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Everything posted by hislopsoffsideagain

  1. Maybe it was the realisation that Billy Dodds couldn't even beat Raith Rovers that was the end of him. For what it's worth, Caley Thistle only lost to a late goal away from home to a club who went top of the Championship as a result of their victory. And by all accounts the visitors put on their best performance of the season and squandered numerous chances of their own. But Inverness had this absolutely mental record against Rovers where in twenty-three years and thirty-four competitive matches their only defeats had come in penalty shootouts. However bad it got, Raith Rovers was at least a guaranteed point. But not any more. Of course, if that was the actual reason for Dodds' dismissal on Sunday night then that would raise significant questions about the people running the club. But then choosing to sack him after the Raith defeat - rather than after one of the many worse performances and results in recent months - raises enough questions. As does the fact that he is only three months into a new two year contract that he was given after ICT's Scottish Cup Final defeat to Celtic. Oh, and don't forget how the decision on Dodds' future was left all the way until after that match in early June, which was not exactly a show of confidence in the manager and which can hardly have aided preparations for the new season. Or how, despite the club making somewhere between £1million and £1.5million from the aforementioned cup run, the squad actually seems, on paper and in reality, drastically weaker than it was last season. That's not to suggest that Dodds is some sort of victim here. The cup exploits distracted neatly from a lacklustre league campaign as Caley Thistle finished sixth, their lowest finish in twenty-three years (though had they won their last match they would have come third). Whilst some of the criticism of his tactics by supporters was over-the-top, the slow-tempo, possession-based style was exposed by teams that pressed high up the pitch - after all the Scottish Championship is often short of quality but rarely short of energy - and was ineffective when chasing games against defensive-minded teams. But Dodds' first season in charge ended with a playoff final where, at half-time in the second leg in Perth, Caley Thistle fancied their chances of promotion before a second-half capitulation to St. Johnstone. He was not the next Sir Alex Ferguson, but nor was he the next Richie Foran. Sometimes things just go stale; his tenure of more than two seasons is well above the current average shelflife of an SPFL manager. The biggest concerns stretch back to his appointment in the first place. In March 2021 Dodds was brought in as a coach by Neil McCann, who had taken over temporarily after John Robertson stepped out of the dugout for mental health reasons. When it became clear Robertson was 'moving upstairs' to become sporting director, it was McCann's job if he wanted it...but he didn't want it. A few weeks later Dodds was appointed, to the surprise of nobody even though he had never held such a role at a club before. There was certainly nothing in the public domain to suggest the club had conducted an active search for a replacement or even interviewed outside candidates. This left the feeling that Dodds, who already lived locally, was the cheap and easy option. This turn of events felt very reminiscent of Robertson's appointment as Richie Foran's replacement back in 2017. It also leads to understandable suspicion amongst the support that Robertson - whose relationship with the fans has taken a hit recently with his media work for the BBC (or to give out man of the match awards at Brora Rangers) when his club are away from home - will simply be parachuted back in to his old job. That would be the cheap and easy move again, but then we come to the fear that this is the way the board have to go. The aforementioned cup windfall seems to have been used to save the directors from paying the bills this season; that is not all that unreasonable given the club made a loss of more than £800,000 in 2021-22. There are lots of rumours flying around suggesting that things are even worse than that, though to be fair such tales have done the rounds since relegation from the Premiership in 2017. There is no sign of a wealthy benefactor coming over the horizon any time soon, and when one looks at the list of current shareholders the same old names from two decades ago are still there. Directors come and go but there is no sign that newcomers bring about any meaningful change; the most curious one in recent times is Panos Thomas, a retired orthopaedic surgeon whose only notable role in football previously was as the frontman for an attempted takeover of Watford more than a decade ago by the disgraced businessman Laurence Bassini. However in his nine months at the club there has been no sign of anything so exciting happening in the Highlands...except for claims in the last set of accounts that the club is heavily involved in a hydro pump scheme and a battery farm plan, as well as being in position to be part of Inverness' upcoming freeport. If these ideas already sound pie-in-the-sky, the fact they are being touted by CEO Scot Gardiner - who is not exactly well loved amongst Dundee and Hearts supporters for his spells in a similar role at each of these clubs - does not lend them significant credibility. And in football financial prudence is rarely rewarded. One has to run just to stand still. Amongst their Championship opponents are Dundee United, Dunfermline, Ayr United, Queen's Park and Raith, all of whom have significant backing from their ownership. And if Caley Thistle go any further backward it means relegation. That would surely put their full-time status at risk. If the club goes part-time then, given their location, that would in turn surely mean competing for players in the same sort of pool that the likes of Elgin City fish. There would be no realistic way back to even the Championship under those circumstances. In October 2016, St. Mirren pulled the plug on Alex Rae after a nightmare start to their Championship campaign and replaced him with Jack Ross. They still nearly went down that year, but it was the wakeup call they needed. In 2017-18 they were promoted and they have been Premiership stalwarts ever since, a small club punching above their weight in a way rather reminiscent of Caley Thistle a decade ago. Maybe - hopefully - this will be Caley Thistle's St. Mirren moment. Those in charge of the club need to make sure it is, or football in the city may never be the same again. Lawrie Spence has whinged about Scottish football on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007. He has a life outside this blog. Honestly. View the full article
  2. Whilst there are plenty here that are dubious that the board would change manager so soon after giving him a two year deal, I think that the next three games are a real time of danger for Dodds. Raith away and Dundee United at home are two games which it is easy to see us lose. The third is Arbroath away; a defeat there to a club seen as a likely relegation candidate - which would leave us adrift at the bottom with a just a single point from seven league games - would surely induce panic. Also, after the Arbroath match there is just one more game before a two-week international break in October - that three week period (with a caretaker in charge of that game, against Partick Thistle) would give ample time to find a new manager...or to muck around for a while before just reappointing Robbo...
