hislopsoffsideagain

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About hislopsoffsideagain

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  1. The phrase 'club statement' now fills one with almost as much dread as 'root canal surgery', or 'Andy Halliday at left-back'. There have been exceptions - Stenhousemuir and Kelty Hearts leading the way - but most cases have involved people who think they're cleverer than they are and who have too much time on their hands using the word 'dignity' whilst throwing it away spectacularly in a multi-paragraphed ranting word salad. It would be nice to think that the result of today's vote on having an independent inquiry might bring a break from these lunatic pronouncements. The number of clubs in favour of such an inquiry - thirteen - was higher than I expected but not high enough even to hint at a general lack of confidence in the league, let alone actually triumph. Whether it does so or not now depends on whether those who still have an axe to grind find other avenues of attack. A previous suggestion by Rangers of going to CAS sounds more like desperation from a slightly unhinged supporter on an internet forum than a real possibility. However Hearts may well feel the cost of relegation is high enough to justify risking a legal challenge. I've long wondered whether this might throw a spanner in the works not necessarily because the Jambos would win but by holding up the start of the 2020/21 season long enough that the other side has to back down. One shudders at the thought of what animosity would develop should this scenario occur. Whichever side of the divide you come down on - and, depressingly, it has been treated by too many as a case of being either pro-Rangers or anti-Rangers when there is so, so much more at stake here - there is a compelling argument here that letting things get so out of control is evidence that there is a total failure of leadership at the SPFL. A competent organization would have largely ignored the Rangers dossier and kept quiet until, as was always inevitable, they won the vote on an independent inquiry. Instead MacLennan, Neil Doncaster and other members of the board have come out all guns blazing, throwing allegations back at their accusers and keeping the pot boiling over instead of turning the heat off. They may feel that they are entitled to do so given the personal nature of some of the attacks but they've been impugned before and still managed to take it on the chin, After all, Doncaster earns his £350,000 salary as Chief Executive not because of outstanding business acumen but because he has proven willing, for that money, to be the face of the organization and therefore the target and lightning rod for criticism. He has had plenty of that over the years without resorting to an almost permanent slot on BBC Radio Scotland to defend himself; why change that now? The thing is, there's so much childish mud-slinging going around that it is becoming increasingly easy to forget the trigger for this whole palava - the farce over Dundee's vote on bringing the lower leagues to an end. I'm quite prepared to believe that one man's 'bullying' could be another's 'robust conversations', given emotions will have been running high. I'm also prepared to accept that getting 42 different clubs who are almost all entirely fixated only on their own short-term self-interests - I think putting that in bold was justified - to agree on something may well require a bit of harassing and harrying with strong-worded reminders about potential ramifications and with artificial deadlines. But whilst Doncaster and co. would no doubt argue that they have done nothing illegal that is not the same as doing nothing wrong. There was publishing the result of the April vote before everyone had voted. There was allowing (and effectively encouraging) Dundee to change their vote. There was openly offering the reconstruction carrot and then putting so many cooks into the working group that there was no way in hell the broth would be edible, all the while being quite aware that Premiership clubs would torpedo any plan regardless. But Doncaster survives because he is still, to enough clubs, a useful idiot. At any given time the status quo suits a large enough number that reform and progress is impossible. This has been the case for several years and there is no reason to expect this will change, especially because of the arcane decision-making system - what the league calls 'democracy' - where potentially three clubs in one division can shoot down a motion supported by the other thirty-nine. Whether reconstruction would have actually been a positive move in the short-term or the long-term is still open to debate - not least because it feels like it hasn't properly been debated. If it is true that this has just been a distraction from the much, much bigger problem - the fact that clubs can't play football currently, don't know when they will be able to play or under what conditions, and might go bust before that day comes - then the SPFL now should have no excuses for being fully focussed. But there will be considerable battles ahead here. There will be questions of closed-doors matches, player safety, supporter access and safety and probably plenty more. There will be a myriad of opinions, and a myriad of different needs. And ultimately the league will need to get the vast majority of the clubs to agree on a plan to tackle this enormous crisis. Good luck with that, lads. Still, it could be worse. Imagine if John Nelms was on the board: he'd have probably given away the TV rights for magic beans. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  2. Obviously it's a huge shame to let go a club captain and stalwart. In an ideal world we would hang onto him as a squad player, dressing room presence and possibly a future coach. But... - even before Covid we were not exactly rolling in it. It's hard to believe that our club captain wasn't one of our higher earners. If this helps us retain Doran and/or Walsh I would say it is worth it - We have a young left-back in Cameron Harper who the club seem to think highly of, and who will be much cheaper - Age is a bigger issue than it ever was in football. Given the pace of the modern game and fitness requirements too, it's not exactly common for players to keep going into their mid-to-late thirties even at this level. The only outfield players at full-time Championship clubs who are older than Tremarco: Mark Kerr, Christophe Berra, Brian McLean, John Sutton, Darian MacKinnon and the mighty Stephen Dobbie. Only MacKinnon plays a role that involves a lot of running up and down the pitch, and he's regressed rapidly in the last year or so. Tremarco has still put in great shifts this season but he's already a bit slower than at his peak I do wish the club could have kept this under wraps until they were ready to announce it, rather than it getting to the press first. Carl certainly deserves better.
  3. Part one of this, which counts down from 25 to 11, can be found here. As ever, the top ten is dominated by whichever club has drastically underachieved that season. No prizes for guessing which side occupies more spots than any other, though not the top one. And for the first time in four seasons, it isn't a Rangers player who 'leads' these standings. Onward... 10. SIMEON JACKSON (KILMARNOCK) The Canadian international hardly impressed at St. Mirren last season, but Kilmarnock were so desperate for strikers - and for numbers, given how threadbare their squad was - that they took a chance on the 32 year old on a short-term deal in October. Angelo Alessio claimed he was very similar to Eamonn Brophy, and he is...apart from the goals, and the pace, and the work-rate. One start and three sub appearances later he was off to Stevenage. 9. JOEL CASTRO PEREIRA (HEARTS) The funny thing is that a few years ago Joel Pereira was highly enough thought of that he was part of the Portugal squad at the 2016 Olympics and started a Premier League game for Manchester United in 2017. But that was then and this is now. And now the Swiss-born goalie has clearly not fulfilled his potential. I accept that there is a need these days for a keeper being able to use his feet, but not at the expense of using his hands. Pereira seemed allergic to making his saves; his poor positioning was found out frequently and when he did get his gloves to the ball it was only to parry it out directly in front of him, often straight to the nearest opponent. He was so rotten that he's made Zdenek Zlamal - Zdenek Zlamal! - look like a reliable alternative. 8. OAN DJORKAEFF (ST. MIRREN) Expectations were probably too high because of his famous father Youri, but the young midfielder was considered good enough to play all St. Mirren's League Cup group games. The problem is that these included a loss to Dunfermline and draws with East Kilbride and Albion Rovers, proving to Jim Goodwin that he needed to upgrade his team fast. Djorkaeff managed just five minutes of first team football after the first week of the league season, and spent so much time as an unused substitute - sixteen games - that he there is probably a Djorkaeff-shaped dent in the St. Mirren bench. He spent January training with Queen of the South but didn't win a contract...but apparently didn't leave Paisley either. At least we think he didn't, though he hasn't been seen since so it's hard to know. 7. LOIC DAMOUR (HEARTS) Craig Levein had wanted Loic Damour last January, and clearly wanted him badly given that the Frenchman was awarded a four year contract at Tynecastle. It's only two seasons since he was a useful part of the Cardiff team that got promoted to the Premier League but Jambos haven't seen any of that. Instead they've had to view a midfielder who has been ponderous in and out of possession and who has shown a remarkable talent only for giving the ball away. Hearts actually tried to move him on in January but he's still there with no signs that Daniel Stendel can redeem him. 6. JOSH VELA (HIBERNIAN) Vela's signing certainly looked good on paper. The versatile midfielder had been a constant for Bolton over several years in the Championship before coming north and Paul Heckingbottom had plans to use his energy in a box-to-box role. Unfortunately, said energy seemed to have been left behind in Lancashire. Heckingbottom's last match - a thumping by Celtic in the League Cup semi - was also Vela's, with his particularly turgid display summing up his time at Easter Road. He never played a game under Jack Ross and moved to Shrewsbury in January. 