Monday, August 06, 2012

SPL: One horse, week one

The SPL is back. Games have been played, points have been won. Hibs fans have been depressed all over again.

Robbie Devine takes a look at the weekend:


Saturday August 4 2012 saw the start of a new experiment in world football, the kick off for a top tier championship in which the race for the runner-up spot is the main aim for the majority of sides rather than the mounting of a championship challenge.

Surely there cannot be another league where a team is declared definite champions before a ball is kicked by managers, players, pundits and fans alike.

Celtic will surely stroll to a second successive title as, with no Rangers on the scene, no club will be in a position to launch a proper challenge.

It is a sad indictment of the game in Scotland that the Old Firm will always be champions, indeed Aberdeen were the last club outside Glasgow to become top dogs way back in the dim and distant days of 1985.

The Dons were the first team to take on the prospective champions as Celtic Park was filled fans witnessing the spectacle of legendary former Celtic assistant manager Sean Fallon unfurling the League flag before the match started.

Now there is a prevalent sense of optimism amongst SPL supporters that this will be a good season as the Rangers saga has now abated but without wanting to put a damp squib on top of that positivity I feel I simply must embrace my Victor Meldrew and admit that I do not share that view, especially on the viewing of the game at Celtic Park.

For those of you who did not have the misfortune to witness it you must have enjoyed a better weekend than I.

It was a poor, poor spectacle.

The home side failed to break down a resolute Dons defence until the 79th minute when Kris Commons' low shot somehow managed to hit the back of the net evading the clutches of Aberdeen keeper Jamie Langfield whose woeful attempt to stop it leads us back to the days when the fumblings of Scottish goalkeepers were considered a long running joke amongst the English press.

Langfield’s nickname is ‘clangers’ so his latest blunder should not have surprised anyone.

What may surprise people though was Neil Lennon’s assertion that one of the main reasons for Celtic’s lethargic showing was because his players were ‘leggy’ following their midweek match against HJK Helsinki.

Surely, after a summer of recharging their collective batteries, the last thing any professional footballer should feel is ‘leggy’ on the opening day of the season.

That aside it is abundantly obvious that Lennon will have to freshen up his squad as there was a real lack of flair on show from his troops whilst Craig Brown’s main concern will be what do with Langfield.

Elsewhere St Mirren Park was the place to go for excitement as the 4104 spectators were treated to an old fashioned rip snorter of a match in which the Buddies rescued a point in injury time against Inverness Caley Thistle but did lose new signing Lewis Guy, who had opened the scoring, to a red card.

There was also a good atmosphere generated at Tynecastle as goals from Sutton and Templeton secured the three points for Hearts with St Johnstone manager Steve Lomas later bemoaning the ordering off of new signing Gregory Tade.

The First Division flag was raised at the newly named New Energy Stadium, Dingwall as last season’s First Division champions Ross County held Motherwell to a 0-0 draw with the same result signalling the return to top flight football for Dundee who took a large travelling support down to Kilmarnock.

And Sunday saw the final match of the opening SPL campaign taking place at a sun drenched Tannadice where Dundee United shook off the hangover of losing a last minute equiliser in their Europa League tie against big spending Dinamo Moscow to humble hapless Hibernian 3-0.

On this showing United will indeed, along with Hearts, be the most serious challengers for that much coveted second spot while the odds on Hibs making a managerial change yet again before Christmas have shortened considerably.

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