IN A NAME ?
Rather a lot if the recent managerial appointments of MOTHERWELL
and ST JOHNSTONE are anything to go by. Take the
Fir Park outfit. Their best players left last season
to go to Wigan. Now what does it tell you about Motherwell
when that benighted Lancashire town - famous only for George
Orwell's magnificent book - and its third-rate football
club are a more attractive prospect than one of Scottish football's
most venerable institutions?
Crippled by debt, under-performing, first they sacked manager
Billy Davies. Then, with results improving under caretakers
John Philliben and Miodrag Krivokapic, they
dismissed that duo as well. The outlook is distinctly bleak.
So perhaps its appropriate that they've brought in a manager
Eric Black comes with a big reputation courtesy of
the SFA and the 'Largs Mafia' coaching school. Undeterred
by his painful experience as No 2 to John Barnes at
Celtic, Black will attempt to restore Fir Park fortunes with
no money, precious few sellable assets and declining crowds.
Not the best recipe for success.
By the way is Motherwell Chief Executive Pat Nevin who
appears regularly on Rupert Murdoch's Sky Sports
channel giving interviews on 'Inside Scottish Football'
any relation to the former Scottish international Pat
Nevin who used to refuse to give interviews to Rupert
Murdoch's 'Sun' newspaper? I think we should be
As for St Johnstone they've also gone down the road
of appointing a failed Celtic No 2 with the manager's job
going to Billy Stark. And Stark as in 'stark raving
mad' may be an accurate assessment of anyone wandering
into a Perth bookmaker's and laying down money on Saints being
a Premier side this time next year.
But Billy Stark knows that if Saints do go down then at least
he won't have to shoulder the blame. The damage was done at
St Johnstone some time ago. The McDiarmid Park side
are determined not to live outside their means. Unfortunately
for them that means having to operate with a hard core support
of fewer than 4,000 and negligible finance from other sources.
Consequently they couldn't hold on to their best players.
The end product is likely to be First Division football and
the lower crowds that will entail. This is a vicious circle
that offers only one hope of escape. Saints possess one of
the brightest talents in the game in the shape of Kiegan
Parker. His transfer might help the ailing club financially
but would do little to help them avoid relegation.
Stark has finally taken over a Premier club. Yet he had the
chance to do so seven years ago when he was offered the Kilmarnock
job after Tommy Burns walked out on the Ayrshire club
to join Celtic. Stark chose to follow his pal to Parkhead.
And apart from a brief and undistinguished spell at Morton,
he has worked in tandem with Burns ever since. Interesting
to note that Burns was St Johnstone's preferred choice as
boss. Perhaps experience has taught Tommy to recognise
a poisoned chalice when it is put in front of him. At
any rate, if Stark fails to turn Saints around, expect to
hear noises about how they'd have been better off with the
organ grinder. St Johnstone are not a club noted for loyalty
- they once sacked Alex Totten a few days before Christmas
when they were lying in sixth place!
Of course if Saints really wanted a boss with a suitable
name they'd have given the job to German bandleader James
Last! And who knows, if this sort of thing catches on
then actor Stephen Furst, film director Michael Winner
and former jockey Bob Champion will all probably be
in the frame to take over at an increasingly desperate Ibrox.
First off, credit where it's due. Since Livingston
morphed out of the old Meadowbank Thistle (who themselves
evolved from Ferranti Thistle) they have done incredibly
well. Third Division to SPL in five years is no mean feat. And they
appear to have built a genuine fan base in the New Town they take
their name from.
That wasn't easy either. Clyde made a similar
move a few years previously, changing base from Glasgow to
Cumbernauld but their crowds at Broadwood aren't significantly
higher than they were at Shawfield. So for Livvy to
go from a couple of hundred to several thousand regular spectators
is some achievement. And, considering that these fans either previously
didn't watch League football at all or, if they did, were regulars
at Ibrox or Parkhead then it is also a very welcome
But let's not get carried away.