5. MORITZ BAUER (CELTIC) Bauer's deadline day signing on loan from Stoke was clearly aimed at improving Celtic's depth at right-back. One suspects there was a decent fee involved as part of it. But the Austrian has rarely been seen on the park. Part of that is because Celtic have done fine at the position with Jeremie Frimpong's rapid emergence and formation tinkering that has seen both Kristoffer Ajer and James Forrest on that side of the pitch, and part of that is because Bauer hasn't really been great when he has been in action. He's been a dud, and probably an expensive one, but it hasn't exactly impacted negatively on Celtic's season. 4. ANDY KING (RANGERS) Like Bauer, King's lack of impact hasn't really damaged Rangers in any way other than in the financial sense; the club will have paid a significant chunk of the Welshman's wages for the four months or so he was at Ibrox. The move didn't even make sense at the time given Steven Gerrard already had plenty of options in midfield. Five substitute appearances and a total of 70 minutes on the pitch later, he returned south. If (as I'm sure I saw somewhere, unless I dreamt it) he cost about £20,000/week, those twenty weeks he was in Scotland were very, very expensive. 3. GLENN WHELAN (HEARTS) There's a fine line between being 'experienced' and being 'past it'. Hearts were hoping that 35 year old Glenn Whelan was the former but he rather looked like the latter. Not that he would acknowledge it; the Irishman would later claim that "my form was good for the last few months" of Craig Levein's tenure. That's somewhat at odds with what everyone else thought. He complained that people said "that I didn't fancy it, that I was laying down the tools". That'll be because that's exactly what it looked like. Daniel Stendel, on being asked about the veteran's leadership qualities, responded with "a real leader in the centre of the pitch? Sorry, maybe I missed it." Ouch. The funny thing is he was still getting picked for Ireland during his time at Tynecastle and he's fitted in nicely at Fleetwood Town since signing for them in January. So chances are he was afflicted by the same malaise as everyone else at Hearts, rather than a cause of it. 2. CASPER SLOTH (MOTHERWELL) One unkind Twitter user suggested Sloth looked happier in the departure lounge of Edinburgh Airport, awaiting his flight to Copenhagen, than he did at any point of his spell at Fir Park. The Danish international midfielder's arrival on a two year deal looked like a coup for Motherwell, a player whose career had stalled in the last couple of seasons and who could really shine in the SPFL. Stephen Robinson championed "not only his ability on the park, but his desire (and) his hunger to be here". We'll have to take his word for it, as Sloth made just a single League Cup appearance. When he was mutually consented in January, Robinson was at least generous enough to credit him with "pushing on younger players in his position to excel". If you say so, Stephen... 1. MADIS VIHMANN (ST. JOHNSTONE) St. Johnstone's defence was hoaching in the first half of the season. So what does that say about a central defender who, even when they were dreadful and desperate, Tommy Wright could not bring himself to play? Lanky Estonian international Vihmann signed a season-long loan deal in July, but his debut saw the Perth Saints embarrassed by Forfar and his next appearance was a 7-0 humiliation at Celtic Park. Vihmann made just three more appearances. He left McDiarmid Park in January. We'll never see his like again - literally, as he announced his retirement "for personal reasons" just a few days later, at the age of just 24. Hopefully there'll be another edition of this next year...though that would require us having some football to actually watch first. Fingers crossed... Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  4. This is the eighth season we've done this. Whilst football has come to a standstill I don't believe it entitles these players (or the clubs that signed them) a stay of execution. The halt to matches has probably spared some - particularly January arrivals) - from appearing on this list simply because there wasn't enough evidence of them being crap. But that didn't mean we were short of folk to choose from... As a reminder, here are the previous seven 'winners': 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) 2018/19 - Umar Sadiq (Rangers) Let's start things off with a countdown from 25 to 11... 25. JAMES WILSON (ABERDEEN) The first player to appear on this list two years in a row, on the rather dubious grounds that he was only a rubbish loan signing last season for the Dons and was then inexplicably signed permanently last summer. Hey, I don't make the rules...well, actually, I do. Wilson, who will have been on a decent contract, failed to score in sixteen appearances this season and left in January for Salford City, where he scored twice on his debut - one more goal than he managed in the whole of 2019. 24. KOREDE ADEDOYIN (HAMILTON ACCIES) The traditional even-the-club's-own-fans-didn't-know-he-was-playing-for-them player. Signed on loan from Everton, the teenage forward played ninety minutes for Accies' Colts in the Challenge Cup, which was ninety more minutes than he played for the first team. When he returned south in January, Hamilton's website stated it was due to "tough competition for places", which given the quality of the club's attacking options, means he really can't have been very good. 23. GLENN MIDDLETON (HIBERNIAN) This looked like such a good move on paper; exciting young winger Middleton had looked the part in a few cameos at Rangers and would get plenty of playing time in an ascending Hibs side. Except Hibs were heading in the wrong direction and Middleton was dragged along with them. After Paul Heckingbottom's dismissal he never played again, with Jack Ross seemingly writing him off instantly. Half a season of a talented youngster's development wasted. 22. EWAN HENDERSON (ROSS COUNTY) Half a season of a talented youngster's development wasted, part deux. Why Celtic and Ross County thought stylish midfielder Henderson would be a good fit in County's somewhat agricultural midfield I have no idea. He made only six starts and was recalled to Glasgow in January. Worse, he had made a substitute appearance for Celtic in a Champions League qualifier - in the ninetieth minute - which meant Celtic couldn't loan him out to someone else for the second half of the season (not that, in hindsight, that would have meant much action). 21. RYAN SCHOFIELD (LIVINGSTON) When Matija Sarkic was unexpectedly recalled by his parent club during the winter break, Livi were suddenly left without a competent keeper (no, Ross Stewart doesn't count). By the end of the window they'd ended up with both Schofield and Robby McCrorie, with McCrorie as first choice. Schofield signed first, but a combination of a (short-term) injury in his first game and the unexpected availability of Rangers prospect McCrorie on loan led Gary Holt back into the market and left the Huddersfield keeper somewhat surplus to requirements. Schofield did get to play in the Scottish Cup (as McCrorie was cuptied), but was partly culpable for the only goal in a defeat at Inverness. 20. HARVEY ST. CLAIR (KILMARNOCK) You'd think an ex-Chelsea youth, Scottish under-21 forward who started matches for parent club Venezia in Serie B last year would make more than three appearances for Kilmarnock, wouldn't you? Your guess is as good as mine as to what's gone wrong here. There have been no reports of injuries and he has occasionally been an unused sub but the youngster, who was apparently wanted by Rangers last summer, has offered practically nothing to Killie's season. 19. CECE PEPE (LIVINGSTON) "Cece is an out and out defender and likes to defend, good on the ball, physical and has a bit of pace." Gary Holt was very bullish about the Frenchman on his arrival last June. But he made only two sub appearances in the league before picking up a calf injury in October that has hobbled him since. Livi are not exactly short of strength or depth in central defence now, especially after picking up Efe Ambrose, and it remains to be seen whether Pepe will see out the second season of his two year contract. 18. WALLACE DUFFY (ST. JOHNSTONE) Unlike many of the players on this list, Duffy has seen plenty of action; he has started 14 games for St. Johnstone. However, after ten league starts at right-back or centre-back in which Saints conceded 26 goals, his demotion to the bench at the start of December coincided with them racing up the table. Time will tell if Duffy, who has just turned 21, still has room for improvement or whether he just isn't up to Premiership standard. 17. BRANDON BARKER (RANGERS) With Jordan Jones, Jake Hastie and Sheyi Ojo all arriving last summer (and Ryan Kent soon to return) its not clear why Steven Gerrard wanted yet another wide player, or why he wanted Barker who had hardly set the heather alight in a year at Easter Road in the 2017/18 season. Curiously, two of his four starts for Rangers have been against Porto in the Europa League; however he has mainly been a substitute. The decision to give him a three year deal looks weirder and weirder as time goes on. 16. DONIS AVDIJAJ (HEARTS) There was plenty of hype about the impending arrival of the Kosovan international in January, but his previous issues at other clubs and his decision to wear the '99' shirt (players with daft numbers like that are always for the watching) were red flags. When he joined, the winger declared "there is no country, no city in the world where I don't score. I score everywhere." At Tynecastle, he could barely even get a game. 15. SIMON POWER (ROSS COUNTY) The Irish wideman joined Kings Lynn Town in England's sixth tier in January; this is apparently more his level than the Scottish Premiership. Power's loan from Norwich to Dingwall looked like a bit of coup given he played in the 2019 Toulon Tournament and had apparently impressed Lyon and Borussia Dortmund. He certainly didn't impress County fans, given he was trusted with just seven minutes of league action in his spell in the Highlands. 