Sunday, 19 December 2010

The way forward for Scottish Football


The festive season is the time for gifts and the plans for the new leagues and the combining of the SFL and SPL to one governing body could be the best gift giving to Scottish Football in years.

Although not every point in the plan is a new one and a few like the SPL 2 have been floating around for years, these plans if they are passed will be a great move for Scottish Football.

There are many positives in the plans that will improve the current state of Scottish Football:

-Changing to two top leagues of ten and making the First division the SPL 2 will increase revenue in Scottish Football. It has been said that the teams could earn up to ten times more money than they do right now which would be a great thing for the teams and will lead to more competition to get into the SPL or even the SPL 2 and this will be exciting for the fans with teams doing all they can to get promoted and who doesn't like watching exciting football?

-Regionalised leagues will be financially beneficial to the teams in the lower leagues as they won't have to spend crazy amounts of money travelling every week and regionalised lower leagues would lead to more local derbies which will lead to bigger turnouts.

-Colt teams or top teams playing their reserve sides in the lower leagues will also lead to bigger turnouts as Stranraer vs Rangers B woule attract more fans than Stranraer vs Annan Athletic with no offence to Stranraer and Annan intended.

The Winter break is a must for the Scottish game again and would be a great away to avoid so many call offs. It would also help let teams try and make more money by going to different countries or inviting teams over to play glamour friendlies. The Old Firm will try and play big teams like Rangers did a few years ago against AC Milan, however what would stop other teams going over to do a mini tour of countries and play a few games to make a bit of money as well as keeping the players in top condition.

These are just a few positives in the plans however there are some other things that could be done to help increase revenue or even the quality of the Scottish game:

-Friday night football would be possible if Friday night Rugby is. Even if it is not the Spl 1 the SPL 2 or the regionalised leagues would easily be able to host at least 1 game on a Friday and STV's sports centre could show it live and would increase attention to the SPL 2 as well as giving more money.

-Tv deals should be looked for for all divisions of Scottish Football. STV in the past had a highlights show for divisions 1-3 and If the SPL stays with Sky and ESPN the SPL 2 could easily try and look to have a highlights show on BBC or  STV.The lower leagues highlights could also be on this show like the Football League show for England's lower divisions.

The outcome of the vote on Scottish Football is important for the game to improve and if they are done properly, the plans put forward by Neil Doncaster and later( which was convenient ) in Mcleish's Scottish Football report would definetly pave the way forward and could one day lead to a top tier with 14,16 or even 18 teams in it.

Lets hope the plans are given a chance and are not just thrown on the scrap heap like many other proposed changes.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Super Bolton

Injury comeback: Holden missed all of Bolton's March fixtures
Oh Bolton, Bolton. Bolton, how things change.

A boring side with players such as Johan Elmander who couldn't hit water if he fell out a boat!

That statement would not have been a surprise to see last year as that is what was the view of most peolple when talking about Bolton.

A year on and Owen Coyle has worked wonders at Bolton and in the process Bolton under Coyle have turned into a force to be reckoned with in the Premier League with their attacking flair and style that rivals any in the Premier League at the moment.

Johan Erik Calvin Elmander has also gained a new lease of life this season and is starting to show the quality of a player with a great middle name like Calvin!

As the clubs record signing in 2008 for 8.2 million a lot was expected of  Elmander however until this season he only showed his quality in small doses. This season he has been on fire in front of goal and his goal against Wolves is one which is definetly a goal of the season contender.

Another Player on top form this season is Stuart Holden who since joining in January has became a fan favourite and if he keeps performing like he is, will no doubt find himself on the shortlist of candidates for player of the season.

Long serving captain Kevin Davies has been on top form as have many others such as Martin Petrov,sitting Bolton just behind Tottenham in 6th place which would be a dream scenario at the end of the season, however with Bolton's uneasy defence which rarely ever keeps a clean sheet, Bolton will have to stay on top form all season to make sure they stay in the position they are in.

