Integrity: Rangers v Aberdeen

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This week has been an eventful week in Scottish football. The long running “will he or won’t he” saga was finally ended with Derek McInnes announcing that he will stay with Aberdeen.

I have written before as to why I believe Derek McInnes should not leave Aberdeen for Ibrox. This was before  an approach had even been made. But much of what I  said still stands. But I want to compare the professionalism and integrity of the two clubs.

Derek McInnes at no point indicated that he wanted to go to  Rangers. He had to react an ongoing media circus that seemed hell-bent on giving him the job without actually acknowledging that Rangers are no longer the biggest draw in town. McInnes showed his integrity when he turned down the Sunderland job demonstrating that he will do what is best for his career. He was professional in every way, trying to get the Dons ready for the two matches versus Rangers. It did upset the preparations the ongoing speculation. The cynics would say that Rangers delayed the approach on purpose to disrupt Aberdeen’s preparations.

Likewise Stewart Milne not someone who gets the best support from Aberdeen fans also came out of this saga with a lot credit. He again , reiterated when asked by the media that Derek McInnes was committed to club two weeks ago. And when an approach was made Milne looked after the interests of Aberdeen FC. In the last few seasons Milne has backed Derek McInnes and shown ambition both on the park and off it. He has always put the interest of Aberdeen football club first.

Compare this to Rangers who took over 5 weeks to identify a managerial target. They waited till after the double-header of the two  games causing disruption and fuelling speculation. This is a team which is lacking  leadership.  Despite fairly appalling financial results the Rangers AGM was dominated by talk of the new manager. Where was the public scrutiny of their finances.

Nobody likes to be rejected but a professional should handle it with a degree of dignity. Not Rangers on this occasion. The official Rangers response to Derek McInnes decision to stay at Aberdeen was like a petulant teenager who had just discovered a thesaurus. It was  unprofessional and actually embarrassing to the fans.

No self-respecting manager would put themselves forward for a job at a club when it is clearly leaderless. There is no one taking responsibility or even acknowledging the shambles in their selection process. This saga will go on till the New Year now as more targets are identified, But the stakes the for 2nd place has been raised . Derek McInnes has a board, a fan base and a city  behind him as he chases 2nd position.  The decision by McInnes to  stay is finished as it is clear that Aberdeen are a professional and ambitious club compared to Rangers.

Integrity is not something that is common in modern-day football. But through this whole saga both Milne and McInnes have shown it in abundance. Maybe those at Ibrox should take note.


Scottish Refs need to improve.

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In the past few weeks we have seen some appalling referring decisions in the SPFL. We have constantly been told that Scottish refereeing is held in high regard with our whistlers on the UEFA  list. But recently some of the decisions have been  shocking and difficult for fans to accept.

  • Cedric Kipre (Motherwell) – Sent off  for a slight touch on Scott Sinclair(Celtic)
  • Callum MacGregor (Celtic) – Awarded a soft penalty after being fouled in Motherwell box.
  • Stevie May – Offside goal disallowed v Kilmarnock

These are just a few of the recent incidents taht come to mind. The penalty award against Motherwell was by far the most questionable.

We as fans have fairly biased views when it come to viewing refereeing decisions. But we are led to believe that we have  4 th  officials  now  to help and refs is scrutinised by observers in the stand. A yet dubious decisions are made will little reprise from the SFA. The SFA need to hold our referees to account otherwise who will. Managers and clubs and not able to as they are hauled before disciplinary committees as soon as they show dissent.

Technology has been introduced into some leagues to try to solve some of these decisions with goal line technology  and replays. But we don’t need that in Scotland as yet. What we need is honesty and transparency. The referees need to be able to come out and explain a decision. We are human after all and do make mistakes. But refs do need to be held accountable, without accountability then our game is in a poorer state.

A letter to Derek McInnes

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Dear Derek

Please don’t leave. Since joining the Dons, you have provided us fans with much delight and restored our faith. There has been highs, the 2014 League Cup success for one and lows, like last year Scottish cup final. But overwhelmingly the fans have supported how you have rebuilt a team not just once but twice.

It is often difficult  when your childhood sweetheart (Rangers) re-enters your life. It questions your current relationship . But be assured, Derek, you are loved by the Aberdeen fans.

It is exciting times for the club and that is due to your management of the team and the boards vision. The overwhelmingly  support for the news stadium from the fans. We will get a new training facility and a new stadium. As the city as a whole sees the value of the facility and the team.

