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  1. Firstly, Todorov has been on the books of Nottingham Forest (2014-15), Hearts (2016-18) and Falkirk (2019) and had loan spells at Livingston and Queen of the South. Anyone who watches lower league Scottish football will at least have heard of him. Secondly, "unknown goat herder from Bulgaria" has racist overtones and should be called out as such. I'll judge our players on their performances and attitudes, not their nationalities.
  2. It'll be interesting to see how the views of older and younger supporters compare - those who joined the ranks after 2004 and are used to top flight football will be familiar with higher quality players, whereas those who watched the club in the lower leagues will have attachments to those who stood out in the early days...and to the ones who went ballistic! My own opinion is that Ross Tokely, Bobby Mann, Charlie Christie, Barry Wilson and Dennis Wyness should be shoo-ins. What that quintet accomplished in our colours is astonishing. Tokely, Christie and Wilson played for us in all four divisions, Bobby is surely our greatest ever captain, and Dennis' goalscoring was astonishing (as were his stepovers!). As for the other choices, I like the idea of an exception being made for Alan Hercher, our first club captain and scorer of a hat-trick in our first league game. As Charlie Christie himself put it, “Alan was more than a terrific football player; he was a terrific individual who was hugely respected by all those who played alongside him and against him." Besides, I don't think there is a real standout in the other options to fill the second central midfield spot anyway! My own XI: Jim Calder - the last Thistle player, a proper cult hero and one of the stars of that night at Celtic Park Ross Tokely - more appearances for the club than anyone else by miles - that record will surely never be broken Bobby Mann - our greatest ever captain and an outstanding centre-half. His ability to ping the ball to a teammate 40 yards away was astonishing at that level Grant Munro - always seemed like the second-best central defender we had at any one time, but a local product who made over 300 appearances for the club and would have been a one club man if Terry Butcher had allowed it! Graeme Shinnie - captained us to Scottish Cup glory. Consistently one of the best left-backs in the country while playing for us and has gone onto international recognition Barry Wilson - immense in his first spell at the club, and scored two of the most special goals of the early era - vs Celtic and Motherwell in the Cup. Came back from Livingston to help us to promotion and was an important factor in our first few top flight campaigns. Now on the coaching staff Charlie Christie - the last Caledonian player, seemed to get better as we went up the leagues and orchestrated the attacks in the gung-ho Pele days. His spell as manager was better than was often acknowledged. Now our head of youth development Ian Black (if I can't have Hercher) - the toughest pick to make. I went for a midfielder who always gave everything, who liked a tackle but could also pass the ball beautifully (I would happily pick Russell Duncan, Ross Draper and Paul Sheerin here too) Jonny Hayes - the second toughest pick to make, because it means leaving out Barry Robson. But Hayes was my favourite ICT player of the last decade. No tricks, just pace, balance and a work-rate that 99% of wingers don't have. A wonderful player who deserves all the success he's had since he left us Dennis Wyness - our record goalscorer, and a technically gifted player who was a joy to watch Billy Mckay - could just as easily choose Richie Foran, Paul Ritchie, Adam Rooney or Iain Stewart here but Mckay's goalscoring between 2012 and 2015 was mental.