14. OSMAN SOW (KILMARNOCK) Remember when Sow was so awesome for Hearts that they sold him for a million quid? That feels like long ago. The Swedish striker has struggled for fitness ever since he returned to Scotland with Dundee United and spent the first half of this campaign on loan at goal-lite Killie. Sow started only two matches and failed to score, even missing a penalty against Ross County. He never looked on the pace at all there, but actually broke back into the United lineup on his return to Tannadice...only to rupture his achilles tendon at the start of February. 13. IBRAHIM SAVANE (LIVINGSTON) Two year deal. Two sub appearances. Thirty-one minutes of first team action. Away after three months. The Guinean left-back apparently struggled dreadfully with homesickness, though Livi rather unkindly noted on his departure that he "really struggled to adapt to Scottish football". 12. ADRIAN BECK (HAMILTON ACCIES) Powerful German midfielder Beck joined Hamilton on loan from a Belgium second division team with Brian Rice claiming "he's very sharp on the ball. I think he will settle well in Scotland." Apparently not, given Beck started only two games and had his deal cut short in January. He's now playing in the German regional leagues. Gloriously, Beck has recently whinged to the German press about Scottish football being rubbish, involving only "high and wide balls" which were "not my idea of football". He also claimed Rice didn't pick him because he wasn't British. Aye, sure... 11. JORDAN JONES (RANGERS) Jones was terrific at Kilmarnock but it always looked likely that Rangers would be too much of a step up for him. And so it has proved. Whilst he has made the odd start and a few sub appearances, Jones' first season at Rangers looks likely to be remembered only for getting himself stupidly sent off for hacking Moritz Bauer against Celtic in a match that was already lost, and injuring himself for the next three months in the process. It's hard to see him having a long-term future at Ibrox. The top ten will be with you soon enough... Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  5. Thoughts: - the SPFL's priority seems to be to get the 2020/21 season starting as close to normal time as possible. This is because of the new Sky TV deal; presumably delaying the implementation of that would cost them more money than paying back Sky/BT for the remaining 2019/20 matches not going ahead. - there is no plan that is totally fair here - as stated above there are plenty of faults with each plan. Therefore the mostly likely outcome is the one that appeases the most clubs - relegated clubs - particularly Hearts - are likely to call in the lawyers. Whether they have a case or not, a legal challenge could hold up things for a long time, especially with a backlog in court cases as a result of the current situation. Not being able to start the league at all as a result of this would be a nightmare - therefore it would seem that the best way to prevent this would be to have promotion but not relegation, therefore expanding the top flight - the nugget about reconstruction in the SPFL statement suggests they know that reconstruction (at least for 2020/21) will be required to ultimately keep clubs sweet and avoid legal challenges - I suspect Rangers are bleating mainly to keep their fans happy (they have someone on the SPFL board that put together this plan, after all!) and may try and bargain for Colt teams in exchange for agreeing to this Or, you know, the SPFL could just be making it up as they go along. They do have a bit of a record of doing that...
  6. It's been, what, two weeks without football? The withdrawal is already so bad that I gave in to the Football Manager 2020 free trial; after 12 years on the wagon I'm now obsessing about how to get Weymouth out of the National League South. Either I pay full whack for the game or I face being locked in my childhood bedroom for a week being fed nothing but pea soup. Choose life, choose a job, choose a career, choose '4-2-4 wing play custom route one'. But my tremors and nightsweats are nothing compared to those of the people who actually run football clubs. Forget the crazy schemes like secluding Premier League squads in the midlands for a month to play matches behind closed doors in order to keep the nation from cracking each other's heads open to feast on the goo inside. It'll be fecking months before we're even allowed jumpers for goalposts again. That's if, in the post-covid 19 world, there's actually any football to go back to. Given that giants such as Barcelona and Juventus are having to agree wage cuts/deferrals with players, what hope is there for Scottish clubs? Will they all have gone bust by the time we return to a semblance of normality? The challenges they face are pretty similar: paying wages (and other outgoings like council tax) whilst having no income. The sums involved are of course a bit more modest than those regarding Leo Messi and co. At one extreme end of the SPFL scale there is Celtic, whose staff costs for 2018/19 were £56.4m. Only Rangers and Aberdeen also have staff costs above £10m/year. Hearts and Hibs are not far off that, while most of the other Premiership clubs are under £5m/year. The smallest full-time sides, in the Championship and at the top of League One, are at closer to £1m or even less. At the other end are the part-timers. Winger, teacher and blogger Danny Denholm, now plying his trade at East Fife, wrote in the December 2018 edition of Nutmeg Magazine that the average League One wage was between £100 and £300/week. There are some players *cough* Rory McAllister *cough* who will be on far more than that. There's also the awkward situation with player contracts, many of which will expire in May or June at a point that is still some way away from a return to football. It's likely that FIFA and/or UEFA will agree a blanket move to extend contracts a few months. If this doesn't happen there will be a few clubs disadvantaged, as some players will surely take the chance to jump ship and join another club as per usual. Those however will be dwarfed by the number of players who are released to save money and who will find it very difficult to find another team until the footie actually starts again. In one sense the smaller clubs might be better protected. The government's furlough scheme, which clubs should be eligible for, will pay 80% of wages up to a total of £2500/month. That should cover any player earning £3,100/month or less - which extrapolates to about £700/week, a figure that should be cover most players from the Championship (those not based in the City Of Discovery, anyway) down. Maybe that's how Caley Thistle - not exactly awash with cash - can pledge to pay staff who earn under £24,000/year - essentially those who would be covered by the government scheme - in full with higher paid staff taking a 20% cut, and Partick Thistle can guarantee all staff wages up till the end of May. Yet there's still Raith Rovers, one of League One's full-time clubs, starting a fundraising drive, while Peterhead, Montrose, Dumbarton and Elgin City are amongst the part-time teams whose players are taking wage cuts. The bottom line is that these clubs have very little cash in terms of cash reserves in the bank and are heavily dependent on gate money - even more so at this time of the season when season ticket cash has long been spent. At the other end of the scale are Hearts, whose players have been asked to take a 50% pay cut or terminate their contracts. Defender Clevid Dikamona, who took the chance to return to his family in France but holds out hope of returning next season, is so far the only player to take the latter option. I may be being harsh but I feel like a business with an annual turnover of £15m should be more resilient. Then again, the Jambos were supposedly paying some players a crazy £6,000/week. Most Premiership players will be on deals which, while not as daft as that, are more expensive than that covered by the government and therefore only a smaller percentage will be covered. So whilst no other top flight sides have yet commented publicly on wage cuts, it would be a surprise if it didn't happen sooner or later, possibly in agreement with PFA Scotland. After all, Aberdeen have admitted they'll lose £1.2m a month as it stands. We're also coming into the period of the year where season tickets for next season normally go on sale. Some clubs are already cracking on as per usual, hoping fans won't mind paying full whack even when it's not clear how many games they'll be watching and when they'll be. You'd think that sales will be markedly lower both for this reason and because plenty of fans have their own money worries right now. So which clubs should we be concerned about? All forty-two have at least cleared the first (admittedly, not very high) hurdle of paying March's wages, though some of the above-mentioned clubs may have implicated cuts as part of this. But we're only a fortnight into this. The situation will be far clearer in a month's time. It is a bit simplistic but not entirely unreasonable to assume clubs who have a rich sugar daddy - the Dundee clubs, Ross County and Hibernian come to mind - have more resilience. And if you have £39million just resting in your account, you'll be fine. By the end of this, Peter Lawwell may be sleeping on a smaller pile of money, mind. It might also be presumptuous to conclude Hearts are in trouble given their swift actions. Perhaps they're just the ones quickest off the mark. Or perhaps I'm being overly generous. There's also the red, white and blue elephant in the room. It's only a few months since Rangers stated that they required £10m to get them through the season. Their Europa League run will certainly have helped there but it seems that hopes of significant outside investment have evaporated. There are still some very wealthy people involved there though who have not been shy of providing interest-free loans that end up as equity further down the line. And there's also a huge fanbase who will surely not hold back when season ticket sales commence. So with a bit of common sense and a combination of prudence and government support, hopefully everyone will come out of this if not unscathed then only slightly wounded. Here's to hoping, anyway... Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  7. In case you haven't noticed, Covid-19 (let's be a bit pedantic and call it that, since there are plenty of other coronaviruses of varying severity, including causes of the common cold) is coming. At the time of writing there are 27 cases in Scotland, but that number is going to increase impressively. For what it's worth it seems to me (from my day job perspective as a GP) that the powers that be are dealing with things pretty appropriately at the moment. I'm not an expert in virology or epidemiology (or anything, really) but the advice they're giving right now makes sense to me. And the fact that said advice will change in the next little while as the number of infected people increases also makes sense. It does now seems inevitable that some time soon the government will ban large public gatherings. Like, say, football crowds. After all, it's already happening in Ligue 1, La Liga and Primeira Liga. In Italy, where infection rates are higher than anywhere else in Europe, they've gone a step further; all Serie A matches have been postponed till the start of April. It's not just the crowds that are the issue. The Premier League has postponed tonight's Manchester City v Arsenal game because Arsenal players have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 and are self-isolating. This will surely become a common issue and matches will have to be called off either one by one or probably en masse. And if that's what the experts say should happen here, then so be it. Saving lives is rather more important than twenty-two men chasing a ball. If/when that happens, there will be significant knock-on effects for Scottish football. More than anywhere else in Europe, Scottish clubs are dependent on matchday income. Postponing matches means that they won't see that cash till further down the road. Playing them behind closed doors means no cash at all. Football finance expert Kieran Maguire gave this take on how it will play out for English League One and League Two clubs, which is pretty comparable. By this time of year season ticket proceeds have been spent and clubs are dependent on what they can get from walk-up fans and away supporters, as well as food, programme sales etc. Not many have a rainy day fund to get through this sort of situation. It's also possible that clubs will be obliged to refund season ticket holders for games they aren't allowed to attend. One would like to think that most supporters would take that on the chin, but you never know. Having to compensate them in any way would be extremely onerous. It's certainly possible that a number of clubs who are already living hand-to-mouth - I'm mainly thinking of full-time teams in the Championship and League One - will be in a right fix. Will someone go bust? I hope not. But it must be a possibility. The SPFL and SFA have already noted this. As it stands, their intent is to "endeavour to complete the season and fulfil their obligations under their broadcasting agreements". They said that a week ago. It seems wildly optimistic now. If matches are to be postponed, when will they be played? Will they be played at all? What on earth will the SPFL do with the rest of the season? Here are the options that seem to be available. None of them are especially palatable... SQUEEZE IN ALL THE POSTPONED GAMES BY THE END OF THE SEASON Any matches that are called off are fitted in to the remaining available midweek dates. Everything finishes on time and it's all good. The problems with this plan: the last day of the domestic season - the Championship playoff final - is 24 May, with the lower leagues finishing their 'regular season' on 2 May and the Premiership finishing on 17 May. If there is a significant fixture backlog, there aren't many dates available for catchup. And if call-offs start happening before the Premiership split, then that could cause a real headache for schedulers. Chances of it happening: this is of course the ideal solution for everyone, but it seems increasinly unlikely circumstances will allow it. FINISH THE SEASON EARLY Bring forward the end of the season, and declare champions, relegation etc depending on positions at this point. Hearts strongly disapprove of this plan. The problems with this plan: obviously there's an element of unfairness. It's also not clear how you would manage cup finals and playoffs in these circumstances. And clubs would miss out on income from their last few home matches. Chances of it happening: there would be a significant outcry about 'sporting integrity' which would probably derail this. And the financial knock-on would also be a big problem. It is however the simplest solution, if not necessarily the fairest. EXTEND THE SEASON INTO THE SUMMER If matches aren't finished by the end of May, just keep playing into June...and onwards, if necessary. The problems with this plan: for a start, plenty of clubs have players only contracted till the end of May or even a few weeks before that in the case of lower division teams. Broadcasting and sponsorship agreements also expire around that time. There's also Euro 2020 (if it goes ahead as planned) and the need for players to get an appropriate break before the start of next season which would normally be scheduled for mid-July. Chances of it happening: this would probably cause as many problems as it would solve. Perhaps an option if other countries were doing it, but it would require major changes in the calendar for next season. LOTS OF PLAYOFFS The Italians have mooted deciding the title and relegation via playoff matches. It would certainly make for good TV. The problems with this plan: Celtic are never going to agree to a playoff for the league, given their current points advantage. And how do you decide what teams should go into the relegation playoffs in any given league? Chances of it happening: can't see it. CALL THE SEASON OFF Declare the 2019/20 season null and void. Don't award the league title to anyone. Don't have promotion or relegation. Start over next season with clubs in the same divisions they are now. Hearts strongly approve of this plan. The problems with this plan: who wants to volunteer to tell Celtic fans that nine-in-a-row is cancelled? There are also repercussions for clubs such as Dundee United, who would be stuck in the second tier for yet another year having spent significantly to get up to the top flight. Chances of it happening: unlikely, unless the rest of Europe is doing the same thing. CANCEL RELEGATION BUT ALLOW PROMOTION Get around the idea of stopping the season early being unfair on clubs at the bottom of the table by announcing relegation would be scrapped, but allow promotion to take place anyway so no-one is disadvantaged (much). Obviously it would be sensible to promote the team currently second in the Championship since the playoffs wouldn't happen (wink, wink). The problems with this plan: you'd end up with having to deal with a 14 team top flight for at least a season, which would be a whole new issue. Chances of it happening: pretty much zero, since only a half-crazed Caley Thistle-supporting blogger would even think of it, let alone support it. In conclusion, this is going to be a real headache for Scottish football - and for football in general - to deal with. For us, it'll probably be a case of doing what England and other countries do. Normally I would grate at that, but in this case following everyone else's lead is probably the best way forward. That's assuming of course that everyone else agrees on a way to go forward. And most importantly, if this is the price to pay for helping the country and the world get through this crisis, then so be it. Remember that Bill Shankly quote - "Some people think football is a matter of life and death...I can assure them it is much more serious than that."? Bear in mind that he was joking. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  8. I imagine the story is rubbish but its fun to speculate... If they were looking to buy a Scottish club, they would I presume want a Premiership one if possible so the players were playing at as high a level as possible. But I'm not sure many of them would be candidates for this - Celtic, Rangers, Aberdeen, Hearts and Hibs would surely be too big to want to become feeder clubs, while Motherwell and St Mirren are fan-owned/on the way to being fan-owned and Uncle Roy surely wouldn't sell Ross County. That leaves Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Livingston and St. Johnstone. Aside from being in the Championship, we are probably as good an option as any of those four, and our financial issues surely mean that our board would be more open to selling the club. And we play in (mostly) blue, which would fit with Chelsea. I'd be open to this to be honest. It's not like it's easy to attract players here anyway - they may as well be Chelsea youngsters as central belt journeymen. And surely it can't be any worse than our increasingly likely fate of being stuck outside the top flight indefinitely.
