Monday, November 30, 2009

With the excitement building for Friday's World Cup draw, the Irish controversy around their defeat to France is still rumbling on and has taken on a new and unexpected twist.

The Irish FA have asked Fifa to allow them to take their place in South Africa as an extra side.

Surprisingly, Fifa haven't discounted their plea altogether and will decide whether they will grant the Irish their wish by referring the matter to the executive committee, presumably before Friday's draw!

Furthermore, Fifa have stated that if they were to consider Ireland's request, they would also have to look at the plight of Costa Rica, who lost out in their playoff to Uruguay thanks to a controversial offside goal.

So are Fifa really going to seriously consider the Irish request or are they hoping that so much of the furore will have died down by now that they can dismiss it and no one, apart from the Irish, will really care?

It's hard to see how such a request could be processed at such a late stage of proceedings. How would the administration of it all work? The tv coverage, the fixture dates, what group could they be placed into? Why should team be penalised by having five teams in a group? Can they add two more to bring it up to 36 and let Scotland in just for the hell of it?!!

The whole thing has become an embarrassment. At least Fifa's announcement that they will be considering using goal-line technology and extra officials in South Africa may go some way to helping prevent some of the future controversies the game will throw up, but until we get television replays, there will still always be something for us to get all worked up about!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We've gone on before about how the Scottish Cup just doesn't compare in excitement, glamour and romance to that of it's English counterpart.

It was good to see the non league sides holding their own in yesterday's games though. None of them were disgraced and there's 5 going in with the big boys for the fourth round draw.

Top marks has to go to Junior side Irvine Meadow though who won 1-0, and by all accounts dominated proceedings, against Second Division side Arbroath.

The other Junior side remaining, Auchinleck Talbot, were unlucky to go down to another Second Division side in Stirling Albion. The 2-1 loss being even harder to take when the hit the post in the closing minutes.

Wick Academy just failed to hold on against Brechin City, drawing 4-4 after being 4-2 up.

With the Second and Third Divisions being relatively tight this season and this season's Cup games being close as well, it could re-open the debate amongst some to try and get some pyramid system going in Scotland.

It's been mentioned and dismissed but there's very little to choose between a lot of non league sides and their league opponents.

If it gets some of the deadwood out of the game as well then all the better.

Although ask me that again next time we're languishing at the bottom of the Third Division.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Match Report: East Fife v Montrose (Scottish Cup 3rd Round)

East Fife crashed out of the Scottish Cup at the first time of asking today after a truly woeful performance against Montrose at Links Park.

So often giantkillers and the producers of shock results themselves over the years, East Fife succumbed to one of the round's shocks themselves when they lost 2-1 to a team who sit bottom of the Scottish Third Division and who are without a League win all season.

And to be brutally frank, Montrose totally deserved their victory and could and should have won by more.

If the Gable Endies could have taken their chances, or been boosted bu greater confidence in front of goal, then they would have had a comfortable lead by half time.

East Fife started the stronger but after the first ten minutes were hardly at the races. Goalmouth scrambles, the crossbar and poor finishing kept the scores somehow level at the interval and we all expected the Fife to come out all guns blazing after the bollocking they would surely have got at half time.

To be fair to them, they did come out better and made most of the early running in the half, but Montrose kept up the breakaways and counter attacks to show they were still very much up for the Cup shock.

It really came as no surprise when they took the lead after 57 minutes.

Bobby Linn gave the ball away and Paul Watson, who had hit the bar in the first half, took the full opportunity to run onto to Mark Ridgers and drill the ball home.

The goal seemed to jerk East Fife into life and Jamie McCunnie crashed the ball off the bar.

It only took four minutes for the higher division Fifers to get back to parity when Paul McManus swivelled to volley the ball high into the net from a corner.

Surely this would be the spark we were wanting to drive the Fife into the next round.

Not to be though as East Fife had the better possession but Montrose the better chances for the rest of the match.

The Fife defence seemed all at sea on several occasions, guilty of ball watching at times and our midfield weren't part of it all as it was just punt, punt, punt up to McManus in the corner.

Montrose should have wrapped the game up well before the 88th minute but it was another defensive slip that did the damage and John Gemmell hit home after a great cut across goal from Montrose sub Nicol.

The goal cued wild celebrations on the Links Park terracing and rightly so.

East Fife still hold their record of never losing to a non league side in the Cup, but bottom of the bottom league in Scotland doesn't come any closer.

For the Fife it's that good old league concentration now, but the defence needs to tighten up considerably and the long ball has to stop.

Paul Sludden has shown me nothing in the last two games to get excited about and we desperately need some help for the hardworking Shagger.

I've also never seen so many messages getting conveyed from the touchline, with players seemingly over all afternoon and four people deciding what message to give.

If we don't start turning things round soon, this is going to turn into a nightmare season to forget and we'll find outrselves back in the basement we spent so long trying to get out of.

C'mon the Fife

FINAL SCORE: Montrose 2 - 1 East Fife

ATT: 509

Friday, November 27, 2009

It's Friday Fun time again and thanks to KotS for finding this elsewhere and posting it on the AFTN forum...

All totally nicked from a thread on another team's website...

Two or more players should always dispute who will take a free kick, even after spending an entire week working out the fact on the training ground.

A goalkeeper must tap his post with his boot before taking a goal kick.

The referee must only blow for full time when the ball is in mid-air after a long goal kick.

man utd get a few mins extra time if they could do with it

European nights at Anfield are always "special"

When free kicks for offsides are taken and the taker moves the ball further forward than where the linesman is directing him with his flag, the linesman invariably just gives up and let's the taker take it from where he's put the ball down.

'Top teams' 'run down the clock', lesser teams 'waste time'.

