Friday, July 25, 2008

Going for broke, or just going broke?

Is it the so-called credit crunch? Is it an absence of ambition? Or is it a chronic lack of cash?

Whatever it is, it’s caused both Caley and Dundee United to sell undoubtedly their best strikers, and possibly their best players, Marius Niculae and Noel Hunt respectively, within 24 hours of each other. And their glamorous destinations? Dinamo Bucharest, and Reading. One is a city that is, in appearance, a soulless, concrete-covered Cold War relic, and the other is the capital of Romania. (Cue the sound of ba-doom-tch from my house drummer)

It’s very worrying up in the Highlands, quite apart from the fact that our strike force now consists of Andy Barrowman (who is a proven goalscorer only at div 2 level), Garry Wood (a youngster who has never played in the SPL) and Rory McAllister (a youngster who has played in the SPL, and looks more out of place than a Morris Minor on a formula one circuit). The sale of Niculae had a certain inevitablility about it – his wages are high, he’s a Romanian international, he played at the Euros, we’re hardly in a position to turn half a mil down – but what’s more worrying is the suggestion from the club that we’re badly in need of the moolah and that very little of it is going to be spent in the transfer market. There’s a suggestion that the Arabs are in the same boat.

Certainly, up the A9 we’ve been paying diddy wages for years – we must have the lowest wage budget in the SPL bar perhaps the Accies. Granted, our attendances aren’t great, but we’re an SPL club, we haven’t spent outwith our means, so why are we and other teams beginning to look down the back of the Players’ Lounge sofas for loose change now?

It’s not good.

It doesn’t help that the gruesome twosome have tried to grab more cash off everyone else by claiming they require a 5% admin charge on every ticket they sell for their away games – cheeky soap dodgers that they are. So promptly Falkirk have said that they’ll sell the away tickets themselves! This also means that local old firm fans are less likely to nick seats in the home ends, and means they can sell the tickets to whoever they like, rather than the usual trash that scatter buckfast bottles all over the place and sing their usual sectarian hate-filled guff. I’m desperately hoping they do the same at the Caledonian Stadium this season coming – the smell and sound from the away end when we play Rangers and Celtic is simply nauseating.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prudence in paradise?

Having made the knockout stages of the Champs League the last couple of years, shouldn’t Celtic be out spending huge wads of cash?

I’m impressed by the reports linking them to the Romanian centre-half Tamas, who spent the Euros doing a very good impression of a brick wall. The fact that it takes more than a gust of wind to outmuscle him automatically makes him superior to the boy Caldwell. But the idea that they’re loath to pay £3.5 mil for him makes you wonder where all the lolly has disappeared to.

Thus, Celtic’s summer outlay consists of a random Irish winger called McCourt, and a permanent deal for Samaras. The Greek is definitely good enough to score bags of SPL goals, but at a European level? Naw. He’s too worried about messing his lovely sleek hair (it’s because he’s worth it.)

And to cap it all, Gravesen, Donati and Balde are still on the wage bill. Mind you, it looks like a summer might yet pass without Gordon Strachan purchasing a dodgy central midfielder from abroad. There’s a few weeks left for that to change though…


Thursday, July 17, 2008

Talk, talk, talk, but no transfers

With about three weeks till the start of the new SPL season, I think it’s about time to finish my “blog holiday” – that is, the period of time taken for the shining glow of Euro Two Thousand And Great (yes, I’ve nicked that from the BBC, so sue me – actually, please don’t) to wear off. In short, I feel like moaning again.

Besides, at club level, there’s not been much to talk about. Nothing concrete, anyway. There’s been more speculation about Cristiano Ronaldo, Lampard etc than there is in an issue of OK magazine. All quiet north of the border, though. A complete lack of excitement, at least for now.

So what has happened?

Let’s start with the Old Firm. Rangers seem to be buying rather a lot of forwards for a club that spent most of last season playing one up top. Walter Smith has correctly summized that most of the supporters don’t know jack about players, and so has concluded that if they hate Kenny Miller, then he must logically be a decent player. Miller may need the occasional reminder that, when signing autographs, he needs to go back to adding “f*** the pope” as the postscript, rather than nasty comments about King Billy.

On the other hand, the biggest outlay so far has been on Burnley striker Kyle Lafferty. Not a name to set pulses racing. This may be because he previously played for Burnley. It may also be because his goalscoring record is not exactly sensational. Still, he has that mysterious thing called “potential”. Something which a certain young K. Miller had when he first signed for Rangers, I recall.

The best value for money they’ve got this summer is probably ex-Hearts striker Andrius Velicka, a guy who is strong, good in the air, holds up the ball well and scores goals. A good candidate as a lone striker and, for me a better player than Lafferty. However, the way Rangers are going, each of these guys is gonna get about ten minutes playing time this season. Look at who else wants a game up front: Boyd, Cousin, Darcheville, Naismith (admittedly out injured for aeons), plus Novo and McCulloch who will probably be utilised out wide, and Fleck who may well make a breakthrough this year.

The trouble is that Wattie wants to offload Darcheville and Cousin, but nobody seems keen on taking them off his hands; the former because he’s 33 next week, he’s only going to get slower, and because his hamstrings are more easily snapped than breadsticks, and the latter because his undeniable ability is coupled with the workrate of a sloth which has been smoking a joint and which has chronic fatigue syndrome. That’s only some of the dead wood that hasn’t been chucked yet - though you don’t get much deader than Sebo, Buffel and Faye who at least have bogged off.

So, at this moment in time Rangers seem to have failed to reduce the oversized playing squad (I’m talking about numbers, not Cousin’s belly) and, for me, haven’t improved the quality, just the quantity. They need a right-back and a centre-back, for a start, unless Weir and Dailly suddenly discover the Fountain of Youth, Webster and Smith manage to learn how to play again and Broadfoot, er, learns how to play. I can’t help feeling that you need to be looking at better players than Cardiff’s Loovens and Watford’s Shittu if you’re looking to compete in the Champions League.

Though if Shittu had signed, it would have finally given Celtic fans a riposte for all those years of taunts about a certain Brazilian defender…