Thursday, April 30, 2009

From the pages of AFTN, the Top Ten Signs That The 2008/09 Season Wasn't Going To Be Your Team's Year:

(10) When they won the coin toss they did a lap of honour

(9) Just to be on the safe side, they played ten at the back

(8) Team beaten by local primary school kids in the half-time penalty competition

(7) During second-half you noticed players leaving early to beat the traffic

(6) Your top striker kept losing possession with his frequent cigarette breaks

(5) Inner-ear condition made it impossible for your right-back to stay between sidelines

(4) Your best midfielder got injured licking stamps

(3) One of last year's mascots was this year's goalkeeper

(2) Your new winger ran so damn fast against the rotation of the earth that he went back in time to when they didn't even have football and the old-time locals gathered around him, made fun of his shorts, then beat the shit out of him

(1) Your manager was Dave Baikie

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The second Champions League semi today couldn't have been more different from the first and full marks to Arsenal for making it the game it was.

When Man Utd opened the scoring so early, and had so much pressure, it looked like it might be game over and the FA Cup demolition of a few years ago popped into my head.

Almunia was in fine form for the Gunners and it was great to see them continually pushing forward for the equaliser.

Arsene Wenger's substitutions showed that he wanted to play attacking football and he had clearly seen that they were breaking down the Man U defence time and time again.

Sets up a cracker of a second leg and for a rare occasion in recent years, I'm actually looking forward to a Champions League match.

Let's hope for an Arsenal - Barcelona final. That would be a mouthwatering prospect.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Following the goal fest that was the Chelsea-Liverpool Champions League quarter final classic, the Blues restored normal service tonight by smothering the life out of their first leg semi final in Barcelona.

With so much at stake, the team to play away from home first in these affairs has such an advantage. Stifle the opposition, try and nick an away goal and you're all set.

Thankfully Chelsea never managed the latter part of this and if Barcelona can sneak an early goal at Stamford Bridghe next week then we should see some life in this game and hopefully a victory for the Spanish side.

It really is time for UEFA to start looking at the semi finals to be played at a neutral venue and played to a finish over one game. They've killed off all the tradition that went with the competition when it was the European Cup so one more change won't make any difference. And if nothing else, it'll make for some enjoyable spectacles in theory. The reality would still probably mean boring clubs holding out for penalties.

Monday, April 27, 2009

With another weekend of Premiership action now over, things are starting to look ever more precarious for Hull City.

It's starting to seem at the moment that they can't buy a break but it was good to see the positive approach on the field against Liverpool and if certain decisions had gone the other way, they may have been feeling a bit more confident about their fate.

Shearer's magic touch hasn't come to St James Park and with West Brom now showing some signs of life about them, it's going to be a tight run in.

I'd love to see Hull stay up as mentioned before. For a Club of such size and stature to survive would be great for football and as we've mentioned before in this blog, give hope to all fans of similar Clubs throughout the land.

A northeast triple relegation would be fabulous, especially as it would mean strong derbies in both the Championship and the Premiership (with all the midland clubs) next season and as we all know, derbies mean cracking, passionate football.

C'mon the Tigers. Stay in there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Following two uninspiring draws and a defeat, the Vancouver Whitecaps finally got a notch in the win column yesterday with a deserved win against local rivals Portland Timbers.

A screamer from Martin Nash was what seperated the teams scorewise but the Caps were the better side by far, although Jay Nolly did make some important saves at the other end to keep the Timbers out.

What was particularly pleasing to see was the Caps players celebrating the goal in the Southside - something missing from last season and something I felt was important, to continue the bond between the Southside and the Club that has now been built up.

Plaudits to the Timber Army for coming across the border in such numbers (150-200 apporx) and showing that the MLS was right to create the Pacific North West rivalrly come 2011. They sadly let themselves and their Club down though by throwing beer, cups and other things at the Caps players during the match.

Classless and pointless. That's Portland in a nutshell.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Today, in games multiple worlds apart in footballing terms, showed how penalties can turn games.

At Old Trafford, Man Utd are two goals down and looking to have thrown the title race wide open again. They win a penalty that was so clearly not that it was a joke. They score. The tide turns. They win 5-2 and can almost smell the Premiership crown.

At Ayr. Bobby Linn of East Fife goes down in what most fans in the ground, from both sides, agree was a stone wall penalty. The referee doesn't give it and books Linn. Bobby then gets a second booking in the second half and gets sent off.

Two referees. Two split second decisions. Two mistakes. Two game turning outcomes.

Who says we don't need instant replays in football?

Friday, April 24, 2009

There was a great story on the BBC's website last week about German side Energie Cottbus.

After losing 4-0 away to Schalke last Friday night, the Club apologised to their fans for the "pitiful performance" and said that they would be refunding the ticket money to their 600 strong travelling support that had made the 720 mile round trip.

It was a great gesture from the Club, who are currently lying second bottom of the Bundesliga.

How many other Clubs would admit that they should be paying the fans to watch the rubbish that has been served up on the pitch? Certainly not East Fife!

If they were to do that this season then the Club would soon find themselves calling in the administators!