  3. My current take on the squad, by position: Goalkeepers Fine. A good solid number one and a cheap number two who we can just about get by with if Ridgers is injured/suspended/gets dropped for having a hissy fit with the manager. That's about as good as anyone in this division can afford at the position. Right-back There's been nothing so far from Davidson to suggest he is a better option than either Duffy (who Dodds seems to want to play at CB), Carson (who Dodds seems to want to play in midfield) or Hyde (who has struggled badly when deployed here in the past) Left-back Last season Harper looked better in a midfield role, and he is still more defensively suspect than I would like. Nicolson could have made a real push for this position before his injury, which is a blow. Delaney can cover here in an emergency, I guess. Not the biggest priority (see below) but I would love another LB so Harper can play higher up the pitch. Centre-back If we go through the season playing two of Devine (who has clearly lost confidence from not having a reliable partner beside him), Duffy and Delaney here then we could well be relegated. We need at least one and possibly two new central defenders in. Central midfield Welsh and Gilmour might be a decent first choice pairing. But if/when Welsh is out there seems to be a real drop-off. MacGregor might be a capable replacement but he's always injured too! The Carson-Gilmour combination doesn't seem to be working though. Hyde hasn't impressed when given the chance previously. Attacking midfield/wide players Obviously we are very lucky to have Shaw, but we don't seem to have adequately replaced Henderson or Daniel Mackay. It doesn't seem like Doran is up to two games a week (or even much more than cameos off the bench) any more. Longstaff is this season's Steven Boyd - a cheap option with potential (if we're lucky) to be a rough diamond. Attack We don't seem to have a team with the quality to bring the best out of Mckay right now, so hard to know if he's in decline or just being let down. Dodds' tactics mean that Samuels and Brooks are almost always deployed wide, where it is clear neither are especially comfortable. Lodovica is the big target man you throw on when you're desperate and doesn't seem to offer enough to justify a bigger role. For me, the priorities for new signings this week are: 1) Central defence - a new defence rather than a new defender please! 2) Another wide player 3) At least one starting quality full-back
  4. "No defence I see, I have a hunch that he won't replace Deas, Everyone's morale is dropping, we'll never catch County, He's Billy Dodds and he's not okay, We're s**** all night and we're s**** all day"
  5. The Premiership increasingly feels like three separate leagues due to the vast financial that's how I'm going to treat it for this season's preview... THE OLD FIRM/GLASGOW DERBY (delete as applicable) TIER (Finishing outwith the top two, or even less than ten points ahead of third should result in manager and entire squad being hanged, drawn and quartered) CELTIC: they say you should never go back, but for Brendan Rodgers I think an exception can be made. Celtic can be pretty pleased with how they've replaced Ange. The loss of Jota was a surprise and you'd think they will bring in a replacement at some point. Rodgers says they aren't going to spend £15m-plus on any players, but if that's the case - even when you have the Jota cash and the Champions League moolah - then how do you ever realistically expect it to get any better than just sweeping the domestic scene and getting pumped in the Champions League groups? Should still be stronger than Rangers, I think. RANGERS: a lot depends on just how good this new forward line of Danilo, Sam Lammers and Cyriel Dessers is. And a lot depends on whether they can find a consistent partner for Connor Goldson in terms of either form or availability (*cough* John Souttar *cough*). Left-back is also a potential issue with Borna Barisic beginning to regress and Ridvan Yilmaz yet to look like a viable long-term replacement. Jack Butland looks like an upgrade in goal at least. There's too many unknowns here to tip them to win the title but if those front three turn out to be gems then it could be pretty close. THE CONSIDERABLY POORER THAN THE GRUESOME TWOSOME AND CONSIDERABLY RICHER THAN THE REST TIER (finishing second should result in a statue for the manager; finishing sixth or lower, or looking at risk of doing so, will result in the sack) ABERDEEN: Barry Robson looks like a good coach. The recruitment team give the impression they know what they are doing. Now can Aberdeen crack the final part of the code - managing the fixture congestion that will come with a European run? Hearts couldn't pull that off last season and it's not clear the Dons have the numbers yet...especially if Ylber Ramadani leaves. If he stays or is adequately replaced the Ramadani-Clarkson-Shinnie midfield looks like dynamite. Rhys Williams and Slobodan Rubezic (think that first name tells you where his family's political views lay) should adequately replace Ross McCrorie and Liam Scales at the back. and either Or Dadia or Nicky Devlin will at last give them a competent right-wingback. I'm still not sure what the plan on the left is (Jonny Hayes?) but this a starting XI that should fire them to third spot...if they aren't all knackered or injured by Christmas. HEARTS: The dugout situation - seemingly pretending Frankie McAvoy is in charge until they're knocked out of Europe and they can reveal that Steven Naismith was pulling the strings all along - is a bit farcical. If that doesn't extend to the pitch though Hearts should be stronger than last year, especially if the impending signings of Kenneth Vargas and Kayosuke Tagawa give them enough attacking pace to make up for Josh Ginnelly buggering off. A double pivot of Beni Baningime (back at last from long-term injury) and new signing Calum Nieuwenhof should make their midfield stronger, and you've got Cammy Devlin to snap at heels there too. If McAvaismith can get Kye Rowles and Stephen Kingsley back to their best form and Frankie Kent fills in for long term crock Craig Halkett the defence should be formidable too. And Lawrence Shankland is always going to give you a chance. HIBERNIAN: Every time you think Hibs might have got it sussed, they do something so utterly Hibsy to embarrass themselves and the nation, such as getting beaten in Andorra. The big story here though should be them paying £700,000 for Dutch striker Dylan Vente, which is the most money they've spent since they signed a dude who is now a member of the Ecuadorian parliament back in 2001. He had better be good. Elie Youan and Martin Boyle should give them crazy pace up top and Dylan Levitt is a good addition in midfield. Heck, they've even got (very necessary) insurance against David Marshall's form falling off a cliff in new keeper JoJo Wallacott. Like the above duo, Hibs have a very good looking first XI, but their bench isn't too shabby either. The question is whether the players - and the manager - can put it together week in, week out, or whether they will just, well, Hibs it up again. THE DIDDY TIER (Realistic target is sixth, anything higher is a massive success, but first priority has to always be avoiding relegation) DUNDEE: No idea what we're going to get here. Newly promoted, with a new manager in Tony Docherty who is a rookie as a boss but who has huge experience as a coach. He's correctly recognised that the squad was nowhere near good enough for the top flight so he's been busy at both ends, bringing in Trevor Carson in goal and Joe Shaughnessy in defence to provide experience, and using loans from down south to bolster numbers (including getting top scorer Zach Robinson back for another year). There are a couple of Mexicans too to add intrigue. The midfield is very young and inexperienced though. If Docherty can mould a solid lineup quickly and get goals from one of his forwards, they should be okay. But if they start slowly I suspect they'll be near the bottom all season. KILMARNOCK: Were effective but not exactly pretty last season...except for the many occasions where they weren't effective or pretty. Derek McInnes has sensibly looked to revamp the defence - what's his deal with signing loanee defenders? He used loads last season and he's doing it again - with Robbie Deas ready to make the step up and Stuart Findlay's return to Rugby Park a huge boost. It feels like it'll be another season of grinding out results though; of the forwards only