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  • tm4tj

    Ross County -V- Inverness CT - Sc Cup - Preview

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    How about that, another chance to relive the 2012 Highland derby cup game at Dingwall where many a pundit had the game all over after 93 minutes when Richard Brittain put the Staggies ahead. Butcher's boys had other ideas and Richie Foran had the last laugh when he knocked in the equaliser two minutes later. Inverness would go on to win the replay at the Caledonian Stadium.

    That game saw Billy Mckay score a superb volley to open the scoring for Inverness. Rocco Quinn levelled with a dipping 20 yard strike. Inverness went back in front when Mckay's shot deflected off Foran's bottom. He made an arse of a few things did Richie, but he had the cheek to get that one right. Bad boy Iain Vigurs restored parity when his effort took a massive deflection to go up and over the keeper and into the net. Foran's equaliser did not best please Derek Adams, the Inverness support were delighted though.

    Of course it's just past the 19th anniversary of the Parkhead SuperCaleywentballistic evening when we put Celtic out of the Scottish Cup on their own patch. We would go on to put them out of the cup twice more since then and go on to win the trophy, something County have yet to achieve.

    County are looking like title favourites in the Championship and have taken five points out of nine in the derby's this season with Inverness managing only two despite dominating for large parts in all three games. Inverness look like they might hang on to the final play-off position in fourth place. That seems to be our best option given our smaller squad.

    However, this is cup football and anything can happen as Ellie Goulding would say. Home advantage won't count for much as the Inverness travelling support at Dingwall is always very vocal and committed to the cause.

    Injuries have disrupted our climb up the league of late and our display against Partick Thistle last weekend was nothing short of criminal. An error strewn first half gifted Partick a two goal cushion that we never quite managed to overhaul. Other results below us meant we remained in fourth place.

    County sit top of the table by three points after a 2-1 win at East End Park, goals by Billy Mckay and Michael Gardyne overcoming a half-time deficit.

    CUP 5th round.jpgJohn Robertson will be hoping that his injury list is shrinking. Mark Ridgers could return to action and Coll Donaldson will be looking to start this week after playing 45 minutes against Partick. Tom Walsh could be a surprise inclusion to the squad. Darren McCauley got off the mark against Partick but is maybe not up to full speed yet. Aaron Doran missed out last week as did Daniel Mackay.

    I suspect Iain Vigurs won't feature after his misdemeanour at an Inverness nightclub, allegedly. One of his bosses will be joining him in the stands as Stuart Kettlewell has a six game ban for his disgraceful behaviour at Greenock. What on earth are they teaching them in Dingwall? County have a riches of depth to their squad and any missing players will be easily replaced.

    Here's Mark the goalie talking ahead of the cup clash......

    We are ahead already. Crossbar Challenge, we'll take it.

    Robbo's no speaking to the fans, so here's Scott Kellacher.........


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  • Blog Entries

    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
      If you haven't read part 1, you can find it here.

      Lots of folk who did read it complained...about crap players from their own club who weren't on the list. That was invariably because said players were in the top ten.

      Any one of the top five could, I think, have been number one. Argue amongst yourselves as to whether they are in the right order.

      10. NICOLAI BROCK-MADSEN (ST. MIRREN) Yes, it's another Alan Stubbs signing. Would you believe this player was once signed by Birmingham City for £500,000? Not if you watched him play for St. Mirren. In his five games leading the line for them, they scored a solitary goal - an own goal. Oran Kearney rated him so highly that he sent him back to the Midlands in mid-October...even though he wouldn't be allowed to play for anyone other than the Buddies till January.

      9. CRAIG CURRAN (DUNDEE) Curran had done well for Jim McIntyre at Ross County so it was no surprise that he persuaded the English forward to move the entire length of Tannadice Street to join Dundee. It was also no surprise that Robbie Neilson was happy to let him go given he had hardly set the Championship alight. And so we had the amusing spectacle of Curran appearing as an unused sub on a Saturday afternoon for United and being unveiled by Dundee later that day. Less amusing is Curran's impact at Dens, at least if you're a Dark Blue. So far it's 13 games, zero goals and a lot of gripes from the supporters. He gets extra bonus points for that manic, unhinged look in his eyes in his signing photo. Back in Dingwall he used to get that look when chasing a 50-50 ball, but no longer.

      8. JAMES WILSON (ABERDEEN) 20 goals in 32 games. When Aberdeen announced they were loaning Wilson, who was scoring goals for Manchester United as a teenager, their fans were expecting stats like this. But those belong to Sam Cosgrove. It's unclear whether Wilson simply doesn't fit into the Dons setup, whether there's no room for him in the team because of Cosgrove, or whether he simply can't be arsed. The most recent of his three goals came in December and he's only started one game since. A massive disappointment.