Owen Coyle has done a fantastic job at Bolton and if the attacking flair continues, Bolton will be a very happy side come May time.

Surprise dismissal of Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce

Sam Allardyce has surprisingly been sacked as manager of Blackburn today.

The 56 year old and his assistant Neil McDonald were relieved of their roles at the club by the club's new owners, the Venky's Group from India.

Allardyce has expressed his shock at the decision and you can see why.

Allardyce took over in December 2008 as the club was struggling and managed to turn the club's trouble around in the last few years and make Blackburn a solid mid table side in the Premiership, however a recent loss of form and the sale of the club to new owners has led to Allardyce's dismissal.

Recent results such as the 4-2 defeat by Spurs and the 7-1 defeat by Manchester United have seen Blackburn slip nearer to the relegation zone and has left the new owners with the belief that Allardyce was not the man to bring the club success.

The decision was even more surprising as when the Venky's group took over in October they promised to give Allardyce funds to spend in January to improve the team and the board could have at least waited to the end of January to give Allardyce a chance to turn the team around.

The Owners however if they hire a manager quickly could be thinking of letting the new manager create his team or start to in January and if this was the thought and it works out then not many Rovers fans will complain.

There is no doubt Allardyce will be back in work sooner than later however the Blackburn job will already have a few candidates with Phil Brown and Alan Shearer to name a few who will most definetly be mentioned.

An outside bet would be Chris Hughton who unfairly lost the Newcastle job last week and he could be the man who could take the club forward.

Lets just hope the owners treat Hughton better than Mike Ashley did as he deserves it.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Are Tottenham contenders?

Tuesday the 17th August: The Tottenham Players give all they can to claw back a 3-0 deficit away to Young Boys to 3-2 and take 2 away goals back to White Heart Lane. Tottenham's anticipated Champions League debut game is widely seen as a little lacklustre after managing to find themselves 3-0 behind in first half hour.

A 4-0 win at White Heart Lane made these worries and thoughts disappear as the twice Uefa cup winners and one time Cup winners cup winners would be taking their place on European Football's biggest stage for the first time.

Drawn with Inter Milan, FC Twente and Werder Bremen in one of the toughest groups, Tottenham were seen to have a chance of Qualifying however nobody quite expected the impact they would have in the Champions League stage.

Roll forward until November the 27th, with only one game left away to FC Twente, Tottenham sit top of their group on goal difference and guaranteed to at least qualify to the last 16.

What has surprised most about Tottenham is the amount of effort every single player puts in every game when wearing a Spurs shirt in the Champions league.
Every player gives everything they have every game and it is refreshing to see a team in the Champions League give it their all in every game and play their full team in every game in the group stage and not treating the group stage like training matches like certain other teams.

The star of the Tottenham Champions League campaign so far is without doubt Gareth Bale.

Gareth Bale's profile has rocketed after his displays on the top stage have got him noticed and the young Welshman has set himself high standards to keep after a sensational hat trick at the San Siro vs Inter albeit Spurs were already 4-0 behind and then in the return match at White Heart Lane he set up 2 of the goals as for the second game in a row he tore Maicon, regarded as the worlds best right back to shreds with his skills and trickery making Maicon look like an average player which is not an easy thing to do!

Spurs have hit the ground running in this seasons Champions League and what may be surprising to many, they may very well have a chance of at least a prolonged run in the tournament depending on the kindness of the draw.

Spurs do not look out of place at all on the big stage and have arguably one of the most talented squads in the competition with great players like Palacios and Kranjcar struggling for a place in the team. Why not believe in Champions League glory as a Tottenham fan? 

You have to be in a competition to win it and Tottenham are certainly in the competition and mean buisness. Tottenham are strong enough to at least make the quarter finals depending on the draw however, why not believe they can go all the way to Wembley and lift the Trophy?

Stranger things have happened 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Introduction of B teams the way forward?