When the ref is counting out the ten yards for a free kick a player must tap the ball forward to get closer to the goal regardless of the fact it'll be easier to get over the wall if you rolled it back a bit

Immediately before the ball is kicked off, both players in the centre circle must touch their genitalia while walking on the spot.
NB: this process may only be deviated from by clearing one's nose. In this case, the free hand MUST be placed on the genitalia.

One of the two players kicking off must stand in the opposition half, despite this clearly being against the laws of the game.

Any manager facing lower-league opposition in a cup game must describe the team he is facing as “well organised”.

When water bottles are thrown on to the pitch while a teammate is receiving treatment, players must always squirt some out on to the grass before taking a sip.

Everyone can encroach when a penalty kick is taken.

Got others? Add them to the thread on the AFTN forum HERE

Thursday, November 26, 2009

In one of the least surprising managerial casualties from this season, Paul Hart has been relieved of his role as Portsmouth boss and replaced by Avram Grant.

No matter how much Pompey would deny it, something just stinks about the whole thing.

Grant was recently installed as that delightful Director of Football at the club.

The role of Director of Football has always puzzled me. What exactly does it mean? What exactly does it entail? And more importantly, how much does it eat into what a football manager should be doing himself in his day to day job?

Obviously every Club is different, but one thing that does seem constant is that managers soon face extra scrutiny once such a role has been created and filled at clubs.

The question is always there - who is really running the side and picking the team and making all the key decisions?

The role just seems farcical and puts extra pressure on what is already a very pressure filled position. Sure it's fair enough having a senior and experienced figure in the game helping out the new guy, but isn't that what the assistant manager's job has been historically used for? (Stevie Kirk bringing on board Dave Clarke as his assistant for example).

Whether Hart had what it took to be a successful Premiership manager is a seperate debate altogether and whilst Directors of Football continue to thrive in the game, we'll have a lot of others like him this season and beyond.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Faced with a free Tuesday evening in London what would you do? Go see Arsenal in the Champions League against Standard Liege? Charlton perhaps taking on Bristol Rovers in the Championship?

For me, there was only one match to go to last night and that was AFC Wimbledon taking on Ebbsfleet United in the Blue Square Premier.

I've followed the ups and down of Wimbledon since they joined the Football League Division 4 in 1977. Still have some programmes from their first season of league football.

The horrible goings on which led to a club (not THE club) moving to Milton Keynes and the subsequent rebirth of the Club as AFC Wimbledon, has been both sad and a joy to witness. The rise of the new team has been an inspiration to supporters of all crisis hit clubs throughout the country.

It was great to finally take in my first AFC Wimbledon match.

What a cracking wee set up they've got along there at Kingsmeadow. It was proper football in proper surroundings, just how the game should be watched. Add in a 3-0 victory for the Wombles and it was a fantastic night.

They've got themselves a fantastic ground in Cherry Red Records Stadium. Three sides of covered terracing and a stand, very sufficient and packed to the rafters by the 2,942 people that were there last night.

It was great dodging between the heads to see the action once again. You could even nip out for a pint at the bar at half time.

Only really disappointment for me was that there were no pies in the tea bar, but I could live with that!

Something else I could certainly live with is going to watch Wimbledon every week. Ok, it's maybe not the greatest football you're ever going to see in the world but it's what I love and how I love it.

If I ever find myself living in London for a spell, I know where my footballing home will be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scotland's reputation in Europe took another pounding tonight as Rangers crashed out of the Champions League and also lost out on an Europa Cup spot as well.

With Celtic pretty much assured of missing out on the later stages of that competition themselves, Scotland's teams European adventures are over for another year.

With all the other abject failures this season, perhaps the SFA will finally realise that it's just not the Scotland boss they need to give some serious thinking into taking the game forward in the country.

It really is all getting a bit embarrassing now.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The MLS Championship game was played last night and in an on the whole entertaining affair, Los Angeles Galaxy and Real Salt Lake fought out a 1-1 draw after extra time, with the men from Utah claiming the title on 5-4 penatlies.

Having failed with England three times on the major stage with penalty shoot outs, Becks can now add another loss to his memories.

It was a great win for Real Salt Lake, a team I know a lot of East Fife took an interest in after Kenny Deuchar moved to play with them last season.

The game was played in front of a fantastic crowd of 46,011 at Seattle's Qwest Field. When you see games like this, along with the big name friendlies the SOunders attracted this season, it makes your mouth water at what is in store if you're a Vancouver Whitecaps fan.

With BC Place having the big capacity, the 2011 MLS Championship game is likely ot be getting played in Vancouver.

The day will be an amazing spectacle for the fans (the Sounders fans had the game included in their season ticket package), no matter who is in the final. If the Caps could make it there, then it would be all the sweeter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This afternoon's 9-1 demolition of Wigan by Spurs was startling on many counts, none more so than if it hadn't been for some shocking finishing and some fantastic saves from Chris Kirkland it could have easily been double that score or even over twenty!

Just finished watching the highlights on Match of the Day and wow, what a rout.

As a fan you dream of days like that. A day when everything goes right (although not everything in this case as we've already mentioned!) and the ball hitting the back of the net again and again.

I can only imagine what the joy must have been of the East Fife fans that witnessed that record 13-2 victory against Edinburgh City all those moons ago.

To get nine goals in a top class league match these days though is phenomenal and it was great so see Spurs not easing up either.

I never get how in ice hockey it's frowned upon if you keep racking up the score. The same in kids football where they end the match and start a second one to keep scores down.

I'm sure the Spurs fans will be glad that it doesn't happen in football and will be enjoying every minute and every goal of that victory tonight.

One day maybe I'll get to see 9 goals by East Fife. Maybe next Saturday could be that day!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Match Report: Clyde v East Fife (Scottish 2nd Division)

East Fife came through their basement six pointer with flying colours today, but they could have made it a lot easier on themselves than they did.