      7. CHRIS FORRESTER (ABERDEEN) This one can't really be helped; it's not the player's fault or the club's fault that this didn't work out. Forrester suffered a family bereavement that expedited his return to Ireland after only a few months at Pittodrie. But the Dons paid £200,000 - a significant sum by their standards - to sign him from Peterborough and to get only one start out of him makes this a complete and utter disaster for them. The silver lining is that it has meant more gametime for Lewis Ferguson.

      6. VAKOUN ISSOUF BAYO (CELTIC) Maybe Bayo is 'one for the future'. Maybe he just needs some time to acclimatize to Scottish football. Or maybe this will turn out to be £1.75m down the drain. The Ivorian was signed in January just days before Celtic brought in Oliver Burke and Timo Weah on loan. As a fourth choice striker (and potentially fifth choice when Leigh Griffiths returns) who at the time of writing has played a single minute (plus injury time) of first team football, he does not appear to be offering value for money.

      5. RYAN EDWARDS (HEARTS) Maybe one day it will be revealed why on earth Hearts signed the combative Australian after he left relegated Partick Thistle. Having never played for their first team, he was loaned to St. Mirren before the end of August, where he made 14 appearances before being sent back to Gorgie in January...but not before winding up Jambos by taking to Twitter to hail Adam Hammill's goal against Hearts in November. He has a year left on his contract but it's safe to say he'll never wear the maroon (apart from with the Colts team in the Challenge Cup, which doesn't count).

      4. DAVID VANECEK (HEARTS) Hearts wanted the Czech striker in the summer, but his club Teplice insisted he see out his contract till the end of 2018. That hadn't stopped Vanecek bigging himself up on social media before arriving in Scotland...looking out of shape. He was hooked during the first half of his first league start against Dundee with Craig Levein lambasting his lack of fitness. He has improved in that respect to the point that he's made a few more appearances, but now its lack of quality that's the big concern. To be blunt, when he played against Auchinleck Talbot, you'd have thought he was one of the Juniors.

      3. ANDREW DAVIES (DUNDEE) Most sane people would question the wisdom of giving an 18 month contract to a 34 year old centre-back, but Jim McIntyre's desperacy to bring the Ross County Relegation All-Stars band back together (see also Craig Curran and Martin Woods) meant Davies, who looked to be declining in his final campaign in Dingwall before a brief spell at Hartlepool, was summoned to Tayside in January. Unfortunately he broke his metatarsal in training just four days after arriving...and then did it again a week after returning to training. He won't play this season, even though having just one working foot would still make him more effective than Darren O'Dea. Regardless of Dundee's fate, it'll be a surprise if he ever pulls on their strip.

      2. JOSH HEATON (ST. MIRREN) A club of St. Mirren's size doesn't pay a transfer fee unless they really think they are onto a winner. Alan Stubbs forked out £75,000 for Heaton, a central defender who had never played above Conference North level. He played just twice for the Buddies (both in the League Cup), which is one more appearance than the number of years on the contract he signed. Nowhere near the squad once Oran Krearney took over, in January he returned to the Conference North on loan...where he can't command a regular game either.

      1. UMAR SADIQ (RANGERS) Sadiq has been hyper-critical of how Rangers treated him during his time on loan from Roma. He claimed that - less than two months after arriving -  Kyle Lafferty's signing led to him being banned from the first team dressing room and he couldn't park at the training ground, He also says he was fined for liking an Instagram post and that they still owe him wages. If true, all that deserves sympathy, but it shouldn't detract from the fact that he was a complete haddie. With Lafferty and Alfredo Morelos available he got his big chance to show what he could do in the League Cup semi against Aberdeen and gave a performance for the ages...but not in a positive sense. Dons fans will never forget the moment when having gone round the keeper he chose to dive rather than score an equalizer. It was the only thing of note he did in that match and in a Rangers jersey.