There's been a lot of criticism of some East Fife players in recent weeks for their lack of commitment. Some have said that it's their protest against the management of the boardroom struggles.

What should be remembered though is that the players shouldn't be playing for the manager. Or for the Chairman.

They should always be playing 100% for the fans and it would do some players good to remember this.

Maybe they'll refund us out of their own wages when they don't.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We continue our look at football’s “Disappearing World” with a look at more of the things missing from fans themselves at football these days:

4: Fan Accessories (Part Two) -

Some fan accessories can be written off as fads but some have had an amazing longevity. With certain items their disappearances are welcome of course, whereas some others are missed and I’m not too sure into which category you would place football rattles!

Football rattles were around for many decades then just stopped being seen at grounds.

Was it like a football chant where everyone just seems to unconsciously know when to stop? Did everyone know when to stop bringing them to matches or did they have a “not to be used after” sticker on the bottom of each one?

It could just have been that everyone got fed up of the noisy buggers at the same time. They were loud. They were annoying. They were great fun though! Good if you were a kid with one, bad if you were standing next to a kid with one!

I did a little research for this article to see when the first football rattles appeared and was shocked to discover one dating back to around 1880, making football rattles one of the first must have fan accessories.

They were also originally used as bird scarers. That’s what you want. A multi-tasker! Use them to cheer on your side with Corinthian spirit whilst keeping those pesky crows away from nabbing your Bayview pie (there is no verification that they were once banned from old Bayview as a method of reducing the pigeon population).

Some of our younger readers of course will have no idea what a football rattle is? No, it’s not something to give to Cristiano Ronaldo when he’s spat his dummy out of the pram once again and no, it’s not the sound made by Raith Rovers when their championship hopes have died.

These were masters of engineering design! Simple, effective, a pain on the ears (we’re back to Ronaldo again) and originally made of wood, with ash being the wood of choice in the early days. Just twirl them around and around and around and the cacophony of wood on wood clicking noise would strike fear in the opposing team resulting in their goalkeeper having a howler.

You can still buy them but of course they‘re nothing like the originals and are usually made of cheap plastic now (tsk). Lots of online retailers stock them, but who buys them? Have you seen one recently at a game?

About 12 years ago my girlfriend at the time bought me one for Christmas. She was very excited as I opened it. Sadly I wish I could have said the same. Still it came in handy in scaring her away a few months later.

More recently they were seen in the excellent French horror film “Them”, when they were used by the evil lurking in the woods to scare the living daylights out of the film’s terrified protagonists.

Now if we could utilise them like that to get the fear back for the opposition at Bayview or Swangard. The Club shop could do a roaring trade.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Just got around to watching Saturday's Soccer AM.

Gazza was one of the guests and if you didn't see it, well, let's just say he was unrecognisable. A shell of his former self, looking gaunt and old, but at least seeming healthy in the mind.

Whatever team you support, it's hard not to acknowledge the genius of Gazza on the pitch and the wit of him off it. His decline has been sad to witness in the last few years but at least he was able to joke about missing out on most of 2008 and seems to be positively moving on from his troubles.

His humour is still there and the stories he can tell are still fun to listen to, assuming you can cut through what seems to be an even stronger Geordie accent than I remember.

When Helen and Max did the "Team Mates" questions with him, you wanted the segment to go on for longer than it did.

I hope he has put all his demons behind him. I fear he hasn't and will be remembered by some for all the wrong reasons.

Not by us at AFTN though.

For those who missed it, you can view some of his bits from Soccer AM HERE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Whilst watching the cracking match that was Arsenal and Liverpool this evening, the commentator mentioned that equally classic match between the two sides 2o years ago, when Michael Thomas clinched the Championship for Arsenal with a spectacular goal deep into injury time at Anfield.

I can remember that goal as if it was yesterday and I'm not a fan of either Club.

It was one of those special footballing moments that live with you for the rest of your life. So that got me thinking about other goals that I never tire of watching over and over.

From an East Fife point of view, Kenny Deuchar's dramatic promotion clincher in 2003 against Queens Park certainly falls into that category. The more you watch it, the more you think the goal is never going to come and when you do rewatch the goal it just brings the memories and feelings of that day flooding back.

Another of those timeless goals for me is Archie Gemmell's against Holland in the 1978 World Cup. The jinks. The skill. The finish. Classic stuff. I remember watching that the first time around on a small black and white TV set in the holiday cottage we had rented for a month in Elie. It was way past my beditme if I remember correctly but I was allowed to stay up to watch the vital match.

And talking of World Cups I never tire of watching Cameroon, literally, dismantle Argentina 1-0 in the 1990 opening game in Italy. Those flying tackles, the sending offs and Omam Biyik rising to head in the only goal of the game for the underdogs.

If it's underdogs you want then look no further than when Davide Gualtieri shocked England for San Marino after just seven seconds. You can't help but still laugh at that.

Football throws up so many lasting memories and you can replay the great goals time and time again in the VCR of your mind.

And when that VCR's heads start to go all fuzzy, well, there's always You Tube!

