Friday, April 29, 2016

Ninth annual Narey's Toepoker Team of the Year (part 2)

I see that the PFA Team of the Year has been announced - just a few differences between theirs and ours, eh?

I can't believe Alim Ozturk got picked over Igor Rossi (in fairness, I'd forgotten about Ozturk, who was certainly a better candidate for an 'honourable mention' than some of the mugs I chose), or that Graeme Shinnie is in midfield, or that they went with three strikers - no-one plays that sort of formation now.

Anyway, the first half of our lineup can be found here.  Here is the business end - the midfield and attack.

Honourable mentions: Arnaud Djoum (Hearts), Tom Rogic (Celtic), Ross Draper (Inverness CT), Abdul Osman (Partick Thistle)

Three of the 'panel' picked Bitton and Irvine, and it's hard to argue much.  The Israeli's importance was magnified by the injuries and ineptitude of the failing Scott Brown, and his penchant for a spectacular goal does him no harm either.  He may be the only member of the Celtic squad who could command a Van Dijk-esque offer from a Premier League club, which may come this summer.  Ex-Celt Irvine lost his Worst Haircut In The SPFL title to Colin Kazim-Richards, but his engine is phenomenal; his former club could have done with that sort of energy this season.

I was the only dissenter here, giving Arnaud Djoum and Tom Rogic a vote; I suspect Djoum suffered because he wasn't around at the start of the season, but he's a terrific all-action midfield player.  Rogic has recoveered from an injury-plagued few years to finally show his talents and it reflects badly on Ronny Deila that he still seems to rate Stefan Johansen more highly.  Draper and Osman deserve mentions in dispatches for being the two most bad-ass midfielders in the league - a collision between the two would register on the Richter scale - and Draper must be the most unlikely penalty-winning merchant out there.

Honourable mentions: Osman Sow (Hearts), Michael O'Halloran (St. Johnstone), Michael Gardyne (Ross County), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Greg Stewart (Dundee), Ali Crawford (Hamilton Accies)

Possibly some controversy here, with Osman Sow and Michael O'Halloran both excellent candidates before they left for pastures new mid-season.  I'd have picked them anyway, but I got overruled.

McLean is a shoo-in, having delighted in that advanced midfield role all season and forced his way into the national team reckoning.  The £250,000 that Aberdeen spent on him in January 2015 looks like good value.  His team-mate Hayes is remarkably consistent for a wide player, and his ability to fill in at different positions, as well as his tactical discipline, help him stand out as more than a pacey winger.

Arguably, Marvin Johnson is little more than a pacey winger...but what a winger!  Since Christmas, he's been pretty much unplayable and chipped in with plenty of goals and assists.

As for the other candidates, Niall McGinn has been sensational at times but too often has gone missing when needed the most.  Ditto Ali Crawford, who at times looks like a world-beater but on other occasions doesn't seem to care much; he really needs to leave Accies to fulfil his potential.  Michael Gardyne continues to impress at Ross County.  Greg Stewart didn't quite hit the heights of last season (possibly because he was overshadowed by Kane Hemmings) but was still very, very good.  However, I was surprised he made the Player of the Year shortlist again.

Honourable mentions: Kane Hemmings (Dundee), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)

Hemmings and Rooney have each been impressive enough that they'd have walked into this team in other seasons.  Both are excellent all-round strikers, able to lead the line on their own and score all sorts of goals...and plenty of them too.  Louis Moult's impressive season at Motherwell also deserves a wee acknowledgement.

But Griffiths will be Scotland's Player of the Year, and quite right too.  You just can't argue with 38 goals in all competitions.  His 29 in the league is the highest total in a single season for a decade (and Henrik Larsson only beat it twice).  Were it not for Griffiths, Celtic would be in an even worse state than they are now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The ninth annual Narey's Toepoker Team of the Year (part 1)

Blimey, this is the ninth season that this blog has been running.  Time flies, and all that.  Here, for your amusement, are the previous Teams of the Year: 

2007/08: Allan McGregor (Rangers), Alan Hutton (Rangers), Carlos Cuellar (Rangers), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Lee Naylor (Celtic), Barry Robson (Celtic), Stephen Hughes (Motherwell), Barry Ferguson (Rangers), Aiden McGeady (Celtic), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Steven Fletcher (Hibernian)

