can only guess at the balance of blame in all that has happened although I’d guess that bad luck and a loss of confidence have played a role along with injuries and self inflicted problems.

Yet I find myself hoping he finds something at Motherwell. We’re not supposed to have sympathy for rich young footballers, we’re supposed to snigger when it all goes wrong.

But, big fearty that I am, I’d find something compelling about Jeffers’ story ending with him banging in the goals as a Motherwell hero. To see him enjoying the game again as I’m sure he must have done when he started out with Everton.

Would that not, for once, be a good news story for us to savour?

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Friday Quiz: Roy Race Style

Time for the Big Fat Quiz of the Year.

The years in question being 1979/80.

Your genial quiz master is Roy Race, master of all Melchester.

But first a few words of introduction from Britain’s most expensive footballer, Trevor Francis:

“Looking through the questions [in this book], I can see that anyone getting a high proportion of correct answers can rightly claim to be a football expert. I’m certain that when my fellow professionals buy a copy of this quiz book, they’ll spend many hours puzzling over the questions. We’re always in need of something to pass the time when we’re travelling to away matches...and this book is just the thing!

“You’ll find the answers at the back of the book...but no cheating, that’s not the way Roy of the Rovers does things!

“That’s enough from me. It’s time time for you to put on your soccer thinking caps and see just what you know. Good may be harder than you think!”

1. Which club has Ayresome Park for it’s home ground?

2. Which club has won the First Division title more often, Derby County or Chelsea?

3. Which club once played at The Nest?

4. Did Bill Shankly ever play for Scotland?

5. Scotland had two points deducted from their total in Group 4 of the 1978 World Cup. Why?

6. When did Wales last win the Home International championship outright?

7. What year did Pat Jennings make his debut for Northern Ireland?

8. Three players from Nottingham Forest were in the Scotland [World Cup] squad. Who were they?

9. What is Kevin Keegan’s nickname in Hamburg?

10. Cyril Knowles played for England. True or false?

11. Who was the manager who quit football to become an evangelist in America?

12. Which club can hold more fans, Liverpool or Manchester United?

13. When were shinguards first used?

14. Which was the West Country team that once went 58 matches without using a substitute?

15. Chelsea’s record signing David Hay cost £225,000 when he joined them from Celtic in which year?

Answers will appear on Tuesday

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rangers v Sporting Lisbon

A quiet few days for Rangers kicks off with a Govan welcome to Sporting Lisbon in the Europa League.

The teams last met in 2008 when Rangers were on their way to the final of the UEFA Cup. What Walter Smith would give for that to be an omen of good times ahead.

In his tactical preview for Scottish Football Forums, Andrew Gibney of Gibfootballshow looks at Walter Smith's options:

Much of the pre-match build is based over what system Walter Smith will play in the first leg. Does he stick with the tried and tested 5-4-1 or with some new players at his disposal he could go for a more aggressive 4-5-1. Lee McCulloch’s injury will have been a massive blow to any of Walter’s plans and it gives him a few key decisions to make before kick-off.

One of those formations would seem to be the most obvious decision for Smith. But rumours from Graham Spiers on Twitter suggest that Rangers might be going with two up front for tonight's game - or at the very least with another forward instructed to support Lafferty up front.

We've been focusing a lot recently on Rangers' loss of momentum in the SPL as Celtic have hit top spot. But what would Sporting, some 23 points being league leaders Porto, give to be within a couple of games hand from the top of the table?

So tonight perhaps offers a welcome distraction for the Portuguese. But is it an unwelcome interruption to Rangers' preparations for Sunday's Old Firm clash?

Smith says that is absolutely not the case. Much depends on the result. If Rangers perform well and get a decent result while avoiding injuries they are buoyed for the weekend. If they get beaten and the scrapes and bruises mount up then the hangover might last until Sunday.

