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.