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Everything posted by hislopsoffsideagain

  1. Firstly, Todorov has been on the books of Nottingham Forest (2014-15), Hearts (2016-18) and Falkirk (2019) and had loan spells at Livingston and Queen of the South. Anyone who watches lower league Scottish football will at least have heard of him. Secondly, "unknown goat herder from Bulgaria" has racist overtones and should be called out as such. I'll judge our players on their performances and attitudes, not their nationalities.
  2. It'll be interesting to see how the views of older and younger supporters compare - those who joined the ranks after 2004 and are used to top flight football will be familiar with higher quality players, whereas those who watched the club in the lower leagues will have attachments to those who stood out in the early days...and to the ones who went ballistic! My own opinion is that Ross Tokely, Bobby Mann, Charlie Christie, Barry Wilson and Dennis Wyness should be shoo-ins. What that quintet accomplished in our colours is astonishing. Tokely, Christie and Wilson played for us in all four divisions, Bobby is surely our greatest ever captain, and Dennis' goalscoring was astonishing (as were his stepovers!). As for the other choices, I like the idea of an exception being made for Alan Hercher, our first club captain and scorer of a hat-trick in our first league game. As Charlie Christie himself put it, “Alan was more than a terrific football player; he was a terrific individual who was hugely respected by all those who played alongside him and against him." Besides, I don't think there is a real standout in the other options to fill the second central midfield spot anyway! My own XI: Jim Calder - the last Thistle player, a proper cult hero and one of the stars of that night at Celtic Park Ross Tokely - more appearances for the club than anyone else by miles - that record will surely never be broken Bobby Mann - our greatest ever captain and an outstanding centre-half. His ability to ping the ball to a teammate 40 yards away was astonishing at that level Grant Munro - always seemed like the second-best central defender we had at any one time, but a local product who made over 300 appearances for the club and would have been a one club man if Terry Butcher had allowed it! Graeme Shinnie - captained us to Scottish Cup glory. Consistently one of the best left-backs in the country while playing for us and has gone onto international recognition Barry Wilson - immense in his first spell at the club, and scored two of the most special goals of the early era - vs Celtic and Motherwell in the Cup. Came back from Livingston to help us to promotion and was an important factor in our first few top flight campaigns. Now on the coaching staff Charlie Christie - the last Caledonian player, seemed to get better as we went up the leagues and orchestrated the attacks in the gung-ho Pele days. His spell as manager was better than was often acknowledged. Now our head of youth development Ian Black (if I can't have Hercher) - the toughest pick to make. I went for a midfielder who always gave everything, who liked a tackle but could also pass the ball beautifully (I would happily pick Russell Duncan, Ross Draper and Paul Sheerin here too) Jonny Hayes - the second toughest pick to make, because it means leaving out Barry Robson. But Hayes was my favourite ICT player of the last decade. No tricks, just pace, balance and a work-rate that 99% of wingers don't have. A wonderful player who deserves all the success he's had since he left us Dennis Wyness - our record goalscorer, and a technically gifted player who was a joy to watch Billy Mckay - could just as easily choose Richie Foran, Paul Ritchie, Adam Rooney or Iain Stewart here but Mckay's goalscoring between 2012 and 2015 was mental.
  3. Alloa Athletic: what will life after Goodwin be like? Jim Goodwin's successor will join the Wasps at an awkward time, in that the club have signed up a load of players that Goodwin wanted; in fact the squad now is about the same size as it was last season before it was augmented with savvy loan signings. The new Alloa boss will need to decide whether he can pull off the same trick with temporary transfers or convince the chairman to find the money for a few more new faces, as well as ponder what to do with the ones he has inherited. It doesn't help that Goodwin will be such a hard act to follow - avoiding relegation once was a miracle, but to do it twice would be...er....what's even more unlikely than a miracle? Arbroath: can the League One winners make the step up? Dick Campbell actually admitted to the BBC that he will have to dip into the loan market to strengthen his team further, though out of necessity he has stuck with the guys that won promotion. There simply isn't anyone out there who will play for part-time wages and who is better than the Red Lichties already have. The trouble is that what they already have - as you'd expect - are players who are either in the twilight of their careers or who couldn't cut it at full-time clubs. Campbell is a master at making his team stronger than the sum of their parts, but after two promotions with Arbroath this could be a step too far. Ayr United - how will they cope with losing so many key players? Everyone