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hislopsoffsideagain last won the day on July 10

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  1. Hope the online commentary was better than the result. If you thought the first half was poor viewing, try watching it from that gantry opposite the main stand where, having made the rookie error of sitting on a wet chair, I got hit by rain, wind and then sideways rain. We did have the offer of an umbrella but had I used it I'd have probably sailed across the pitch like Mary Poppins. Having started shivering by 3:30, there was enough second half action that, combined with me standing up, I nearly got the feeling back in my toes. I feel like we got caught cold (ahem) at the start. Having seen TV footage of the opener it's a cracking finish by Buchanan but he finds ridiculous space in the box because after he played the one-two with Cawley (who had escaped McCart with his movement), Rooney strangely chose to go towards Cawley rather than track him. A bit of a shambles to be honest. We dominated possession after that but after MacDonald saved smartly from MacGregor a few minutes later we barely created anything before half-time. The second period was lit up by that extraordinary Tremarco goal. He was out on the right having taken a corner that was cleared back to him, and he almost casually wrapped his left foot around the ball and it fizzed in the far corner off the junction of bar and post (for maximum aesthetic effect!). That's the club's goal of the season competition finished for 2019/20. After that we pretty much pinned them back though last-ditch defending kept us mostly at bay. However we looked like we'd won it when Tremarco whipped in a pearler of a cross and White outmuscled the defender at the back post to head home. Inexplicably though we switched off and blew two points. It seems like either Andy Graham - who has a great goalscoring record from set plays - either wasn't identified beforehand as someone for the watching or simply the players failed to keep tabs on him. He missed a free header at 1-1 when Alloa used a training ground routine to get him unmarked at a corner, and when they got a long throw opportunity he was the inevitable target. However he wasn't challenged for the flick on...and everyone was statuesque except Trouten who had the freedom of the box to smash it home for an equalizer. Massively frustrating as we would have gone top with the win. I felt we struggled badly to break down a very compact and defensive Alloa side; we lacked width and our central midfield pair were not nearly ambitious enough; both Vincent and Trafford spent too much time going sideways and backwards. The introduction of Carson and Keatings did help things in that regard but we missed Welsh's intelligence in possession and Walsh's wing play. All in all a frustrating afternoon, though at least we haven't lost ground on those around us. And at least I'm warmed up now!
  2. Hi folks, for those who haven't seen it on Twitter, the club will be broadcasting live audio commentary again from the Alloa game. It's the same process as previous - a link should come up on the club Twitter feed shortly before kickoff to a Periscope link. Fingers crossed for a good game and a good result (and for none of the gremlins that plagued us during the QOS game last month). Feedback appreciated.
  3. Another international week endured, and the national team came remarkably close to accomplishing an impossible task - increasing the apathy already surrounding them. It started in Moscow on Thursday night, where Scotland survived a first half onslaught mostly through luck rather than ability and then started the second period with purpose. And inevitably their best fifteen minute spell of the match culminated in a goal...for Russia. The subsequent collapse felt like just another humiliation to add to the list. But in the cold light of day it could be recognised that the team are considerably better organized than under Alex McLeish. Unfortunately, when one of your centre-backs is from the bottom end of the English Championship and the other might not even get a game for Aberdeen when teammates are fully fit, you are still going to get pumped by the Lukakus, De Bruynes, Golovins and Dzyubas of this world. Artem Dzyuba vs Charlie Mulgrew was a grossly unfair matchup at Hampden last month and yet somehow this was even worse, a footballing Zangief up against a guy who looks like he's temporarily taken off his denim shirt and acoustic guitar in order to play. It tells you something that Steve Clarke, confident enough to cap several of his former Kilmarnock charges in previous matches, thought that Stuart Findlay would fare even worse than the hapless Mulgrew and Mikey Devlin. When in the aftermath of that defeat I put it to the Twitterverse to suggest their strongest Scotland XI its worth noting that nobody went with either Mulgrew or Devlin as part of their lineup. I'd go with the majority picks of John Souttar and Scott McKenna, though it must be noted that this is a duo with great potential but who are still a long way away from where we need them to be. Ditto Findlay, Craig Halkett, Declan Gallagher and whoever else you can think of. And until Scotland solve this centre-back problem then they will always be up against it. Perhaps Clarke could - should - have protected them better with his midfield, though it should be remembered that a screen of Kenny McLean and Scott McTominay also got the runaround in Brussels. Finding the right balance in midfield remains a challenge; only John McGinn The Human Whirling Dervish appears to be a player for all seasons and all opponents. At what point does the manager have to conclude that picking your best playmaker, Callum McGregor, is no use if you can't get possession? But, if Clarke is still entitled to the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he is looking at the bigger picture - that the game