Going into the match knowing that a defeat would see them propping up the league, they really went for it from the off and Paul McManus was rewarded for his tenacity after 9 minutes when he coolly ran into the box and as the Fife support were yelling for him to shoot, he rounded Clyde goalie Calum Reidford and slotted home.

East Fife then went on to dominate proceeding but apart from a spell of pressure just before and just after the goal, they started to sit back and not really threaten to add to their lead.

With so many lost leads and late goals conceded, the Fife faithful were wary of the same old story being played out. The fears weren't eased when Clyde came out for the second half all guns blazing and had chance after chance before finally levelling when East Fife's Mark Staunton was adjudged to have fouled Steven Howarth in the box. Up stepped Willie Sawyers to convert the penalty and tie things up with 35 minutes of the game still remaining.

As Clyde continued to launch assaults on the Fife goal, it looked like it was all happening again but slowly East Fife got back into the game and soon retook charge of the possession and chances.

And it was up to Shagger to double his and the Fife's tally when he netted from close range with 68 minutes on the clock. After that Clyde were a spent force and Bobby Linn finished a great spell of black and gold possession when he finished off a fine solo effort by firing in low from 14 yards out, with then minutes remaining.

It was the Linn of old, with the ball at his feet as he went on a mazy and a fine finish and the goal should give him some of his confidence back.

There were some fine performances on display for the Fife, with Paul McManus' workrate being phenomenal, even if his finishing lets him down from time to time.

East Fife shouldn't have let Clyde back in to the game after dominating for so long but full play to Clyde for coming out fired up for the second half and catching us cold.

The Bully Wee fans are a patient lot though. They have a very poor side and as East Fife were knocking the ball around Brazilian style at one point in the second half, with backheel passes and showboats, you couldn't help but think that if that was Clyde doing it to us the boos would be ringing down from the Fife support.

The boos and the oh so familiar chants of "Brown Must Go" did come and after the game long suffering Clyde boss John Brown was finally shown the door at Broadwood.

For East Fife, they now have the week off from League duty to face the woeful and winless Montrose at Links Park in the Scottish Cup next Saturday. If they can play the way they did today, but take some more chances, then the Gable Endies could find themselves on the end of a drubbing next Saturday and that's just the boost that East Fife could do with for the remainder of this very tight season.

C'mon The Fife!

FINAL SCORE: Clyde 1 - 3 East Fife

Friday, November 20, 2009

*** For some reason, yesterday's blog didn't post, so we'll fix this and get it reposted asap. In the meantime, here's today's blog...***

The row over Ireland's controversial World Cup exit has rumbled on today, with all the major players having something to say and a few other unwelcome noses being stuck in as well.

Unsurprisingly FIFA have announced that there will be now way that the France-Ireland game will be replayed.

As much as I would like it to be played again, it would be a very dangerous precedent to set, as we mentioned yesterday.

I wouldn't expect this to be the end of it though. The FAI are still furious about what happened and I'm sure they'll be looking to see what legal action they can invoke, although again I would see this as doomed to failure.

I'm not sure what court would be willing to open a huge can of worms by ruling against FIFA, especially after a day like today where nearly 200 European matches are being looked into for match fixing. They can't all be replayed!

In a big surprise, and in a move that smacks to me of trying to salvage his reputation, especially in England, Thierry Henry has come out and said that he feels the only fair thing would be to replay the match.

Interesting that this announcement was made after FIFA made theirs to say that this would be in no way be possible. I don't doubt for a minute that this is genuinely how he feels, but it is no way going to make any difference for the Irish.

Perhaps the most surprising comments on all of this came from former Irish international Roy Keane who basically told the Irish to get over it and stop whining that they usually do, even going as far as to suggest that the players should have finished it long before that incident (which is true) and have nothing to complain about.

Nothing like the backing from one of your own. Which this was.

You still feel for Ireland in all this but there is no apparent route to fix this for them sadly and next year's finals in South Africa will be decidely worse off for their fans not being there.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ok, so it's the biggest story out there at the moment and everyone's commented on it, so we're not going to be any different!

Ireland's controversial extra time defeat to France in yesterday's World Cup playoff qualifier is going to be in the headlines for many days to come I would think and rightly so.

Cheating has been a big talking point in recent seasons. Diving, embellishments, match fixing, we thought that would be pretty much about it. Then along comes Thierry Henry to do a Maradona and handle France through to South Africa.

The Irish are quite right to be furios but their calls for the match to be replayed will fall on deaf ears.

FIFA can't go down this road for fear of future mayhem and backdated claims. Where would it all end.

France deserve to be punished but my favoured option of just kicking them out of the tournament isn't likely to happen either.

I've always been a fan of Thierry Henry. I think he's a class player and there's still rumours around that he will be pulling on a Vancouver Whitecaps jersey for their inaugural 2011 season. That thought had excited me before, but after what happened I don't want to see him anywhere near a Whitecaps jersey.

Henry's reputation will now be tarnished, no matter what apologies will no doubt be forthcoming after the event. He could have put matters right on the night if he was that bothered by it.

Ireland will be as angry that they didn't kill the French hopes off long before extra time as much as with the handballs that led to the winning goal. They could and should have been the runaway victors on the night.

Sadly, they're now left to think what might have been, wallow in anger towards Henry and everyone will have to live with the fact that cheats do win. It's a sad fact of life these days.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Finding myself as an exile two years ago, it gave me a whole new perspective in following my team.

All the little things you take for granted. Being able to read about them in the papers. Being close to all the gossip and action. The smell of pies and bovril. The banter. The cameraderie. Being there to cheer them on at home and most importantly away.

I'm heading back to Fife tonight and included in my brief trip will be two East Fife matches.

