Monday, September 15, 2008

Criminal tackles deserve bigger punishments

Here's a question: is there a point where a bad tackle in football can be categorized as assault?

The situation that's brought this particular quandary to mind is that of the news today that Hull City winger Craig Fagan had his leg broken by Newcastle's Danny Guthrie at the end of Saturday's match. For those who haven't seen it, Fagan takes the ball to the corner flag to waste time, and Guthrie sprints in and takes a swing at him, getting him just below knee height. All the time the ball is on the deck. TV replays show, a few seconds before that, Guthrie try to run his studs down Fagan's achilles. The red card that followed was a no-brainer; bizarrely (though it is possible), Fagan actually walked away from the incident.

A couple of hours later, John Terry got what can be diplomatically described as a soft red card against Man City for an innocuous foul 45 yards from goal, where he was deemed to be preventing a goalscoring opportunity.

Both players face three match bans. Fagan will be out for at least three months.

I don't have an answer to the above poser - however whereas you could reasonably describe Martin Taylor's infamous hack on Eduardo as reckless, I guess the issue with Guthrie is that there would not be a lot of difficulty in proving it to be a premeditated attempt to injure another player. That, for me, would be enough to lead to a rather long ban.

Not only that, but at least Martin Taylor grovelled in apology for days afterwards. I'm looking forward to hearing a peep of some sort from St. James' Park at some point?

Edit - all right, Guthrie has apologised. So I'll let him off just a little bit for being a total hacking b******...


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not Ice cool, but Broad-ly speaking, it'll do

Thank the lord almighty for Kirk Broadfoot.

I have to admit, I didn't expect to write the above sentence anytime soon. But a typical performance from the Hun right back, all energy and enthusiasm, was exactly what that Scotland side needed. I have a suspicion that the goal went in off his nose, but big deal. Burley was right - he does have "limited ability" but as Broadfoot constantly shows, physique and fitness can make up a lot for that in the 21st century. Good man.

Certainly a lot of positives can be taken from Reykjavik. If Skopje on Saturday left us with a nausea and horror akin to walking in on your parents making out (I'm not talking from experience, honest), then last night's win led to a nice warm glow such as that produced by eating a piece of caramel shortbread. Of course, we had to make it hard for ourselves, thanks to Stephen McManus' impression of a basketball player. But the attitude was good, we kept the ball well, and looked dangerous up front. It's also the best I've seen Scott Brown play in ages. Mind you, Kris Commons looks like he could become the next Paul Devlin (can you believe that Vogts gave him 10 caps?!).

Come to think of it, if we had picked up 2 draws, there would be a feeling of satisfaction about our start; in fact we have 3 pts instead of 2, and Norway's failure to beat Iceland at home means that I reckon 10 more points would do us for second. Of course, with the daft playoff rules, the more the better.

I can't let this blog post go by without mentioning the England game. It's not fair - not only were England scintillating to watch and good value for the result (A Walcott hat trick? Are you having a laugh) but Croatia were awful and descended into thuggery in the second half. After Robert Kovac decided to try to decapitate Joe Cole with his forearm, England even got the moral high ground as well. Just as well Scotland won, since an England win that we can't find a legitimate reason to slag off would be a bit depressing.

Oh, and by the way, spare a thought for Switzerland, who lost at home to Luxembourg. I can't help feeling that this is the equivalent of Goliath losing to David after David's eyes had been gouged out and his throwing arm cut off, while Goliath was armed with an AK47.

Back to SPL duty on Saturday. Caley v St. Mirren. I love the big occasions.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Scotland succumb to Macedonian malaise

On a sticky afternoon in Skopje, all the left-over optimism of the Smith/McLeish era evaporated along with the sweat on the fans' foreheads. Scotland put in a performance as bland and uninspiring as a press conference with manager George Burley and paid for it with a defeat which now surely means that anything but victory in Reykjavik on Wednesday finishes off any chance of World Cup participation almost before qualifying has started.

Where to point the finger? Crumbs, where do you begin? I'm going to start with having a go at the gaffer. While I recognise that he can only do so much when the players are out on the field, everything about Scotland in the first half seemed to point to errors on his part. Firstly, the decision not to bring the players out to acclimatise a few days in advance, not because they were knackered by the end but because they looked terrified to play at anything other than a tempo resembling a slow motion replay. Secondly, the tactics, for Macedonia have played 3-4-3 for years, yet it seemed not to have occurred to the Scots coaching staff that our defenders (not exactly twinkletoes with the ball at their feet) would be pressed and that midfield would be cramped. Yet with our little-and-littler front pairing the long ball wasn't an option and, quite frankly, we couldn't pass our way out of a paper bag in the opening 45. Only in the second half did the message go out to stretch the play, to create space, and by then the damage was done.

Finally, and most damning of Burley, though, was the lack of motivation apparent in so many of the players. Gordon, McManus and Robson got pass marks for me. The rest, frankly had schockers. For example, the best you can say about Kenny Miller's performance is that nobody died as a result. Considering that he is a player whose defining characteristic is his workrate, he never showed for the ball, never ran into the channels and looked about as likely to score as Quasimodo at a Miss World contest. I look forward to hearing the explanation for delaying Kris Boyd's introduction for so long - even if he wasn't winning headers, the fact he was challenging defenders meant our midfield could pick up the scraps and led to our better moments in the last few minutes. The logic, as I have said a million times before, beggars belief; if you are desperate for a goal, why on earth leave your most prolific striker sitting on the bench for so long?

I know it's only one game. I know that the Macedonian goal came from a free kick that was never a foul. I know we had two stonewall penalties turned down. I know Ferguson and Hutton were injured. But today's performance and result were nothing less than a catastrophe and I defy anyone to find any sort of positives to take to Iceland for the next game, which I fear could be the next nail in what already appears to be George Burley's coffin.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Robinho - ridiculous!

The whole Abu Dhabi Manchester City thing will end in tears. Sorry to burst your bubble, chaps, but it's true. What is the likelihood that other world-class players - if Robinho is world-class, which I would strongly argue against - will make their way to City in January, when there is little likelihood of them qualifying for the Champs League, or next summer, when they are a year away from making the following season's Champs League?

There are two ways this will go - one way is like Carlos Tevez at West Ham, where he will play well (eventually), score a few goals, generally impress, then hot tail it to another side next summer, probably Chelsea.

The other way is like West Ham's other on-loan Argentine of a few years back, Javier Mascherano, where they couldn't fit him in a system to get the best out of him, he sat on the bench (if he was lucky enough to make the bench) and eventually he was sold to another team who did get the best out of him.

The third possibility is that he lights up the Premier League, scores and creates barrowloads, convinces Europe's best that Eastlands is the future, and leads City to league and European trophies for years to come, all the while realising his potential as "new Pele". This outcome is about as likely as a handshake between Barack Obama and the leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

Anyway, it should be entertaining