Friday, 16 September 2011

Old Firm Round one

This Sunday afternoon will see the first Old Firm game of the season at Ibrox Park.

The teams  have not exactly been away from each other for long and after seven contests last year,a bitter taste is still be left in the mouths of some as a few moments of madness in one particular game cast a cloud of darkness over the remaining fixtures. Lets hope the football is the focus this year.

New Rangers manager Ally McCoist who has experienced the Old Firm more than most as a player and assistant manager locks horns with Celtic manager Neil Lennon for the first time as manger after taking over from Walter Smith at the end of last season. He will be hoping to pick up his first Old Firm Victory at the first time of asking.

Rangers go in to the game top of the table, one point ahead of rivals Celtic and will hope home advantage will help them pick up an important win. With many players like Goian, Wallace, Bedoya, McKay, Bocanegra and Ortiz set to make their Old Firm Debut if they feature and they will hoping to get the ground running.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon will be hoping his side can emulate some of their performances last season in OF games as Celtic managed to win three of the seven OF games and pick up two draws compared to Rangers winning two and two draws.

 Celtic have had a decent start to the season like Rangers with the only blip being the 1-0 defeat at home to St. Johnstone. Aside from that loss Celtic have scored some big wins including big home wins against Dundee United (5-1) and Motherwell (4-1) being the pick of the games so far this season.

Rangers have had a decent start and sit top of the table. The opening 1-1 home draw was a disappointing start but since then Rangers have went on to five on the bounce conceding no goals in those five games and their best perfomance being a dominant 3-0 away win against Motherwell at Fir Park.

The game promises to be intriguing as ever with the winner gaining bragging rights for a few months and a place at the top of the table after the game.

The winner is not guaranteed to win the league. Last Year Celtic picked up more points in Old Firm games but never won the title and Rangers were champions. This shows what Graeme Souness used to say when he was in charge of Rangers is true when talking about Old Firm games in the league; "They are only four games of the season."

Key Players:


Nikica Jelavic: The Croatian striker is a fitness doubt for the game but he is a class act and Rangers are much stronger team with him than without him. He scored the winner in the League Cup Final against Celtic last season to hand Rangers the victory.

Kyle Lafferty: Lafferty has been an enigma for some fans and has not always produced the goods in Old Firm games but the "Big game player" on his day is a major threat and Jelavic and Lafferty together and on form would cause Celtic problems at the back.

Steven Davis: The Rangers stand in Captain is the playmaker and heart of the Rangers midfield. He is in fine form so far this season and he will be looked upon to influence play on Sunday like he has done before like in the League Cup final last season.


Gary Hooper: Hooper is Celtic's main striking force and a cert to start on Sunday. He is a constant threat when in form and Celtic's best performances usually include a big input from Hooper.He managed to score a couple of Old Firm goals last season and he is always a threat to defences in the box.

Beram Kayal: Pulling the strings in the Celtic midfield is Kayal's job as well as holding the midfield together to protect the defence. The defensive midfielder had a good Old Firm debut season and will be looking to stop Davis' threat on Sunday while enforcing his own on the game.

Ki Sung Yeung: The Souh Korean is one of the emerging talents in Scottish football. Ki has grown into his role in the Celtic midfield and when he plays well Celtic look a much better side. For Celtic's midfield to be dominant Ki will have to help Kayal.


There is not much difference between the sides and a draw would not be far from most people's minds when thinking of the game and i am sure both teams would take a draw. Rangers and Celtic will go for the game but i can't see many goals.


Major Change ahead in Junior Football?

Changes could be afoot for Junior football very soon as news has spread that an MEP is challenging the retention rule in Junior football on behalf of one of his constituency members.

The MEP and his constituency member are taking the matter to the courts with the argument that retention is a breach of employment laws and human rights. It is widely assumed that this court case will bring an end to retention once and for all in Junior football.

Under the retention rule a Junior football club if they want to, retains a player at the end of every season. For that player to move to another club at junior level, the club he is leaving is entitled to a fee  set by the SJFA from the club wanting to sign the player for the transfer to happen.

 Basically this means that for a retained player to move to another Junior club money must be paid for his services. If this fee or a bargained fee is not met then the player is not allowed to move to the team or any other Junior club until the retention fee is met.

The rule is met by criticism as effectively a club could end someone’s Junior footballing career by not letting them move without receiving their “asking price.” The player can play Amateur or professional football but not Junior until the fee is paid.

Some clubs will argue that they are entitle to receiving a fee for their retained players to cover what they have paid on the players wages and will not want to lose a top player for free when he could come back and haunt them. But surely paying for a player when he is at the club should not be a problem if he is proving his worth with his performances on the pitch?