  3. Alloa Athletic: what will life after Goodwin be like? Jim Goodwin's successor will join the Wasps at an awkward time, in that the club have signed up a load of players that Goodwin wanted; in fact the squad now is about the same size as it was last season before it was augmented with savvy loan signings. The new Alloa boss will need to decide whether he can pull off the same trick with temporary transfers or convince the chairman to find the money for a few more new faces, as well as ponder what to do with the ones he has inherited. It doesn't help that Goodwin will be such a hard act to follow - avoiding relegation once was a miracle, but to do it twice would be...er....what's even more unlikely than a miracle? Arbroath: can the League One winners make the step up? Dick Campbell actually admitted to the BBC that he will have to dip into the loan market to strengthen his team further, though out of necessity he has stuck with the guys that won promotion. There simply isn't anyone out there who will play for part-time wages and who is better than the Red Lichties already have. The trouble is that what they already have - as you'd expect - are players who are either in the twilight of their careers or who couldn't cut it at full-time clubs. Campbell is a master at making his team stronger than the sum of their parts, but after two promotions with Arbroath this could be a step too far. Ayr United - how will they cope with losing so many key players? Everyone knows about Lawrence Shankland's exit, but Ayr have also lost defenders Michael Rose and Liam Smith this summer, while goalkeeper Ross Doohan has returned to parent club Celtic. That quartet were United's four best players last season, and first choice midfielders Robbie Crawford and Declan McDaid have left too. That's a lot of holes to fill, and many of those who are still at the club are, diplomatically speaking, getting on a bit. Mark Kerr (37), Michael Moffat (35), Steven Bell (34) and Andy Geggan (32) are joined by Kris Doolan, a savvy and clever forward who nevertheless is now 32 and scored only six goals last season. Can he really replace the freescoring Shankland? Dundee - can James McPake gel a new team together quickly enough? This blogger wasn't overly impressed with Dundee's early business this window, but he has been appeased by the impressive signings of Jordon Forster and Shaun Byrne. Nevertheless the squad turnover has been huge - only seven senior players remain from the squad that was relegated in May - and integrating the new players will take time. Bear in mind both Partick Thistle and Caley Thistle decimated their squads after relegation and had shocking starts to their first seasons back in the Championship. The risk of this happening at Dens seems high with a rookie manager and some dodgy results in July and August could heap the pressure on McPake...especially if their city rivals get off to a flier. Dundee United - have they any space for further new signings? The SPFL club with the most players over 21 under contract are Rangers. The club with the second most are Dundee United, despite the fact that Robbie Neilson punted pretty everyone whose contract was up. Amongst those still on the payroll at Tannadice are Adam Barton, Fraser Aird, Christoph Rabitsch, Yannick Loemba, Frederic Frans and Sam Wardrop. Expect all seven, plus possibly Callum Booth and Sam Stanton, to be away by the end of August, but how much will it cost to pay off their contracts? And how much leeway do United have to bring in more new players until they go? Thankfully Neilson did decent business in January and the signings he has made are in areas of weakness, with new full-backs (Adrian Sporle and Liam Smith) and a replacement for Pavol Safranko (Lawrence Shankland) signed up. This is a squad that can, and should, win this league. Dunfermline - is their new strategy going to work? "The playing budget, our most significant cost, will need to be reduced significantly. Our focus will be on investing in young, hungry players who are on an upward trajectory in their career, looking to develop those players as future assets which we can then realise to mutual advantage." So stated Dunfermline's board in May. Has any club ever wanted players that aren't 'hungry', by the way? Stevie Crawford retained just seven senior players and has scoured Scotland's lower divisions and English under 23 sides for youngsters...and Paul Paton. With luck, they'll find some gems who can fire them to promotion and earn them a few bucks in transfer fees. But as Falkirk - and Paul Paton - will attest to, when this sort of plan goes wrong, it goes very wrong. Greenock Morton - are we reading too much into the Sutton move? It's been all change at Cappielow this summer with a new manager and only half a dozen senior players retained. Unsurprisingly, David Hopkin has been busy, making eight signings so far. He appears to be staking a lot on Aidan Nesbitt - underwhelming at Dundee United last season - and Robbie Muirhead - a complete non-factor at Dunfermline - fulfilling some of their potential. And while Nicky Cadden and Kyle Jacobs will boost the midfield, the other signings are from League One and the English non-leagues; are they rough diamonds, or are they just cheap? The worry that it is the latter has been exacerbated by the fanfare over John Sutton re-registering as a player. 