knows about Lawrence Shankland's exit, but Ayr have also lost defenders Michael Rose and Liam Smith this summer, while goalkeeper Ross Doohan has returned to parent club Celtic. That quartet were United's four best players last season, and first choice midfielders Robbie Crawford and Declan McDaid have left too. That's a lot of holes to fill, and many of those who are still at the club are, diplomatically speaking, getting on a bit. Mark Kerr (37), Michael Moffat (35), Steven Bell (34) and Andy Geggan (32) are joined by Kris Doolan, a savvy and clever forward who nevertheless is now 32 and scored only six goals last season. Can he really replace the freescoring Shankland? Dundee - can James McPake gel a new team together quickly enough? This blogger wasn't overly impressed with Dundee's early business this window, but he has been appeased by the impressive signings of Jordon Forster and Shaun Byrne. Nevertheless the squad turnover has been huge - only seven senior players remain from the squad that was relegated in May - and integrating the new players will take time. Bear in mind both Partick Thistle and Caley Thistle decimated their squads after relegation and had shocking starts to their first seasons back in the Championship. The risk of this happening at Dens seems high with a rookie manager and some dodgy results in July and August could heap the pressure on McPake...especially if their city rivals get off to a flier. Dundee United - have they any space for further new signings? The SPFL club with the most players over 21 under contract are Rangers. The club with the second most are Dundee United, despite the fact that Robbie Neilson punted pretty everyone whose contract was up. Amongst those still on the payroll at Tannadice are Adam Barton, Fraser Aird, Christoph Rabitsch, Yannick Loemba, Frederic Frans and Sam Wardrop. Expect all seven, plus possibly Callum Booth and Sam Stanton, to be away by the end of August, but how much will it cost to pay off their contracts? And how much leeway do United have to bring in more new players until they go? Thankfully Neilson did decent business in January and the signings he has made are in areas of weakness, with new full-backs (Adrian Sporle and Liam Smith) and a replacement for Pavol Safranko (Lawrence Shankland) signed up. This is a squad that can, and should, win this league. Dunfermline - is their new strategy going to work? "The playing budget, our most significant cost, will need to be reduced significantly. Our focus will be on investing in young, hungry players who are on an upward trajectory in their career, looking to develop those players as future assets which we can then realise to mutual advantage." So stated Dunfermline's board in May. Has any club ever wanted players that aren't 'hungry', by the way? Stevie Crawford retained just seven senior players and has scoured Scotland's lower divisions and English under 23 sides for youngsters...and Paul Paton. With luck, they'll find some gems who can fire them to promotion and earn them a few bucks in transfer fees. But as Falkirk - and Paul Paton - will attest to, when this sort of plan goes wrong, it goes very wrong. Greenock Morton - are we reading too much into the Sutton move? It's been all change at Cappielow this summer with a new manager and only half a dozen senior players retained. Unsurprisingly, David Hopkin has been busy, making eight signings so far. He appears to be staking a lot on Aidan Nesbitt - underwhelming at Dundee United last season - and Robbie Muirhead - a complete non-factor at Dunfermline - fulfilling some of their potential. And while Nicky Cadden and Kyle Jacobs will boost the midfield, the other signings are from League One and the English non-leagues; are they rough diamonds, or are they just cheap? The worry that it is the latter has been exacerbated by the fanfare over John Sutton re-registering as a player. 35 year old Sutton hung up his boots a year ago and to be honest looked past it well before then. Is this just a prudent move to make sure he's an option in an emergency? Or is it a sign that Morton's budget is really tight? Inverness CT - how will they replace Liam Polworth? Whatever Caley Thistle supporters thought of Polworth, the bottom line is that he was an assist machine both from open play and set pieces. Now he's gone to Motherwell they'll have to find a new source of goalscoring chances. Pre-season signs are that John Robertson is moving towards a 4-4-2 with James Keatings as a second striker. Inverness do have two excellent wide players in Aaron Doran and Tom Walsh, and the burden of supplying Keatings and Jordan White is likely to fall on them. The flipside is that it will be harder to dominate the midfield area and get possession further ip the pitch in the first place. Partick Thistle - are there enough goals in this side? The surprise return of Scott Fox to Firhill, and the return from injury of Tam O'Ware should give Thistle a good defensive foundation to build upon. At the other end, it's a different matter. The club's top three league scorers - Blair Spittal, Kris Doolan and Scott McDonald - have all left, and they were hardly goal machines. If Aidan Fitzpatrick moves to Norwich as expected then there will be no-one left who scored more than two league goals last season. At the moment Caldwell's options are Lewis Mansell, who did enough on loan from Blackburn last season to earn a permanent deal but who is very raw, and 39 year old Kenny Miller. Has Miller got enough left in the tank? We'll see. