Wednesday, March 31, 2010

They may come from near Lochgelly. They might not have tellys. Yes, they're dirty and yes, they're smelly, but the Cowden Family don't deserve to die. Is it too late to save them though?

Cowdenbeath FC and their supporters seem to be facing the fight of their 129 year history at the moment, as it was revealed that they may be looking at possibly groundsharing or possibly a merger with/takeover by Edinburgh East of Scotland non-league side Spartans.

Reports first surfaced on the Pie and Bovril website last week of Spartans interest. These rumours were played down as a wind up by most Cowden fans but things have since moved on apace and it doesn't seem to be just rumours any more.

Various sources are reporting various things, as is always the case at times like this. One of the majority Cowdenbeath shareholders, David Brewster, is denying all talks of a merger according to the BBC. Other reports though are saying that it isn't really a merger anyway that's being considered but a takeover by Spartans to buy the Cowden name, move them lock, stockcar and barrel to Edinburgh and have them play under Spartans name in Spartans' Ainslie Park ground.

Further reports suggest that Cowdenbeath are only looking for a groundsharing deal and have approached four clubs - Spartans, Raith Rovers, Dunfermline and our very own East Fife. Years ago, rumours suggested that they were looking to groundshare at Warout Stadium with Glenrothes Juniors but this hasn't been mentioned this time around. The Spartans groundsharing would be a no-goer anyway for various reasons and travelling to Edinburgh would soon kill off the Club altogether. We're struggling to get our own games on with our frozen pitch never mind another teams. That only leaves Dunfermline as the only viable option as far as I would think.

What is known to be fact in all of this is that the Club is in a mess off the pitch. On it, under the guidance of an exciting young manager in Danny Lennon, they have done a fantastic job and are pushing for promotion to the First, in a season that they should really have been playing in the Third if it hadn't been for the whole Livingston debacle.

Cowden's Central Park has been a shithole for a long time. Visiting fans hate going there and for it to disappear off the Scottish football landscape would not be a big loss. The Club would need to spend over £200,000 to finally upgrade the dive to SFL licensing standards and not before time as well. I really don't know how they have got away with the neanderthal conditions there for so long.

The Club don't have the money to do this, so staying at Central Park is not an option. They need to explore others and this could provide the ideal opportunity for an ambitious side like Spartans.

This of course brings up so many similarities with the whole Airdrie/Clydebank situation in 2002, so there is some history to go on for what the Scottish Football League may allow to happen.

To summarise for those readers unaware of those events. Airdie (Airdrieonians to give them their Sunday name) were runners up in the Scottish First Division in 2001/02. Their debts approached three million pounds however and they went into liquidation and dropped out of the Scottish League. A new Club, Airdrie United, were formed from the ashes and tried to get the available spot back in the league set up. This was rejected for the admittance of Gretna (and we see how well that worked out!!). Undeterred, the new Airdrie owners bought struggling Clydebank FC, moved them to Airdrie, changed their name to Airdrie United and played in old Airdrie colours. It is still as shocking and as unacceptable now as it was then. To me, I'll always chant "club killing bastards" whenever we play the scum from Airdrie.

Then of course there's the whole Meadowbank Thistle/Livingston/Mr Blobby situation from before that that more involved moving and renaming the Club than taking over them and basically killing their name off.

Formed in 1951, Scottish Cup shock specialists of recent years and currently sitting well clear in their League, Spartans tried to enter the League last season when Gretna went bust and opened up a spot. They were surprisingly rejected in favour of South of Scotland League side Annan Athletic. It's been a pretty positive decision with regards to Annan, as it turns out, but to say that Spartans were pissed off at the time is an understatement. They also didn't make a lot of friends in the process either.

With so many Clubs hovvering precariously on the cliffs of oblivion, but not showing final signs of toppling over, who knows when Spartans may get their chance again and even then, they may not be the chosen team to move up. This current situation gives them a way in and also a way in at a higher level. It might not be acceptable to many fans and not how we want to see the game going in Scotland but it's understandable why they would be considering such a move.

Cowden are our rivals. It may be the diddy derby that we don't really care about but have to as we have had no others for most of the last two decades, but rivalry aside, no Club and no fans of their local Club should be killed off for another to prosper.