35 year old Sutton hung up his boots a year ago and to be honest looked past it well before then. Is this just a prudent move to make sure he's an option in an emergency? Or is it a sign that Morton's budget is really tight? Inverness CT - how will they replace Liam Polworth? Whatever Caley Thistle supporters thought of Polworth, the bottom line is that he was an assist machine both from open play and set pieces. Now he's gone to Motherwell they'll have to find a new source of goalscoring chances. Pre-season signs are that John Robertson is moving towards a 4-4-2 with James Keatings as a second striker. Inverness do have two excellent wide players in Aaron Doran and Tom Walsh, and the burden of supplying Keatings and Jordan White is likely to fall on them. The flipside is that it will be harder to dominate the midfield area and get possession further ip the pitch in the first place. Partick Thistle - are there enough goals in this side? The surprise return of Scott Fox to Firhill, and the return from injury of Tam O'Ware should give Thistle a good defensive foundation to build upon. At the other end, it's a different matter. The club's top three league scorers - Blair Spittal, Kris Doolan and Scott McDonald - have all left, and they were hardly goal machines. If Aidan Fitzpatrick moves to Norwich as expected then there will be no-one left who scored more than two league goals last season. At the moment Caldwell's options are Lewis Mansell, who did enough on loan from Blackburn last season to earn a permanent deal but who is very raw, and 39 year old Kenny Miller. Has Miller got enough left in the tank? We'll see. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Fitzpatrick money is used to strengthen the attack further, and last month they were linked with a loan move for Rangers' Zak Rudden, who would be an excellent addition. Queen of the South - will Allan Johnston have to perform some magic? Lack of money is a bit of a theme here, isn't it? Johnston saved the Doonhamers from the drop after being parachuted in for the playoff games, but only six players remain from last season's squad (thankfully, one of them is Stephen Dobbie). Some will have been surplus to requirements but Jordan Marshall, Kyle Jacobs, Josh Todd and Michael Doyle got better offers from other full-time clubs. Johnston has brought in five players so far, four of whom are in their second spell at the club - getting back Callum Semple looks like a real coup - but reports of sixteen trialists been used in a friendly match suggest he's still scratching around. And at the time of writing, less than a fortnight before the League Cup games start, he has a grand total of zero midfield players. Not an ideal situation. 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. Loving this idea, which was mentioned in this article for the club website - https://ictfc.com/ict25-blog-liam-dalgarno So let the debate begin! Here's the 47 players who have made more than 100 appearances for the club - please point out any I've missed! There are obviously a few utility players there (*cough* David Proctor *cough*) who could be put in another position. Goalkeepers: Mark Brown, Jim Calder, Ryan Esson Right-backs: David Proctor, David Raven, Mike Teasdale, Ross Tokely Centre-backs: Darren Dods, Bobby Mann, Stuart McCaffrey, Brad McKay, Josh Meekings, Grant Munro, Mike Noble, Gary Warren Left-backs: Stuart Golabek, Richard Hastings, Graeme Shinnie, Carl Tremarco Central midfielders: Ian Black, Paul Cherry, Charlie Christie, Ross Draper, Russell Duncan, Richie Hart, Liam Keogh, Mark McCulloch, Liam Polworth, Paul Sheerin, Greg Tansey, Iain Vigurs Wide midfielders: Aaron Doran, Jonny Hayes, Roy McBain, Barry Robson, Davie Ross, Nick Ross, Danny Williams. Barry Wilson Strikers: Martin Bavidge, Graham Bayne, Richie Foran, Billy Mckay, Paul Ritchie, Adam Rooney, Iain Stewart, Dennis Wyness Obviously I'm disappointed I can't pick Vetle Andersen or Marius Niculae, but never mind Who would you have in your ICT25 Dream Team?
  5. Credit where credit's due - that is one terrific kit.
  6. Aberdeen: how hard will this window hit them? Graeme Shinnie has gone. Gary Mackay-Steven has gone. Max Lowe's loan spell has finished. And Celtic are sniffing around Scott McKenna again. It felt like the Dons took a small step backwards last season, and the same could happen this time around unless Derek McInnes has some decent signings up his sleeve - Craig Bryson counts as one, though on last year's showing James Wilson wouldn't. Celtic: do they have a plan? There may well have been a bit of gamesmanship involved in the David Turnbull saga, but there's a danger of the whole "magnificent offer" malarkey becoming the club's Concomitant moment. More concerning was the leaking of the team's transfer plans for the summer, partly because it was leaked and partly because the names were either uninspiring or unrealistic.With Kieran Tierney being courted by Arsenal and ex-messiah Brendan Rodgers sniffing around Callum McGregor, there's a risk of significant upheaval - exactly what the Neil Lennon appointment was designed to minimize. As for loan signings, West Brom's criticism of how Lennon treated Oli Burke might put other clubs off sending their youngsters to Parkhead. Hamilton: does everyone really want to play for Brian Rice? The theme of Accies' offseason seems to be that every new signing waxes lyrical about the skills of the club's Head Coach. Rice had a strong reputation as an assistant manager but the way some of his players are talking seems to suggest he's Pep Guardiola. To be fair though Hamilton's results, performances and style improved after he took over in January - though that wasn't hard given the rut Martin Canning left them in. If he has a squad that buys into his ethos then Hamilton's chances of avoiding a relegation battle are far better. Hearts: what's their philosophy? Hearts