Clyde away on Saturday is a real six pointer already at this stage of the season. A loss will see us bottom of the League.

The following week it's Montrose away in our first game in this season's Scottish Cup. A trip to oh so familiar surroundings to face a team struggling more than we are just now.

Neither are really matches you would travel thousands of miles home for. Neither are what I hoped for when I booked my trip.

But you know what? I don't care. It's the chance for me to see my team for the first time in 19 months and no matter what the outcomes, I wouldn't swap it for the world.

C'mon the Fife!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It wasn't exactly a shock when the SFA announcement the parting of company with Scotland boss George Burley yesterday.

Saturday's embarrassing 3-0 defeat by Wales was the final straw for many.

Burley's days are now over and it's not a happy period to look back on, so let's just quickly move on.

Maybe not too quickly though as it is vital that the next man given the task of managing Scotland is the right decision to take us forward in the coming years.

As we've said before in this blog, we're happy if we miss out on the Euros in 2012 (well maybe not happy but we can accept it) if we can see some development and a base for a team that will take us to the 2014 World Cup and beyond.

There are a number of young players out there who seem like they could be coming through in the next few years. It's important that we get the right manager to bring them up to full international standard.

All the usual suspects are being bandied around. Even Walter Smith is being mooted for a return, but this would be a backward step to go with someone that left the national team in the lurch to return to the lure of Club football.

The SFA need to take time to make the right decision. At the moment, I have no idea who to even suggest that this could be. I'm perfectly happy for it to be a non Scottish manager (Guus Hiddink anyone?).

All I do know is that this is a vital decision. The wrong one could send the national team into a freefall that it will take a very long time to recover from.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Not for the first time in recent seasons, East Fife fans were faced with a Club v Country clash on Saturday afternoon. Should we spend our hard earned cash watching our beloved East Fife or stay at home to watch the Scotland game live on Sky or even make a long trip to Wales to cheer on Scotland, in what was a pretty pointless friendly exercise at this stage of the season?

To some this will have been a no brainer. Club will always come first and why would you spend all that time and money to just go and watch a meaningless friendly between two depleted squads?

To others, country and following the Tartan Army on their travels will always be the winner.

Why should we have to choose though? And why is it always the lower league Scottish football fans that are penalised for supporting their local team and giving them a vital source of income?

On occasions, unlike Saturday, kick off times are either moved forward or delayed to the Sunday, both of which are more of an inconvenience to the fans than a valid solution and it’s no help at all to the fans that want to actually physically attend both matches.

Some fans will even have been happy to have an excuse not to come out in the cold and watch the Fife, in what’s been an up and down season so far and that’s what becomes worrying.

We’ve debated this point often on AFTN over the years. Why do regular faces start to disappear from Bayview? What is it that turns them away from being regulars in the Fife faithful and what is it they find to do instead? And why is it easier to find other things to do than to follow your team these days for many?

The football authorities shouldn’t be giving the more fair-weather fans this get out clause and the chance to not go and support their team. Surely everyone connected with the game should be trying to do everything to increase regular attendances? Clashing any Scottish League club fixture with an international does not do this.

So many of the lower league Clubs, including the Fife’s opponents on Saturday Stirling Albion, face serious money worries this season and every pound they can bring in through attendance, food and anything else on a match day is vital for many teams. For the football authorities to have yet another clash like this, eating into this possible money, is disappointing.

The fans have made their feelings well known many times before regarding this matter, but it just seems to fall on deaf ears. You’re left wondering if anyone in authority actually does care about us lower league sides and supporters.

You have to believe they do, but it’s just another issue, in what is becoming a very long list of things this season, that adds to the calls for a complete overhaul about how Scottish football is currently run at all levels.

As it turned out, both games were painful. Scotland were embarrassed and the Fife were hurt by yet another late loss. Even with that, I’d still say that those that made the decision to head to Bayview on Saturday were the ones that made the right decision. It’s just a shame they had a choice to make in the first place.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Yesterday's four European World Cup qualifiers maybe didn't quite set the heather alight with their action on the pitch, but they have certainly set up four intriguing second legs on Wednesday.

As we discussed before (see Blog of October 20th), the unfairness of UEFA's seeding is basically trying to secure some big names don't miss the big show.

Thankfully it might not turn out that way.

Portugal may well rue only taking a one goal lead into a hostile Bosnian stadium. If Bosnia can tie things up at any stage of the proceedings, I tip their fanactical and loud support to carry them through.

I'll still be rooting for Slovenia and taking only a one goal deficit back from Russia, including that vital away goal, gives them a great chance of qualifying and will be one of my teams to support in South Africa next year if they do.

Ireland have their work cut out now. They had so many chances in yesterday's game that they deserved to be going into the second leg with a lead and not facing a game of chase. Like it always is though, and as East Fife know to their peril so far this season, chances count for nothing if you don't convert them.

If ever that fighting Irish spirit was needed it was now and if they just play the way they did yesterday then they can restore some Celtic pride that Scotland seemed to do their best to evaporate.

The last tie between Ukraine and Greece could still go either way, but your have to feel that the Greeks have blown their chance to progress.

All in all, thankfully no blow outs and a cracking case of four do or die matches midweek.

Should be exciting as hell. It feels like the World Cup has started already!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It was more last minute heartbreak for East Fife today, when Martin Grehan scored for Stirling Albion in injury time at Bayview.

The goal gave Stirling a 2-1 victory in a match which East Fife dominated in the early stages and confirmed the visitors spot as joint League leaders.

Paul McManus gave the Fife the lead on 21 minutes after loan signing Paul Sludden did well to disposses Adny Gibson to set up the chance.

With the pressure and the chances East Fife created, they should have been out of site by half time. Sadly they weren't and Stirling made us pay.

