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Everything posted by hislopsoffsideagain

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Just to give folks a heads up that we should hopefully be transmitting live audio commentary of Saturday's game (if the technology behaves). As with the previous times the plan is to use Periscope. 10-15 minutes before kickoff a link to the commentary should go up on the club Twitter feed. Be gentle with the criticism - I'm doing it solo and it's a hell of a long time to talk on your own! 😁
  4. Four years ago Falkirk were preparing for a Scottish Cup Final against Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Three years ago they came mightily close to promotion to the Premiership, losing the playoff final to Kilmarnock despite a first leg lead. Two years ago they came second in the Championship and got another pop at the playoffs. Today, they are preparing for life in League One. There have been no financial problems, no administrations, no unusual or unforeseen mitigating circumstances. Falkirk's relegation to the third tier is a culmination of two years of mistake after mistake at every level. Rangers' struggle up from League Two, laced with either farce or fiasco at almost every turn, became colloquially known as 'The Banter Years'. Falkirk have just had one of their own. And as a result a club with bigger home crowds than St. Johnstone and a higher turnover than Hamilton Accies are now facing away days at Peterhead and Stranraer next season. For fans of smaller clubs, it's been a great source of tedium and frustration to hear journalists bemoan the absence of 'big' teams from the Premiership - as if average attendance should somehow be taken into account when deciding promotion and relegation. With Hearts, Rangers and Hibernian having extricated themselves from the Championship, Dundee United are the biggest fish left in this pond. Falkirk, who last played in the top flight in 2010, are not in the same financial league as these clubs. However, given that the likes of Hamilton Accies and Livingston are currently amongst the elite and that in the last nine seasons Inverness, Ross County, Partick Thistle and other 'diddy clubs' have had long spells in the Premiership, there isn't a bigger side that has been stuck in the lower divisions for as long. Falkirk's relegation to the then-First Division in 2010 led to a big emphasis on bringing through youth. First Steven Pressley and then Gary Holt were unable to get them promoted - they finished third in the table four consecutive times - but they did develop an impressive group of academy graduates: Blair Alston, Botti Biabi, Ryan Blair, Jay Fulton, Tony Gallacher, Stephen Kingsley, Conor McGrandles, Stewart Murdoch, Craig Sibbald and Murray Wallace all went on to leave for bigger and better things and often for a decent transfer fee (Blair, Fulton, Gallacher, Kingsley and Wallace for six figure sums, McGrandles for a reported Β£1m). Luke Leahy, Peter Grant and Will Vaulks were youngsters plucked out of nowhere and developed into very decent players. Holt left in the summer of 2014 to join Norwich City's coaching team. The appointment of the much older Houston seemed on the face of it to be a change of direction but he continued the work of his predecessors. Getting to another cup final was a considerable achievement. So too was beating Hibs in the playoffs the next season (before the defeat to Killie) and finishing ahead of Dundee United in the league the year after. It all started going downhill after that, though pinpointing why is not easy. It's not as if there was huge upheaval in the playing squad in the 2017 summer transfer window. Perhaps, as sometimes happens, things just got a bit stale. Houston and his players seemed to have picked up where they left off with four wins out of four in their League Cup group, including an away win over newly relegated Inverness Caley Thistle. Yet they managed just three points from their opening seven league games and on 26 September Houston was dismissed. The board, afraid of being cut adrift from the promotion race so early in the campaign acted swiftly. It turned out that was the least of their worries. Houston was replaced by Paul Hartley, who had won the Championship with Dundee back in 2014. In the meantime the Bairns had picked up their first league win of the season under caretaker management. They would not win again until 30 December. Bottom spot was never a realistic possibility - Brechin City's record-setting incompetence made sure of that - but a relegation playoff spot was a real worry. Thankfully things clicked in the new year. Falkirk picked up a very respectable 33 points in the second half of the season, compared to 14 points from their first 18 games. That was still only good enough for eighth (it would have been enough for fifth this season!) but it offered encouragement to the board that Hartley was on the right track. That'll be why they let him sign sixteen players last summer. The overhaul was carried out with the assistance of Richard Mitchell, formerly head of recruitment at Ross County, who was brought in to scout players primarily from England's lower leagues and find some cheap rough diamonds to polish. Ideally the youth academy would have produced some too...but in December 2017 the club closed it with virtually no prior warning. Despite the impressive output of previous years, it was claimed that it cost too much and that, unless players were sold for significant money each season, it was too much of a risk. The club also stated that the money could be used to concentrate on the first team. Hence Hartley's summer shopping spree. Of those sixteen players signed, only four remained after January 2019 and just two - Paul Paton and Deimantas Petravicius - were first team regulars. If there was a strategy to the signings it remains unclear. On the face of it, it seems no more clever than throwing mud at a wall and hoping some of it stuck. Hartley's tenure was over by the end of August. By that point Falkirk had lost at home to Montrose in the League Cup, toiled to a narrow win against Rangers Colts in the Challenge Cup and lost their first three games of the league season in increasingly hapless fashion. The last of those was a 3-0 drubbing at home to Queen of the South. Stephen Dobbie scored a hat-trick for the visitors, and might have had double that. The shot count after 90 minutes was an extraordinary 27-3 in favour of the Doonhamers. It was the sort of performance and result that gets managers sacked on its own...and so it was for Hartley. To their credit, the powers that be identified their candidate to replace him soon enough. The trouble was that Ray McKinnon had taken the Morton job a few months earlier. That didn't put the club, or McKinnon himself, off though - to the fury of his current employers he walked out to take over at the Falkirk Stadium. Falkirk would be fined Β£40,000 by the SPFL as a result, as well as having to pay compensation to Morton. The history books will not show that it was worth it. In mid-September a rather bullish Q&A with the chairman was published on the club website. "We have been in the Championships too long. Playoffs and finishing second are not good enough", it was stated. As for the current campaign, "the playoffs remain our aspiration". At the time, Falkirk were bottom and were still to score a point. A few days earlier, in McKinnon's second game in charge, they had blown a 2-0 half time lead at Ayr United and lost 3-2, the winning goal coming when in a goalmouth scramble a clearance hit prostrate keeper Leo Fasan on the back and ricocheted into the net. Unfortunately, there was plenty of farce still to come. By the end of September they did get off the mark with a win at Alloa, but whilst there were occasional signs of life - a combative draw with Ross County and a smash-and-grab win at Dunfermline - by the end of November they were still bottom. The Scottish Cup offered a distraction, but not a welcome one, as they were humiliated by local neighbours Stenhousemuir 4-2 in a stark