If Spartans were to succeed in taking over Cowden then who knows what this might lead to with other struggling Clubs? Could Pollock Juniors buy Clyde for example? Could Glenrothes Juniors buy East Fife? Cove Rangers buying Montrose? Far fetched maybe, but it could be a whole can of worms unless the SFL act now and close such ways in. It should also be the kick up the ass that they need to get some sort of pyramid system organised to meet the ambitions of several non league sides now and in the future.

Whatever happens, I wouldn't want to be a Cowden fan at the moment. Well, let's be honest, who would actually want to be one at ANY time. Their Supporters Trust say that they have the appetite for a fight but one on their members is worryingly quoted on the beeb today as saying "I can't see the Club surviving". So do they know more than is currently out there as to how far advanced any discussions have been?

I would say at this point that if the Club does basically die (or even just move from the area) then it's the general public of Cowdengelly that are to blame. They haven't supported their local Club for years, favouring instead to go follow the bigot brothers, the Pars or the Edinburgh sides. They've had no excuse this season in particular and there'll no doubt be outrage in the local paper, but too little, too late. It's certainly a situation all East Fife fans and fans of all small Scottish teams will be able to relate to. We only attracted 213 punters to our game last night after all.

Cowdenbeath can't die though for selfish reasons. We can't lose our infamous Cowden Family song and especially not as we consider bringing back our even more infamous comic strip. Maybe we should do a collection of them as a fundraiser for them!

The following few weeks will be very interesting though. As seems to be a regular occurance now, the landscape of the Scottish lower leagues might look a bit different next season. We may be about to take the first, sorry steps towards franchise football in Scotland and that's a road all East Fife fans definitely don't want to go down.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Well now we know. If we want East Fife's players to turn in a top notch performance and show the heart of lions we need the game to be played in driving torrential rain, howling wind and Baltic blizzard and wintry conditions.

The brave 213 people that turned up at Bayview tonight were treated to an excellent performance in some of the worst football watching conditions anyone can remember. How the game was on, never mind finished, will still be a mystery to some. The match along the road at Cowdenbeath was abandoned after just 18 minutes because of heavy snow, whilst five others across Scotland were postponed.

You wouldn't really think you'd have to worry about such things as we approach April!

Thankfully the game did make it all the way through though and a goal in each half courtesy of a John Ovenstone header and a Paul McManus penalty, along with a spectaculat penalty save from Michael Brown, gave East Fife a 2-0 victory.

The victory moved the Fife up to 7th and gave them a five point safety net from the relegation playoff. It was the manner of the victory that impressed though.

Both teams deserve credit for trying to play football in the horrendous conditions, with the Fife keeping the ball down and trying to play football. Aerial football was really a no go though with the conditions.

East Fife's defence in particular were immense and although the whole team showed a spirit, unity and fight that has been lacking recently, I would have to say that player-boss Stevie Crawford led by example and turned in a performance worthy of a player ten years younger.

For the first time in weeks the players looked proud to be playing for the famous jersey and the fans were proud to watch them.

With five games left, six points should see us safely stay up, probably less. Three of the last four games away from home could come into play though so let's hope the boys can continue the good form into this weekend and do the business against the League leaders Alloa. It's a big ask, but I wouldn't put anything past them. It's been one of those seasons!

C'mon the Fife.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Loan deals, especially the really short term ones, are killing our game.

East Fife have never had as many players on loan as we have this season and I put a lot of the blame for our current relegation woes on this. The reason we are where we are is the frustrating inconsistency we’ve shown all season. How can we have any consistency though when we are bringing players in for such a short period of time and constantly chopping and changing the shape and style of the team, killing teamwork and team building in the process?

It seems like a long time ago now, but the January transfer window didn’t provide East Fife fans with much interest. In fact, looking at it on the whole, it was one of the least exciting transfer windows I can remember.

Whereas you can justify the window, to a certain extent, for the bigger sides around the world, it’s maybe about time that those of us in the lower divisions don’t have a window once again.

With all the money flying around so many teams these days, it is understandable to have some kind of protection in there to stop them buying up rivals top players just to scupper their hopes and build a massive, almost unbeatable squad. You also don’t want them to just buy their way out of any injury problems as well.