Five minutes after the restart David O'Brien fired home the equaliser and although it was an entertaining game and the Fife were dreadfully unlucky to lose so late yet again, it felt like an inevitable conclusion.

The defeat leaves East Fife thirteen points behind the top two but more worryingly two points of the automatic relegation spot in second bottom place. The knives are already out from some with regards to Stevie Crawford's position as manager.

Being able to take in the next two games personally, I'll reserve my own judgement and comments untik after that.

The promising signs are that we played well, didn't get/take the breaks and were unlucky once again. Surely our luck must change some time soon.

Those that did watch the game left disheartened but at least they didn't have to suffer by watching the Scotland national team who played at the same time.

Yes, we're already at that stage of the season where we're grasping any straws of comfort going.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The death of German international Robert Enke on Tuesday stunned football when the sad news came out that he had taken his own life by stepping in front of an oncoming train.

Enke had been suffering from depression since 2003 and had suffered the agony of losing his daughter in 2006 to a rare heart decision. Most that knew him would not have known his suffering as he tried to keep his mental illness out of the public eye.

Suicide is always a shocking experience to those that are left behind. When former Fife player Paul McGrillen took his own life in August (see Blog of August 3rd), it was a stunning shock to all that knew him and knew of him.

Enke's death just made me think about how much abuse we give certain players on the pitch. I'm sure I'm not alone in admitting guilt in this respect.

When we're dishing out the abuse, we never stop to think if it really is just trying to get under the player's skin or whether he may be truly hurt, disturbed and mentally unsettled by what is being said. We don't know what kind of mental anguish or problems they may be facing in their private life, for it is just that - private.

Earlier this season, the abuse meted out to East Fife goalie Michael Brown was pretty bad at times. It later came out that he was going through a very trying time off the pitch due to family illness. I'm sure the abuse didn't help.

Some may argue that if a player feels that he is ready to play, pulls on that jersey and takes to the pitch, then all is fair. Players like Enke clearly wanted to play to help take his mind off these other things. It was his escape to the harsh realities he faced at home and which finally pushed him over the edge.

Perhaps next time, before we all abuse a certain player, maybe we should take a step back and think how we would react if we were on the other end of such abuse. I know it'll make me think twice about certain things in the future.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We've been going on about how this has been pretty much a rollercoaster season for East Fife so far. It's been hard to know at times whether we're going to see a Fife side battling it out for the promotion playoffs or the relegation ones.

After last Saturday's game though, i think a lot of fans will have realised that it's looking worryingly like the latter.

There is something just not clicking with the team just now. Whether the blame for that cane be laid at the door of gaffer Stevie Crawford, I don;t think we can honestly say yet.

Stevie said at Monday's AGM that there is a fine line between success and failure in the Scottish Second Division this season and he's spot on.

We could and should have won the game on Saturday. Instead we ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat, with a Peterhead goal that never crossed the line. Them's the breaks and them's the ones we're not seeing much of so far this season.

It's also the kind of decisions that can drain a team that's already low on confidence completely.

With Shaun Fagan and Jonny Smart now both sitting out multi match bans for their actions on the pitch (five and three games respectively), our top goalkeeper and a key experienced defender out long term injured and the young players just not making the breakthrough we all hoped, East Fife haven't had their troubles to seek so far this term.

Now with the joint League leaders Stirling Albion coming to visit on Saturday, if we ever needed to get out that lucky white heather, then I'd say it's now before we sink too deep into the potential relegation mire.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two weeks ago we covered Spanish third tier side Alcorcon's amazing 4-0 victory over Real Madrid in a second round, first leg match up in the Copa del Rey (see Blog on October 28th).

With the second leg to come at the Bernabeu we said that you could be sure that Real Madrid wouldn't make the same mistakes again.

Well they didn't, but they still only managed to win 1-0 despite fielding a strong side including Kaka.

Alcorcon were solid throughout and advanced 4-1, whilst the Madrid fans were clearly irate, booed their team off the park and called for the head of boss Manuel Pellegrini.

For the money that Real spent over the summer it's nice to see them get their comeuppance in any competition going. It's good for football and great for the fans of the smaller, less financially liquid sides.

Pellegrini has already had that dreaded vote of confidence that he will be at the helm to the end of the season, no matter how the side fare in La Liga and the Champions League.

They're already struggling a little in the latter and in the former they're trailing Barcelona by a point after the first ten games. With form of three win in their last eight games the pressure is going to mount quickly on Pellegrini.

As for Alcorcon, well it's like a fairy tale for them and full marks to the Real fans for giving them a standing ovation at the end of the game.

It's moments like this that fill your heart with joy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Now before the East Fife fans reading this sit down and expect to read a commentary about Saturday's match and the Fife's future for the remainder of the season, don't worry, it's got nothing to do with this. That will come soon.

No the title of today's blog is for the diving cheats that are everywhere it seems in today's game.

Yesterday's English Premiership match between Liverpool and Birmingham City at Anfield was one to remember, not for the goals or the goalmouth action, but for the actions of David Ngog in blatantly diving to win Liverpool a penalty and what was to prove to be the equalising goal.

I think the Blues Lee Carsley, who had been adjudge to have made the "tackle", summed it up best when he commented after the match that it was an "embarrassing case of cheating".

I've been a big fan of Ngog this season. He's looked good when I've seen him turn out for Liverpool. He clearly has the skill and doesn't need this as part of his game.

Steven Gerrard, who is meant to be an ambassador for the English game (incidents in nightclubs apart), was also at it later in the match when he clearly embelished a challenge in the box and performed pretty much a bellyflop which the referee was having no part of. No booking though either.

How many times are players going to get away with this? The FA will probably review it, they may attempt to ban Ngog (ala UEFA with Eduardo) but then the appeal will throw it all out with the "dangerous precedent to set" line coming out once again.

