Old Back of the Net articles here

April 2004
Voyage of DISK-overy
Tech Specs
Woe, Woe and Thrice Woe










Voyage of DISK-overy

Every single person with even the remotest interest in Scottish football history should give thanks right now to John Litster. John Who?, did someone at the back ask? For the uninitiated, John Litster is the Editor of both the 'Scottish Football Historian' and 'Programme Monthly' magazines. He has also written a number of football books, including the history of Raith Rovers and the excellent 'Famous Football Programmes.'

But far more notable than that, John Litster has just produced the most important work on our game's heritage for many years.

His CD ' A record of post-war Scottish League players - 1946/47 to 2002/03 inclusive' does exactly what it says on the label. It's an A-Z in 26 Excel files of every player who has kicked a ball (and some who haven't!) in League, Cup, League Cup, European and other recognised first class competitions in Scotland since the end of the Second World War.

It's also something which is long overdue and an indictment of the attitude displayed by both the game's authorities and the media in the past. While the Football League kept an open house for researchers and historians the Scottish League regarded requests for information as akin to asking for nuclear secrets. While English football supporters were inundated with annual publications listing details of every match we were fobbed off with the 'Wee Red Book.'

Thankfully, regarding the authorities at least, those days are long gone and staff at the SFA and SFL now do their best to help the football historian. I can't speak for the SPL as I've only been waiting two years or so for them to reply to my queries.

As John Litster says in the 12-page booklet which accompanies the disk, Scottish football historians have long been envious of the information available to our English counterparts. Particularly Barry Hugman's books on post-war players records which last appeared in 1998. Since then Hugman has produced an annual publication in conjunction with the PFA. But it is now almost a quarter of a century since his first book appeared and over 20 years since the Association of Football Statisticians first mooted a Scottish equivalent.

At last, thanks to John Litster's sterling efforts, we have one.

Does exactly what it says on the label

So what information is available on the disk? The best means of illustration is to pick a player at random and let the disk speak for itself. Sticking a cyber-pin into the files produced the letter 'M' and a blindfolded spin of the mouse saw it end up hovering over the name of Edward McCallum Morrison. OK, that's not strictly correct. Eddie Morrison is, was and always will be this writer's personal favourite from among the thousands who have graced a Kilmarnock strip over the years and I was curious to see what the disk had to say about my hero.

The disk gives a season-by-season account of Eddie's career, from joining Killie from Port Glasgow in 1967 to his final season with Morton in 1977-78. He made 301 League starts and another eight appearances as a substitute and scored 126 goals. Just in case I didn't already know it tells me he was a centre-forward.

Tallies are available for each season with two or more seasonal entries where a change of club is involved. Thus I can see that in 1975-76 Eddie made 14 starts for Killie plus two subs and scored seven times before being allowed to leave (criminally early, but that's another matter entirely) for Cappielow where he turned out four times and scored twice.

Each seasonal tally also lets me know where the team finished in the League and which division they played in.

It's here that John Litster doesn't just match Barry Hugman but (unavoidable pun) excels him. Where Hugman's printed material is confined to League appearances, Litster uses the CD to provide additional information not available in the English equivalent.

Apart from League positions he includes knockout competitions as well. So I can see Eddie played 49 times in the League Cup (44 starts and five subs) and scored a further 20 goals.

In the accompanying booklet Litster points out quite rightly that for over 30 years the Scottish League Cup provided most teams with a minimum of six matches and that a statistically significant part of a player's career was taken up by this competition. Therefore it's only right that such information should be recorded.

He also includes a note to mark if a team reached the quarter-final stage or beyond of any competition and an asterisk if the player took part in a Final.

Sadly, in Eddie's case there are a string of SFs and QFs but no asterisks.

Moving on, I can see that Eddie played in 22 Scottish Cup games, one of which was as a sub and that he scored nine goals. Unfortunately even a disk as superb as this one cannot recapture the exquisite beauty of the goal he scored from 20 yards out in a quarter-final tie at Starks Park in 1972.

Though given John Lister's club allegiance, that's perhaps just as well.

Eddie's career details are rounded off by 11 'other' appearances, two more goals and his height and weight. I can even see a breakdown of the 'others' into eight Fairs Cup outings, two Texaco Cup games and one Drybrough Cup match.

