Sunday, June 16, 2019

What a lot of time to pass without nothing to say! Well actually I've had plenty to say, but not much of a platform before I remembered about my old precious blog.

What has happened in Scottish football since I last posted? Plenty! Rangers' fall and rise, Aberdeen becoming the second force in Scottish football before giving it up so easily this season. Kilmarnock and Steve Clarke's rise to the fore. It's hard to know where to start. But I thought an introspective on my opinions based on an article I wrote in 2007 on Scotland's chances on reaching the World Cup in 2010 would be a fun look back at how silly my thoughts were would be a bit of fun. So without further ado, here's my opinions of 2007 broken down in 2019.

One must wonder why there was no place in the starting eleven for Gary Caldwell, scorer of the only goal of the game against France at Hampden last October. Why, when Russell Anderson was in the form of his life for Aberdeen last season, could he not get a look in past the aging Weir? And there are a plethora of younger center backs who could all do the job in the Scotland defence, including Caldwell's brother Stephen, Hearts captain Christophe Berra, Andy Webster (when fit) and even Steven Pressley who, at 34, still has three years on Weir.
Yes in 2007 I said this. Where have they gone since then? Gary Caldwell will never be forgotten for that goal against France but since then he had a (reasonably) unremarkable career at Wigan before entering into management. He's now the manager of Partick Thistle. May have gotten than one wrong? You tell me. Russell Anderson was a biased pick as an Aberdeen fan. He left Aberdeen in 2007 for Roy Keane's Sunderland and had a nightmare debut conceding a penalty in a 3-0 defeat to Wigan and never featured in a regular way for Sunderland ever again. After a few loan moves he came back to Aberdeen and won the League Cup in 2014. Stephen Caldwell and Andy Webster barely consider mentioning, but Christophe Berra has proved to be worthy of a Scotland place. You probably didn't read it here first.

Left-back, a position highlighted to be Scotland's weak spot by Calcio Italia (No. 147, Nov 2007) is another place the Scots need to look to strengthen. Gary Naysmith has done the job on and off down the left flank for several years, but he isn't the player he once was, and had to drop down a division to Championship side Sheffield United in the close season for regular first team football. His current backup, Graham Alexander, has never played at the highest level and at 36 is not a viable long-term option. With Hutton's emergence on the right Scotland need to make the left side equally as strong, and with options such as Rangers kid Stevie Smith and Derby left-back James McEveley, Scotland need to start looking to strengthen their defence.
Well how the times have changed. Ten and some change years ago Scotland had a major left back problem. Now it's a problem in a far more different way. The left back position is by far the strongest that Scotland have. Andy Robertson, a Champion's League winner with Liverpool, isn't even the undisputed number one. Kieran Tierney is without a doubt a potential world class player and the issue faced now is who to play, or where to play the one left out. I'd potentially press Robertson forward. He's in Jurgen Klopp's side. He can adapt. Play him further forward as a more goal scoring threat (see the Cyprus game) and play Tierney behind him and we'd be unbeatable down the left. Not worth mentioning the players I mentioned in my blog. No offence intended.

I (thankfully) didn't make many more predictions. I wasn't wrong in some but was massively off key in others. But let's take a moment and go through the potential or best XI in June of 2019.

GK: Steve Clarke went with David Marshall against both Belgium and Cyprus. And while I don't disagree with experience, he's not a long term option. He's the youngest of our 'golden' generation of 'keepers which include Marshall himself, Craig Gordon and Allan McGregor. With McGregor understandably retiring and Gordon not playing, everyone is talking about Scott Bain. I'll be honest, I rate him, but he's first choice for Celtic by default. Craig Gordon is nearing his use by date and they have nobody else. I think that Clarke recognised that. There's little options beyond begging Angus Gunn (Southampton) or Jed Steer (Aston Villa) to switch teams. Although there's a case to be made for Craig MacGillivray of Portsmouth. He's said before he'd be keen to play for Scotland and I don't really understand why he hasn't been given a call up at least.

DL: Greg Taylor did very well against Belgium. But it'll be Andy Robertson or Kieren Tierney going forward.