Fines or player bans are not the way forward though. The only way that Clubs will actively try to stamp out this behaviour is for them themselves to be punished via point deductions.

Birmingham have just lost out on what could be two very crucial points come the end of the season. Why should Liverpool get off scot free for cheating?

Monday, November 9, 2009

The second leg of the MLS first round playoff match up between Seattle Sounders and Houston Dynamo took place yesterday at the Texas side's Robertson Stadium.

The first leg was a cracker, despite finishing goalless (see Blog of October 30th) and rekindled some interest in the MLS from us this season.

With things tentatively poised, it was a slightly more cagey second game, but nonetheless still entertaining in another goalless 90 minute encounter. Brian Ching ended up scoring the only goal of the two legs, five minutes into extra time, to send Houston through and end Seattle's inaugural season.

As we explained in previous Blog posts, MLS action hasn't been on the TVs much at AFTN Towers in recent years, but the first leg, and especially the wonderful atmosphere the Sounders fans created for the whole ninety minutes, made us wonder if we should perhaps be more open minded about just how good the MLS was and how professional Major League Soccer really was. Maybe it is a proper football league after all. Then we saw the pitch.

It wasn't quite as good an atmosphere generated by the Dynamo fans but they certainly put on a great effort and still impressed, complimenting the action on the pitch well.

But all that pales into insignificance because of their shocking pitch - fake, bare, covered in sand and the worst crime of all, still with college throwball markings including big red endzone wording.

Now in an ideal world there would be no groundsharing with other sports. That is what the MLS ideally want - soccer specific stadiums. It's what Houston are also ultimately aiming for. For now though they share the University of Houston campus facilities with the Cougars throwballers.

The end result is a disgraceful pitch to play a vital playoff game on, in front of a live continentwide television audience (although if we're being honest the NFL games on at the same time were commanding many more viewers, but those that were left were the real football fans).

It's not just us that think it was shocking, Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg commented in his Blog:

"Arrived in Houston and have just been training at the stadium and noticed that they have the American football lines on the pitch. I think it is an absolute disgrace that the League allows this! They had it once before in New England and I didn’t have a clue where I was because you use the line and midfield line to know where you are on the pitch. When lines are everywhere you don't know when to shoot or do anything - it is a massive problem!"

Well put Freddie.

The Cougars didn't even have a home match yesterday and it was in that state, but were allowed to practice on the pitch according to the commentators. WTF?

You expect to see these kind of bush league facilities in something like the college football circuit or the USL Division 2 and PDL Leagues. Hell, you can even just about tolerate it with some of the newer USL1 sides in the less popular markets, but not for what is meant to be North America's premier league.

If the MLS wants to be a professional league and thought of as such by fans outwith the North American continent (although I doubt this is really a pressing concern for the insular League and some of their more insular fans), they need to make sure that showcase games like this aren't played in such conditions.

They take enough franchise money from the teams they admit (and Houston joined the League in 2006 so it's not as if they haven't had time to sort things out) and they hold Big Brother style control in a number of other less significant issues, so why not insist that the lines and markings are removed completely? Other clubs do it and the technology is there to do it.

I know it's a fear amongst some Vancouver Whitecaps fans that this is something which we will face come 2011, when we're sharing BC Place with the CFL's BC Lions.

The difference I see it though is that with true football people behind the Whitecaps they wouldn't let such embarrassing shambles happen. Would they?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Today's clash between England's big two promised so much, as it has so many times before. On many of these occasions of expectation, you're left a little disappointed and that was the case for the first 75 minutes this afternoon.

The last 15 minutes, plus stoppage time, were great, fiery and ready to explode into chaos at any point it felt. If only both teams had decided to light that fire in their belly just that little bit earlier.

We shouldn't be surprised when they fail to deliver. So much at stake, blah blah blah. Rooney mouthing "twelve men" to the camera as he walked off the pitch no doubt being the viewpoint United will hold from proceedings.

Chelsea's one goal victory is probably what the Premiership wasn't needing. With a five point lead (although Arsenal do have a game in hand) and already playing like Champions with goals galore and seemingly plenty of depth, the second half of the season may be even less exciting at the top end of the table than it usually is.

It's hard to like Chelsea, or more particularly their players, at the moment. All the playacting, besieging of refs and constant whining make them a pretty loathsome bunch at present.

Today's game was one of England's showpiece matches. For the money you'd spend watching what was mostly boring action, I'm glad I'm a small team supporter and not subjected to "big league" action live every week. Not only is it cheaper, it's a lot more fulfilling to my mind.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Women's football just has no appeal to me. It's not me being all chauvinistic. I'm just stating facts. I find it boring, comical and lacking of skill and I know about such things. I have spent over 25 years watching East Fife after all.

Vancouver Whitecaps season ticket package includes free admission to all the Whitecaps Ladies games, which involves several double headers. To date, I haven't been along to one in my two seasons as a season ticket holder so far and never saw any East Fife Ladies games.

Some of you will already have seen the footage below, but if we were to get all women's games to turn into catfights like this, then I think many of us would be queuing up to get into women's matches:

The main girl in question is Elizabeth Lambert of New Mexico University. I won't make the obvious PMT gag, but she's certainly a player not to mess with, as many of Brigham Young University's team have found out the hard way.

She has apparently been banned indefinitely by her side but amazingly escaped the actual match without punishment. She has some serious issues to sort out.

East Fife's Shaun Fagan wasn't available for comment.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Well we mentioned we were going to do it (see Blog of October 26th) and now we have.

We've put our case forward for resurrecting Bayview Park from the ashes to Danny Baker to see if it makes his 20 grounds to be allowed in his totalitarian state on his 5 Live show.