example of how the players were neither good enough nor motivated enough. Just when it seemed things couldn't get any worse, striker Dennon Lewis reported that he was racially abused during the match by his own fans. It won't have helped matters that McKinnon was never shy about the need to bring in new faces; the knowledge that most of the squad were unwanted would not have done morale much good. And so in January, with the club still bottom of the league, in came another twelve players. Most of the summer duds were punted, with some having been paid to go away even before then. One shudders to think how much it has cost the club to 'mutually consent' so many. But the influx of new talent seemed to have done the trick. An eight match unbeaten run between January and March yielded sixteen precious points. Not only were they out of the bottom two, but they were only eight points off fourth with nine games left. Maybe September's predictions weren't so ridiculous after all? Nah. They would win only twice more. The unbeaten run came to an end at Ross County, but was followed up with three draws. The second of those, up in Inverness, was a 0-0 bore-draw where McKinnon, who had hardly been adventurous tactically since his arrival, sent his team out to frustrate rather than attack. Their only shot on target came in injury time. The plan was clearly to grind out results. Next was a Tuesday night trip to Dumfries. With the match goalless after 90 minutes, Falkirk won a stoppage time penalty. Davis Keillor-Dunn converted it and raced towards the away support, sparking a pitch invasion which took a few minutes to clear. Keillor-Dunn was shown a second yellow card and dismissed. There was sufficient time added on that Queen of the South got a soft penalty of their own and nicked a draw, robbing the Bairns of two precious points. Queen of the South would finish the season ninth, above Falkirk on goal difference. Then they went and lost at home to Alloa, despite dominating the second half with the score at 1-1. Alloa were winning games. So were Partick Thistle. By the time Falkirk starting doing so it was too late. Victory over Championship winners Ross County on final day wasn't enough. And so they'll drop into the third tier for the first time in 39 years. It is easy to see how this happened. The board made poor managerial appointments in times of crisis. Those managers in turn recruited appallingly, looking for quick fixes to their crises. It seems like the panic button was pressed in the autumn of 2017 and the finger was never lifted. And yet it would not be hard to see the Dunfermlines, the Partick Thistles, the Invernesses of Scottish football suffering similar fates. Being in a ten team league where ambitions are high and patience is low and money is tight means there is rarely if ever time for a blueprint for the future to be drawn up, let alone seen through. It's quite possible Falkirk will not be the last full-time club to meet this fate. As for their fans, there is some solace to be found a little further along the M9. Livingston were relegated to League One in 2016. Two years later they completed back-to-back promotions, and this year they are a comfortable ninth in the Premiership. Maybe the only way is up? 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
  5. I like to think that the lack of outrage I've received over my choice of keeper and back four suggests that I've got it right...but it probably means that nobody gives a s***. Oh well... Here, to try and wind folk up further, is the midfield and attack. CENTRAL MIDFIELD: CALLUM MCGREGOR (CELTIC), DAVID TURNBULL (MOTHERWELL) Honourable mentions: Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), Peter Haring (Heart of Midlothian), Stevie Mallan (Hibernian), Alan Power (Kilmarnock) Even at left-back against Rangers McGregor looked pretty decent. If anything, he - and Celtic - were at their best this season when Scott Brown was unavailable and he had to drop into a deeper role. He deserves his place on the Player Of The Year shortlist. Where did Turnbull explode from? He'd only started two games for Motherwell before this season , but the 19 year old has 12 goals and counting from centre mid in 2018/19. Excellent at free kicks, nerveless and penalties and a terrific engine too; this boy is going to go far. If this was Shinnie's last season in Scotland for the time being, he earned his move to the English Championship and Aberdeen will have a heck of a job replacing his tenacity. Haring seemed limited by injuries as the season went on but has a remarkable instinct for winning second balls. Mallan had his share of quiet days but at his best his passing was deadly and his goals spectacular. Power meanwhile has become even more influential at Kilmarnock since Youssouf Mulumbu left and has been consistently excellent. ATTACKING MIDFIELD: JAMES FORREST (CELTIC), RYAN CHRISTIE (CELTIC), RYAN KENT (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Gary Mackay-Steven (Aberdeen), Greg Stewart (Kilmarnock), Steven Naismith (Heart of Midlothian), Daryl Horgan (Hibernian), Scott Arfield (Rangers), Matty Kennedy (St. Johnstone) It seems weird to say that a 27 year old had a 'breakout year' but that's what it felt like with Forrest ; no more running into cul-de-sacs, instead every decision was made correctly and at such high speed that defenders all over the country were left shaking in their boots. But for an autumn injury crisis at Celtic, Christie might never have got the chance to show what he could do; now he's cemented as a first choice for the champions. Kent went against the general trend at Rangers by getting better as the season went on; he has all the moves - and a decent punch on him - and surely there's no way Rangers can afford to make his loan deal permanent. Mackay-Steven was having his best season since his Dundee United days until the injuries stacked up. Stewart deserves mention for his spell at Kilmarnock (but definitely not for his time at Aberdeen!). What on earth happened to him over the winter break? Hearts were so much better with Naismith on the park as much for his leadership as his ability. Despite missing half the season he still scored twice as many league goals as any other Jambo. Horgan has really pushed on since Paul Heckingbottom arrived at Easter Road and I expect a big season from him next year. Arfield often seemed the only Rangers player able to find space between the lines, and had even more influence when moved to the right flank. Kennedy was a real find for St. Johnstone and did well even though too often opponents identified him as the Saints' only threat and snuffed him out accordingly. STRIKER: ALFREDO MORELOS (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Sam Cosgrove (Aberdeen), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) I know, I know, too many red cards. But Morelos scored 30 goals for Rangers this season and there's no-one in the country better at terrifying two centre-backs on his own. The idea that the Gers could do without him is ridiculous - they shouldn't sell him unless they get a really good offer. It seems ironic that Aberdeen have taken a step backwards despite finally coming up with a regular goalscorer. If Cosgrove can become more composed in front of goal he could be even more dangerous next season. Edouard may well be the most talented centre forward in Scotland but never seems to stay fit enough to start more than a few games at a time. He still ended up Celtic's top scorer though. So here's the XI for you in all their glory... I look forward to the usual constructive criticism... 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. Edit - here's some of that constructive feedback... McGregor switch for Kelly. Don’t think Kent has been great but no body in the LW position has been particularly outstanding this season.β€” Callum Crawford (@_crawfordcallum) May 3, 2019 No bias there is there πŸ™„ β€” Martin livingstone (@martin_sarina) May 3, 2019 The ugly sistersβ€” Martin livingstone (@martin_sarina) May 3, 2019 The old firm seeing as you have put Nine of their players in. And two players who have finished in bottom six. Hearts killie aberdeen and hibs obviously not have any players up to those standards I presume.