2008/09: Lukasz Zaluska (Dundee United), Andreas Hinkel (Celtic), Gary Caldwell (Celtic), Lee Wilkie (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Scott Brown (Celtic), Bruno Aguiar (Hearts), Pedro Mendes (Rangers), Andrew Driver (Hearts), Scott McDonald (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Rangers)

2009/10: John Ruddy (Motherwell), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), David Weir (Rangers), Andy Webster (Dundee United), Sasa Papac (Rangers), Steven Davis (Rangers), Morgaro Gomis (Dundee United), James McArthur (Hamilton), Anthony Stokes (Hibernian), Kris Boyd (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

2010/11: Marian Kello (Hearts), Steven Whittaker (Rangers), Daniel Majstorovic (Celtic), Michael Duberry (St. Johnstone), Emilio Izaguirre (Celtic), Steven Naismith (Rangers), Beram Kayal (Celtic), Alexei Eremenko (Kilmarnock), David Templeton (Hearts), Nikica Jelavic (Rangers), David Goodwillie (Dundee United)

2011/12: Cammy Bell (Kilmarnock), Adam Matthews (Celtic), Carlos Bocanegra (Rangers), Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic), Paul Dixon (Dundee United), James Forrest (Celtic), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Ian Black (Hearts), Dean Shiels (Kilmarnock), Jon Daly (Dundee United), Gary Hooper (Celtic)

2012/13: Fraser Forster (Celtic), Mihael Kovacevic (Ross County), Gary Warren (Inverness CT), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Stevie Hammell (Motherwell), Victor Wanyama (Celtic), Nicky Law (Motherwell), Murray Davidson (St. Johnstone), Leigh Griffiths (Hibernian), Michael Higdon (Motherwell), Billy Mckay (Inverness CT) 

2013/14: Jamie MacDonald (Hearts), Dave Mackay (St. Johnstone), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United), Scott Brown (Celtic), Stuart Armstrong (Dundee United), Peter Pawlett (Aberdeen), Kris Commons (Celtic), Kris Boyd (Kilmarnock), Stevie May (St. Johnstone)

2014/15: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic), Jason Denayer (Celtic), Graeme Shinnie (Inverness CT), Ryan Jack (Aberdeen), Greg Tansey (Inverness CT), Greg Stewart (Dundee), Stefan Johansen (Celtic), Gary Mackay-Steven (Dundee United/Celtic), Adam Rooney (Aberdeen)

Some, er, interesting picks back in the olden days, eh?  One thing I notice is that the quality of the eleven names seems to have generally dipped since the first one was penned in 2008.  A sign of the way Scottish football is going, perhaps?

A few notes ahead of this season's picks.  Firstly, this was a cumulative effort again, with regular collaborators Martin Ingram, Iain Meredith and Stuart Taylor all picking their favourites.  (Martin chose Boyata before the cup semi-final, and as soon as it was over he was on the blower asking if he could change his mind)  But I drew up the shortlists, so I'm to blame if anyone obvious has been overlooked.

Secondly, there was some dispute over whether to include players who left in January - Danny Ward, Osman Sow and Michael O'Halloran being the obvious ones.  I was pretty relaxed about it, but the others weren't so comfortable.  My own feeling is that anyone who has played more than half their club's league games (all three have) should be eligible; this in turn excludes January signings like Erik Sviatchenko (if you think he's good enough, and I have my doubts still).

Thirdly, you won't find Lee Wallace, or James Tavernier, or Martyn Waghorn, or John McGinn on this list.  It's strictly top flight only.  Capiche?

Onwards we go...

Honourable mentions: Craig Gordon (Celtic), Danny Ward (Aberdeen)

The first time MacDonald got in the Team of the Year, he was part of a relegated Hearts side.  This time around, he's in a Kilmarnock team at risk of the same fate.  Again, with an often hopeless defence in front of him, he's had an awful lot of saves to make.  Maybe he just looks good because he features in most of each highlights reel.

I wondered on Twitter last week if Aberdeen might have won the league had Adam Bogdan not been useless in a couple of Liverpool games around wintertime; the Hungarian goalie's haplessness convinced Jurgen Klopp to recall Danny Ward from Pittodrie.  Ward was outstanding in the first half of the campaign, whereas Scott Brown has been anything but in the subsequent months.  Craig Gordon, meanwhile, has been reliable and relatively mistake-free.

