Wednesday, September 26, 2007

There's hope for us - Gretna are in the SPL too

Made the pilgrimage along the A96 (very slowly - I've never seen so many roadworks on one road, but that's another, less interesting story) to see us absolutely stuff Gretna 3-0 in the league cup last night. It was the ideal scenario - we were great, while, apart from the first 10 minutes of the second half, Gretna absolutely sucked. I know they had rested a few players, but so had we. Great result, great job. Surely we can't finish below this lot in the league?

Unfortunately night shift rules me out of Saturday's home clash with Falkirk and our next home game in mid October with Aberdire - sorry, Aberdeen (Freudian slip). In fact, the next Caley home league game I can make is on December 11, which makes my season ticket about as valuable and useful as a vote for the Scottish Christian Party. So all the more reason to hope for a home tie on the Tuesday night (or, failing that, Aberdeen at Pittodrie) in the next round, so I can sing "Doo-doo-doo-doo, Dennis Wyness" with the rest of them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Special Brew!

The good news: we finally won a game, with a last minute goal from the gaffer himself. Brewster brought himself off the bench with 10 minutes ago and according to my esteemed source at the match (my mum), he belted in a stonking volley right at the death for a 2-1 win.

The bad news: b***** Gretna and Falkirk won as well. So we're still bottom, 1 point behind Gretna, and, somewhat bizarrely, only two behind Aberdeen after they were gubbed at Castle Greyskull.

Rangers go back top after Artur Boruc decided to try and play more like a traditional Celtic goalie - by that, I mean that he played like Rab Douglas, making two errors against Hibs for which the adjective "glaring" would be an understatement. Back in the day a Hoops keeper blunder wasn't enough to raise an eyebrow, and so the reaction to Boruc having an off day is really a marker of how magnificent he's been.

Missed most of the weekend footie because of work, but at least caught the highlights from Old Trafford. I'm going to place myself firmly in the minority and claim the ref was right to send off Mikel - the offence is called "serious foul play" - and that foul was pretty damn serious - studs up, late, late, late, and a lunge which is nothing like a normal tackle - if you go in like that you know perfectly well you could badly injure the player on the end of it. The only things in his defence is that it wasn't two footed (as his trailing leg didn't quite catch up in time, but almost managed it) and that refs in Britain never seem to show reds for those challenges.

Anyway, it brought a wry grin to my face as utd coasted to victory, though it would be nice if someone censured the huge Louis Saha for somehow collapsing under contact no stronger than the breeze at Aberdeen Beach Boulevard to win the penalty.

So the neutral's team is now very much Arsenal. Fantastic again against Derby (who, admittedly, are making everyone look good right now) and now unbeaten, top of the league, and with Fabregas on fire. Can it last? I hope so - it would be a shot in the arm for attacking football.

Off work till Friday so making the pilgrimage along the A96 today for Caley v Gretna in the league cup. I can feel the goosebumps already...


Thursday, September 20, 2007

No way, Jose!

I'll come to the story behind the title soon enough, but firstly it was an up and down European week for Scottish clubs. I thought Celtic were the most likely candidates for a good campaign, but clearly gubbing Caley 5-0 is no longer necessarily an indicator of good form as they were destroyed by an apparently rather good Shakhtar Donetsk. I didn't see the game, but am convinced that this is further evidence of my belief that Gary Caldwell is utterly hopeless against strikers of international quality; of course, he doesn't play many of these in the SPL. Much better at Castle Greyskull, where Rangers came from behind to beat Stuttgart, the Bundesliga champions no less. Alan Hutton had a hand in both goals, with fantastic forward bursts leading to an assist for Chic Adam and a penalty which Jean-Claude Darcheville (who seems to be modelling his facial hair on Socrates - take your pick over whether I mean the Greek philosopher or the Brazilian footballer). However, my best mate's claim that Hutton is the "Scottish Cafu" seems to be accurate only in that Hutton can't defend very well either. Finally, Aberdeen got a creditable goalless draw with Dnipro, though I was feeling too lazy to walk the whole 7 minute to Pittodrie and watched it on the box instead.

Of course, though, British football fans have been rather more interested in the end of "the special one" at Chelsea. Love him or loathe him (to be honest, I thought he was fantastic), Jose Mourinho was always a source of good entertainment, and the Premier League will be a duller place for his departure.