But it is you Derek we love. Like when you called out Pedro Caixinha for tapping your players or when you rejected the lucrative offer from Sunderland. We have grown to love your dedication, determination and professionalism.

Ambition is great and  we would never want to hold you back, Derek. But to leave to Rangers would leave us heartbroken. Despite being our fiercest rivals, as that would not convince you. It is the fact that as things stand we are in a better position as club. In Stewart Milne we have a chairman and the board who have invested in the squad and will do again. Compare that with Rangers where Dave King  who’s own lawyer declared him penniless. Is this the future you want , Derek?

Player wise we are can compete .How many current Rangers players would get into the Aberdeen team. Dorrans, Tavernier and Wilson maybe, but the rest would struggle. Aberdeen has vision and with the backing that can achieve much more. We may not be able to compete with Celtic but a cup is still possible. We came so close last year. That was down to you , Derek.

Your talent is appreciated here. opportunity will knock. Some bigger, more ambitious clubs will and are taking note of what you are doing. So please Derek don’t leave we can rebuild this club. There is more happy days ahead.

Yours Sincerely

A Lifelong Dons Fan


A day at the Juniors.


As Aberdeen were not playing this weekend I was at a loose end. so decided to take in a juniors game. Banks of Dee is the closest club to my home. So I took the opportunity to take in a McBookie SuperLeague match at Spain Park. The opponents were Culter FC.  Incidentally Banks of Dee formed in 1902  is older than Aberdeen Football Club. Banks of Dee are in a rich vein of form, sitting at the top of the league  and coming off of a Scottish Cup 2nd round victory against Selkirk which resulted in home draw against Ayr United. So this looked liked a tasty match.

Spain Park is a small enclosed stadium which has  a 4th generation artificial pitch. Now I do not  believe we should have artificial pitches in our top leagues but I do believe it is acceptable at this level. You only need to look around at the facilities that it can provide to the local community and more importantly  youth teams. It provides a good all year round pitch which can be utilised by all.

A large travelling support well by juniors standard had travelled  the 10 miles  west to cheer on Culter. No idea the official  attendance but it must have been about 200 by my estimates . The admission fee was £5. At a time when economic times are hard in the Granite city this is value for money. But what struck me was that the man on the gate let two young lads in for nothing as they were 12 years old.  I don’t know how many senior clubs would do this . This is the value the junior clubs make to our national game. It is pity that the SFA don’t always recognise this.

The match was a tight affair with Culter taking the lead  after a defensive error by Banks of Dee midway through 1st half.  Banks of Dee hit  back  quickly to level the game with a fairly scrappy goal.  After the break the game heated up with two fairly  evenly matched teams  becoming increasingly niggly. The game turned on a sending off for Culter. The centre forward aggrieved of not getting a penalty  2 minutes earlier  feigned a head but by a Banks of Dee defender. When booked for acting  proceeded to get him self set off  by back chatting. Despite being  10 against 11 it was still a fairly evenly matched game. But Banks of Dee were able to take advantage late on and get a winner with good move and cross down the left leaving a 6 yard tap in.So a sending off and late winner, what more can you ask for.

The Northern Region Juniors has to compete with the Highland League so is not the same standard as the West of Scotland Juniors. But for value of money this is  unequalled. The pies weren’t bad either. So next time your local professional team isn’t playing get yourself out to a juniors game  you will be made to feel welcome. I certainly will be back.

Why Tommy Wright should replace Gordon Strachan?

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Well it never went as planned last weekend. Gordon Strachan has now been relieved of his duties as Scotland coach and Malky MacKay is the interim coach. The usual suspects are being linked with the job including David Moyes, Paul Lambert, and Ally McCoist. Whoever gets the nod has a tough job on his hands. This is not a job for a young ambitious manager this is a job for a tried and experienced coach with new ideas.

One of the biggest mysteries in Scottish Football is how Tommy Wright is still at St Johnstone. He is a manager who has time and time again defied the odds and guided St Johnstone to european football year on year. St Johnstone  are not a fashionable club and Tommy Wright is probably not a fashionable manager.

Tommy Wright started as a manager  over in Northern  Ireland and  held a number of goalkeeping coach positions before joining Steve Lomas as his number two at Perth in 2011.  Within two years  Steve Lomas had made the Saints a top six team and regular European  qualifiers. When Lomas moved on Tommy Wright stayed and stepped up to the role of first team manager. In this time he has achieved some impressive results including consistent qualification for Europe.