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Fitzpatrick money is used to strengthen the attack further, and last month they were linked with a loan move for Rangers' Zak Rudden, who would be an excellent addition. Queen of the South - will Allan Johnston have to perform some magic? Lack of money is a bit of a theme here, isn't it? Johnston saved the Doonhamers from the drop after being parachuted in for the playoff games, but only six players remain from last season's squad (thankfully, one of them is Stephen Dobbie). Some will have been surplus to requirements but Jordan Marshall, Kyle Jacobs, Josh Todd and Michael Doyle got better offers from other full-time clubs. Johnston has brought in five players so far, four of whom are in their second spell at the club - getting back Callum Semple looks like a real coup - but reports of sixteen trialists been used in a friendly match suggest he's still scratching around. And at the time of writing, less than a fortnight before the League Cup games start, he has a grand total of zero midfield players. Not an ideal situation. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  4. Loving this idea, which was mentioned in this article for the club website - https://ictfc.com/ict25-blog-liam-dalgarno So let the debate begin! Here's the 47 players who have made more than 100 appearances for the club - please point out any I've missed! There are obviously a few utility players there (*cough* David Proctor *cough*) who could be put in another position. Goalkeepers: Mark Brown, Jim Calder, Ryan Esson Right-backs: David Proctor, David Raven, Mike Teasdale, Ross Tokely Centre-backs: Darren Dods, Bobby Mann, Stuart McCaffrey, Brad McKay, Josh Meekings, Grant Munro, Mike Noble, Gary Warren Left-backs: Stuart Golabek, Richard Hastings, Graeme Shinnie, Carl Tremarco Central midfielders: Ian Black, Paul Cherry, Charlie Christie, Ross Draper, Russell Duncan, Richie Hart, Liam Keogh, Mark McCulloch, Liam Polworth, Paul Sheerin, Greg Tansey, Iain Vigurs Wide midfielders: Aaron Doran, Jonny Hayes, Roy McBain, Barry Robson, Davie Ross, Nick Ross, Danny Williams. Barry Wilson Strikers: Martin Bavidge, Graham Bayne, Richie Foran, Billy Mckay, Paul Ritchie, Adam Rooney, Iain Stewart, Dennis Wyness Obviously I'm disappointed I can't pick Vetle Andersen or Marius Niculae, but never mind Who would you have in your ICT25 Dream Team?
  5. Credit where credit's due - that is one terrific kit.
  6. Aberdeen: how hard will this window hit them? Graeme Shinnie has gone. Gary Mackay-Steven has gone. Max Lowe's loan spell has finished. And Celtic are sniffing around Scott McKenna again. It felt like the Dons took a small step backwards last season, and the same could happen this time around unless Derek McInnes has some decent signings up his sleeve - Craig Bryson counts as one, though on last year's showing James Wilson wouldn't. Celtic: do they have a plan? There may well have been a bit of gamesmanship involved in the David Turnbull saga, but there's a danger of the whole "magnificent offer" malarkey becoming the club's Concomitant moment. More concerning was the leaking of the team's transfer plans for the summer, partly because it was leaked and partly because the names were either uninspiring or unrealistic.With Kieran Tierney being courted by Arsenal and ex-messiah Brendan Rodgers sniffing around Callum McGregor, there's a risk of significant upheaval - exactly what the Neil Lennon appointment was designed to minimize. As for loan signings, West Brom's criticism of how Lennon treated Oli Burke might put other clubs off sending their youngsters to Parkhead. Hamilton: does everyone really want to play for Brian Rice? The theme of Accies' offseason seems to be that every new signing waxes lyrical about the skills of the club's Head Coach. Rice had a strong reputation as an assistant manager but the way some of his players are talking seems to suggest he's Pep Guardiola. To be fair though Hamilton's results, performances and style improved after he took over in January - though that wasn't hard given the rut Martin Canning left them in. If he has a squad that buys into his ethos then Hamilton's chances of avoiding a relegation battle are far better. Hearts: what's their philosophy? Hearts were unfairly lambasted for being a physical, long ball team last season. The truth is that their best stuff came when they were a physical long ball team, but they didn't play like that enough. Their spirited cup final performance seems to have bought Craig Levein a bit of breathing space but he's got to do better than sixth in the league with the resources he has available. One option is to gamble on the talented youngsters he has available; there are 18 players on Hearts' books who are under 21 but have played for the first team already, and Aaron Hickey, Harry Cochrane, Callumn Morrison and Anthony McDonald look particularly special. But does Levein - and the Tynecastle support - have the patience to deal with the inevitable ups and downs that would come with throwing in the kids? Hibernian: is Heckingbottom a