Monday, April 20, 2009

He may not be to everyone's taste but it was good to hear Russell Brand back on the radio again over the weekend with his new Talksport football show with Noel Gallagher.

How regular this show is planned to be I don't know, but I hope the pair are back soon as they delivered a fun footie show that was Soccer AM from it's best days crossed with Russell's previous BBC show (no grandaughters were involved this time though, although Jonathan Ross was!).

The pair have said they'll return at the end of Oasis' current tour in October so fingers crossed.

Noel's deadpan comments just added to the proceedings and served to calm down Russell a bit. Noel's stories about Wayne Rooney (or Spongebob as he calls him) were a blast.

For those who haven't heard the show, you can find it on various download sites or visit the Talksport site directly HERE.

Well worth a listen and I hope they're back soon.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The FA Cup Final has now been decided with Everton taking on Chelsea following a game as exciting as watching paint dry this afternoon.

Following on from Friday's blog, the romance of the Cup (copyright all lazy football writers) seems to be on hiatus.

In days gone by the Everton-Man U game would have been played at a ground like Hillsborough, Villa Park or Anfield.

Instead both sets of fans had to endure a long trek to London for a 4pm kick off for a game which went to penalties and left some fans scrambling to get their last transport home.

In these recession hit times people will reconsider where they can spend their money.

If the powers that be don't start considering the fans a bit more in many of their decisions then the current bubble surrounding football will burst and it won't be too long before we see one of the top flight Clubs being hit with administration and points deductions as the fans vote with their feet.

For those fans that did make the trip they were rewarded with a bore no score draw and a weakened Man U side, showing how much they think of the FA Cup in priority terms.

People have said this week how the Hillsborough disaster changed the face of football forever. In the 20 years that have passed, the latter stages of the FA Cup have changed face too.

If only all the romance could last till the very end.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Well it wasn't the start that the fans had hoped for or expected.

Stevie Crawford's first game as East Fife's caretaker manager ended in a 2-0 defeat at home to Alloa.

East Fife's home form hasn't exactly seen then make Bayview a fortress of late. More like an ice palace on a blistering hot day. Even so, this defeat still seemed shocking.

I think many, myself included, thought that the players would rise to the occasion now that Dave Baikie had departed and the "real" East Fife would come out to play.

Maybe they did. Maybe this is what Baikie had done to their confidence and abilities.

Crawford has found his honeymoon period extremely short and the search for a permanent replacement may overlook the former Scottish internationalist if he can't turn things around and sharpish.

What was pleasing was that Crawford gave youth a chance and hopefully Sheerin and Cargill will take this opportunity and show the Fife faithful that they have what we've been missing most of the season - the desire and passion to win.

It's got to the stage now that you just want the season to end.

With boardroom disharmony and poor performances on the pitch, all of the feel good factor has long departed Methil.

Let's just quickly draw a line under proceedings and move on to building for next season. A season that looks at the moment like it could go either way already.

The waiting is the hardest part.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This weekend sees the two FA Cup semi finals.

In the week of the Hillsborough disaster, which took place at such a semi final, it's interesting to reflect on what the semi finals meant to those fans that died and how it's changed today.

Watching the TV programmes dedicated to Hillsborough this week, a number of Liverpool fans who had been at the fated game were saying that to many of them, the semi final was almost better than the final at that time.

In the days when a number of different sides could be FA Cup semi finalists and there wasn't a "big four" dominating proceedings most years, the feeling was that the semi was more exciting because you were so close you could almost touch that yearned for place in the final.

The semis were big occasions, going to replays, played at proper times of the day. If you got through them and to the final, you'd earned it.

The fans loved the occasion. It all just added up to the magic of the Cup that growing up was always (and still is to this day) way more exciting than the Scottish Cup.

Nowadays though the semis can be played on whatever day the TV companies feel is best and whatever time suits them, not the fans.

Then the whole factor of both games being played to a finish now. Sure the games are still being played at a neutral venue, but both at Wembley.

Sure it's a great stadium, but with so many games now played there it's lost it's mystique. The whole excitement of a FA Cup semi final was the fact that you could be playing at Wembley. It might have been the only time that players and fans would get there. Nowadays though, you can find yourself at Wembley very easily.

To the fans of the teams that have made it, it still will be a great occasion.

Without wanting to keep sounding like a sentimental old fool sitting in a old folk's home reminiscing about the good old days, you have to say that those were the days though and you can't help but feel that some of the old Cup magic has long gone, never to be recovered.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy that claimed the lifes of 96 Liverpool football fans.

I still remember the day of the tragedy as the news came through. Standing on the terraces at Bayview, watching East Fife draw 1-1 with Stenhousemuir.

At the back of three, the tranny men in the crowd related the news that there had been crowd trouble at the game and the game had been halted. Hooliganism we thought.

Then they related there had been reports of deaths. We could only listen on in disbelief.

Then the tannoy announcement at half time that the game had been abandoned and that a major tragedy was unfolding. Any events at Bayview barely mattered after that.

After the game, some went to the social club to watch the news unfold. I went home and I remember sitting motionless and glued to my TV screens for the rest of that night, scarcely able to take in what had happened to innocent people going to cheer their team on in a big match.