      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.
      View the full article
    • By tm4tj in Football adventures with James Rendall
      There are certain badges of honour in my world, the most important remains the absence of the USA on my 51 country travel CV. Another is borne of a longstanding fascination with the old DDR, East Germany, and a desire to watch football only in this part of the unified land! It all started in the mid ‘70’s when Lokomotive Leipzig were involved in my first ever European match at Tynecastle versus Hearts, and what a night that was, with Hearts 4,2 down from the first leg, and conceding first in Edinburgh, only to storm back and win! No other European match has come close to that drama when I have been in a stadium since! Lokomotive brought an exotic name from a mysterious land to my city. In the days long before the Internet and freer communication, the closed off nature of the Eastern part of Europe only brought anything from these lands to the West only largely for sporting occasions. This mythical feel was perpetuated by older Meadowbank Thistle chums who would return to the frozen lands of the now demolished Meadowbank Stadium (the coldest stand in the world!) regaling tales from beyond Checkpoint Charlie; of quaffing Isle of Skye whisky straight from an East Berlin fridge et all! Anna Funder’s exceptional book “Stasiland” shone a light on the DDR, and modern day movies like  “Goodbye Lenin” and “The Lives of Others” all put the reality of life in the East into true perspective, as have the more recent TV “Deutschland ‘83 and ‘86” series’. However my fascination remains unbowed with a deep seated fascination of principally borne from football, with a nagging regret I didn’t get to visit before the wall came down, just to see! Dynamo Dresden, Karl Marx Stadt (now Chemintzer), Magdeburg, Carl Zeiss Jena and the aforementioned Lokomotive Leipzig all names that conjured up a sense of mystery in me. Sadly, no one has ever written a history of East German football, even in German as far as I am aware, a proper gap in the market!
      Now while I keep an eye on the old DDR clubs in the German leagues these days, watching Dresden or Magdeburg when I can only online, Italy will always be my true European passion. It took a friend, Sir Alex of Munchen, housing himself in Germany for a few months for me to scrutinise the German fixtures for potential tasty ties to coincide with my visit! Prior to this recent expedition I had been to Berlin a couple of times, but not for football, and my only ever game in the country had delightfully been in the East, but for Spain v Ukraine at the 2006 World Cup in Leipzig! The new stadium there has been cleverly housed inside the enormous bowl arena, complete with obligatory running track of what had been the occasionally used bigger venue used by Lokomotive Leipzig. Walkways into the new ground take you across what once were the terracing of the vast stadium. Leipzig that day was a riot of red or blue and yellow from both sets of fans. Ukraine were making their debut in the finals and they got a right old going over, 4-0, but as the venue was the closest of all the stadiums in Germany to Ukraine they were very well supported. Indeed, our tout purchased tickets, down an alleyway from a bloke from London, were for the Ukrainian end, and while they left that match down hearted, they did go on to make the quarter finals, a round further than Spain went!!
      I always mentally noted to go back to Leipzig to see the city without its colourful fans and bright decking that was strewn everywhere in the centre, but sadly, despite having been to Dresden now three times in the intervening period I haven’t been back, yet! Leipzig has of course, courtesy of the significant backing from Red Bull broken the cosy “Western” orientated Bundesliga with a clever move to invest in a small time team and take them on a journey. This would largely be something lauded in other lands, but RB Leipzig have yet to be accepted by a predominantly sniffy elite, despite the rules of the Bundesliga being written to allow the exceptions of company owned clubs at Leverkusen and Wolfsburg! This is the modern world of business orientated top flight football, no matter how they dress it up, so suck it up and embrace a little Eastern spice in the German top flight I say! There rise might not have as yet have sparked a more “classic” DDR side to return to the Bundesliga, but the signs are that one or two might join them in the near future, Union are certainly leading the charge. Following an amusing chat with a Chemitzer and Zwickau fan at Inverness a few years, as you do, drawn as they were to my bright yellow Dynamo Dresden tracksuit top, they amusingly call RB Leipzig, “Austria” Leipzig!! It kind of stuck with me as an amusing name and while I hope Lokomotiv can make it higher than their present 4th tier, and Chemie will return from the Oberligas,  I still embrace RB’s involvement at the top table, even if they are not my team!
      A scrutiny of German football fixtures for a trip was a new gig for me. If you consider 150+ of my 186 games outside the UK have been in merely three countries, Italy, Uruguay and Argentina, and 4th best with eight games being the Faroe Islands, Germany edging from one to three games after this trip was quite a leap. Wonderfully I found two fixtures on the same weekend that embraced my DDR fascination as all four teams would hail from the East, starting in the third tier at Jena.