That's how detailed these stats are. Even the weight of a player fluctuates. Rather than simply produce a given weight at some stage in a player's career (as most publications do), Litster gives the weight (where available) for each season. So the svelte-like 11-stone dead Eddie of 1970 has become a more - shall we say - rounded figure by the end of his playing days.

Eddie Morrison balances on one hand to fire in a shot on the Jags goal while Alan Hansen is rooted to the spot

The acid test of course is accuracy. In the booklet John Litster says that as the information is compiled from sources which contain errors, inevitably the disk will contain errors. In particular he stresses that where a club 'expert' contradicts the disk then to accept what the 'expert' says.

That's a good rule and one that is applied here at scottishleague.net when there is more than one potential answer to a query.

In this instance, though I hesitate to call myself an 'expert,' my records show Eddie Morrison to have scored three more League goals than the disk states. I also count the three goals he scored in a tournament in the USA in 1969 as kosher but that's a matter of opinion.

In a work as monumental and ground-breaking as this, a few errors have to be expected. The book hasn't yet been published which is error-free.

The point about using Eddie Morrison as an example (apart from giving some publicity to one of the unjustly ignored heroes of the game) is not that John Litster says he scored three goals fewer than I reckon but that the sort of detailed information illustrated in this one instance is also there for every player of almost the past 60 years in what is a truly amazing A-Z. From John L Abbie who made a solitary League appearance for Alloa in 1946-47 to Goran Zujovic who turned out three times for Stirling Albion (one as sub) in 2001-02 via thousands of others in-between.

Of course some players careers are more detailed than others. Dates of birth were often not recorded in the game's annals. And not just for the more obscure players either. This website recently received a request from a Portuguese historian for dates of birth of more than 100 Scottish players who had taken part in European competition and we could only supply him with around half.

So too with height and weight details. Some players didn't hang around long enough to get on the scales.

The upshot is this. Here is something the Scottish game has been crying out for for years. Whether you're a serious football historian, a lazy hack who doesn't want to get up off his backside to find out answers to queries or simply a fitba' fan who wants to know more about your favourite players, this CD is the canine's cojones.

And at £19.50 inclusive of UK p&p it's also an absolute bargain. To have the details of thousands of players at your fingertips for less than half the price of a club top is simply irresistible. Details on how to purchase it and contact information for John Litster can be found on the Programme Monthly website

(Speaking of club tops I see that the new Rangers away strip doesn't really have a sash. Yeah, just as that other one was 'tangerine,' not orange).

Just as people talk about 'Rothman's' or 'Hugman's' as generic terms and fitba' nuts instantly know what they mean, so I predict that it won't be too long before the answers to football queries are prefaced by "According to Litster."

There can be no higher praise than that.


Stay with me as this site veers away from football for a while and ventures into Techieland. I'll try and avoid geek-speak but naturally, before buying any CD, you'll want to be sure that you can read the contents. In his booklet, John Litster stresses that this is version 1.0 and that new versions will be issued each autumn. He is also open to suggestions on how to improve the disk.

The CD is formatted in MS Excel 2000 and if older versions of Excel cannot read the disk then John asks for it to be returned to him so that he can try to format it in a compatible version.

Now, while 95% of you out there will have Excel as a matter of course there is still a stubborn minority (of which this writer is one) who avoid Micro$oft's products if we possibly can. Also, while many computer users are reasonably proficient in word processing applications, a smaller number are used to dealing with spreadsheets - at least on their home PC.

I put the CD to the test using five different spreadsheet applications on two computers and had varying results.

Surprisingly Excel for Mac as part of the MS Office v.X suite failed to open the disk even when attempting to do so as 'read-only' files. While John mentions older versions of Excel as being possibly unable to open the disk, this version is vintage 2003!

Fortunately, Apple Works via DataViz's MacLinkPlus translator opened the files perfectly.

ThinkFree Office 2.2 (which despite the name actually costs around £50 - but still a lot cheaper than Micro$oft) has a spreadsheet application called Calc which did open the files but it is a slow and cumbersome brute to use.

These tests were run on an iBook using Mac OSX 10.1.5

On an iMac, using Mac OS 9.2.2 the reverse was true. Apple Works failed miserably in trying to open the disk but Excel as part of MS Office 2001 coped admirably. This is a newer version than the Windows equivalent the disk was formatted in but older than the version which failed to open the files on the iBook.

