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  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5. I was surprised that we'd had as many as 23 shots - it didn't feel like that, mainly because the Alloa keeper wasn't tested too often. It was a strange game where we had Alloa hemmed in almost from start to finish and yet they not only scored but missed at least three great chances (two of which were superb Ridgers stops. His block from Trouten near the end was as good a save as I'll see for a while). It's tough against a team like that who keep nine men back whenever we have the ball. We actually worked it into lots of good positions in the first half only for the finish or the final touch to let us down. Walsh looked really sharp in the no.10 position but ran out of legs after the break. We were so dominant out wide I wish we had moved Storey more central to offer another option in the box; Rooney had control of the right flank on his own. The biggest disappointment for me is that we ran out of ideas in the last 15 minutes and resorted to hoof ball when Alloa were tiring and struggling to keep their shape. I'd have liked us to keep doing what we were doing. It didn't help that MacGregor failed to have anywhere near the impact Walsh had and so we strugged to pick our way through. Glad to see Welsh back. We are infinitely better both going forward and defensively when he is on the pitch. I'd have him and Carson as the starters next week.
  6. That's a decent point. I had forgotten he was an option at CB. I remember he had an excellent game in that position against us for Livingston a couple of years back (and scored at a set piece too).
  7. Are you saying "I'd rather have White and Todorov than a striker who scored 20 goals at this level last season and who is an ICT legend because even he couldn't sort out the mess Foran got us in a few years back"? Okay. Yes. Promotion comes with more cash and its a damn sight easier to attract players here if we can offer better wages and Premiership football.
  8. I really think people need to take what any football manager tells the press with a pinch of salt. Often they'll be overtaken by events. Either St. Johnstone have offered us enough of a fee to make this worth our while or McCart has threatened to down tools to force a move (or both). It's a nightmare to lose two central defenders in this window but that's the way of it; if we can't get promoted from this league then its inevitable that our best players will leave for teams in the top flight. I would be surprised and concerned if we didn't bring in another defender by the end of the month. Even if we get Harper back from Elgin we're now a bit thin for defensive cover even if Tremarco can go to CB in an emergency. In an ideal world we would exploit the loan market but this is hard for us because of our location - we essentially have to pay for accomodation for players on top of any loan fees. That is of course unless we were to try and grab players from across the bridge. For example, they might loan us Tom Grivosti at centre-back - he did a decent job at this level last season - and at the other end of the pitch the arrival of Oli Shaw pushes Billy Mckay down the pecking order HINT HINT HINT.
  9. There's literally no chance that we're signing Osman Sow. He has already played for both Dundee United and Kilmarnock and therefore can't join another club this season.
  10. Sucks to be right. Good luck to him. I wish people would stop all this 'snake' and 'traitor' rubbish. In the real world no-one bats an eyelid if somebody switches job for a significant pay rise and a promotion. Why should it be any different in football? I'm intrigued as to what the fee was. Given the time remaining on his contract £75k would be crazy...but so would us letting him go for peanuts. It would be a very Roy MacGregor thing to do to pay us a decent fee to make sure County get Donaldson now and to offer us a bit of charity as well (how depressing though!). I've thoroughly enjoyed watching Coll rebuild his career with us. He came here for buttons for the first few months to try and turn things around and totally earned the contract he got after that. He's been one of our best players for the last 2 years. He's also earned the chance to play at a higher level again and there are certainly no guarantees he'd get to do that with us. I hope he does well at County, except when he plays us. And I hope to god that Lewis Toshney can fill the gap...
  11. Okay, so in terms of finances the headline is just an eensy weensy bit OTT. Inverness Caley Thistle should have enough cash to get through the season. And given that a club of the size of Queen of the South can still manage to stay full-time there's not really any likelihood of ICT having to go part-time in the near future. Still, they have suffered losses of £2m in the last three years - £400,000 in the 2016/17 relegation campaign and £800,000 in each of the last two seasons. That's really quite a lot of money. Worse, last season's figures did not improve despite a run to the Scottish Cup semi-finals, a league finish two places higher than in 2017/18 and a few high earners being moved on. Hence an EGM in September which was essentially a (successful) plea for directors and local businessmen and allies of the club to stump up some cash to cover any shortfall for the rest of the current campaign. On the pitch things are at least a bit rosier. ICT lie second in the Championship. The title and automatic promotion are now out of reach; Dundee United are approximately a gazillion points clear and would still win the division if they put Csaba Laszlo back in charge for the remaining matches. However the Highlanders have a juicy ten point cushion over fifth place and are in pole position to get the bye week for the promotion playoffs whilst the third- and fourth-placed sides joust. That in itself would improve their chances of going up. But now it's January, so clubs are sniffing around players whose contracts expire in the summer. As one of the Championship's better sides, it's no surprise that there is interest in Caley Thistle's players. And with the chances of going up still not especially high - four out of six playoff finals have been won by the Premiership side - it's also no surprise that the players are interested in moves to Premiership clubs. Central defender Coll Donaldson, a Dundee United dud rebuilt in Inverness, has talked to Ross County. St. Johnstone have been linked with his fellow defenders Jamie McCart and Shaun Rooney. McCart is still only 22 and has impressed since joining from Celtic. Rooney had underwhelmed at Queen of the South before signing but has improved exponentially over the last year into a powerful, athletic attacking right-back. According to reports, at least two more players have suitors. One is almost certainly winger Tom Walsh, whose season has been interrupted by hamstring problems but who is outstanding at getting half a yard on his man and whipping in a cross with either foot. The other may be Jordan White, the archetypal Big Man Up Front. He is apparently wanted by Motherwell, though I have no idea why. That's essentially half a team that are very likely to leave in the summer...or sooner than that. Inverness signed Falkirk defender Lewis Toshney last week in a move that could well be covering Donaldson joining County during this window. That's not to say the players left behind are all hopeless. Sean Welsh is one of the best midfielders in the league but is also made of glass. James Keatings is a good attacker for this level. Mark Ridgers offers a reliable pair of hands between the sticks. But rebuilding this team, and almost certainly with an even tighter budget, would be some undertaking. As Falkirk have recently shown, a big turnover of players can go spectacularly wrong. It is quite remarkable that, three years into their current stay in the Championship, Caley Thistle have their best chance to get out of it. If they can't take it, it would be even more remarkable if another one came around any time soon. 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. Toshney was considered a real prospect when he was a Celtic youth, and Dundee United paid a transfer fee to sign him shortly after they were relegated. But his time there was wrecked by a serious knee injury. If his fitness is fine he should be an asset - a big centre-back who can also play right-back. I doubt we'd be signing him just for depth though. I think this is a sign that Coll-to-County is imminent.