  9. On the one hand, it must be noted that these figures are essentially a year old, as they are for the 2018/19 season. There can also be pretty legitimate reasons for clubs either losing money or not making as much as expected, such as investment in infrastructure. On the other hand, we now have access to the 2018/19 season accounts for eighteen of Scotland's twenty-two full-time SPFL clubs (assuming no-one is counting Airdrie as full-time yet). We also have an idea of what's to come in two other sets. Of those twenty clubs, just eight turned a profit last season. Most of those eight come with a caveat of sorts as well. The rest were in the red, and in a number of cases spectacularly so. That can't be healthy. Today let's take a closer look at the twelve clubs that were in the 2018/19 Premiership. If I get round to it, I'll put up a further post looking at the state of play in the lower tiers. SOME THOUGHTS FIRST There's nothing to suggest that any of these clubs are in imminent financial distress (though as explained in the link further on the situation at Rangers is complicated to say the least). There are two areas of concern that I can see. The first is what it takes for clubs to run a profit, full stop. It seems that, if a club finishes in the league position one would expect given their budget, only gets through a round or two in the cups and doesn't sell a player for at least a high six-figure fee - a realistic outcome, basically - they will lose money. I can't see how that is a good thing in the long-term. It also means that clubs are running to stand still, in that they are having to budget higher than they really should just to keep themselves at the level they are at, in the hope that they hit the jackpot in one of the above areas every so often. The second is the potential effect of relegation. The experience of recently demoted sides is that turnover falls by about a third on going down. Long-term player contracts are not all that common at all but the biggest Scottish clubs so often a rapid cut in the playing budget is possible, but that in itself is rarely sufficient to deal with such a rapid drop in income. Those clubs struggling to break even as it is would face proper trouble if they ended up in the Championship. (addendum - almost at the same time as this blog was published, this story about the potential effect of coronavirus on Scottish football clubs went up. Given the high dependence of gate receipts, I can absolutely believe this would cause significant problems.) Onwards... IN PROFIT CELTIC TURNOVER: £83.4m (2017/18: £101.6m) PROFIT: £8.7m (2017/18: £17.3m) Celtic made a profit of £11m on transfers in 2018/19, which meant they were still profitable despite their turnover taking a big hit from missing out on the Champions League. That's the way of it for them at the moment - either get to the Group Stage or make up the shortfall by selling a player, as they have done again this season with Kieran Tierney. The club also spent a decent amount of cash on infrastructure, such as (shudder) disco lights. With £39m in the bank as of last summer, they are in rude financial health. HEARTS TURNOVER: £15.1m (2017/18: £12.1m) PROFIT: £1.6m (2017/18: £1.8m) Hearts' staff costs for last season were £8.2m, which puts them fourth in Scotland. Whilst their profit looks impressive, they received £3.25m in donations and Ann Budge described it as "a challenging year on and off the pitch". HIBERNIAN TURNOVER: not known yet (2017/18: £9.5m) PROFIT: £2m (2017/18: £214k) That profit looks juicy for Hibs, who haven't yet published their accounts but had their AGM at the end of February. But it comes off £2.8m of profit in the transfer market thanks to the sale of John McGinn. New owner Ron Gordon said himself that "without the McGinn money, the club would have made a significant loss". But Gordon has paid off the club's mortgage and invested a seven figure sum that leaves them with £5.5m in the bank. That looks like a pretty decent platform to build from. He has made it clear that he intends Hibs to be profitable going forward...but they all say that, don't they? KILMARNOCK TURNOVER: £6.6m (2017/18: £5.1m) PROFIT: £126k (2017/18: loss of £180k) Given Killie finished third in the table, I expected profits to be higher than this; if they had come fourth, they would have posted a loss. They do seem to have spent a fair bit on infrastructure - not least the laying of a new artificial pitch, and the wages to turnover ratio is fine. Apparently the budget was increased for this season, which means it will be interesting to see what effect a lower league finish and the binning of Angelo Alessio has on finances going forward. LIVINGSTON TURNOVER: not known yet (2017/18: £1.4m) PROFIT: not known yet (2017/18: £46k) I'm told by Livingston fans that Chief Executive John Ward has recently said the club made a small profit in 2018/19, but accounts have not been filed yet. Their turnover will have jumped spectacularly after their promotion to the Premiership ST MIRREN TURNOVER: £4.1m (2017/18: £2.8m) PROFIT: £99k (2017/18: £77k) It's notable that the Buddies made £1m from 'profit on disposal of player registrations' which in fact is their share of the fee for John McGinn's move from Hibs to Aston Villa. Without that, they wouldn't be in profit. That said the Buddies had to pay off Alan Stubbs too. And with the McGinn money coming in early in the season it's likely that it was added to the budget. Promotion meant nearly half a million more in gate receipts and £600,000 more in prize money. The total wage bill for staff leapt from £2m to £3.2m which pretty much tied up the whole of the extra income. But they do have nearly £700,000 in the bank for rainy days. The club continues to plan for Fan Ownership, perhaps as soon as 2021. LOSSMAKING ABERDEEN TURNOVER: £15.9m (2017/18: £15.4m) LOSSES: £1m (2017/18: £800k) The Dons increased their turnover, but increased their losses as well. That's due to a combination of another increase in the wage bill from £8.5m to £9.2m and finishing lower in the league. The good news is that new chairman Dave Cormack has brought in considerable new investment. On the other hand, the move to a new stadium at Kingsford could be delayed till 2023. DUNDEE TURNOVER: £3.9m (2017/18: £4.6m) LOSSES: £1.8m (2017/18: £425k) Eek. Dundee have run a loss every single year since Tim Keyes took over the club, and its just as well he doesn't look like turning off the money tap any time soon. Getting rid of two different managers, along with pretty much bringing in an entirely new squad for Jim McIntyre, cost a fortune. Relegation will only reduce income further, and their accounts explain that significant losses are expected for this season and the next, with Keyes underwriting those. That said, with several million quid spaffed up against a wall since 2013, your guess is as good as mine as to where the cash for their proposed new ground will come from. MOTHERWELL TURNOVER: £4.6m (2017/18: £6.8m) LOSSES: £436k (2017/18: profit of £1.7m) 2017/18 wasn't as successful on the park as 2016/17, and it showed. The wage bill stayed the same but with no cup runs, reduced prize money and reduced player sales (which still totalled £700k, mind) turnover dropped by a whopping 35%. They also spent a significant amount of the previous year's profit on infrastructure. Going forward, 'Well have now paid off loans to John Boyle and Les Hutchison, which leaves them with only £80k in debt now. But its no surprise that the accounts state "it is imperative to the good health and sustainability of Motherwell" that the club continues to do well out of selling on players; hopefully that big fee for David Turnbull will come after all. RANGERS TURNOVER: £53.2m (2017/18: £32.6m) LOSSES: £11.3m (2017/18: £14.3m) I wrote about Rangers' financial situation when these were published a few months ago. ST JOHNSTONE TURNOVER: not reported (2017/18 - not reported) LOSSES: £149k (2017/18 - £258k) Chairman Steve Brown has been a right sad sack in recent weeks, claiming the club has the sixth highest wage bill in the country (I dispute this) and suggesting losses for 2019/20 will be much higher. St. Johnstone still had £2m in the bank as of last summer which should protect them from any problems in the immediate future. NOT KNOWN HAMILTON ACCIES publish truncated accounts, as is their wont because of their low turnover. My understanding (which may be wrong) is that they lost nearly £500,000 in 2017/18, mostly because of a vishing scam. The 2018/19 accounts should be better, especially with £240,000 from Aberdeen for Lewis Ferguson. I hope this information is useful...and most of all I hope it is right! Please let me know any errors and I'll amend them. PS Kieran Maguire, to be found on Twitter at @PriceOfFootball, is the place to go for analysis of club accounts and finances, and covers Scottish clubs just as keenly as English ones. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  10. Morton have put up highlights on YouTube. All five goals are defensive shockers. Morton's centre-backs don't seem to realize that the heading ban only applies to under-12s. Their keeper made some fine saves, particularly the double block from the White deflected shot then MacGregor on the rebound. Both Morton's goals came from Rooney getting skinned by Cadden (?). For the first one the cross really shouldn't get through McHattie to the back post, Nesbitt is unmarked because Storey wasn't tracking back, and Ridgers makes a hash of the shot and lets it through his legs. For the second Tremarco thinks the ball is going out and clearly doesn't realize Tumilty has nipped in on his blindside - otherwise he would surely have made more of an effort to shield it. Everyone has gone to sleep as a result, so Carson doesn't expect the cutback and it ricochets off him to give Lyon a tap-in. Still, Morton have been in good form recently and are still in the playoff race. That's three points on the board on a night where everyone else was dropping points.