β€” Calum (@McgheeCalum) May 3, 2019 🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣🀣 I'm being accused of bias towards BOTH Celtic and Rangers. Is it possible that I'm the first person ever to be accused of that? https://t.co/HUenZMM8Bu β€” Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) May 3, 2019 Tierney, Christie, Alan mcgregor, tavernier? You just picked glasgow based players names oot a hat or what πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚?β€” Jason πŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ³σ £σ ΄σ ΏπŸ’™ (@Jasonnclark) May 3, 2019 Could take Kent out aswell. Guys been ***** aw season until he punches Scott brown then all of a sudden a world beater. The Hibs boy should be in, Horgan? Could have Mallan aswell. Naw am no disputing it atall a tweeted that for a laugh? :-S. Horrendous choices man.β€” Jason πŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ³σ £σ ΄σ ΏπŸ’™ (@Jasonnclark) May 3, 2019 Think Max Lowe for Aberdeen has been consistently good. Naismith and Power could be in with a shout in over Christie but other two clear cut as you say.β€” Lewis McKenzie (@Lewis_McKenzie_) May 3, 2019 Ambrose and Kerr ffs. You really must be on the wind up.β€” Calum (@McgheeCalum) May 3, 2019 What can I say? I'm clearly a popular guy... View the full article
  6. What do you mean, you weren't around for the first 11 years I did this? Let's look back at the previous ones, not least because many of them make me cringe. PREVIOUS TEAMS OF THE YEAR 2007/08: Allan McGregor (Rangers), Alan Hutton (Rangers), Carlos Cuellar (Rangers), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Lee Naylor (Celtic), Barry Robson (Celtic), Stephen Hughes (Motherwell), Barry Ferguson (Rangers), Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Steven Fletcher (Hibernian) 2008/09: Lukasz Zaluska (Dundee United), Andreas Hinkel (Celtic), Gary Caldwell (Celtic), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Scott Brown (Celtic), Bruno Aguiar (Hearts), Pedro Mendes (Rangers), Andrew Driver (Hearts), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Rangers) 2009/10: John Ruddy (Motherwell), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), David Weir (Rangers), Andy Webster (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United), James McArthur (Hamilton), Anthony Stokes (Hibernian), Kris Boyd (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United) 2010/11: Marian Kello (Hearts), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Daniel Majstorovic (Celtic), Michael Duberry (St. Johnstone), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Steven Naismith (Rangers), Beram Kayal (Celtic), Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock), David Templeton (Hearts), Nikica Jelavic (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United) 2011/12: Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Paul Dixon (Dundee United), James Forrest (Celtic), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Ian Black (Hearts), Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock), Jon Daly (Dundee United), Gary Hooper (Celtic) 2012/13: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Mihael Kovacevic (Ross County), Gary Warren (Inverness CT), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Stevie Hammell (Motherwell), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Nicky Law (Motherwell), Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone), Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian), Michael Higdon (Motherwell), Billy Mckay (Inverness CT) 2013/14: Jamie MacDonald (Hearts), Dave Mackay (St. Johnstone), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Scott Brown (Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen), Kris Commons (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock), Stevie May (St. Johnstone) 2014/15: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Celtic), Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT), Ryan Jack (Aberdeen), Greg Tansey (Inverness CT), Greg Stewart (Dundee), Stefan Johansen (Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United/Celtic), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen) 2015/16: Jamie MacDonald (Kilmarnock), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Igor Rossi (Hearts), Andrew Davies (Ross County), Graeme Shinnie (Aberdeen), Nir Bitton (Celtic), Jackson Irvine (Ross County), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen), Kenny McLean (Aberdeen), Marvin Johnson (Motherwell), Leigh Griffiths (Celtic) 2016/17: Joe Lewis (Aberdeen), Callum Paterson (Hearts), Jozo Simunovic (Celtic), Joe Shaughnessy (St. Johnstone), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Jonny Hayes (Aberdeen), Stuart Armstrong (Celtic), Adam Barton (Partick Thistle), Scott Sinclair (Celtic), Moussa Dembele (Celtic), Liam Boyce (Ross County) 2017/18: Jon McLaughlin (Hearts), James Tavernier (Rangers), Scott McKenna (Aberdeen), Christophe Berra (Hearts), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Scott Brown (Celtic), Dylan McGeouch (Hibernian), John McGinn (Hibernian), James Forrest (Celtic), Daniel Candeias (Rangers), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock) Kris Boyd holds the record for most appearances on this list, with four. Can he make it five this year? (Spoiler: of course he can't). When this tradition began all the way back in 2008 Gordon Strachan was Celtic manager, Rangers were on their way to Manchester, Lee Wilkie's knees were still just about holding together, and we were all feeling reasonably bullish about George Burley as the new Scotland boss. And, remarkably, the very first name on that teamsheet is the very first name on this one too... GOALKEEPER: ALLAN MCGREGOR (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Zander Clark (St. Johnstone), Liam Kelly (Livingston) 11 years after he made my first ever Team Of The Year, McGregor is back. Shagger's form has tailed off a bit after Christmas but he was sensational in the first half of the season. He may be 37 but it looks like there's a few years left in him yet. Clark doesn't get enough credit for his consistency for St. Johnstone. Kelly has got a lot of practice at saving shots at times this season, but has made the most of it. Still only 23, he has a very bright future ahead of him. RIGHT-BACK: JAMES TAVERNIER (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Michael Smith (Heart of Midlothian), Stephen O'Donnell (Kilmarnock) Tavernier gets in for the second year running. I maintain that he isn't quite as dreadful a defender as many make out; even if he is, the goals and assists he provides more than makes up for that. Smith was solid and dependable for Hearts, while O'Donnell deserves to be in the Scotland squad and gets bonus points for his empire biscuit baking skills. CENTRE-BACKS: KRISTOFFER AJER (CELTIC), CRAIG HALKETT (LIVINGSTON) Honourable mentions: John Souttar (Hearts), Efe Ambrose (Hibernian), Connor Goldson (Rangers), Jason Kerr (St. Johnstone) This was really, really hard. My original duo were Souttar, who was terrific for Hearts when fit, and Kerr, who largely flew under the radar despite keeping up his high level of performance even as the rest of the St. Johnstone team hit a spring slump. There was also a strong argument to be made for Efe Ambrose, who would have been a shoo-in if this had been produced in January; however he left for Derby County. is often the trickiest position to fill and this year was no exception as no candidate really excelled all season long. So I asked the twitterverse for their opinions and two names came up repeatedly. Kristoffer Ajer was the first; if Ambrose shone most before Christmas its the young Norwegian who has excelled so far in 2019. It certainly seems like the Norwegian will move onto greater things before too long. He has the physical presence of a Scottish defender but the technical ability of a continental one. And his recent form shows that he continues to improve with experience. Alongside him is Livi's Craig Halkett who has made the step up to the top flight with ease and thoroughly earned his upcoming move to Tynecastle. And he's not even 24 till May. The other name worth mentioning in passing is Goldson, though that's mainly based on his no-nonsense performances in the first half of the campaign. He's looked a bit more vulnerable recently though. LEFT-BACK: KIERAN TIERNEY (CELTIC) Honourable mentions: Max Lowe (Aberdeen), Greg Taylor (Kilmarnock) Tierney could play with his eyes closed and still be the best left-back in the country, but I do feel he's reached the limit of how much he can improve when playing in Scotland week-in, week-out. If he's to become the best player he can be, he needs to test himself at a higher level (six Europa League games a year doesn't count). Lowe is the left-back Aberdeen have dreamed of for years, which makes it all the more galling that they'll surely lose him in the summer. Taylor continues to learn and develop nicely at Rugby Park. He's played more than 100 Premiership games and he's still only 21. Midfield and attack to come in the next few days... 