Saturday, January 14, 2012

SPL: Timing is everything

Did your Cup overfloweth last week?

Not so much. Or if it did is was with lukewarm, overly milky tea rather than with an expensive Asti Spumante.

Back to the slog of the SPL today though. What joys await...

St Johnstone v Rangers

Poor timing.

That was Ally McCoist's verdict on his bid for St Johnstone's Francisco Sandaza on the eve of today's game.

Maybe the sense of timing developed while serving an apprenticeship with renowned Ibrox jokers and Fred McCaulay has deserted him.

Or maybe he'd mislaid his fixture list.

Or maybe such a bid is worse timing for the targetted club than it is for the targeter so he's not really that bothered but he's too nice a chap to say that in public.

Certainly Steve Lomas seems less than impressed with the way Rangers have handled the whole "Fran's our man" situation.

So one has to think that the latest bid would be about as welcome as one of those legendary "taking a crap off a stepladder" pranks in the Govan of old. (Alleged pranks, obviously.)

The last time these two met Lomas announced himself with a point at Ibrox, a point that eased Perth palpitations over the departure of Derek McInnes and served notice that Rangers stately voyage to the title had sprung a leak.

And Lomas got himself into bother for suggesting an official was a bit of a Fred Goodwin.

That was a fascinating draw. Will today be as Fran-scintating?

See what I've done there. Quality.

Anyhow, a wee trip to Perth is a day out Rangers might not relish.

I reckon they'll win it. Could be Fran-tic though.

Aberdeen v Kilmarnock

The unbreakable bond between father and son. Apparently Dean Shiels has taken something of a cash hit to stick with dad Kenny at Kilmarnock.

At least he can make appropriate budgetary concessions by letting Mrs S cook his tea.

Aberdeen have lost Ricky Foster but kept Scott Vernon and Andrew Considine.

They might also be welcoming back their own (prodigal) son in the shape of Russell Anderson.

It'll be like the heartwarming conclusion to an adaptation of a Catherine Cookson family saga starring Robson Green at Pittodrie.

With little confidence I'll say home win.

Celtic v Dundee Utd

Neil Lennon's bored of the transfer window. I know the feeling.

United's bank manager won't be though, West Brom's cash is enough to deprive the SPL of watching a developing young talent and to ease United's debt as Scott Allan heads for England.

Peter Houston has been looking lower down the league's for talent. Cutting the cloth accordingly. But also encouragingly. Big fan of unearthing gems from the SFL me.

Anyway. Today's game. Perfunctory Celtic win. Probably.

Dunfermline v Hibernian

The relegation crunch match between two of the worst teams you'll see in the SPL. Enjoy it. I'm getting the hell out of here.

Hard week for Pat Fenlon: identifying a target here, releasing a misfiring player there, consoling Sean O'Hanlon over his inexplicable absence from Fifa's team of the year.

A good bit of business from Dunfermline getting goalkeeper Iain Turner in from Preston.

This is a big game. Who wants to win it more? It will be tight, it will be ugly.


Hearts v St Mirren

Hearts await an exodus but wages will be paid. That seems to be the latest.

Turmoil hasn't stopped them winning games like this the last few weeks.

St Mirren tried to get John Sutton in on loan from Hearts this week. That bid failed.

So will their bid to win today. Home win.

Motherwell v Inverness

Terry Butcher returns to his old gaff to clash with the current gaffer, his old mate Stuart McCall.

The interconnecting relationships of Scottish football are a heartwarmingly complex tapestry. Or boring.

Back-to-back defeats for Motherwell. They need to put a halt to that if they are to once again bewitch us with the consistency that left us all so befuddled betwixt August and December.

Big chance to do that today. Home win or I'll be bemused.

The Scottish Football Blog blogathon took place in November in aid of Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup. You can sponsor the blogathon for these two great causes until 17th January.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blogathon: The Final Word

Last November I held the Scottish Football Blog's first - perhaps only - blogathon.

One post an hour for 24 hours with topics chosen on Twitter and by fellow bloggers.

All in aid of two fantastic charities: Alzheimer Scotland and the Homeless World Cup.

24 hours, a few energy drinks, too many cigarettes and 17,000 words later and I was done.

I'd set a target of £250 for each of the two charities and broke both those targets.

That was hugely appreciated. As was the support I got from Twitter and elsewhere.

You can still read all the posts from the day and other related posts here.

You can find out about the great work done by Alzheimer Scotland here and by the Homeless World Cup here.