  13. Given the weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning I thought the game would be in jeopardy. However I assumed the call off was in anticipation of this (and to save the QOS players from travelling up today as they'd planned). The weather in the last day or two has hardly been extreme. It does raise questions about the state of the pitch. I understand that there was one area during the Dunfermline game (which I wasn't at) which looked very dicey and perhaps this is the problem. That said, every time I've been to the ground this season I've been impressed by the surface which has looked the best it has for years and seemed to be holding up well after being relaid in the summer.
  14. The reaction to St. Johnstone's decision to give three McDiarmid Park stands to Rangers and Celtic fans was somewhat mixed. There was, for example, this piece from the Daily Record's Michael Gannon claiming that they were trying to 'make a quick buck' by exploiting the biggest supports in the country - because giving said supports more tickets is, apparently, 'exploitation'. Especially when said tickets are £28 a pop. Sure, we'd all like to pay less for football tickets, but criticizing the price is rich given it costs only a quid less for away supporters at Celtic Park to watch from the infamous 'restricted view' seats that, in addition to watching their team getting pumped, give the spectator the treasured bonus of an acute case of torticollis. However, plenty were pragmatic about it. Whilst few actually believed the Perth Saints' claim that temporarily shifting some fans so the home support was amalgamated in one area would help provide a 'partisan atmosphere' - there's no way that was written with a straight face - we're not talking small change here. Gannon claimed St. Johnstone would "trouser a couple of hundred grand which might fund a couple of players". A couple of hundred grand would equate to about 5% of St. Johnstone's annual turnover. It's more likely to pay for four players than for two. It might be loose change for Scotland's largest two clubs, but it is a significant amount of money for a club of their size...and for at least half the clubs in the Scottish Premiership. Gannon bizarrely suggested away fans should boycott Perth in protest. He did also briefly mention one of the reasons why St. Johnstone can, and need to, take this step - the fact that season ticket holders are dodging these matches. Those are generally the most loyal supporters, and ones who have actually paid for their seats already. And yet they are eschewing the chance to watch the biggest and most talented clubs in the country take on their own side. Imagine season ticket holders at Bournemouth and Watford deciding to skip the visit of Liverpool or Manchester City, or Getafe fans staying at home when Barcelona come to town. I attended a Middlesbrough-Manchester United match in 2008 where the visiting support took great joy in proclaiming "you're only here for United!" loudly. It was true too; my mate spent the whole game salivating over Paul Scholes and I over Wayne Rooney. But St. Johnstone's fans are not the only ones turned off by the Gruesome Twosome. Other clubs have also noted their season ticket holders staying away in similar circumstances. There are a few different factors at play here. One is that these games tend to have awkward kickoff times. Another is that no-one ever enjoys seeing their team get gubbed. After a few years where both Celtic and Rangers looked like potential scalps when you got them on your own patch, we've rewound to the days when, for example, Stephane Guivarc'h scored two in an 8-0 win for Dick Advocaat's Rangers...in Perth. But that was never quite enough to keep folk away. Perhaps the star power of Brian Laudrup, Henrik Larsson etc. was worth the ignominy. Alfredo Morelos and Odsonne Edouard are talents but hardly in the same stratosphere. And then of course there is the whole experience of having Rangers and Celtic fans in town. Sure, they aren't the only ones to sing unpleasant songs, to invade the pitch, to set off flares, to throw objects, to damage the stadium. But it only feels inevitable when it's one of those supports. At Inverness (a place that neither club are likely to be visiting again in the near future) I've seen fans of both clubs drinking in the streets - Strongbow for Celtic fans, Buckfast for Rangers fans - urinating outside the ground (as if they don't think indoor plumbing has reached the Highlands yet) and have endured loud aggressive chants about killing people which have no relation to the actual match or opponent. It is not a lot of fun. So we've now reached a strange denouement where fans of other Scottish clubs are turned off by Rangers and Celtic, and yet the big two and the SPFL will cite the impressive viewing figures for their derby clash at the end of December as further evidence that, outside Scotland at least, they're the only clubs that matter. Which is fair enough until they complain that no-one else wants to watch them... 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