good recruiter? There's been a high turnover at Easter Road, which is out of necessity - they had a ton of loan players - rather than because Paul Heckingbottom specifically wanted to bring in his own squad. And apart from Stephane Omeonga and Marc McNulty Hibs have only lost fringe players. But there's a significant lack of depth, particularly up front which needs corrected. Basically if Hibs are to push on they need to either find a new McNulty (or retain the old one) or hope Flo Kamberi gets his mojo back. Kilmarnock: what does Alessio have in mind? The appointment of Angelo Alessio is exciting, but Killie have essentially lost a month's worth of recruitment time and currently have just one striker on the books. Given his experience and contacts it wouldn't be a surprise if the Italian manager looked to the continent for new players; Killie fans live in hope that Antonio Conte might offer up some of his Internazionale youngsters on loan! In the meantime there's only two weeks before the clash with the mighty Connah's Quay Nomads... Motherwell: how should they spend the Turnbull cash? The windfall that the 'Well will receive for David Turnbull - apparently £2.8million plus add-ons - is approximately half the club's annual turnover. It will be interesting to see how much gets put back into the playing squad budget. In recent times they have been financially prudent and they will doubtless know that splashing the cash on new players and big wages will come back to bite them. And Stephen Robinson has already made six signings in this window. On the flipside there is now a fifteen-goal-shaped-hole in the centre of midfield that needs filled. Rangers: can they get any return on their dead wood? Eros Grezda, Kyle Lafferty, Graeme Dorrans, Jason Holt, Eduardo Herrera, Joe Dodoo, plus surely one of the backup keepers...anyone else in Rangers' bloated squad that they are desperate to get rid of? (edit - Jordan Rossiter, it turns out) The trouble with everyone knowing the players are surplus to requirements is that getting any sort of fee for them is rather hard. But the Gers' early dealings seem to suggest that there won't be a repeat of the big spending of the last two summers unless they raise the money through sales. And flogging Alfredo Morelos and/or James Tavernier would come with significant risk. Ross County: are they actually getting stronger? County have shown loyalty to the squad that got them promoted by signing nearly all of them on for another year. When you have the support of someone like Roy McGregor, you can afford to do that even if it costs you later. But one would expect new signings to upgrade the starting eleven. Instead we have Joe Chalmers and Blair Spittal, neither of whom are better than what the Staggies already have in their positions, and two goalkeepers in Chelsea loanee Nathan Baxter and Hibs no.3 Ross Laidlaw, who are probably not an improvement on Scott Fox. Surely there will be more new faces, but they need quality, not depth. St. Johnstone: can they get a goalscorer? Only once in the last five years has a Saintee got into double figures for league goals. Whilst that wasn't such a huge factor when Steven Maclean was linking up play and helping set them up for teammates, Tommy Wright can't call on anyone of that calibre just now. Chris Kane is willing but hasn't developed as well as hoped, Callum Hendry is still raw and David McMillan is a bust. The trouble is, everyone wants a striker who can score goals; can Wright find one and convince him to come to Perth? St. Mirren: what the hell is going on? At the time of writing, Oran Kearney is on the brink of being punted, allegedly because he insists on commuting from Norn Iron. That would leave the Buddies looking for their eighth manager in five years just a few weeks before the League Cup games start. To make matters worse they have relatively few players under contract and this fiasco will hold up further signings; Mihai Popescu had turned up for training on Monday but doesn't know if he'll actually be kept on or not. This shambles will be very difficult for Kearney's successor to rectify. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  7. This is a fair assessment. When we signed Vincent the first time round we had just lost Andrew Shinnie. Whilst Vincent was a different sort of player he initially slotted into that advanced midfield role and gave us a different sort of attacking threat. We weren't particularly worse off as a result. However after he got an injury or two and Yogi came in he spent a lot more time playing wide which never seemed to be a good position for him. I wonder where Robbo intends to play him - in the areas that Polworth used to operate in, or in a more deeper 'Chalmers' role like the one he was playing at Dundee and Dunfermline?
  8. I remember Todorov having a blinder against us for Livingston in Autumn 2017...as a centre-back! The fact he can play there too won't do us any harm at all. I seem to recall that Livingston were quite fond of him when he played for them in League One and the Championship but he had a loan spell at QOS that was nothing special and spent the second half of last season stuck on Falkirk's bench. He's still relatively young though and Robbo knows him well - and presumably knows how to get the most out of him.