Honourable mentions: Shay Logan (Aberdeen), Mustapha Dumbuya (Partick Thistle)

Paterson continues to get a wee bit better every year; given that he's only 21, there must be a real possibility that he becomes a very special player.  He's certainly got the physical tools and is dangerous on the attack, but just needs to cut out the occasional lapse in concentration.  I have a family friend who works with his mum; it's reassuring to hear that even now she still gives him an absolute bollocking when he gets sent off.

I'd say this has been Logan's best season in Scotland, and it would be a blow for the Dons if he was to decline a new contract.  Sierra Leone international Dumbuya came out of nowhere (well, English League One) to shine for Partick, but injuries have slowed him down since the new year.  There's a dearth of quality full-backs though so he deserves a mention.

Honourable mentions: Kieran Tierney (Celtic), Ricky Foster (Ross County)

This was a close one; Shinnie seems to have spent as much time in midfield as defence this season, and Tierney has emerged as the one really bright spark of Celtic's season.  But with a couple of Aberdeen supporters amongst the 'judges', there was only going to be one winner.  The former Inverness defender has been brilliant whatever position he's been in.

It's crazy to think Tierney isn't 19 till June.  He's deserved his opportunities for Celtic and Scotland (though I'm not convinced he should be ahead of Shinnie in the queue for the latter).  Again, there aren't many other good left-backs to choose from, but it's worth referencing Foster who has fallen back in love with football again and has been consistently good in several different positions for Ross County.

Honourable mentions: Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Ash Taylor (Aberdeen), Conrad Balatoni (Kilmarnock), Stephen McManus (Motherwell)

A caveat: there have not been many outstanding central defenders in Scotland this season.  In fact, relatively few could aspire to the adjective 'mediocre'.  I'm well aware that one look at the 'honourable mentions' list will likely make a few folk gag - Boyata?!  Taylor?!  Well, both have had their share of terrible games, but both have also had plenty of good ones, at least before Christmas.  If anyone can come up with better options, please let me know.  Dundee's James McPake would have been considered but for the fact that he (inevitably) missed most of the season with an injury.  Otherwise, this league's central defenders have been absolutely pants.

Rossi is an obvious exception, and was a unanimous selection; Hearts' other defenders have been a bit streaky at times, but the Brazilian has been solid as a rock, not like a Brazilian defender should be at all.  Davies hasn't been perfect, but he's shown on plenty of occasions why he was once a £1.8million player and has been a critical part of County's successful season.

As for the others, McManus has had his best season for Motherwell, while Kilmarnock have been so much better since Balatoni arrived at the club...not that that would have been hard given the quality of their defending early doors. (note - I wrote this before his weekend blunders!)

In a few days, we'll have the midfielders and the attackers.  And yes, I'm sure there'll be a Celtic player or two...

Lawrie Spence has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Talking Points from the Premiership

A matter of time till Mixu is sacked
Believe it or not, a few weeks back everyone thought Dundee United might actually get out of their hole.  There's no chance we'll be conned into thinking that again now.  United stunk up the place in their last game before the split at home to Inverness, but they were actually even more atrocious here.  With Kilmarnock having lost earlier that afternoon, a win here would have closed the gap to five points and kept Accies just about within reach too. Motivation enough, surely?

Apparently not.  Guy Demel amusingly claimed before the match that too many of his teammates were hiding during games.  The Ivory Coast international certainly can't do so, given his size; nor should he be getting outmuscled by Carlton Morris as he was again and again and again.  But this is the story of their season: with the exception of Paul Paton and Billy Mckay, United players are only noticed when they make mistakes.

So relegation could be confirmed as early as next Monday night - at Dens Park, no less.  Being sent down by their rivals would be about the only way this season could get any worse for the United fans, some of whom showed their displeasure by protesting outside the stadium following this defeat.

Events remind me increasingly of Hibernian's 2013-14 season - a group of players completely lacking in talent, confidence and/or interest, and a manager who was completely incapable of turning things around.  Mixu Paatelainen has been a complete failure at the club, winning just five out of twenty-four league games.  If the season had started as soon as he was appointed, they'd still be bottom.  Like Terry Butcher at Easter Road, Mixu can't be trusted to bring this team straight back up.  He'll get his jotters as soon as relegation is confirmed.

