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Celtic and testimonials, New TV deals, Killie crisis, Euro latest, Our Boy Darryl

 


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LIVE ON FIVE

The Scottish Football League have put the SPL to shame. The SFL have negotiated a two-year deal with Channel 5 for live UK-wide coverage of the League Cup starting with the Hibs v Rangers clash on Thursday October 24th.

The SPL brusquely rejected C5 , hardly pausing to consider their bid before rushing into bed with the BBC on their Scotland-only deal. The SFL have taken a cleverer approach. In effect they are using the only bit of leverage they have - the fact that SPL sides take part in the League Cup - to earn themselves a badly-needed £1 Million.

It means that Scottish football fans in the rest of the UK will now be able to see live action.

Meanwhile, the Setanta PPV deal so loudly trumpeted by SPL chief Lex Gold at the start of the season has finally been signed - more than two months late.

Roger Mitchell emerged from his bunker to crow: "We are delighted this deal has been struck as it gives fans a wider viewing choice of SPL matches. Fans outside Scotland will now be able to see their favourite teams in action once again.

He should have added “whenever they play against the Old Firm” to that last sentence.

The deal is not a good one for the SPL no matter how they dress it up. For £2.75M Setanta get 18 exclusive live matches to show on their rip-off ppv channel plus all the matches available on BBC Scotland barring the Old Firm derbies.

That’s almost 80 matches for under three million. By contrast the SFL/C5 deal brings fewer than ten games to the screen for £1M. Even the most mathematically-challenged won’t have too much difficulty in working out who has struck the best bargain.

And to think one of the reasons the SPL were so pleased to have signed up Roger the Dodger was because of his marketing skills!

Now comes the big challenge for Setanta. They managed to flog Rangers away game in Zizkov to 25,000 punters. At eight or nine quid a throw plus a £1-50 “registration fee” they’ll soon recoup their money if they can keep that up.

They’ll make money anyhow but how much is open to question because its comparatively easy to sell a European tie. Trying to convince fans to part with their cash for 12.30 kick-offs on a Saturday is much harder.

Unless Setanta come up with a ‘season ticket’ for both halves of the Old Firm, it might not be as lucrative as they hope. Still, that’s their lookout. What concerns this website is the availability of Scottish football to the hundreds of thousands of Scots who live in England, Wales and both parts of Ireland.

Now, at least they’ll be getting some live action but it’s going to cost. The Old Firm derbies can be seen on BBC 1, the League Cup on C5, the SPL on Setanta and Scotland home internationals and the Scottish Cup on Sky.

As we’re still none the wiser about the shape of Scottish football after the end of season 2003-04, make the most of it while you can.

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OK, its got nothing to do with football but the Ryder Cup was as magnificent a piece of sporting drama as you will see this or any other year.

In addition to a happy ending, it was particularly pleasing to note the performances of the two Scots involved. Sam Torrance was a superb skipper and Colin Montgomerie was the competition's outstanding player.

Nice to see one sport where Scots can still be found at the very top of their game. And I'm sure you'll forgive me just this once for noting that they are both Ayrshiremen.

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EURO UPDATE

As a nation we’ve had more than our fair share of ‘glorious defeats.’ Usually it would be galling to add one more to the list. But in Aberdeen’s case we’ll make an exception. No one gave the Dons an earthly against Hertha Berlin in the UEFA Cup. Yet for 179 of the 180 minutes of the tie they held their own, only to lose to a last-minute strike.

Don’t forget. Hertha are in this competition thanks to having finished fourth in the Bundesliga - just one place away from the Champions League. Defeat, yes, but Aberdeen’s loss was their best performance in Europe for many years.


Aberdeen were unlucky in Berlin

Tip number one to those Celtic fans who keep insisting that they were eliminated from the Champions League by great opponents. Have a look at Basle’s result in midweek against Valencia.

Tip number two. If you don’t know the score already, you're going to have use the fingers on both hands to count.

