Its that time of year again .... time to go through all the polls and calculate who is winning the race to be the 16th recipient of the CaleyThistleOnline Player of the Year award. The CTO - POY award was started in season 2000-2001, and other than the Supporters Club / Trust Player of the Year award, it is the only external award recognised officially by the club and included in their year on year stats, a fact we are very proud of.
An interesting fact about our award is that in the 15 years of its existence it has never been won by the same person twice, although, to be fair, it has often been won by a player who has made such an impact with ICT that he has moved onward and upward at the end of that season or the next. Ryan Esson, who won the trophy in 2010-11 is the only player still on the books who has won it before.
Last year Marley Watkins was like a runaway train in this poll. He amassed the highest quantity of votes and points for 4 out of the first five months of the season as well as the last two months of the season and won it with 79 points. His closest rivals were Graeme Shinnie - looking to be the first ever player to win it for a second time - and Greg Tansey who both amassed what would normally be a respectable total of 44 points each. Ryan Christie and Josh Meekings rounded out the top five with 36 and 29 points respectively.
So onto season 2015-16 and with several of the top points scorers from last season gone, it was a question of who would step up and take the challenge this year .... The season started early with our Europa League debut and Gary Warren was the front runner that month winning the Player of the Month and grabbing maximum POY points in both games against Astra Giurgiu. In August, with a heavy six game schedule, Danny Williams grabbed the monthly honours on number of votes received, closely followed by Ryan Christie and Owain Fon Williams. Christie however jumped into the points lead in the standings courtesy of more of his votes being first place votes. September and October belonged to Miles Storey and it was beginning to look like he "might do a Marley" but up stepped CTO sponsored player Liam Polworth to grab the honours for November and December. Miles was back at it again in January winning the Player of the Month again, but Ross Draper, Owain Fon Williams and Carl Tremarco have all taken it in the last three months. With one month, and three games to go, so a maximum of 15 points up for grabs, there are still 5 players who can win it. Miles Storey currently leads with 51 but he is only 5 points ahead of Ross Draper. Gary Warren, Owain Fon Williams and Liam Polworth are a little further behind, but not out of it by any means. Click on the graphics below to view the current standings.
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I was watching a quiz show the other night when they asked the question "What is the most commonly used letter in the English language?". The answer given, and accepted as correct was the letter "E".
But is it really? Even setting aside the ever increasing use of text speak and it's tendency to drop vowels the ever increasing use of social networking sites seems to have brought with it new habits which would might mean the statistics might need a little revision.
For a start, the letter "X" which is currently ranked third from the bottom can be seen at the end of most communications...several times in some instances. Surely that would move the letter far further up the table than it is currently given credit for? Then you have "LOL" which seems to have a foot on both the TLA and Text Speak camps. Currently ranked mid table (11th place), you would think that the letter "L" must be due a promotion.
These are just examples that spring immediately to mind, I am sure others also exist....but nothing I can think of would suggest that "E" deserves to be holding the crown for most commonly used letter....certainly not if you take a true reflection of how the English language is communicated in this day and age.
I have no idea where the statistics are drawn from, but it would appear that currently used (and apparently accepted) tables are in need of a bit of revision.
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Got into a discussion with a Rangers supporting (Scottish) workmate earlier today about Rangers' financial woes, The Celtic fan spitting on a steward at the TCS at the weekend, and the general malaise surrounding Scottish Football. We didnt have time to really mention the stabbing that also happened at this weekend's game, but it would just have been the cherry on top ...
It got me thinking, and I sent him back a fairly lengthy email about where I thought Scottish Football was going wrong, where I think it still has its head up its ar*e, and where it may even be possible that Major League Soccer in the USA and Canada may be getting things right and where the Scottish game could learn from it !!!
It pains me to say it, but Scottish Football is indeed dying on its feet ... or perhaps on its knees whereas the often sneered about "Major League Soccer" is slowly but surely building its brand and developing as a major player in a continent obsessed with "Pointy Ball" (American Football / NFL), Baseball (MLB), Basketball (NBA), and Ice Hockey (NHL) ... the last one being obsessive for Canadians at least, but maybe less so for our friends south of the border. In Canada of course there is also Lacrosse (the official national sport) as well as CFL Football (like NFL but 3 downs instead of 4) to contend with ....
so here is the email I sent him ......
The biggest problem for me is that the powers that be at some clubs and certainly within the SFA/SPL still think the Scottish game is up there with the top leagues in Europe …. It’s not, and has not been for years. Both halves of the OF have tried to cling on for years, spending money they don’t really have to maybe get a good run in Europe every once in a while, but even if they are successful one year, they have to stand by and watch how even mediocre teams in England get £10s of millions in sponsorship the following year just by being the best in the championship or even the worst in the premiership … not an even playing field.