      Jena is a nice little town, with just a population of 110,000. It is surrounded by high hill’s, sitting in the valley with the Saale river meandering by. Jena is a University town, and judging by its many statues of famous students, this is either a legacy of the Communist celebration of high minds, or a more recent expose of those who made a name for themselves having studied in the town. One area we strolled certainly teemed with fine mansion houses, a tipping of the hat for a town also renown for its high end technology and research. And yet, high on the hill behind these houses, an old East German look out post still stands, the only such sighting we’d see, as even the once fraught border crossing areas have seamlessly fade back into nature. Carl Zeiss is perhaps the most famous son of Jena, forever preserved in the name of the camera production, and it’s local football team, whose close colleague and equally eminent scientist buddy Ernst Abbe recalled by the name of the football stadium. None of this naming the ground after a famous ex-player mullarky in the highbrow world of Jena!       
      Carl Zeiss Jena (known as FCC locally) dropped into my psyche in the early ‘80’s when the most unlikely Cup Winners Cup Quarter Final brought the East German side face to face with Newport County! I even took both programmes from these occasions back to Jena with me, and I am pleased to report that a Welsh flag and a Newport/FCC banner were draped around the ground, the friendship wonderfully still exists to this day. Carl Zeiss went on to the final, where an equally unlikely CWC Final with Dinamo Tbilisi took place in Dusseldorf. It remains, and quite possibly will never be beaten as the lowest ever Euro final crowd at around the 13,000 mark, but given the majority of both sets of fans would have been banned from travelling, it was a bit of UEFA error not to move the game behind the Iron Curtain as it was then! The then Soviet side from Tbilisi won the day, Georgia’s only ever European success, and FCC’s failure left Magdeburg as the only DDR Euro trophy winner. When will we see the likes again? Probably never, sadly, money has taken away the curiosity and the anomalies.
      Energie Cottbus were in town for a vital match at the bottom end of the third tier. The Bundesliga name doesn’t extend to the third league, and this level will allow the bigger clubs second teams in. Delightfully season 2018/19 has been “II” free, and given the size of Germany, and the number of well supported teams in the lower leagues, if ever the DFB had the chance to close the door on entry beyond the Regionalliga (4th tier) to these reserve sides it was now!
      The Ernst Abbe stadium has a running track around it, never great from getting involved in the action perspective. The main stand is sizeable, with low terracing behind both goals, and uncovered seating running the length of the field opposite the stand, with only maybe ten rows of seats. There is scope to expand behind here should FCC ever need too. With a 17,000 capacity in a town of 110,000, it seems more than adequate at its present size. Just shy of 7,000 were in the ground for this clash with an old foe! The curious thing about the ground is that both the visiting fans and the hardcore local support are at the one end separated merely by an old electronic scoreboard! It made for a cacophony of noise from the one end, with both groups endeavouring to out point each other. The FCC fans had gone to town to get their message across, unfurling a “Cottbus not welcome” banner just ahead of kick off, followed by an array of cleverly crafted boards to make their point, and I will let my photos do the further explaining! Suffice is to say, the legacy of the DDR days has left it mark!
      Carl Zeiss are only in their second term in the third tier this time around having been in the lower league wilderness for too long. That tricky second season syndrome has seen them struggle, drawing too many games, and not scoring enough largely being the issue. The home sides need for the three points was greater, and they set about Cottbus with an energy that Energie weren’t displaying. After some near things FCC took a deserved lead, but that merely poked the bear and for the next passage of the game they were pushed back as Cottbus looked fleetingly accomplished. The equaliser came, a comedy own goal, but the red and white brigade of Energie weren’t bothering about that. Just before the break a rocket of a shot rocked the Cottbus crossbar, and the follow up save from the keeper will be hard to top as my save of the season, top notch stuff! FCC dominated after the break against a side who oddly seemed happy with a point. Despite the greater possession Jena weren’t unduly troubling the keeper, but when a penalty was awarded, the dispatched spot kick sent the stadium into raptures, and upon the final whistle great scenes of delight. They still had a long way to go to get out of the bottom four, but this win might well have proven pivotal in getting them to safety.
      The Ernst Abbe stadium is in a large park area on the edge of town, with the river cutting through it. Jena Paradies railway station is the nearest and you want to come out the back of the station towards the river and start walking right as close to the water as the path will allow, then cross the bridge near the stadium and you are on your way. It is no more than a 15 minute brisk walk. An iconic wooden clock tower with Carl Zeiss Jena that sits behind one terracing on top of the “club house” is a thing of great history.
