Saturday, July 20, 2013

Scottish football: A good news round-up

Scottish news update provided by Cole Ryan of BangTheBook.com. follow me on twitter @coleryan9

If the people of Scotland still believe in Scottish football as their national sport then it is a measure of a national trait of defiance. News headlines, front page and back, might still be generated by the sport but too often recently it has been for bad news rather than for outstanding match results.

This summer, as last summer, the biggest story has been financial. While the problems at Rangers hogged the headlines in 2012, 2013 has seen Hearts enter administration amid the collapse of owner Vladimir Romanov’s business empire and the club struggling to pay wages. They’ll start next season on minus 15 points in the top flight.

Dunfermline, too, remain in administration and have now suffered consecutive relegations to find themselves in the third tier of Scottish football where they’ll find themselves battling against Rangers, as the Glasgow club look to continue their progress through the league structure.

Elsewhere a number of club are looking to rebuild squads in the summer transfer window as players move on to search for more bountiful wage packets or are sold to help balance the books in a game that is not awash with money.

But perhaps Scottish football is beginning to see the darkness partly lifted. The 2014 World Cup qualification campaign has been a struggle that has already seen off one manager, Craig Levein, and any chance of qualifying disappearing. But new manager Gordon Strachan finally made his mark before the summer break with a battling 1-0 win over Croatia with a young and inexperienced team.

And the latest news this week from BangTheBook Football has also been more positive. Scottish clubs are long used to starting their European campaigns before the domestic season has started but they’ve not always enjoyed the finest result. This week, however, they could reflect could reflect on two wins from three matches.

If Celtic’s victory of Cliftonville was expected it was a professional performance nonetheless, goals from Mikael Lustig, Georgios Samaras and James Forrest delivering three away goals.

And St Johnstone delivered the result of the week with an unexpected 1-0 victory away to Rosenborg. Frazer Wright gave the Perth men an early lead and they weathered some serious pressure to hold on for the win and to bring a crucial away goal back to Scotland. Manager Tommy Wright was able to reflect on a “magnificent” win in his first competitive match since taking over from Steve Lomas as manager - in what was also St Johnstone's first ever away win in Europe.

If they can get through the home tie, St Johnstone's reward will be a match against Malta's Valetta or FC Minsk from Belarus as they would enter the next qualifying round as seeds.

Hibs were the only Scottish side who couldn’t record an away win this week, losing 2-0 to a superior Malmo side in Sweden. But after conceding two goals in two minutes to be 2-0 inside 15 minutes Hibs might feel they deserve some credit for keeping the score down, relying on some excellent saves from goalkeeper Ben Williams to retain faint hope for the return leg in Edinburgh.

While Scottish football has never lost its ability to make headlines, it is to be hoped there can be many more weeks like this one where the stories relate to good news on the pitch rather than bad news off it.