Now, here is the strange part. Although the iBook Excel failed to open the files from the disk, once opened on the iMac and transferred across to the iBook, Excel lived up to its name and opened the files up easier and quicker than any other application tested. Whereas its iMac equivalent - so good at opening the files initially - struggled with larger files,even after an increase in memory allocation and crashed twice when attempting to open the biggest file of them all - 'M'- in order to extract the Eddie Morrison data.

So, if you're a Windows user, confident in the use of Excel and with a version no older than that of 2000, go ahead and purchase the disk without a care. Otherwise it's caveat emptor.

Possibly John Litster may re-think his use of Excel. If he produced the disk as a PDF then it could be read by just about any old computer using any old operating system.

The files themselves are in seven-point type and I had to set magnification at 125% to read them. Even at that level I found that any figure of 100 and over was rendered as a double hash and I had to go up to 150% just to see the figures. Consequently there was a big reduction in what was instantly available on screen. Scrolling past League details meant losing the player's name. Even at 150% totals at the foot of each file still came out as hashes.

John has password-protected his worksheets. I don't really know why. If it is to prevent copying then it's no good as anyone unscrupulous enough could easily run off copies on a CD burner. If it's to protect data from accidental erasure then it's pointless as the originals can always be restored from the disk itself.

What the password-protection actually does is hinder the reader. I was unable to increase the font size or change font for that matter. I could highlight a column for searching but couldn't apply colour and/or shading to make the column distinctive and easier to read/search.

However, it's only the worksheets containing the data that are protected. It is possible to cut and paste into another worksheet (and each Excel workbook has three sheets and these can be easily added to) and from there to format, read and amend as you please.

All it means is a bit of extra effort on behalf of the reader but it would be so much easier to be able to do so on the original workbook.

Other tips which may help are: pasting names only into a separate sheet then adding the knockout tournament details, thus enabling the reader to see this information in conjunction with players names. Or adding names only to the first empty column on the right so that names appear either side of the info which prevents the need to constantly scroll back and forth.

Of course the information has to be pasted into another sheet from the password-protected one in the first place for this to work.

There are other ways in which readability might be improved. Currently only the player's name is in bold for career totals. If the bold was extended across the sheet to include the figures it would be easier to see where one entry ends and another starts.

Putting all the players mentioned as contracted but who failed to make an appearance onto their own sheet would help too.

And while it's entirely sensible to use an A-Z for the files, perhaps 'M' can be split into two. Given all the 'Macs' and 'Mcs' in Scottish football this is easily the largest single file. Apart from the fact that it takes longer to open it takes a lot longer to find out information. There are nearly 22,000 entries in this file as opposed to the 12 entries under 'X' for the only player whose surname starts with that letter - Davide Xausa (without whom there would be no Scottish football 'X-files')!

John Litster has been meticulous in his quest for accuracy - perhaps too meticulous here. Whereas most publications will list 'Mac' and 'Mc' together, this CD doesn't.

This means that 'MacDonald' appears long before 'McDonald.' for instance. Given that most fans won't know whether the player they are looking for is a 'Mac' or a 'Mc' this can lead to confusion. Adding to it is the fact that a Martin or a Maxwell or any other player whose name begins 'Ma' will appear long before the first 'Mc.'

I would suggest putting all the 'Macs' and 'Mcs' together in their own file. If he wants to keep the number at 26 then X,Y and Z can all be amalgamated.

Having said all that, I don't want to give the impression that I am anything less than totally delighted by the appearance of this CD.

In fact I am surprised I managed to tear myself away from it for long enough to write this review.

John Litster, you have produced a work of epic proportions. I'll go out the way I came in. Scottish football should be grateful for your efforts on its behalf.


We asked (again!) recently if Scottish football had finally bottomed out. And the answer over the past few weeks has been an emphatic NO! The national side produced yet another insipid performance in losing to a pedestrian Romania. Then our game's administrators, furiously back-pedalling against previous decisions on ground-sharing, suddenly undertook a Damascene conversion and embraced the wisdom of the idea.

This volte-face is not entirely unrelated to plans by Hearts to move to Murrayfield. The game is in a bad enough state without our third-largest club ending up homeless.

But a corollary of that decision was that the SPL was more or less forced to agree to similar sharing plans from First Division clubs that don't possess a 10,000-seater stadium. And so we reached the ludicrous situation that if current leaders Clyde win promotion they will play their home games at Rugby Park - some 40 miles and an hour's drive from their Broadwood home.