20 years later and it's still hard to comprehend the scale of things and I still shed a tear when I watch the images repeated.

I made time to watch yesterday's memorial service at Anfield today, along with some of the other programmes dedicated to the events of that tragic day. I've had tears in my eyes from start to finish.

That no one has been held accountable or reponsible for those events to this very day is sickening. Those affected have acted with such grace and dignity on the ensuing years and are an example to everyone.

With the day being back fresh in everyone's minds again it is time to repressurise the UK governement to relook at the tragedy. Every football fan should act to bring the justice for the 96 and not stop asking "why, why, why?" until the answers are known.

No one should die watching the team they love. No one should die because of the mistakes made that day.

Everyone would be moved by watching and hearing about the events that day, but as a football fan if affects you the most. The 96 that died were part of your people, just perhaps a different family.

That could have been any one of us that was taken that day. That's how it feels.

There has to be justice for the 96. Only then may they rest in peace.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Last week the Champions League games looked tentalisingly poised, or at least three of them did.

The Liverpool-Chelsea game was one of the finest I've seen in years and a surprise really after some of the recent fair served up between those side. It was one of those games that you wished had gone longer and into extra time.

By the time the final whistle sounded in tonight's games we were left with the same old teams from the same old countries in the semi finals.

Three English teams in the semi finals, with one guaranteed a spot in the final yet again.

Proof of the strength of the EPL? Proof that it's all about money to get to the top echelons of the Club game these days? Proof that the Champions League is a farce?

All three I feel.

How can a tournament be classed as consisting of Champions when you have three sides from the same country in the semi finals. There can only be one Champion from that country. Last season it was Man Utd. If Chelsea or Arsenal win the Champions League this year then they have done so by default.

Maybe then more people will care and the Champions League can maybe one day return to what is used to be as the European Cup - a tournament fit for Champions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

They say that a week is a long time in politics. A lot can happen.

Well it seems that 24 hours is the benchmark for such things down Bayview way.

In a turbulent period East Fife have lost their manager, assistant manager and vice chairman.

Dave Baikie's resignation was welcomed by most fans and the removal of his assistant Mel Irons by more. The suddeness of the resignation is what's shocked everyone. it has just appeared out of the blue.

Baikie has said that he feels this is the right time to move on and after basically admitting in the press on Monday that he had lost the dressing room, there is no doubting that he is right.

Well to a certain extent at least.

His poor string of results and the lack of players seemingly wanting to play for him should have seen him walk weeks ago whilst we still had a shot at the play offs.

It's done now though. He's gone and thanks for the memories Dave but it's right for you to go.

Baikie's replacement has been immediate with former Scotland international Stevie Crawford bringing his wealth of experience into a promoted player/manager role for at least the rest of the season.

With Crawford being halfway through what is thought to be a pricey two year contract, the sceptics feel that this is the Club doing it on the cheap and trying to get value for money out of him. They may have a case.

It looks like the experienced Scott Crabbe and Jason Dair will be helping Craw so let's hope they can bring the best out of the players for what is left of the season.

More worrying though is Willie Gray's resignation as vice chair, with rumours of a public spat about to be aired in the press tomorrow between himself and Sid Collumbine, you do get the feeling that things are going to get a little worse before they get better at Bayview.

I'm sad to see Willie go but let's not say our goodbyes yet. Fan power got him there in the first place, got him reinstated and we can do it again if the need is there.

We'll just have to await the morning papers to find out how great that need might be.

Monday, April 13, 2009

With East Fife's season thankfully shortly finishing, and the Whitecaps one thankfully starting, AFTN has been giving a lot of thoughts to season tickets at the moment.

For years the East Fife season ticket package wasn't exactly value for money, partly for the price, partly for the savings offered and partly for the fact that it meant you felt obliged to turn up to watch dross every second week.

The price in recent seasons, if you get in on the early bird pricing at least, has been good, but when you consider the facts that your season ticket doesn't give you access to pre season friendlies, Cup games or play off matches you do have to question whether getting one has any real benefit.

Yes, you are guaranteed a ticket for any big Cup games but so does being a member of the Trust or Supporters Club and for a lot less money as well.

After a disappointing season at Bayview, the Club will soon be announcing their plans for next year's season tickets. With the backing of Baikie, the boardroom shuffles and the poor quality of football on display, shifting a lot of these in the current economic climate may not be easy.

With this in mind, let's compare what East Fife offer compared to the Vancouver Whitecaps season ticket package and let's see what can be taken to the Bayview boardroom to help offer the fans a better deal.

The Whitecaps season ticket packages vary depending on where you want to sit in the ground. I have a Southside season ticket. The standing, chanting fans area. My season ticket for this year cost me around 120 quid. For that I get tickets to 15 home League games, ALL play off matches including the possible Championship final, both the Canadian Championship games (which is a Concacaf Champions League qualifier) and, if you were really keen, all of the women's games and playoff matches.

Now that is value.

Add to that, a free woolly, a metal badge and discounts at local bars, restaurants and shops and THAT's how you reward loyal season ticket holders. The individual tickets also have pics of legends from the Caps 35 years playing history. A really nice touch.