That Hibs bunch were the first to ever get zero out of ten on the blog's end of season report card.  There is a good chance the 2015-16 Dundee United team will emulate them. LS

A toxic atmosphere does nothing to help Celtic
I'm sure I'm not the only one who was shocked that the Green Brigade's banners completely failed to either inspire Celtic's players into a superb performance, or to shame them into the same.  After all, what player earning thousands per week with zero loyalty to a club couldn't help but be stirred into action by being slagged off by the supporters?

Still, (Leigh Griffiths aside, as always), the home side's general failure to give a damn about the match was quite remarkable.  This was a game that County should have won, even though they were without several important players.  They had spurned several great chances before Stewart Murdoch levelled it with a screamer...though, a week after his rather naff comments about Barrie McKay's goal past him, Craig Gordon did his reputation as one of football's 'good guys' further harm by ridiculously claiming he was unsighted by an offside player.

The difficulty is knowing whether this was just (another) bad day at the office, a downing of tools after Ronny Deila's departure was announced, or a sign of a deeper malaise infecting the club.  Celtic will win the league anyway, but they need a new boss in place pronto so they can work out just how widespread the changes at the club have to be. LS

Hemmings really is a top striker
Surely I can't be the only one who enjoys Kane Hemmings' increasingly naff goal celebrations?  His one for the opener at Firhill was classic - a daft dance and celebration in front of, er, the empty stand behind the goal.  He clearly knew that, which made it all the more amusing.  It's nice to see a bit of humour now and again.

Hemmings has plenty of reasons to be cheerful; twenty-five in all competitions, including two in this match.  Both were great centre-forward goals, the consequence of clever off-the-ball movement and confident, emphatic finishing.  And that's because the Englishman is a great centre-forward, at least at this level.  Maybe not quite at Leigh Griffiths' level, but certainly on a par with the likes of Adam Rooney.  It's hard to believe that Hemmings, cast off by Rangers in 2013, was playing for Cowdenbeath less than two years ago.

It's also hard to believe there won't be suitors this summer.  Whilst Hemmings had a pretty underwhelming spell with League One Barnsley last season, he clearly has enough quality to justify another chance.  He does still have two years on his contract, but it's quite possible that he isn't among the high earners at Dens - certainly not on anywhere near the wage that fellow striker Rory Loy commands.  Paul Hartley might want to keep him sweet with a new deal.  Given that Dundee still missed out on the top six despite Hemmings' hatload of goals, one wonders how far down the table they might have ended up had he not been leading the line. LS

Clark may regret hammering his defence
It looked like Lee Clark had fixed Killie's defensive frailties, after amassing five clean sheets in his first eight league games.  But you wouldn't know it from the manager's reaction to defeat at Inverness.  Admittedly, his anger was justified; whilst his side rode their luck in the first half, they had nicked a goal against the run of play and led a Caley Thistle side who are really lacking confidence at the moment.  At the break you'd have fancied Kilmarnock to come away with at least a point, if not all three.

Then came Conrad Balatoni's moment of madness.  Clark described the defender's backpass as "a crazy decision", and Ross Draper's decision to make sure he was brought down by Jamie MacDonald (I reckon he could have gone round him and scored if he'd wanted to) turned the game on its head.  Referee John Beaton had little choice to send MacDonald off, and after Greg Tansey converted the penalty, there was only going to be one winner.  With too few runners in midfield and attack, the visitors were never going to cope with being a man down.

Clark didn't just reserve his ire for Balatoni.  The second ICT goal came as a result of a near post flick on at a corner with a man attacking the back post completely unmarked.  The same situation had occurred about half a dozen times before then, without the home side taking advantage.  Yet Kilmarnock never learned from it; the defenders continued to be attracted to the near post like insects to a light bulb.

That said, given the decent run prior to this game, Clark's criticism seemed drastic.  "When the players keep making errors, you have to think they are not learning the process, and you have to change the personnel".  Maybe it was said in a moment of anger.  Maybe it's an attempt to motivate the players to perform better.  Or maybe he really does intend to make changes.  But given Killie's defensive woes in the early months of the season, perhaps he would be sensible to just put this down to a bad day at the office. LS

Aberdeen can't wait for the season to end
I've done a good job of avoiding seeing Aberdeen getting humped by St Johnstone this season.  Last October a Borders wedding spared me the 5-1 drubbing at Pittodrie; this time, it was a leaving do for a work colleague.  Fortunately there were no televisions in the Champagne Bar, but I did run into a fellow Dandy who had abandoned the pub he was watching the game at early.