      That evening we set off from Jena, via Halle and Leipzig where we changed trains on both occasions to Dresden. I took a mental note that either of these cities would be the ideal base for future DDR plundering, as I especially want to see Magdeburg play at home. Leipzig/Halle has an airport between them too, future plans already taking shape! I love Dresden, this was my third time in the city, but the first to include football. The last time I was in Dresden it was the day after they’d played Chemitzer in what would have been another great DDR tussle in the third tier, but I did at least get the chance to raid the club shop. From my first visit in 2006 until now the central area of the city has changed beyond recognition, with the complete restoration of not just the iconic church the Frauenkirche but all the surrounding buildings, bringing back a feel of how Dresden may have looked before that end of war bombing that destroyed so many of its wonderful facades. My favourite place is the Zwinger Gardens, a lavish group of buildings with ornamental gardens, but it is now undergoing extensive restoration work.
      I had a soft spot for Dynamo in the old DDR days, they were always the most likely to take trophies away from the hated Dynamo Berlin with all their Stasi governmental fudging behind them. The clubs best period came in the 1970’s when they won five league titles pulling in crowds of 25,000 the envy of the rest of the league the East German teams. Benfica, Juventus and Porto were all beaten during a decade of continual European football in Dresden, but three times they lost out to Liverpool, who would go on to win the trophy on all three occasions. Unlike the East German national side who won their only competitive game with West Germany, 1-0 at the ‘74 World Cup, Dynamo came up against Bayern Munich in that ‘70’s period losing a classic two legged joust 7,6 on aggregate. Dresden lacks a Euro final on the CV unlike others from the East, indeed, they floundered regularly in the quarter finals, which was the furthest they ever got.
      A revamped version of the old Dynamo stadium is across the Elbe river near Neustadt station, which now plays host to DD II and FC Dresden who bob around in the lower reaches of the German pyramid. From the train, the ground is clearly visible and it has been scaled down as well as buffed up for much lower attendances, but the classic electronic scoreboard is still there behind the goals. In 2009 as part of the city’s revamping, SGD ( SG is short for Sportgemeinschaft) as Dynamo are also known moved into the magnificent Rudolf Harbig Stadion (a famous athlete, not ex-player) at a cost 43 million Euros. It is owned by the local council, rather than the club as a safeguard against any financial issues the club might face, but it is Dynamo’s home, Dresden is largely a one club city and what a fervent support they have too!
      Despite having watching a lot of SDG’s Bundesliga 2 clashes online, nothing compares to be being in the stadium, wow what an atmosphere. It was almost a sell out for this encounter with Union, and even minutes after public sale opened online, the only seats together were close to visiting fans in the stand opposite the main one. The Union fans were great, but being so close to them was a pity as they were messing with desire to focus more on the magnificent home support. The Dynamo fans had no menacing banners or choreography like the FCC fans the day before for the visit of the capital’s “eastern” team, but they started with a massive “Poznan” and then turned to enjoy the game amid a riot of flags, scarves twirling and passionate singing. Enjoying the game might be pushing the limits as Dynamo’s mid-season tumble down the table has seen them sent out to sit in and play on the counter attack, even at home. With two agendas of survival versus promotion, Union were the slicker team in the first half, and as they grew increasingly more desperate, Dresden were finding some gaps to exploit, and only choosing the wrong pass or over exuberance failed to bring a home goal. A goalless draw was sadly about right, both had ultimately been powder puff, but neither team seemed disappointed at the end.
      The extraordinary number of police vans outside the stadium at the end was a reminder that Dynamo fans come with a certain reputation, and while nothing seemed to be about to kick off, the police weren’t taking any chances. The stadium is about a twenty minute walk from Dresden’s Hauptbanhof (Central Station) and maybe a good thirty minute walk from the centre of the historical area.
      A need to compare the Italian game with the German one was inevitable for me! In many regards the German fans are a throwback to Italy pre-turnstile/individualised ticketing, as neither are a prerequisite in Germany surprisingly. Somehow as attendance stay positive in Germany, especially in the lower Italian leagues, the fans are staying away in droves, whether due to dissatisfaction with the product or the endless mucking about of the kick off times. The style of game is different, with the German version largely played at a faster pace, but it is less technical! I enjoyed my German experience, and I will return for more DDR action, but in a few weeks I will be back in Italy and looking forward to a Serie B or C play off encounter which is more familiar surroundings, after all this is my land, and I am a loyal tifoso!      