  9. Steve Clarke's first couple of games in charge will have given him an idea of what he has to work with. In some areas he is pretty well off, but in others he's either going to have to hope some players really improve or he's going to have to compensate for the deficiencies. Here's how his options look at each position, going from our strongest area to our weakest... LEFT-BACK Greg Taylor did himself proud in Brussels with a tenacious, committed performance. He's got a bright future ahead of him...as Scotland's third choice at the position. That's how spoilt we are for left-backs. Captain Andrew Robertson will of course be the starter whenever he has two working legs. MIDFIELD Against Cyprus, we could field John McGinn and Kenny McLean, both of whom will be first choices for Premier League clubs next season, and Callum McGregor, arguably the best player in Scotland over the last two years. For the Belgium match in came Manchester United's Scott McTominay and, in a more advanced role, Stuart Armstrong of Southampton. For future matches where an attacking playmaker is needed, Clarke will be able to call upon Tom Cairney - who, going by his willingness to come along just to be a sub, clearly had a beef with Alex McLeish - and Ryan Christie, who missed this double-header with injury. There's also John Fleck, promoted to the English top flight with Sheffield United and who understandably declined to postpone his wedding for this round of games. We may not have an absolute world class talent, but we are pretty stacked at this position. OUT WIDE The setup against Cyprus shows that Clarke is not wedded to the 4-4-2/4-4-1-1 that worked so well for him at Kilmarnock - which is just as well as the pace and dribbling of Ryan Fraser and James Forrest are our two best attacking assets. The caveat is that there is not a lot of depth; Johnny Russell started wide against Belgium because of his fresh legs and willingness to do defensive work, while Robert Snodgrass and Matt Ritchie remain out of the international picture and Matt Phillips has disappeared from contention. GOALKEEPER David Marshall justified his recall and is probably an adequate option going forward. But I don't blame Clarke for trying to convince Jed Steer of Aston Villa and Angus Gunn of Southampton to join the fray. I also don't blame him for not rushing to anoint Scott Bain as first choice. The best case scenario is that Liam Kelly, still only 23, continues to blossom when he leaves Livingston this summer. RIGHT-BACK At the moment, the choice is between natural right-back Stephen O'Donnell (or Liam Palmer, though all I've seen of him was that Kazakhstan debacle), former right-back Callum Paterson who now plays his club football in midfield or up front, or shoehorning Kieran Tierney into this position. I personally don't mind the latter, but an awful lot of folk disagree. Regardless, none of the options are ideal. CENTRE-BACK The potential is there; Scott McKenna and John Souttar clearly have bright futures, while Stuart Findlay thoroughly deserved his call-up and David Bates hasn't disgraced himself when called upon. All four are 23 or under. What odds that two of them can step up and become the type of central defender Scotland used to have loads of in the eighties and nineties? In the meantime, Clarke has felt obliged to insert Charlie Mulgrew into the lineup as much for his experience as anything else, and will also fancy that he has the tactical nous to cover up some of the deficiencies in the backline. Oh, and this is another position I can see Tierney end up playing in... STRIKER Given the time constraints, it's so much easier to coach an international team to defend than to attack. And so having a centre forward who can do it on his own can make a middling side so much more dangerous - think Gareth Bale of Wales or Robert Lewandowski of Poland. In the last two matches Scotland played...Eamonn Brophy and Oli Burke. Brophy was a 'devil you know' option who knows exactly what Clarke wants from his front men, which is great in terms of defending from the front but he offered zilch in attacking threat. Burke gave us a microcosm of his career so far; twenty excellent minutes against Cyprus where he looked dangerous and showed his full array of physical attributes followed by a start against Belgium where he looked like a headless chicken and justified concerns about his football IQ with a series of bad decisions. He's still only 22; surely there's a player there? As for the others, the best long-term hope might be Oli McBurnie who scored 22 goals in the Championship last season, but in the immediate future Steven Fletcher's experience and quality link-up play may make him first choice. Alternatively, Leigh Griffiths may come back from his absence as sharp as he was two years ago. But sadly the most likely outcome is that Scotland are going to have to look to other areas of the team for goals. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  10. We won This is the most important thing to take away. Realists would acknowledge that Steve Clarke has had barely any time at all to get the hang of this international management malarkey and has been denied the luxury of training camps and friendlies to get his ideas across before competitive action; therefore a lack of cohesion was inevitable. You don't find many realists in football crowds though, as the half-time jeers indicated. The Tartan Army's patience has long been exhausted and just because Clarke was a popular choice didn't mean that they would tolerate toiling against a country ranked 89th in the world by FIFA. The victory may not have been convincing but it's the same number of points as we'd have got by thumping them. And it largely shields Clarke and a squad low on morale and belief from further pressure and criticism. With the trip to Brussels on Tuesday something of a free hit - nobody expects a positive result there - the focus can now move onto the next round of matches in September and, realistically, building a team that can win the Nations League playoffs and qualify for Euro 2020 that way. A decent striker would make the world of difference Having a world-class striker that opponents need to plan for can make such a difference - just look at Poland (Robert Lewandowski) or Wales (Gareth Bale). Scotland simply don't have that; here they also missed Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths and Oli McBurnie who all might have fancied themselves as the starting centre-forward had they been fit. The obvious logic to picking Eamonn Brophy was that Clarke likes his attackers to defend from the front and as a Kilmarnock player Brophy could do that job without a second thought. And he did it fine. The problem was that 'the wolf' offered no bite. Apologists will say he was starved of service but in truth Brophy struggled to get even half a yard of space on his markers in open play and when he did so he was generally offside. James Forrest and, in the second half, Ryan Fraser got into plenty of dangerous positions but Brophy was never in a position to feed off them. He was, sadly, out of his depth. Whilst he was up against tired legs, Oli Burke looked so much brighter, linking up play with intelligent headers and stretching the game with his pace. Even before his goal he looked like someone had hooked him up to an intravenous drip of confidence before coming on. This was the Burke we've been waiting for ever since RB Leipzig paid £15million for him, but he needs to do it for more than twenty minutes to become a viable first choice up front. At least there was a clear plan and shape Coming up with a plan of attack is so much harder for a coach than getting the defence organized - and even more so at international level because of the lack of time available to work with players. But even at this early stage the difference between McLeish's Scotland and Clarke's Scotland was night and day. The attackers and midfielders clearly knew their roles without the ball and once the first ten minutes had passed and they had adjusted to Cyprus' surprise decision to play a back three the home side completely controlled the game. Unlike during his predecessor's tenure, it was also clear that the boss had done his homework; I was perturbed by the lack of defensive midfielder in the lineup, but Clarke clearly anticipated that there would be few defensive responsibilities needed in that area and so deployed a more technical player, Kenny McLean, in that position. Clarke also made important changes at half-time, instructing Callum McGregor to get higher up the pitch and encouraging Ryan Fraser to carry the ball instead of crossing early. These contributed significantly to the improved second half performance. Cyprus never actually looked much like scoring Yes, I know that sounds daft given that they did score but David Marshall made one save in each half and could have spent long periods leaning on the post doing Su Doku puzzles. I was supremely confident that we'd see it out at 1-0 because the players looked like they knew exactly what they were doing and actually looked more likely to score than Cyprus did. And whilst they were let down by a rare lapse by Andrew Robertson, who blotted his copybook by losing his marker at a corner, the back four looked really comfortable in open play. Scott McKenna had arguably his best game in a Scotland shirt, undoubtedly helped by having an experienced partner in Charlie Mulgrew. What next? The next four qualifiers are Belgium away, Russia at home, Belgium at home, Russia away. Ooft. It's certainly not all that unlikely we won't win any of them - and even if we do the chances of finishing second in the group are minimal unless we can get four points or more off at least one of those two teams. Realistically the onus has to be performance rather than results, with next spring the priority. Rome wasn't built in a day. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  11. When I saw the 'volunteers required' headline I assumed maybe they wanted a lick of paint on the walls, not something like this. I appreciate the club are going through an 'austerity' period just now, but is it reasonable to ask for people with specialist skills like digger operators and dumper drivers to do this sort of work for no pay? Personally, I don't think so.