And, again, thanks to everyone who got involved, donated, shouted encouragement.

One final favour - donations to the blogathon will close on the 17th of January.

So if you can find it in your post-Christmas wallets and purses to add a little extra to either charity then that would be just swell.

Click here to make a donation.

Thanks again,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hibs: The Victor Palsson Pattern

So Hibs decide to say farewell to Victor Palsson, the young Icelandic player they signed from Liverpool this time last year.

Contract terminated with immediate effect.

Or contract bought out in a mutually agreeable way to free up some wages for what is, at this stage in the transfer window, a rather slow-burning rebuilding job at Easter Road.

Palsson came with quite a pedigree. An Icelandic under-21 player who had, it was widely reported, been tipped as having real potential under a previous Liverpool managerial regime.

The sort of player, in fact, who you might expect to rip up the SPL.

And he started well. His arrival coincided with the one good month of form Hibs enjoyed under Colin Calderwood, the one good month of form that freed the side from last year's relegation jitters.

Then nothing. A slide into anonymity on the pitch. I can't remember his last stand-out performance.

Calderwood stuck with him, maybe determined to back his own judgement or maybe clinging to whatever misfiring lucky charm he could find.

But the form didn't return, he left the team when Calderwood departed and new manager Pat Fenlon has acted with a speedy finality.


That question's got me stumped.

There are whispers of behaviour more befitting a normal twentysomething than a dedicated young athlete. But Hibs were keen to stress at their AGM that reported wrongdoings were a case of the local press getting the wrong end of the stick. And many good players don't live like saints.

Was it simply the team's lack of form?

That can't have helped, it wouldn't help anyone. But - despite his youth - Palsson looked at first to be the sort of player who could offer the drive and vigour that would drive others on rather than the sort who would let himself be dragged down.

Maybe his attitude didn't help, maybe he just didn't fancy those away trips to Hamilton and Dunfermline and it began to show in his application.

Maybe he was just not good enough, the progress he had made as youngster down to circumstance, good luck and being surrounded by better players.

I don't know.

My mind goes back to a conversation with a former Hibernian player on the final day of last season.

We were chatting about the signings Calderwood had already made and what optimism Hibs could have for the future.

His concern, he said, was Hibs' habit of signing players who would shine for three or four games and then simply disappear, take a wage and offer nothing.

That pretty much covers the story of Victor Palsson. Is that a failure of coaching? Man-management? Scouting?

Whatever the cause, it's a debilitating pattern that Fenlon now needs to break.

2014: Salmond, Levein, Fletcher and Scotland's destiny

1000 days. Or thereabouts.

After a rather dull game of Westminster-Holyrood constitutional ping pong, Alex Salmond has named his (rough) date.

The destiny of a nation, as dictated by the constitutional will of the Scottish people, will be decided in the autumn of 2014.

What a year to pick. The 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the year of Glasgow's Commonwealth Games, the year of Scotland's Ryder Cup, the second running of the Homecoming celebration.

The perfect stage for a yes vote on independence.

Maybe. As Severin Carrell has pointed out on The Guardian website, Bannockburn might not be a massive crowd pleaser.

The Commonwealth Games is rather second rate these days and carries the risk, as a trip back to the 1986 hosting of the event in Edinburgh would show, of throwing up costly organisational chaos.

The Ryder Cup is a fine tournament but it could be that this is golfing jamboree in the home of golf that will have very little Scottish involvement where it really matters.

And I'm still not quite sure what the last Homecoming event was all about.

No, these aren't guaranteeing ways of securing the feelgood factor that will send us on our way to nationhood.

It needs something else, something bigger.

It needs football.

Scotland at the 2014 World Cup in Rio: carnival time from Pilton to São Paulo.

But Alex Salmond needs Craig Levein to get him there.

And Craig Levein might well need Steven Fletcher to get him there.

Time for the First Minister to stop goading Gideon, dissing Dave and to get on with the job of marriage counsellor to the stubborn national manager and his recalcitrant striker.

What better backdrop could Salmond have than a resurgent Scotland, - led by a benevolent Levein, inspired by the prodigal Fletcher and celebrating a spirit of inclusion with the English-born Jordan Rhodes - cutting a dash in Rio?

Start banging heids together Eck.

And, if you really want to win the vote, you might look at scheduling the referendum some time between the days of blind optimism engendered by our second group game and the inevitably humbling failure of our third group game.

More seriously, if you've got any views at all on how football could be affected by the independence debate I'd be delighted to hear them