It was a fantastic Friday night win for St Johnstone, but Aberdeen were awful.  Why Derek McInnes gave 20-year-old Michael Rose a debut was unclear; he gave away the free kick for the opening goal, comfortably steered past Scott Brown by David Wotherspoon, who I have sang the praises of in a previous Talking Points entry.  

Not so Brown.  It was yet another poor performance for the Dons keeper that has coincided with Aberdeen's stumbling down the stretch.  Referee Craig Thomson later inexplicably awarded him a free kick for running into his own captain, in the process disallowing a goal for Steven Anderson.  It merely delayed the inevitable - Rose conceded another free kick for another foul on Cummins (Rose would get the hook at half time; hardly the confidence boosting debut one would have hoped for...) and Anderson's bonce this time provided an assist for former Don Steven MacLean to tap in past another desperate piece of keeping.

The third goal was, if anything, worse.  Aberdeen tried to play the ball out of defence, Chris Millar caught Mark Reynolds in possession and Cummins collected the leftovers, feeding Liam Craig to finish the match as a contest.  All in all, it was a dominant display from the Perth Saints, who deservedly took the three points and probably deserved more than the three goals they had to show for their overall performance.  For the Dons, it is obvious that the end of the season clearly can't come quick enough for them now.  MI

Motherwell and Hearts go through the motions
Does anyone at the top want to finish this season on a high?  Celtic are concluding the most miserable title winning season in living memory.  Aberdeen keep blowing every chance that they get to pull them back.  Their latest capitulation on Friday night gave Hearts the opportunity to push for second place, up against a Motherwell side that they beat 6-­0 the last time the teams met.  It was a real chance to start a surge to overtake the inconsistent Dons.

Unfortunately it seems that no one really cares that much about final league placings and the teams decided to have a wee friendly kickabout on a sunny Saturday afternoon.  Motherwell found the wherewithal to actually score a goal, just to mix things up a bit, but other than that it was a drab affair.

This post-split time of year always seems to bring up lots of rubbish games just like this one.  I’d happily do without them.  However, we have three more weeks of this nonsense.  Can we not just call them all a draw and get straight to the playoffs and Cup Final, and skip these glorified friendlies? IM

Martin Ingram (MI) is our Aberdeen Correspondent.  Legend has it that he is the tallest man in the Red Army.  He writes regularly for Aberdeen fanzine The Red Final.

Iain Meredith (IM) is technically a Rangers fan, but these days he tends to support them ironically.  He agreed to help with this blog because now he can tell his wife that he's "only watching the game to help a friend out".

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Deila era highlights Celtic's lack of direction

So Ronny Deila is offski at the end of the season, after two rather mediocre years.  It's the right move for Celtic.  Sure, the Norwegian won the title and the League Cup last year, and is heading for a second title this year, but there's a compelling argument that, with a budget greater than every other Premiership team put together, the club could have achieved similar success with me, you, or a chimp  (or maybe even John Collins!) in the dugout.

Screwing up three domestic cup semi finals in four years - the latest, against Rangers, being the most galling - is hard to take, but pales in comparison to the European failures.  The bottom line is that the Champions League is where the money is...more than £10million of it each season, in fact.  Celtic have not made it there under Deila, and on both occasions they were defeated by a team with a much smaller wage bill but much more organization and heart.  Maribor and Malmo each finished bottom of their groups, and amassed a grand total of one win between them.

During Deila's inglorious reign, Celtic have become stuck in a worrying cycle: failing to qualify for the Champions League means a gap in the budget, so top players such as Fraser Forster and Virgil Van Dijk (who want out because they want to play at a higher level anyway) are sold, which results in a weakened squad which then fails to qualify for the Champions League the next time...and so on.

How to break this run?  They could pump significant amounts of money into the playing squad to drastically improve it.  Or they could improve the squad in another way - either by better coaching, or by finding better players on the cheap or from the youth setup.  The hope was that Deila would prove a tactical genius, an expert at recruiting players, and/or a great developer of kids.  But he has proved inflexible and unable to set up his team to defend properly, dreadful at signing players, and has managed to bring through only Kieran Tierney from the academy.