We simply cannot compete with the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, or any of the other big, or even moderately sized leagues. The interest, and therefore the sponsorship is just not there. I don’t want to see any team go bust or into administration, but the whole thing needs torn up and rebuilt ! I know you probably won’t like this, nor would anyone of the green persuasion, but maybe financial hardship (as opposed to administration, which benefits no-one, and certainly not the big two) could be a good thing for Scottish football…. It will force Celtic and Rangers to cut their cloth to suit, it will allow other teams to be more competitive against them, it will force more Scottish teams to try and build from youth, and in the end it could turn the downward spiral on its head …..
I have always been an advocate for expanding the SPL. I don’t buy the argument that it should be 10 or 12, it puts way too much pressure on the teams at the bottom who are trying to avoid relegation from day 1, means games are no longer anticipated when you know you will play the same team 3, 4, or even 5 or more times a season if you draw them in the cups, and it stifles youth development as teams are scared to go with youth …. That lack of interest, and relegation avoidance tactics makes for a turgid game and an unexciting league (for most).
When we were relegated, SFL division 1 was a refreshing return to excitement where there were 8 or 9 good teams, all of whom had been in the top flight, and all of whom on their day could get a result against the other, and none of whom would look totally out of place in the SPL …. To my mind, it should be 16 minimum, in fact the Scottish leagues should be 3 leagues of 16 …. The 42 existing teams plus the 6 most ambitious teams from the Juniors, South/East of Scotland or Highland leagues. 2 up 2 down in each division with relegation to/from the bottom league to allow non-league teams a chance to progress and the perpetual under achievers to find their true level. Caley Thistle and Ross County are good examples of what can be achieved by letting in ambitious non-league teams even if Peterhead, Elgin and Gretna are not !
Prices are another issue too ! Was speaking to a few friends recently and for 2 adults, 2 kids to go to a (non Old Firm) game was about £70, add on pies, programmes, and petrol and the day out cost them over £100 and that was before any of them had a few beers ! All of this to sit in a ground where new laws or rules have deemed standing is a capital offence, singing/chanting in even an innocuous fashion is frowned upon, and looking the wrong way at a steward or cop can get you a football banning order … its no longer fun, it’s “duty” !!!!!
I actually enjoy (prefer) going to MLS games these days, and I think the SPL/SFA could learn from them … they (MLS) had their flame that burned bright in the 70s/80s and which fizzled out when they didn’t have the infrastructure to develop home grown talent, or the revenue to sustain the wages for players like Beckenbauer, Pele, Best etc ….. the “new” MLS formed as part of the agreement in getting the 94 world cup in the USA deems it mandatory for new sides to have an academy, has a wage cap to stop silly money being paid, and a few other squad/roster rules that help … It wants to develop the league, but it seems to have learned lessons from the past and is doing so slowly .. adding TFC in 2007, Vancouver in 2011, and Montreal this year as well as a few American teams in the other years too …. And better still, my season ticket, in the supporters section (cheap seats), where standing or chanting is encouraged rather than banned only costs me an average of about $20 a game.
For me, however, the most exciting part is the academy. Toronto FC already has 5 young graduates in the main first team squad, some of whom have already been capped by Canada, and they are not there just to make up the numbers, these guys look pretty good … and there is more to come (Vukovic, the top scorer in CSL last year may make it into 2012 squad).
The rules allow for some exciting designated players to come in (Frings, DeGuzman, Koevermans etc at TFC as well as the likes of Beckham and Henry in LA/NY, and a rumour of Michael Ballack to Montreal!) but rather than blindly follow the 70s/80s model of players coming over the pond for a last big paycheck, it also gives both the youth and college kids an avenue to progress …. and for the transfers to start going the other way (Edu from TFC to Rangers for example).
I have no doubt that the Canadian national team will soon start to see the benefit of these policies, and this in turn will raise the profile of the game in Canada as they climb the FIFA rankings, and this will eventually trickle back to benefit the club sides …. A nice upwards spiral where development breeds improvement and improvement feeds further development. It’s a bit like a strong Scottish national team that used to qualify for all the world cups was able to showcase how Scotland produced players with heart and passion, and sometimes with skill, and which made the Scottish game good, or at least interesting, to watch and desirable for some to play in …… Oh to see another Scottish team produce a Dalglish, Souness, Bremner, Jordan, Cooper or even a McCoist !!! just not happening these days as we do everything we can to price the game out of the working man’s reach, do nothing to promote youth development, and allow jumped up traffic wardens to stifle what’s left of the enjoyment of it !
So there you have it .... some points for discussion perhaps. You may agree with me, you may disagree but its my personal assessment from watching both Scottish Football and Major League 'Soccer' over the last few years .....