  11. In case you haven't heard, the Caley Thistle One has been freed. To recap: a couple of weeks back, ICT forward James Keatings was shown a second yellow card in the Challenge Cup semi-final against Rangers Colts after referee Greg Aitken felt he had dived. It was a terrible decision; even without the benefit of multiple forensic camera angles, it was clear as day that he had been bumped and knocked over. The resultant suspension would rule him out of the Challenge Cup Final which, for the sake of the narrative, has been temporarily elevated in the minds of Scottish football fans from 'a pointless tournament now that foreign clubs and Colt teams are in it' to 'somewhere between the World Cup and the European Championships' in terms of importance. Aitken has form, as Livingston's Steven Lawless, Ayr's Mark Kerr and St Johnstone's Tommy Wright will attest to. This is an official who once booked Alfredo Morelos for diving, deciding there was no contact even though the opposing goalkeeper required treatment for a bleeding face. What can I say? In other civilized countries, people like that aren't allowed to run with scissors. In Scotland, we make them referees. Did he dive? Alfredo Morelos was booked by referee Greg Aitken during Rangers' 4-0 win over Dundee on Saturday. Manager Graeme Murty said the booking was an "injustice". Report and full highlights: https://t.co/K2ofdhgSHu …#BBCSportScot pic.twitter.com/qRlxA9M1uC — BBC Sport Scotland (@BBCSportScot) April 9, 2018 No matter though, because the SFA has an appeal system set up to fix these mistakes. Which is fine, until the three person panel inexplicably decides not to do so. I say 'inexplicably' firstly because it actually seemed impossible that it wouldn't be overturned and secondly because the process is about as transparent as a bar of lead. We don't get to find out any of the reasoning at all. Until now. Kind of. Because on Saturday afternoon - which was absolutely definitely positively not an attempt to bury the news by making a statement at a time when fans are usually at football matches - the SFA announced there would be a new appeal. The reason? One of the panel members "did not undertake their obligations with respect to consideration of all the available evidence". Well, that raises more questions than answers. For a start, given the evidence consists of multiple video clips showing it clearly wasn't a dive, what evidence did said panel member actually examine? Given there was surely nothing to actually support the referee's decision, did the panel member - who does this all by videolink - even look at it at all? And the obvious extrapolation from that is to ask: how do we actually know whether in any situation like this the panel members actually do their job? Actually I suspect the statement, which came straight from Chief Executive Ian Maxwell, is likely to be somewhat economical with the truth. After all, Keatingsgate (which should be a swanky borough in London populated by Russian oligarchs) had gone viral, aided by a club statement denouncing the SFA which, unusually for Scottish football, managed to get the mix of eloquence, passion and downright evisceration pretty much spot on. Not even close to a dive. Would be an injustice to miss a cup final for this. https://t.co/WhfJxZcweX — Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) February 20, 2020 Once Gary Lineker had retweeted the footage to his 7.5 million Twitter followers, it was clear that the traditional SFA tactic for dealing with bad publicity - hiding in Hampden Park with their fingers stuck in their ears whilst shouting "LA LA LA I'M NOT LISTENING" at the top of their voice until everyone has given up and gone away - wasn't going to work. This was a proper omnishambles. Maxwell therefore needed to go full Malcolm Tucker and find a positive fix. This invented technicality did the job nicely. Now justice is done; Keatings gets to play in the Challenge Cup Final, we get an answer to the philosophical question of how many wrongs make a right and the footballing gods can get on with ensuring the player picks up an injury in the next few weeks so that he ironically misses the match anyway. And Maxwell will be hoping that all's well that ends well. The trouble is that whatever the truth of the Keatings saga it has once more laid bare the appalling lack of governance within the Scottish Football Association. In terms of the actual disciplinary system, seeds of doubt have been irrevocably planted in the process from hereon in. Maxwell's worst nightmare is that in the coming weeks someone rather more high profile is involved in a decision that requires a disciplinary panel hearing (I'm trying - and failing - to avoid using 'an Alfredo Morelos dive' as the example) and the outcome is that the player is punished. There's no way in hell the 'victim's' club won't be all over this like a rash, questioning the behaviour and integrity of the panel members and demanding proof they have done their jobs. It's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that legal opinions would be sought. The mild headache caused by Keatings would become a full-blown migraine, but Maxwell wouldn't be able to hide in a dark bedroom for two days to sleep it off. And so the SPFL will surely see this as an opportunity. It would be nice to believe that the public support of Motherwell and Hibernian and the private support of others was out of generosity but it is very much in their own interests to take on the SFA. At the very least it can force reform of a disciplinary system which is not fit for purpose. With the organization already under pressure because of the poor performances of the national team - including Maxwell's failure to support Steve Clarke in getting domestic matches moved ahead of the pivotal Euro 2020 playoffs - the old boys network that has led to Rod Petrie becoming the organization's president, and Henry McLeish's criticism of how his review a decade ago has been largely discarded, this could be seen as a chance to discredit the SFA and take more control - even take control - of the direction of the governing body's direction. After all, it's not even especially clear what the SFA stands for (apart from Sweet F*** All, hur hur hur). That apparent lack of modus operandi is exactly why Scottish football feels directionless. Because it is. I don't think making it work for the benefit of the clubs is good for the game going forward, but it certainly can't be any worse than a status quo which appears to consist of milking the Tartan Army to pay for shiny blazers, big dinners and jaunts abroad. Doing the right thing by James Keatings might, ultimately, prove to have been a very wrong move. For closing his case has just opened a great big can of worms. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  12. Not sure about the "dogs in the street" line (🤣🤣🤣) but otherwise I thought the club statement was pretty damn good. I particularly liked the description of the referee's input about the incident. Its clear that Greg Aitken gave the panel perfectly straightforward grounds to uphold the appeal (ie there was actually clear contact) and it is simply inexplicable that they still felt the red card was justified. I think its unlikely the panel will be outed by journalists - its not like we're Rangers or Celtic, so they won't be fussed enough to do so - but I wouldn't be surprised if other clubs are indeed backing us here, if only because they have their own interest in overhauling the disciplinary system. It'll be interesting to see what the SFA do next. I think its pretty certain that Keatings won't suddenly get a reprieve. However the statement probably does enough to question their integrity that they could act against the club. On the other hand, they could probably do without keeping this omnishambles in the news for any longer than absolutely necessary, so my bet is that they'll quietly wait for it to all blow over.