Many have called for the SPL to be changed for years with the split seen as one of the  main problems clubs have in the current SPL set up.Votes have been taking with no proper agreement on a new format as everyone has their own agenda on the matter with most failing to put forward an acceptable new format for the SPL or how to improve gate numbers. One view which should be considered which so far has only been examined briefly is the idea of introducing Rangers and Celtic B sides to Division three.

   Introducing a 14 team SPL with two sides relegated every season would keep the SPL fresh to a certain extent and make relegation battles more interesting for fans to watch.

  The three Divisions below the SPL would stay as ten team divisions  with the Rangers and Celtic B squads entering in the third season. If tickets were cheap there is no doubt a good number of fans would follow Rangers and Celtic B for a chance to watch stars of the future or returning players pull on the clubs jersey for a cut price ticket and Ibrox and Parkhead would be used more so more money would be made by the clubs.
Attendances would rise to a few thousand at least for these games involving B sides with other Division three sides compared to some games right now where only a couple of hundred go to the games and teams would be able to make more money from gate receipts to help run the club with a little more money to help them.
Old Firm B games would also pull in crowds with fans eager to watch their club get one over their rivals and would bring a chance to young players to have a step in between the youth team and reserve teams with  the full team again which would make the step up a little easier as they would get to play competitive football and less would be released as soon as they were too old to play in the youth teams.
The Old Firm are not the only teams who could introduce reserve teams with Hibs and Hearts also up for entering  reserve teams into the lower divisions to help spot future talents. If Hearts and Hibs are introduced then the SPL could be considered to become a 16 team league.

  This is only one possibility out of many and not guaranteed to work like all the others. However, The introduction of Old Firm  B teams would definetly earn third division sides more money and how many of them would turn down more money to help them survive?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Levein proved right as young Scots shine

With the way the Scotland squad was looking on Monday night, a few call ups to players In the junior leagues was not looking the  unlikeliest thing in the world.
  Taking charge of a much criticised friendly against the Faroe Islands, Craig Levein was forced to make many changes to the Scotland squad that faced Spain with only Bardsley and Fletcher staring in both the Spain and Faroe Islands games.
However, after an encouraging display from a young Scotland squad Levein looks to have had the last laugh regarding the criticism towards the friendly.
 Initiallythe game was proposed as a Scotland B game however the game was changed to a full international although looking at the final squad you would have not have noticed much difference in a Scotland B squad.
 A 3-0 victory later and first Scotland goals for Debutant Danny Wilson, Kris Commons and Jamie Mackie, Levein may have been proved right to play the friendly.
  Young Scots Barry Bannan and Danny Wilson impressed in their Scotland debut’s  with Wilson showing fans he is capable of taking over from his old team mate at Rangers David Weir in the defence and Bannan looked comfortablle in the team on his debut with a lively performance that will excite fans of what he could provide for the team.
Others like Charlie Adam who played a major part  in all 3 goals from his Corners and  Phil Bardsley who bombed up and down the flank all game, have gave Levein a major headache with future squad selections.
Levein will look at the game and think of it as a success. It may not have been the best time to organise a friendly as seen by the number of squad drop outs however, Levein will be happy with the fringe players who have shown they deserve a place in future qualifier squads.
Another little bonus may be that the win may help add a few world ranking points considering Scotland have slipped to 57 in the standings (expected to be 54th in next few days when new standings are released)  and the fans will admit that the friendly was better than expected.
Levein’s now has to continue building and make sure Scotland are ready to bounce back and regain the national pride that was alive under Walter Smith and Alex Mccleish and show he is the man who can lead Scotland back to International tournaments again instead of falling at last hurdle like in recent years.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Refs aren't the problem Lennon


Knocked out the League cup in the quarter finals after a “soft” penalty decision gave Aberdeen victory at the death over Falkirk, manager Steven Pressley would not have been blamed if he had spent his whole post match interview ranting about Steve O’ Reilly’s decision, however this was not the case.