MLS newboys Seattle Sounders went even further by giving their season ticket holders a box containing a badge and scarf for their inaugural season.

Both these Clubs should be applauded for recognising the importance and loyalty of their fans.

Now is the time for East Fife to give their long suffering fans something to make us want to get season tickets for next season or at least to show us that they care.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The USL season has finally kicked into gear after what seemed like one hell of a long close season.

After all the buzz about MLS 2011, it was nice to get back to watching some live football once again that didn't involve me walking my dog around a park watching whatever teams happened to be playing there that week.

Even a 0-0 scoreline couldn't dampen the spirits. The Vancouver Whitecaps have a lot of injuries at the moment and it's early days, but let's hope for some better finishing and some more attacking flair or we may not be seeing back to back Championships.

If the action on the pitch didn't exactly set the heather on fire, the atmosphere off it, and in particular the smoke bombs in the Southside, certainly did!

The Southsiders were on top form and I was hoarse when I woke up this morning. How much of that was due to the singing and how much of that was due to the smoke I'm not sure.

The atmosphere in the Southside is just getting better each game and for anyone who decides to head over to Vancouver to take in a game, this is the place to be.

The passion and love for the game and the team is great to see and if more football sceptics could see groups like this and others in action then they'd soon realise what the sports pages should be reporting on in the US and Canada.

Maybe it's nice to just have it as our own little secret though.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Another Fife defeat.

Yes a meaningless game (although with Stirling and Peterhead both losing it would have let us keep some kind of pressure on them for the last play off place), but after Dave Baikie's rallying call to the players to play for their places next season, I think he has the answer that the fans knew already.

He has lost the dressing room. The current players don't want to play for him and the fans don't want him or Irons to be the management team.

The worrying announcements at Boardroom level have left us with a man in charge of the Club in Sid Collumbine that I personally have very little faith in being the right man to be at the helm.

We, the fans, have to turn the pressure on the Board. We've got rid of managers and chairmen in the past and we WILL do it again.

Don't give up this season. This is when YOUR Club needs you most of all.

Let the Board and the management know exactly how you feel about them and what change you are wanting before the season ends.

We don't have to be stuck with this. It's up to all of you now.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The USL season kicks of tomorrow as Vancouver Whitecaps aim to defend their Champions crown.

It’s felt like a long time in coming round and it almost feels like the night before Christmas to many of the fans.

It’s an exciting time in general for USL Clubs.

Last season they proved that there was no real gulf between the top teams and the MLS. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the standard of football on display in a lot of the USL games is of a higher quality than it’s big bucks rival.

The performance of the USL Clubs in the Canadian and US cups was a joy to behold, with Montreal and Puerto Rico doing the League proud by reaching the latter stages of the CONCACAF Champions League.

I watched the end of the second leg of the Puerto Rico Islanders Champions League semi final match against Cruz Azul.of Mexico on Tuesday night. Cracking match which went to penalties before the Mexicans finally came through after some well taken spot kicks.

The match ended 3-3 on Aggregate with Puerto Rico scoring the only away goal of the tie. With it coming in extra time though, CONCACAF don’t count it as double! And right there, that’s one of the many reasons why the region isn’t treated seriously on the world stage.

The way that both the USL and MLS are run at times don’t help. At least the USL have now made the Championship game a two legged affair after last season’s debacle that saw Vancouver finish second but host the top place Islanders for whatever the “official” reasons actually were.

With the USL losing Seattle this year to the MLS and Vancouver and Portland in 2011, it really is about time that the two Leagues got together and thrashed out a proper tiered League system in North America. One with one top division, no conferences, and promotion and relegation, proper youth development and no playoffs for the Championship.

I’d love to see most, if not all, of the major cities hosting a professional football club.

It’s never going to happen of course, at least not in the foreseeable future, but it really is the only way to gain full credibility in certain parts of the rest of the world, but more importantly, help the sport grow on the continent and develop world class players that will see the CONCACAF teams perform with the world’s leading sides at the World Cup.

I like to dream.

One more sleep.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

We continue our series on the disappearing world of things you don't see at the football anymore:

#3 - FANS ACCESSORIES (PART ONE):

The football scarf and your replica Club top are two perennial fan accessories that I hope we will never see leave the football fan’s Saturday afternoon ensemble. Wearing your team’s colours with pride is something that you should never tire of.

Some fan accessories haven’t lasted the test of time though and in most cases let’s be thankful for that!

Rosettes are one of those. Looking back, did people really wear those to games? I’m of an age when rosettes had died out when I started going to watch the Fife but I have some in my collection of football memorabilia from through the years.

They lasted a long time and in the fashion disaster that was the 1970’s they seemed to have a resurgence. Maybe this is a myth in my imagination though. A made up football fantasy world, as no one seems to admit to ever wearing them! Or maybe they will now after this!

It was a time when your unsuspecting young fan would be adorned with scarves tied around each wrist, an ill fitting tammy on their head and a shiny silk-like rosette pinned to their lapel.

Turning up at a game today wearing such an item would result in instant ridicule from those that know you and sympathy from those who don’t, who would think that you were just a bit “special”.