Of course, the decision made perfect sense as:
1) It's not as if Chelsea had any success during his tenure, what with 5 trophies, including 2 league titles, plus 2 Champions League semis

2) They had gone three whole matches without a win, and the absence of your best defender (Carvalho), your two best goalscoring midfielders (Lampard and Ballack) and your best striker (Drogba) could hardly be called a handicap

3) Abramovich blatantly has a real eye for top signings, having been proved so right by insisting on forking out the GDP of a sub-Saharan African country on Andriy Shevchenko

4) A quality replacement was available immediately, not just some bloke who has achieved nothing outside Israeli football (and not even that much in it), who has never managed a club in a top league and who just happens to be Abramovich's mate

5) It's not as if the pressure will be on immediately, with only an away game at Old Traffordon the immediate horizon

I'm so cynical sometimes that I even disgust myself.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

We lose 5-0 but apparently it was an "encouraging" performance

Lots of journalists today, plus Craig Brewster, plus my mum (who listened to it on t'wireless) are claiming that Caley actually played well at Celtic Park. I am a firm believer that this is an oxymoron (and that anyone who disagrees is also an oxymoron). We're still bottom and grateful that Gretna lost as well.

Just to improve matters, we now have to cope with a resurgent Jambos side next week. My moans about the Lithuanian influence were well and truly given come-uppance by Ivaskevicius, who grabbed the fourth in the 4-2 win against the Gers, though Allan McGregor will have been regretting his decision to give his gloves an extra scrub with soap just before the fairly tame shot. So Celtic go top, and the first old firm game becomes increasingly tasty by the week.

Elsewhere, it's good to see my mate JD's Montrose team managed a win against top of div 3 East Fife. I keep an eye on Super Mo's performances as I try to get down occasionally to remind myself of the good old days of lower division football. Montrose's new plastic pitch is gorgeous. Everyone should have one.

And in the big league Arsenal firmly announced themselves as title contenders with a win at Spurs, while Liverpool and Chelsea got held to draws.

Meanwhile, Sky yet again failed to show Barcelona or Real Madrid. I actually had to read a book tonight due to the lack of La Liga. Shock horror!

Anyway, Champions' League this week, though I finish at 8 on both Tues and Wed and so will miss at least the first half of games. Aberdeen v Dnipro on Thursday though; it doesn't get any bigger, does it?


Friday, September 14, 2007

No points, bottom of the league, who else would you rather have than Celtic away?

From the incredible highs of midweek to the rather more standard league action. Caley, as the title of this entry suggests, travel to Celtic Park twelfth out of twelve, with zero points out of fifteen. I think Wednesday used up my fair share of miracles for the season, let alone this week. I hope Celtic might rest a few boys for Champions League duty, but hopes are not high.

My SPL attentions therefore have drifted more to Hearts - Rangers. Would you believe that, 2 years ago, Hearts won this fixture 1-0 to cement a 100% record and a clear lead in the title race under George Burley? How times change - Hearts have one league win so far this year. Gone are Burley, Gordon, Pressley, Webster, Fyssas, Brellier, Hartley, Skacel, Jankauskas and Bednar. In are Korobochkaochkavilniusivicius (or something.) and a bunch of random Lithuanians; I have a theory that there are only three Lithuanians at Hearts, but they change their shirt names and numbers continuously to make it look like there are more of them. Why? Well, nothing about Romanov's Hearts makes sense anymore, so this would hardly raise eyebrows...

As I aluded to earlier this week, the reception Mikoliunas gets will be very interesting indeed. If he actually plays (at least with the Mikoliunas shirt, rather than Cesnauskis, Ksanavicius or Ivaskevicius). Anyway, Rangers should win, and so should Celtic. It would be nice if Hibs could keep in touch by winning at Falkirk, not least as it would keep the Bairns down our end of the table. Should I go to Aberdeen v Motherwell? Or shall I stay in and watch Wales v Australia in the rugby? Decisions, decisions.

Down South, Liverpool and Man U face tough away games at Portsmouth and Everton respectively, Chelsea have Blackburn at home, and Arsenal are at Spurs. Does anyone know why the North London derby is a 1:30 kickoff on Saturday, even though its not on Sky or Setanta? It's blatantly the match of the weekend. Instead we get Man City v Villa on Sunday afternoon. You can almost hear me wetting myself with excitement, eh?

Actually, for all my sarcasm there, I'm still blatantly going to watch it. And I'll almost certainly glued to the screen. Even if its a nil-nil draw.

I need a life...


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sacre Bleu!

Either this is the longest and most wonderful dream ever (and I'm in no mood to wake up, thank you) or, 24 hours on, we really did beat France. In France. Oh yes.