  12. At the end of April, as relegation - and the departure of Jim McIntyre - became increasingly certain, Dundee issued a statement on their website to reassure fans about the present and the future. Among the topics touched upon was the process used to appoint McIntyre. "This process starts with consulting our continuously maintained working list of potential candidates for analysis of multiple criteria. This list is purely statistical, allowing us to see how many games have been managed, at what level, and what the win percentages are at that time. Then we start to rank the managers based on those criteria. Recently we had changed our philosophy of bringing on younger, inexperienced managers to ones that have had over 300 matches in charge and a win percentage at a level around 40%. We then take into account what else they have achieved, saving clubs from relegation, winning trophies and how they have managed their recruiting process." Following McIntyre's exit, Managing Director John Nelms confirmed that, essentially, the next manager would be recruited using similar criteria. That is presumably how the club came to the conclusion that John Robertson should be invited to interview; according to Caley Thistle they approached Robertson first - who turned them down then grassed them up to his employer - and then felt the need to phone Caley Thistle the next day anyway to ask for permission, which was of course declined. On the one hand that account should be taken with a pinch of salt, as ICT's new Chief Operating Officer has 'history' with Dundee. But their cackhanded attempt to recruit St. Mirren's Jack Ross two summers ago - having ignored the Buddies' objections, they flew out to Spain to meet him on holiday, and he rebuffed them - suggests that there may be a grain of truth in there. And so from that criteria and a huge number of applicants, the Dark Blues have appointed...Academy coach James McPake, who currently has one match under his belt as a manager (as caretaker for the last game of the season) and a win percentage of zero. Whether McPake was even the first choice is open to debate. It has been reported that Dundee had agreed compo with Alloa for Jim Goodwin, who did a frankly extraordinary job to keep the part-time Wasps in the Championship last season and who certainly deserves a crack at a full-time job. But rumour has it that Goodwin pulled out because the club were not happy that he wanted to keep his assistant from Alloa rather than appoint 'an experienced head' to work with him. Given that McIntyre undoubtedly suffered from not having his preferred number two Billy Dodds beside him due to a fan backlash over Dodds' history with the club, it would certainly be interesting if the board chose to interfere in this way. Regardless, McPake has ended up with Jimmy Nicholl. If you looked up 'experienced assistant manager' in the dictionary you'd probably find a picture of Nicholl. Gordon Strachan is also involved in an advisory capacity. One hopes that this will not include giving McPake lessons on dealing with the media. But there's no getting around it - Dundee drop into the Championship with a rookie manager and at the time of writing just nine players aged over 21. That number includes 39 year old Kenny Miller and 34 year old Andrew Davies (who has been injured since he arrived in January and who eschewed the chance to play in this division for Ross County) as well as club player of the year Nathan Ralph who is set to exploit a relegation clause in his contract to return to England. So McPake has some recruiting to do, and quickly. And there's no question that he is at high risk of experiencing the same problems that Dundee United, Inverness and Partick Thistle did in recent years following relegation: a huge squad turnover (with, in the case of the former two, a new boss as well) and a dicey start as an essentially new team takes time to gel and which is exacerbated by the pressure of poor early results. That is presumably one of the areas where Dundee hope Strachan can provide significant aid. The flip side is that he will not be left short on the budget front. Since Nelms and Tim Keyes, with their consortium FPS, took over the club in 2013 they have been generous financially - for the first five seasons losses have totalled £2.3m despite the sale of players like Kane Hemmings, Greg Stewart and Jack Hendry for decent fees. Expect a further financial hit following this nightmare season, and another for the upcoming Championship campaign with the massive costcutting and reduced income that it entails. They've also been remarkably patient despite a constant failure by Paul Hartley, Neil McCann and finally McIntyre to meet the targets (usually a top six finish) that have been set and budgeted for. Luckily for the fans these are not egotistic, unscrupulous owners who interfere above their station and are looking to make a quick buck. They simply appear to be honking at appointing managers. Maybe they've struck it lucky this time with McPake. And optimistic supporters can point to the success of Ross County's homegrown duo of Steven Ferguson and Stuart Kettlewell as a sign that appointing from within can work. But they got to work with the bulk of the squad that went down, and competed with a Dundee United side that took six months to sort themselves out. McPake faces a far harder task this coming season. Will he be up to it? Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  13. A treble is a pretty impressive feat. A treble-treble is cause for a massive blowout. One wonders though whether Celtic's decision to announce their intention to keep Neil Lennon as manager, just minutes after the Scottish Cup Final finished, will have enhanced the celebrations or tempered them? Back in mid-February, when Brendan Rodgers suddenly legged it for Leicester, bringing Lennon in as 'a safe pair of hands' made sense. With the club eight points clear in the league with just eleven games to go, he knew the club well and could be relied on not to do anything daft with the team...though it could be argued even I (and possibly even Ronny Deila) could have guided them over the line. It was Lennon who got them there though, winning the title by nine points and adding the Scottish Cup to the bargain. His record since returning: fourteen matches, ten wins, three draws and just a single defeat. That certainly seems to justify keeping him in the dugout. And yet. That nine point gap to second place is the smallest in the Eight-In-A-Row era. The gap between Celtic and the rest is already narrowing, and whilst some of that is because Rangers are finally beginning to justify some of the huge outlay on their squad it is also because Celtic are not the force they were during the first 18 months of the Rodgers regime - though the December defeat at Ibrox seemed to have shaken both the manager and the players out of a bit of a slump. But results have been satisfactory Celtic simply haven't passed the eye test in