Kyle Vassell looks likely to score semi-regularly and McInnes' effusive praise recently for the likes of Marley Watkins and the "really talented" Liam Donnelly says a lot. We can still dream that David Watson continues to develop as the Prestwick Pirlo and helps add a touch of flair but we'll see. LIVINGSTON: Finished last season really poorly and I just wonder if they are beginning a bit of a downward spiral. As ever David Martindale operates in a different way from everyone else and he's entitled to plenty benefit of the doubt but of their new signings only Mikey Devlin and maybe Mo Sangare improve the team. It feels like they will be in a fair bit of bother if/when Joel Nouble leaves as he will be so difficult to replace. Martindale is also stuck with several players (waves at Esmael Goncalves) that he needs rid of to bring in reinforcements. Could this be the year they stop punching above their weight? MOTHERWELL: I didn't expect such a resurgence under Stuart Kettlewell, but the Steelmen were terrific in the second half of the season...fuelled by the extraordinary exploits of Kevin Van Veen who is of course now gone. Away too are Max Johnston, Sean Goss and Mikael Mandron, all starters. And now Calum Butcher is out long term. Frankly that defence looks dicey now, though Macedonian Davor Zdravkovski is an intriguing addition to the midfield. Up top, bringing in Theo Bair looks like the weirdest signing of the summer so far but I imagine he's going to be a backup for Jon Obika (good when fit, which isn't often) and fellow new signings Conor Wilkinson and Mika Biereth. I thought the Van Veen money would have allowed Kettlewell to strengthen, but it seems that it's simply paid off the mistakes his predecessors have made. And so there's a risk they may fall behind simply because they seem to be standing still. ROSS COUNTY: Having been within seconds of being relegated last season it seems reaasonable to assume they will be closer to the bottom than the top. To be honest I expected Uncle Roy to dip into his childrens' inheritance a bit more this summer to bring the squad up to scratch but whilst Alex Iacovitti is the only stalwart to depart they are dependent on Championship stalwarts Scott Allardice and Kyle Turner (and Jay Henderson, so good on loan at ICT last season) stepping up to the top flight. Their midfield, also encompassing Yan Dhanda and Ross Callachan, should be decent. Up front they have lots of options but just how confident are you in a combination of two of Eamonn Brophy, Simon Murray, Alex Samuel and Jordan White? ST JOHNSTONE: Already in panic mode after a hideous League Cup campaign. Steven MacLean - whose media comments are too reminiscent of Richie Foran for my liking - gutted the squad, which ws the right thing to do, but has struggled badly to bring in new players so far. He'd have probably liked to get rid of more players but inherited a load of jobbers and has-beens inexplicably given long-term deals by Callum Davidson. That is likely to be restricting what he can do just now, but whatever he puts out on the pitch has to be better than the lot that got shellacked 4-0 by Stirling Albion. Dimitar Mitov might be a good goalkeeper. Luke Jephcott might be an okay forward. But even if they live up to those expectations it would be a huge surprise if St Johnstone aren't in another relegation battle. They're certainly my favourites to go down at the time of writing. ST MIRREN: Were best of this bunch last season and are a reasonable bet to do the same even though the surprisingly decent forward Curtis Main has left and outstanding keeper Trevor Carson has moved on to after some sort of weird fallout with the club. Whether they've replaced Carson adequately with Zach Hemming is another matter, but there are high hopes for attackers Conor McMenamin - the club's most expensive signing for more than 30 years - Mikael Mandron and Stav Nahmani. New centre-back James Bolton seems pretty highly thought of too. And so far they've retained the outstanding Aussie duo of Ryan Strain and Keanu Baccus, as well as all-action midfielder Mark O'Hara. So my predicted table: 1 CELTIC 2 RANGERS 3 ABERDEEN 4 HIBERNIAN 5 HEARTS 6 ST MIRREN 7 DUNDEE 8 KILMARNOCK 9 ROSS COUNTY 10 MOTHERWELL 11 LIVINGSTON 12 ST JOHNSTONE And Twitter's take: View the full article
  6. God, I hate the Scottish Championship. My club have been stuck in this particular circle of hell since 2017 and I'm desperate for us to get out of it. And the more time that passes the more likely it is that my wish will be granted...but with a move downward rather than up. After all there's always someone worse off than you...and it's Falkirk. The usual script for this league is as follows; one club has a decent financial advantage over all the others, and that club gets promoted. The last couple of seasons, said club has completely failed to run away with the league, eventually grinding out just about enough results to take the title on the last day or the week before that. But still, they've managed promotion and that's all that matters. So...Dundee United, Hearts, Kilmarnock, Dundee...DUNDEE UNITED? Let's put it bluntly; anything other than a canter back to the Premiership will be an underachievement. Louis Moult and Tony Watt up front. Craig Sibbald and Glenn Middleton (though Goodwin seems unable to get a tune from him) in midfield. Three signings who were amongst the best players in this division last season in Kevin Holt, Liam Grimshaw and Ross Docherty. Declan Gallagher leading the defence. And crucially, anyone but Mark Birighitti in goal. In truth I expect United to grind it out rather than destroy everyone (possibly with a midseason managerial change like when Killie binned Tommy Wright), but they'll definitely go up. Definitely. Won't they? As for who else could challenge, I think you could make an argument for many - if not all - the other clubs in the division. I'm going to stick my neck out though and tip DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC to follow the example of Queen's Park last year and be a newly promoted side challenging at the top. James McPake - to my surprise after his lousy spell as Dundee manager - has put together a really good side that walked League One last year. So far he has focused on keeping them together, and so they should be very well drilled from the off. The defence should be plenty good enough now that Sam Fisher has been brought back, and I love Chris Hamilton at the base of midfield. A year in the third tier has rejuvenated Craig Wighton - who seemed doomed to be yet another case of unfulfilled potential in Scottish football - and it'll be interesting to see how dangerous he is. I also expect the Pars to be active in the loan market in the next few weeks for further reinforcements that will cement them as a top half side. There could also be a challenge from the other side of Fife. RAITH ROVERS did a heck of a lot of business early, which has the advantage of getting your new signings lots of time to get up to speed but does mean not having any space left for players that become available late in the window. I do particularly like new keeper Kevin Dabrowski, who certainly won't be a downgrade on the departed Jamie MacDonald. Striker Jack Hamilton has done it at this level before. Josh Mullin still has plenty in the tank (though a 3 year deal for a 31 year old winger seems optimistic) and Euan Murray and Keith Watson will strengthen the defence. As it stands, they certainly have a stronger squad than most. The million dollar (or the £200,000) question for AYR UNITED is how they will fare without talismanic striker Dipo Akinyemi after he signed for York City. United will hope veteran wide players Aiden McGeady and Jamie Murphy will provide whoever plays up front with lots of ammunition but Lee Bullen needs either new signing Akeem Rose or youngster Fraser Bryden to step up and score regularly...or to use the Akinyemi cash on another striker. Otherwise Bullen has again made some intriguing signings from the English non-leagues - Olly Pendlebury captained England at under 16 level and is still only 21 - and they will hope they can kick on from last season's third place. As for the rest - well, your guess is as good as mine. QUEEN'S PARK seem a good place to start as they came second last year, but it's all change at Lesser Hampden with Owen Coyle having left and being replaced by Dutchman Robin Veldman. I do like the Spiders' focus on bringing in young players let go from the likes of Southampton (defender Will Tizzard, midfielder