Friday, September 16, 2011

Hibs: Welcoming Billy Brown

Billy Brown is the new assistant manager at Hibs.

It's going to feel odd typing that for some time to come. Rumours had been swirling all week but it still came as a bit of a shock when the announcement was made.

That shouldn't really be the reaction.

Everything you've heard about Hibs v Aberdeen last Sunday is probably an understatement. It was horrific.

The problems at Easter Road have been well documented.

That Colin Calderwood appears to be struggling in the job is borne out by his record.

It's clear that the board now find themselves with their hands tied after their very public dismissal of offers for the manager's services in the summer.

And anyone who has seen Hibs so far this season will know that the team appears to be drifting aimlessly from bad performance to bad performance.

All that would make the addition of an experienced assistant - a situation vacant since the brief Derek Adams experiment ended - seem like common sense.

The choice of Brown has raised eyebrows because of his career. 23 years as number two to Jim Jefferies - for many Hibs fans the Jambo's Jambo - and those two spells at Hearts.

I honestly couldn't care.

It's a strange feeling to be so intrigued by the appointment of a second in command. But there's not been much else positive to cling to at Easter Road of late.

Hibs need fight and there's a number of backsides needing kicked. That's what Brown will be there to do. And I fancy he'll relish the opportunity.

He's unlikely to accept any nonsense. Be that from the "enigmatic" manager, the meddlesome board or the under-performing players who seem to be taking so long to "gel" that they must split into oil and water for practice games.

A new voice at training and someone for the apparently always uncomfortable Calderwood to lean on, maybe at times to shelter behind.

All I'm interested in is how well Billy Brown performs those roles.

Willie McCartney joined Hibs in 1936 after an acrimonious departure from Tynecastle.

By the time he died in 1948 he had signed the players that became the Famous Five.

No such miracles are needed right now.

Brown only needs to bring calm and common sense off the pitch and find a way of inspiring fight, stubborness, passion, cohesion and a work ethic on it.

Should be his easiest job yet...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rangers: Taxing our patience

Will the monetary shenanigans at Ibrox never end?

On and on rumble the ramifications of Rangers' apparent fiscal folly in seasons gone by.

Will the emboldened taxman or the jilted Martin Bain get in the killer blow?

Craig Whyte has brought bad PR, repetitive answers to pressing questions and Gordon Smith to Govan. But does he bring the financial fortitude necessary to steer a steady course through turbulent waters?

We don't know.

The Martin Bain saga offers a mild diversion. Always struck me as a bit of an arse did the well groomed Martin. Now he's got a well groomed axe to grind. Maybe still an arse, he now feels hard done by and wants his dosh.

To which The Proclaimers might reply: "Get in line son, there's five million waiting."

Still, Fred Goodwin got a pay off and I'm sure Fred wasn't entirely to blame for the gargantuan collapse of one of Scotland's proudest institutions either.

Sideshow Bain aside, the tax question - a series of questions now - looms ever larger.

If I have to pay tax on my ever modest renumeration then a company with Rangers' klout should effing well pay their share as well. Simples.

I would also hope that action would be taken against those in power at Ibrox who sanctioned this accounting chicanery and anyone who knowingly benefited from the practices that were in place.

Of the enigma that is Craig Whyte I know not what to say. Except that it seems to me if he was in the running for 'business brain of the year' he'd not have bought Rangers at this moment in their history. You'd be wary of buying a used car off David Murray right now.

Truthfully though my own finances - rendered less than complex due to a distinct lack of funds - bore me stiff. Trying to engage with the accounts of a football club I don't support is not really my cup of tea. I lack the basic maths to go in for forensic accountancy.

It does confirm, coupled with yet more dire warnings this week about the SPL finances in general, my view that Scottish sport would benefit from a journalist like The Guardian's David Conn.

BBC Scotland's business editor Douglas Fraser had a go this week but, as Iain Hepburn has blogged, the Scottish football media isn't fit for purpose on these issues.

Then, of course, there are the supporters left bemused and befuddled by a crisis that is not of their making. covered this yesterday. The fans have my sympathy. They won't have the sympathy of everyone. I've got some experience of being a fan staring down this particular corridor of uncertainty. It's very unpleasant.

Realistically, I think, Rangers are going nowhere. There might well be a journey into administration, a temporary diminishing of those once great powers.