in Russia mattered not a jot and that our World Cup Final is in March, the Euro 2020 playoff semi-final at Hampden against an opponent who will be closer to our level. Given the lack of preparation time at international level, there is certainly an argument that concentrating on your lineup and system for that game, and potentially the playoff final after that, is far more important. Which is fine as long as the hammerings don't destroy the confidence of the players or the fans. The capitulation in Russia was obviously concerning from that point of view. At least the players went about their business professionally against San Marino, though John McGinn's hat-trick against such abysmal opposition justifies only slightly more applause than putting one's own socks on in the morning. Still, it was a thumping win with no scares, no consolation goals conceded and despite dreadful conditions which added an element of interest and amusement to proceedings without hindering the home side. The twenty thousand - which hopefully included a lot of kids who haven't yet had their souls destroyed from watching Scotland for the last several years - who pitched up during a monsoon at least got to enjoy a victory and lots of goals. The official attendance was at least far higher than that which was expected a few days earlier, but a ticket price of £30 for a game like this raises significant questions about the SFA's priorities. It's clearly in the interests of the home team to get as many fans into the stadium as possible, and in the long run increasing interest and excitement in the national team can only be a good thing - look at the positive effect the success of the Women's Team has had. But prices like that stink of nothing more than trying to fleece over-loyal Tartan Army footsoldiers, which is a recurring theme over the last decade or so. What is the point of the national team in the SFA's eyes? Is it just to make money over the short-term, or is it about something far bigger? If it's the latter then it's no surprise that the product on the pitch is just as unambitious and small-time. If they have even a modicum of sense (don't hold your breath) they will try and cram as many folk into the ground for the Kazakhstan game as possible - hopefully a convincing win on the back of a victory in Cyprus. Then with spirits lifted, and five months having passed since the last competitive defeat, they need to do the same, charging buttons if necessary, for that playoff semi. For that is the get out of jail free card, where Scotland can pull itself out of this deep hole just (!) by winning two matches. Pull that off and all will be forgiven and forgotten. Fail, and it's back to oblivion for the indefinite future. 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. Why would McCall want to leave this behind? Ayr United are in glorious form right now. Ian McCall said himself afterward that their first half performance at the Indodrill was as good as any he'd ever managed. Alloa were completely outclassed, unable to cope with United's passing and movement in open play or their physical presence at set plays. If anything, the 4-0 half-time score flattered the home side. As their victory over Dundee United last week showed, this sort of performance is currently the norm for Ayr, currently behind the Terrors only on goal difference. Any fears that they might have hit their ceiling last season have proven unfounded; if anything the loss of Lawrence Shankland has encouraged other players to lift their game. Frankly, this team are not only still on the up but they are credible title challengers at this point. Why, after four and a half years, would McCall want to chuck this for the team that's bottom of the league? Why would McCall want to take this on? Of course, McCall feels he has unfinished business at Firhill; his departure in 2011 after nearly four years was because of his need to deal with a gambling addiction. That said, I don't remember Thistle fans shedding many tears over his departure after three straight seasons of mid-table finishes in the old First Division... In the meantime, I wonder if he might get a bit of a shock when he takes off those red-and-yellow-tinted specs. Gary Caldwell's claims, a few days after his dismissal, that "the groundwork has been laid to challenge for promotion" were utterly ludicrous. Whilst some of the deficiencies that showed up in their crushing defeat by Dunfermline are due to low confidence and morale - which a good manager will fix - the squad itself was built by Caldwell to try and fulfil his delusion that Thistle could play like Roberto Martinez's Wigan. That's about as far away as you can get from McCall's idea of how football should be played. Add in the off-field uncertainty about finances and takeovers - how would this international consortium feel about having McCall as manager, and how would McCall feel about being made to fill his squad with Barnsley youth players? - and this feels like a heck of an undertaking. At the moment Thistle have 'this season's Falkirk' written all over them, though if anyone can turn this around it's Ian McCall. Arbroath run out of steam again It's a bit cliched but it's also true. One down to part-time opposition at home, the week after a defeat, the Tannadice crowd on their backs - this was exactly the sort of match Dundee United would have lost last season. Whether Robbie Neilson has put some steel into them or it's just because they have Lawrence Shankland, they dug themselves out of a hole and proved to the other sides in this division, as well as themselves, that this is not the Dundee United team of the last three seasons. That said, they were fortunate to still be in the match - Josh Campbell hit the post at 1-0 - and also fortunate enough to be playing Arbroath. Dick Campbell blamed a "lack of professionalism" for the two late concessions and he was right, but not in the way he meant. The Red Lichties' achilles heel