The oldies wore them with pride and many were produced for big occasions like Cup finals. I had one for Glenrothes Juniors 1975 Scottish Junior Cup Final appearance. Had it for years but then it mysteriously disappeared. I always wondered if I’d had a secret visit from the style police but then they’d left the rest of my wardrobe intact so probably not!

Rosette pin badges were also popular (and still are) and even Subbuteo produced a range of rosettes to go with all the other junk that you bought from them but never used to play the game.

Will they ever make a return appearance? Well you can still buy them and I‘m sure gran‘s will still make them. A search of eBay will reveal a whole host of wonderful items from yesteryear. Great for collecting, not for wearing. But as everything seems to follow cycles I’m sure we’ll see some black and gold ones back again one day. Maybe we can start the new trend. Just watch where you stick them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The idea of yet another potential bore draw between Liverpool and Chelsea didn't really excite me.

Barca v Bayern on the other hand looked mouthwatering.

Well you can always be surprised by football.

The latter game was a blow out and the all English affair turned out to be a real cracker.

Chelsea looked really good. Hiddink has them playing some nice football and given them a confidence not seen for seasons. No heads going down when falling behind early this time.

Come the end of the EPl season you just know their fans are going to be left wondering "what if".

It always amazes me what one manager can do with a squad of players that his predecessor couldn't.

When you look at the talent on East Fife's books this season, Chelsea fans aren't going to be the only fans left wondering "what if..."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It was back to Champions League action today and for once, in my opinion, it was actually exciting, end to end stuff.

I’m not a huge fan of the Champions League. It’s not so much about who is the best team in Europe, but who has the most money to buy the right players on a lot of occasions.

For me, it only starts to get interesting from the quarter final stages, although even then there is often so much at stake to make defensive football come the fore and excitement take a back seat. The group stages hold very little interest to me once the Scottish teams have failed to qualify, so most of the time that from quite early on! The second round can be interesting but a lot depends on whether the big boys have unexpectedly struggled and finished second in their group.

Also, until it goes back to there only being Champions playing in it and not fourth place league finishers, then the whole competition can have no credibility in my eyes.

All that said, today’s games were surprising refreshing affairs.

The Man United - Porto game was a non stop, pulsating game and a great advert for football. I was very surprised by the attacking play shown by Porto in particular.

When they took the lead you feared they would sit on it, but nothing was further from the truth and they should be going into the second leg with a big lead. To keep fighting to tie it back up after going behind late on showed their metal and I certainly hope that they continue this style of play in the second leg and progress.

Any team with a player called Hulk deserves to go far!

The other quarter final was a tale of two cracking goals and it’s all to play for.

For once the Champions League did not disappoint or bore. Let’s hope this continues to tomorrows pairings.

Monday, April 6, 2009

They say you should never go back and on more occasions than not, they’re right.

When a player or a manager is held in such high esteem at their previous Club, going back and not achieving the success or fulfilling the hopes of the fans that placed them on that hero worship pedestal just leads to them have a tarnished memory.

Alan Shearer’s decision to return to Newcastle and try and guide them to Premiership safety is bewildering. He clearly loves the Club and wants to be their saviour, but failure will tarnish his legacy amongst the Magpies fans and possibly affect any future desire he might have to manage the Club.

I feel Keegan has spoiled his reputation by continuing to return to Newcastle and failing to deliver. The fans seems to keep forgetting that and yearn for his return.

Some won’t hold the failure to keep them up against Shearer personally and blame the long decline from the many other factors. Some will though as they expect too much of the man and forget his lack of experience.

I initially thought it was an April Fool’s joke when I first read it. His comments on Match of the Day indicate that he sees it as a short term job no matter what.

Has he nothing to lose and everything to gain? Does that option even still exist in the football these days. The fans are so demanding and fickle.

Shearer’s appointment reminds me so much of when Trevor Brooking tried and failed to keep his beloved Hammers up a few years back.

Some East Fife fans have been asking for the return of Davie Clarke. I personally wouldn’t want to see the great man return, fail and be hounded out and abused like so many managers in recent years have been.

We have a short tolerance level at Bayview. Let’s keep the legacy of Clarkie in tact and just remember the good times as they are.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

It wasn’t the name on everyone’s lips prior to today’s games but people know the name of Federico Macheda now.

The 17 year old Italian, who looks to have had a hard paper round, took his strike brilliantly to gain Man Utd three vital points in the Premiership title chase and instantly became an Old Trafford hero.

It was a dream debut and yet another young player brought on by Alex Ferguson. This one may not have come through the Man U youth system but Sir Alex certainly knows a young talent when he sees it and he’s not afraid to use that talent either which continues to be so refreshing to see.

Macheda had hit a hat trick for the reserves earlier in the week but for a manager to throw a young player into such a key game at such a key time was not only brave, but what makes him so great.

Now I’m no Manchester United fan, far from it, but you have to give full credit to the Club and the management for their continued belief that youth is the future for any football club, no matter what size or level they may be at. How many young players have come from nowhere to star for the Red Devils over the last twenty years now?