      View the full article
    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
      Wow, so this is the seventh season we've done this. It does seem to give people a laugh - except for Dapo Kayode, who complained on Twitter when I ranked him 21st in 2016/17. It's also fun to see who has proved me wrong a year down the line - Mickel Miller of Hamilton clearly shouldn't have been on last year's list, though all the St Johnstone fans who thought I was grossly unfair on David McMillan have been quiet.
      The six previous 'winners' of this prestigious award: 2012/13 - Rory Boulding (Kilmarnock) 2013/14 - Stephane Bahoken (St. Mirren) 2014/15 - Jim Fenlon (Ross County) 2015/16 - Rodney Sneijder (Dundee United) 2016/17 - Joey Barton (Rangers) 2017/18 - Eduardo Herrera (Rangers)
      Last year it was hard to find 25 real duds; this time round it was much easier. For that I owe thanks to Neil McCann, Jim McIntyre, Martin Canning and Alan Stubbs.

      As for the rankings themselves, they are of course concocted using the incredibly complex Toepoker Formula, which is too elaborate to detail here. They've definitely not just been cobbled together with the minimum amount of thought possible. Honest.
      Let's start the countdown...

      25. CONNOR SAMMON (MOTHERWELL) Lads, it's Connor Sammon. Why Motherwell felt it was worth taking a loan punt on the Irish striker is beyond me, though he at least managed 7 league goals for relegated Partick Thistle in 2018/19. But after hitting the net a few times in the League Cup it became a barren year for Sammon, who now finds himself at best fourth choice striker for a team who tend to only play one up front. It's remarkable to think that he has spent two and a half of his three year Hearts contract out on loan.

      24. CHARALAMPOS MAVRIAS (HIBERNIAN) The Greek international hoped to stay at Hibs for 'a couple of years' when he arrived in October. But he wasn't fit to play until December and managed only two starts before pulling a hamstring. He was gone less than three months after arriving, though Hibs apparently wanted to keep him as backup to David Gray. He has since moved to Cyprus and remarkably earned an international recall in March.

      23. MARTIN WOODS (DUNDEE) I felt compelled to add Woods to this list simply because of the sheer amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from Dundee fans when I asked on Twitter for recommendations. They loathe Woods, a midfielder who looks decent on the ball but who lacks the mobility and physical presence to play at this level - and probably did so when he was at Ross County a few years back. There's also his insistence on taking set pieces even though his delivery is invariably cack. And yet Jim McIntyre keeps signing him and playing him. Does Woods have a dodgy dossier on him or something?

      22. JAMES KELLERMANN (ST. MIRREN) Kellermann made such an impact that most websites misspelt his name as 'Kellerman' for most of the season. Signed by Jack Ross before he legged it to Sunderland, Kellermann wasn't rated by Alan Stubbs and left on loan for AFC Fylde by mid-August, only to return in January. Bizarrely, Oran Kearney has used him twice, both of which were matches against Celtic. He started the second of those but his only impact on the game was to be stamped on by Scott Brown.

      21. ALEX PENNY (HAMILTON ACCIES) Accies' defence is as leaky as ever...so what does it say that they've trusted Penny to play just a single minute of first team football in 2019? Apparently Hamilton paid 'an undisclosed fee' to sign him from Peterborough; one hopes it wasn't much more than a bag of balls.

      20. ELTON NGWATALA (DUNDEE) When he signed a two year deal for Neil McCann's side, the French midfielder was described by someone at his old club Kidderminster as being 'unplayable'. Jim McIntyre would agree with that - he didn't let Ngwatala near the first team. He made 13 appearances under McCann and none after he left, before being let go in January. Dundee fans were not exactly devastated by his departure.

      19. MIQUEL NELOM (HIBERNIAN) Nelom looked like an impressive signing for Hibs given he has two caps for Holland, but those came years ago for an experimental squad on an end of season trip to Indonesia. So maybe we shouldn't be that surprised that he couldn't displace Lewis Stevenson at left-back, though it bodes ill that Sean Mackie leapfrogged him in the queue as well. He hasn't played for the club since December.

      18. ADAM PHILLIPS (HAMILTON ACCIES) It's never a good sign when I can't find a picture of a player in the correct colours on Google Images. Accies fans could be forgiven for not realizing they'd signed the youngster on loan from Norwich, given he played two League Cup group games plus one for the Colts team in the Challenge Cup before returning to Norfolk before August had even finished. Norwich then let him go in January.

      17. JEAN-ALASSANE MENDY (DUNDEE) Neil McCann wanted Mendy so bad he tried to sign him in January 2018...but goodness knows why. Some ungainly, awkward forwards prove deceptively dangerous, but not Mendy, whose only two goals came against lower league opposition in the League Cup. He went from starting the first three league games to playing only six minutes of football from the end of September, and was binned in January by McCann's successor Jim McIntyre.

      16. AARON SMITH (HAMILTON ACCIES) Hamilton bigged up attacking midfielder Smith when he signed from Nottingham Forest. "He's got good ability, has goals in him from midfield and we're really looking forward to working with him" said Martin Canning at the time. Smith played just 10 minutes in a defeat at Annan and was never seen again, possibly because that he was arrested for that appalling ponytail. "I'm here to make a name for myself up here", Smith told the press when he arrived. Safe to say he didn't manage that, especially given that Accies quietly deleted him from their website without actually announcing he had left. Apparently you can buy a Match Attax card for him on ebay though (which claims he's worth £0.5m!).

      15. JEFF KING (ST. MIRREN) One of Alan Stubbs' all-stars, King had a bit of pedigree after making a handful of first team appearances for Bolton - as many as he made in Scotland in fact. His only games for St. Mirren were in the League Cup and for their Colts team. King was sidelined after Stubbs' exit and his two year deal was cut short after only six months.