Who gets the plaudits? Everyone, really. James McFadden, for, after an hour of desperately chasing scraps, deciding to take his frustration out on the ball by hitting it as sweetly as it could possibly be struck; I'm well aware the keeper should have saved it but do you think I care even the slightest bit?

Stephen McManus, who played like he was two men, half human, half brick wall, or so it seemed, as time after time the French could not get past him.

Scott Brown and Paul Hartley, for their tireless running and harrying, for giving every ounce of their being just to make it difficult for France to play football.

But ultimately they should be for the boss. Big Eck made the big decision by playing McFadden as a lone forward ("he's not a lone striker!" we all cried), and almost as big a decision by playing Hartley in midfield. And don't forget the decision to replace the injured Fletcher with the unheralded Pearson, who joined the ranks of those who motored round the pitch like giant human Duracell bunnies.

Let's face it, we are still nowhere near qualifying for this group. It's perfectly possible that we might fail to win another match in this group. But let us savour, for the month until the next game, the fact that eleven Scotsmen went out against the odds and gave all they had, just so that an entire nation could, for just a little while, feel like our chests could burst with our pride for them.

Doo doo doo doo, James McFadden, doo doo doo doo, James McFadden...


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Gary Teale's out! Disaster!

O.K., there's an eency weency bit of tongue in cheek with that. Gary Teale, Derby County and Scotland winger, will miss tomorrow's game with France with a "sickness bug". I'm afraid that as far as I'm concerned Teale is all speed and little else, and bar an assist for Boyd's goal against Georgia in March, has hardly sent Tartan Army pulses racing. It sounds like McLeish was going to play him though, so his absence forces a bit of a rethink.

There are already, surely, ten names already on the Scotland teamsheet (I'm making a rod for my own back with this) - Gordon, Hutton, Weir, McManus, McEveley, Fletcher, Brown, Ferguson (back from suspension), McCulloch and O'Connor - blatantly Boyd will be dropped as despite his goal threat he can't hold the ball up well enough or press defenders enough to play as a lone striker, and two strikers in this game would be more suicidal than bathing in sulphuric acid while drinking lighter fluid (I haven't seen that one on bunny suicides yet but it's only a matter of time). So who will be the eleventh man? Please not Gary Caldwell deployed in a "holding midfield" role, as the only thing he'll be holding is Ribery's shirt while he chases the Frenchman's shadow. I could cope with Paul Hartley, though his form has been mediocre throughout 2007, but he's an all-action midfielder who could put himself about. However, I'd love us to play Fadders, either wide or in a free role, as he's proven he'll work hard and he gives this wonderful je ne sais quoi that could, in our wildest dreams, maybe actually result in a goal for us.

Not a lot has been made yet of the fact that this is not a France team comparable to that of 1998 and 2000, let alone the one that got to the last World Cup Final. Henry is suspended, of course, while they're down to their 3rd choice goalie (Barthez has retired and Coupet of Lyon is injured), while right-back Sagnol is out and Arsenal's centre-back Gallas probably will be as well. Meanwhile Zidane is long gone, Makelele and Thuram are 2 or 3 years past their best and Vieira's only half fit. It's just unfortunate that Anelka's on form and Ribery is playing the football of his life.

Anything's an improvement on the last time we played here, when in a certain unmentionable German's first game in charge, we sent 3 strikers out (including Dougie Freedman!) and got gubbed 5-0. A lot has changed since then - we're much stronger and they are weaker. So maybe this time we'll only lose 2-0 or 3-0. Or maybe, God forbid, we remember what it took in Glasgow last year and lightning might strike twice?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

We did it - three more goals and three more points...

Missed the game on Saturday - instead I got the fun of a twelve hour shift in Accident & Emergency. Thankfully Iwas covering the side ward and eavesdropped when I could on radio Scotland. Just like against Georgia, we made a bit of a hash of the whole shebang, and just like against Georgia, our subs got us out of jail. Don't care. Three more points, which is two more than Italy, France and Ukraine got on Saturday. And hooray, France have no Henry for Wednesday, as he's suspended. I mean, it's not as if they have an attacking threat with only the likes of Anelka, Trezeguet, Ribery, Malouda etc. available, is it?

I am aware that sarcasm maybe does not come across that well in typed form.

I'm looking forward to seeing Hearts playing the rest of the season, if they ever give another game to that little cheat Mikoliunas. Most fans in this country have seen him collapse as if he's been shot three, four, five times a match on many an occasion, and his "simulation" on Saturday was taking the biscuit. If he gets crucified by supporters for the rest of the season (literally or metaphorically - whatever you prefer), I'm not terribly likely to show much pity for him.