You'll have to tune into tomorrow's show to see if he reads out the email and if he does, will we get success?!

Of course there is a good chance that the email won't make it onto the show, as most of the pleas for saving the grounds have been done by phone so far but the time difference rules out us being able to do this unfortunately.

If we don't make it on, we'll tell you what reasons we finally gave next week.

Another downside for us is that Dundee's Dens Park made the cut last week due to the wonky stand along the touchline. It now sits safe alongside Brechin's Glebe Park, so whether another lower league east coast ground can make it in is probably not likely.

But hey, we tried and it's been great fun, as is the whole show. What's the worst that can happen? They demolish the demolition!

So tune in to 5 Live tomorrow morning from 9am to 11am or catch the podcast later on the BBC site HERE.

And if nothing else, you'll spend an enjoyable two hours listening to some great banter and with Ross Noble being one of the guests tomorrow, what more could you want?!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Glasgow Rangers Football Club are the shame of Scotland. They have been for a long time and the reason's as to why is a long list.

The behaviour of their fans has been in question for some time and UEFA have been keeping a careful watch on their exploits, especially around their bigoted songbook.

Scotland's travelling football fans have built up a longstanding and proud reputation around the world, in competitions involving both clubs and country. That reputation is for enjoying themselves, but peacefully.

I would say in this respect that it could be argued that a lot of the drunkeness and the actions that go with it tarnish this reputation a little and perhaps too many of us view our behaviour abroad with a bit of rose tinted spectacles.

The general view is that hooliganism, of the kind that used to blight English clubs on their travels, has never been a problem for Scots fans.

All that changed of course with the disgusting behaviour of Rangers fans in Manchester for the UEFA Cup final in May 2008. Watching the footage and reading the reports was both sickening and embarrassing as a Scottish football supporter.

Despite the Club's best efforts to stamp out the sectarian songs and prevent more violence following their travelling fans, it seems like it's a case of the proverbial old dogs with tricks.

Last night saw some ugly scenes at the Ghencea Stadium in Bucharest where Rangers were taking on Unirea Urziceni in the Champions League.

Gers fans battled with stewards at half time and TV footage shows them involved in many scuffles and destroying seats in the stadium, with stewards retaliating to the provocation by spraying the fans at close range with CS gas.

The troubles were deemed to be serious enough for an announcement to be made that the game faced being abandoned if the situation didn't get back under control.

Not surprisingly UEFA reacted today by charging Rangers with improper conduct by their supporters.

Rangers response is to blame other factors, but the pictures speak for themselves. Whatever factors it doesn't merit the actions of the fans. One factor being mentioned is the lack of open turnstiles. Having faced that myself on more than one occasion (East Fife Scottish Cup tie at Dunfermline instantly springing to mind), I can honestly say that I never felt like fighting with the stewards or police as a result.

Rangers fans are an embarrassment to the Scottish game and we hope that UEFA throw the book at them. Hopefully not just financially either.

I'm sure a fine will be what follows. They may even order the Club to prevent fans travelling to away matches, which is always an impossible task to police. The only real action that may discourage the fans from this behaviour and hopefully get the decent Rangers fans (I'm sure there are some out there who follow the club solely for footballing reasons) to police themselves will be a ban from European competition.

It may take away my pleasure in seeing them make fools of themselves on the European stage but at least it'll also save the embarrassment of seeing the pictures beamed worldwide of what people think is a typical example of a Scottish football supporter.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just as a follow on from yesterday's blog, Southend United staved off the threat of administration today, although that may be temporarily.

The Club promised to pay HM Revenue & Customs the 690,000 in unpaid taxes that they owe by Friday.

They also confirmed that their total debt of 2.1 million would be cleared.

You really have to ask why these debts weren't cleared earlier (never mind why they occurred in the first place) and why right at the last minute, causing much anguish to the Shrimpers support.

It's good news for them for now, but having faced administration twice before, at some time they have to stand up and run the Club differently, not just for the good of themselves, but also the game.

Another Club may not be so lucky.

Scottish Highland League side Inverness Clachnacuddin went into administration last month, owing 46,534 to Highland Council.

A new owner is being sought but it's a hard slog for a lot of the Highland League sides, especially for a team like Clach who have Caley Thistle drawing supporters from them and more so when they were a SPL side of late.

A lot of the Highland sides are well run and a main hub in the community. When Peterhead joined the league a few years ago, I know we were surprised at how important their social club was to the locals and the Club.

Losing a team with the history of Clach would be a shame, but are they ever going to be a viable source again? It was hard enough when there were the three Highland League teams in the city (Caley and Thistle used to be seperate sides for those not aware).

Having written for the Clach programme last season (and will be again this season as well), they hold a spot dear to my heart.

The sad truth though is that it's tough times out there and only the strong will survive. Hopefully Clach have that strength.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I used to be of the opinion that it would be awful to see any football club die. Nobody should wish that upon another fan, even if it's your arch rivals.

That was then. Now, I'm starting to think that maybe we should just let some of these Clubs go to the wall, if only to serve as a warning and a lesson to others (not that it would be heeded of course).

This season has seen a lot of Clubs in turmoil.

In Scotland, Livingston unfortunately hung on by their fingertips, and two divisions of demotion, to seemingly come through the other side relatively unscathed and now sit atop the Scottish Third Division.

It really isn't fair that they get a great escape once again whereas other UK Clubs may not be finding themselves as fortunate. This week really is D-day for three of them in particular.

I've a real soft spot for Accrington Stanley and it was great to see the name back in the Football League again. It was also great to see how fans of many local (and bigger) sides have rallied to try and save them and help them pay off their huge £308,000 tax bill. I would hate to see that Club die for a second time, as I'm sure anyone who saw last year's documentary on them ("Accrington Stanley, Exactly") would also feel.