Thus same belief and commitment in youth development has also been seen with Arsene Wenger at Arsenal of course, but even they lag way behind United.

It’s this investment in youth and the understanding of how important it is to a Club’s future that sees the Vancouver Whitecaps stand head and shoulder above other clubs in North America. Their residency programme has produced some great stars of the future already and will continue to do so, of that I have no doubt.

It was great to see the Club field a player like 17 year old Ethan Gage throughout their play off and Championship win last season. There is, after all, no point in developing these players if you’re not going to use them or are to scared to use them.

The Whitecaps youth development should be held up as a shining model for the MLS bigwigs to instill as the way forward for all their clubs. Without such a thing in the place, the League can’t think of themselves as a serious professional football league.

There are signs that they may adopt the Whitecaps model, but in the meantime the Caps will continue to develop players at all age levels and this will give them a huge advantage when they become a MLS side in 2011.

It’s staggering to think that any Club these days, especially in the current financial climate, can have no robust and deep rooted youth development programme in place.

What kind of Club would be like that? Step forward East Fife.

It’s embarrassing what’s happened at Bayview in recent seasons and losing all the best local young players to other clubs will come back to haunt the Club in future years.

Without youth there is no hope for a fruitful future.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

"Saturday afternoon and I'm drinking with the guys. Thinking of today's results and your lovely eyes"

Another Saturday afternoon. Another East Fife match. Another failure to take three points. Another failure to produce anything but a lacklustre and powderpuff display. Another week of doom and gloom on AFTN lies ahead.

It's getting oh so predictable.

The disappointment on the pitch is in danger of being overshadowed by what's now going on off it though at Bayview.

All the rumours are pointing to some big disagreements at Boardroom level. Vice chair Sid Collumbine seemingly wants to get rid of Chairman Willie Gray. Dave Baikie won't be going anywhere as long as Willie is Chairman.

Yes, we want rid of Baikie. But no, we don't want rid of Willie. If keeping Willie means we're stuck with Baikie is that a price to pay?

What a quandry. Not helped by the fact that it's hard to see exactly what Sid and the rest of the tag along East Fife Board can bring to the table exactly.

Willie has put his money where his mouth is. It was Willie that won us the Championship. Anyone could have guided that squad of players to the title last season.

The fans are fully behind Willie but I for one can't understand his seeming loyalty to Dave Baikie. Will this ultimately be his downfall?

We've known all along that Willie isn't in this thing for the long term. He made that clear from the get go. Should we just let him walk away now and try and have some kind of hope for next season on the pitch? What would his departure leave the Board looking like and where is the money going to come from to fund any more top name players, even if we do have a new manager that can manage to get them motivated and firing anywhere near their potential.

After all the "Down With Brown" protests and the euphoria of the title, did we take our eye of the ball at boardroom level?

So many questions I know but so many lack of answers that it's actually looking a bit of scary rollercoaster ride for the immediate future.

I personally fear what path we'll be heading down if we allow Willie to be hounded out. Another Berwick? Another Stranraer? Another East Stirling?

The Batttle of Bayview has taken a much deeper twist than "Baikie Must Go" and we need to decide what part of it we want.

When we look back to that season of protests we need to ask ourselves exactly what we were fighting for. It wasn't just the removal of Derrick Brown. What was/is most important to us? Short term success on the pitch, continued long term success on the pitch, stability and financial security in the Boardroom?

It's now looking increasingly likely that we can't have more than one of these things. We need to know what we want from this current situation, because we have to be careful what we ask for, for we might just get it and it might not leave us looking any healthier.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The camera focusses in on the two gentlemen in question. The skinhead, gives the finger, smirking like a naughty schoolboy, before using it to rub his nose. He then does that oldtimer zing of the v sign chin scratcher. Schoolboy classic. The older gentleman, with the clueless expression, also performs the latter action. They must be so proud of themselves. That told us.

The scene could have been from some ned’s appearance at the Sheriff Court. It could have been two eight year olds having some playful antics in the classroom when the teacher’s back is turned. Or it could just be your national football team’s former captain and number one choice goalkeeper showing the nation and everyone outside of it that they don’t seem to have a brain cell between them.

Yes, the fall out from the Ferguson/McGregor booze fest keeps rumbling on.

Today’s news was, to me at least, unexpected and the severity of it actually really shocked me.

Both players have been banned for life from the Scottish national side. Both players have been sent home from Rangers training and issued with a two week ban. Transfer listing will probably also follow and Barry Ferguson has been stripped of the Rangers captaincy.

Very strong punishments meted out and an equally strong message given to the rest of the players involved with the Scotland squad. Top marks to the SFA for their actions and also to Rangers, who I’ve been very critical of in the past on a number of issues but have been spot on on this one.

Does the punishment meet the crime though? Are life bans worthy of some drinking and childish gestures? Possibly not. It did bring shame to the nation. It gave the impression that they don’t give a toss about the jersey and the fans, that they have no respect. There’s been rumours of other antics by the pair including blazing rows with the management, refusal to apologise initially and refusal to warm up at half time amongst them.

To me, it all smacks that there is more to this and more to still come out.