Jack Turner) and Brighton (midfielder Jack Spong). At the time of writing though they are still short at right-back and are up front are heavily dependent on Ruari Paton making the step up from lighting up League One with Queen of the South. Again, I'd expect plenty more new faces to come here. A sensational cup run shouldn't distract from the fact that INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE had their lowest league finish in more than twenty years and they come into this season having lost their best defender, Robbie Deas, and their best midfielder, Scott Allardice, along with their two loanee wingers Jay Henderson and Daniel Mackay. That cup cash is either being saved for a splurge at the end of the window or is being saved to pay bills - either way, signings like Luis Longstaff and Jake Davidson feel like little more than cheap depth. Charlie Gilmour might be a good addition to midfield, mind. The biggest worry is the hole left by Deas that does not look in any way to be adequately filled yet. GREENOCK MORTON somehow got by last season with the smallest squad in the history of the world (in terms of numbers, not height!) and seem determined to do the same again; I presume it's a budget thing? They will be busy in the next few weeks if only because they need another four bodies just to have a full bench (and only have one keeper). Dougie Imrie is as good a coach as anyone in this league and that is crucial given their financial constraints. Continuing to get performances and goals out of forwards Robbie Muirhead and George Oakley is crucial, while Jack Baird and Robbie Crawford are two of the best players in their positions in the Championship. The big concern at the moment is at right-back, in that they don't actually have one. AIRDRIE are as intriguing as anyone in this league, given their unusual model where the manager, the assistant manager and one of the coaches are also players. It didn't exactly do them any harm last season, where they were League One's great entertainers, either doing the scudding or being scudded most weeks. Adding Nikolay Todorov and Josh O'Connor to a forward line of Calum Gallagher and Gabby McGill means they should still score plenty of goals, and sticking with the same defence as last season means they should still concede plenty too. So whatever happens, it should be fun. There may be less of that at PARTICK THISTLE, who came within seconds of an extraordinary promotion via the playoffs and then shortly after admitted huge costcutting was required at a club where wages might not have been paid but for a cup tie against Rangers. They've lost four of their best players - Kevin Holt, Ross Docherty, Kyle Turner and Scott Tiffoney - and even if the immortal Brian Graham continues to s**thouse his way to 15 goals every season it's tough to see them repeating last season's success. It'll be interesting to see how Kris Doolan fills those gaping holes in his lineup; if he can recruit in the summer as well as he coached and motivated in the spring they'll be okay. And the fact I have left ARBROATH to last is surely a clue as to how I think their season is going to pan out. The group that nearly got them promoted in 2021/22 is ageing and dissipating, and finding good part-time replacements is hard going. Last season's recruitment wasn't great and it's not clear that Dick Campbell has done any better this summer. He really needs to do well in the loan market again if this isn't to be the end of the Red Lichties' glorious run at this level. Of course, it would be typical Campbell and typical Arbroath if they didn't make the naysayers eat their words. So the inevitably wrong predicted table looks like this: 1 DUNDEE UNITED 2 DUNFERMLINE ATHLETIC 3 RAITH ROVERS 4 AYR UNITED 5 QUEEN'S PARK 6 GREENOCK MORTON 7 INVERNESS CALEDONIAN THISTLE 8 PARTICK THISTLE 9 AIRDRIE 10 ARBROATH And the Twitter view: View the full article
  7. Whereas in League Two the difference in budget between richest and poorest is pretty minimal, League One has four clubs who are full time - Cove Rangers, Falkirk, Hamilton Accies and Queen of the South - and six clubs who savour bloodying their noses regularly. So while I make no apology for my choice of the top four it is quite easy to see it going spectacularly wrong for each of them. Take FALKIRK, for example. It's like the Bairns have been given a special demotivational plaque by Mr Burns. Surely their fifth straight season in League One will be their last? We shall see. John McGlynn brought in Tom Lang and Brad Spencer from his former club Raith Rovers and they should be more than capable, and given they already boast the likes of Coll Donaldson, Stephen McGinn, Callumn Morrison and Gary Oliver there are no excuses. But then we've said that before... COVE RANGERS won this division in 2021-22 before stinking up the second half of last season in the Championship. So they've responded by going full-time and giving Paul Hartley - whose record in recruitment at previous clubs was not exactly stellar - the chance to practically sign a new team. Paul McGowan and Connor Scully are probably the best centre midfield pairing in the league and Mitch Megginson can be relied on for goals, but the jury is out on a backline that will mostly be made up of newbies. Having been a Premiership side as recently as 2021, HAMILTON ACCIES need to arrest the slide...and they might do so after new ownership was followed by an influx of new blood that leaves them with a far stronger team than the one that got relegated from the Championship last season. They've stuck by manager John Rankin despite the drop, but he'll be expected to get a tune out of the likes of Dylan Tait, Euan Henderson and Kevin O'Hara; signing an entirely new defence is not a bad move either but they may take time to gel. Still, it feels like things can't get any worse (famous last words). QUEEN OF THE SOUTH showed some signs of life after Marvin Bartley became manager and they look to have recruited wisely - particularly getting keeper Murray Johnson and central defender Kyle McClelland on loan from Hibs. Dumfries is the latest stop for Efe Ambrose, who is heading inexorably towards a career climax in 2026 where he becomes a cult hero for an Angus club by scoring a crucial goal with a bullet header in a relegation playoff that saves his club's SPFL status before walking off into the sunset (niche Marvin Andrews reference there). If Bartley can coax Lee Connelly and Gavin Reilly back to their best then they will be dangerous. Of the part-time clubs, ALLOA ATHLETIC look the strongest, not least because they made the promotion playoffs last season. Brian Rice is an astute coach and continues to get plenty out of veterans Andy Graham (40 in September!) and Conor Sammon (37 in November). Sammon and Luke Donnelly give them a potent threat up top. They have had to replace most of last season's starting backline though and they had a pretty lousy League Cup campaign, so a regression is not that unlikely. EDINBURGH CITY looked like playoff candidates for most of the season but hit the skids, winning only three of their last sixteen games. Now they've lost all four League Cup group games too. John Robertson and Steven Warnock, arguably their two greatest attacking threats, have moved on, and while a summer takeover by a fan-led consortium has been blamed for Alan Maybury's failure to reinforce much, the bottom line is it is hard to give them the benefit of the doubt right now. Still, the combined creativity of Danny Handling and Innes Murray makes them worth a watch. It's mental that MONTROSE are in their sixth straight season at this level, and frankly its all down to the awesome management of Stewart Petrie. Last year felt like a step backward though, with a feeling that they had hit their ceiling and Petrie was finding it hard to refresh a settled squad that had done so well for so long. And that feeling has caused them to splash out - with a transfer fee and everything! - to sign League Two goal machine Kane Hester to give them a spark. How far can he and the evergreen Rory MacAllister fire them? We'll see. By the far the biggest turnover has been at KELTY HEARTS, where Michael Tidser replaced John Potter at the end of last season and set about basically gutting the entire squad; only eight players plus the player-boss himself remain. I'm always wary about how long it takes a team to gel and a lot of the newbies are guys who have blown hot-and-cold at this level in the past. The dream is that Tiwi Daramola, who scored an insane number of goals for Bo'ness Athletic last season, can do it at this level; four in four League Cup games is a good start. And lastly we come on to the promoted teams, both of whom have largely stuck with the group that got them up. STIRLING ALBION looked like a League One team last season and only needed to tinker; getting Dale Hilson in up front to partner Dale Carrick looks like an astute move. A couple of decent loan signings could make Darren Young's side very competitive very quickly in a division where former League Two champions have a recent history of back-to-back promotions. It's likely to be a lot harder for ANNAN ATHLETIC. Peter Murphy's side have punched above their weight for years but going up via the playoffs was astonishing. They have a close-knit bunch and crucially, a talented striker in Tommy Goss. But it's a sign of where they are at that they lost one of their starting defenders, Cammy Williamson, to Stranraer. It's hard to look at them and fancy them for anything other than a long campaign. So here's my inevitably wrong predicted table: 1 FALKIRK 2 HAMILTON ACADEMICAL 3 QUEEN OF THE SOUTH 4 STIRLING ALBION 5 COVE RANGERS 6 ALLOA ATHLETIC 7 MONTROSE 8 EDINBURGH CITY 9 KELTY HEARTS 10 ANNAN ATHLETIC And the Twitter view: View the full article