Tommy Wrights Managerial Record to Date

Team From To Games Won Draw Lost Win %
Limavady United Nov-03 May-05 54 23 15 16 42.59
Ballymena United May-05 Apr-08 117 44 29 44 37.61
Lisburn Distillery Sep-09 Nov-11 97 36 16 45 37.11
St Johnstone Jun-13 Present 195 86 39 70 44.1
Total 464 189 99 176 40.73

All in all  it is not a bad record. But  the stats only tell part of the story. This is a manager who has produced  real results  in big matches. In fact his first match in charge in 2013  he masterminded St Johnstone’s first away win in Europe against a club of proven European pedigree, Rosenberg. That season St Johnstone went onto to win the Scottish Cup. The first time in their history. No mean feat by any means. And where we measure success in football with silverware,  it doesn’t do Tommy Wright justice. As St Johnstone are  a smaller provincial club and tend to lose  players every season to bigger clubs. This has resulted in Tommy Wright having to rebuild year on year.  That is not an easy task especially in a league like the SPFL Premiership.

So why do I believe that Tommy Wright should get the Scotland job. We need someone who has a proven record of over achieving . Tommy Wright has done this for the last four years. He has achieved so much with what can be only considered as an average squad. His ability to turn players careers around should not be understated. Danny Swanson Murray Davidson and Michael O’Halloran are prime examples. These are  players whose careers were faltering  and yet Wright was able to get the best out of them.

In 2015 -2016 he won the Scottish Premiership manager of year award for a fourth place finish. It is this continuous high achievement which is so admirable. Some managers achieve success but are unable to maintain it, continuous success with scarce resources should not be understated.

If you watch St Johnstone they are an extremely tough and physically team to play against. They make the opposition work and are difficult to break down. Something that the Scotland National team has lacked in the last campaign. Tactically Tommy Wright  is astute. Many claim it is due his career as a goalkeeper which has given him insight into the tactical nuances of the game.  This was demonstrated well in a recent  game against Celtic at Celtic Park. St Johnstone matched up tactically well with the Scottish Champions. This tactical awareness is a skill required by international managers as they have to make do with the players they have.

Tommy Wright will not be at the top of the bookies list to succeed Gordon Strachan. But he should not be discounted his domestic record is impressive. We need some one who can get the best out of the current crop of players and help build a successful national team by promoting new young players. He may well wear woolly jumpers and come from Northern Ireland but he has the experience we require. We need a long term strategy to regenerate the national team and Tommy Wright could well be that man.

Dare to dream

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Being a Scotland supporter is never easy, It is either a feeling of ectasy or agony. Thursday night was a night of ectasy. A late winner against Slovakia. Hampden roared again. The old stadium hailed our bravehearts. A performance which looked impossible 5 games ago. This team doesn’t seem to know when it is beaten. But that is why we love being Scottish football fan. A run of 1 draw and 3 wins has put us in a position where a win will be good enough for us to earn a play off place. The Moscow misson is still possible.

Slovenia match tomorrow will be a tough game. The team and nation this time travel in expectation. An expectation that if they play as they have in the last 3 games then we will get another crack at it in November. Some players may well be rested as two matches in 3 days can be stamina sapping. A nation lies awake in excitement and antcipation. Gordon Strachan is now the darling of the media. An unlikely hero has stepped up in Chris Martin. But  can he deliver again.

We as a nation dare to dream again.

Football Programmes in the Digital Age.


Is a football programme, a souvenir, a magazine or a book of memories? For many fans can be either one or all of these. The match day programme has been published by clubs since as long as football matches have been played. Yet there has been a decline in sales so much so that some clubs including SPFL clubs no longer print them. In the ever increasing digital age the humble programme is no longer necessary reading.

A football programme used to be a simple team sheet with some stats and local advertisements. Over the years it has changed to include more opinion pieces from players, and historical articles. The internet and social media are now the favoured channels for clubs to communicate with fans. This makes sense as we live in a 24 hr media culture where fans have a thirst for information and clubs are able to use this to their advantage communicating and interacting with fans on twitter.  In essence clubs now use the match day programme as a small revenue earner.