CB: Scott McKenna and John Souttar are the future. Young and talented, they ought to be playing at a higher level. We keep relying on Charlie Mulgrew, who is a wonderful servant but we need to give gametime to the future of the team and not the almost done for. I'm liking Liam Lindsay at Barnsley and David Bates at Hamburg also. Put some faith in them, as Mulgrew won't be around forever.

RB: I am a huge fan of Stephen McDonnell who has been amazing at Killie, and obviously Steve Clarke will have faith as his former club boss. That being said, he won't be the long term solution. Why Callum Paterson has been shoe-horned into other positions at Cardiff is down to their management, he's a right back and not a striker. Play him where he should be playing.

CM:  There's a plethora of options here. Let's get the three Mc's out of the way. McGinn, McLean and McTominay. McTominay might not be a first choice for Man Utd but he is a great defensive holding midfielder and McGinn and McLean are both future Premier League midfielders providing they aren't sold. They both played well on their last outings and St Mirren should be very proud for producing two Scotland players. Callum McGregor is an outstanding midfielder and Ryan Christie is much missed due to injury. John Fleck is another option, also promoted to the Premier League this year.

Wingers: I don't think there's any doubt that Ryan Fraser on the right and James Forrest on the left are our best choices. Fraser was ranked amongst the best in assists in the English Premier League this season and Forrest was Scotland's best player of 2018. Other than that, we should stop looking at English players eligible for Scotland as Matt Ritchie and his ilk have not performed nor seem keen to play for the side.

Up front: I'll appear controversial here. Eammon Brophy might have performed for Clarke's Killie side but is not a Scotland player. Without Leigh Griffiths who has had his own off pitch issues, we have no out and out goal scorer. I think that Steven Fletcher is the best bet. He doesn't score (much), but he can hold up play and bring our wingers into play more often which is where McLeish got it right. Without an out and out goal scorer, we should focus on wing play and the striker should enable that. Olie McBurnie may be an alternative, but he hasn't hit the ground running for Scotland yet.

So there's my thoughts. If I'm crazy let me know. If I'm right let me know. If you have any thoughts please leave a comment and if I should revive this blog also let me know. I love writing but if nobody is reading then it's practically a diary!

Love to you all.


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Two years later and not much has changed

Time away is not time wasted.
By Abigail Richards

It's been two years and some change since I posted to this blog. it's not that I necessarily wanted to stop. A change in circumstances means a change in the person and I haven't had anywhere near the time to post. Plus I didn't think anyone was reading it, but some of the comments I've gotten that I didn't see before I stopped writing have changed my mind somewhat! Thank you to everyone who left a comment. So the question now is, do I keep writing?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Quest for World Domination

Premier League Matches Abroad? No, Thanks.
By Abigail Richards

The English Premier League continued its quest for world domination lately with the announcement of plans to play a 39th round of matches away from home, with the US, Asia and Australia being mooted as possible locations for games to be played as the richest league in the world looks to fatten its bank account.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of fans don't seem to approve. And who can blame them? The league clearly aren't thinking of the fans at home in these proposals. Instead they want to cash in on the Americans, Chinese and Japanese fans, most of whom have never been to a Premier League match and certainly haven't been following the game and the teams as long as their British counterparts.

Just whose interests does this idea best serve? Certainly not the countries mooted. Thus far both the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) and the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) have appeared nonchalant over the proposals, with the AFC making the very good point that these proposals would have a damaging effect on their own countries' leagues and clubs. Which match would you rather attend? Xiamen Lanshi vs. Qingdao Zhongneng or Manchester United vs. Chelsea? It's a no-brainer really.

The USSF have gone on record as saying that they will be guided by FIFA on this matter, and with UEFA president Michel Platini already describing the proposals as 'comical', it doesn't bode well for the Premier League. The MLS has been criticised both in the US and Europe as being of a very low standard. Despite the arrivals of Claudio Reyna, Denilson, Juan Pablo Angel and, of course, David Beckham the standard of the teams and players is still low. This is highlighted by the fact that the MLS Cup champions Houston Dynamo recently 'strengthened' their side by the signing of Gretna's 33 year old 'keeper Tony Caig, a player with a football CV including the Vancouver Whitecaps and Carlisle United. Hardly a worldbeater. No offence to Tony intended.