the last three months. The Scottish Cup Final was a microcosm of his second tenure. They struggled to break down an organized, motivated opponent. Flair players were starved of the ball and unable to find pockets of space in the way they did in Rodgers' day. Attacks became predictable - either through Jonny Hayes on the left or hopeful high crosses from deep. And eventually after a scare they pulled through only via a very late winner. Too often the starting eleven have looked ill-equipped for any surprises sprung by the opposition...or even for the opposition full stop; there was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about Hearts' shape or strategy and yet seemingly little thought had been put into counteracting it. These ponderous starts are now a habit. In fourteen matches they have scored only six times in the first half. Aberdeen, Livingston and Hibernian all managed to keep them out for ninety minutes - the former two at Parkhead, where they did manage to scrape past Kilmarnock 1-0. Only in the last 10 minutes did they find winners against Dundee, Rangers and Hearts (twice). The two derbies provide the most concerning evidence for the Celtic support. At Celtic Park the home side toiled against ten men despite going a goal up; a Rodgers side would have gone for the jugular but instead they looked cagey and allowed Rangers back into the match. When James Forrest struck the winner with four minutes left you would not have confidently said it was with the run of play. Far worse was the post-split return game. In ordinary circumstances, with the title won, one could forgive some casualness but against Rangers at Ibrox? Lennon himself criticized his players' performances and attitude. Cynics pointed out whose job it was to motivate them. In spite of this the club have decided to keep him. The most obvious reason is that they couldn't find an alternative they were happy with. It could be argued that the chances of finding someone of Rodgers' calibre were minimal (with hindsight, the fact they had a coach of his reputation and ability for two and a half years is astounding) and memories of Deila, a high-risk, unproven candidate who proved to be more John Barnes than Jose Mourinho, are still too fresh. There's also less than seven weeks until the Champions League qualifiers start, and so not much time for a new man to get his ideas across. And maybe a summer of clever recruitment and of retuning the players to the way he wants them to play will get Celtic firing on all cylinders again. After all, Lennon proved in his first spell at the club that he can set up a team - Barcelona, anyone? But then there's his recent work. He has displayed little nous on the touchline this time around. His departure from Hibernian wasn't down to results on the park but he left them eighth in the league with just two wins out of fourteen. And it seems incredible that with three months to scour the globe, the board couldn't come up with a better option than the in-house candidate - or at least one whose football philosophy is more akin to the one left behind by Rodgers. And 2019-20 is likely to be a pivotal season for Celtic. Last season they were reminded what it means to miss out on Champions League riches - a £20million hole that has to be filled through player sales and difficulty recruiting quality players as well as retaining them. Each time they miss out, their financial advantage over domestic opposition - particularly to Rangers - decreases. And most gallingly, they are so close to the mythical Ten In A Row that they can almost taste the despair of Rangers fans. It seemed a sure thing as long as Rodgers was at the helm. Now, there is cause for others to believe they can stop it...and for Celtic to start doubting they can pull it off. Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  14. I think there was more anxiety in the crowd than on the pitch at 0-1 down. Certainly there wasn't much in the way of panic, though we didn't play all that well. Ayr weren't all that adventurous and couldn't believe their luck when they picked us off on the counterattack. It's hard to think of another clearcut opening for them though. I thought our forward line didn't really click today, and we didn't get enough in an attacking sense from our full-backs until Rooney came on. Ayr clearly identified McHattie as the weak link and McDaid gave him a hard time. I would feel happier if Tremarco were fit on Tuesday. It's going to be hard to get past Dundee United - let alone a Premiership team after that - but I still feel we have a chance if we can keep our best players fit and get some momentum up.
  15. Thanks for all the kind words, folks. Having listened back I got a bit excited when Donaldson scored and I hope I didn't damage anyone's eardrums! It'll be back to BBC and BTSport coverage on Tuesday night - not much point in us doing it as well, and the professionals will be using all the tech for their transmissions anyway! Hopefully there'll be more of this next season though, fingers crossed.
  16. 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! 😁
  17. 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 £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 £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
  18. 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.— Callum Crawford (@_crawfordcallum) May 3, 2019 No bias there is there 🙄 — Martin livingstone (@martin_sarina) May 3, 2019 The ugly sisters— 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.— 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 — Narey's Toepoker (@Nareystoepoker) May 3, 2019 Tierney, Christie, Alan mcgregor, tavernier? You just picked glasgow based players names oot a hat or what 😂😂😂😂😂?— Jason 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿💙 (@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.— Jason 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿💙 (@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.— Lewis McKenzie (@Lewis_McKenzie_) May 3, 2019 Ambrose and Kerr ffs. You really must be on the wind up.— Calum (@McgheeCalum) May 3, 2019 What can I say? I'm clearly a popular guy... View the full article
  19. 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
  20. 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 £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 £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 £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 £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
  21. 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 £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 £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 £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
  22. 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.
  23. 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...
  24. 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
  25. 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.