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
  7. If you haven't read part 1, you can find it here. Lots of folk who did read it complained...about crap players from their own club who weren't on the list. That was invariably because said players were in the top ten. Any one of the top five could, I think, have been number one. Argue amongst yourselves as to whether they are in the right order. 10. NICOLAI BROCK-MADSEN (ST. MIRREN) Yes, it's another Alan Stubbs signing. Would you believe this player was once signed by Birmingham City for Β£500,000? Not if you watched him play for St. Mirren. In his five games leading the line for them, they scored a solitary goal - an own goal. Oran Kearney rated him so highly that he sent him back to the Midlands in mid-October...even though he wouldn't be allowed to play for anyone other than the Buddies till January. 9. CRAIG CURRAN (DUNDEE) Curran had done well for Jim McIntyre at Ross County so it was no surprise that he persuaded the English forward to move the entire length of Tannadice Street to join Dundee. It was also no surprise that Robbie Neilson was happy to let him go given he had hardly set the Championship alight. And so we had the amusing spectacle of Curran appearing as an unused sub on a Saturday afternoon for United and being unveiled by Dundee later that day. Less amusing is Curran's impact at Dens, at least if you're a Dark Blue. So far it's 13 games, zero goals and a lot of gripes from the supporters. He gets extra bonus points for that manic, unhinged look in his eyes in his signing photo. Back in Dingwall he used to get that look when chasing a 50-50 ball, but no longer. 8. JAMES WILSON (ABERDEEN) 20 goals in 32 games. When Aberdeen announced they were loaning Wilson, who was scoring goals for Manchester United as a teenager, their fans were expecting stats like this. But those belong to Sam Cosgrove. It's unclear whether Wilson simply doesn't fit into the Dons setup, whether there's no room for him in the team because of Cosgrove, or whether he simply can't be arsed. The most recent of his three goals came in December and he's only started one game since. A massive disappointment. 7. CHRIS FORRESTER (ABERDEEN) This one can't really be helped; it's not the player's fault or the club's fault that this didn't work out. Forrester suffered a family bereavement that expedited his return to Ireland after only a few months at Pittodrie. But the Dons paid Β£200,000 - a significant sum by their standards - to sign him from Peterborough and to get only one start out of him makes this a complete and utter disaster for them. The silver lining is that it has meant more gametime for Lewis Ferguson. 6. VAKOUN ISSOUF BAYO (CELTIC) Maybe Bayo is 'one for the future'. Maybe he just needs some time to acclimatize to Scottish football. Or maybe this will turn out to be Β£1.75m down the drain. The Ivorian was signed in January just days before Celtic brought in Oliver Burke and Timo Weah on loan. As a fourth choice striker (and potentially fifth choice when Leigh Griffiths returns) who at the time of writing has played a single minute (plus injury time) of first team football, he does not appear to be offering value for money. 5. RYAN EDWARDS (HEARTS) Maybe one day it will be revealed why on earth Hearts signed the combative Australian after he left relegated Partick Thistle. Having never played for their first team, he was loaned to St. Mirren before the end of August, where he made 14 appearances before being sent back to Gorgie in January...but not before winding up Jambos by taking to Twitter to hail Adam Hammill's goal against Hearts in November. He has a year left on his contract but it's safe to say he'll never wear the maroon (apart from with the Colts team in the Challenge Cup, which doesn't count). 4. DAVID VANECEK (HEARTS) Hearts wanted the Czech striker in the summer, but his club Teplice insisted he see out his contract till the end of 2018. That hadn't stopped Vanecek bigging himself up on social media before arriving in Scotland...looking out of shape. He was hooked during the first half of his first league start against Dundee with Craig Levein lambasting his lack of fitness. He has improved in that respect to the point that he's made a few more appearances, but now its lack of quality that's the big concern. To be blunt, when he played against Auchinleck Talbot, you'd have thought he was one of the Juniors. 3. ANDREW DAVIES (DUNDEE) Most sane people would question the wisdom of giving an 18 month contract to a 34 year old centre-back, but Jim McIntyre's desperacy to bring the Ross County Relegation All-Stars band back together (see also Craig Curran and Martin Woods) meant Davies, who looked to be declining in his final campaign in Dingwall before a brief spell at Hartlepool, was summoned to Tayside in January. Unfortunately he broke his metatarsal in training just four days after arriving...and then did it again a week after returning to training. He won't play this season, even though having just one working foot would still make him more effective than Darren O'Dea. Regardless of Dundee's fate, it'll be a surprise if he ever pulls on their strip. 2. JOSH HEATON (ST. MIRREN) A club of St. Mirren's size doesn't pay a transfer fee unless they really think they are onto a winner. Alan Stubbs forked out Β£75,000 for Heaton, a central defender who had never played above Conference North level. He played just twice for the Buddies (both in the League Cup), which is one more appearance than the number of years on the contract he signed. Nowhere near the squad once Oran Krearney took over, in January he returned to the Conference North on loan...where he can't command a regular game either. 1. UMAR SADIQ (RANGERS) Sadiq has been hyper-critical of how Rangers treated him during his time on loan from Roma. He claimed that - less than two months after arriving - Kyle Lafferty's signing led to him being banned from the first team dressing room and he couldn't park at the training ground, He also says he was fined for liking an Instagram post and that they still owe him wages. If true, all that deserves sympathy, but it shouldn't detract from the fact that he was a complete haddie. With Lafferty and Alfredo Morelos available he got his big chance to show what he could do in the League Cup semi against Aberdeen and gave a performance for the ages...but not in a positive sense. Dons fans will never forget the moment when having gone round the keeper he chose to dive rather than score an equalizer. It was the only thing of note he did in that match and in a Rangers jersey. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  8. Wow, so this is the seventh season we've done this. It does seem to give people a laugh - except for Dapo Kayode, who complained on Twitter when I ranked him 21st in 2016/17. It's also fun to see who has proved me wrong a year down the line - Mickel Miller of Hamilton clearly shouldn't have been on last year's list, though all the St Johnstone fans who thought I was grossly unfair on David McMillan have been quiet. The six previous 'winners' of this prestigious award: 2012/13 - Rory Boulding (Kilmarnock) 2013/14 - Stephane Bahoken (St. Mirren) 2014/15 - Jim Fenlon (Ross County) 2015/16 - Rodney Sneijder (Dundee United) 2016/17 - Joey Barton (Rangers) 2017/18 - Eduardo Herrera (Rangers) Last year it was hard to find 25 real duds; this time round it was much easier. For that I owe thanks to Neil McCann, Jim McIntyre, Martin Canning and Alan Stubbs. As for the rankings themselves, they are of course concocted using the incredibly complex Toepoker Formula, which is too elaborate to detail here. They've definitely not just been cobbled together with the minimum amount of thought possible. Honest. Let's start the countdown... 25. CONNOR SAMMON (MOTHERWELL) Lads, it's Connor Sammon. Why Motherwell felt it was worth taking a loan punt on the Irish striker is beyond me, though he at least managed 7 league goals for relegated Partick Thistle in 2018/19. But after hitting the net a few times in the League Cup it became a barren year for Sammon, who now finds himself at best fourth choice striker for a team who tend to only play one up front. It's remarkable to think that he has spent two and a half of his three year Hearts contract out on loan. 24. CHARALAMPOS MAVRIAS (HIBERNIAN) The Greek international hoped to stay at Hibs for 'a couple of years' when he arrived in October. But he wasn't fit to play until December and managed only two starts before pulling a hamstring. He was gone less than three months after arriving, though Hibs apparently wanted to keep him as backup to David Gray. He has since moved to Cyprus and remarkably earned an international recall in March. 23. MARTIN WOODS (DUNDEE) I felt compelled to add Woods to this list simply because of the sheer amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from Dundee fans when I asked on Twitter for recommendations. They loathe Woods, a midfielder who looks decent on the ball but who lacks the mobility and physical presence to play at this level - and probably did so when he was at Ross County a few years back. There's also his insistence on taking set pieces even though his delivery is invariably cack. And yet Jim McIntyre keeps signing him and playing him. Does Woods have a dodgy dossier on him or something? 22. JAMES KELLERMANN (ST. MIRREN) Kellermann made such an impact that most websites misspelt his name as 'Kellerman' for most of the season. Signed by Jack Ross before he legged it to Sunderland, Kellermann wasn't rated by Alan Stubbs and left on loan for AFC Fylde by mid-August, only to return in January. Bizarrely, Oran Kearney has used him twice, both of which were matches against Celtic. He started the second of those but his only impact on the game was to be stamped on by Scott Brown. 21. ALEX PENNY (HAMILTON ACCIES) Accies' defence is as leaky as ever...so what does it say that they've trusted Penny to play just a single minute of first team football in 2019? Apparently Hamilton paid 'an undisclosed fee' to sign him from Peterborough; one hopes it wasn't much more than a bag of balls. 20. ELTON NGWATALA (DUNDEE) When he signed a two year deal for Neil McCann's side, the French midfielder was described by someone at his old club Kidderminster as being 'unplayable'. Jim McIntyre would agree with that - he didn't let Ngwatala near the first team. He made 13 appearances under McCann and none after he left, before being let go in January. Dundee fans were not exactly devastated by his departure. 19. MIQUEL NELOM (HIBERNIAN) Nelom looked like an impressive signing for Hibs given he has two caps for Holland, but those came years ago for an experimental squad on an end of season trip to Indonesia. So maybe we shouldn't be that surprised that he couldn't displace Lewis Stevenson at left-back, though it bodes ill that Sean Mackie leapfrogged him in the queue as well. He hasn't played for the club since December. 18. ADAM PHILLIPS (HAMILTON ACCIES) It's never a good sign when I can't find a picture of a player in the correct colours on Google Images. Accies fans could be forgiven for not realizing they'd signed the youngster on loan from Norwich, given he played two League Cup group games plus one for the Colts team in the Challenge Cup before returning to Norfolk before August had even finished. Norwich then let him go in January. 17. JEAN-ALASSANE MENDY (DUNDEE) Neil McCann wanted Mendy so bad he tried to sign him in January 2018...but goodness knows why. Some ungainly, awkward forwards prove deceptively dangerous, but not Mendy, whose only two goals came against lower league opposition in the League Cup. He went from starting the first three league games to playing only six minutes of football from the end of September, and was binned in January by McCann's successor Jim McIntyre. 16. AARON SMITH (HAMILTON ACCIES) Hamilton bigged up attacking midfielder Smith when he signed from Nottingham Forest. "He's got good ability, has goals in him from midfield and we're really looking forward to working with him" said Martin Canning at the time. Smith played just 10 minutes in a defeat at Annan and was never seen again, possibly because that he was arrested for that appalling ponytail. "I'm here to make a name for myself up here", Smith told the press when he arrived. Safe to say he didn't manage that, especially given that Accies quietly deleted him from their website without actually announcing he had left. Apparently you can buy a Match Attax card for him on ebay though (which claims he's worth Β£0.5m!). 15. JEFF KING (ST. MIRREN) One of Alan Stubbs' all-stars, King had a bit of pedigree after making a handful of first team appearances for Bolton - as many as he made in Scotland in fact. His only games for St. Mirren were in the League Cup and for their Colts team. King was sidelined after Stubbs' exit and his two year deal was cut short after only six months. 14. DARNELL JOHNSON (HIBERNIAN) Leicester defender Johnson's record so far for Hibs since arriving in January: a single 25 minute sub appearance, a retrospective two match ban for hacking Emilio Izaguirre, and then an injury that has kept him out since. He hasn't been available since Paul Heckingbottom took over at the club. 13. JAMES BROWN (LIVINGSTON) Livingston don't feel good (I knew that they wouldn't) about this signing. Rumour has it that then-Livi boss Kenny Miller only agreed to loan him from Millwall to keep an agent happy. Subbed after an hour on his debut - with Livingston 3-0 down to Celtic at the time - he was never seen again and was out the door shortly after the manager who signed him. Another one with an obscure Match Attax card available - which rates him at Β£1m!!! 12. COLE KPEKAWA (ST. MIRREN) Another Stubbs signing, you say? Another player who completed only six months of a two year deal, you say? St. Mirren conceded 13 goals in Kpekawa's last 5 games, which explains why he pretty much disappeared from first team contention after Stubbs was dismissed. He's now to be found in England's sixth tier. 11. ROSS MCCORMACK (MOTHERWELL) Apparently parent club Aston Villa pay McCormack Β£44,000/week. Even at 32 and after having fallen out spectacularly with Villa, you'd have thought he still had plenty to offer - especially at Scottish Premiership level. Unfortunately he was hooked at half-time on his debut and was clearly short of fitness. He went on to make all of three sub appearances before returning to Villa with a calf injury. The top ten will be with you next week... Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  9. This isn't fair at all. His role at Rangers was as Commercial Sales Manager, so he'll have had nothing to do with their admin/liquidation. He joined both Dundee and Hearts after their spells in adminstration.
  10. The good news - he has plenty of experience from having worked in significant roles at Rangers, Dundee and Hearts. The not so good news: Dundee and Hearts fans have not been positive about him...