  8. With no moneybags team in League Two right now it's decidedly harder to predict who is going to win it. Last season I suggested Forfar Athletic, who ended up looking like relegation candidates until they changed manager. Having a good (or terrible) boss, or being the team with the striker that scores twenty goals are the sort of factors that can have an exponential effect at this level. And so we segue rather clumsily straight onto ELGIN CITY, who nearly finished bottom last season and have made Ross Draper player-manager after he oversaw the last few matches of the previous campaign. And they have lost their 'striker that scores twenty goals', Kane Hester. More than ever their relative remoteness geographically makes bringing in players tough; so far they have made three loan signings and their only permanent newcomer is from the Highland League. I was right about Albion Rovers coming tenth last season and I feel pretty confident about condemning Elgin this time around. If someone is going to 'outdo' Elgin in the stinker stakes it might be CLYDE, relegated from League One via the playoffs last season but who appear more likely to be in danger of back-to-back relegations than yo-yoing back to League One. They are another side with a rookie in the dugout - Brian McLean - and they will have a heavy dependence on Martin Rennie for goals and they will need veteran midfielders Stuart Carswell and Ross Forbes to wind the clock back a fair bit. Sticking by the same backline that got them relegated last season also seems like a bold move, Cotton. Of course PETERHEAD were even worse than Clyde last season but they pivoted to their (also inexperienced) co-player managers Jordan Brown and Ryan Strachan sooner and have signed forward Kieran Shanks permanently from Arbroath; he showed enough in a loan spell last season to suggest he might do very well for them. Scott Ross and Joe McKee add experience to the backline and midfield and guys like Andy McCarthy and Conor O'Keefe should shine at this level. Whether this is enough to get them into the promotion fight is another matter. As the side newly promoted from the fifth tier (after only just overcoming Albion Rovers) THE SPARTANS should probably be more likely to finish in the bottom half but in truth they are a bit of an unknown to those of us who only looked ever at the Lowland League table to see if the B teams were struggling. They'll obviously be no mugs, and they've augmented last year's team with SPFL experience in Ayrton Sonkur, James Craigen and Danny Denholm. And they have Blair Henderson up front, who could well end up being League Two's top scorer, so I'd be surprised if they didn't establish themselves in the big leagues. BONNYRIGG ROSE ATHLETIC only clinched survival on the last day of 2022/23, but Robbie Horn's side looked more comfortable and astute as they gained more experience in their first SPFL season. Whether they have improved the squad much - beyond goalkeeper Paddy Martin - is another matter. As with so many of their peers, the form of the first choice number nine - Kieran McGachie in the Rosey Posey's case - could well be worth several positions in the table. STRANRAER were only marginally better than Bonnyrigg Rose, pulling away from danger after putting Scott Agnew in the dugout for the last few games. Agnew was an intelligent creative player and there is optimism that this will translate to his team. Ben Armour and Tam Orr should provide a goal threat, while they did well to poach full-back Cammy Williamson from promoted Annan. But how good - or not - their campaign is probably depends on how competent the manager is. Ditto DUMBARTON, whose boss Stevie Farrell has had two full seasons in charge; the first resulted in relegation from League One and the second saw a massive lead blown to Stirling in the title race. Most of their other concerns are off the pitch: filing their accounts late recently is a wee bit of a red flag, whilst the decision to share their pitch again (this time with Broomhill instead of Rangers B) has gone down like a lead balloon. The flip side is that this is a very good squad. Goalkeeper Brett Long, a backline with Aron Lynas, Mark Durnan, Sean Crighton and Carlo Pignatiello, Ryan Blair and Ross MacLean in midfield and Ryan Wallace up front should give them more than enough quality to win the title. Perhaps it is theirs to lose, but it's easy to see how they'll lose it. Again. FORFAR ATHLETIC arguably have the manager with the most impressive CV in the division, but only because Ray MacKinnon's move to coach under Duncan Ferguson at Forest Green fell through when Ferguson got the sack. MacKinnon came back with his tail between his legs and continued his rebuild of a side that were relegation candidates till he arrived in November. The permanent signings of Dundee United trio Adam Hutchinson, Finn Robson and Darren Watson, all of whom were on loan here last season, look good but Forfar seem desperately short up front with only Josh Skelly, plucked from Broughty Athletic, a recognised centre forward. If they can recruit well in that area in the next few weeks they should be there or thereabouts. STENHOUSEMUIR look rather more settled these days than when Stephen Swift was wheeler-dealing like a poundshop Harry Redknapp; just the nine signings so far this summer with keeper Darren Jamieson, defenders Gregor Buchanan and Ross Meechan and midfielder Jordan Kirkpatrick looking like the standouts. Stenny's obvious weakness right now is numbers, but one can imagine this squad being augmented by a few loanees in the coming weeks and Gary Naysmith leading them in a promotion challenge. Generally though the bookies seem to fancy EAST FIFE to do the business. Greig MacDonald seemed an unusual choice as coach last season but generally did well; it helps that they got Nathan Austin back to add to what was already a pretty overpowered front line. Brian Easton adds experience in defence (though he didn't half look past it at Hamilton last year) and with the experience of Allan Fleming and Stewart Murdoch among others they look pretty well set to compete at the top. So here's my predicted table, though my caveat would be that I think the top four are all potential title challengers, Elgin look hot favourites for the drop and you could probably put the other five clubs in any order you like. 1 EAST FIFE 2 DUMBARTON 3 FORFAR ATHLETIC 4 STENHOUSEMUIR 5 PETERHEAD 6 STRANRAER 7 THE SPARTANS 8 BONNYRIGG ROSE ATHLETIC 9 CLYDE 10 ELGIN CITY Remember to bookmark this and use it against me in the coming months. PS Here's the Twitterati view... View the full article
  9. Longstaff's pedigree isn't bad - Liverpool youth system, England u17 international. But he had a pretty underwhelming loan at Queen's Park in 2021-22 where he was only really a squad player in League One, then he didn't really register on the radar at Cove last season. I imagine he'll be this season's Steven Boyd - a cheap backup wide player who we're hoping will live up to earlier potential. I'd prefer we were signing players who clearly improved the starting lineup.
  10. I don't remember this much consternation when Kirk Broadfoot - who was given a 10 match ban whilst a Rotherham player for sectarian abuse of James McClean - signed for us. Just saying, like.
