Saturday, August 18, 2012

SPL: Five star

Week three of the SPL.

Week three already. Or week two for any club that feels  unconstrained by the league starting when booking their jollydays.

The marketing geniuses whose brains power the Hampden floodlights will be congratulating themselves for starting the SPL season a fortnight before the English could be bothered kicking off.

Obviously that did mean the SPL had to nudge the Olympics off the media podium but, by the gods of G4S, London 2012 passed with little more than a whimper.

Mission accomplished. Limelight secured.

Yet somehow even a well thumbed SPL Filofax couldn't stop the Edinburgh derby - a footballing peccadillo for the neutral at the best of times - being scheduled against the Community Shield and an Olympics where people would apparently watch televised mahjong as long as there was a plucky British contender and a BBC commentary.

Perhaps not the best way to attract a TV audience to our new look league.

Not that outside influences had anything to do with the crowd in the stadium.

The reasons for that were more painfully local. Fair play to those fans who did get themselves to Easter Road and to grounds across the country. I hope that the experience was good enough to turn straggling irregulars into stoic regulars.

Three weeks in? A start that hasn't overwhelmed. Neither has it really underwhelmed. It's just been there, jostling with other sideshows for attention, eliciting a shoulder shrugging "that's the fitba' back then."

But we've got through the phoney war of two games (or one game).

Time to look ahead now.

Here's how Ladbrokes sees tomorrow games:

Ross County v Celtic

The early kick off. Ross County to win 6/1, Celtic to win 4/9, the draw 10/3.

St Johnstone v Aberdeen

St Johnstone to win 5/4, Aberdeen to win 11/5, the draw 9/4.

Kilmarnock v Motherwell

Kilmarnock to win 8/5, Motherwell to win 17/10, the draw 9/4.

Hearts v Inverness

Hearts to win 10/11, Inverness to win 10/3, the draw 11/5.

St Mirren v Hibs

St Mirren to win 5/4, Hibs to win 11/5, the draw 9/4.

Do the odds shine a light?

If the bookies are never wrong then a successful coupon on the favourite in each game would deliver a return of 36/1.

Narrow margins though.

So here's my coupon for today - with all the usual warnings about my prediction pratfalls, as a soothsayer I make a dancing Russell Grant look like Fred Astaire - based on blind faith, hunches and a feeling in my water (which the doctor tells me isn't anything serious):

Celtic to win at Ross County (too early, I feel, for a Celtic slip up.)

Aberdeen to win at St Johnstone (St Johnstone are not winning games, Aberdeen are gearing up to score a barrel load. Probably. Or maybe not.)

Motherwell to win at Kilmarnock (close one this, the two sides exactly level in the table after two games, but lets give the nod to 'Well.)

Hearts and Inverness to draw (Hearts will look to roar back from the derby draw, Terry Butcher might just have seen how to frustrate them.)

Ladbrokes Game On!Hibs to win at St Mirren (the wheels must fall off St Mirren's title challenge at some point.)

Four away wins and a draw.

A pound on that little lot could well win you the best part of a £130.

Or it could lose you a pound.

That's the fun of it.

Odds correct at the time of going to bed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Rangers get out of jail in Peterhead

Rangers began what is billed as a stately progression through the leagues on Saturday. But, as guest blogger Robbie Devine found out, Peterhead had other ideas.

Berwick, Chesterfield, Hamilton, Kaunus, Maribor.

At 2:30 on Saturday little Peterhead were on the verge of being added to that list as a side to have ripped up the form book by humbling Rangers with a humiliating defeat.

Only a last minute touch from Andy Little spared the Glasgow’s teams blushes to break the hearts of the Blue Toon on one of the most surreal days in the history of Scottish football.

Pre match the tiny north eastern town more famous for its fishing port than its football team found itself the centre of the football universe with hordes of Rangers supporters descending on this normally sleepy part of Aberdeenshire to witness the rebirth of their troubled club.

Sky TV rolled into town as did countless football hacks, the tiny little Balmoor ground had never seen anything like this.

Peterhead manager Jim McInally  said it was like a circus event, certainly the Rangers team included more than their share of clowns as they really should consider themselves fortunate to leave with a single point.

Credit must go to the home club who were considered an afterthought before the game as the spotlight was on Ally McCoist’s new look Rangers but they were the ones who emerged with all the plaudits giving the Govan giants a real scare.