Clyde won't lose out financially. They'll have at least three matches against the Old Firm and just two five-figure crowds will equal what they currently attract in a season. Add in better than average crowds for games v Killie and Clyde's share of the TV cash and they'll easily cover their additional expenses.

But where it gets really crazy is this: even if Clyde have a fourth stand up and running at the start of the season they will still have to play all their home games in Kilmarnock! That's right, a fully-fledged 10,000-seater ground in Cumbernauld will lie empty while the 'Bully Wee' flit to Ayrshire.

The SPL have back-tracked on many of their rules but it seems that it's the better ones - like the winter break - which bite the dust while the stupidest survive. And talking of stupidity, is there any worse idea than the late-season 'split?'

This year we are faced with the very real possibility that every single issue of importance - the title, Europe, relegation - could be done and dusted BEFORE the split takes place. Of course that could happen anyway but is there actually anyone out there who believes that this mad, artificial construction serves any good at all? Other, that is, than as a cheap laugh for commentators who love pointing out that the team in 7th has more points than the side in 6th?

It isn't even as if the clubs derive any benefit from this. No one knows what the fixture list will be for the last five weeks of the season, inflicting needless headaches on club officials and supporters alike.

We've said it before and make no apologies for saying it again. The only way to make a split work with a league of 12 clubs is to bring it into effect after 22 games - when the clubs have played each other twice and no issues have been decided.

The two groups of six would then play a further ten matches to determine the title and European places in the top six and relegation in the bottom half.

It's not ideal but it's better than what we have.

Better still, why don't the clubs in the SPL realise what a shambles they have made of our game in their six years in existence, do the decent thing and wind the whole business up? Then they could return to the Scottish Football League and operate a 16-team top division. If they want all-seated grounds then fine. Restrict admission to seated areas only. Make sure clubs comply with safety regulations. True, this would mean some teams if they won promotion would have a maximum gate of a couple of thousand at best but it would allow for promotion and relegation - the absence of which is kiling the game and destroying gates.

Look at some of the recent figures. Under 4,000 at East End Park to see a Dunfermline team that is having its finest season for more than 35 years. Under 8,500 for Aberdeen v Dundee United - a fixture that used to have 'sold out' notices not that long ago. Kilmarnock BOASTING about drawing just over 7,000 to see Aberdeen when their poorest average in the past ten seasons prior to this one is greater than that. Dundee, at death's door and needing every fan they can get, struggling to bring in 5,000.

And make no mistake, it's the lack of competition which is responsible for falling attendances. Historically there is a close correlation between crowds in England and Scotland. Depression, mass unemployment and gates fall. The mid-1980s is a good example of this.

Right now crowds in England are buoyant but in Scotland they are falling. The difference is that the English League is competitive at all levels - the play-offs ensure interest till near the end of the season for even mid-table clubs. And if a club doesn't meet Premiership requirements then they are allowed time to adjust - witness Fulham. There is no question about refusing promotion. If a club finishes in a promotion place they go up. If they're in a relegation slot they go down. Simple as that. And that's the way it should be. The Premiership in England had six years head start on the SPL. You might have thought that our game could have learned from the English experience what to do and what not to do.

But no, the SPL carries on it's own merry path, making mistake after mistake, blunder after blunder. Right at the outset it showed how it would carry on when it added another layer of burueaucracy to the game as opposed to the English Premiership which operates under the aegis of the FA.

What arguments are there against a 16-club top division then? We've taken care of the safety and seating aspects. Yes, there will be some games when not everyone will get a ticket - particularly when the OF come to town. But that happens now. There are occasions when Livingston can't meet OF supporters requirements. And it's happened in the past at St Johnstone and Raith Rovers. But 90% or more of the time 100% of supporters will get to see the game of their choice.

Arguments over lost revenue are bogus. Only four teams get four home games against the OF at present. And they don't know who they are from one season to the next. For most clubs, a 16-team league represents the loss of just one home game against the OF. And as these are the matches which are televised live, crowds have been in decline at these games anyway.

A 16-club top division, 14-club middle division and 12-club lower one makes sense. Add in play-offs and the establishment of a pyramid system outside the League and we just might have the recipe for progress in Scttish football.

Just don't wait for the SPL to suggest it.


Back to homepage Click here to download sample pdf files BLUE-WEB INTERNET DESIGN