Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Birthday John Clark

For absolutely no reason a post marking John Clark's 47th birthday.

Actually not no reason: That today is his birthday was the first tweet I read this morning. Then someone else mentioned him in a reply to a tweet of mine about Gordon Rae (children, ask your fathers). And a week or so ago I was speaking to his cousin after a funeral in Port Seton.

A couple of pints later and all that seems to combine into a sign that it's time to celebrate the one of the men who stole Jim McLean's heart.

And what better way say "happy birthday" than some footage of that night at the Nou Camp in 1987:

Happy birthday big man.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The O'Connor conundrum and Aberdeen's agony

A tortuous night following Hibs' league cup win against Motherwell from afar.

They got there in the end, the dramatic cruelty of the penalty shoot-out and all that.

The "real" Hibs, said a relieved Colin Calderwood. But they were minutes away from another defeat.

Cometh the approaching final whistle, cometh the man. In this case Garry O'Connor.

O'Connor. Oft maligned. Oft front page news for reasons that have very little to do with his football achievements and more to do with a talent richly rewarded and badly handled.

Back at Hibs and - recurring distractions notwithstanding - the only success of a dire start to the season.

I openly questioned quite what Calderwood's input was in signing O'Connor.

That hardly seems to matter now. The manager needs the player to spark the renaissance Leith needs. The player needs the club to reinvigorate a stalled career.

Watching Hibs this season it's clear just how much they rely on O'Connor.

His is a short term deal. That always sets alarm bells ringing.

More so when word reaches me from a former player that O'Connor's stay at Easter Road is likely to be shorter than even a one year deal would suggest.

Rumour and gossip of course. And former players can have axes to grind, fans to impress, Chinese whispers to decipher.

But the idea of O'Connor being set for a January switch (the club mentioned is Celtic - O'Connor trained there last season which could be a case of 2+2=7.5) might fit a pattern. Take a risk on a player, perhaps even relax the fabled wage structure in the short term, benefit from that player's rejuvenation on the pitch and cash in quickly.

It actually makes good business sense.

The problem arises if Hibs haven't turned a corner with last night's win, if they're still stuck in a u-bend full of crap football as the new year arrives.

That could mean a reliance on O'Connor's goals becomes the difference between a bad season and a cataclysmic season.

Could the board possibly countenance such a move in those circumstances?

Even if a deal is not set in stone (as the rumour suggests it is) will his goals interest other clubs? It's often tricky to find readily available goals in the January window.

Are Hibs prepared to stymie any such developments with a longer term deal?

Will his non-footballing travails put any such discussions on hold?

Every O'Connor goal is now contributing to finding an answer for Hibs' agonies. But every goal is also posing a question for the board.

How they solve that conundrum could give us a clear indication of where Hibs are heading this season.

> More penalties further north last night as well.

Another stinking cup shocker for Aberdeen as East Fife triumphed.

Craig Brown called it the worst defeat of his career - he's had other defeats that have hurt more people but I can see where he's coming from - and suggested his tinkering was to blame.

The result, from this distance, looks to be indicative of Aberdeen's recent travails.

These cup shocks were commonplace before Craig Brown arrived. So were the dwindling attendances. So was the disgruntlement of the faithful.

That's not to defend Brown. He may or may not be the right man for the job.

But Aberdeen's problems seem to go deeper than the technical area, this is a funk that's now outlasted a number of managers.

A strong SPL needs Aberdeen - and Hibs - to be competitive. Not challenging for the title, that's beyond them now, but for the league to be sustainable clubs that can tap into a reasonable support must be doing more than scrabbling about in the bottom six and meeting each cup fixture with fear and trepidation.

For too long something at both clubs has seemed horribly wrong. As ever answers seem hard to come by. But the need for solutions seems increasingly desperate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Introducing Tweetsport

Time for a quick mention of my new friends at Tweetsport.

Regular readers will know I'm something of a Twitter addict. And with Twitter now just about the best place to get sports news, Tweetsport is the ideal site for all your sports news in one place. And you don't even need to be on Twitter to follow the action.

It's also Edinburgh based and that's a bonus for just about anything except budget aware tram developments and building works overseen by the city council (allegedly).

I can forgive an Edinburgh company just about anything. Even if it has been founded by an Aberdeen fan.

Tweetsport covers football (obviously) but also motorsport, tennis, golf, rugby, Olympics, cricket, athletics, cycling, horse racing and swimming. Some of them are almost certainly sports.

And it offers an easy platform to get the latest from players and pundits in and around major (and not so major) events.

You can even win a T-shirt to mark Scotland's trip to Spain to play that moderately talented bunch of duffers.

And stay tuned for a blogger's competition.

All you need to know about Tweetsport and their app gadgetry at

Monday, September 19, 2011

Old Firm: In Suffolk nobody can hear you scream

"An afternoon when the Old Firm fixture reclaimed some credibility as a footballing occasion to savour."

That's The Scotsman's verdict on yesterday's humdinger of an Old Firm game.

Rangers outdid Celtic. Football outdid the myriad levels of crap that pockmarked this fixture last season.

Both these sides are now shorn of world class talent. But there was entertainment enough on show at Ibrox yesterday. Excitement, errors, skills, decent goals.

It was a football match not a reason for political slanging matches or a day for earnest hand wringing about the state of modern Scotland.

(If there were the dismal songs of hate I didn't hear them so I'm unable to pass comment.)

It was a game of honest endeavour. A match between two sides that have both limitations and ability, watched over by two managers who are still relatively inexperienced in such positions of power.

Basically, then, it was a football game. Such was the position we found ourselves in last year that our two dominant league sides producing a game that allows to talk about football now seems like something of an achievement.

It was a game that deserved an audience.

Didn't have one though. At least not where I am.

An English pub. The game on the TV. Three of us in the bar. Me. And one of those middle aged couples that have either slipped into a companionable silence or have decided to leave their mutual loathing unspoken.

I was watching the game. They were not.

This is an expensive little patch of Suffolk. It might not be a traditional footballing heartland. But there was standing room only in the same pub just hours later as Chelsea and what appeared to be the local club, Manchester United, threw up an equally engrossing match.

It would be foolhardy to claim this experience of fitba' solitude as representative.

But increasingly on trips to England I find shrugged shoulders are the response when Scottish football is discussed.

With financial hardship blighting our clubs and TV deals up for renewal that worries me.

In the summer the SPL were crowing about increased viewing figures. Without checking back I think those figures equated to something like 170,000 average viewers across 60 live games.

Figures like that will allow English based TV companies - who view Scotland as very much a secondary constituency - to hold us to ransom. They also make the idea of SPL TV look very shaky.

In which light my experience yesterday, the loneliness of my long distance pub crawl, looks more like the reality. Even for Celtic and Rangers, pretty much the crown jewels of any attempts to "sell" Scottish football, the audience is shrinking in a crowded market.

If the local brew wasn't so morish that would be quite a sobering thought.

> Want to know all the latest football scores? Go to where they have live updates on scores from football matches being played all over the globe, go now!