But if you're hoping that Rangers are about to disappear forever then you're likely to be as disappointed as Martin Bain is when he spills his moisturiser.

Rangers and the ten point deduction

Just for fun. If Rangers were to go into administration they'd automatically lose ten points under the SPL rules on such matters.

So I thought I'd take a hypothetical delve into seasons past and see where a similar deduction would have left the club over the last ten years.

2010/11 - Rangers were champions
Minus ten points Rangers would have finished second, 9 behind Celtic and 20 ahead of Hearts
2009/10 - Champions
2nd, 4 behind Celtic and 14 ahead of Dundee United
2008/09 - Champions
2nd, 6 behind Celtic and 15 ahead of Hearts
2007/08 - Runners-up
2nd, 13 behind Celtic and 16 ahead of Hearts
2006/07 - Runners-up
3rd, 22 points behind Celtic, 3 behind Aberdeen and 1 point ahead of Hearts
2005/06 - Third
3rd, 28 points behind Celtic, 11 behind Hearts and 7 points ahead of Hibs
2004/05 - Champions
2nd, 9 behind Celtic and 22 ahead of Hibs
2003/04 - Runners-up
2nd, 27 points behind Celtic and 3 ahead of Hearts
2002/03 - Champions
2nd, 10 points behind Celtic and 24 ahead of Hearts
2001/02 - Runners-up
2nd, 32 points behind Celtic and 17 ahead of Livingston

If we go back to 1999/00 a ten point deduction would still have seen Rangers win the SPL by 11 points.

This is overly simplistic. Depending on what was involved in any administration it could cause far deeper problems than simply the loss of ten points and involve a far greater weakening of Rangers' strength.

But history shows they've a long way to fall before they crash land amidst the chasing pack.

There is also an argument that in seasons past Rangers have enjoyed a false supremacy by spending money they just didn't have. That they cheated.

I'm not without sympathy for that line of reasoning. But if modern football was to make living beyond your means a hanging offence we'd need to regenerate Albert Pierrepoint to deal with the guilty.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hibs v Aberdeen: Misery on Leith

What times to be a Hibs supporter.

Bottom of the league, a manager who has become a toxic brand, sections of the support ever more alienated from the vision the board have for the club. And sections of the support who are consistently voting with their feet.

A demonstration is planned before today's game with second bottom Aberdeen.

Too soon at this early stage of the season?

Perhaps. But Hibs have been honking for 18 months now. That the demonstration will target both Colin Calderwood and Rod Petrie suggests that some fans are worried about the direction the club is taking both and off the pitch.

I don't expect many fans will pick up the placards today. But nor do I think these are concerns that can be completely ignored.

My own view is that Calderwood is struggling and unhappy. He needs a run of form soon or his position will be become untenable.

But replacing him will not be a magic cure for the ills of the club.

The Hibs board have their admirers inside and outside the club. I'd say they were arrogant, unlistening and overpaid. It's the sort of combination that a Scottish club can ill afford right now.

Some fans will say that Hibs are lucky to have Rod Petrie and his automaton acolytes, that their fiscal conservatism is to be applauded and they do the best they can for the club on the pitch.

The annual accounts will be published soon. The results will be spun to within an inch of their lives. But I fear they'll show that the emperor is getting ever closer to a state of nakedness.

That the team is the best Hibs can hope for is baloney. Hibs have become the team other sides love to play. The final league position last season and the current plight show that the best this board is doing is not achieving parity with clubs of more modest means.

It is, frankly, a mess. An unhappy club with a support base that is fighting apathy and splintering into different factions.

If Hibs lose today the pressure on Calderwood and the board will mount. The board's default position at such times of crisis is to engineer a managerial reshuffle.

At the moment that would simply be more papering over cracks. It would also suggest that, once again, the club's recruitment policy is flawed.

Is anybody at Hibs big enough to take responsibility for that?

This is, of course, a personal opinion. I know others disagree. I know that if Hibs lose today there will be supporters who blame the defeat on the negativity of fans like me.

There are no easy answers at Easter Road. But someone better find some soon because the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.

Aberdeen have also struggled this season, the lack of goals a common theme.

Hibs have Garry O'Connor to score goals. They have very little else. I'm writing amid a fug of pessimism. But I'm finding it hard to see Hibs getting three points today.

This depressing soap opera still has more time to run yet.