were unfairly lambasted for being a physical, long ball team last season. The truth is that their best stuff came when they were a physical long ball team, but they didn't play like that enough. Their spirited cup final performance seems to have bought Craig Levein a bit of breathing space but he's got to do better than sixth in the league with the resources he has available. One option is to gamble on the talented youngsters he has available; there are 18 players on Hearts' books who are under 21 but have played for the first team already, and Aaron Hickey, Harry Cochrane, Callumn Morrison and Anthony McDonald look particularly special. But does Levein - and the Tynecastle support - have the patience to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that would come with throwing in the kids? Hibernian: is Heckingbottom a good recruiter? There's been a high turnover at Easter Road, which is out of necessity - they had a ton of loan players - rather than because Paul Heckingbottom specifically wanted to bring in his own squad. And apart from Stephane Omeonga and Marc McNulty Hibs have only lost fringe players. But there's a significant lack of depth, particularly up front which needs corrected. Basically if Hibs are to push on they need to either find a new McNulty (or retain the old one) or hope Flo Kamberi gets his mojo back. Kilmarnock: what does Alessio have in mind? The appointment of Angelo Alessio is exciting, but Killie have essentially lost a month's worth of recruitment time and currently have just one striker on the books. Given his experience and contacts it wouldn't be a surprise if the Italian manager looked to the continent for new players; Killie fans live in hope that Antonio Conte might offer up some of his Internazionale youngsters on loan! In the meantime there's only two weeks before the clash with the mighty Connah's Quay Nomads... Motherwell: how should they spend the Turnbull cash? The windfall that the 'Well will receive for David Turnbull - apparently £2.8million plus add-ons - is approximately half the club's annual turnover. It will be interesting to see how much gets put back into the playing squad budget. In recent times they have been financially prudent and they will doubtless know that splashing the cash on new players and big wages will come back to bite them. And Stephen Robinson has already made six signings in this window. On the flipside there is now a fifteen-goal-shaped-hole in the centre of midfield that needs filled. Rangers: can they get any return on their dead wood? Eros Grezda, Kyle Lafferty, Graeme Dorrans, Jason Holt, Eduardo Herrera, Joe Dodoo, plus surely one of the backup keepers...anyone else in Rangers' bloated squad that they are desperate to get rid of? (edit - Jordan Rossiter, it turns out) The trouble with everyone knowing the players are surplus to requirements is that getting any sort of fee for them is rather hard. But the Gers' early dealings seem to suggest that there won't be a repeat of the big spending of the last two summers unless they raise the money through sales. And flogging Alfredo Morelos and/or James Tavernier would come with significant risk. Ross County: are they actually getting stronger? County have shown loyalty to the squad that got them promoted by signing nearly all of them on for another year. When you have the support of someone like Roy McGregor, you can afford to do that even if it costs you later. But one would expect new signings to upgrade the starting eleven. Instead we have Joe Chalmers and Blair Spittal, neither of whom are better than what the Staggies already have in their positions, and two goalkeepers in Chelsea loanee Nathan Baxter and Hibs no.3 Ross Laidlaw, who are probably not an improvement on Scott Fox. Surely there will be more new faces, but they need quality, not depth. St. Johnstone: can they get a goalscorer? Only once in the last five years has a Saintee got into double figures for league goals. Whilst that wasn't such a huge factor when Steven Maclean was linking up play and helping set them up for teammates, Tommy Wright can't call on anyone of that calibre just now. Chris Kane is willing but hasn't developed as well as hoped, Callum Hendry is still raw and David McMillan is a bust. The trouble is, everyone wants a striker who can score goals; can Wright find one and convince him to come to Perth? St. Mirren: what the hell is going on? At the time of writing, Oran Kearney is on the brink of being punted, allegedly because he insists on commuting from Norn Iron. That would leave the Buddies looking for their eighth manager in five years just a few weeks before the League Cup games start. To make matters worse they have relatively few players under contract and this fiasco will hold up further signings; Mihai Popescu had turned up for training on Monday but doesn't know if he'll actually be kept on or not. This shambles will be very difficult for Kearney's successor to rectify. 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. This is a fair assessment. When we signed Vincent the first time round we had just lost Andrew Shinnie. Whilst Vincent was a different sort of player he initially slotted into that advanced midfield role and gave us a different sort of attacking threat. We weren't particularly worse off as a result. However after he got an injury or two and Yogi came in he spent a lot more time playing wide which never seemed to be a good position for him. I wonder where Robbo intends to play him - in the areas that Polworth used to operate in, or in a more deeper 'Chalmers' role like the one he was playing at Dundee and Dunfermline?