Sneer all you want at "soccer" in (North) America, but its a league on the rise, a league that is fostering grass roots development as one of its core principles, a league that has put checks and balances in place to try and make sure it doesnt overstretch itself in terms of finances and one which embraces fan culture in an effort to encourage crowds to grow with the game in this continent .....
there are plenty of little things about Major League Soccer that I dont like, or take issue with, and I may go into those in later blog entries, but as an organisation with a focus on development from the ground up, and with a keen sense of community development, there is plenty to look at and perhaps learn from them .....
THIS WAS TYPED BEFORE THE VISIT OF CELTIC IN THE SCOTTISH CUP
Well, what a difference a festive break and a little confidence can do to a team, hey? Eight weeks have passed since the last edition of Gringo's Gossip and there's certainly a lot to catch up on. What better place to start than our current form and league standing...
Eight weeks ago, our team was sitting in 9th in the league, having previously spent the entire start of the campaign rooted to the bottom. Despite being tenth at the moment, the gap between ourselves and bottom side Dunfermline has grown to 9 points. More importantly, with results continuing to go our way, ICT now sit just 3 points (and 7 goals) of a top 6 place - of which is currently occupied by Aberdeen, who have also played a game more.
The festive period had indeed been kind to Caley Thistle, and that 'panic button' which was ever present at the start of the season has since been gathering dust in the ICT boot room. An away day at Ibrox was the last time we suffered defeat, and even then the team was unlucky to end the game without a single point following a late strike by Kyle Lafferty. Since then the team have advanced to the 5th round of the Scottish Cup after a replay with Dunfermline, kept three clean sheets in as many league games, and have also seen their first 0-0 draw since an away day in Motherwell just over 12 month ago.
Unfortunately, with the good comes the bad, summed up by the horrific injury that Chris Hogg suffered in our December fixture against the Arabs. Following a challenge with Dundee United's Gary Mackay-Steven and former ICT loanee, David Davis, Chirs Hogg suffered a serious knee injury and was stretchered from the field of play after just 15 minutes of play. Guarenteed to be out for the remainder of the season, Hogg started an online blog called The Fightback, which can be seen here- http://chrishoggthef...k.blogspot.com/ - It's well worth a read, and all credit to Chris for putting his experiences into words as he goes through rehabilitaion. We all wish him well and welcome the fact he has been offered a new contract.
The month of January throws up many an issue for clubs as the transfer window begins. Already ICT have lost David Davis; Loaned out to ICT from Wolves in August, Davis made good of his time here after a slow start and was an asset in the midfield, and Aiden Chippendale; A Huddersfield loan signing who rarely featured during his time at the Tulloch Caledonian Staduim, mostly because of injury. Now it looks like Lee Cox, somewhat a fans favorite who signed from Leicester in 2009, seems likely to be heading South to Paulo Di Canio's Swindon Town. (Since inititally typing this out, Cox has indeed signed for Swindon, noted in the Highland News as being a figure in the region of £50,000)
Coming up to ply their trade at TCS are two loan signings in the form of Claude Gnakpa (from Walsall) and Sam Winnell (from Wolves). Two strikers who, judging by their debuts against St Mirren recently, could add a little extra spice to our current strike force.
With the transfer window comes transfer rumours, and no rumour has been more talked about around Inverness than that of Johnny Hayes to Celtic. It must be something to do with him being Irish?
Johnny has been magnificent for Caley Thistle since his return from injury, culminating in gaining the captains armband for our away fixture against Motherwell. A game from which we captured our first clean sheet of the season by securing a 1-0 win thanks to a fantastic Gregory Tade effort.
I personally can't see Johnny Hayes going anywhere, and the fact the Terry Butcher has started talks of an extension to his current deal can only suggest Hayes is going nowhere. Let's hope that's the case!
Away from the teams highs and lows of the past 2 months, there have been a few happenings off the park that perhaps deserve a mention. Firstly the new look CTO website, which came live shortly after the last edition of Gringos Gossip was published. Credit must go to CaleyD and Scotty for their continuous hard work behind the scenes, and also to the rest of the monderation team for their efforts in keeping the site fresh and well managed.
I'd also like to say a well done to my step-son, Marc Hurst, who raffled off his signed Ryan Esson shirt and gloves (given to him by Ryan on the final day of our Chamionship winning season) to raise funds for the Archie Foundation just before Christmas. I know how much I love and enjoy my own memorabilia and how hard it would be to part with it, so credit to Marc for parting with his prized posessions to help a very worth cause.
With Caley Thistle having to play Celtic twice in as many weeks, both in the League and the Scottish Cup, as well as Rangers at the back end of February, it'll be very hard to maintain the unbeaten run that we currently see ourselves on. I guess it's probably too soon to be taking about the unbeaten run of 2010, but even so, it's nice to dream. Who know's, with the spirit and momentum the team has at the moment, it's probably a dream that could well become a reality...we'll see
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