  11. All in all, it's practically pre-season already for Celtic and Rangers. The former's victory over the latter last weekend all but guaranteed them the title. Rangers, now eleven points behind their rivals but eight ahead of the chasing pack, are almost nailed on for second spot. They have only one match left that really matters - a home clash with Celtic. In addition to that game Celtic have their remaining Scottish Cup tie(s) to focus on. Aside from those matches the two clubs can pretty much phone in the rest of their performances. And the extra time to think about the 2019/20 season will be welcome in both halves of Glasgow. Because there remains uncertainty over who will be in each dugout for the next campaign. You don't think Steven Gerrard's position is under threat? It certainly wasn't when the winter break came round, after an Old Firm win put Rangers level on points with Celtic. In fact, the attitude at Ibrox was so bullish that Steven Davis and Jermain Defoe were added during the transfer window. They might 'only' have been loan signings, but even the most conservative estimates of their wages are enough to raise eyebrows. And since then they've dropped points to Kilmarnock (twice), St Johnstone and Hibernian in the league as well as Celtic and been knocked out of the cup in a home replay by Aberdeen. Last midweek's victory over Hearts ended a five game winless run, their worst run since putting their feet up after winning the 2015/16 Championship. After spending millions last summer on fees and highly paid free transfers, they are only four points better off than at this stage a year ago when Murtyball was running out of steam. All in all, Gerrard has won 28 out of 55 matches in charge of Rangers. That win percentage is much worse than Murty's. It's also worse than Pedro Caixinha's. Heck, it's worse than Paul Le Guen's. About the only thing more disappointing than that record is the club's accounts. Another year, another loan from financial house Close Brothers - and you don't need to be an accountant to know that borrowing from someone other than a bank comes attached with an eye-watering level of interest attached. The club won't at last turn a profit for the first time in the Banter Years, not by a long shot. So there's plenty of ammunition that can be used against Gerrard. And there seems to have been a wee shift in attitude towards him from the media. Given that Ibrox's resident Jabba The Hutt exerts an element of control over what local hacks are allowed to say about the club, the fact that they've been given licence to take even the smallest pop at Gerrard suggests that at the very least the club hierarchy are underwhelmed by his performance. And yet...lies, damned lies and statistics. For one thing, there's the eye test. Yes, Rangers have toiled at times this season against well-organized, dug-in opponents. And as regards the gap between them and Celtic, the table does not deceive. But this is not Murtyball. There is a coherent strategy here. There isn't a decent Plan B but just having a Plan A that works more often than not at Premiership level makes Gerrard the most competent manager of the Newco years. The failures in both domestic cups were a disaster, but I feel Gerrard was entitled to a lot more credit than he got for getting them to the Europa League Group Stage - and making them competitive there. In many an away game he was able to set them up to grind out a result. (It's the Europa League games that wreck that win percentage, by the way). And lord knows what those interim financial results would look like without the prize money earned from that campaign. That's not to say Stevie G is the next coming of Bill Shankly. Not by a long shot. But if Dave King and co. are tempted by the thought of trying to force him out, they need to resist it. This club is crying out for a bit of stability and consistency. So too are Celtic. And that's why they shouldn't appoint Neil Lennon permanently. In contrast to Gerrard, the stats favour the Northern Irishman. Celtic have played seven games since Lennon was parachuted in and they've won five...including a derby...and drawn two. And of course he won three titles and two Scottish Cups during his first spell at the club. A sizeable proportion of the club's fanbase - those ones who feel Rodgers betrayed them by leaving for Leicester City (and who therefore really need to get a life) - will also point to Lennon being 'a Celtic man' as a crucial factor. But the eye test which is so much more forgiving to Gerrard is far less so to Lennon. In six league games they have won three via late goals and been held to a draw at Celtic Park by both Aberdeen and Livingston. Against Hearts, Dundee and Rangers they got the job done but played for long periods not just as if the handbrake was on but also that they couldn't work out how to release it. Rodgers' Celtic won with ten men at Ibrox last year; Celtic were deservedly pegged back by Rangers' 10 men last week and you wouldn't have confidently said they were the most likely to nick a winger before James Tavernier's blunder. It's hard to believe that, with Rodgers pulling the strings, there wouldn't have been more energy and more creativity both from the players on the pitch and from the management team. As for Lennon's own record as a manager, it remains more patchy than many would readily realize or admit. His three titles came during the season that preceded liquidation and the two that followed - titles that you and me could have guided the club to. His time at Bolton can be whitewashed because of the massive problems there, but while he met expectations in his first year at Hibs (with promotion) and surpassed them in his second year by finishing fourth everything had gone wrong when he left Easter Road. He didn't resign, and he wasn't sacked, but results were so bad - 2 wins in the last 14 league games - that he was heading for the exit door soon enough. Yes, he'll always have Barcelona at Celtic Park. But that feels like quite a rare example of getting his team to punch well above their weight. Moreover, Celtic's playing style was transformed by Rodgers. It's a style worth continuing both at first team level and below. And doing so requires a coach with similar principles to Rodgers. Lennon is, basically, a different coach. That's not to say finding a successor will be easy; far from it. There's certainly no obvious internal or Scottish candidate, and the world's most renowned coaches have much bigger fish to fry than Scottish football can provide. There's quite a significant risk that they could end up with another Ronny Deila. That reason alone might tempt the board into the safe option, which is undoubtedly Lennon. But if Celtic want to continue on an upward trajectory, their best option is a new face. Whereas if Rangers want to do the same they are better sticking with who they already have. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  12. From the club's point of view, this is just bad luck. I can easily imagine that last summer there was enough reason to believe he would get back to fitness to justify signing him, especially given the reports from his spell at Stranraer were so glowing. It's not ICT's fault, it's not the medical team's fault and it's certainly not the player's fault. Just one of those things. Whilst the club got a lot of criticism on this board for the lack of communication regarding the player, I'd say they were right all along to be discreet about the player's fitness issues - better to let Angus deal with such a dreadful prospect in his own time and with a bit of space. I feel so dreadfully sorry for Angus himself. It's awful for anyone so young to have to give up their career, and also awful to be left struggling with chronic pain at that age. It's great that ICT and Hearts are going to play a benefit match for him and I do hope he goes onto great things either in coaching or outwith football.
  13. I think (hope) it should work just by clicking on the link in the tweet. You should be able to access the tweet without a Twitter account, but perhaps one of the mods can keep an eye out and post the link on the matchday thread if I'm wrong about that?
  14. Just thought I'd spread the word that - all being well - the club will be providing live audio commentary from tomorrow afternoon's game against Falkirk. The plan is to put it up on the club's Twitter feed during the match via the Periscope streaming app - which means hopefully that it should easily be found either on Twitter or by checking down the twitter feed displayed on the matchday topic. You should just have to open the tweet and press play. It won't be much good for people at the game as the broadcast will be about 20 seconds or so behind real time, but hopefully it'll work well for those of you who can't make the game. We're still getting the hang of this, so constructive feedback would be appreciated.
  15. Feel free to do this with Narey's Toepoker if you like, Scotty.
  16. I understand the AGM was last night? I'm surprised that there isn't any talk about it on the forum. Given the less-than-impressive accounts and the recent staff turnover, I was wondering if any interesting info had come out of it?
  17. I know the drainage issues are longstanding and well known, but to be fair the weather has been awful all week and this morning it was like a monsoon when I drove over the bridge. Hard to see how any pitch could cope with this. I also note the forecast is for more rain later so I doubt there will be any chance for it to dry out.
  18. Given the number of points we've thrown away from decent positions this season, I'm pretty okay with boring 1-0 wins like that one. I didn't think we were particularly special but after we took the lead we were the only team that looked like scoring. Morton set out to suffocate us in midfield and stuck to it until about an hour in. Once they went two up top we had to sit a little deeper but we saw it out very comfortably. Our back four (plus McCart until he got injured) were all outstanding. I feel like I should single out Brad McKay for particular praise given his patchy form this season - aside from missing that chance in the first half he was flawless. In an attacking sense you can see that we miss Walsh because his pace allows him to get up to support White. I did think that McDonald looked very classy and it was a shame he got injured. I imagine Robbo would have liked to get Austin on but for having to use up 2 subs for injuries. As an aside, some folk may have noticed that the club were running live audio commentary on the game (with yours truly behind the mic) using Periscope. It was kind of a test run so we didn't make much of a deal of it beforehand but I'd be grateful for any feedback from people who did listen in. It's something we're hoping to do at 3pm Saturday games in the future, so all being well we'll try to do it again for the Falkirk game on 30 March.