  11. I suspect you're right but as ever it seems pretty shoddy that the club haven't even acknowledged his existence.
  12. Apologies if I have missed something, but I haven't seen anything about Tom Walsh?
  13. I said I'd get it done 'eventually', didn't I? CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: CALLUM MCGREGOR (CELTIC), REO HATATE (CELTIC) Honourable mentions: Leighton Clarkson (Aberdeen), Ylber Ramadani (Aberdeen), Cammy Devlin (Heart of Midlothian), Ryan Jack (Rangers), Keanu Baccus (St. Mirren), Mark O'Hara (St. Mirren) I desperately wanted to not flood the team with Celtic players. And reader, I failed miserably. Trying to shoehorn anyone in ahead of McGregor and Hatate here would have made me a laughing stock. There were some decent options elsewhere mind; Ramadani proved a superb signing for Aberdeen, who will move heaven and earth to try and get Clarkson permanently this summer. I love the way that Devlin snaps at opponents' heels like a rabid dog. For all his critics, Jack simply makes Rangers better when he is on the pitch. St. Mirren's success heavily depended on O'Hara's goals from midfield, but in the first half of the season Baccus was superb. ATTACKING MIDFIELDERS: JOTA (CELTIC), MALIK TILLMAN (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Elie Youan (Hibernian), Daniel Armstrong (Kilmarnock), Joel Nouble (Livingston), Yan Dhanda (Ross County) Now this was the hardest part. Normally I'd have two 'wingers' but I felt obliged to widen the description to give me more options here because Jota was the only out-and-out wide player who I felt justified a place in the XI. So this allows me to include Tillman as well, though Todd Cantwell would have been ahead of him if he met my qualification criteria. Who else? Armstrong was Kilmarnock's best player by far this season. Youan was gloriously erratic in front of goal but his pace makes him a lot of fun. Nouble spent a lot of time out wide this year, so I'll thrown him in here. Dhanda looked a lot classier than the players surrounding him at County. STRIKERS: KYOGO FURUHASHI (CELTIC), KEVIN VAN VEEN (MOTHERWELL) Honourable mentions: Lawrence Shankland (Heart of Midlothian), Duk (Aberdeen), Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian), Curtis Main (St. Mirren) Kyogo is an obvious pick, but who to partner him? I just can't get over Van Veen's extraordinary run at the end of the season and so that gives him the nod by a whisker over the outstanding Shankland. Unless I'm forgetting someone (and I probably am), Duk is the best Aberdeen striker since Scott Booth. Nisbet has come back from his serious knee injury stronger than ever and it'll be interesting to see how well he does at Millwall. I actually had Main on my worst signings list for last season, but St. Mirren have played to his strengths and he has repaid them and then some. It's a terrible shame for them that he has better offers for next season. And that's it for another year. Depressingly, this is the first time I think there have been six players from one team - and also there's a record nine players who play for a cheek of the Glasgow a***. More evidence of the enormous gap between them and the rest, I suppose. 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
  14. Seems from this like he may have declined the offer of a as per procedure perhaps the club informed him by email instead. No-one comes out of this looking good. Shane perhaps didn't realise this was the procedure, which may or may not be a communication failure on the club's part. Regardless, its not very classy of him to criticize the club - or the medical team - on social media, especially if he has (intentionally or otherwise) misconstrued things. Likewise, the club needs to do better. That statement reads like a stream of consciousness that really hasn't been double-checked or thought about. The response could and should have been more diplomatic and more professional-sounding; all it is missing is the word 'concomitant'. Perhaps someone should have reached out to Shane first, talked him through things and suggested he clarify things on social media first (maybe they did, of course). The club also needs to recognise that its past record regarding communication with players (remember Josh Meekings' release?) and fans leaves a lot to be desired. Until they actually try to restore trust, we won't trust them when we hear accusations like this.
  15. Regardless of whether you feel Shane should have got another contract or not...releasing players by email?! What are the club thinking? Totally unprofessional and frankly just unpleasant and uncaring. This is the sort of thing that, when word gets around, will put players off joining us as well.
  16. I've done this every year for sixteen years, and to be honest it's never felt more like a chore. When you don't have any skin in the game - that's six years Caley Thistle have been stuck in the Championship - it becomes even harder to be motivated by watching Celtic and Rangers pump everybody. It's also more difficult than ever to pick players from other clubs for this XI, because I'm very close to crossing the 'taking the p***' line' by doing so. Still, I've tried my best. For historical record, the previous fifteen lineups: 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) 2018/19: Allan McGregor (Rangers), James Tavernier (Rangers), Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic), Craig Halkett (Livingston), Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Callum McGregor (Celtic), David Turnbull (Motherwell), James Forrest (Celtic), Ryan Christie (Celtic), Ryan Kent (Rangers), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) 2019/20: Mark Gillespie (Motherwell), James Tavernier (Rangers), Kristoffer Ajer (Celtic), Jon Guthrie (Livingston), Borna Barisic (Rangers), James Forrest (Celtic), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Ali McCann (St. Johnstone), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) 2020/21: Benjamin Siegrist (Dundee United), James Tavernier (Rangers), Conor Goldson (Rangers), Jason Kerr (St. Johnstone), Borna Barisic (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Ali McCann (St. Johnstone), Ryan Kent (Rangers), David Turnbull (Celtic), Martin Boyle (Hibernian), Odsonne Edouard (Celtic) 2021/22: Craig Gordon (Hearts), James Tavernier (Rangers), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), Ryan Edwards (Dundee United), Stephen Kingsley (Hearts), Callum McGregor (Celtic), Joe Aribo (Rangers), Regan Charles-Cook (Ross County), Barrie McKay (Hearts), Jota (Celtic), Alfredo Morelos (Rangers) Onto this year's vintage. As per tradition, we'll start with the goalkeeper and back four. It's always a back four... GOALKEEPER: TREVOR CARSON (ST. MIRREN) Honourable mentions: Joe Hart (Celtic), Zander Clark (Heart of Midlothian) Carson's previous four seasons? Three as Motherwell's backup keeper and one as Dundee United's backup keeper (before moving to Morecambe on loan). So yeah, I think we were all a bit surprised that the Northern Irish veteran has suddenly become amazing. Unquestionably the 35 year old has had the best season of his career. Yes, Hart is surely the best goalkeeper in Scotland but its hard to judge the quality of a player who faces about one shot on target every three months. Clark's move to Hearts looked strange to me - was being number two to Craig Gordon for a year or two that good a career move? - but Gordon's injury has given him an opportunity that he has grabbed with both hands. RIGHT-BACK: JAMES TAVERNIER (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Nicky Devlin (Livingston), Ryan Strain (St. Mirren) That's just the six straight years that the Rangers captain has been in my Team of the Year, though this season it's as much down to a lack of competition as anything else. Still, sixteen league goals is a heck of a return and whilst Rangers have a few problems to deal with this summer he isn't one of them. Devlin's consistency for Livingston has earned him a summer move to Aberdeen. Strain has had an excellent first season in Scotland, not least because of his skill with a dead ball. I'm still insisting that players have to have played at least 19 league games to qualify for this, so that rules out both Alistair Johnston and Max Johnston. Don't @ me... LEFT-BACK: GREG TAYLOR (CELTIC) Honourable mentions: Borna Barisic (Rangers), Alex Cochrane (Heart of Midlothian) Taylor has just been so consistent. His development under Ange has been far beyond what I expected and he held off the challenge of new signing Alexandro Bernabei with ease. Barisic is probably beginning to decline but is still better than most left-backs in this league, which isn't saying much. Cochrane was superb in the first half of the season but his form has dipped along with his teammates in 2023. CENTRE-BACKS: CAMERON CARTER-VICKERS (CELTIC), CONOR GOLDSON (RANGERS) Honourable mentions: Carl Starfelt (Celtic), Jack Fitzwater (Livingston), Kye Rowles (Heart of Midlothian), Ryan Porteous (Hibernian) Carter-Vickers is far too good for this poxy league and Celtic will be hoping it takes him a few more seasons to realise that. It's remarkable just how much CCV and Goldson are missed when they're not there; the drop off to the backups at Rangers and Celtic is steep indeed. If I'd been feeling more reckless I'd have picked Porteous on the back of his performances before he signed for Watford in January. Rowles was amazing before the World Cup but mediocre after. Starfelt was solid except when CCV wasn't alongside him (coincidence?). Fitzwater is the next Livi player who will go on to better things this summer. Oh, and Mattie Pollock just didn't play enough matches for consideration, but he was very good for Aberdeen. The midfield and attack will appear at some point. Eventually. 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