But it's clear that 'speculate to accumulate' is not an option for the current regime.  Gone are the days where Martin O'Neill could spend £5million plus on the likes of John Hartson, Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon.  Dermot Desmond has made it very clear that Celtic are being run as a business, and therefore losses are unacceptable.  This in turn will surely deter potential managerial candidates; they are going to be required to turn water into wine, or at least into a halfway decent cider.  It's curious that Neil Lennon is touting himself for a return north, given that concerns about his limited budget were a major reason for him leaving Celtic Park in the first place.  Two years on, the situation is no better and may even be worse.

Would more high-profile names really be willing to work under such constraints?  David Moyes, for example, may be a 'Celtic man' but even at the relatively prudent Everton he was able to fork out eight figure sums for players such as Marouane Fellaini.  More recently, his Real Sociedad came up with £11million for Asier Illaramendi.  And it's not as if the new boss only needs to tinker with the squad; an almighty clearout is required here.

The picture I'm trying to paint here is of a club that seems to lack direction - a realistic direction, anyway.  They demand and require European success, but are unwilling to provide the funds to guarantee it.  The club's signing policy is a mess, and rumour has it that Deila was not responsible for some of the dafter arrivals.  And there remains a dearth of young talent coming through; Liam Henderson and Aiden Nesbitt clearly have ability, but will they ever get the chance with so many older, better-paid players ahead of them in the queue?

Part of the problem I think comes from a lack of domestic competition; even Aberdeen's improvement has not really forced Celtic off their laurels.  Sunday's defeat, which suddenly makes the threat of a resurgent Rangers seem very real, may be the equivalent of poking the board with a cattle prod.

But Celtic's problems are actually not very different from two summers ago.  In June 2014, they failed to tackle them, and the consequence is that it will be even harder to do so now.  Either they completely overhaul things (with financial consequences) or they appoint another up-and-coming Deila-type, in the hope that this one really will be a miracle worker.  If they don't make the right decision this time round, who says they'll even be in the Champions League qualifiers a few years down the line?

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Worst signings of the Premiership season (part 2)

Here we go then, the top (or bottom) 10.  It was hard to pick a winner this year, because there was so many candidates to choose from.  There are some proper shockers in here.  But I reckon most Dundee United fans will agree with me...

Image result for aaron kuhl dundee united
10. Aaron Kuhl (Dundee United)
Sitting midfielder Kuhl was one of Jackie McNamara's last signings, on loan from Reading.  He looked like David Luiz with his huge bouffant, and seemed determined to model his play on the erratic Brazilian...and I don't mean that in a positive sense.  After Paatelainen's arrival he drifted out of the team quickly and returned south in December, a month earlier than planned.  Perhaps he should spend less time on his hair.

Image result for brad mckay st johnstone hearts
9. Brad McKay (St. Johnstone)
McKay seemed like a slightly odd arrival in Perth, given that he had never managed to hold down a regular place at Hearts.  But with Steven Anderson injured and Frazer Wright departing, he was parachuted into the team at the start of the season.  His league debut was back at Tynecastle, where St. Johnstone conceded four goals and McKay was given the run around by Juanma; if that wasn't bad enough, he was censured by the SFA for labelling the Spaniard as "a typical foreigner" in a post-match jibe at the striker's style of play.  Given that Mckay had handed him a goal on a plate early on, there was a definite feeling of sour grapes.  He made another terrible blunder against Ross County soon after and Tommy Wright's confidence in him evaporated - he hasn't played for them since, and seems to have found his level on loan at Dunfermline.

Image result for nadir ciftci celtic
8. Nadir Ciftci (Celtic)
One can forgive Nadir Ciftci for wanting to leave Dundee United's sinking ship, certainly when a decent sized wage was on offer at Celtic.  But he was terribly overpriced and was always going to need a run of games to get up to speed - a situation that would never happen unless Leigh Griffiths got injured.  Ronny Deila was so confident in the Turk that he went on to sign several other forwards.  Ciftci scored four goals - a poor return for a player who cost over a million pounds - before moving to Eskisehirspor on loan in January.  Deila says he'll be back.  I doubt it very much.  Still, it could be worse - he also had an offer to sign for Rotherham.