Although after a sticky start it was the former Scottish champions who took the lead,  17 year old Barrie Mackay showing a maturity way beyond his years with a cool finish.

But the expected avalanche did not materialise and it was no surprise when the hosts drew level thanks to a wonderful piece of skill from Rory McAllister.

With only eight minutes remaining Peterhead were in dreamland as Scott McLaughlin lashed the ball home and a real shock was on the cards.

But the part timers were unable to hold on for a famous victory after Kevin Kyle’s last minute header glanced off the crossbar presenting Little with the opportunity to touch the ball into the net.

Aftewards McCoist did not hold back in his criticism of his defenders which was no surprise as the international centre half paring of Carlos Bocanegra and Dorin Goian combined to produce a shocking display of ineptitude and laziness.

Once he is granted international clearance former Lazio defender the Brazilian Emilson Cribari will no doubt be given a starting place with both the US skipper and Romanian joining the mass exodus out of Ibrox.

McCoist finds himself in a difficult position as despite their stuttering start Rangers should still secure promotion with a bit to spare though already he must have concerns over one or two of his players attitudes and desire to roll their sleeves up and get the job done.

He has been busy bringing in new players to bolster a depleted squad with former SPL stalwarts Ian Black, Dean Shiels, Francisco Sandaza and Kevin Kyle arriving but considering they still have the obstacle of a 12 month transfer embargo kicking in at the end of August I would still expect the Rangers boss to pull out all the stops to bring in further arrivals.

Make no mistake the part time players in the lower leagues will rise to the occasion of facing their more illustrious counterparts from Glasgow and day one should be a wake up call for the Rangers supporters.

Off the field it has been revealed that controversial Newcastle owner Mike Ashley is prepared to pump in around £10 million to the Ibrox coffers with chief executive Charles Green hinting another two billionaires will also be making a major investment as Rangers attempt to drag themselves out of the financial wilderness.

What Greens and his fellow board members real motives are is something of major conjecture as they are still treated by suspicion by the majority of the clubs supports though an incredible 38,000  did attend the 4-0 League Cup romp against East Fife so the fans commitment to stick with their club remains strong.

The story of Rangers adventures in the third division allied with how Green and co plan to restructure the clubs finances is an intriguing one and I expect to bring you more interesting updates as the weeks go by.

The Not-So Beautiful Game

Public proclaim Ireland to have the worst European football shirt ever!

After three weeks of voting, the 1995-6 Ireland goalkeeping jersey has been selected by the public as the worst European national football shirt of all time. Registering 23.8% of the vote in the survey held by scotts Menswear, the purple, yellow, orange and green monstrosity comfortably topped the poll of over 500 voters.

In an interesting trend, two more goalkeeping jerseys joined the Irish offering to round out the top three. In second place was Peter Schmeichel's 1992 European Championship-winning jersey. The Danish multi-coloured polka dot design picked up 18.8% of the vote, while Bodo Illgner's 1990 German goalkeeping jersey took third with 15.8% of the vote.

scotts' survey asked football fans across the nation to vote for what they considered to be the worst national European shirts of all time, presenting the questionnaire in the form of a knockout tournament to reflect Euro 2012, which was being decided alongside it.

The winning shirt, worn during the culmination of Jack Charlton's illustrious career as Irish national team manager, was made by kit supplier Umbro. The jersey contains two shades of purple alongside orange and yellow Irish Football Association logos emblazoned across random positions; there is even a flash or two of traditional Irish green for good measure.

David Gorman, Marketing Manager from scotts Menswear, said:

"While there have been plenty of questionable-looking European football shirts, the 1995-6 Irish goalkeeper jersey was clearly the public's least favourite. With a striking colour scheme and somewhat dull design, I'm not surprised the shirt was prominent in the final reckoning. The interesting thing for me was that three goalkeeper jerseys filled the top three spots; I don't know whether there's an aversion to keepers in general, but it seems like a team's last line of defence doesn't always need to look good!"

While the scotts Menswear survey is now complete, the company is keen to continue the discussion via their social networking outlets.

David Gorman continued:

"While the public have voted on our own least favourite eight shirts for the poll, we're under no illusion that the years have provided many other contenders. If you find a shirt even more despairing than the ones we've picked and you believe it to be a worthy rival to our winner, upload a picture of the shirt to the scotts Facebook page and we'll see what the public think.  It doesn't have to be a European national shirt - we're keen to see how our nominated worst shirt stacks up against every shirt ever made!"