Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Sporting Moments of 2008

As is now the tradition at this time of year, my pick of the sporting moments of the year will be published here.

Two years ago, my picks were Caitlin McLatchey's Commonwealth Gold, St Mirren winning the Scottish League Championship, England's loss to Portugal in the World Cup, Scotland's Euro 2008 qualifying win over France and England's crushing defeat in the second Ashes Test in Australia.

Last year, my picks were equally diverse, Irelands fantastic win over Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup, Christine Ohuruogu's controversial world championship win over 400 metres, Argentina's win over France in the opening match of the Rugby (Union) World Cup and the matches which saw both Scotland and England eliminated from the European Championship.

This years choices are equally diverse, and was incredibly tough to choose. 2008 was a great year in sport, let alone British sport.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

It's Sports Personality... Time Again

It has been something of a trend to knock the BBC’s Sports Personality of The Year award, after all like the programme which hosts the award, it is evocative of a bygone era when British sport dominated the world, and the winner of this award really deserved it. The last time the winner was a popular winner was in 2005 when Andrew Flintoff won it. His contribution towards England’s Ashes win was key, scoring crucial runs in the Second and Fourth Tests while taking key wickets throughout the series. Sure Joe Calzhage deserved to win last year, but there was not an outstanding candidate, and Calzhage should have won when Zara Phillips won instead.

This year continues the trend of there not being one outstanding candidate to win the award. Instead there are at least 3 outstanding candidates, with one or two others who would have been a sho-in for the award, were it not for it being an extraordinary Olympic year.

Of the Shortlisted contenders, there are three favourites, and theoretically the winner will be one of the three. Lewis Hamilton became the youngest driver to win the Formula One World Championship. A Hamilton win would continue the line that every British F1 Championship winner has gone on to win this award. However a Hamilton win would be controversial. F1 is not as popular as it was, Hamilton apparently “enjoys” a fractious relationship with his fellow drivers, and his move to Switzerland has not gone down well with a lot of people.

Chris Hoy became the first British athlete to win 3 Olympic gold medals at single games, winning the Kirin, Team Sprint and Sprint events at the Olympic Cycling meeting. Hoy had also won a Cycling gold in Athens in 2004 and silver in Sydney in 2000. On the BBC Sports Editors Blog, there seems an element of antipathy towards Hoy, with a commentator asking where Hoy will be in 4 years. Try the History Books mate. He has also used his new found fame to good effect, campaigning for new funding for the Meadowbank Cycling track (Edinburgh Council were planning to demolish the facility), and for better sporting facilities generally, shooting down the SNP’s claim for a separate Scottish team at the 2012 Olympics. As I said at the time, show us the money.

The only person, I think anyway, who can finish ahead of Hoy is Rebecca Adlington, who won the 400m Freestyle and the 800m at the Olympic Swimming meeting, as well as the 800m Freestyle at the World Championships. Adlington, as well becoming the first female to win a swimming gold since 1960, became the first British female swimmer to win two gold’s at a games. Both wins were memorable for different reasons. Adlington was tipped to win the 800m, but not to smash the record… which she did. The 800m world record was older than Adlington. Her breakthrough came in the 400m, when she won 7/100ths of a second. The American swimmer Katie Hoff was being touted by certain sections of the (American based) media as being the female Michael Phelps. Her loss here had an adverse effect, as she went on to have a terrible meeting. Adlington, on the other hand, went on to charm a nation, and begin plotting for 2012.

In my book, the award will be between these three people, because of the historic context of their achievements. However, with SPOTY being a public vote, anything can happen. Beckham won his award by scoring the goal that only took England to a World Cup finals, and 20 years ago, in another (slightly less successful) Olympic year, the winner of the award was Steve Davis.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Back to Earth...

The exit of Celtic from Europe this week has given our sport’s reporters the opportunity to do what they seem best equipped to do… hit the panic button and bring out the “crisis” headlines for Scottish football. While I don’t exactly agree with Gordon Smith, that this years results were some sort of blip, there are certain circumstances surrounding each of our clubs and the fixtures they have played.

Hibernian, for example, were woefully behind the pace but were drawn against Elfsborg, who were half way through their own season when they met. If they played each other now, Hibs would comfortably win. Queen of the South performed admirably but were undone by opponents with more tactical nous than themselves. Having watched 1st Division football when St Mirren were there, I can tell you that there are no teams who as lethal at the counter attack as Nordsjaelland were. Not that they should be there anyway (unless they had won the Scottish Cup, but that’s another argument). Motherwell again were undone by a lack of European experience, with Malcolm, Hughes (with Rangers) and John Sutton (with Dundee) alone in the Motherwell team in featuring in a European tie before. For all of these teams, the gap between domestic football and European football was, at this moment, too big a gap to bridge.

For the Old Firm, there are different circumstances. Rangers crashed out before the end of the school summer holidays against Hearts feeder team, FBK Kaunas, a result which started the doom and gloom headlines rolling. While Hibs matches were played in early July, Rangers had 2 more weeks to find match fitness. Until Tuesday night, this was the worst European result for any of the Old Firm since the bad old days of the 1990’s. Then came Celtic in Aalborg.