  19. It's worth noting that players can change squad number mid-season if they haven't played. So just because McCauley has got the no. 8 shirt doesn't mean Beith is away. The official website still lists him as well as McCauley; if he was gone I'm sure he'd just have been deleted.like George Oakley has been. I think it is safe to assume there is far more to this than is in the public domain. If he was still injured, or had picked up a new injury, I'm sure the club wouldn't have been coy about it and it would have been mentioned before now. Might there be personal issues here instead? I'm going to assume that there's a good reason for the lack of info here.
  20. I thought I might feel a bit less angry about the end of that game after I'd slept on it. Nope, turns out I'm just as angry. We've led in sixteen of our last twenty-seven games - and held onto that lead in just eight. That's a dreadful record, and even more so because it's the same pattern again and again. We sit deeper and deeper, we look nervous in possession, we make bad decisions, and we give away goals through individual errors. Some of it - Chalmers' idiotic shot from distance in the 90th minute when he had an easy pass on - is either players being panicky or just plain thick. This isn't a team of kids; they really should be capable of keeping their heads under pressure. Other bits such as the substitutions are a coaching issue. Either accept you're under siege and bring on a defender (McHattie at LB with Tremarco going more central) to deal with it properly, or bring on a player with fresh legs who will at least cover a lot of ground, chase the ball and maybe offer a counterattack threat (Austin or MacGregor). For the love of god, don't bring on a central midfielder with the turning circle of a bus who neither protects the defence nor offers any quality in possession. It does us no favours at all. And yet every bloody time Robbo seems to think bringing Trafford on will protect our lead. What's did Einstein claim the definition of insanity was again? I didn't think we were all that great last night, but we were much better than County. The problem is that I can't see County being that lousy next week, whereas it's very easy to see us being our own worst enemy yet again.
  21. The article you speak of is here: https://nareystoepoker.blogspot.com/2018/12/in-defence-of-liam-polworth.html And you appear to have done your best to misrepresent it. Anyone reading this can tell that the link to Iniesta is quite obviously tongue-in-cheek. I was comparing how elsewhere skilful players are lauded for what they do, whereas in Polworth's case his good bits (his assist for Walsh's goal, his incredible assists record last season, even that nutmeg of Billy King by his own corner flag) rarely get any praise whereas every mistake he makes comes under the spotlight. And the 'neanderthal' description was not used as a reference to the MOTM award (though the people sitting around me were not booing the award because it was 'bizarre', because they were making abusive comments about Polworth at the time too). It was a reference at the end of the article to those who abused his family earlier in the year, who slag him off every week regardless of what he does, who are making him a scapegoat for the team's - and the club's - ongoing struggles. And there are too many of them at home games. Frankly, anyone who thinks that booing their own player will actually improve his performance is not very bright. As for 'just desserts', I'm not sure what that even means? Put Polworth in a team with a centre-forward who shows any intelligence whatsoever in his off-the-ball movement (we certainly don't have one in our squad currently) and watch him fly. I'm fed up of seeing him driving into the final third with the ball and looking for a killer pass to play, only for his teammates to be tightly marked and either making the same runs they have done all game or just not running at all. And when he is either tackled or tries to force a pass that isn't on it's him who gets the blame every time instead of his attackers.
  22. I would strongly agree with those who have said that our unbeaten run has helped mask big problems with the squad - problems that were laid bare for all to see on Saturday. First there is the defence. We have been unlucky at left-back with Tremarco injured and then Calder (correctly) being punted. McCart looks solid enough defensively but offers no attacking threat at all there. On the other side Rooney is as erratic as QOS fans said he would be. His attacking play has improved and he offers a set-piece threat but lapses like the one that led to Falkirk's second goal are all too frequent. Brad McKay is going through a dreadful spell of form too. Add in a return of the yips for Ridgers in the last two games and you have a backline that are conceding too many cheap goals, all too often when we are on top as well. At the other end, we've regressed right back to where we were a year ago. The midfield are badly hindered by the lack of pace, movement and holdup play from whoever is playing up front. We seemed to have solved the problem when we got in Austin but he's had a rotten season so far. White (too slow, doesn't win enough against smaller CBs, poor in front of goal) and Oakley (fouls defenders too often, too predictable with his movement) put in typical performances against Falkirk, though at least Oakley got a goal. I think our midfield setup is pretty good but too often Welsh, Walsh, Polworth and Doran got possession in decent areas and didn't have anyone to play the killer ball to - the exception being the opening goal. Our Plan B is to go 4-4-2, which we did for the second half of this game and against Morton too. But then our midfield play breaks down, we only have Walsh as a natural wide player and Doran is a fish out of water as second striker...but White and Oakley are a dreadful partnership. But what else can you do when you only have two senior outfield players on the bench? And therein lies the biggest issue of all. Our squad depth is pitiful. Sure, we had four players out injured this weekend but should we really be down to the bare bones. Our failure to augment the team with loan players is bizarre - just look at the impact Zak Rudden and Aidan Keena have had against us in recent weeks. We have signed only one loan player since Robbo came in - Matthew Elsdon. At one point in February I believe we were the only SPFL team (out of 42!) who didn't have a player in on loan. We can still finish fourth, but to do so we need reinforcements, up front at least.