Then you have the teams at the bottom of their leagues fighting relegation (like East Fife) and, in the case of the English Premiership, facing a huge cash shortfall that falling out of the top flight brings and which, for many, they fail to recover from. With foreign millionaires and billionaires investing in a lot of these clubs as well, the transfer window for them keeps a level playing field and prevents new owners coming in late in the season and buying survival.

Big money is less likely to be in an issue in a league like ours, but not impossible. When you look at the situation we were in during our Championship winning season of 2007/08, we could, it appeared at least, buy our way out of any trouble and to a title if we’d needed to.

In our present situation, big cash splurges look to be a thing of the past and it’s a similar situation for so many teams in the bottom two divisions in Scotland. A lot of these clubs are in financial peril. Even if we wanted to buy ourselves out of relegation trouble, we don’t have the money to do it or the players available.

Too many clubs have been relying on loan players instead of developing their own youth and their own future. East Fife have been one of them and it’s killed us this season for the reasons I outlined earlier.


It’s hard enough for young players to get a break in the game these days, especially with the bigger sides. So many talented players are being wasted in the reserves. Sure the loan system gets them a bit of playing times, but how many players can you list where this has really worked out to the players advantage? Most of them go back to their clubs, only to be released.

Success is starting to boil down to who you know, and who can do you some favours. It just leads to instability in the team, especially with the really short loan deals, which I see as pretty pointless. There’s been a lot of championships and promotions secured in recent seasons by teams who have had a little bit too much extra help.

I would much rather see the transfer window ditched for the lower leagues. Let clubs like East Fife sign players at any point during the year, players that will be with the club hopefully for the long run, not the short. Let us pick up the players who are going to waste or who have fallen out with their clubs but are not being released.

If you’re worried about big money clubs buying success then put a cap on transfer fees.

Alternatively, we could just ditch the loan system and just develop young players. A shocking idea I know!

Either way, something needs to change for the good of the game and most importantly, the good of East Fife.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kevin Phillips hit a big milestone in his career yesterday, notching his 250th goal in stoppage time against Arsenal.

It's a great achievement for any player to reach and I've lost count how many times Phillips has hit late goals, and vital goals at that, in recent seasons. He seems to have made a whole new career out of last ditch and supersub goals.

The former England international hasn't exactly been a journeyman in the latter stages of his career, but he hasn't been in the limelight and top flight too much either. The one thing that has remained constant is that he still bangs in the goals.

Watford, Sunderland, Southampton and the Midland trifecta of Aston Villa, West Brom and currently Birmingham, are the Clubs that have marked Phillips career and although 36 now, it hasn't stopped him performing at the highest level and proving to be handful to top Premiership defences across England.

He first came to most people's attention with his prolific 113 goals in 208 appearances between 1997 and 2003. That was the time that he earned his 8 England international caps and having a best friend that is a Sunderland fan, he made sure I knew all about Phillips at the time!

It's great to see such a top striker still banging in the goals. Oh for my relegation threatened sides of East Fife and West Ham to have someone like Kevin Phillips doing the business for them right now.

Sometimes it can be just one player that's the difference between you surviving and not and both of my sides are finding that out right now the hard way.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Wow. I knew we were bad, but THAT bad.

That was probably the question on a lot of East Fife fan's lips at 4.45 this afternoon after bottom side Clyde had beaten the Bayview boys 2-1, in one of the few banker games we thought we had in the run in.

With Arbroath gaining a surprise point against league leaders Alloa, today's defeat leaves us two points off the relegation playoffs. If you wanted to be really doom and gloom you could add that in the unlikely event that Clyde won their three games in hand, even they'd only be four points behind us.

It's a good job that Clyde are so poor and haven't had their off the field troubles to seek this season. I dread to think where we'd be sitting otherwise.

The biggest worry isn't that the Smokies seem to be one of the division's form sides as they chase us down. Neither is it that we have to go there in the last game of the season. Nor is it that we'd be so deflated by falling into the playoffs that I can't see us getting through two two-legged playoff matches.

No, the most worrying thing is that the way the team are playing just now, I honestly can't see any way out of this for us. We are totally clueless and bereft of match changing players.

Just six more games of hell and this season can finally be over - hopefully.

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 17th was a special day for us here at AFTN. It marked our one year anniversary of the AFTN Blog and we didn't even remember! So we should put that right now, albeit belatedly and nine days late!