  8. I remember Todorov having a blinder against us for Livingston in Autumn 2017...as a centre-back! The fact he can play there too won't do us any harm at all. I seem to recall that Livingston were quite fond of him when he played for them in League One and the Championship but he had a loan spell at QOS that was nothing special and spent the second half of last season stuck on Falkirk's bench. He's still relatively young though and Robbo knows him well - and presumably knows how to get the most out of him.
  9. Steve Clarke's first couple of games in charge will have given him an idea of what he has to work with. In some areas he is pretty well off, but in others he's either going to have to hope some players really improve or he's going to have to compensate for the deficiencies. Here's how his options look at each position, going from our strongest area to our weakest... LEFT-BACK Greg Taylor did himself proud in Brussels with a tenacious, committed performance. He's got a bright future ahead of him...as Scotland's third choice at the position. That's how spoilt we are for left-backs. Captain Andrew Robertson will of course be the starter whenever he has two working legs. MIDFIELD Against Cyprus, we could field John McGinn and Kenny McLean, both of whom will be first choices for Premier League clubs next season, and Callum McGregor, arguably the best player in Scotland over the last two years. For the Belgium match in came Manchester United's Scott McTominay and, in a more advanced role, Stuart Armstrong of Southampton. For future matches where an attacking playmaker is needed, Clarke will be able to call upon Tom Cairney - who, going by his willingness to come along just to be a sub, clearly had a beef with Alex McLeish - and Ryan Christie, who missed this double-header with injury. There's also John Fleck, promoted to the English top flight with Sheffield United and who understandably declined to postpone his wedding for this round of games. We may not have an absolute world class talent, but we are pretty stacked at this position. OUT WIDE The setup against Cyprus shows that Clarke is not wedded to the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 that worked so well for him at Kilmarnock - which is just as well as the pace and dribbling of Ryan Fraser and James Forrest are our two best attacking assets. The caveat is that there is not a lot of depth; Johnny Russell started wide against Belgium because of his fresh legs and willingness to do defensive work, while Robert Snodgrass and Matt Ritchie remain out of the international picture and Matt Phillips has disappeared from contention. GOALKEEPER David Marshall justified his recall and is probably an adequate option going forward. But I don't blame Clarke for trying to convince Jed Steer of Aston Villa and Angus Gunn of Southampton to join the fray. I also don't blame him for not rushing to anoint Scott Bain as first choice. The best case scenario is that Liam Kelly, still only 23, continues to blossom when he leaves Livingston this summer. RIGHT-BACK At the moment, the choice is between natural right-back Stephen O'Donnell (or Liam Palmer, though all I've seen of him was that Kazakhstan debacle), former right-back Callum Paterson who now plays his club football in midfield or up front, or shoehorning Kieran Tierney into this position. I personally don't mind the latter, but an awful lot of folk disagree. Regardless, none of the options are ideal. CENTRE-BACK The potential is there; Scott McKenna and John Souttar clearly have bright futures, while Stuart Findlay thoroughly deserved his call-up and David Bates hasn't disgraced himself when called upon. All four are 23 or under. What odds that two of them can step up and become the type of central defender Scotland used to have loads of in the eighties and nineties? In the meantime, Clarke has felt obliged to insert Charlie Mulgrew into the lineup as much for his experience as anything else, and will also fancy that he has the tactical nous to cover up some of the deficiencies in the backline. Oh, and this is another position I can see Tierney end up playing in... STRIKER Given the time constraints, it's so much easier to coach an international team to defend than to attack. And so having a centre forward who can do it on his own can make a middling side so much more dangerous - think Gareth Bale of Wales or Robert Lewandowski of Poland. In the last two matches Scotland played...Eamonn Brophy and Oli Burke. Brophy was a 'devil you know' option who knows exactly what Clarke wants from his front men, which is great in terms of defending from the front but he offered zilch in attacking threat. Burke gave us a microcosm of his career so far; twenty excellent minutes against Cyprus where he looked dangerous and showed his full array of physical attributes followed by a start against Belgium where he looked like a headless chicken and justified concerns about his football IQ with a series of bad decisions. He's still only 22; surely there's a player there? As for the others, the best long-term hope might be Oli McBurnie who scored 22 goals in the Championship last season, but in the immediate future Steven Fletcher's experience and quality link-up play may make him first choice. Alternatively, Leigh Griffiths may come back from his absence as sharp as he was two years ago. But sadly the most likely outcome is that Scotland are going to have to look to other areas of the team for goals. 