remains the fact that they are not professionals; they inevitably run out of legs in the last quarter of matches and it showed here, just like it did at Inverness and at home to Partick Thistle. Their hopes of staying up would be massively boosted if Campbell manages to convince them to hit the treadmill before (or after, in the case of binman Bobby Linn) going to their day jobs. Signing Dorrans doesn't solve Dundee's big problem Graham Dorrans should, fitness permitting, be a fine signing for Dundee. He should stroll it at this level. But we said the same thing about Kane Hemmings as well, and he was again a substitute for Dundee at the weekend. That's because the Dark Blues are playing better with only one up top, with Danny Johnson currently keeping Hemmings and another talented forward, Andrew Nelson, out of the side. Dorrans should be a starter soon enough. But, like centre forward, central midfield is not a position of need for James McPake. Shaun Byrne and Jamie Ness were signed in the summer (and neither will have been cheap), Paul McGowan remains capable and teenager Finlay Robertson has been outstanding. Meanwhile Dundee again had to rely on the erratic Declan McDaid as a wide option, Jordan McGhee as a centre back and Jack Hamilton in goal. This does not smack of good planning. One can't help feeling that their prospects would be much improved if they had signed a vaguely competent defender instead of so many midfielders and strikers. Welsh walks all over Queen of the South Queen of the South actually went to the trouble of coming all the way up to Inverness from Dumfries on Friday, but their weekend away in the Highlands was essentially over by twenty past three on Saturday. Two up by that point, Caley Thistle switched to cruise control after that and whilst they only sporadically looked like landing a knockout punch they were easily able to deflect any attempted blows from the visitors. It wasn't a great spectacle but I imagine managers love matches like this when their team looks so confident and comfortable. It helps to have a midfielder who exudes that confidence and comfort in receiving and giving possession. Step forward Sean Welsh, making his first start since April after yet another spate of injuries. Welsh fired Inverness in front with a terrific strike from outside the box, but came into his own after Tom Walsh doubled the advantage. I think Welsh lost the ball once, in the 75th minute. Otherwise he was always either on the ball, casually twisting away from pressing Doonhamers before starting another attack, or looking to get it either from a teammate or by tackling an opponent. It was an utterly dominant performance, one that Caley Thistle have got used to since he came north. The worry with Welsh is always his fitness - he missed the promotion playoffs last year because of a broken foot - but if they can keep him from breaking down Inverness could well sustain their solid start. 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. First off, an apology for those who were trying to listen to the live commentary. Unfortunately we had a broken audio cable, which we didn't notice till half-time. So we were jabbering away for 45 minutes and no-one was able to hear us. To be honest, we'd just spent most of the time raving about Sean Welsh... As for the game, that was a stroll in the sunshine. Welsh's goal was a cracker, whilst Walsh got a fortunate break of the ball but finished brilliantly. After that we pretty much controlled the game, rarely breaking out of third gear but also rarely looking threatened. Had our strikers been particularly good today (that White miss in the second half?!) that could have been another 5-0. The back four were all terrific today. Has it got to the point where we stop going on about how good Rooney has been, as if its some sort of surprise? Both the goals came from him getting forward down the right flank and he defended well again. As for Welsh, I think he gave the ball away once, in about the 75th minute. He absolutely strolled it and I thoroughly enjoyed watching him in action. Matches like this are not always entertaining, but the manager must be delighted. Dominant and confident without really breaking much of a sweat. Long may it last.
  6. There are lots of factors at play here. For a start, the dropoff in income compared to being in the Premiership is huge - the difference in prize money, TV money, sponsorship opportunities and attendances (both home and away) is enormous. I'm pretty certain that most of the full-time clubs in our division either made significant losses (us, Dundee United, Partick Thistle) or relied heavily on handouts (Ross County, Dunfermline, QOS, Morton) to get by. Unfortunately the nature of things is that if you spend beyond your means and don't get promoted then you're in financial trouble, but if you balance the books you're probably at risk of getting relegated to League One and losing further income. Moreover it's all very well complaining about poor attendance but the fact is that people clearly would prefer to spend their hard-earned cash in other ways. Cost, apathy, inconvenience - for whatever reason people aren't coming to games and no other club has found a magic fix to this problem other than success on the pitch (which as stated elsewhere didn't exactly lead to a hike in our crowds either). The bottom line is that the club is not currently sustainable without investment from outside (I say 'investment' but it's basically handouts) and we're not unique in that respect. The difficulty is finding someone wealthy who is willing to waste their money on such a venture. That I suppose is what the EGM is about.
  7. Hey folks, happy to confirm that we'll be broadcasting free live audio commentary of Saturday's game. It'll be the same process as before, using a periscope link that will go up on the club's Twitter feed shortly before kickoff. Hopefully it'll be a good listen and a good result!