So on to Paris for Wednesday, can't wait.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Euro 2008 weekend coming up...

I wouldn't get used to the two posts in one day thing if I were you - I go back to work tomorrow and 4 twelve hour shifts in 4 days leave me with other priorities such as eating and sleeping to worry about.

Anyway, this is probably my only chance to go on about this week's Euro 2008 qualifiers, and the situations for the home nations. Especially Scotland, of course.

I think that if you'd offered any of us a situation like this when the draw was made, we'd have bitten your hand off. Group B is a 4 horse race still. France have 18pts, Italy 16pts, Scotland 15pts and Ukraine (with a game in hand) 12pts. The attention is very much on our sojourn to the Parc Des Princes a week today, but, lets face it, matches such as our home tie with Lithuania on Saturday are hardly a walk in the park for the likes of us. I was at the win over Georgia in March, which we made heavy weather of. I can't see this being any easier on the Tartan Army's blood pressure.

This round of matches might well end the hopes of at least one of the four in the running, with a bunch of other juicy fixtures in the group. Ukraine face a potential banana skin with Georgia away on Saturday, when Italy and France meet in a repeat of the 2006 World Cup Final. Then on Wednesday, while we're probably getting whipped by Les Bleus, Ukraine host the Italians. Some tears are going to be shed on Wednesday night, I think. Will they be ours?

To be realistic, our target has got to be just to beat Lithuania, with anything from the France game an incredible bonus. With the top two going through, our best hope is probably France to run away with the group and therefore take points off everyone else. My prediction, though is for Italy-France and Ukraine-Italy to both finish draws, Scotland and Ukraine to beat Lithuania and Georgia respectively, and France to probably walk over us. That would leave the group as France 22pts, Italy 18pts, Scotland 18pts, Ukraine (with a game in hand) 16pts. It would still be wide open, at least for second, but that's better than us being out of it.

As much as the media naysays (is that a word? If not, it should be) about England's hopes, expect Steve McClaren's team to get through this intact. Israel at home should be a straightforward win, leaving Wednesday's home game with Russia a biggie. The big problem is that Croatia should get maximum points from their games with Estonia (home) and Andorra (away) and Russia should beat Macedonia at home - so a failure to beat Russia at home means England need something from the return game on the plastic pitch in Moscow in October. But normally England get the job done in the big home games, and a win puts them in the driving seat for qualification.

Wales are already all but out, and if they get anything from their games with Germany (home) and Slovakia (away) they'll have done well. Steve Staunton must have nightmares aboutIreland's defeat in Cyprus at the start of the campaign, as otherwise they would be giving Germany and the Czechs a headache. Now, though, they probably need 4 pts from their two games behind the iron curtain (Slovakia and the Czech Republic) or Robbie Keane et al can probably start booking summer holidays.

Which brings us on to the last home nation. Can Nigel Worthington keep Northern Ireland going in their group? To be honest, probably not. If they can win both away games against Latvia and Iceland it will be pretty sensational, but even then the last 3 games are Sweden (A), Denmark (H) and Spain (A), so, like Scotland, they probably won't be at the party next summer.

Things are as clear as mud at the moment, then. Will they be any clearer come next Thursday? We shall see...


Welcome to my blog...

Welcome to the first in my series of inane rants and raves about the world's most popular sport.

The early part of the football season has been, at best, somewhat frustrating - I'm one of those rare breeds, a fan of Inverness Caley Thistle (rare even in Inverness itself, but we'll talk about that some other time) and our points tally at the moment is something similar to that usually scored by the British Eurovision Song Contest entry. We're even behind Gretna in the league. Thankfully my footie interest extends beyond the Tulloch Caledonian Stadium (the name has a ring to it, eh?) and so this blog will try to encompass as much football as I can, from the rest of the Scottish Premier League to the English Premiership to even some stuff from the continent (SKY sports is mankind's second greatest achievement ever, after the iPod). With the titanic showdown in Paris with France next week (and the small matter of Lithuania at home first, which I'll miss because of work), there'll be a fair bit of Euro 2008 chat as well, though that may diminish if/when Scotland's dream of qualification peeters out. And when I can manage it, I'll try and take a shufti at the lower leagues - in a masochistic mood I took a saunter to Montrose v Brechin in the challenge cup last night, and it's incredible to think that even these two not-so-prominent members of the football league still had groups of casuals, in burberry and all, desperately looking for fights (they paid 5 quid to get in so more fool them).

So anyway, I hope this brightens up the occasional mundane day, and please feel free to comment on anything and especially to slag off anything you consider to be b******s.

All the best,