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. We won This is the most important thing to take away. Realists would acknowledge that Steve Clarke has had barely any time at all to get the hang of this international management malarkey and has been denied the luxury of training camps and friendlies to get his ideas across before competitive action; therefore a lack of cohesion was inevitable. You don't find many realists in football crowds though, as the half-time jeers indicated. The Tartan Army's patience has long been exhausted and just because Clarke was a popular choice didn't mean that they would tolerate toiling against a country ranked 89th in the world by FIFA. The victory may not have been convincing but it's the same number of points as we'd have got by thumping them. And it largely shields Clarke and a squad low on morale and belief from further pressure and criticism. With the trip to Brussels on Tuesday something of a free hit - nobody expects a positive result there - the focus can now move onto the next round of matches in September and, realistically, building a team that can win the Nations League playoffs and qualify for Euro 2020 that way. A decent striker would make the world of difference Having a world-class striker that opponents need to plan for can make such a difference - just look at Poland (Robert Lewandowski) or Wales (Gareth Bale). Scotland simply don't have that; here they also missed Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths and Oli McBurnie who all might have fancied themselves as the starting centre-forward had they been fit. The obvious logic to picking Eamonn Brophy was that Clarke likes his attackers to defend from the front and as a Kilmarnock player Brophy could do that job without a second thought. And he did it fine. The problem was that 'the wolf' offered no bite. Apologists will say he was starved of service but in truth Brophy struggled to get even half a yard of space on his markers in open play and when he did so he was generally offside. James Forrest and, in the second half, Ryan Fraser got into plenty of dangerous positions but Brophy was never in a position to feed off them. He was, sadly, out of his depth. Whilst he was up against tired legs, Oli Burke looked so much brighter, linking up play with intelligent headers and stretching the game with his pace. Even before his goal he looked like someone had hooked him up to an intravenous drip of confidence before coming on. This was the Burke we've been waiting for ever since RB Leipzig paid £15million for him, but he needs to do it for more than twenty minutes to become a viable first choice up front. At least there was a clear plan and shape Coming up with a plan of attack is so much harder for a coach than getting the defence organized - and even more so at international level because of the lack of time available to work with players. But even at this early stage the difference between McLeish's Scotland and Clarke's Scotland was night and day. The attackers and midfielders clearly knew their roles without the ball and once the first ten minutes had passed and they had adjusted to Cyprus' surprise decision to play a back three the home side completely controlled the game. Unlike during his predecessor's tenure, it was also clear that the boss had done his homework; I was perturbed by the lack of defensive midfielder in the lineup, but Clarke clearly anticipated that there would be few defensive responsibilities needed in that area and so deployed a more technical player, Kenny McLean, in that position. Clarke also made important changes at half-time, instructing Callum McGregor to get higher up the pitch and encouraging Ryan Fraser to carry the ball instead of crossing early. These contributed significantly to the improved second half performance. Cyprus never actually looked much like scoring Yes, I know that sounds daft given that they did score but David Marshall made one save in each half and could have spent long periods leaning on the post doing Su Doku puzzles. I was supremely confident that we'd see it out at 1-0 because the players looked like they knew exactly what they were doing and actually looked more likely to score than Cyprus did. And whilst they were let down by a rare lapse by Andrew Robertson, who blotted his copybook by losing his marker at a corner, the back four looked really comfortable in open play. Scott McKenna had arguably his best game in a Scotland shirt, undoubtedly helped by having an experienced partner in Charlie Mulgrew. What next? The next four qualifiers are Belgium away, Russia at home, Belgium at home, Russia away. Ooft. It's certainly not all that unlikely we won't win any of them - and even if we do the chances of finishing second in the group are minimal unless we can get four points or more off at least one of those two teams. Realistically the onus has to be performance rather than results, with next spring the priority. Rome wasn't built in a day. 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. When I saw the 'volunteers required' headline I assumed maybe they wanted a lick of paint on the walls, not something like this. I appreciate the club are going through an 'austerity' period just now, but is it reasonable to ask for people with specialist skills like digger operators and dumper drivers to do this sort of work for no pay? Personally, I don't think so.