  13. So there's only, what, three months of the season left? We're getting to that time where managers are beginning to think of who will be in next season's squad, where some players are either getting their agents to try and get them a move or panicking that they might be unemployed by the end of May. Going by the information available, 117 players with first team experience are out of contract in the summer. Let's break them, and their likely fates, down... ABERDEEN Luc Bollan, Tomas Cerny, Danny Rogers, Frank Ross The future of Cerny and Rogers depends largely on what the Dons are looking for in a no. 2 keeper next season. It wouldn't be a surprise if the former, 35 in April, stayed on. Rogers is on his gazillionth loan spell and surely if he had a future in the North East he'd have got a crack by now. Injuries have restricted Ross to just four games in the last season and a half and it would take an enormous show of faith in his potential for him to be given another deal. Youngster Bollan hasn't got anywhere near the first team since arriving last summer from Dundee United. CELTIC Craig Gordon, Jonny Hayes, Calvin Miller, Stephen Welsh It seems like Gordon, 37, is agitating for one last go at first team football given there was talk of him moving on in January. Hayes is now the wrong side of 30 and attempts to convert him into a full-back have not been successful enough to justify keeping him on; it would be no surprise if he joined another Premiership club though. Miller has missed the whole season with a knee injury and Celtic have a habit of giving youngsters contract extensions if only so that they can get a small fee and/or a perecentage of future transfer fees from selling them later; that should mean a new contract for both him and Welsh, who made his debut last month after a 'meh' loan spell at Morton earlier in the season. HAMILTON ACCIES Steve Davies, Markus Fjortoft, Alex Gogic, Kyle Gourlay, Ronan Hughes, Scott Martin, Aaron McGowan, Mickel Miller, Reegan Mimnaugh, David Moyo, George Oakley, Marios Ogkmpoe, George Stanger, David Templeton, Andy Winter A caveat first: Accies are worse than anyone - except maybe Ross County - for keeping contract lengths secret. Why? I have no idea. A few years back the then-club secretary, Scott Struthers, would happily respond to email requests for info, but that was then and this is now. So it's possible that Owain Fon Williams, Johnny Hunt and Blair Alston should be on this list, but in the last few years players whose contract details have not been disclosed have usually been given two year contracts by Hamilton. As for those on the list, the first question is 'who might attract a bigger club?' The only two names that jump out there are Alex Gogic and David Templeton. Moreover, with the club's top flight status likely to go down to the wire there are not likely to be many extensions on the horizon for anyone and relegation will obvious affect the budget. Those most likely to move on regardless would be veteran backup striker Davies, youngster Hughes who hasn't fulfilled his potential and third choice keeper Gourlay. HEART OF MIDLOTHIAN Donis Avdijaj, Daniel Baur, Oliver Bozanic, Jamie Brandon, Rory Currie, Clevid Dikamona, Euan Henderson, Marcel Langer, Cammy Logan, Steven MacLean, Leeroy Makovora, Lewis Moore, Alex Petkov Several of these names are youths who have only a handful of first-team minutes. Henderson and Moore have been in the first team frame in recent weeks and so would surely be candidates for new deals. In contrast, injury-prone Levein favourite Brandon may not be so fortunate. Of those more senior, Avdijaj and Langer are only a few weeks into short-term deals so can't really be judged, whilst MacLean is on loan at Raith and so surely won't play for the club again. Bozanic and Dikamona are squad players who the club really should be looking to upgrade on. HIBERNIAN Adam Bogdan, Vykintas Slivka, Steven Whittaker With a list this small, Jack Ross' main concern will be shifting the deadwood that's still under contract. Whittaker wants to keep playing but he's 36 next summer and surely won't get another deal. Bogdan might stay if both he and the club are happy with him being number two keeper. One wonders if Slivka might benefit from a fresh start elsewhere. KILMARNOCK Harry Bunn, Chris Burke, Gary Dicker, Mohamed El Makrini, Adam Frizzell, Stephen Hendrie, Greg Kiltie, Jan Koprivec, Jamie MacDonald, Devlin Mackay, Rory McKenzie, Ross Millen, Stephen O'Donnell, Iain Wilson Of this quite long list, only O'Donnell could realistically leave for a bigger club. He'll be 28 in May and it'll surely be his last big contract. It'll be interesting to see if Killie finally choose to cut loose any of Kiltie, Wilson and Frizzell, all highly-touted youngsters who have failed to make the expected progress. At the other end of the age spectrum Burke is in wonderful shape for 36 but surely doesn't have much left in the tank, while captain Dicker will be 34 in the summer. El Makrini may not have done enough to justify triggering the option on his contract and Jamie MacDonald's Killie career is essentially over. However, the club will surely offer McKenzie a new deal and Millen provides relatively cheap depth. Bunn signed a short-term deal in January. LIVINGSTON Chris Erskine, Jack Hamilton, Craig Henderson, Ricki Lamie, Steven Lawless, Gary Maley, Jack McMillan, Aaron Taylor-Sinclair, Scott Tiffoney Lawless has arguably had the season of his career and may be hard for Livi to retain. Lamie, McMillan and Taylor-Sinclair are all first teamers who you would expect to be offered new deals. It's not clear that Tiffoney, Hamilton and Henderson have made enough progress to justify contracts though, while Erskine's top flight days are surely numbered. Remarkably, 37 year old third choice keeper Maley is actually on a part-time deal. MOTHERWELL Charles Dunne, Rohan Ferguson, Mark Gillespie, Peter Hartley, Christian Ilic, Adam Livingstone, Christopher Long, Barry Maguire, Christy Manzinga, Richard Tait, Tony Watt The Steelmen will be particularly desperate to hold onto first choice keeper Gillespie and striker Long, which will not be easy. Veteran Tait has lost his place in the starting lineup this season but it would be a surprise if he doesn't stay around, whilst Hartley has broken back in in the last few months. Its hard to know where Dunne and Ilic stand because of recent injuries, but Stephen Robinson highly rates the latter. Of the strikers, Watt has only just arrived but Manzinga has not really shone so far. Youngsters Ferguson, Livingstone and Maguire have not established themselves in the way other youth academy players have in the last few years. RANGERS Jak Alnwick, Jon Flanagan, Wes Foderingham, Andy Halliday, Jason Holt, Jordan Rossiter, Aidan Wilson I wouldn't expect any of these players to remain. Holt, Rossiter and Alnwick have essentially been away on loan for most of the last two seasons. Foderingham wants another crack at being a first choice keeper. It's hard to believe either Flanagan or Halliday is worth keeping around as a backup full-back. Each of Wilson's three loan moves has been one division lower than the previous one, which doesn't bode well for his prospects. ROSS COUNTY Don Cowie, Richard Foster, Marcus Fraser, Tom Grivosti, Sean Kelly, Tom Kelly, Declan McManus, Callum Morris, Harry Paton, Lewis Spence, James Wallace, Keith Watson Like with Accies, I'm a little bit uncertain whether all the names on this list are correct. But unfortunately the club declined to respond to my email asking for information. I'd expect Cowie (already a player-coach) and possibly Foster to retire from playing. McManus is seeing out his deal on loan at Falkirk. The rest could all conceivably be offered new deals, but could equally be moved on either because they want to return to the central belt or because County will feel they need to look for upgrades. I'd imagine they would be most keen to keep Fraser, Grivosti, Paton and maybe Spence. ST JOHNSTONE Steven