Certainly Rangers will need to be fully focused in a clash which seems winnable. On current form neither of these sides are in the top ranks of the European aristocracy and it could be quite a tight affair. But there is no reason for Rangers to be overawed by the presence of the opposition.

And that might just make up Smith's mind when he weighs the benefits and disadvantages of showing slightly more adventure than he has on previous European nights.

The right attitude and the right start will get the crowd going and convince the players of their ability to win this game. A lot of that can come from the manager's choice of formation and tactics.

For Smith, the arch pragmatist, an emphasis on attack would also allow him to move the focus from the gap in Rangers' midfield caused by the absence of Lee McCulloch that Andrew mentions.

Smith might have cause to curse that absence before the season is out but a shift away from the no risks approach would be a way of papering over the cracks in the short term.

The European nights are drawing in for Smith. Why not let his troops off the leash for once?

It could be an interesting night at Ibrox. I'll miss it, happily ensconced in the local picture house watching The King's Speech instead.

And Rangers can't afford a stuttering, stammering performance tonight (that gag was so blindingly obvious I'm almost ashamed) because right now they look a side at the end of their period of pre-eminence.

They can't allow that feeling to be reinforced by a poor display against a struggling Sporting side before Sunday's Old Firm clash.

Scottish Football Blog prediction: A rare European win for Rangers in a close encounter.

> Nikica Jelavic ineligible, Kenny Miller gone, Kyle Lafferty not long recovered from illness. Could El Hadji Diouf play a big, big part for Rangers tonight. On STV's football site Zonal Marking suggests that seeing Diouf in the lone striker's role "wouldn't be a surprise."

> "A rare European win?" Rangers have won only one of their last 17 European games from open play, reports Roddy Forsyth.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

SPL: Selling the Dream

The SPL sales drive for their shiny new double decker continues. Ten up. Twelve down.

The Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser reported yesterday:

Neil Doncaster will today meet with all 30 SFL clubs as the push for league reconstruction continues.

The SPL chief executive is to lay out his organisation's proposals for change at the SFL quarterly meeting of clubs at Hampden.

Selling the big idea.

A ten team SPL. A twelve team SPL 2.

And the rest?

Cast out to a pyramid system that hasn't really been defined. Are the SPL power brokers prepared to offer much more than a haughty "let them eat cake" to the bread starved peasants? When the rich revolt do the poor remain poor?

Maybe the SFL teams will feel energised by the prospect of change, any change, in a stagnating game.

Or maybe not.

I'm beginning to feel a bit sorry for Neil Doncaster taking his PowerPoint slides to a succession of hostile meetings with little but a wing and a prayer and handful of "maybes" to offer in support of his brave new world.

How do you sell that convincingly?

Suddenly I'm put in mind of The Simpsons' episode Marge vs the Monorail.

The residents of Springfield are bamboozled into buying a shoddy, needless monorail from a fast talking, all singing, all dancing salesman who promises them that all they need is change for change's sake to make life better.

You can sell anything to the gutless, the feckless, the desperate, the money mad.

Some of the SPL teams have already shown themselves to be exactly that.

Let's hope the SFL 30 aren't quite as yellow.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

March 27: Scotland v Brazil

That's it confirmed then.

Faroe Islands hammered. Northern Ireland hammered.

So the obvious next step for Craig Levein's re-born Scotland team is to tackle Brazil.

2pm on Sunday 27th March. Scotland v Brazil at the Emirates Stadium in London.

A tenth meeting between the two. A first win for Scotland?

It's going to be a hell of a day out for the Tartan Army. A meaningless friendly perhaps. But Brazil v Scotland in London. It's a fixture that carries a certain attraction.

Craig Levein is relishing the prospect:

"This game will not only capture the imagination of the Scotland support but also the squad, who will relish the prospect of testing their skills against one of the finest international teams in world football

"I believe the recent performances - and not simply the results - against the Faroe Islands and Northern Ireland have given the whole country a lot of encouragement for the second half of the Euro 2012 qualification campaign and beyond.