  8. McCall enjoys getting one over Dundee United and Shankland As post-match trolling goes...wow. Just, wow. Incredible from McCall. Neilson has been burned alive here. pic.twitter.com/i5zSd4g0rv — itzdrk (@itzdrk) September 14, 2019 Aye, so Ian McCall really doesn't like Robbie Neilson then. He certainly seemed to rather enjoy shackling Lawrence Shankland, who was anonymous against his former club; I bet other Championship coaches will be taking note. Shankland wasn't the only ex-Ayr player feeling grim after this one. Liam Smith got burned badly by Daniel Harvie when the left-back metamorphosed into a rampaging centre-forward to open the scoring, and seemed to be targeted by McCall. After being twisted and turned all day he eventually gave a penalty away by tripping Alan Forrest, with the winger scoring it himself to clinch the win. Whilst a lot of the focus post-match was on how perhaps folk had been too quick to anoint Dundee United as certs for promotion (ahem) it's worth noting that Ayr, who lost several good players in the summer and who are so short of numbers that Kris Doolan was the only one of their five subs who is over the age of 20, are only behind them on goal difference. It's early days but that's still pretty impressive. Can they sustain it? Crawford is running out of time Dunfermline-Inverness had 0-0 written all over it from early on, until a Devine intervention - Pars substitute Daniel Devine gave away a foolish penalty for handball late on against his former club that gifted the visitors three scarcely-deserved points. So Dunfermline, who dropped to the bottom of the table after Friday night's game, could count themselves pretty unlucky. The flipside is this: Dunfermline's league record under Stevie Crawford: Played 21 Won 5 Drawn 4 Lost 12 Scored 14 Conceded 20 Points 19 Those 5 wins all came in a row. They haven't won in 13 league games since 9 March— Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) September 14, 2019 Also, just 34 goals total in 21 games? How incredibly dull is that? Crawford has had to face arguably the three strongest sides in the division in the opening five games; they now have three vulnerable opponents to come in Partick Thistle, Alloa and Morton. If they're still bottom after that, the international break would seem like a logical time to replace Crawford. Dundee look better with one up front Apparently Alan Trouten hadn't missed a penalty in more than five years before Jack Hamilton saved his tame spot-kick at Dens Park. And that leaves me a nice easy stick to beat James McPake with (not literally!) - if only Trouten had been as reliable as usual, then Dundee would have been held to a draw. But the Dark Blues hit the woodwork twice and kept Jamie MacDonald, signed on an emergency loan on Friday, busy in the Alloa goal all afternoon. Crucially, they appear to have found a system that works, eschewing a second striker and instead using Paul McGowan in a more advanced role. Moreover, Josh McPake was particularly impressive on the left. The eighteen year old, on loan from Rangers, set up Jordan McGhee's winner with some fine wing play and was a threat all afternoon. The change in formation leaves Kane Hemmings as a rather expensive substitute but if Dundee are starting to put it all together then that's not exactly a bad problem to have. Is Miller the solution for Thistle, or part of the problem? That was some finish from Kenny Miller to rescue a point for Partick Thistle, though it certainly wasn't a reassuring display from the Harry Wraggs; Albeit in blustery conditions, Arbroath should have blown them away in the first half and Luke Donnelly was denied a late winner by an erroneous offside flag. For long periods Thistle looked devoid of ideas, even when Gary Caldwell hooked Tommy Robson for tactical reasons before half time. Only Reece Cole, playing at the base of midfield, looked comfortable. It didn't help though that often Miller, looking frustrated, would drop as deep as or even deeper than Cole to try and get the ball, or drift to the flank to try and get the ball, or, well, just wander anywhere. Given he was the lone striker, it often meant that there was no-one up front at all. Apart from disrupting the shape, it's worth noting that Miller's 39 year old legs no longer get from A to B as quickly as they used to and he would surely do his team a lot more good if he held his position and showed some discipline. Giving the best (or the loudest) kid in the playground the ball at every opportunity isn't always the best idea. QOS (El) Bakh in business Given Morton's recent defensive travails, Allan Johnston might feel disappointed that Queen of the South only scored once, but when you've only won three league games since mid-January you take what you can get. Given the Doonhamers' dependence on Stephen Dobbie they will have welcomed a first goal for Faissal El Bakhtaoui, who has been devoid of confidence for the best part of three years. Deploying El Bakhtaoui on the left and out-and-out winger Connor Murray on the right in a 4-4-2 is adventurous to say the least but it did the business on this occasion. It will be interesting to see if Queens try that again at Inverness next weekend, who have a lot more attacking prowess than Morton do. That said, Dobbie limped off in the second half on Saturday and if he has to miss time El Bakhtaoui may be back at centre forward for that one 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