The last year has seem to have flown by, but it's been fantastic. We've talked about lots. Some nonsense, some serious, some baffling. From my point of view though, I've loved every minute and every post of it all.

Deciding to make the blog daily (bar our little lapse in February due to being exhausted during my Olympic adventure!), has been a bit of a bind during the quiet times, I'll admit that. But it's also been good and kept me keen and interested.

Like most bloggers, there's times when you probably feel or at least wonder whether anyone is actually reading the damn thing you're spending hours of your life writing.

We put a tracker in early on and to our amazement the blog has been read in 54 countries over the past year, ranging from the obvious UK, Canada, the US, Australia and New Zealand to what we find staggering like India (the 9th most popular country for our readers!), the Phillipines, Botswana and Moldova.

It's been great. Somedays our numbers are small, somedays they're well into three figures. As cliched as it may sound, even if I know one person has read and hopefully enjoyed the blog each day, I'm happy.

Thanks to every single one of you that has read it over the last year and a bit. I hope you've found something enjoyable to read in it and hopefully you'll be with me for the next year and onwards too.

Cheers!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pre season friendlies can throw up a variety of strange match ups against teams we never thought we’d ever be playing against. It’s also taken the Fife travelling support to a number of great places, made for some fantastic weekends away and seen us make some good friends along the way.

Of course it’s meant that a lot of us now follow the results of several teams across the UK, or at least taking a passing interest in them. It makes Jeff Stelling’s reading of certain results all that more interesting when you’re stuck at home on a gameless Saturday, which seems to be most of them this year.

One such team that I know a few of us watch out for is Durham City. Having played them twice in pre-season games in recent years, and had great hospitality from them and their fans in the process, it’s been horrible to see the car crash of a season that they’ve had. If you thought we’d been having a tough run of it at Bayview then it’s nothing compared with what their fans have been suffering.

It had all started so promisingly, back to back Championships saw them eagerly take their place in the Unibond Premier Division. Their dreams of continuing their rise up the English non league ladder soon turned into a nightmare though.

Twenty eight league defeats in a row, which had seen them score just 16 goals whilst conceding 137 in the process, saw them well adrift at the bottom of the Division. 29 points adrift to be precise.

Their worst defeat has been a 10-0 drubbing away to Boston United in January, but the season has also seen them concede eight goals once and seven goals on seven occasions, including an incredible four league matches in a row! That four match period at the end of October and through November saw them with a record of played four, lost four, goals for 3, goals against 28. That has to be some kind of record in any form of pro or semi pro football in the UK and one you maybe would wish on your worst enemy but not on Durham.

When your team is down and at it’s lowest ebb, you’d think there’s not a lot of worse things that could happen to them. Wrong! Durham were deducted six points for fielding a suspended player under a false name. A deduction that saw them going into last weekend’s games with a points total of minus six.

Like the Fife though, Durham seemed to have turned a corner in their season in recent matches. It only took them until the start of March! City recorded their first win of the season on March 13th, upsetting FC United of Manchester, with a 2-1 away win thanks to a last minute penalty save.

Durham were at it again three days later, defeating Whitby Town 4-3 and managing to lift themselves up to a grand total of zero points for the season!

The fightback had begun! However, like East Fife's false dawn a few games ago, it didn't last long and it was soon back to the same old, same old last weekend when they crashed 5-0 to play-off hopefuls, and another one of East Fife's recent pre-season opponents, Kendal Town.

Obviously losing that close 3-2 game against the Fife in monsoon conditions back in July has been hard for the Durham lads to recover from. When we’re moaning about another defeat for the Fife though this season, just remember, it could be worse and you could be a Durham fan.

To those who have stuck it out with Durham this season, and there's only a few hundred, well, that's what you call loyalty to your team. Things can only get better for them next season - surely.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

One man's dream is another man's nightmare. A scenario now played out after this week's two Scottish Cup replays.

On the one hand it was fantastic to see First Division Ross County dump out Premier side Hibs last night, followed by Dundee United sending one of the bigot brothers back to the dark side of Glasgow with their tales between their legs tonight.

Great for Scottish football, yes. Not so good if you're an East Fife fan. As we explained a few blogs ago, one of the proud records in East Fife's history is to be the only club outside of the top division to win the Scottish Cup.

