Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stop the ride, Man Utd want to get off!

Is it so wrong to have gigantic man-crushes on Xavi, Iniesta and Messi?

Well, if it is, I don't want to be right! For, if football teams were women, and your own favourite team was your wife, then, quite frankly, millions of football fans around the world spent last night committing adultery with Barcelona. And boy, it was hot.

I was so desperate to see last night's game, that I managed to avoid the score until I finished work at 1am - thankfully, even in Inverness, the Champions' League final kept people indoors where they are less likely to hurt themselves and end up in A&E, and various loud-mouthed nurses were successfully threatened with GBH if they mouthed off - and got through the game by about 2-30am. And whereas I often run through games recorded on SkyPlus with the fast forward button in regular use, you just can't do that with the Blaugrana - it's all just too beautiful to skip. So I had a late night, but it was well spent indeed.

Man U were, admittedly, guff. Ferdinand looked a bit unfit, the full backs provided no attacking impetus, Rooney and Park were completely ineffectual, and, worst of all, Michael Carrick and Anderson chose Rome for the worst double act performance since George Bush and Dick Cheney. The young Brazilian could perhaps be forgiven for freezing in the headlights, but Carrick displayed ball retention skills better associated with eunuchs (right, there's my candidate for worst joke of the year in). If nothing else, the value of Darren Fletcher to United is now crystal clear; how they missed his energy in midfield (see my "dream final" post and watch me bask in the knowledge that, for once, I was actually right about stuff). After the opening goal, nobody could get remotely close to Xavi, Iniesta and Messi.

On the other hand, if Messi the hobbit is scoring against you with headers, then, lets face it, it is not your day.

Ultimately, in the same way that Spain's Euro 2008 victory was a triumph for beautiful football, then Barcelona's 2009 Champions' League final is as well. Both proved that modern football does not have to be about strict tactics and physical power; instead it can be about pace, technique and skill. And of course, the common denominators for both Spain and Barca were Xavi and Iniesta. The latter was the best player on the pitch last night, and because you can't predict whether he will play a short pass, a long pass, or choose to accelerate past you with the ball glued to his feet, he is simply a nightmare to defend against. Xavi, lauded as Euro 2008's best player, has remained remarkably consistent; as Louis Van Gaal once said, "I think I remember seeing him give the ball away once, back in 1996."

Is it too much to hope that this boom in attacking football lasts through the 2010 world cup? For the next dream final would be,surely, Argentina v Spain, with Messi on one side, and Xavi and Iniesta on the other...


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What makes a good boss?

The conclusion to this football season has left me with an uneasy feeling that I don't think I can totally put down to the prospect of no meaningful games for a couple of months. I think it has more to do with what I previously thought of as absolute truths about managers turning out not to be so absolutely true.

1. Fans will always love a successful manager

I first became aware that this was not always so right back at the start of the season. A few weeks after Rangers had played in the UEFA Cup final and come so close to an unprecedented quadruple, a small but vocal group of fans were calling for the head of Walter Smith after an admittedly appalling failed attempt to qualify for the Champions League. Apparently reaching said European final, winning seven league titles and numerous other trophies, and rebuilding the team into a solid unit post le Guen had won him no credit with which he could buy time with the fans should there be any setbacks.

And come the end of the season we have seen the departures of Messrs Strachan and Calderwood with supporters of their former clubs shedding very few tears for either. Never mind that the former was the most successful manager of the club since Jock Stein, and the latter had qualified for Europe almost as consistently as he had to sell his best players. As far as I can see Strachan's biggest crime was that he wasn't a "Celtic man" (whatever that is), and Calderwood was destroying the mental health of the Aberdeen fans with the style of football they were playing.

2. A manager who has qualified for Europe will celebrate wildly on the pitch while one who has just avoided relegation will quietly go on holiday

On Sunday afternoon Hull manager Phil Brown lead the Hull supporters in an impromptu karaoke session after avoiding relegation on the final day of the season. Now don't get me wrong, they deserve to be happy and keeping Hull in the EPL is a fine achievement, but I thought after the way the season ended their manager might be a bit more dignified in marking the moment. Especially as they were probably the worst team in the league over the last two or three months and made no attempt to get the point that would have guaranteed safety, choosing instead to rely Newcastle not scoring at Villa Park.

It's made worse when you look at the two best managers in the EPL this season, Roy Hodgson and David Moyes. Both qualified for Europe against all odds. I had Fulham down as relegation favourites at the start of the season after their great escape last year, and Everton had no fit forwards for a good part of the season.