  9. It's the hope that kills you. Any Scotland fan knows that all too well. And yet, and yet. For the first ten minutes last night, Scotland ripped into Russia. The sheer energy and will took the visitors - and the Hampden crowd - by surprise. The full-backs flew down the flanks; Callum McGregor demanded the ball at each stroke; John McGinn snapped at every Russian heel; Scott McTominay bestrode the midfield like a colossus. Steve Clarke's lineup and plan were absolutely perfect for the occasion. And then John McGinn scored. Goals change games. I'm not sure I've ever seen one change a game like this though. They buoy spirits, lift the crowd, inspire the scorers on. Instead Scotland instantly metamorphosed from a feral beast into a frightened hedgehog, unnerved even by the slightest passing breeze and rustle of leaves. This was not as a result of quality play by the opposition, nor pressure from the stands, nor tactical caution from the dugout. Having created a springboard to win the match, the players collectively baulked at actually jumping on it. The captain summed it up perfectly afterward. "It was as if it scared us". Andrew Robertson was hardly exempt from criticism himself. When cool, experienced heads were required, the captain was stuck in Liverpool mode. Every time the ball came his way he put his head down and charged up the pitch with it, even when every moment pleaded for someone in dark blue to put their foot on the ball, stop and take a deep calming breath. At one point he tried a backheel by the corner flag - his own corner flag. They were all at it though. Charlie Mulgrew, 33 years old and with over 40 caps to his name, could be excused for being bullied by Artem Dzyuba, whose physique had more in common with the twenty-two at Murrayfield than the penalty box at Hampden. There was no reason however for him to treat the ball like a hot potato, acting as if Dzyuba was constantly breathing down his neck even when he was twenty yards away catching his breath. Punt after punt after punt after punt. With the midfield struggling to get even into the same postcode as Oli McBurnie it was no surprise that the ball kept coming back. And what of the midfield that contains so much talent and started as if they intended to prove it? The quartet playing in front of McTominay looked like rabbits stuck in Lada headlights. James Forrest and Ryan Fraser dropped deeper and deeper, negating their use as an attacking outlet without offering any actual protection to their full-backs. McGregor and McGinn looked stuck in No Man's Land, neither pressing their opponents nor dropping in beside McTominay, who had now gone from proverbial Colossus to actual Colossus, a tall, leaden-footed statue watching as people swarmed around him. With the exception of David Marshall, whose outstanding efforts in preventing a shellacking will probably be forgotten, and Stephen O'Donnell, who just had a good old-fashioned mare, this felt very different from, say, a debacle like Kazakhstan where tactics were poor and players looked uncertain and unwilling from the off. Here the plan was great and was initially executed well, which tells us that the manager knew what he was doing and the players had the ability and nous to pull it off. Their subsequent reaction is perhaps more terrifying than if they had just played like horses**t. As Robertson said, they were scared. I grew up watching players like Colin Hendry, Kevin Gallacher, James McFadden and many others who seemed galvanized by wearing the Scotland shirt in the way we all believed we would be if, as in our dreams, we ever played for the national team. Now the wearers of said shirt appear burdened with the weight of twenty-one years of failure on it. Even in such a favourable situation, with a home crowd behind them and the reassurance of knowing that their strategy was working, the players simply could not deal with the pressure of being ahead against an opponent considered to be superior to them. How on earth do you fix that? All the clever management and tactics and quality in the world will only take you so far if in moments like that you simply can't help thinking "we're going to screw this up because we're Scotland". The only thing I'm certain of is that you don't fix it by playing Belgium three days later. The caveat: even if last night had gone well, the onus was still very much on preparing for those Euro 2020 playoffs. Those are the games that count now. Everything else is about building towards those. And there remains no doubt in my mind that if anyone can pull this off, its Steve Clarke. The fear is that even Clarke can't manage it. What if all those years of failure simply infect the Scotland National Team to such an extent that there's no shaking it? Or, to put it bluntly, what if there is actually no hope? 