Bizarrely both games followed a similar path. Both Rangers and Celtic took leads, and unravelled to dramatic effect when both teams equalized, with winners for the home sides late on. Both the Old Firm controlled their games, but ceded advantage to their opponents. Not what we expect from our best teams.

Scottish teams results in Europe this season are not a blip, or a sign of worse times ahead. What they are is a kick up the backside, for everyone in Scottish football. We should heed this warning against complacency

Saturday, 15 November 2008

In Praise Of Gus

It’s nearly 5 years since Gus MacPherson became manager of St Mirren, making him the longest serving manager since Willie Reid in the 1950’s. For some, this is some sort of excuse to ask for his removal as St Mirren manager, for others their reasoning is the poor form that the buds have apparently shown since beating Hamilton Accies on the 18th October.

Of the 4 losses which have contributed to the 405 minutes of goalless football, one was a highly charged and emotional affair (the away defeat to Dundee United, their first game after the death of their Chairman Eddie Thompson), we dominated the home game against Hibs (but drew 0-0), and against Hearts until Michael Stewart was sent off (we lost 1-0). On Tuesday, St Mirren lost 2-0 (at Aberdeen) in what was apparently a very poor performance, the only one of the four. This run will probably continue into the next two games, which are against both of the Old Firm (at Ibrox later on today, followed by Celtic’s last ever visit to Love Street next Saturday lunchtime). Rangers will be especially keen to gain revenge for their loss at Love Street at the start of October.

The other charge levelled against Gus is that his tactics are always negative. Personally I would prefer that we ground out a 0-0 draw than open up, throw caution to the wind and lose 5-0, which is the kind of tactical naivety that some managers are guilty of. The 1-0 win against Rangers is a case in point, with many of the fans around me complaining that we were defending too deep. I thought that we were denying space for Miller and Darcheville to run into, a tactic which worked.

Where we do have problems is in the goal scoring department. As mentioned earlier, it is 405 minutes since we scored (the second in our 2-1 at Hamilton), which masks the fact that our overall game has improved since last season. We dominated Hibernian so much that the draw felt like a defeat. Our loss to Hearts was a huge blow, as we played better than Hearts for most of the game, though we didn’t hit the peak’s like we did against Hibs the previous week.

Out problem is that even though our overall play has improved, the service to our front pair has not. Our ball into the box is either poorly executed, or our pass selection is not good. Where I think the manager can improve things here is by playing Craig Dargo more. Dargo had a good scoring record at Ross County, Kilmarnock and Inverness Caley Thistle. While he doesn’t have a great record here, his movement and the runs that he has made over the past year has hinted at better things.

Overall, I can’t understand the MacPherson must go camp. We’re in a way better position than we were 5 years ago, we are in the SPL for starters. Let’s not forget that Gus has the 5 years in charge of St Mirren as his only managerial experience. In this sense he is still making his mistakes, like any young manager does. OK we’re not playing well, but the bottom of the SPL will be tight this season, with 4 contenders (maybe more) for the drop. We are also not playing bad enough to necessitate a change of manager, the removal of Hendrie and Coughlin were logical and necessary steps. The removal of MacPherson and Millen would be none of these.

In any case who would take over, there are not many outstanding candidates who would take over. Derek McInnes is doing an OK job at St Johnstone… er… that’s it really. No I’m not convinced that Gus must go.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Speaking with Forked Tongue

Once again the debate over a combined team GB football team for the next Olympics rears its head once again. This time, it’s the new Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy MP who has brought it up, claiming that FIFA believed that a united team in an under 23 tournament posed no risk to the Scotland national team. He went on to say

"I'm a football fan, I'm a Scotland fan, as well as being the secretary of state and I share the concerns that many people had about the impact it might have on the Scottish national team. That's why I met Jerome Valcke, the general secretary of Fifa, yesterday and told him about my concerns and the concerns that many Scots have.
He confirmed that Fifa, of course who regulate football, that the executive will agree that this one-off under-23 tournament could take place and it will not jeopardise the status of any of the home nations and I think that's very welcome news."

I do wonder whether Murphy has actually done his homework on FIFA, and Herr Blatter in particular. In addition to being at the centre of an investigation by Swiss police. On top of his right hand man’s one man crusade to oust John McBeith (not to mention the tickets scandal surrounding Warner), Blatter has been decidedly cool about a GB team in the football competition at the London Olympics, saying at a FIFA meeting at Gleneagles in March..

If you start to put together a combined team for the Olympic Games, the question will automatically come up that there are four different associations so how can they play in one team.
"If this is the case then why the hell do they have four associations and four votes and their own vice-presidency?"This will put into question all the privileges that the British associations have been given by the Congress in 1946

It is strange that Murphy would, as a Scotland fan, seek to put at risk the Scotland national team. Prehaps the next time he meets a FIFA delegate, he should follow the advice of McBeith and count his fingers after the interview.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008



I’m Allan, and I have decided to split my blog’s. I have a blog already, called Dispatches From Paisley, which had some commentary on sporting issues.

I decided to set a new one up, just to concentrate on some of the sporting issues. Dispatches From Paisley will continue, but it will concentrate on commenting on the news stories. What I had also done as well on Dispatches’ was pick my sporting moments of 2006 and 2007. My picks of this years sporting moments will appear over Christmas and New yaear.

As ever all comments are welcome.