  23. The club have confirmed he has been dismissed. The right decision, in my opinion.
  24. Falkirk at least have an excuse to change goalkeeper Sending out new signing Prince Buaben with his name spelt 'BURBAN' on the back of his shirt really doesn't help dispel the general feeling of incompetence surrounding Falkirk at the moment. But in the hostile Cappielow atmosphere, stoked by Morton's feelings of betrayal towards Ray McKinnon, the Bairns gave as good as they got in the first half; whilst Gary Oliver hit the post for the hosts, Zak Rudden - who looks like a real prospect - should have scored for Falkirk. Sadly it all went wrong in the second period. Too often this season Leo Fasan has cost his team goals (not that he's the only one) but the keeper had a terrible moment of madness as Michael Tidser raced through on goal. Had he charged out he might have got to the ball first, but instead he hesitated and then found himself outwith his penalty area as Tidser got control of the ball. The seasoned midfielder did the clever thing by taking it round the goalie, who brought him down and earned an inevitable red card. It was curious that McKinnon claimed afterwards that experienced ref John Beaton had called it a handball - it clearly was a foul, but not a handball, and Fasan certainly didn't help himself by looking as guilty as a puppy sitting next to a pile of poo. After that it was a siege until Bob McHugh finally nicked a deserved winner for the home side. Fasan's upcoming suspension should mean that David Mitchell, who made some decent saves in relief, should finally get his chance to stake a claim. It will be interesting to see if there is a sharp drop in the number of cheap goals conceded as a result. Billy Mckay is firing on all cylinders Josh Mullin justifiably got the plaudits for a terrific - and ultimately decisive - solo goal in Dingwall. It was Mullin's sixth goal since moving north in the summer and if the wideman has any regrets about leaving high-flying Livingston it isn't showing. Mullin's exploits did somewhat overshadow those of County's other goalscorer. Billy Mckay's opener was a lovely snapshot half-volley into the top corner, the instinctive finish of an on-form striker. And that is what Mckay is. He has scored five in his last three games now and looks increasingly like the forward who used to score for fun in Inverness...and his teammates now seem capable of creating chances for him to feast on. If the Northern Irishman is indeed back to his best, he will score a hatful this season and get his team promoted in the process. You can't miss Lyndon Dykes It's hard to miss Lyndon Dykes at the best of times now that the Australian has turned himself into a peroxide blonde, but the Queen of the South man drew attention for plenty of other reasons at East End Park. Best known as a forward, Dykes has increasingly been used in central midfield this season and the combination of size, strength and speed that he offers in that area is quite scary - even more so as he gets more familiar with the position. On a day where the Doonhamers sat in and frustrated the Pars for long periods, Dykes did a great job breaking up play...no more so than to set up the visitors' smash-and-grab winner for Josh Todd by winning the ball back with a shoulder-barge on Malaury Martin which was simply filthy. It would be easy to be overshadowed by Stephen Dobbie but in both looks and actions Dykes is very hard to miss. Partick Thistle need to find goals from somewhere The figure in the dugout may have changed, but it was the same old story for Partick Thistle on their travels - a fifth consecutive league defeat away from Firhill that leaves them third from bottom and just two points better off than their conquerors Alloa. Thistle have scored three times in those games - but all were consolation goals in defeats at Dundee United and Inverness. In fact it's one win in seven in all competitions and the lack of confidence was plain to see at the Recreation Ground. A goal threat would help a bit. Thistle's forwards have a total of one league goal between them this season and Miles Storey, who has started all ten of their league games, remains barren. The introduction at last of Souleymane Coulibaly, who made his debut on Saturday as a sub, brings some hope; admittedly, the Ivorian looked really rusty but with Storey looking like a lost cause and Kris Doolan possibly a fading force Thistle need him to get up to speed quickly if they are to salvage their season. Laszlo might actually have left Dundee United in decent shape Csaba Laszlo will not be mourned in the slightest by supporters of Dundee United, but his legacy may prove a bit less toxic than expected. The Hungarian probably wouldn't have got the best out of them, but his last two signings have made a real difference to the Terrors at both ends of the pitch. Rachid Bouhenna has looked solid at centre-back and will only improve with more game time, while Pavol Safranko has impressed up front, keeping Nicky Clark and Craig Curran out of the team. His aerial prowess showed up again with a bullet header to score against Caley Thistle and he did a great job of leading the line alone again - which in turn allows United to play a bunch of creative midfielders who can provide him with ammunition. The Slovakian may be the best thing Laszlo ever did for United, though it will be Robbie Neilson who reaps the benefits. 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
  25. For those of us bored to tears by Celtic's seven consecutive and pretty much unchallenged titles, and who grew up during the era of Rangers' nineties nine in a row, the current Scottish Premiership table makes for good reading. League Table Scottish Premiership Team P GD Pts 1 Hearts 8 8 19 2 Hibernian 8 13 17 3 Celtic 8 9 16 4 Kilmarnock 8 6 16 5 Livingston 8 3 15 6 Rangers 8 10 14 7 Aberdeen 8 2 12 8 St Johnstone 8 -11 8 9 Hamilton 8 -10 6 10 Motherwell 8 -6 5 11 St Mirren 8 -13 4 12 Dundee 8 -11 3 Hearts lost at Ibrox last time out but they're still top, and with Hibernian just behind them. The SPFL are going to have a real headache after the split this season, as they work out when to schedule the Edinburgh derby title decider. I jest, I jest. There are thirty league games left. That's plenty of time for a return to the status quo. It's just a blip. Or is it? Steve Clarke celebrated a year as Kilmarnock manager this week. Remembering they were bottom of the league when he took over in October 2017 - and had won their first league game of the season only two days before, under caretaker management - I went and looked at his stats for those 12 months in charge. Kilmarnock's league record under Steve Clarke: Played 37 Won20 Drawn 9 Lost 8 Scored 55 Conceded 41 69 points That is really rather outstanding https://t.co/9QEO6UrXGw β€” Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) October 14, 2018 You've got to say that's pretty impressive. For comparison, his three predecessors (Lee McCulloch, Lee Clark and Gary Locke) won 21 league games between them...out of 99. Clarke is the first Kilmarnock manager with a win percentage above 45% since Willie Waddell, who led them to their only title in 1964-65. Then for interest, I thought I would compare Clarke's record between October 2017 and now with other clubs. Points since Steve Clarke became Kilmarnock manager a year ago: Celtic 75 Hibernian 71 Kilmarnock 69 Rangers 67 Aberdeen 62 Hearts 56 (NB note how well Hibs have done, too!)β€” Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) October 14, 2018 That's over a 37 game period, so not quite a full league season's worth. But that is quite a big sample size. And in that sample, Killie have more points than everyone except Celtic...and, er, Hibs. Hibs? Yeah. Because it turns out Hibs have been terrific too. For a whole year - in 2018 they have lost only three league games, away at Celtic, Hearts and Livingston. Despite losing John McGinn in August they've kept going and their 6-0 annihilation of Hamilton Accies was frighteningly good. A league table for the whole of 2018 so far would look like this: Hibernian 49 Kilmarnock 49 (played 1 game extra) Celtic 47 Rangers 44 Aberdeen 42 Hearts 38 Heck, Hibs have scored fifty league goals than anyone else - only Rangers (fifty-two) have more - and have the joint best goal difference (with Celtic, +25). That isn't a blip, not at all. That's sustained success. And you know, it's actually Hearts who are top of the league. Of course, as I stated earlier, there's plenty of time for things to reset to the default. Celtic have such an advantage both in quality and depth and over a whole season that tends to shine through. And in resource terms, Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Kilmarnock aren't even fighting at the same weight as Rangers, let alone their neighbours. But the conditions for a diddy team title challenge have not been this favourable for a long, long time. Both Celtic and Rangers have to battle on multiple fronts because of their Europa League progress. Aside from international weeks, neither have a free midweek until just before Christmas. With Rangers still a bit short on numbers and Brendan Rodgers seeming to lack trust in his backup players, there's a real chance of fatigue setting in. And whilst their wage bills are dwarved by those at the other end of the M8, both Edinburgh clubs have put together teams that are far closer in quality to Celtic's for a long, long time. Sure, part of that is down to Celtic stagnating a bit, but most of it is due to the excellent work down by Hearts and Hibs. So whilst it is understandable that Celtic are still massive odds-on favourites - 1/4 with most bookies - to win the title, since when has there even been a 20% chance that they wouldn't do so? Miracles do happen. And, even better, perhaps a miracle is no longer needed for there to be a proper title battle in Scotland. 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