Are we really supposed to believe that it would be good for the MLS should the Premier League be playing matches in the soccer cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York? Indeed many were sceptical when it was claimed that David Beckham's arrival at the Los Angeles Galaxy would be good for the American game. But certainly his playing in the MLS is of a far greater benefit than rival matches being staged if as planned, at the end of the English season (i.e. June), right around when the MLS will be in full swing, that is, midseason.

As a plan, it clearly has its flaws. The simple fact of the matter is that this plan would only serve to fill clubs' coffers with millions of Dollars, Yen and Yuan. To steal thousands upon thousands of spectators desperate for the world-class players that the Premier League can provide.

Quite clearly the Premier League has lost its way. It is forgetting its most valuable commodity, its English fans. Those who have followed their team for 50 years, come rain or shine, and passed the love of the game down to their children and their childrens' children. If the Premier League loses these people, they lose everything. And that's what they should be bearing in mind with these proposals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Search Begins

Who'd Be An England Manager?
By Abigail Richards

They're a fickle sort, the Football Association. 18 games into a four-year contract, Steve McLaren was dismissed following his failure to qualify for Euro 2008.

While fickle, I have to say I totally agree with the FA's decision. This time. The fact is that McLaren never should have been appointed in the first place. A fine number two he may be, but the amount of times he looked entirely out of his depth tactically and his total failure to control the immense egos of some of the side's supposed superstars made England rather hilarious to watch at times.

Unless of course, you're an England fan. As a Scot, I have to say I feel sorry for the Auld Enemy. Scotland's last two managers have done such a good job that big club sides have came knocking and stolen them away. England's last two managers have been terminated after a series of failures, or in Sven Goran Eriksson's case, apparent failures. Personally I think three consecutive quarter-finals appearances is not a bad record - especially compared to McLaren's.

But who knows, perhaps McLaren will now go on to emulate Eriksson's post-England success and a year from now the fans and press will be calling for him to be reinstated. That both sections, albeit in their minority, have called for Eriksson to be offered the job again is laughable. This would be comparable to the Scottish press starting a campaign to have Berti Vogts installed as Alex McLeish's successor.

Scotland, however, have a number of native managers perfectly capable of taking the job. Billy Davies anyone? Recently sacked from Derby County, he's a free agent. I for one wouldn't mind to see him take the job.

But seriously, who in their right mind would take the England job these days? That the only serious contenders at the moment seem to be Fabio Capello, a man who doesn't speak English, and Harry Redknapp, one of the most famous 'wheeler-dealer' managers the game has ever seen and therefore clearly more suited to club management, shows that the FA really don't have many options that look much better than what they once had in Sven.

The debate over whether to hire an English or foreign coach seems ridiculous. Look no further than how things ended up with their last English coach and it should prove that it doesn't matter where you're from - the only thing that matters is the ability to do the job.

My ideal candidate? José Mourinho. At least it would be entertaining. But not only that, Mourinho is one of the finest managers currently out of the game - or indeed in the game. He hasn't said too much about it, but I feel if the FA made a serious offer, he'd at least consider it.

Mourinho's tactical nous is far superior to that of McLaren's, his motivational skills are excellent, and unlike McLaren, he wouldn't bow to the popular public opinion. McLaren was more than happy to change formations for the first match against Croatia after pressure from the press, and was also happy to put Scott Carson in goal for the crucial second match against the Croats, despite having two goalkeepers with experience of playing at a major tournament in David James and Paul Robinson. Mourinho on the other hand, was so determined not to have his chairman dictate the squad selections at Chelsea that he eventually lost his job.

Isn't that the kind of man the English side needs? Not to mention that Mourinho has the ability to beat down even the biggest of egos - after all, nobody in the dressing room should be more full of themselves than him.

As more and more people continue to rule themselves out for the position, it's time the FA put their money where their mouth is and go after the best man for the job - whether they've claimed they want the job or not.