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. At the time of writing we're ten days away from Deadline Day - in Scotland it's midnight on Monday 2 September. Plenty is going to happen between now and then. For a start, the window has been closed for English Premier League and Championship clubs for more than a fortnight and so there are players who (in the Fraser Forster style) need to get out if they are to play at all between now and new year. That should mean some decent pickings on loan or permanently for Premiership sides. The flip side is that after a week Monday anyone at an SPFL club who hasn't moved yet will be essentially stuck till January. And it seems like everyone has players they want to punt. Here's a few... STEVIE MAY, STEPHEN GLEESON (ABERDEEN) The last-gasp collapse of May's triumphant return to St. Johnstone has probably done significant short-term damage to both parties. There was talk of Dundee being interested but they signed Kane Hemmings instead. Now May appears to be unwanted everywhere, not just at Pittodrie. Gleeson's situation has been complicated by injuries over the summer but he only started eight games last year and is now further down the pecking order. (Candidates for loan moves: Miko Virtanen, Bruce Anderson) SCOTT SINCLAIR, JACK HENDRY, EBOUE KOUASSI (CELTIC) If it's true that Neil Lennon wants to add a few more players yet then this list could be longer. The Sinclair situation has been badly botched; the club activated a contract extension in the summer but left it so long to decide they wanted shot of him that he can't join an English Premier League or Championship club. Unless he wants to go to League One or abroad he may be stuck till January. Hendry will probably go on loan with a number of Premiership clubs apparently interested in rejuvenating his career. Remember when Celtic argued Kouassi deserved a work permit as he was an 'exceptional talent'? He's made 12 starts in two and a half years and hasn't played since he recovered from an ACL injury sustained in October 2018. (Candidates for loan moves: Calvin Miller, Anthony Ralston, Ewan Henderson, Jack Aitchison) STEVEN BOYD (HAMILTON ACCIES) Boyd signed a new contract just days before Martin Canning was punted and has disappeared off the radar since. If he has been injured it hasn't been publicized (this is Accies we're talking about so don't completely rule out that possibility) but it feels like a long time since he scored a derby-winning screamer against Motherwell last August. (Candidates for loan moves: George Stanger, Shaun Want) ZDENEK ZLAMAL, OLLY LEE (HEARTS) Zlamal's now infamous poleaxing of a teammate against Ross County seems to have been the last straw for Craig Levein, who quickly signed Joel Pereira to take over between the sticks. Lee has been made available since the end of last season but hasn't found a new club; it's a shame for a guy who did pretty well when he first joined the club and strange given how many other Jambos (looking at you, Oliver Bozanic!) are still in Levein's good books. (Candidates for loan moves: Jamie Brandon, Bobby Burns, Harry Cochrane, Anthony McDonald, Rory Currie, Euan Henderson, Aidan Keena, Dario Zanatta) OLI SHAW (HIBS) To be fair, Shaw is more likely to move on loan than permanently; Hibs are weighing up the need for a backup to Christian Doidge and Flo Kamberi with the fact that Shaw requires games in order to develop. St. Johnstone have been linked with him and that would look like a good move. (Candidates for loan moves: Jamie Gullan, Innes Murray) NONE (KILMARNOCK) Killie need to get players in before Angelo Alessio can think of moving some on. (Candidates for loan moves: Devlin Mackay, Iain Wilson, Dom Thomas) GREGG WYLDE (LIVINGSTON) Having made just three appearances since signing in January, Wylde has been apparently sent to train with the youth team. (Candidates for loan moves: Craig Henderson) CRAIG TANNER (MOTHERWELL) Tanner is another one who looks set to go out on loan, providing he agrees to extend his short-term contract past the end of the month. 'Well are impressed with his recovery from the knee injury that has kept him out for more than a year and want to get him first team football somewhere for the rest of 2019. (Candidates for loan moves: Adam Livingstone, Barry Maguire, Jamie Semple) GRAHAM DORRANS, EROS GREZDA, JASON HOLT, JOE DODOO, JAMIE MURPHY (RANGERS) That's some list. Holt (who has been linked with St. Johnstone) and Dodoo have been persona non grata for about two years already. At 32, Dorrans is finding it difficult to find a suitor that will match the wages Pedro Caixinha gave him. Grezda has been a complete bust and a waste of £2million. Murphy has recovered from his long-term knee injury but the club have said they want to loan him out (which at Rangers often seems to mean that they don't want you anymore). (Candidates for loan moves: Jordan Houston, Aidan Wilson, Jamie Barjonas, Jake Hastie) DAN ARMSTRONG, DAVIS KEILLOR-DUNN (ROSS COUNTY) Armstrong broke his jaw at the end of June but it's hard to see him breaking into the County side when he is back to full fitness. Keillor-Dunn has already been told to find a new club amid rumours of an attitude issue. (Candidates for loan moves: Harry Paton) DAVID MCMILLAN (ST. JOHNSTONE) It's tempting to also include Steven Anderson - who is past it at this level - and Ross Callachan - who seems to be in Tommy Wright's bad books - on this list. McMillan is a cert though, in that the club have been trying to move him on for the best part of the year; a mediocre loan spell at Hamilton hasn't encouraged any takers. (Candidates for loan moves: Jordan Northcott) JIM KELLERMANN (ST. MIRREN) Buddies fans have probably forgotten Kellermann is still in Paisley. But he can't get in the team even when they're struggling to fill the bench. (Candidates for loan moves: Sam Jamieson, Cameron Breadner) And as a bonus... ANDREW DAVIES, CRAIG CURRAN, FRASER AIRD (THE CHAMPIONSHIP) Worth mentioning this trio as a bonus. Davies has never played for Dundee, having got injured immediately after signing in January. He apparently wants to go back to England. So does Curran allegedly, though you'd assume the Dark Blues want shot of him anyway. Aird seems to have rubbed Robbie Neilson up the wrong way quite spectacularly and wasn't even given a squad number. He's still at Tannadice though...for now. 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