  17. Top ten time! Here's the countdown from 25 to 11, if you missed it. 10. JOHN SOUTTAR (RANGERS) There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and John Souttar getting injured. Inevitably Soapy got crocked on his Rangers debut and was missing for eight months; giving him an Old Firm game at Celtic Park for his first start felt like a disaster waiting to happen and so it proved with the centre-back gifting a goal with a dreadful backpass. Rangers need a reliable partner for Connor Goldson; Souttar is unlikely to be that player. 9. DEJI SOTONA (KILMARNOCK) Even Killie fans may not recognise the name; the Irish striker joined on loan from Nice, made a couple of sub appearances and was never seen again. It was all rather reminiscent of the sort of player Lee Clark signed for the club back in the day. Sotona is now turning out for Burnley's under 23s. 8. MOMODOU BOJANG (HIBERNIAN) I wouldn't believe there was a football club called Rainbow FC had Hibs not signed Bojang on loan from them. The Gambian forward was a low-risk, high-reward signing but was clearly out of his depth and ending his loan spell early in January was best for everyone. 7. PHILLIP CANCAR (LIVINGSTON) Australian Cancar actually started for Livi on opening day against Rangers, only to be hauled off after a torrid 34 minutes before he got an inevitable second yellow card. He made a couple of sub appearances after that before disappearing off the radar from September onward. In January he returned permanently to Oz, six months into a two year deal with an optional third year. 6. JOSH MORRIS (MOTHERWELL) One of Graham Alexander's last signings, it's not clear whether it's injury that has kept him out of action since the autumn or whether he is just unwanted at Motherwell. Regardless, HE clearly wasn't rated by Stevie Hammell and isn't being missed by Stuart Kettlewell; Morris only registered on Scottish football's radar for somehow not getting sent off after poleaxing Celtic's Carl Starfelt back in October. 5. MARK BIRIGHITTI (DUNDEE UNITED) Birighitti forced his way out of Central Coast Mariners to "chase my dreams", which invites the obvious question "In Dundee?!". He has improved in the last month or so...not that this would be hard, given the extraordinary number of individual errors he has made over the course of the season, whether it be flapping at crosses or parrying shots straight to strikers or most infamously being slide-tackled by Stevie May for a St. Johnstone winner. But with United having loaned away backup Carljohan Eriksson and having only the equally hapless (at least in his one appearance in Dingwall) Jack Newman as competition, the Australian is still between the sticks. And don't forget that United actually paid money to sign him... 4. RABBI MATONDO (RANGERS) Four years ago Matondo was so highly rated that Schalke paid £11m to sign him from Manchester City. Rangers paid just a fraction of that to sign him last summer but he hasn't even looked worth that. An injury in the new year hasn't helped but the Welsh international has struggled to justify anything more than a succession of late appearances off the bench. The most damning thing one can say is that Scott Wright is usually preferred to him. 3. JAYDEN RICHARDSON (ABERDEEN) On paper, the young Nottingham Forest right-back looked like a good signing with plenty of potential and the Dons paid £300,000 for him. Unfortunately he was following in the footsteps of Calvin Ramsey, but even if expectations had been low Richardson would have failed miserably to meet them. By the autumn Jim Goodwin was already playing centre-backs and midfielders (Matty Kennedy!) ahead of Richardson on the right side of the defence and he's made one start and one substitutes appearance since November. He is under contract for another two years, by the way. 2. HARRY MCKIRDY (HIBERNIAN) If you're going to insist on a pink mohican then you really need to be pretty special. McKirdy...isn't. It didn't help that within two months of moving north he was suggesting on social media that he wished he hadn't. And then having kept his head down for months and got himself back into the first team picture at last he mouthed off on Instagram last week about being stuck on the subs bench. He still hasn't scored a single goal for Hibs (he managed two for Swindon in August before moving north). 1. ANTHONY STEWART (ABERDEEN) Making a new signing club captain straightaway is a bold move. Partly because of this - and partly because of his dreadful performances and the dreadful performances of his fellow defenders - Stewart became synonymous with Aberdeen's struggles under Jim Goodwin. It doesn't help his cause that Barry Robson's first act on replacing Goodwin was to punt Stewart out on loan to MK Dons and since then Aberdeen have been pretty much rock solid at the back. What really did for Stewart though was the League Cup Semi Final; beforehand he did a crazy press conference where he discussed how he thought Antonio Colak was better than Alfredo Morelos, and then in the match itself he got himself sent off right at the end of normal time with a lunatic hack on Fashion Sakala. The Dons had no hope of getting through extra time a man down and there was no way back for him; within two and a half weeks both boss and skipper were out. Still, he has a year on his contract left to come back too... 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
  18. So I don't have the time to blog much these days. But this series has been going on since 2012/13 and I'm worried that the world will end if I stop. Also, people tend to enjoy it; there's something so very Scottish Football about fans complaining that their team's duffer isn't at the top of my list. The ten previous winners, by the way: 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) 2018/19: Umar Sadiq (Rangers) 2019/20: Madis Vihmann (St. Johnstone) 2020/21: Shane Duffy (Celtic) 2021/22: Matty Longstaff (Aberdeen) I feel like I really should shoehorn a goalkeeper into top spot this season, so I have a proper starting XI of calamities (one with an awful lot of forwards, mind). Let's start the countdown from 25 to 11... 25= DILAN MARKANDAY & PATRIK MYSLOVIC (ABERDEEN) My final list had 26 names so I'll include these two January arrivals together. Markanday was signed on January deadline day by the Dons, but lord knows why. The lad has at the time of writing played just seven minutes of football for the club and probably has splinters in his backside from sitting on the bench. The winger was considered quite the prospect at Spurs and then Blackburn, but his loan from the Rovers has proven to be a waste of his and everyone's time. The Dons have an option to make Myslovic's loan signing permanent but since the Slovakian has only managed a handful of sub appearances since arriving in January it seems unlikely they will do so. I can neither confirm or deny any rumours that there may be a few more Aberdeen players on this list... 24. ROLANDO AARONS (MOTHERWELL) Played 53 minutes of football over three sub appearances. Got injured. Went home. That about sums up Aarons' second spell at Motherwell, which was a shame because I remember a few flashes from him when he first pitched up at Fir Park in 2020. 23. JAIR TAVARES (HIBERNIAN) Hibs keep bigging up Jair's attitude in training and performances for the reserve team, which has a feeling of 'damning with faint praise' about it. To be honest, I think we all expected rather bigger things from a Portugal U19 international signed from Benfica who has been limited to only a handful of brief cameos off the bench since August. Either he's far more a 'one for the future' than we assumed (they did give him a contract till 2026) or it just isn't happening. 