Pressley said: “It's a sore one and everyone is disappointed but I don't want to talk about the penalty. I could talk about things and that will become a headline and I don't want that to be a headline. I want our performance to become the headline.”
A smart move from Pressley avoiding any backlash for the referee and instead highlighting the fact that his young squad with an average age of 23 nearly caused another cup upset after beating Hearts in the last round.
If only another ex Celtic player could handle defeat as well as Pressley.
Neil Lennon has confirmed that for the second week in a row Celtic will be writing to the SFA about decisions against them to ask why this is happening?
The SFA should reply that Referees and assistants are human, everybody makes mistakes, and Celtic are not helping with the amount of pressure they are putting on officials before and after games such as Willie Collum, before  Old Firm game Lennon was in  the papers speaking of his hope he was strong enough to take charge of the game and right after he was out berating him for THAT penalty decision.
Dougie Mcdonald is being hauled in front of the SFA this after Celtic’s visit to Tannadice last week involved an incident where he changed his mind of awarding Celtic a penalty after  consulting with his linesman Steven Craven who has since resigned because of the backlash to the incident form Celtic and the media.
What Lennon doesn’t seem to understand is the fact that the RIGHT decision was made not awarding the penalty as the United keeper touched the ball, not the man so there should be no problem, however Celtic have a different stance on this.
The Old Firm match could be looked at again and  before the penalty decision, Willie Collum could be seen to be wrong in not sending off Anthony Stokes, Georgios Samaras three times and Glen Loovens, all of Celtic who were lucky to stay on the pitch after many incidents, again Celtic have a different stance on this but they should look at themselves before blaming everybody else.
Willie Collum has received death threats from mindless idiots because of his mistake and Celtic complaining will not help the situation get any better but Lennon must look at the facts instead of for people to blame.
The facts show that Rangers beat Celtic on Sunday, not the ref and were already ahead before the penalty was  awarded.
The facts also show that Lennon has failed every test he has been given as a manager so far at Celtic. Ross County, Braga, FC Utretcht and now the Old Firm game  have shown Lennon still has much to prove and many problems to deal with, particularly his defence before he blames everybody else for his team’s problems.
If anybody still has doubts and believes Lennon and Celtic are in the right then this video will shed some light on why Lennon knows so much about diving for penalties and how his condemnation of the situation should raise a small chuckle

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Is Rooney's departue that much of a problem for Man u?

Wayne Rooney
All the sports pages of every paper and every sports channel or news on radio and television have today have been dominated by one major story that came out of Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Sir Alex Ferguson admitted in a press conference that Wayne Rooney wants away from Old Trafford and is refusing to sign a new contract. There has been rumours of this since all of Rooney’s dirty laundry was spread all over the papers in August however, this was still a shock to many and has created nerves and discomfort among Manchester United fans and Rooney’s statement today will not help their matters.
Wayne Rooney released a statement today claiming his desire to leave was not down to money or contract terms, it instead due problems with the future of Manchester United. Whether he meant the current squad or the lack of big signings is being quizzed as fans begin to fear the thought of life without their star striker, however is Rooney leaving really as big as it is made out?
Wayne Rooney over the last few years has been the talisman in the Manchester United team and has led the frontline as the main goal threat, particularly after the loss of Christiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez a few seasons back.
He has been off form this season and although Manchester United remain unbeaten in all competition, they have struggled to kill off games and mixed with defensive errors has led to a slow start which mixed with the fact they are currently behind rivals Manchester City is a hard fact to take for fans, although the season is still young to be fair.
When United have looked impressive this season however Wayne Rooney has rarely been involved which can be seen as a positive for the fans as players like Berbatov, Nani and Hernandez have shown the class they have with a mixture of skill and great goals giving fans at Old Trafford reasons to celebrate.
If Rooney leaves in January and no strikers are brought in until at least the end of the season, Berbatov will become the main attacking threat at United and if he keeps up the form he has been on this season then he will be successful in this role if support and more goals are provided from Nani and Hernandez who have been impressive in their own rights so far this season.
Apart from these three who will most likely be the three main attacking forces there are many other players Sir Alex can chose to help the fans forget about Rooney. Young players such as Macheda, Obertan and Bebe, who although he had never seen him in person, Sir Alex paid 7 million for him so he must be a good player as Ferguson hardly gets signings wrong (Djemba Djemba a rare mistake!)
One other player who could step forward could be Michael Owen, at least in the short term. To say Owen has had problems with injury is a massive understatement, however when fit Owen could be used effectively starting (maybe not finishing all) or as a super sub. He has been referred to by some as “past it” however Owen still has an eye for goal and a double at Scunthorpe and his goal against Bolton have reminded Ferguson he still has plenty to offer for United if given the chance.
Rooney may want to leave and a large cash sum would help cushion the loss (unless from City!) however Manchester have many attacking options that should not be overlooked and there is plenty of reasons for the fans to look on the positive side and see Rooney’s departure as the chance for others to take over and show what they can do.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Some national pride returned, but for how long?