Phil Brown could learn a lot by looking at how these two men handle themselves.

3. There will be no arguing with the achievements of the best paid man in football

Jose Mourinho has just been handed a new contract worth £13M -£15M per year. This is despite having two years left on his current deal and failing at the QF stage of the Champions League, surely the absolute minimum achievement for any big club in Europe. He's also signed some right duffers!

Football's gone all wrong. It needs fixed.


Welcome new author

We have a new guest contributor joining the blog - Iain will attempt, from time to time, to provide some sort of reason to counterbalance my meandering rants. He will also dilute my blatant anti-Old Firm bias (and particularly the anti-Rangers bias).

Quite frankly, he can't make this blog any worse, so best of luck mate!


Shear stupidity

Mike Ashley and Newcastle United are clearly entities with vastly superior intelligence to me; they certainly seem to know something I don't. To my obviously untrained and naive eye, I see in Alan Shearer a man who was the most prolific English striker of the last fifteen years, and a great servant as a player to the Toon. I also see a man with no coaching qualifications, who managed to mastermind a grand total of one victory in eight matches as interim coach at United (against a Middlesbrough team who were an utter joke), whose side, frankly, collapsed as soon as the going got tough in their final match, who constantly changed tactics and played players out of position, who also didn't seem to realise that the rest of the world has worked out how to annihilate a three-at-the-back system.

Also, for what it's worth, I do not recall ever hearing a single insightful contribution from Shearer on the Match Of The Day sofa. If you were going to pick a BBC pundit to be your manager and save your team from the drop, quite frankly, I would even take Mark Lawrenson and Martin Keown.

But obviously, I'm an idiot. For what appears to me to be a complete and utter failure is in fact being construed as reason to give Shearer a bumper contract and the responsibility of taking Newcastle straight back to the big boys.

In conclusion, the best candidate to win promotion from the cut-throat, ultra-competitive Championship, while needing to overhaul a squad containing too many overpaid, vastly under-performing prima donnas, with not very much money at all, is a man with no previous managerial experience at all, who has also never played in the lower divisions, and through his punditry wasn't even covering football in the lower divisions.

Best of luck there, chaps.

Newcastle United v Peterborough United; when was the last time that happened?


Monday, May 25, 2009

Strachan and Tangoman couldn't win

It's not exactly been a slow week football-wise, has it? I'm honour-bound, however, to leave Newcastle United and Schadenfreude for another time. After all, we've had an SPL season with only one managerial change (which came too late for ICT, but let's not talk about that), and then, as soon as the season is over, out the door go Jimmy Calderwood and Gordon Strachan. Both departures, though will have caused only mild surprise. What is surprising, and mystifying, is the way both managers had been vilified by their support; fiddling their expenses and getting season-ticket holders to pay for cleaning their moats could hardly have made them less popular.

I've discussed Calderwood and his perma-tan before, and the fact that, with gradually diminishing resources, he has kept taking Aberdeen into the top six. Heck, the Dons squeezed into the (appalling named and utterly pointless) Europa League at the expense of Dundee United, but United fans will remain convinced that Craig Levein can walk on water. So Aberdeen have buggered up cup runs a few times in recent years against lower division teams, does that really constitute a stick to beat the management team with?

It's unclear at the moment whether Tangoman jumped or was pushed, but he will fancy his chances of getting a half decent job down South where, in the Championship or League One, he will show exactly what he can accomplish with half-decent resources; lets face it, if Aberdeen couldn't even afford to keep Chris-runs about a lot but does nowt else-Clark last season and Jamie-can't keep his hamstring intact for more than 10 minutes-Smith this summer, they must be dirt-poor. And, considering the expectation, who would take the job?

Strachan's departure was expected last season, and the fact that he had once said that four years was about the longest time a manager should stay at a club like Celtic, many suspected him to walk, title or no. Gordon might be about as good at PR as the Catholic Church, but considering his success at home and abroad, the level of criticism from Celtic fans over the last few years is astounding as well. Its hard to discern much more depth to this level of dislike other than "he isn't Martin O'Neill"; would it be unreasonable to wonder whether this was due to Strachan's lack of any links to Celtic or Ireland, rather than footballing reasons? You tell me.