Still, of the eighty teams left in the two European competitions, Celtic are the sole Scots representatives. A shadow squad performed competently enough in Lithuania to beat Suduva 2-0 for a 10-1 aggregate triumph.

Don’t listen to any sob stories emanating from Ibrox about Rangers' away-goals defeat by Viktoria Zizkov. Counting extra time and added time, this tie lasted some 220 minutes. Rangers were ahead for just three of them. That statistic says everything you need to know.

Livingston, despite a dreadful start to the season, continue to get the kind of media coverage that politicians would kill for. The BBC claimed that their 4-3 home win over Sturm Graz was a “famous victory.” Not from this viewpoint. Sturm were 3-1 ahead on the night - 8-3 on aggregate when they eased up.

The tie was over and Livvy were able to get a few goals as a result. The Austrians did exactly the same in their home leg, conceding twice after leading 5-0.

The only - admittedly meagre - bonus that can be drawn from the defeats is that least the home leg victories count towards ranking points. With only Celtic left we need as many as we can get.

Perhaps there is one further nugget of hope to be plucked from this pit of despair. For a long time now, we’ve been wondering if it can get any worse. Maybe we’ve finally hit rock bottom. Maybe, just maybe, Aberdeen’s stirring performance in Berlin is the first tender shoot of our recovery as a footballing nation.

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We were going to leave Darryl 'Einstein' Broadfoot alone this week. But no matter how hard we try, he just won't let us.

In his observations in The Herald on the Rangers - Zizkov game, Darryl makes reference to the crowd becoming "the much-fabled eleventh man"

We know the financial situation at Ibrox is dire. But we had thought they could still afford to field a full team!

Less surprising is that Darryl's task at the match was to record the supporters views. Bit of a busman's holiday, that!

 

 

 

 

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COUSINS AND BHOYS

Celtic supporters are the “greatest in the world,” aren’t they? After all, we’re used to hearing them described in such terms. Usually - it must be said - by fellow Celtic fans.

Highbury, Old Trafford, it doesn’t matter. Show them a testimonial and the Bhoys will have the place sold out before the ink on the tickets is dry.

Except, that is, for Adams Park. Where?, I hear you ask. Well, Adams Park is the home of Wycombe Wanderers where Martin O’Neill started out on his managerial career.

O’Neill is still a revered figure in Buckinghamshire, having taken over when the Chairboys lay 10th in the Conference. By the time he departed for his short-lived stint at Norwich five years later, Wycombe were 6th in Division Two - a remarkable achievement.

One of his early signings for Wycombe, defender Jason Cousins, is owed a testimonial and O’Neill was happy to help out. Normally, this website frowns upon teams taking on extra games while moaning about having to play too many matches but there are always exceptions.

Cousins is one of them. He’s no big-name superstar but simply a hard-working pro who will turn 32 this month. He’s been released by Wycombe and is currently playing non-league football. In his case a game against Celtic doesn’t represent one last big payday but very probably his ONLY big payday.

The match is scheduled for next Tuesday and even though O’Neill will be missing players through international duty, he’s promised to bring his strongest line-up to Adams Park. That would include big names like Larsson and Lennon plus ex-Wycombe favourite Steve Guppy.

Thus far all well and good, you might think. But here’s the rub. Seven days before the game, only 1,500 tickets had been sold. Police have made the match an all-ticket affair and unless there’s at least 3,500 there, Cousins faces making a loss. The match may even have to be cancelled.

Wycombe play before an average gate of 6,000 so the response so far isn’t too bad for a player who’s turned out for the club over 300 times. But where are the “greatest fans in the world?”

Could it be that they can’t see beyond Sunday’s Old Firm game? Will they be too knackered after travelling back from a meaningless match in Lithuania?

Or could it be that they don’t give a toss? That they’re happy to turn up in their thousands when Thierry Henry or David Beckham are strutting their stuff for the opposition? Less so when ex-Ranger Chris Vinnicombe and former Dunfermline player Craig Faulconbridge are among their opponents better-known players?