No matter how it is looked at,facts will show that on  Tuesday the 12th of October 2010 Scotland were defeated 3-2 by Spain, the reigning European and World champions.
     However on Tuesday night Scotland restored some pride to the national team, showing a certain amount of character and fight that has not been under Craig Levein's so far and if being a little harsh, any of George Burley's reign either.
   Under Walter Smith and continued by Alex Mcleish as manager of Scotland, Scotland battled for everything and the players looked as if they were proud to be playing for the national team unlike the chore it has seemed to turn into.
  Playing the World champions and going 2-0 down seemed to spark something inside Scotland which has not been seen in the past few years and was a welcome sight for Scotland fans. Goals from Steven Naismith and an unfortunate Pique own goal sent Hampden wild with belief that Scotland could go on and win the game. In the traditional Scottish way however the gun was aimed at their feet and a Mcmanus error led to Spanish sub Llorente or "the Lion King" as he is known firing past a helpless Alan Mcgregor who was on top form again for his country.
    Scottish hearts sunk and Spain held on but rightfully so as the final whistle went and national pride returned to the fans and belief that Scotland had recovered form their recent slump but for how long will it last this time?
   When Levein was announced as the replacement for George Burley, the Scottish fans and media tipped him  to take Scotland to their first International final since the 98 World Cup.
  The reality however, is that after four Euro 2012 qualifiers, Scotland sit in third place with four points and have played one more game than Spain who are first with nine points, Czech republic who are second with six and Lithuania who are 4th with three points.Not the greatest position and Levein must hold his hands up for a lacklustre campain so far. An opening draw in Lithuaia was decent but the following last minute 2-1 win over Liechtenstein and the controversial toothless 1-0 loss in the Czech Republic where Levein played the infamous 4-6-0 has almost certainly cost Scotland any chance they had for a place in Euro 2012.. Pride after the Spain game will not last much longer unless Craig Levein makes some changes and begins to make them now.
   Scotland do not play another competitive game until the Czech republic come to Hampden on the 3rd of September 2011 which is 11 months away and now is the best chance Levein will have to start making changes that benefit Scotland for longer than the next few games.
   In my opinion a five year plan could be effective if put in place over ther next few months by Levein to help Push Scotland back up the World Rankings and get into a International finals again. During the long wait before games , three or four Squad training get-togethers should be organised when possible with these being used to introduce younger players into the fold and practice formations and tactics so they are not just thrown together at last second. Players like Danny Wilson, David Goodwillie and Paul Caddis should be brought in for the older squad members and this will make sure if it works, that Scotland will have a younger squad that will be together for the next few years atleast and will be able to improve as a team and hopefully bring Scotland up to the level they want to be and make sure the pride the fans have lasts longer than until the next game Scotland struggle against a team that is supposed to be an "easy win."