The big problem for Celtic is that there is no obvious candidate to walk into the job. The likes of David Moyes have been mentioned, but at this moment in time, I would say that Everton are a bigger club than Celtic, and have better players as well. Moyes, frankly, would be a fool to walk away from Merseyside - he hasn't yet taken Everton as far as he can, I reckon.

It will be very interesting indeed to see how things pan out at both clubs during the close season, but I will quite happily bet anyone 20 quid that both sides finish next season with fewer points. Calderwood was the best thing to happen to Aberdeen for more than a decade, while Strachan, in hindsight, may well turn out to have got Celtic punching rather far above their weight...


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Slightly less devastated

Okay, I've slept on things, and the world does now seem like a marginally more positive place this morning. Yes, relegation is a bit of a catastrophe. But there are positives and silver linings to find, I reckon. For one, I'm pretty sure that even if we lose the likes of Richie Foran, Filipe Morais, Pavels Mihadjuks (my Latvia flag will be pretty redundant) and Brian Kerr - and we will, as all of them were only signed to six month deals, and all of them will fancy that they can get better contracts elsewhere - we still have a damn good squad available to us, along with a few youngsters who could make the breakthrough. What we really need is a potent striker, but maybe the likes of Rooney, Odhiambo (if he stays) and the infamous Barrowman will find their level. Moreover, we will be a big fish in the division one pond, and surely we will see more victories than defeats, even if I wouldn't dare proclaim we will win that league next season.

I think what upsets me most about relegation (and while I say upset, I at least kept myself rather more composed than a few grown men around me who were in tears!) is that I remember what it was like before 2004, when ICT were in the lower leagues, and anyone who found out they were my team responded with the usual mocking of "and who's your real/big/proper (delete as applicable) team". This mocking, of course, generally comes from those fair weather old firm fans that I railed against last week. But it's hard to take.

Anyway, as I said before, I will renew my season ticket, and I will be there next year to cheer the boys on. Even if it's Queen of the South and Morton instead of Rangers and Celtic, I will be there.

And, I tell you now, we will be back in the SPL sooner rather than later. Mark my words.


Saturday, May 23, 2009


When I got home from the game I actually went straight to the match report on the BBC website, hoping that I might have got the score wrong.

Then I refreshed it to double check.

I don't trust myself to write anything coherent and level-headed (not that it stopped me ranting last week), so I will give it a go later. Maybe.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

The end is nigh...but who for?

On the first Saturday of August, my mum and I drove along the A96 for Caley's opening game of the season at Pittodrie. I was not in the cheeriest of moods (admittedly, I am almost never in the cheeriest of moods); it was only three days since I had moved house back to the Highlands from the granite city, and already I had to brave the road of doom once more. To cap it all, a combination of my mother's driving and a traffic jam at Fochabers High Street - my top candidate for the award for Street Most Likely To Be A Gateway To Hell - we nearly missed kickoff. In addition, Caley's recruiting over the summer did not exactly fill us with confidence (we had just made Andy Barrowman our top earner on the back of one good year in div 2), our manager had overseen an appalling collapse in form at the end of the previous campaign and, of course, we had never, ever won at Pittodrie.

Over that first 90 minutes, we were deserved 2-0 winners, the team showed the bite, energy and enthusiasm of a pack of wolves, and Barrowman repaid the faith shown in him with a superb poacher's finish for the opening goal and an excellent individual performance. The future was bright indeed.

How wrong were we?!

Nine months and thirty-six league games later, Inverness need at least a draw against Falkirk to stay up. Craig Brewster left in January, at least two months after it was quite clear the game was up, his star man Barrowman has scored a grand total of one goal (a penalty!) since his debut strike, and it is only thanks to the new incumbent in the manager's chair that we find ourselves in control of our own destiny. Terry Butcher's record of 20 points in 14 league games is just about top six form, and, while the football has not been pleasing on the eye, we are a damn sight harder to break down than we were under Brew.

The flip side of the coin is that, out of the last three games, we have drawn two (both of which we led) and lost one (which we dominated). So, incredibly, there is a feeling that we should be home and dry by now. Instead we are left with a one-off match to preserve our SPL status (NB the chances of results falling in a way that gets St. Mirren relegated are minimal indeed), a game, which according to some reports, is worth 2 million in extra income to the winner for next season. In addition, the players on the failing side face cuts in wages, or worse release from contracts. At Inverness, there are sixteen players whose contracts end after Saturday's match. At Falkirk, it has already been hinted that the club's finances could not cope with relegation, threatening the future of the team itself.