Thankfully we don’t have any more meaningful internationals for a while so that this won’t overshadow the main objective of World Cup qualification. It has already covered the fact that we only narrowly beat a lowly Icelandic team and Burley’s managerial abilities.

Can we afford to remove players from an already small pool of international quality players at our disposal? Frankly, yes. If getting rid of two bad apples means we miss out this time but are stronger for it, then it’s worth doing.

Let’s see the Scotland team recapture the passion of old and have players turn out who really want to be there, who care about their country and the fans and most importantly, who set an example and ones we can be proud of.

Once we have that the results on the pitch will follow. What we have left and with the younger players coming through, I don’t feel we’re too far short of that already.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

There's no easy games in international football these days, as the very over used cliche rightly says.

Of course, Scotland have been long advocates of this message for many years now. Let's not mention 1978.

There's still few real shock results though but when they happen it's great to see them. When Luxemburg beat Switzerland 2-1 last year that was an amazing result. Check it out HERE on You Tube if you haven't seen it. Stunning.

Bolivia's 6-1 demolition of Argentina this week though took stunning to a new level. What a result. Yes, it was at high altitude, and you could argue that the Argentinians didn't have the necessary preparation time for playing at 3660m, but the Bolivians totally destroyed Argentina and sent Maradona homewards to think again.

Again, if you haven't seen the goals, enjoy the game below:


In days when you have the same teams running away with League title in so many Leagues in Europe, results like this revitalise football and show that everyone is there for the taking, giving so much hope to the smaller nations.

What a great sport.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

On paper it was in no doubt.

Iceland had never taken a qualification point off Scotland. It was a makeshift and rag tag Icelandic side, decimated by injuries and mainly devoid of household names. The Hampden roar was behind the boys in a must win game.

A Scotland banker and we know how reliable those have been in the financial market in recent months!

It might have looked like a formality, but in reality, this is just the kind of game that Scotland typically underperform in, make it difficult for themselves and ultimately drop points, leaving the nation deflated and wondering where it all went wrong. We’ve seen it so many times before, both in qualification and at the major tournaments. Frankly, I was shitting it!

It hadn’t been the best of build ups for Scotland either, which did little to alleviate the nerves. We’ve hardly been playing exciting football under George Burley and the whole 2010 campaign had gotten off to an inauspicious start, having just been outclassed by the Dutch on Saturday.

The build up was clouded by the Ibrox Two. Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor’s shocking drinking session after returning from Amsterdam was unbelievable. How can two such key players be so irresponsible? Lack of respect for the manager, their fellow players and the fans. They disgraced the country, but let’s be honest, it won’t be the first or last Rangers player to do so. If it’s not drinking binges, it’s going in the huff and refusing to play for your country cos you’re not guaranteed a game. Hopefully Burley and the SFA tell them both to GTF. They’re overrated in any case as far as I’m concerned. Ferguson’s shown he can’t make it outside of the SPL and I’d rather have Craig Gordon between the sticks than flapper McGregor any day of the week, whether he’s only played 3 games in six months or not.

Scotland had to put all these distractions aside and George Burley promised an attacking Scotland side, which already drew raised eyebrows after what we’ve witnessed so far in his disappointing reign. There were five changes from Saturday, but thankfully Ross McCormack wasn’t one of them and he kept his place in the side. The on fire Cardiff man standing out and really impressing in Amsterdam.

The game certainly started the attacking way the Tartan Army had hoped for, with Scotland dominating possession but hardly looking to pose much trouble for the rock hard Icelandic defence. You were getting the feeling that the goal would come though and then there’d be a few more to add to the tally, but then just when you started to feel a little more comfortable, Iceland started coming more into the game.

With 38 minutes on the clock though, the collective sigh of relief rose from the Hampden lights when Ross McCormack got his first Scotland goal, with a cracking finish after some good work from Alan Hutton and Kenny Miller.

Maybe we could start to enjoy the game now!

Fat chance.

When Iceland equalised eight minutes into the second half, you just knew it would come. That feeling of impending doom that hangs around you if you’re a Scotland fan! We fell asleep but it was a well worked goal and superbly taken. The initial shot that crashed off the post was a cracker.

That was the point to show whether or not we had a team of spirited fighters, proud to play for the jersey (there’s so many similarities between the national team and East Fife!).

Thanks to Steven Fletcher and the rest of the boys though, they showed we do. The last few minutes were edge of the seats time but Craig Gordon showed why he’s Scotland’s number one with some important saves in the closing moments.

Who needs wasters like Ferguson and McGregor? The team always seems to play better without the big Hun cry baby in particular anyway.

In the end it was three points in the bag. An often uncomfortable performance to watch at times but hopefully the morale booster the whole squad needed.

Questions still surround George Burley. I mean, you’re fighting for your qualification life and who does he think is the man to bring on to change it all around? Gary Teale! Says it all really.

But now is not the time for doom and gloom. Let’s just bask in the glow of success for at least some point this season.

We don’t make it easy for ourselves, but where’s the fun in that anyway?!
Subscribe to RSS Feed Follow AFTN on Twitter