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September 2002
Disaster in the Faeroes, St Mirren sack Hendrie, Euro 2008, Motherwell beat Celtic





Sorry, but the headline was just too good to resist. There’s enough football people out of work without us taking any pleasure in an addition to the list (though we confess that the plight of the unemployed Gazza and Dennis Wise hardly moves us to tears).

But this website got it right at the start of the season when we said that St Mirren’s Tom Hendrie could be the first boss to be sacked this season if Saints carried on where they left off last term.

Two victories and three defeats isn’t exactly the worst of records (what would Berti Vogts give for the same ?) but it leaves St Mirren trailing 1st Division leaders Falkirk by nine points already. The upshot of it all is that Hendrie, hamstrung by the need to sell players and with no cash for replacements, has been given the boot from Love Street.

As is often the case, the response from the players was to go out and give their best performance for yonks in beating local rivals Morton at Cappielow in the League Cup - after going two behind.

Another area where it looks like we were spot on is the attempt to bring Euro 2008 to Scotland. When the joint bid with Ireland was announced, we said that Scotland had lost its trump card - a solo bid - and that there was no reason to suppose that a joint Celtic approach would be superior to the Austro-Swiss one.

Apart from the fact that those countries have been hot favourites from the outset, the controversy over Irish stadia hasn’t helped us.

Now comes the news that Irish Taoiseach Berti Ahern’s coalition partners - the “Progressive Democrats” (who , incidentally, are certainly not progressive and not all that democratic) - have pulled the plug on ‘Berti’s Bowl’. the nickname for the proposed new national stadium.

This leaves Ireland with only two grounds capable of staging the championships. The Lansdowne Road rugby ground, which makes the 1970s Hampden look like the Stade De France, and Croke Park, bastion of the GAA who only last year voted to continue their ban on ‘alien’ (i.e. British) sports being played there.

Now UEFA’s officials may not be rocket scientists in their day jobs, but it seems more than likely that they’ll notice this when they come over on their ‘fact-finding tour’ (i.e. junket) in the near future.

Irish politics is so shifty that they’d welcome Henry McLeish as a clean pair of hands. It’s also a chore having to put the real meaning of everything into brackets. As for their sports administration; well it makes Dad’s Army seem a model of efficiency.

Perhaps Roy Keane was right after all.

But as we said months ago, the real winner here is Jack McConnell. The First Minister can go into next year’s elections blaming the Irish for the failed bid. If by some miracle it were to succeed, he can take the credit for it too.

On thing which even this website can’t take the credit for predicting was Motherwell’s sensational victory over Celtic at Fir Park. So far the ‘Well are confounding everybody (this website included) who tipped them for the drop.

This was Celtic’s first League defeat in 25 games, having won 21 and drawn three since losing at Pittodrie last December. Coupled with their Champions League elimination, Martin O’Neill faces a similar scenario to that which finished Dick Advocaat at Ibrox. We reckon O’Neill is made of sterner stuff than the Dutchman though.

One thing is for certain. O’Neill needs to make his intentions clear to his players and the Celtic support. Uncertainty over the manager’s future won’t help in his quest for a third title. And if there are many more results like Basle and Motherwell, O’Neill’s stock in English football will plummet. He may well consider that the offer of an extended contract with Celtic is too good a move to reject.

As for Motherwell, all credit to them. They’ve shown the way for the rest of the SPL to take on the Old Firm. Let’s hope for a few more results like this, against both of the big guns, and who knows, we may just get a more competitive League after all.








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Hans-Hubert Vogts has been in charge of the Scottish national team for just six months. His Scotland side has played just one match in meaningful competition. Yet, judging by the media calls for his sacking you would think that in that short time he has single-handedly reduced a footballing super-power to third world status.

Where are Vogts’ critics coming from?
Yes, the performance and result against the Faeroes was a disgrace. True, that while the previous defeats under Berti could be explained as simply a case of losing to better teams, a draw against the Faeroes cannot be classed in the same category. If we are 60th in the world then just as we expect to lose to teams in the top twenty, so we should be beating teams ranked below 120.

But we should also have beaten the Faeroes the last time we played there. And we didn’t. We should have done more than scrape a one-goal victory the last time they came to Scotland. But we didn’t. And Vogts can’t be blamed for either of those results.

Who among the critics would have suggested prior to the match that our most experienced players - Weir and Dailly - should be dropped? These guys come up against the likes of Van Nistelrooy, Henry, Hasselbaink, Shearer, Anelka and Owen week in week out. Where were the Nostradumeses who predicted they couldn’t handle a schoolteacher in Toftir?

Who, among our Old Firm-loving press corps would have suggested that neither Crainey nor Ross should have played? After all, these guys have a handful of SPL matches under their belts. That’s usually enough to get touted as a Scotland regular - provided you play for Rangers or Celtic.

Yet these were the players most at fault in that shameful opening period.

This website does not believe that Berti Vogts is immune from criticism. But it also believes that any manager should be given time to do a job. Vogts was hired to get us to Germany in 2006. The time to analyse what progress - if any - has been made is surely at the end of the qualifying campaign at least. Certainly not after the first match.

And what would the hack pack do? Who would take over from Vogts? I suppose that as long as Kenny Dalglish and Walter Smith are out of club jobs that they would have their backers. But it is no criticism of either to ask where they are going to find the players that Vogts hasn’t. In any case, both established their club reputations on the back of thick cheque books - an option unavailable to an international manager.

Vogts though is not immune from criticism. We have yet to see any evidence that the team is even starting to improve. True, he has been without key players. In Scotland’s present straitened circumstances, we can ill-afford to miss men like Don Hutchison, Craig Burley, Dominic Matteo and Gary Naysmith.