There are some fans that live by the motto if you don’t have a programme you weren’t at the game. But these fans are probably a dying breed. There are a few anoraks out there that still collect football programmes merely for the sake of collecting sake. But for the fan it is more a keep sake, a souvenir to show you were there when your team won its first trophy or avoided relegation on the last day of the season. Recently whilst clearing out my flat I came across some old programmes stored in a shoe box. These were from my childhood, my first match, my first cup final, the legends, the old grounds. It was sheer nostalgia. Two hours lost in thoughts and memories. The programme is merely a key to unlocking those memories. These matches are probably on You Tube somewhere.  TV can capture the moment but they cannot record the physical feeling you have at that moment.  Scottish football fans do like to look at the past as our game was in a healthier state then. The football programme helps fans remember the glory years and provides a hope that they may return.

The programme is still for many a part of the match day experience. Although in recent years it has become an expensive extra to your admission fee. The standard of programme does vary greatly across the divisions. Clubs depending on there resources produce different styles and formats of programmes. Many of the larger clubs will essentially produce a magazine including articles from mainstream journalists. The smaller clubs will focus on stats and local advertisements. But these differences are reflected in the price of the publication. The main resource in producing a programme is probably the time of the editor and contributors.  And it this strain on resources where clubs may make commercial decision to stop producing programmes as they can communicate the same information online.  A growing amount of clubs have developed digital copies of the programme. Some fans though will always want that commemorative publication.

Clubs in England and Germany have been innovative in producing programmes as it competes with the digital media outlets. In Germany a programme is free and distributed at the ground by the clubs. It is a fairly thin publication but list players and some stats but serves a memorabilia publication. A growing number of English clubs have developed digital programmes which are available to buy online trying to cut production costs. Other clubs have experimented in producing £1 booklets on match day and produced a monthly magazine with more detailed articles. Clubs are continually trying to improve how they can communicate and engage with fans through media outlets and the match day programme is one such channel.

The move to digital match day programmes is inevitable as the cost of publication will be minimal. But the traditionalist in me thinks and hopes that the printed form will always be part of the match day experience. The digital age is here to stay and football clubs and fans need to embrace this. But much like the rise and fall of the E- book, the printed book was able to survive and thrive as people craved something tangible. Clubs need to explore how to produce a match day programme that meets fans needs, as it part of our football culture.

This article first appeared on Scottish Supporters Network Website.

Firhill will always be Firhill.


The Energy Check Stadium at Firhill for thrills doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Firhill for Thrills as the infamous slogan goes. Partick Thistle selling the naming rights of Firhill is a sign of the times. How commercial football has become that even the most treasured of  homes can be bought for the right price. This is not unusual as in Scotland we have the Inodrill Stadium (Alloa) and Tony Macaroni Stadium (Livingston) to name two that spring to mind. We live in a time where clubs need to look at every opportunity to raise money through sponsorship and commercial partners. But where does it stop.

Pittodrie Stadium was named after the street it was built on likewise Dens Park. Celtic Park on the other hand is affectionately known as Parkhead after the area it calls home. No long serving fan will call their home stadium the rebranded name.  It begs the question then what the commercial value is to the sponsors.  Only the SPFL and Sky sports commentators will use the sponsors name. Maybe that is what they want as all publicity is good publicity. But it is not like the Eithad or Emirates stadiums in England where you are selling to  new fans in new markets.  Scottish fans tend to be traditional the new name will not stick as the name will always be what is handed down through the generations. If a new stadium is built then that changes the rules as there is no tradition. But where clubs play at their traditional home they should be careful not alienate fans with over the top commercialisation.  The clubs do need  to try to gain  maximum sponsorship in the highly competitive entertainment business they operate in. But they should remember though that it will be the fans who ultimately decide what a stadium  is called. Firhill was allways be Firhill.

Transfer Deadline Day- Overinflated Prices and Overinflated Egos.


Transfer deadline day always tends to be fairly low-key in Scotland compared to our neighbours south of the border. Down south we have Sky Sports reporters salivating at the thought of Sanchis going to Man City or the  inability of Arsenal to sign anyone. We seem to do transfer day in an understated manner that is typical Scottish. Deals are done  on the quiet then announced via social media to the media. What ever happened to the press conference being hastily called and a  marquee signing being wheeled out to the total surprise of everyone. That is what it is like to follow football in the 24/7 media society we live in now.