No pressure, then, lads.

At least one set of players and fans will be left suffering at about 2-30pm on Saturday afternoon, if you can call what football supporters go through "suffering". I just hope with all my heart that I'm not one of them, but if I am, I wouldn't come to me looking for cheery conversation or anything.

Ladies and gentlemen, this Saturday is going to be very stressful indeed. But however it turns out, I will still be back there next season. For better or for worse.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fair weather Old Firm fans - I hope you feel ashamed

I have a question for some of you out there. There are lots of you, and I know a good few of you. You out there who are not from Glasgow, who have no family who are from Glasgow (though you claim that Paisley or Hamilton count as Glasgow), who have not been to Ibrox or Celtic Park more than twice in the last decade, who wouldn't, if asked, be able to recall Kyle Lafferty's squad number off the top of your heads (more of him later, oh yes). You out there who, despite this, still refuse to follow your local team, still always look out for the Rangers and Celtic results first (and don't look at any other results because no other clubs are worthy enough of your attention, after all no-one else will win anything), and treat an Old Firm derby win for your preferred half as if it was your Christmas and birthday rolled into one.

The question is this: how can you bear to be associated with the horrific sectarianism in the stands and the hooliganism and cheating on the pitch when you have no logical attachment to the team itself?

I speak for myself here, but I sincerely believe that the supporter of any other club in Scotland outwith the Old Firm would say the same: if my club, Inverness, had fans and players that behaved in this way, and a club that quite clearly showed no intention of dealing with it (for all their insistence that things are quite the contrary) then I would ditch them and try to follow someone else's games on a Saturday afternoon. Some say you can't choose your football team, but I think there are times, if the relationship becomes abusive (and violent!), then regardless of your feelings, you have to end the relationship and dump your partner. Otherwise, if you are an honest, caring human being, how can you live with yourself? After all, football is only a game, it's not worth being dragged through the mud for. If it isn't even your local team (and only in the American Midwest can you call 150 miles away local) then frankly the mind boggles.

Of course, for anyone who has been living under a rock, this rant has been brought on by the wonderful advert for Scottish football that Rangers put on this Saturday lunchtime, with the usual poisonous bile from the stands added to by the blatant cheating and feigning of injury by Kyle Lafferty, and the obscene, reckless attack on the Aberdeen goalkeeper by Madjid Bougherra. I stand my description of Bougherra's challenge; he is comfortably second best to the ball and is well aware that he is likely to injure his opponent. Bearing in mind what befell Petr Cech a few seasons back, any player who endangers an opponent like this deserves at least a red card and preferably a word from the police. Kicks to the head can kill. As for Lafferty, I hope that at least he is embarassed. I suspect I'm dreaming, though.

And, as always, Rangers and Celtic are the advert to the world for Scottish football. And once more Scottish football has been let down. It's Catch-22; the game can't survive without the Old Firm in this country, yet ultimately they are destroying it, with actions like this which turn off the rest of the world from it, and, of course by dragging away all those football fans out there who, in defiance of any sort of logic, continue, from afar, to cheer them on, them and all the venom that comes with them, depriving the smaller clubs of their much needed support.

I'm glad I'm not a Rangers or Celtic supporter today, because I would feel very sick indeed. I just wish there were many at Ibrox today who shared that feeling.


PS What are the chances the SPL will have the guts to punish Kyle Lafferty after all this? If he gets banned, I will probably faint with shock.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Let's all have a chat!

It is pretty hard not to be cynical about Henry McLeish's "national conversation" shout out this week. Chick Young certainly is, though in my experience Chick Young's views carry even less weight than mine do.

But on the other hand, Scottish football is a complete and utter shambles. There are more things wrong with our national game than there are with Jacqui Smith's expenses. And while we, the supporters, sit around and moan about what's wrong, this is an opportunity to have our say, for what it is worth. It may well be (it probably will be) that our thoughts are ignored, the people at the top keep the status quo out of self-interest, and absolutely nowt comes from the whole thing.

But for once, let's be positive, eh?

I've already emailed in myself. My solutions are reducing ticket prices, increasing the size of the top division and allowing reserve teams into the lower leagues (on the proviso they couldn't get to the top tier).

Alternatively, we could invade the North of England and nick Newcastle, Sunderland and Carlisle. That'd work too. (Don't worry, I didn't include that in the email)

Anyway, how about it, folks? Let's all email our ideas to so we can at least say that, when it all goes to hell, at least we tried.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Well, at least it's exciting

Do you reckon that the SPL is now so crap a league that no-one wants to win it?