Image result for carlton cole celtic
7. Carlton Cole (Celtic)
What was the point?  Carlton Cole was 32 in October, so he has no sell-on value, and he doesn't have the mobility that Celtic want from their centre forward.  He has basically been paid a massive wage to come off the bench late on if Celtic need a goal and have to play route one...which didn't actually work the one time they needed it to, against Motherwell at home.  He has played 79 minutes of league football for the club; in fact, the only decent game time he's had recently was in Mark Noble's West Ham testimonial - where he was roundly mocked for looking less fit than most of the retired players.  And he's under contract at Celtic Park for another year.  He must have a great agent.

Image result for jake taylor motherwell
6. Jake Taylor (Motherwell)
The only time I saw a Motherwell fan praise one of Taylor's performances on Pie & Bovril was on a day when he was an unused sub - that tells you something about the esteem they held him in.  The Reading loanee, incredibly, has a cap for Wales.  He was just terrible at Fir Park, offering nothing in either midfield or on the wing and getting sent off at St. Johnstone.  Motherwell never won any of the seven games he started.  He returned south in January and is now at Exeter.

Image result for scott robinson kilmarnock
5. Scott Robinson (Kilmarnock)
Does Robinson have incriminating photos of Gary Locke?  He got far too much gametime under Locke at Hearts, despite being clearly not good enough for the Premiership, and barely played in the Championship last season before being released.  Yet Locke gave him a three year deal in the summer.  His first start saw them ship four goals at home to Dundee; his sixth and final start saw them ship five at home to Partick.  He clearly doesn't have sufficient dirt on Lee Clark, who let him go in March after only nine months at Kilmarnock.  He's now on amateur terms at Dunfermline.

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4. Colin Kazim-Richards (Celtic)
The signing of Kazim-Richards feels similar to the time Rangers signed Marcus Gayle many moons ago - they already had several decent players in the same position, so why bother?  Add in Kazim-Richards' reputation for trouble - he had just left Feyenoord after threatening a Dutch journalist - and it seemed like a high risk, low reward move.  So far the Leytonstone-born Turkish international (how many of those are there?) has managed a solitary goal at Stranraer and, er, that's it, apart from a stamp on an Aberdeen player a few minutes into his debut that the officials missed.  But Celtic have signed him for another two seasons after this one, so he can continue to deny promising youngsters such as Ryan Christie game time.

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3. Dani Lopez (Inverness Caledonian Thistle)
There was something desperate about the signing of Lopez, a Spanish striker who had spent plenty of time in England's lower leagues.  John Hughes' ICT had been heavily dependent on pacey forwards like Billy Mckay and Marley Watkins stretching play, so a big lummox who moved like he was stuck in treacle was never going to fit in.  He did manage one goal at Celtic Park, when we were already 4-1 down, before getting injured.  Lopez was probably going to punted in January anyway, but he made sure by spitting on a St. Johnstone teenager during a reserve match in December.

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2. Darko Bodul (Dundee United)
Darko Bodul is actually still at Dundee United, having presumably displayed Derk Boerrigter-esque levels of resistance to being paid off; it's four months since Mixu Paatelainen told him he could leave, but he's still kicking around Tayside somewhere.  The club can thank Jackie McNamara for giving him a two year deal.  Last seen as a sub in the new year derby, Bodul never scored in his twelve appearances for the club.  If he's around for next season too, it'll be a waste of a wage on a proper footballer.

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1. Rodney Sneijder (Dundee United)
Wesley's younger, less talented brother apparently can play a bit, which is why Dundee United spent months working on convincing him to move to Scotland.  "He has a fabulous pedigree and you can see his talent", said Jackie McNamara.  Except we didn't, bar 20 minutes as a sub on the opening day of the season.  He was released by the end of August, amid rumours that he had returned to Holland because of panic attacks (insert tasteless joke about Dundee here), but his agent subsequently revealed that he was suffering from post-viral fatigue.  In their statement, United said they had "responsibility to protect the player's health going forward and respect for his current situation".  Sneijder has been without a club since.  It was a terrible shame for him, but a disaster for United who clearly thought they had achieved quite a coup in signing him.

Lawrie Spence (LS) has ranted and spouted his ill-informed opinions on Narey's Toepoker since September 2007.  He has a life outside this blog.  Honestly.