"The players have a confidence in the way forward and while I believe the most important aspect of the forthcoming international break is to further cultivate a Club Scotland culture within the squad, the opportunity to play Brazil was irresistible." (BBC Sport)

A selection of previous Scotland v Brazil clashes

Brazil v Scotland at the World Cup: 1998, 1990, 1982, 1974

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Stick In The Mud

Was this the moment a rather unfortunate Gary Hooper became a convert for summer football?

Amusing as it is to see a professional football fall over his own feet, there must be sympathy for all the players being asked to perform on pitches in the state Tannadice was in on Sunday.

Not criticising Dundee United, lots of pitches are in a terrible state and the weather has been following an unsettling pattern of crap through shocking to bloody awful. United actually did well to get the game played on a pitch that, but for certain areas, could probably have been even worse.

And it was commendable the way both teams managed to put on a very watchable game of football.

Slight concerns about something in the BBC match report though:

Both managers had expressed their surprise that the game was given the go-ahead after three pitch inspections, with United's Peter Houston suggesting that pressure had been put on referee Mike Tumilty because of the SPL's fixture backlog.

Talk of summer football might remain slightly facetious. And the weather has been slightly freakish.

But the quality of the football will not improve if we're having to force games through because we're worried about the number of games we need to cram in.

A winter break doesn't solve that problem. Maybe an earlier start to the season with a couple of two week breaks scheduled for the spring, expressly reserved to clear any outstanding backlog, would be a better option.

It's not easy to find a workable solution. But it would be nice if the SPL's Brains Trust could come up with something.

Amusing as it can be, we don't actually pay our money to see a player of Hooper's ability fall flat on his face.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Scottish Football Podcasts: The Commentary Box

As my long suffering regular reader is aware (hello mum!), the Scottish Football Blog does not excel at the results forecasting game.

So it was with a certain trepidation that I agreed to send in my guest predictions for "Coupon Corner" on The Commentary Box.

It was good to get a chance to help the guys out though.

The Commentary Box is Scotland's newest football talkshow, airing on City of Glasgow Radio every Monday evening.

Featuring Paul Fisher, Robert McCracken and Jordan McCallum, the show is also available as a podcast and the accompanying website features match reports, previews, reviews and sundry other features about the curious world of the fitba'.

You'll also find the running total from "Coupon Corner" on the site, I think I can confidently predict that will be a league of shame for me by Sunday evening.

Well worth a listen, download and read.

> If you're interested in writing for The Commentary Box you can find contact details on the site or follow on Twitter @TheCommBox

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Record Gives Youth Football Scotland A Voice

Big news for coverage of youth football in Scotland with the announcement that Youth Football Scotland (YFS) is joining forces with the Daily Record to produce a weekly insert covering the game’s grassroots.

Appearing every Tuesday, the cunningly titled Grass Roots will offer a taster of the best of Youth Football Scotland’s extensive coverage each week.

Launched last November, Youth Football Scotland has set itself the ambitious targets of both raising the profile of youth football and establishing a portal for anyone with an interest in youth football in Scotland.

In just a few months they’ve achieved both remarkably well. Not easy in a country - and The Scottish Football Blog recognises its own deficiencies in this area - where coverage of anything below the SPL can be as rare as hen’s teeth.

Robbie Forsyth, co-founder of YFS, said:

We are delighted with the response so far. To have players, coaches and clubs from far and wide participating and reaping the rewards is very pleasing. However, adding the Daily Record into the equation is a massive boost to everyone. There is an unrivalled prestige that comes with having you or your club’s name in the newspaper, and before now there has been very little coverage afforded to the foundations of our national sport. Now anyone at any level can be recognised, it’s not about what team you play for, it’s about what you have achieved.

I’ve written recently about how we’re maybe a touch too quick to write off the work done at grassroots level.

YFS is going a long way to addressing that problem by celebrating the good stories that continue to come out of the youth game.