It does seem to extremely  bad planning on the clubs to be waiting to deadline day to get a deal  done and bring in  new players. It is a bit like christmas shopping . It doesn’t change,  it is always the 25th December and yet you wait to Christmas Eve to get your shopping done. Whilst the transfer window was introduced with the best of intentions to harmonise the transfer market across Europe post the Bosman ruling .   It now has a 19 different windows in countries across Europe. Whereas transfer deadline day is exciting for those lucky enough to be bank rolled by a millionaire, for many it is  a day to dread. You sit glued to the internet or tuned to  Sky sports hoping that you can hang on to your star striker as without him you are destined for mid table mediocrity. It really is a theatre  only for the wealthy.

As  a kid I remember the joy of reading in November in the paper that Aberdeen had signed Hans Gilhaus. Not a player I was familiar with at that time but a Dutch international . It was that excitement of the unexpected unknown quantity. Now  with the transfer window there is no longer the mystery surrounding signings. We now know when a player is about to sign as the private plane or helicopter is spotted whisking the player of to sign the deal.

At least in Scotland we still  have a quieter  transfer deadline day, most of the deals are done as our clubs need them in place by the start of the season. And in the lower leagues it is still the local reporters who can report the exclusive deals being done. Our transfer deadline day is certainly understated. I mean we still use a fax machine in the SFA to register signings.  Times move on and employment law meant that transfer windows had to be introduced but are they really the entertainment we as fans want.  By having  a deadline it ends up inflating the prices and rash signings being made. Thankfully as there is not much money in Scottish football these days it is quieter and it means us fans can have an early night without fear of missing out a big signing.

Can free to view TV help develop our national game?

crossfade_hp1While reading the Sunday papers today I  came across a story where Ian Murray MP is campaigning to screen Scotland’s International matches on free to air tv.There is a growing campaign in light of Brexit that the UK should review and amend the sporting events which are the sporting “crown jewels”.  In an age of the internet even live TV is taking second place to online  viewing.  But as a football fan I have always felt that TV  and football need each other but the relationship has become unhealthy with one being the dominant power. As Jim McLean once warned football has sold its soul to the devil by doing a deal with the TV companies.

But international matches  are different, as a Tartan Army member I attend all Scotland  home games and  as many away games as I can. I have done so for the last 15 years. Admittedly I never went to Hampden as a youngster but was able to follow the national team through radio, highlights and newspaper reports. It is certainly changed days. With the exception of the Scotland v England matches I cannot remember the last home Scotland match which was on terrestrial tv.  The SFA have always argued that they wish to ensure  TV does not detract from the match day attendance there for it has always been subscription tv channels which have screened the home games. In 2014 a £56 million pound deal to screen all Scotland’s home internationals and qualifiers was agreed with Sky Sports.  The qualifiers for the World Cup and European Championships are now centrally marketed by UEFA so the SFA just gets a share of the deal.

The Scotland  away games used to be on terrestrial tv and that made sense as it enabled the whole nation regardless of wealth be able to enjoy watching the national team. But as is always the case money talks and even though BBC /STV or any other tv channel  can bid to screen the away matches it is unlikely they would be able to outbid the subscription sports channels.

Now given that the qualifiers are now centrally marketed by UEFA I would be sceptical if the proposal being put forward by Ian Murray could be implemented. But there surely is a question who is benefiting from the TV  revenue?  Is it the SFA, UEFA, or TV companies ? The one person who is not benefitting from this is the fan. Kick off times are moved to accommodate the tv broadcaster  thereby affecting attendance figures. Now it can be argued that Scotland recent poor performance  in international matches has resulted in a waning interest. But nobody can tell me that the two Leigh Griffiths free kicks against England at Hampden last June did not excite or unite the nation.The whole nation could be heard as those two goals went in. I would imagine that there was kids up and down the country practising in their back garden their free kicks, pretending they were Leigh Griffiths just like I pretended to be Kenny Dalglish.

That surely is the main argument for international matches to be televised on free to air channels, it is to inspire the future generation of footballers. International football unites a nation in way that no other sport can. Die hard Tartan Army members will still turn up regardless of the  opposition and chances of qualification.  But the SFA are responsible  for the development of the game in Scotland. The TV deals should not be short-sighted commercial deals, they should for securing the long term future of the game. TV is here to stay and is required to promote and develop our national game. The SFA should be looking to maximise the national teams exposure and to ensure the widest audience is reached regardless of income. It surely in everyone’s interest to excite and inspire the youth as these kids are the future players and fans.