22. JORDY HIWULA (ROSS COUNTY) When Hiwula was signed by County, there were plenty of Doncaster fans on social media suggesting that they were glad to see the back of a striker who had scored just once for them and whose workrate had often disappointed. That sounded like sour grapes after Hiwula scored three goals in the League Cup group stages...but he has hit the net just once since then. The January arrivals of Eamonn Brophy and Simon Murray have pretty much bumped him out of first team contention. 21. SCOTT BITSINDOU (LIVINGSTON) A typical low risk, obscure Livingston signing, Congolese midfielder Bitsindou was signed from the Belgian second tier. He was trusted with just one minute of league action for Livi before being loaned to Arbroath in September though, and given he's 27 next month it's safe to say it wasn't for his development. He has had his good and bad moments in the Championship (the latter mostly when deputising in central defence) but injuries have limited his action in the last few months. 20. TOYOSI OLUSANYA (ST. MIRREN) After a few League Cup outings, injury restricted Olusanya to just one substitute appearance for St. Mirren - in January - where he was himself substituted after eleven minutes. Shortly after that he was loaned to Arbroath where he has managed a solitary goal so far. One suspects he may not see out the second year of his two year deal in Paisley. 19. OLLY CRANKSHAW (MOTHERWELL) "Olly is exactly the profile of player we need at the minute" enthused Stevie Hammell after signing him in January. "He will excite fans with his style of play". Crankshaw, who had an unimpactful loan spell at Dundee a few years back, has not exactly lived up to Hammell's expectations and has been out of the team since Stuart Kettlewell took over. Maybe he has been injured, but if he has been he is not important enough for anyone to say so. 18. CALLUM ROBERTS (ABERDEEN) Roberts cost Aberdeen £100,000 and has so far managed all of four sub appearances due to ongoing problems with a hamstring injury. He still has two years on his current deal so I suppose he might be salvageable? 17. GRAHAM CAREY (ST. JOHNSTONE) St Johnstone fans on Twitter made a compelling case for the veteran midfielder's inclusion: "started ok but the last 4 months have been a bit of a nightmare"; "his high point of the season was losing rock, paper, scissors"; "Carey has been really poor, but also Callum Davidson's obsession with trying to find a way to fit him into the team has kind of doubled down on it too". So I'll take their word for it. 16. OLIVER ABILDGAARD (CELTIC) A rare miss for Celtic's recruitment team. The Dane's loan from Rubin Kazan was supposed to be for the whole season but was cut short in January due to lack of gametime. Abildgaard made nine sub appearances and zero impact; he is now at Verona in Italy where he counts ex-Hibs man Josh Doig as a teammate. 15. JAKE EASTWOOD (ROSS COUNTY) Gets ranked higher because he's been on this list before - two years ago after a nightmare loan at Kilmarnock where his infamous solitary league appearance saw him gift a goal to Hibs and then go off injured at half-time. That's one more league appearance than he managed in Dingwall where he became the latest goalie to completely fail to displace Ross Laidlaw from the starting lineup. The loan deal was cut short in January. Still technically Sheffield United's player despite having gone out on about a billion loans so far in his career. 14. SHAYDEN MORRIS (ABERDEEN) Another long term contract (four years!) and another long-term injury. Morris has made a single start for Aberdeen and has barely played since October (and not at all in 2023 so far) because of a major hamstring issue. Maybe he'll be like a new signing next season. Or maybe it'll be like he never existed... 13. ARNAUD DJOUM (DUNDEE UNITED) There's a fine line between 'experienced' and 'past it' and the evidence is that Djoum has crossed it. Liam Fox will argue that he brought in the 33 year old partly for his influence and attitude, but what United needed was an enforcer in midfield; sadly the Cameroonian is a shadow of the player who strutted about the middle of the park for Hearts a few years back. 12. AIDEN MCGEADY (HIBERNIAN) Now McGeady did start looking the part in the New Year having recovered from an ankle injury that sidelined him until the World Cup break. But then he wrecked his hamstring in February and is done for the season. Given he'll have been on a decent wage, the veteran has simply not been decent value. And going to watch Celtic B one weekend instead of his current club wasn't a good look. 11. ESMAEL GONCALVES (LIVINGSTON) Sadly the Goncalves of 2023 is nowhere near the Goncalves of 2013 who inspired St. Mirren to League Cup glory. The Guinea-Bissau forward was in fact exactly what we all suspected of a guy who has spent the last few years playing in Uzbekistan, Iran and Bangladesh. He managed more red cards (one) than goals (zero) for Livi and pitched up at Raith Rovers on loan in February where he at least managed a debut goal against Motherwell in the cup. The top ten will be up some time in the next few days/weeks... 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
  19. Highlights up on YouTube! Not anywhere near what we used to get with Andy and his crew but I suppose its better than nothing... Don't think we will be appealing that red card. Henderson ends up practically stamping on the guy's foot. Great counterattack goal for the opener, though one of Arbroath's midfielders doesn't half sell himself easily (and I imagine will get a lot of stick from Dick for not chasing back quickly). Good movement by the attackers, particularly Shaw and Henderson to create space for the latter on the right and then in turn for Shaw in the middle. Unbelievably stupid shirt tug for the penalty. Nice spot kick from Allardice, mind. Keepers don't normally have a hope if it's in the roof of the net, even if it isn't quite in the corner.
  20. I wonder what the club's biggest shareholders - which according to the recent Confirmation Statement still include Graham Rae and the Muirfield Mills bunch, former chairmen Dougie McGilvray, George Fraser and David Sutherland, and Alan Savage's Orion Group - think of all this?
  21. I think this is hugely concerning. This is a business with a turnover of probably about £2m/year and where a lot of "customers" are also shareholders. Being unable to arrange an AGM on time feels like a red flag; announcing a date in a club statement and failing to stick to it - with no acknowledgement from the club of this - is not the sort of behaviour of a competent chairman/board. What the hell is going on?
  22. An outstanding performance from all but Welsh and Allardice particularly shone for me. We absolutely dominated the middle of the pitch thanks to them. Welsh is so reliable in possession and as RiG pointed out was really effective going forward. Allardice was also good on the ball but defensively he was like having a brick wall in front of the centre-backs. I find it hard to believe he won't be playing in the top flight next season.
  23. I've already put this up on Twitter, but it feels like someone turned up at the stadium and told the board "I've sold battery farms to Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook and by gum it put them on the map!"
  24. When you look at other full time clubs outwith the Premiership they are all running losses. Some (Queen's Park, Falkirk) are even worse than ours. The truth is that being full time in the Championship or League One is viable only if you have significant backing from owners/directors. The costs are just too high. Whilst there are clearly ways the club could be run better I don't think it is realistic to have a competent team on the pitch and run a profit. Ayr, Cove, Dundee, Queen's Park and Dunfermline have that significant backing. Morton and Partick Thistle are fan-owned and it'll be interesting to see how that pans out. Hamilton, Raith Rovers and Falkirk, like us, appear to be basket cases. As stated above one of the big problems with going part-time is that our player pool would be drastically reduced because of geography; we would be far more likely to end up like Elgin City than like Arbroath. So taking that step is likely to just lead to further irreversible decline. So we are between a rock and a hard place. Either the directors continue to subsidise our losses and we muddle on hoping we hit the jackpot and get promoted, or we find a sugar daddy (anyone want to seek out Alan Savage and kiss his feet?) or we are screwed.
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