Importantly it also provides an accessible way for coaches and managers to exchange information which should have the long term benefit of fostering more cooperation between clubs and raising the overall standard at youth level.

Finally it offers youngsters the chance to play the game by allowing them to easily find clubs they can play with. Surely the most important thing.

Good luck to all involved. And kudos to the Record for giving YFS such invaluable publicity.

Please visit YFS to see the great work they are doing.

The Scottish Football Blog News Feed

Monday, February 14, 2011

SFA Grassroots Award Winners 2011

I mentioned the other week that I’d been invited to the SFA Grassroots Awards dinner at Hampden. Strange as it may seem the point of the evening was not actually to give me a free feed.

In fact a number of our game’s unsung heroes were honoured. So I’m indebted to Steven at event sponsor's McDonald’s for providing some info on each of the winners.

Everyone of them deserves our applause and our gratitude.

Best Coach in Youth Football – Raymond Kelly

This season sees Raymond Kelly celebrate his twenty fifth year as secretary to the Aberdeen Juvenile. He has overseen the growth of the Aberdeen and District Juvenile FA to well over 240 teams from the ages of 9s to 19s. Raymond is currently in his final year of his 3 year stint as President of the SYFA. Raymond is also an active member of the SFA Regional Committee, has been treasurer of the Aberdeen Sports Council, and has received the SALSC Award for services to local sport. His job as a Director of Tax for the Wood Group takes him all over the world.

Best Coach in Youth Football – Robert Bartlett

Robert Bartlett is the founder, chairman and also the head coach at Cuminestown Youth Active Football Club. Cuminestown is a small village in the heart of Aberdeenshire with a population of around 500 and just one primary school. From one afternoon taking a couple of local children for a ‘kick a boot’ in the park, Robert has now created and developed an excellent club that boasts over 70 children. Scottish FA level four coach Robert along with a very supportive and hard working committee now have three teams (8s/10s/12s) that play in the North Region Youth Football Association fixtures during the summer season and have additional teams being prepared for girls football and Under 8s ready for next season.

Cuminestown YAFC is very much a family orientated club that continues to grow and Robert has established himself as a local hero in the area and is a fantastic role model to the club’s coaches and all the children involved. The efforts of Robert and his team have been recognised by both the Scottish FA and presented the club with the Quality Mark Standard Award, with the club now pushing for the next level.

Best Volunteer in Schools Football – Robert Wilson

For over 30 years Bob has been the fixtures secretary of Edinburgh Schools Football. Throughout that time he has also ran numerous teams at Forrester High School and has been heavily involved in the Edinburgh select side. Quite literally generations of school children in Edinburgh owe their start to Bob. His phenomenal amount of service to Forrester & Edinburgh Schools for the past 38 yrs. His teams are always well disciplined and he is held in the highest esteem by all schools football. Due to retire in this school year, this award would be fitting tribute for Bob’s unfaltering service to schools football over the past four decades.

Best Volunteer in Women’s/Girls Football – Laura Montgomery

For over a decade Laura has relentlessly promoted women’s football in Scotland whilst also finding time to lead GCFC into the respected echelons of European football. Although her playing career may be over she will continue to devote much time and energy into further enhancing the profile of GCFC as well as ensuring that women’s club football in Scotland becomes even more successful. Laura is a more than worthy winner.

> In one of the spikier acceptance speeches of the evening Laura spoke passionately about the ongoing struggle to raise the profile of the women’s game. She may be retiring from playing but Laura will still be an active and vocal champion of the sport.

McDonald’s Community Champion Award – Stuart Wild

Stuart’s enthusiasm and dedication to his teams is fantastic. He has been instrumental in getting the Quality Mark standard for his club and every year runs a football festival for over 400 boys and girls. Stuart got involved in Renfrew Victoria as a favour, in 1990, to the founder member of the club local man John Burns. Since that time the club has grown from one team to 13 teams covering ages from under 7-17. Over the years Stuart has made it a priority to put something back into his community and as such decided to host an annual tournament which gives children enjoyment through football whilst also raising money for charity.