Or is it that London and Manchester are party places for party animals while High Wycombe is more noted for its furniture and as the location of the BBC’s “Chucklevision?”

Who knows? Maybe it’s because someone has told them that the local council has a Rangers page on its website? Forgetting to add that these Rangers are the kind who work in parks. Parks, I should add, where there are no bears of any description either.

I’m not stupid enough to suggest that the trains south should be packed with Celtic fans. But High Wycombe is within easy reach of London. And the pubs of the capital are thronged every time Celtic appear on TV.

If you’re a Celtic fan - or a fan of any club for that matter - living in that area and you’ve got a bit of spare time and cash on Tuesday October 8th, why not give an unsung hero a deserved final bow on a stage he graced for over a decade. Phone this number for tickets: 01494 441118.

CRISIS KILLIE?

Half the board have resigned, their team has just been knocked out of the League Cup by a 2nd Division team and they’ve been humped 5-0 at Parkhead. It would be true to say that Kilmarnock supporters have seen better weeks.

The Ayrshire club (and yes, it is difficult to be impartial here) have been one of the success stories of Scottish football. In the past dozen years they’ve risen from the foot of the lowest division to not only reclaim a place in the top flight, nor even merely consolidate their position but to emerge as consistent challengers in the top half of the table.

The Scottish Cup was won for the first time in nearly 70 years. After an absence of close to 40 years, they reached the League Cup Final. And after almost 30 years of exile from Europe, Killie have played four times in continental competition since 1997.

There isn’t another provincial side in the land that can claim the same.

And they had good reason to be confident at the start of this term. Unlike most of his rivals, new boss Jim Jefferies was actually able to strengthen his squad.

It’s too soon to be shouting doom and gloom but the events of recent days must be a cause for concern.

Take the League Cup. For the eighth time in ten seasons, Killie were eliminated by a lower division side. In two hours at home to Airdrie they couldn’t score one solitary goal. Four days later, Stenhousemuir managed to score four in 90 minutes against the same opposition! The only consolation Killie fans can take is that at least this time they weren’t beaten by Scottish football’s other AUFC!

And the Celtic match! Even this grizzled and ancient hack was still thrashing about in the womb the last time Killie won at Parkhead. But while only the lunatically over-optimistic expect to see their team pick up full points there, everyone has the right to see a competition.

What Kilmarnock fans witnessed at Celtic was capitulation. Jefferies might trot out the old cliche about boardroom events not affecting performances on the pitch but no one will believe him. And once again, Kilmarnock demonstrated that without Freddie Dindeleux their defence is non-existent.

No one is a greater admirer of the Frenchman than your correspondent (in my all-time Killie XI he would share central defence with Jackie McGrory) but it’s not healthy to rely so much on one player.

Still, Kilmarnock have the players to finish in or close to a European spot again this season. Whether the off-field explosions will allow them to do so is another question. Boardroom splits are never amicable.

Bill Costley and two allies have walked away from Rugby Park after disagreements with Chief Executive David Heath. Heath was backed by the club’s biggest shareholder Jamie Moffatt.

It’s not necessary to go into the details here. In any case it would take far too much time and space. The upshot of it is that Costley’s shares are up for grabs.

The rumour mill is working overtime connecting every Ayrshireman with a few bob in his pocket with Kilmarnock. Tom Hunter’s going to dive in say some, David Murray’s jacked it in at Ibrox, observe others. We’ll see. Bill Costley put a lot of cash into Kilmarnock and it’s going to take a substantial bid to buy him out.

But the damage to the image of Kilmarnock as a friendly, family-oriented, progressive club has taken a battering. An apparent cock-up over a half-time draw in a pre-season match led to the club asking the police to make some enquiries into allegations of missing money.

Of course a police inquiry at a football club where the Chairman, Sir John Orr, is a former Chief Constable of the Strathclyde force is always going to be a news story.

To see it splashed all over the front page of the Scottish edition of The Sun must have been galling to a club that until recently prided itself on its PR savvy.

The upshot of it all is that a promising start is turning into an uncertain future.

 

 

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