  12. At the end of April, as relegation - and the departure of Jim McIntyre - became increasingly certain, Dundee issued a statement on their website to reassure fans about the present and the future. Among the topics touched upon was the process used to appoint McIntyre. "This process starts with consulting our continuously maintained working list of potential candidates for analysis of multiple criteria. This list is purely statistical, allowing us to see how many games have been managed, at what level, and what the win percentages are at that time. Then we start to rank the managers based on those criteria. Recently we had changed our philosophy of bringing on younger, inexperienced managers to ones that have had over 300 matches in charge and a win percentage at a level around 40%. We then take into account what else they have achieved, saving clubs from relegation, winning trophies and how they have managed their recruiting process." Following McIntyre's exit, Managing Director John Nelms confirmed that, essentially, the next manager would be recruited using similar criteria. That is presumably how the club came to the conclusion that John Robertson should be invited to interview; according to Caley Thistle they approached Robertson first - who turned them down then grassed them up to his employer - and then felt the need to phone Caley Thistle the next day anyway to ask for permission, which was of course declined. On the one hand that account should be taken with a pinch of salt, as ICT's new Chief Operating Officer has 'history' with Dundee. But their cackhanded attempt to recruit St. Mirren's Jack Ross two summers ago - having ignored the Buddies' objections, they flew out to Spain to meet him on holiday, and he rebuffed them - suggests that there may be a grain of truth in there. And so from that criteria and a huge number of applicants, the Dark Blues have appointed...Academy coach James McPake, who currently has one match under his belt as a manager (as caretaker for the last game of the season) and a win percentage of zero. Whether McPake was even the first choice is open to debate. It has been reported that Dundee had agreed compo with Alloa for Jim Goodwin, who did a frankly extraordinary job to keep the part-time Wasps in the Championship last season and who certainly deserves a crack at a full-time job. But rumour has it that Goodwin pulled out because the club were not happy that he wanted to keep his assistant from Alloa rather than appoint 'an experienced head' to work with him. Given that McIntyre undoubtedly suffered from not having his preferred number two Billy Dodds beside him due to a fan backlash over Dodds' history with the club, it would certainly be interesting if the board chose to interfere in this way. Regardless, McPake has ended up with Jimmy Nicholl. If you looked up 'experienced assistant manager' in the dictionary you'd probably find a picture of Nicholl. Gordon Strachan is also involved in an advisory capacity. One hopes that this will not include giving McPake lessons on dealing with the media. But there's no getting around it - Dundee drop into the Championship with a rookie manager and at the time of writing just nine players aged over 21. That number includes 39 year old Kenny Miller and 34 year old Andrew Davies (who has been injured since he arrived in January and who eschewed the chance to play in this division for Ross County) as well as club player of the year Nathan Ralph who is set to exploit a relegation clause in his contract to return to England. So McPake has some recruiting to do, and quickly. And there's no question that he is at high risk of experiencing the same problems that Dundee United, Inverness and Partick Thistle did in recent years following relegation: a huge squad turnover (with, in the case of the former two, a new boss as well) and a dicey start as an essentially new team takes time to gel and which is exacerbated by the pressure of poor early results. That is presumably one of the areas where Dundee hope Strachan can provide significant aid. The flip side is that he will not be left short on the budget front. Since Nelms and Tim Keyes, with their consortium FPS, took over the club in 2013 they have been generous financially - for the first five seasons losses have totalled £2.3m despite the sale of players like Kane Hemmings, Greg Stewart and Jack Hendry for decent fees. Expect a further financial hit following this nightmare season, and another for the upcoming Championship campaign with the massive costcutting and reduced income that it entails. They've also been remarkably patient despite a constant failure by Paul Hartley, Neil McCann and finally McIntyre to meet the targets (usually a top six finish) that have been set and budgeted for. Luckily for the fans these are not egotistic, unscrupulous owners who interfere above their station and are looking to make a quick buck. They simply appear to be honking at appointing managers. Maybe they've struck it lucky this time with McPake. And optimistic supporters can point to the success of Ross County's homegrown duo of Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell as a sign that appointing from within can work. But they got to work with the bulk of the squad that went down, and competed with a Dundee United side that took six months to sort themselves out. McPake faces a far harder task this coming season. Will he be up to it? 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