Best Youth Football Club – Cowie United FC

Cowie United FC was born in 2004 out of a desire for young people in Cowie to simply play football regardless of their ability. From 15 kids it has now grown to a club of over 140. Cowie United’s approach is different because they encourage children of all abilities and from all backgrounds. Cowie United have been working relentlessly over the past 3 years to raise £180,000 needed to provide a new pitch. This project is about ‘more than just a football pitch’– all the community will benefit from improved green space, and Cowie United as a community organisation does ‘more than just football’ e.g. Summer festival, Hallowe’en Party, Christmas Grotto, Family Fundays and social events.

Best Volunteer in Disability Football – Ian Husband

Ian Husband has been a huge part of Scottish Deaf football for over 30 years as a Player, Coach, Fund-raiser and Administrator. Ian has dedicated much of his life over the past 30 years to Edinburgh Deaf Football Club. In recent years Ian has help the club in various roles including, team manger, fund-raiser and chairmen however he is also known to still pull on the strip when required. In addition to working with his beloved Edinburgh team he has served as both Secretary and Chairman of the Scottish Deaf Football League. Ian has helped to ensure clubs throughout Scotland have a clear and fair structure to play there football in.

Recently Ian has turned his hand to the Scottish Deaf International team. Ian, who was capped for Scotland during his early playing career, has fought the corner of the Scottish representation at meetings and assemblies across Europe. If it wasn't for Ian's determination, knowhow and dedication, the Scottish Deaf Futsal team would not have made their debut at the European Deaf Championships in November 2010. Ian was lead organiser of this trip and ensured that the players got the best possible experience from the Championships.

Ian is also a grassroots champion and has been working with the Scottish FA to organising National Deaf Festivals and Coach Education training. Recently Ian in partnership with the Scottish FA organised 25 Deaf coaches from across Scotland to obtain their Club Coach Certificate. This is no mean feat and took considerable organisation to overcome many of the communication barriers that were present. In the end he found, in some case, chapping on doors and dragging coaches out their beds on a Sunday morning was the best way to get people on the course. He did this knowing once on the course not only would the coaches enjoy the experience but the knowledge they would have gained would help to engage Scottish Deaf community in the beautiful game.

Ian is, and will continue to be for many more years, a driving force behind those who have hearing impairments or who are Deaf to play and enjoy the game of football.

Best Grassroots Community Club – Glenrothes Strollers

18 months ago, Glenrothes Strollers were a disparate group of teams who shared the club name but all ran fairly independently, and as such all struggled to get by. All of the teams trained and played their games at a wide range of council and school facilities around the town and communication was at a minimal. In January 2009 with support and discussions with the Scottish FA East Region and Fife Council all teams signed up to a shared vision for the future and agreed on a 5 year development plan and in August 2009 the whole club (all 15 teams) moved to Over Stenton Park after negotiating a 25 year lease with Fife Council.

The club have now developed the open parkland into a brand new football facility, laid out 9 football pitches across the 16 acre site and built their own car park. In addition they installed a group of 8 changing rooms in refurbished portacabins, built new paths and erected perimeter fencing. All of this work has been completed by their own volunteers. The club staff now maintains this park and has raised the money to buy suitable grass cutting, water removal and pitch lining machinery.

At the start of 2010 the club undertook a organizational review with the end result of a more structured and organized club. The club has since implemented a written Player Protection Policy, an agreed grievance procedure and a written health and safety policy. In 2010 the club also applied for and achieved charitable status, no SC041284, the finances are audited by a CA at the end of the season and they now work to an agreed budget for the year ahead. All coaches are ‘disclosed’, qualified to coach at the appropriate level and can administer first aid where required.