That's the impression I'm starting to get from the Old Firm; they are not so much stumbling towards the finishing line as crawling on their hands and knees, eyes lolling, tongues hanging out - you get the picture.

Could Walter Smith's Rangers have blown it again? Last season they could at least explain away their collapse as a consequence of fixture congestion, but this year, having put themselves firmly in the driving seat with their derby win at the weekend, they have thrown away their advantage at Easter Road. Now Gordon Strachan knows that if his side can win at Hibs on Saturday (how on earth did they get two home games against the old firm after the split? Lucky bar-stewards) and see off the other half of Edinburgh next weekend, the title is probably theirs, bar a bit of a goal difference swing.

The sad thing is, though, that from a neutral's perspective, when trying to decide which team "deserves" to win the league, the sad answer is "neither". Quality has been at a premium in both old firm sides, more so than at any time since the turn of the millennium. Apart from the very first old firm derby of the season, Rangers' 4-2 win at Parkhead, there has been precious little to be excited out on the field, as both sides have tended to grind results out more often than not. Add in the complete abject failures in Europe this season, and even the most die-hard fans of the league-winning side will be hard pushed to call it a great campaign.

At least the monstrosity that is the SPL split is finally reaping dividends at the bottom of the league, at the expense of my hairline. Two games left, and four points separate the bottom five. As I suggested previously, Falkirk were bound to find form eventually, and voila. They can now guarantee safety by doing St. Mirren at home on Saturday, and if results go against them, the Buddies could be the condemned side. Stlll plenty of twists to come, though - Hamilton and Inverness face St. Mirren and Falkirk respectively on final day, and could really do with avoiding potential one-game shootouts to avoid the drop. Certainly I'm not sure I can cope with a home game against Falkirk a week Saturday, knowing that defeat would relegate us.

A slogan for the SPL this season - It's exciting, apart from the actual matches.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

The dream final...just

Let's face it, Barcelona have no plan B. Short, sharp passing, combined with light-speed movement off the ball and bags of flair and skill, that is all they've got.

And, it turns out, some guts as well!

Barca's efforts at Stamford Bridge were, let's face it, something of a let down after the absolute obliteration of Real Madrid a few days earlier. The absence of Thierry Henry had an undeniable impact; Andres Iniesta, so deadly in tandem with Xavi, was wasted out on the flank. Meanwhile, Leo Messi must have felt he was trying to dribble through a Glastonbury crowd, with no space to be found everywhere. As a result, Dani Alves could have driven a bus down the right touchline; a bus could have delivered better cross balls than the Brazilian full-back, who had a stinker on a night where he also got himself suspended for the final.

Ironically, the sending off of Abidal might have had a massive silver lining for the Blaugrana. Iniesta had to drop back into midfield, and you might agree that he had a bit of an impact?

It was hardly the victory the purists were hoping for, the crushing of "anti-football" by "jogo bonito". Chelsea were incredibly unlucky, though John Terry's claim of "six or seven penalties" and the antics of Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba have knocked them off the moral high ground. The visitors barely got out of second gear. But fair play to them for sticking to their guns, persevering with pretty football until it finally reaped dividends which RBS shareholders could only dream of.

A few months ago, I called Manchester United v Barcelona the dream Champions' League final. And it still is - the two best teams in the two best leagues, both of whom are capable of playing football to die for. Add in Messi and Ronaldo, arguably the two best players around. And against Barca, United may well be tempted to play a more cavalier lineup than that which got them beyond Internazionale, Porto and Arsenal.

For a start, the suspensions on both sides change things immensely. Sir Alex Ferguson now no longer has to have nightmares about the damage Dani Alves normally does rampaging down the right. With little attacking threat from that position, Ferguson has the opportunity to deploy Wayne Rooney more centrally, where he can run at what will be, in the absence of Marquez and Milito (and the likely shifting of Puyol to right back) another makeshift Barca back line. The other issue is the unfortunate loss of Darren Fletcher (doesn't he wish he had just said "to hell with it", and let Fabregas score?). The Carrick-Fletcher-Anderson axis were outstanding at cramping space for Arsenal's midfield; do Paul Scholes or Ryan Giggs or anyone else have the legs to get tight to the quicksilver Xavi and Iniesta?