  11. Hope the commentary sounded okay for those who were listening in. Thought the first half was great entertainment. Arbroath had no interest in sitting deep and pushed players forward when they could with Linn the obvious threat on the left. He had a shot over the bar with his left foot and a right footed one saved comfortably by Ridgers early. Meanwhile Keatings kept popping up in the space in front of their centre backs and was the creator of almost everything good for us. Doran got in behind twice, but the first time he struggled to get the ball out of his feet and shot tamely and the second time he took too long and allowed Jamieson to block. Keatings then had an audacious overhead kick which looked terrific from my vantage point but was probably an easier save than it looked. So since we were on top, of course Arbroath went and scored. Ridgers flapped at a cross, the ball fell to Linn and instead of racing out to block his shot our players all tried to form a wall on the goalline. So Linn did the sensible thing and just leathered it. Having seen the footage at half-time I think Ridgers should still have saved it. He got a hand on it but was beaten by the power. Crucially we got level just before half-time. Unsurprisingly it was Keatings who played the killer pass (Polworth-esque!) and this time Doran finished the one-on-one. Half-time probably came at the wrong time for us as we looked like kicking on. After the break we started slowly; whilst Doran had another half chance so did Arbroath with one that somehow got flicked away from goal at the front post. The decision to bring Storey on for White kinda made sense as Arbroath were playing a super-high line but White's linkup play had been decent. And with Arbroath now tiring they dropped so deep that their central midfielders were on top of their centre-backs...and therefore denying Keatings any space to orchestrate in. That said when Storey went wide we didn't look any more threatening. Whilst the visitors were now leggy and sitting deep they defended pretty comfortably...until Storey cut in from the left and had a speculative shot that looked like a comfortable save at the near post, only for it to end up in the far corner via Jamieson's hands. It was an absolute gift. I'd love to hear what Dick Campbell said when that happened! Over the 90, we deserved the three points but anyone expecting a comfortable win will have been disappointed. As mentioned above I thought Keatings was terrific. Walsh had the beating of the full-back all day long and our central defenders were excellent in and out of possession. That was as good as I've seen Rooney defensively too, he was well disciplined and dealt with Linn very well. The obvious problem is in central midfield. Vincent's energy proved crucial in the later stages but Carson looks like he's still getting used to playing at this level. His decision-making wasn't great and he was too hesitant. We miss Welsh's confidence on the ball so much. A midfield duo of Welsh and Tansey (hey, I can dream!) would make us an altogether different proposition. Three points are three points. We only won five home league games last year so it's not to be sneezed at.
  12. I'm delighted to confirm that the club will be providing live audio commentary of Saturday's game. For those who can't attend, a link to a Periscope feed will go up on the club's Twitter shortly before kickoff, probably just after 1450. This seemed to work okay when we tried it towards the end of last season so hopefully it'll go fine again. For those who complained I was too loud when Coll Donaldson scored against Ayr in the playoffs, I can't promise that won't happen again
  13. Expect Arbroath to play 4-4-2 so our 4-2-3-1 should match up favourably against that. Looks like McKay, Rooney, Curry and Welsh are going to miss this. Carson has really struggled at RB from what I've seen. I remember Tremarco had to play one game last year (against Ayr I think) at RB and I wouldn't be surprised if we move him there. McHattie presumably would then go to LB though I feel like if Harper is as good as Robbo thinks he is then he should get a shot. The key here is going to be finding the best CM duo out of Trafford, Carson, Vincent and McHattie. Trafford has really gone off the boil but he is the most natural defensive midfielder of the lot and his physicality will be important as Arbroath are not short on that. I'd have Vincent over Carson at the moment. I'd go with the same attacking quartet that started at Tannadice rather than pitch Storey in.