Over the past year they have continued to improve their club structure by adding an adult amateur team, this gives our older youths an opportunity to stay with the club when they finish at U19’s and are also fostering good links to junior and senior football. The U19’s now train on a weekly basis along with the players from the local junior club. The past year has also seen the start up of a successful and growing girls section through the Scottish FA/McDonalds programme. They have been fostering direct links with all of our local primary schools, where they now deliver fun football sessions at these schools supported by the Scottish FA & Fife Council Active Schools Coordinators (several of these schools are in SIMD areas). The club also supply their old football strips to local schools that do not have the budget to buy new kit.

To help develop the quality of coaching delivered by the volunteer coaches, the club invested in a weekend (2 day) session with BJ Heinmans Dutch Football Academy. All coaches attended and learned much to add to their SFA qualifications.

The past year has also seen their committee expand as they look to delegate the growing workload. In addition to the Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Player Protection Officer, they have successfully recruited a Vice Chairman, a Vice Secretary, a Coaching Coordinator a Young Strollers Representative and a Girls Co-ordinator. The playing membership has also rapidly increased in the past year from 280 boys (kids and youths) to 370 boys and girls across the age groups plus 20 young men in our adult amateur team. Many of these were from last season’s U19s team. The positive steps that are being made by the club are being recognized by the local community and is being reflected in the increase in membership.

The club is very proactive with regards to their relationship with the local media. Their ‘Media Officer’ ensures the media are informed on reports on every positive story they have. This has heightened the local community’s awareness of who they are and what we are trying to achieve.

In addition, at the end of 2009 the club achieved our Scottish FA Quality Mark ‘Standard’ status and we have topped off a fantastic year by achieving Scottish FA Community status, been voted as ‘Club of the Year’ 2010 by the Scottish FA East Region Committee and awarded runners up of the national Sunday Mail Awards as Club of the Year.

Best Volunteer in Adult Football – David Buchanan

Davy is responsible for the day to day running of the senior Oban Saints Teams. He is also a member of the Football Development Committee in Oban. He is also always available if any of the coaches from the Junior Teams ever need advice. He is always there to watch whichever of the 10 teams that Oban Saints run are playing. If it wasn’t for Davy doing all of the good work he does, football in Oban won’t be as well organized and enjoyed by so many adults and children.

Merit Award for Services to Football – John Beaton

Thousands of North youngsters have benefitted immensely throughout John’s 40 year contribution to North Sport where he has continuously organised and attended fund raising events, training sessions, match events, festivals, tournaments, leagues, overseas tours. John has sacrificed much in his own personal life to the benefit and enhancement of others. He is a truly great character who thoroughly deserves the recognition that this award gives him, as without doubt, each and every one of his current and past players know that he is the best in the business.

John has been instrumental in setting up and running football development in the Inverness Area for the past 40 years, has seen many of the kids he coached go on to play in the senior leagues, including Grant Munro currently at Inverness Caley Thistle and Kevin McDonald who played for Liverpool and Rangers.

> I was fortunate to have a chat with John during the evening. His passion for the game continues to shine through after what has been a long and admirable career. After the hardwork he has done, more often than not without reward or proper recognition, you might think he’d relish his moment of glory.

Not at all. A reluctant and modest winner. But surely a most worthy one as well.

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Ronaldo Retires

Seem to be drowning in video posts at the moment.

But it would be difficult to let Ronaldo's retirement (the Ronaldo - very young children, ask your parents) go unmentioned.

He was quite ugly, he took a funny turn before the World Cup final, he called his son Ronald and he was the best player Bobby Robson ever worked with.

In Sir Bobby's words:

Ronaldo was lean, mean, as quick as an Olympic sprinter and some of the goals he scored had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Couldn't score against Jim Leighton in the World Cup, mind. But still some player. The day we played Brazil in the 1998 World Cup one of the tabloid rags (Star? Sport?) ran a spoof front page claiming that he had Scottish heritage.


If only...