Anderson, Callum Booth, Ross Callachan, Liam Craig, Murray Davidson, Olly Hamilton, Max Johnstone, Chris Kane, David McMillan, Jordan Northcott, John Robertson, Danny Swanson, Drey Wright I think Tommy Wright might spontaneously combust if Booth, Kane and Wright aren't offered new contracts. There's plenty of veterans on this list, with Davidson probably more likely to be kept on than Craig and Swanson. Anderson, Callachan and McMillan are definitely done for, while the youngsters haven't really shown any sign that they can break into the first team so far. ST MIRREN Tony Andreu, Cameron Breadner, Cody Cooke, Oan Djorkaeff, Ryan Flynn, Scott Glover, Vlaclav Hladky, Gary MacKenzie, Nicholas McAllister, Stephen McGinn, Danny Mullen, Ross Wallace St. Mirren will likely hold off offering new deals until they're out the other end of their relegation battle. Hladky will surely be tempted away by one of his many admirers. It's a surprise Djorkaeff is still here as he trained with Queen of the South in January. Veterans Wallace (recently signed till the end of the season) and MacKenzie might well be allowed to leave, whilst Flynn's knee injury couldn't have come at a worse time. Club captain McGinn has had his own injury problems recently. Strikers Cooke and Mullen seem to have dropped down the pecking order recently, though Andreu remains a regular. Of the youngsters only Glover has started a first team game. and as a bonus... DUNDEE UNITED Rakish Bingham, Kieran Freeman, Chris Mochrie, Cammy Smith, Oswan Sow, Sam Wardrop, Paul Watson Given United are pretty much certain to be promoted, we may as well take a look at their situation. I'm surprised highly-rated kid Mochrie hasn't signed a long term contract yet. Freeman, who recently returned to the club from Southampton's youth setup, is trying to prove he's worth keeping. Are any of the other five worth keeping? I'm not sure. Watson has proved a decent squad option but he's not good enough for the top flight. Bingham is a stopgap short-term signing because Sow is injured. Smith and Wardrop are seeing out their United contracts on loan deals elsewhere. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  14. To be fair, Aberdeen fans probably aren't alone in suffering from a kind of collective footballing dementia. On the one hand, their long-term memory is generally outstanding, especially when it comes to the 1980s and the word "Gothenburg" is mentioned. More Aberdonians claim to have been there than hippies at Woodstock. And you can hardly blame them for suppressing any recollection of the early part of the 21st century, the era of managers such as Ebbe Skovdahl, Steve Paterson, Jimmy Calderwood and Mark McGhee, of forwards like Leon Mike, Laurent D'Jaffo, Leigh Hinds, Bryan Prunty, David Zdrilic...I've only got as far as 2004 and already any Dons fans reading this have retreated to the corner of the room and curled up into a ball, whimpering softly. But when it comes to Derek McInnes, there's a definite feel of "what did he ever do for us?" going around right now. Well, apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, he managed: four consecutive second place finishes (the last time they had previously finished second was in 1993-94) six consecutive top four finishes (they had finished in the top four six times in the previous seventeen seasons before Deek arrived) a League Cup win (their first trophy for nineteen years) two other League Cup finals and a Scottish Cup final (they had made it to four finals in the previous twenty years) But that was then and this is now. And now Aberdeen go to Hamilton tonight on the back of a five match goalless streak. Their only goal in 2020 so far is a penalty...at home to League One Dumbarton. They are fourth in the league, only three points behind third placed Motherwell, but are eight points worse off than they were at this point of last season. You know it's bad when it comes to this: Oh, Deek. That's just desperate https://t.co/U6lwRzbrJi — Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) February 8, 2020 That is the sort of guff that a manager starts saying when they are feeling the pressure. The truth is that Aberdeen look so stale that one expects to find a turquoise mould beginning to blossom on Andrew Considine's scalp. Perhaps there's an inevitability about that. McInnes is the second longest serving manager in the SPFL, just six weeks shy of seven years at Pittodrie. For comparison, Tommy Wright is the only Premiership manager who has been in his current post for more than three. And a few years ago the team hit a ceiling that was constructed out of shatterproof glass. The pinnacle was probably the 2017 Scottish Cup Final, where they scored first and went toe-to-toe with Brendan Rodgers' invincibles until Tom Rogic's injury time winner. The lineup that day? Lewis, Logan, Taylor, Reynolds, Considine, Shinnie, Jack, McLean, McGinn, Hayes, Stockley. Ryan Christie was ineligible to play against his parent club. Before he arrived in January, they had got half a season of James Maddison on loan. Two and a half years on, five of that starting eleven remain. Shay Logan, Andrew Considine and Niall McGinn are all the wrong side of thirty and trending downward, while Ash Taylor, who returned to the North-East last summer has been a shadow of the player who left the club after that match. That leaves only keeper Joe Lewis playing at anywhere near the same level. And just look at the quality of the players who have gone, particularly that midfield. Five years ago I'd have happily bet that playing for Aberdeen would have been the career pinnacle for Kenny McLean (now in the Premier League), Graeme Shinnie (in the English Championship), Ryan Jack (bossing it for Rangers) and Jonny Hayes (signed by Celtic for £1.5million). Hell, Jayden Stockley's career trajectory since moving on makes his failure to impress a bit of a weird one. The rebuild has been tough, and its hard to know whether McInnes captured lightning in a bottle with some of his signings in the first few years, or alternatively he has just been unlucky in the last couple. Again, take the midfield. Craig Bryson, Funso Ojo and Ryan Hedges certainly came with a decent pedigree but none have made a decent impact. Before that, Chris Forrester and Stephen Gleeson proved to be huge misses, but both looked like good purchases. Regardless, the remarkable form of striker Sam Cosgrove had papered over a lot of cracks. Now Cosgrove has hit the most spectacular funk in the Granite City since a James Brown-tribute act graced The Lemon Tree, the deficiencies are there for all to see. It doesn't help that McInnes has shown little taste for tactical evolution. His obsession with man-to-man marking in open play works when he has superior players but often goes terribly wrong against stronger teams or better coached ones. Not unreasonably he has been criticized for a poor head-to-head record against Rangers and Celtic. It did not go unnoticed amongst the support that the side who pipped the Dons to third last time out were an extraordinarily well-coached David who not only had a habit of beating Goliath but also took great pleasure in shouting "bye-bye, Rangers!" at them. To make matters harder still, a new chairman with American business links and an eye on trying to use the new stadium - which seemingly they now won't get into till 2023 - as a platform to push on will surely demand some on-pitch success to generate momentum and encourage investment. That at least means that, if it proves that seven years is long enough, a successor will have a far stronger platform to work from than McInnes did in 2013, or any of his predecessors did for a generation before that. But even if his time is up soon, Aberdeen fans should force themselves to remember the nightmare years beforehand, and realize that "we need to move on from Derek McInnes" and "Derek McInnes has been a successful Aberdeen manager" are not mutually exclusive positions. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article