  14. PREDICTED LEAGUE POSITION: SEVENTH LAST SEASON: 3rd, 67pts NOTABLE INS: Mohamed El Makrini (Roda JC), Laurentiu Branescu (Juventus, loan) NOTABLE OUTS: Daniel Higgins (Cove Rangers), Jordan Jones (Rangers), Daniel Bachmann (Watford, end of loan), Conor McAleny (Fleetwood Town, end of loan), Liam Millar (Liverpool, end of loan), Youssouf Mulumbu (Celtic, end of loan), Mikael Ndjoli (Bournemouth, end of loan), Aaron Tshibola (Aston Villa, end of loan), Kris Boyd (retired), Scott Boyd (retired), Will Graham LAST SEASON'S BEST XI (Departed players crossed out): Bachmann, O'Donnell, Broadfoot, Findlay, Taylor, Dicker, Power, Mulumbu, Stewart, Jones, Brophy Steve Clarke, man. Sure, Jesus turned water into wine, but could he have guided Kilmarnock to third in the league? Dunno about that. I'm sure I wasn't the only neutral rooting for Killie last season. They weren't always pleasing on the eye but I've not seen a better organized team in Scotland. And whoever Clarke sent out onto the pitch would have jumped in front of a bullet if it meant getting a result. He was so damn magnificent that he was able to frequently (and publicly) criticize the SFA and still get the national team job. And so, midway through June, the club appointed Angelo Alessio as Clarke's successor. I was instantly on board with the move. Appointing another name from the ranks of Scottish football, a la Allan Johnston, Gary Locke, Lee McCulloch et al would have inevitably meant regression back to where they were before the Clarke era. Taking a punt on Alessio obviously came with risk - his previous management posts were in Italy's lower divisions and he has never worked in Scotland before - but like his predecessor his coaching CV is impressive - he assisted Antonio Conte at Juventus, Chelsea and with Italy's national team. If Killie were to have any hope of kicking on, it would be by pulling off a high risk, high reward move like this. Then along came Connah's Quay Nomads. What's that noise that sounds like something going down a drain? Why, that's most of the goodwill and benefit-of-the-doubt the fans had given Alessio being flushed away. A (very, very) generous person would point out that the new man has had only a few weeks and made only two additions to a squad that lost a lot of players at the end of last season. Most however would point to the fact that the Welsh side needed a penalty shootout to see off League Two Edinburgh City at home in last year's Challenge Cup. All, I think, are worried that the reason no-one had really heard of Alessio is because he is actually just Gary Locke standing on Lee McCulloch's shoulders, surrounded by a ridiculously large overcoat and putting on an outrageous accent. And a couple of weeks later there have been no further additions to the squad. Alessio has said himself he needs at least another centre-back, two wingers and a striker. In truth he probably needs even more than that. As we said, 'high risk'. If the ceiling is a repeat of third place (a thought that now seems optimistic to the point of delusional), how low is the floor? Certainly bottom six, though the spine of the team is surely far too strong to prevent disaster. Assuming Kirk Broadfoot has enough left in the tank, a back four of him, Stuart Findlay, Stephen O'Donnell and Greg Taylor is stout and talented. The latter three may have been called up for Scotland by their former boss, but they all earned it on merit rather than favouritism. Taylor has flown under the radar a bit because left-back is a real (the only?) position of strength for the country, but he has played more than 100 league games and is still just 21. Findlay made a real breakthrough last season, and O'Donnell is one of the best right-backs in the country. The return of Alex Bruce provides centre-back cover, and Taylor's backup Calum Waters is highly thought of at Rugby Park. But more depth is essential now Scott Boyd has retired. Alessio can also hang his hat on central midfield duo Gary Dicker and Alan Power, both of whom blossomed under Clarke. Veteran Dutchman Mo El Makrini is probably more of a squad player. The problem, as the manager has identified, is out wide where 35 year old Chris Burke remains the best option. Dom Thomas found his level on loan at Dumbarton last year and Adam Frizzell's development has stalled. Greg Kiltie is best as a number ten, but needs a manager to give him a run of games to show what he can do. Of the club's youngsters, the powerful Innes Cameron is probably the best bet to succeed. He doesn't turn 19 till August though and it may be a bit too soon for him. And if you think the wing options look poor then take a peek at the attackers - or attacker, singular. The only striker on the books currently is Eamonn Brophy. Brophy was a hit under Clarke partly because of his workrate and willingness to do the defensive work. He did lead the club with 12 goals last season, but he can be really streaky and his 'shoot first, think later' policy really needs to be binned if he is to push on. At the moment he has no competition to push him. And at the other end of the pitch, Jamie MacDonald faces the possiblity of yet another season where he starts as first choice and finishes on the bench. It's safe to assume Laurentiu Branescu has been signed on loan to play, though he will do well to emulate the efforts of Daniel Bachmann last season. So a lot now depends on who Killie procure between now and August. The hope is that Alessio can use his contacts to find some gems, and that the players respond positively to another tactical manager. The fear is that Connah's Quay is a sign of what's to come, and that within a few months the dreaded 'safe pair of hands' will be required to dig them out of a hole. THE SQUAD (players born after 1 January 1998 in italics) Goalkeepers: Laurentiu Branescu, Jamie MacDonald, Devlin Mackay Defenders: Kirk Broadfoot, Alex Bruce, Stuart Findlay, Ross Millen, Stephen O'Donnell, Greg Taylor, Calum Waters, Iain Wilson Midfielders: Chris Burke, Innes Cameron, Gary Dicker, Mohamed El Makrini, Adam Frizzell, Greg Kiltie, Rory McKenzie, Alan Power, Dom Thomas Forwards: Eamonn Brophy THE BEST XI? 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