Well, here it is, my eagerly anticipated first football blog. And remember folks, i’m new to this so be kind, but most of all be honest
Where better a place to start than the new much trumpeted SPFL league season which starts on Saturday. Through all 4 divisions, players will have slogged their way through pre season (and believe me, it IS a slog) preparing for this Saturday and hoping that all their plans and their bodies in particular, hold up.
Pre season is about preparation, but the differences between what the top clubs can provide and the rest, is staggering. Sports scientists, nutritionists, fitness coaches, physios, dieticians, conditioning coaches, video analysts, et al are all at the disposal of the big boys. Compare this with the part time boys, who will be running thru public parks, with the Gaffer, his assistant (who in fairness doubles as the social convener and marriage guidance counsellor) and a physio if the club can afford one. But I have to say, was taking a team of second string players to Finland, the entourage that goes with it, and getting battered 6:1, better preparation than the part time boys picking dogshit from their studs at Dunbeath Park?
Can anyone mount a challenge to Celtic this season in this fabulous “new dawn”? Not on what i’ve seen so far. The gap may close slightly, but Celtic will still romp to the title. Until clubs like Aberdeen, Dundee Utd, Motherwell etc are in a position to re invest in the TEAM rather than stabilise club finances, the Status Quo will continue.
And so to the dormant volcano that is the SPFL Championship this season.
I will get to Rangers in a minute, but what about my old club Hibs. Let me say firstly, there is no way, with the players that club had at its disposal that they should have gone down last year. There is no doubt the players underperformed when it mattered, but I wonder if Terry Butcher (a man I have huge respect for and with whom I spent many an hour at Largs on our A-Licence, turning pepper pots and sauce bottles on the dinner table into coaching drills) regrets telling 10 players in the middle of the season they weren’t good enough and could leave the club. These same players were among some of those to be relied upon at the sharp end of the season when the club couldn’t get rid of them. The disharmony created when such a scenario unfolded, could not have been good for team spirit and must have created a disrespect from both management and players to each other which ultimately led to a broken, fragmented club suffering the agony of relegation.
The tools and foundations are being put in place there now for a massive re building job with a new manager in and an impressive training facility, but in my opinion, even though financially it will work with the Rangers and Hearts games bringing in much needed income, theres not a worse time to be in there. Promotion is a MUST, but will be more difficult than ever. “Moneyball” won’t be the answer for the Hibees. Investment in the team is a necessity, as languishing in the championship the following season, where, without this years profile, the volcano will become no more than a blot on the football landscape. Sometimes in football even the smallest gambles pay off.
I will leave the financial situation at Ibrox for another time and for now, will stick to the football. Rangers performances in “surging” through divisions 3 and 2 have been widely acknowledged as poor, and in some quarters as unacceptable. This season however, should at least provide a more accurate barometer of their mettle. They will struggle in defence at times, but as long as they are able to keep Waldorf & Statler fit (sorry Boyd and Miller) they should have enough firepower to see off what may amount to a challenge from both sides of Edinburgh. Whether that will be enough to tempt the Ibrox legions back, will be seen as the season progresses. As will the Rangers fans patience with the manager, whose status currently remains intact, but for how long?
Onto League 1 where I expect 4 teams to be challenging for the title. Dunfermline, Morton, Ayr Utd and Peterhead. The first two are obvious contenders with their illustrious name and scottish football history and both have very experienced managers in Jim Duffy and Jim Jefferies, but neither club should find themselves where they are. Morton have been the biggest “sleeping giant” of all in recent times and if ever a football man deserves success its Douglas Rae. A man who has ploughed a personal fortune into HIS club over the years, to see it continually fail. You have to question whether his football judgement is as good as his business judgement when he has allowed so many managers to squander so much for so little. Dunfermlines young players will be a year wiser, Ayr have assembled an experienced squad and Peterhead have Rory McCallister whose goals will always guarantee you a tilt at the title, but overall, its Morton for me. Good luck Jim
League 2 may well be less competitive as I expect East Fife to have enough of a squad to bounce straight back up. The club has had a cash injection and they have signed a few part time players who really should be playing at a higher level. With a forward trio of Jon McShane, Kevin Smith and Ross Campbell they will have more than enough to cope with the “demands” of League 2.
As a footnote, the overall standard of play at the moment in the lower leagues has dropped alarmingly, due in no small part to the advent of the “plastic” pitch. Whilst I am acutely aware of the necessity for some clubs to use the facility as a community based money maker, it does nothing for the standard of football we are watching. Its great for teaching kids how to play the game, but not for first team football.
So the question remains – A new dawn, or a false one?
Well there you have it, my first football blog. Over the coming weeks and months, I will no doubt become more opinionated and maybe a little controversial and I will to comment on some of the major issues in football that week
I will also endeavour to occasionally relay a funny story, or just an observation from my time in the game which may be relevant and will hopefully give u an insight into the mind of the player and the coach. I will also be giving out a weekly football Tip in Scotland, something I think can win us all a couple of quid.
This week i’m going for a double of East fife at 11to10 and Peterhead at 4to7 which pays 9to4. Good luck everyone and if you enjoyed my Blog, please feel free to share, and if you didn’t, well isn’t that what its about sometimes !