      14. DARNELL JOHNSON (HIBERNIAN) Leicester defender Johnson's record so far for Hibs since arriving in January: a single 25 minute sub appearance, a retrospective two match ban for hacking Emilio Izaguirre, and then an injury that has kept him out since. He hasn't been available since Paul Heckingbottom took over at the club.

      13. JAMES BROWN (LIVINGSTON) Livingston don't feel good (I knew that they wouldn't) about this signing. Rumour has it that then-Livi boss Kenny Miller only agreed to loan him from Millwall to keep an agent happy. Subbed after an hour on his debut - with Livingston 3-0 down to Celtic at the time - he was never seen again and was out the door shortly after the manager who signed him. Another one with an obscure Match Attax card available - which rates him at £1m!!!

      12. COLE KPEKAWA (ST. MIRREN) Another Stubbs signing, you say? Another player who completed only six months of a two year deal, you say? St. Mirren conceded 13 goals in Kpekawa's last 5 games, which explains why he pretty much disappeared from first team contention after Stubbs was dismissed. He's now to be found in England's sixth tier.

      11. ROSS MCCORMACK (MOTHERWELL) Apparently parent club Aston Villa pay McCormack £44,000/week. Even at 32 and after having fallen out spectacularly with Villa, you'd have thought he still had plenty to offer - especially at Scottish Premiership level. Unfortunately he was hooked at half-time on his debut and was clearly short of fitness. He went on to make all of three sub appearances before returning to Villa with a calf injury.

      The top ten will be with you next week...

      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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    • By Scotty in Across the Pond
      TFC are the only unbeaten side in the Eastern Conference but this 2-2 draw felt a bit like a loss. Coming off a high from Pozuelo’s debut last week, this was a more subdued affair and although the reds dominated the first half and had chance after chance, they were not converted into goals.  Ousted had a few good saves but there are some days where you just know its not going to click. This was one of those days.
      The opening goal came in 31 minutes when Altidore got on the end of a Pozuelo cross to head home. The relief in the stands was palpable but it was short lived. Almost on the stroke of half-time, Drew Moor lost the ball high up the field and it was sent long by Katai to CJ Sapong who barrelled down the sideline. The angle from the edge of the box looked impossible but with ‘Bombscare’ Bono showing up this week and making a trek to the edge of the box he was able to chip it over him and into the net from an acute angle.
      Into the second half and the Fire came more into the game and went ahead in 62 minutes. That man Katai was again involved and he made the run down the flanks before cutting back to Nikolic who had an easy tap-in. 17 minutes later and it was another cross into the box that led to a goal, fortunately for TFC it was a red goal … Jozy turned from scorer to provider and hard down the wing to engineer a cross to an unmarked Osorio at the back post who powered a header into the net. 2-2 and blushes spared.
      A few notes from this game
      Aleksander Katai is a bit of a dick !  He had a pop at Bono, Moor, Laryea and Altidore all in the same incident. Lucky to get away with just a yellow Richie Laryea looks good. Made his debut for TFC and put some good work in. Alex Bono needs some serious competition. No idea how good Westberg is as we havent seen him but someone needs to push Bono for the #1 spot as he is going backwards. CJ Sapong took his goal well. Alejandro Pozuelo had a quiet week … just the 1 assist and a hand in starting quite a few moves.  
      Gallery for this game can be found here :  https://viewfromthesouthstands.com/gallery/2019-gallery/collections/72157708053013884/
      Jozy Altidore Goal

      Jonathan Osorio Goal

      Full Match Highlights

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    • By hislopsoffsideagain in Narey's Toepoker
      All in all, it's practically pre-season already for Celtic and Rangers. The former's victory over the latter last weekend all but guaranteed them the title. Rangers, now eleven points behind their rivals but eight ahead of the chasing pack, are almost nailed on for second spot. They have only one match left that really matters - a home clash with Celtic. In addition to that game Celtic have their remaining Scottish Cup tie(s) to focus on. Aside from those matches the two clubs can pretty much phone in the rest of their performances.

      And the extra time to think about the 2019/20 season will be welcome in both halves of Glasgow. Because there remains uncertainty over who will be in each dugout for the next campaign.

      You don't think Steven Gerrard's position is under threat? It certainly wasn't when the winter break came round, after an Old Firm win put Rangers level on points with Celtic. In fact, the attitude at Ibrox was so bullish that Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe were added during the transfer window. They might 'only' have been loan signings, but even the most conservative estimates of their wages are enough to raise eyebrows.