The player would only be allowed to play trials for other Junior teams and even then you can only play as a trialist three times for a club. It is harsh on players wanting to play Junior football as they could be forced out if nobody meets their club’s demands.

If the case is successful against retention then effectively Junior Football will be changed forever. Clubs will no longer receive fees for retained players if they are out of contract and effectively Bosman transfers will likely be introduced with out of contract players being able to move freely from club to club with ease.

Players will more likely be happier than clubs if this ruling occurs and many frozen out players will be able to play Junior football again.

The sooner the rule changes the better.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Built up high only to come crashing down

It seems to happen regularly to Scotland fans.

Every time we build our nation's footballing expectations up , we are sent crashing to the depths of despair at the last minute.

- In 1978 Scotland were going to win the World Cup in Argentina but "Ally's Army" limped home instead of marching to victory!

- In 2007 Scotland's hopes of reaching Euro 2008, our first national tournament finals since World Cup 98 in France were thwarted by a late Italian Job and a "dodgy" referee.

- Now it is 2011 and it has happened again!

With only two games to go and after a disappointing home double header against the Czech Republic and Lithuania, it looks as if Scotland's hopes of reaching a national tournament will go on past Euro 2012.

Usually four points out of six in a European Championships double qualifier would be good news, however Scotland needed the full six points to make sure Craig Levein's side were in the driving seat to reach the play-offs and be in with a great chance of qualifying.

Drawing 2-2 with the Czechs inflicted the damage before the 1-0 win over Lithuania and leave Scotland needing to at least win in Liechtenstein and draw in Spain and need help from Spain and Lithuania when the sides take on the Czech Republic to have hopes of qualifying for the play-offs.

The Czech Republic will qualify on the next match day if either they defeat Spain and Scotland fail to defeat Liechtenstein,or they draw with Spain and Scotland lose to Liechtenstein. It is the Czech Republic's play-off spot to throw away now.

Leading 2-1 with eight minutes to go against the Czech's it looked as if Scotland were going to hold out however some play acting and some dodgy refereeing led to a late Czech equalizer from the penalty spot and the game finished 2-2 with Scotland's hopes seemingly crushed.

Is the ref fully to blame?

The simple answer is no. Yes Jan Rezek dived to win the Czech's a penalty near the end and the referee Kevin Blom had a terrible game from start to finish but Scotland were simply not good enough to win the game against the Czech's and a draw was a fair result.

Scotland defended too deep and were lucky not to be 3-0 down before Kenny Miller put the Scots ahead as Milan Baros missed easy chances early on and Kevin Blom missed a stonewall penalty for the Czechs when Charlie Adam went over the ball and stamped on Baros' ankle in the box.

The Czech's got back in the game at 1-1 and when Darren Fletcher scored Scotland looked set to steal a win but they defended too deep and if you defend in your own box letting the opposition run at you, it is only a matter of time before you concede.

Scotland managed to bounce back from the disappointing 2-2 draw to beat Lithuania 1-0 to keep our slim chances of the play-offs alive and there were some promising signs in the performance but they made hard work of a poor Lithuania side who were hardly in the game.

Man Of The Match Barry Bannan showed why he is a prospect for the future with a fine performance and the likes of Don Cowie, David Goodwillie and late sub Robert Snodgrass all showed some reasons to be cheerful after Steven Naismith fired Scotland to only the second win of the campaign however the finishing needs to be worked on.

Scotland should have been out of sight but Steven Naismith, Christophe Berra, Goodwillie and others wasted chance after chance and captain Darren Fletcher surprisingly took and then missed a poor penalty before half time when it was still 0-0. Another type of attacking option is clearly needed when Kenny Miller is suspended or injured.

Steven Fletcher could very well be that option.

It is time for Fletcher to put his spat with Levein to the side and come back to help his country when they need him. Fletcher is one of if not the top Scottish striker right now and scores regularly at the top level in the English Premiership against some of the best defenders in the world.

Fletcher back in the side would give Levein healthy selection choices which are needed and if he and everybody else is fit it is time for Levein to finally work out his top side for the next two crucial games.

 Levein has not covered himself in glory since he took over and it tells you something when his most memorable moment was the infamous 4-6-0 disaster in Prague but he has shown signs of promise with young talents like Graeme Dorrans, Snodgrass, Danny Wilson and Barry Bannan being involved in his squads regularly and there have been some impressive performances albeit in friendlies, Levein has to lead Scotland in the last two matches to the glory of the play-offs or to at least go down fighting and not go out with a whimper.

If Scotland don't qualify for Euro 2012 and if Levein is still the manager then attention will turn to World Cup 2014 in Brazil.

With Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Macedonia and Wales standing in our way , you can bet the expectation's and belief of finally qualifying for another National Tournament will surface again and we will build up Scotland's chances once more.

We will never learn.