It's really crunch time for them now though. Only £96,000 was paid by last Wednesday's deadline, despite the huge fundraising efforts put in place (which included Friday night games to bring in the maximum crowds possible). They were given a one week extension to pay the balance or face being wound up. As this Wednesday's deadline rapidly approached, there were a few worrying comments coming out from those connected with the Club but they settled the bill in full today and can hopefully now move on from the last 8 weeks of turmoil.

Ironically all of this comes at a time when Stanley have strung together a good set of results to see them challenging the playoff positions in League 2.

Wednesday is also the important day for Southend United as they face an administration hearing due to an unpaid tax bill. The Shrimpers have been saved from administration twice before, and have just fought off a winding up order, but currently owe HMRC a debt thought to be around a staggering £660,000.

Administration would see a 10 point deduction and a drop from being 4 points off the playoff spots to four points from safety and languishing in the relegation zone. A further relegation, following their drop from the Championship in 2007, would probably sound the death knell for the struggling Club.

Thursday is the crunch day for Stirling Albion. Currently sitting top of the Scottish Second Division, and with some pretty good wages being paid for that level to get that success, they face a winding up order over yet another tax bill. This time it's only for £48,000 but the saga and begging bowls have been going on for some time now and follows a similar petition from HMRC for £41,000 in May. The Inland Revenue have rightly reached the end of their tether and are no longer prepared to wait for this payment to be made. There is also money owed to the Council for stadium rent, ala Livingston, which takes the amount owing to something like £115,000.

The Binos Supporters Trust are wanting to buy the Club but the agreement for raising the money was that this was what it could only be used for, not paying off a previous regimes unpaid bills.

With the way that Livingston messed the SFL about, they're not likely to be overly lenient or tolerant of another club in a similar mess.

Taking my sentimentality for Clubs like Accrington out of this, you have to question how the Club's have allowed themselves to get in these messes in the first place. It's not as if having to pay taxes should come as a surprise to them. How the hell can you run up an unpaid tax bill of nearly three quarters of a million pounds anyway?

Should they even get our sympathy, our help and more importanly our money to get them out of the hole they've dug themselves in to? How fed up are you with reading and hearing about another "Save the ..." campaign?

If your average punter in the street wasn't to pay his taxes he'd soon find himself facing fines and/or jail. If he didn't pay his rent or mortgage, he'd soon find himself out on his ear. Why should football clubs be allowed to be any different?

It maybe is about time to let some of these clubs die to show others that mismanagement will not be tolerated. If Clubs can't live and operate within their means then why should those that can have to pay the price sometimes to bail them out?

The ones that do live within their budgets often do so at the sacrifice of on field success. If Clubs can't bring in enough money to be a going concern, should they really continue to be one?

East Fife nearly went out of the business a couple of times in the late 50's and early 60's. They fought back and never achieved the heady successes of their earlier sides as a result, but they also didn't have to go out asking all and sundry to put money into their begging bowls.

It doesn't seem that Clubs learn any lessons from other mistakes. Maybe the only way will be to let some die and better run Clubs from the non league set up take their place. Yes, it would be sad. Yes, it would be a shame for the fans. But it may just be what football is needing to give it the kick up the ass it deserves.

Let's just hope that a club like Accrington Stanley won't be the first to pay this price.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's been a bit of doom and gloom at times in the blog of late, so we thought we'd add a video of light relief.

Everyone loves to see good goals. When it's your own team, any goal will do the trick.

There's something special about goals scored by goalkeepers though. They're more in abundance than they used to be when I was a lad. There were no goalkeepers regularly going up for corners in those days.

The one that always sticks in my head is that of loanee goalie Jimmy Glass, whose last minute goal for Carlisle United (with just ten seconds left) saved the Club from relegation from the football league and possible oblivian. If it was a movie, you'd have thought it was way beyond the realms of reality.

Anyway, for all of you that enjoy such goals, you'll love the video below (and no, I don't know why they chose the music they did!):

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Match Report: Cowdenbeath v East Fife (Scottish 2nd Div)

Cowdung is a scary place to go at the best of times. Add into that equation the fact it was Halloween and East Fife can't seem to win a derby match no matter how many times they try and, well, the end result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

We mentioned last week that this was a rollercoaster season for the Fife and the cart is firmly hurtling down the tracks again after yesterday.

It was a pretty evenly matched contest really, with all the goal action coming in the first 14 minutes. If you were late in for the early kick off, which many were thanks to having only one adult turnstile open, you missed some early Guy Fawkes fireworks and some piss poor defending.

Cowden opened the scoring after just two minutes when ex Fifer Brian Fairbairn hit home after Stewart Baillie could only parry John Robertson's shot.

The Fife levelled ten minutes later when Jonathan Smart knocked on a free kick and the bounce confused the Cowden defence and fell nicely for gaffer Steve Crawford to fire home.

Crawford nearly struck again moments later but parity only lasted two minutes before the home side re-took the lead, with what was to prove to be the winner and a personal shocker for the Fife's Bobby Linn.

Paul McQuade played in a cross which Linn easily met. His control let him down though, when he should have just blootered it clear, and the ball rolled to Robertson who made no mistake.

Both teams had chances to add more goals but nothing came of them. Linn hit the post and David Muir had a couple of chances well saved for the Fife, whilst Baillie had some nice saves at the other end.

It was Cowden's 5th game on the bounce without loss and the defeat plunged the Fife back down the table and three points off bottom once again.

More worrying for the Fife than the performance was that strikers Paul McManus and new loan signing Paul Sludden both went off injured.

In such a seesaw season and tight league, it's going to be a battle for every point and every single one of those points is going to be vital.

FINAL SCORE: Cowdenbeath 2 - 1 East Fife
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