But Vogts - and his assistant Tommy Burns - must start questioning some of their selections. This website has already said several times that players who are incapable of getting a regular start for their clubs should not be playing for Scotland.

A prime case in point is Kevin Kyle. His club manager Peter Reid sees Kyle every day and is as aware of his capabilities as anyone. He knows he needs a replacement for the ageing Niall Quinn. He then goes out and spends £10M on Tore-Andre Flo and Marcus Stewart.


Clearly, Reid does not consider Kyle is good enough for a place in a side that scored only 29 league goals last season.

Vogts and Burns see someone different. They see a player capable of wreaking havoc against international defences. They don’t see a player who has scored only two goals in competitive football - back in November and December 2000 during a loan spell at Darlington. One was against non-league Sudbury in the FA Cup, the other against Rochdale in the Third Division.

Kyle has started just twelve games in his career, only one of these was for Sunderland and he was taken off after an hour. He has made an additional 19 appearances as a substitute. This season he has played just 76 minutes for his club yet 180 for his country.

Vogts and Burns look like they will rely on this player - who has only ever scored at Feethams, Darlington - to get goals for Scotland against Germany. Didn’t they look at his club record? Or his Under-21 record which shows three substitute appearances and no goals? What is it that makes them think Kyle can score goals at any level, let alone international?

And this is the nub of the complaint against Vogts. While he deserves credit for trying out young players, the time must come when he has to recognise that youth and strength alone do not make international footballers.

And while he is undoubtedly right not to pack the side with over-the-hill veterans, he also appears to have discarded too many players who do not fall into that category too easily. We’ve mentioned Freedman and Winters in the past. But there are others. Colin Cameron comes to mind. Steven Pressley is another.

And what about Gary Holt? Thrown on the scrapheap after just 28 minutes in Paris. Burns once freed Holt while at Celtic. Did that have anything to do with it? If so, Scotland have lost a player who would run through brick walls for his country and who never hides when the going gets tough

Why do you think the Norwich fans call Holt “Three Lungs?”

No doubt there will be calls for the recall of Mark Burchill to the squad. Well, a fit Burchill will certainly present more of a goal threat than Kyle.

But Burchill’s career represents all that is bad about the Scottish game. A young player gets a few outings for an Old Firm club, then he’s suddenly touted as the next big thing, before drifting back into the reserves, then a move to a comparatively obscure English club.

Either that or they languish in the reserves taking the huge salary that no other Scottish club can afford to pay. Forget all the crap about wanting first-team football. Billy Dodds could have first-team football at just about any club in the SPL but they can’t match the Ibrox wages. Once again Kevin Kyle is a case in point, preferring Sunderland reserves to the SPL on loan.

And amid all this came a ridiculous statement from David Murray, which our heroic hack pack, so keen to sink their fangs into Vogts, let pass without comment.

Murray said “ the days when a youngster wouldn’t sign for Rangers because he wouldn’t get a game have gone.” Excuse me. Have I just fallen asleep for 20 years like Rip Van Winkle and missed something?

Fact: Total number of first team starts in the League for Rangers last season by players eligible to play for Scotland: 87. That’s 2.289 per game. Before Celtic start crowing, the equivalent figures at Parkhead are 105 and 2.763. On average the number of Scots on display out of 22 starters for the Old Firm was five per game.

The figures for this term are even worse. Scots have made ten starts for Rangers for an average of 1.66 per match. Celtic have given starts to Scots on eleven occasions for an average of 1.8 per match.

That’s 21 starts in total at the Old Firm. 1.75 Scots per match. And that’s before we take European games into account. Believe me, the stats don't get any better.

Yet not one single reporter questioned Murray’s ridiculous assertion. I suspect what the Ibrox chief meant to say was: “The ba’s burst. We can’t afford these ridiculous transfer fees and wages any longer so we’re going to have start rearing our own players in the future.”

If you really want to know who’s to blame for the state of Scottish football, you could start by asking the man who wasted millions on the likes of Daniel Prodan. Or his allies at Parkhead who thought Rafael Scheidt was a sound investment.

Think what might have been if that cash had been poured into youth development instead of into the pockets of agents and crocks.

Think too, of the inheritance squandered by the Roxburgh/Brown regime which ran our game at all levels of the SFA for 15 years. This is not a criticism of their international coaching methods - their records were adequate in that respect. But it is a fact that Scotland reached the World Under-16 Final in 1989. THOSE PLAYERS SHOULD BE AT THEIR PEAK NOW.

But a pusillanimous leadership at national level aided and abetted by the selfishness and greed of our largest clubs has resulted in dragging us down to the lowest level in our history.

Vogts is facing a task of Herculean proportions and our top clubs are not making it any easier. The only bright spot in the whole business is the often perverse loyalty of the supporters. In two home games thus far, the crowds have been excellent. Pittodrie was almost full for the visit of Nigeria (which remains the best Scotland performance under Vogts). And the close to 30,000 that attended the Denmark game was the biggest crowd in Europe that night.

But even that loyalty must be under severe pressure if we don't start to make some kind of improvement soon. Scottishleague.net believes that Berti Vogts must be given time to demonstrate that he can start to turn Scotland round but that he has not been making the best use of admittedly meagre resources thus far.

We fear that defeat in Iceland will make the remainder of the qualifying programme meaningless and that, in turn, will lead to a drop in attendances. Should that happen, the SFA are likely to press the panic button and get rid of Vogts.

Quite what that would do to improve our international results is another matter entirely.



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