Livvy have been ruthless in their move through the
divisions, casting off players and management with abandon as they
pursued their Premier dream. And once they reached the top flight,
they took the path so many others have trodden before them. The
path of expensive foreign imports. This website has no particular
gripe with them for that. If it is good enough for the Old Firm
then it is good enough for Livvy. But some of the nonsense about
Livingston being a breath of fresh air in the SPL and showing the
way forward for provincial clubs needs to be answered. So here
Livvy have reached third place without so much
as having a single player in their first eleven who has come up
through the ranks. Even the Old Firm can usually manage one
player who has been with them since his schooldays. So how can this
be the way forward for provincial clubs? Others have tried this
approach with varying degrees of success. Motherwell have
been forced to backtrack on their signing policy and (Caniggia
apart) the jury is still out on Dundee.
Also, Livvy's good fortune has been achieved at the
expense of others. A good chunk of their side arrived from Raith
Rovers and Airdrie at knockdown prices as those clubs
battled for survival so its a bit galling to hear Livvy claim that
they'll feel aggrieved if they lose Marvin Andrews cheaply.
They didn't moan about getting him from Starks Park for shirt
So yes, Livingston have made an impact in the top
flight. But they are not the blueprint for the future of the
game and it will be interesting to see how long they can maintain
their present policy. I suspect the intention is to hold the line
in the Premier until they can bring their own players through. Anything
else would be suicidal. They may have a Lottery winner on their
board but how far does £10M go in football these days?
For the true 'breath of fresh air' in Scottish
football this season, why not look at Division One? Airdrie fans
didn't even know if they would have a team at all this season yet
in next to no time, Ian McCall has transformed the Diamonds
into table-toppers on a shoestring budget. The big-name Spaniards
of the Stevie Archibald era are gone and the team has actually
In the same division, John Lambie's Partick Thistle,
having just come up from Division Two, have given themselves a decent
chance of two promotions in succession.
It is this rarely feted odd couple of McCall and
Lambie that have provided the Scottish game with the real 'surprise'
stories of the season thus far.
DISNAE LOOK GOOD
Far be it for us to criticise a fellow fitba website but
one of the fine sites we link to recently went in for a bit
of Killie-bashing after the Rugby Park side's recent
defeat in Norway. It even went as far as to suggest
that if Kilmarnock should qualify for Europe again this season
that they should decline the place for the good of Scottish
Now we realise that the site in question has a bit of a green
tinge to it and that the aforesaid criticism of Kilmarnock
losing to a Norwegian team was made before Celtic's
visit to Trondheim but the truth is that none of our
clubs have achieved anything of note in Europe for some years.
As for the specific charge levelled at Kilmarnock, that they
have let the country down, well we can only say no more than
any of the rest in recent seasons. True this website has more
than a sneaking affection for the Ayrshire club, but we try
to boost ALL of Scottish football here. The best defence
that can be made of Killie's performance in Norway was that
it was no more than the rankings dictated. Kilmarnock were
fourteen places below Viking according to UEFA
and for once the numpties of Nyon were right.
But, and this is the worrying point, Kilmarnock were manifestly
the most Scottish of our Euro entrants this season. No fewer
than eight Scots lined up in their starting eleven
in Stavanger. That's probably as many as the Old
Firm and Hibs combined. So if Killie don't make
it this year (and the way they are playing that's a fair
bet) who will take their place on the Euro-stage? Who
are capable of achieving more than the Ayrshire team? Livingston?
With their Spanish-cum-caribbean backbone? Hearts?
Dundee United? The revived Aberdeen?
Even the Old Firm with all the millions at their disposal
and all their foreign 'stars' struggle to make an impact
on Europe worthy of their size. The sad truth of the matter
is that Scottish football has reached a new low in European
terms. This is something that Tommy Burns (him again)
saw coming years ago when he suggested that we were heading
towards the same level as the Republic of Ireland.
Burns was right. There are only two major differences between
us and the Irish right now. Firstly, their domestic players
don't get paid the megabucks for underachievement that are
on offer in Scotland. Secondly, their national team can live
with the big boys.