  13. A treble is a pretty impressive feat. A treble-treble is cause for a massive blowout. One wonders though whether Celtic's decision to announce their intention to keep Neil Lennon as manager, just minutes after the Scottish Cup Final finished, will have enhanced the celebrations or tempered them? Back in mid-February, when Brendan Rodgers suddenly legged it for Leicester, bringing Lennon in as 'a safe pair of hands' made sense. With the club eight points clear in the league with just eleven games to go, he knew the club well and could be relied on not to do anything daft with the team...though it could be argued even I (and possibly even Ronny Deila) could have guided them over the line. It was Lennon who got them there though, winning the title by nine points and adding the Scottish Cup to the bargain. His record since returning: fourteen matches, ten wins, three draws and just a single defeat. That certainly seems to justify keeping him in the dugout. And yet. That nine point gap to second place is the smallest in the Eight-In-A-Row era. The gap between Celtic and the rest is already narrowing, and whilst some of that is because Rangers are finally beginning to justify some of the huge outlay on their squad it is also because Celtic are not the force they were during the first 18 months of the Rodgers regime - though the December defeat at Ibrox seemed to have shaken both the manager and the players out of a bit of a slump. But results have been satisfactory Celtic simply haven't passed the eye test in the last three months. The Scottish Cup Final was a microcosm of his second tenure. They struggled to break down an organized, motivated opponent. Flair players were starved of the ball and unable to find pockets of space in the way they did in Rodgers' day. Attacks became predictable - either through Jonny Hayes on the left or hopeful high crosses from deep. And eventually after a scare they pulled through only via a very late winner. Too often the starting eleven have looked ill-equipped for any surprises sprung by the opposition...or even for the opposition full stop; there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about Hearts' shape or strategy and yet seemingly little thought had been put into counteracting it. These ponderous starts are now a habit. In fourteen matches they have scored only six times in the first half. Aberdeen, Livingston and Hibernian all managed to keep them out for ninety minutes - the former two at Parkhead, where they did manage to scrape past Kilmarnock 1-0. Only in the last 10 minutes did they find winners against Dundee, Rangers and Hearts (twice). The two derbies provide the most concerning evidence for the Celtic support. At Celtic Park the home side toiled against ten men despite going a goal up; a Rodgers side would have gone for the jugular but instead they looked cagey and allowed Rangers back into the match. When James Forrest struck the winner with four minutes left you would not have confidently said it was with the run of play. Far worse was the post-split return game. In ordinary circumstances, with the title won, one could forgive some casualness but against Rangers at Ibrox? Lennon himself criticized his players' performances and attitude. Cynics pointed out whose job it was to motivate them. In spite of this the club have decided to keep him. The most obvious reason is that they couldn't find an alternative they were happy with. It could be argued that the chances of finding someone of Rodgers' calibre were minimal (with hindsight, the fact they had a coach of his reputation and ability for two and a half years is astounding) and memories of Deila, a high-risk, unproven candidate who proved to be more John Barnes than Jose Mourinho, are still too fresh. There's also less than seven weeks until the Champions League qualifiers start, and so not much time for a new man to get his ideas across. And maybe a summer of clever recruitment and of retuning the players to the way he wants them to play will get Celtic firing on all cylinders again. After all, Lennon proved in his first spell at the club that he can set up a team - Barcelona, anyone? But then there's his recent work. He has displayed little nous on the touchline this time around. His departure from Hibernian wasn't down to results on the park but he left them eighth in the league with just two wins out of fourteen. And it seems incredible that with three months to scour the globe, the board couldn't come up with a better option than the in-house candidate - or at least one whose football philosophy is more akin to the one left behind by Rodgers. And 2019-20 is likely to be a pivotal season for Celtic. Last season they were reminded what it means to miss out on Champions League riches - a £20million hole that has to be filled through player sales and difficulty recruiting quality players as well as retaining them. Each time they miss out, their financial advantage over domestic opposition - particularly to Rangers - decreases. And most gallingly, they are so close to the mythical Ten In A Row that they can almost taste the despair of Rangers fans. It seemed a sure thing as long as Rodgers was at the helm. Now, there is cause for others to believe they can stop it...and for Celtic to start doubting they can pull it off. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  14. I think there was more anxiety in the crowd than on the pitch at 0-1 down. Certainly there wasn't much in the way of panic, though we didn't play all that well. Ayr weren't all that adventurous and couldn't believe their luck when they picked us off on the counterattack. It's hard to think of another clearcut opening for them though. I thought our forward line didn't really click today, and we didn't get enough in an attacking sense from our full-backs until Rooney came on. Ayr clearly identified McHattie as the weak link and McDaid gave him a hard time. I would feel happier if Tremarco were fit on Tuesday. It's going to be hard to get past Dundee United - let alone a Premiership team after that - but I still feel we have a chance if we can keep our best players fit and get some momentum up.
  15. Thanks for all the kind words, folks. Having listened back I got a bit excited when Donaldson scored and I hope I didn't damage anyone's eardrums! It'll be back to BBC and BTSport coverage on Tuesday night - not much point in us doing it as well, and the professionals will be using all the tech for their transmissions anyway! Hopefully there'll be more of this next season though, fingers crossed.