      And since then they've dropped points to Kilmarnock (twice), St Johnstone and Hibernian in the league as well as Celtic and been knocked out of the cup in a home replay by Aberdeen. Last midweek's victory over Hearts ended a five game winless run, their worst run since putting their feet up after winning the 2015/16 Championship.

      After spending millions last summer on fees and highly paid free transfers, they are only four points better off than at this stage a year ago when Murtyball was running out of steam. All in all, Gerrard has won 28 out of 55 matches in charge of Rangers. That win percentage is much worse than Murty's. It's also worse than Pedro Caixinha's. Heck, it's worse than Paul Le Guen's.

      About the only thing more disappointing than that record is the club's accounts. Another year, another loan from financial house Close Brothers - and you don't need to be an accountant to know that borrowing from someone other than a bank comes attached with an eye-watering level of interest attached. The club won't at last turn a profit for the first time in the Banter Years, not by a long shot.

      So there's plenty of ammunition that can be used against Gerrard. And there seems to have been a wee shift in attitude towards him from the media. Given that Ibrox's resident Jabba The Hutt exerts an element of control over what local hacks are allowed to say about the club, the fact that they've been given licence to take even the smallest pop at Gerrard suggests that at the very least the club hierarchy are underwhelmed by his performance.

       And yet...lies, damned lies and statistics.

      For one thing, there's the eye test. Yes, Rangers have toiled at times this season against well-organized, dug-in opponents. And as regards the gap between them and Celtic, the table does not deceive. But this is not Murtyball. There is a coherent strategy here. There isn't a decent Plan B but just having a Plan A that works more often than not at Premiership level makes Gerrard the most competent manager of the Newco years.

      The failures in both domestic cups were a disaster, but I feel Gerrard was entitled to a lot more credit than he got for getting them to the Europa League Group Stage - and making them competitive there. In many an away game he was able to set them up to grind out a result. (It's the Europa League games that wreck that win percentage, by the way). And lord knows what those interim financial results would look like without the prize money earned from that campaign.

      That's not to say Stevie G is the next coming of Bill Shankly. Not by a long shot. But if Dave King and co. are tempted by the thought of trying to force him out, they need to resist it. This club is crying out for a bit of stability and consistency.

      So too are Celtic. And that's why they shouldn't appoint Neil Lennon permanently.

      In contrast to Gerrard, the stats favour the Northern Irishman. Celtic have played seven games since Lennon was parachuted in and they've won five...including a derby...and drawn two. And of course he won three titles and two Scottish Cups during his first spell at the club.

      A sizeable proportion of the club's fanbase - those ones who feel Rodgers betrayed them by leaving for Leicester City (and who therefore really need to get a life) - will also point to Lennon being 'a Celtic man' as a crucial factor.

      But the eye test which is so much more forgiving to Gerrard is far less so to Lennon. In six league games they have won three via late goals and been held to a draw at Celtic Park by both Aberdeen and Livingston. Against Hearts, Dundee and Rangers they got the job done but played for long periods not just as if the handbrake was on but also that they couldn't work out how to release it. Rodgers' Celtic won with ten men at Ibrox last year; Celtic were deservedly pegged back by Rangers' 10 men last week and you wouldn't have confidently said they were the most likely to nick a winger before James Tavernier's blunder. It's hard to believe that, with Rodgers pulling the strings, there wouldn't have been more energy and more creativity both from the players on the pitch and from the management team.

      As for Lennon's own record as a manager, it remains more patchy than many would readily realize or admit. His three titles came during the season that preceded liquidation and the two that followed - titles that you and me could have guided the club to. His time at Bolton can be whitewashed because of the massive problems there, but while he met expectations in his first year at Hibs (with promotion) and surpassed them in his second year by finishing fourth everything had gone wrong when he left Easter Road. He didn't resign, and he wasn't sacked, but results were so bad - 2 wins in the last 14 league games - that he was heading for the exit door soon enough.

      Yes, he'll always have Barcelona at Celtic Park. But that feels like quite a rare example of getting his team to punch well above their weight.

      Moreover, Celtic's playing style was transformed by Rodgers. It's a style worth continuing both at first team level and below. And doing so requires a coach with similar principles to Rodgers. Lennon is, basically, a different coach.

      That's not to say finding a successor will be easy; far from it. There's certainly no obvious internal or Scottish candidate, and the world's most renowned coaches have much bigger fish to fry than Scottish football can provide. There's quite a significant risk that they could end up with another Ronny Deila. That reason alone might tempt the board into the safe option, which is undoubtedly Lennon.

      But if Celtic want to continue on an upward trajectory, their best option is a new face. Whereas if Rangers want to do the same they are better sticking with who they already have.

      Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

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