Barcelona, of course, will play 4-3-3, with all their top players on the pitch, and let United try and deal with it. As I said, they have no plan B. And why would you need one when plan A is so good?

3 weeks to go; the anticipation is mouth-watering.


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Relegation issue clear as mud, but SPL status does not mean security

Much to the disgust of Inverness, Hamilton, Kilmarnock and St. Mirren fans everywhere, Falkirk refuse to just curl up and die. The Bairns scrambled their way past a Motherwell side who, it appears, are taking heed of those who have proclaimed they have nothing to play for; however improbable, there is still a combination of results that could put Well down if they lost their last four games, but I hope they don't realize that until they've played Caley in a week and a half.
Thankfully for my blood pressure, ICT nicked a win at St. Mirren that keeps us four points above the abyss, but even Hamilton, after choosing for a change to wait until they were two up before trying to kill a game in their win over Killie (at Inverness a fortnight ago, they actually took the ball to the corner flag with more than 10 minutes left. Unbelievable), will not be sleeping easily in their beds quite yet.

What seems clear is that relegation is a potential financial disaster for those who suffer the fate. The stories over the last weeks suggesting there are more holes in Setanta's accounts than in Real Madrid's defence imply that there will be serious cost-cutting as it is next season for those in the bottom six, even if they survive. The team who go down, presumably, will be hit even worse though.

All the bottom six are certainly vulnerable to an extent - even Motherwell admitted this week they might not have the muscle to keep Stephen Hughes, Graeme Smith and Bob Malcolm, though losing the latter might be considered a bonus? Part of Motherwell's problem might be the now infamous Fir Park playing surface - there are paddy fields more suited to a game of football - which is not going to encourage quality players to turn out for them.

St. Mirren and Inverness are probably the best placed to deal with the twin threats of demotion and Setanta pulling the plug. The Buddies pretty much wiped the slate clean with the bank by selling Love Street. They also have another asset worth almost as much as their former ground: Andy Dorman, who will command a rather large fee from someone this summer, a few hundred grand at least. Look through St. Mirren's squad, and you have a bunch of guys who have experience of playing for good division one teams (Dennis Wyness, Jim Hamilton, Garry Brady and Hugh Murray, for example), while other than Dorman, few of their players are likely to be in high demand.

ICT, meanwhile, are able in these circumstances to use their geographical isolation as an advantage; those who move north tend to hang around - how else have we held onto Ian Black for five years? Like with St. Mirren, there are a lot of players who know what division one is about, and few prima donnas. The fact that the Highlanders have the lowest wage bill in the SPL means that they are pretty well set for what the credit crunch might bring; if we do manage to stay up, the priorities will be to keep hold of the likes of Mihadjuks, Kerr and Foran, rather than bringing in much in the way of new folk.

In contrast, things are a lot less rosy for Kilmarnock, Falkirk and Hamilton. Accies look very well placed to stay up, which is just as well since they are actually "insolvent". Their problems will not have been helped by the way Billy Reid has almost stockpiled players over the campaign - 30 used so far in the SPL - though I assume a lot of them, particularly the more recent signings such as Kenny Deuchar, are on short term deals. Hamilton at least have a rather good cash cow in the midfield in young James McCarthy, who will surely command one hell of a fee when he leaves New Douglas Park. Expect rather a lot of departures in the summer, even if/when they secure their SPL status.

The fact that Falkirk budgeted for a top six finish this year remains the stupidest thing I have heard in a long while. At least they have Scott Arfield and Darren Barr to offload if necessary, but it would be fair to say that relegation would be a real problem. Certainly Lee Bullen and Jackie McNamara, despite rivalling the stars of a certain Michael Crichton book/movie for age, are under contract for next year, and I bet Neil McCann and Burton O'Brien are as well. And their stature (which these days sure as heck outrivals their ability) would suggest they each command wages that are somewhat above the average.

Oh, and Kilmarnock? Well, just to avoid doubt, their chairman admitted recently that they could go bust if they were relegated. Cheers for that. No pressure on the players then? After I slagged off Killie last month they promptly went and gubbed Falkirk, but they appear to have reverted to type and appear very vulnerable indeed. They have the Bairns at Rugby Park again next week; I believe that match is what they call a must-not-lose game. Kilmarnock have no momentum along with no money, so they better hope Falkirk don't build up a head of steam. And who from their squad could they sell to make ends meet?

So, in conclusion, all SPL clubs are vulnerable, but some are more vulnerable than others...