Our 1938 triumph has been in danger of being matched a couple of times recently, but this season could be the closest we've come to losing the record yet. I certainly wouldn't be surprised if we ended up seeing an all First Division Scottish Cup Final in May. Nightmare!

Ross County are through to face Celtic, as we earlier predicted, and with the Celts being complete gash at the moment, anything is possible for the Highland side.

United now face up against Wraith Rovers in the other semi. Raith have the chance to dump out both sides of Dundee in consecutive rounds and United have been patchy and unpredictable at times this season.

Semi final weekend is going to be a tense day for those of a black and gold persuasion. We'll certainly all be Arabs for the United-Rovers tie.

And if the worse case scenario does happen? Well, Ross County will be AFTN's new adopted side for the final. They're result against Hibs was fantastic and it was great for lower league football fans in Scotland.

Putting our record aside for one monent, it's for nights like that that we all choose to support our local, unfashionable sides. Well done County.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Well it's official. Seven games left, 22 points off the top. East Fife aren't going to be Scottish Second Division Champions this season.

The way we're going, we could maybe be Third Division ones next year though.

It was back to back defeats for the Fife this evening, crashing 3-1 away to Peterhead, a team they had just decisively beaten 3-0 just ten days ago. We all know by now that every team is more than capable of beating every other one in the league but it's getting to be more than a pain in the ass now.

There's two huge games coming up now. Brechin play Arbroath tomorrow and a win will bring the Smokies back breathing down our necks. Saturday sees East Fife travelling to bottom club Clyde in a must win game.

It's tense. It's exciting, but still I just wish this season would finish soon!

Monday, March 22, 2010

To me at least, one of most shocking stories of the weekend was Dundee sacking Jocky Scott.

Now, there's possibly not too many Fife fans reading this that rate Scott too highly as a manager in the first place, but to sack a manager who has delivered his Club a trophy already this season (the Challenge Cup) and who has his team sitting top of the First Division and looking for promotion to the SPL really beggars belief.

The reason given was that Dundee had failed to win their any of their last four games and the Dens Park Board were worried that he didn't have what it takes to deliver them Premier football next season.

The Club statement said: "The unanimous decision of the board was not taken lightly, but it was felt that in view of results since the turn of the year move was essential and in the best interests of the club. As a board we felt it was vital this move was made while there was still enough time for a new manager to be appointed and to secure the victories required to get the team back to the SPL at the end of the season.".

Dundee have spent the last five seasons in the Scottish First Division and it had been stated before the season began that staying out of the top flight for any longer was not acceptable for the money that was being spent.

It's not the first time that Dundee have sacked a manager whilst sitting top, having previously got rid of John "Cowboy" McCormack, who Scott replaced. They haven't wasted any time in getting a replacement in either, installing Queen of the South manager Gordon Chisholm and assistant Billy Dodds today.

It's disgusting stuff really as far as I'm concerned. Queens themselves still have a chance of promotion if they win their two games in hand and just to add extra spice to things, the two teams meet tomorrow night on League business. I'd fancy heading along to that myself if I only could. Should be an interesting atmosphere and game.

It's a pity all this wasn't done before Dundee lost to Raith in the Scottish Cup last weekend! Might have given us a better result.

Chisholm has done wonders at Palmerston in recent seasons but I don't envy him the job he has taken on now. The Dens Park board clearly will not accept anything except promotion and future success. What price his job security?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

As we've mentioned in this blog before, sometimes the big games in the Premiership can be a bit of a let down. You look forward to them so much, but then they don't really deliver.

When Manchester United take on Liverpool, it's an eagerly awaited contest between two teams with a real hatred between fans and a rivalry that often spills over on to animosity on the pitch.

The first fifteen minutes of today's game were fantastic stuff and I thought that finally we would be getting a game between the big guns to savour. Sadly it fizzled out a little and, as has been the case on many recent occasions, just finished with more of a whimper than a bang.

Of course, with the way that Liverpool are playing these days it's hard to consider them one of the big guns any more and with Man City now in the rich leagues, many Man U fans will more look forward to these battles in forthcoming seasons than the ones with the Scousers I'm sure.

The Battle of the Reds though will still be one that neither side's fans wants to lose. It's just a shame that they didn't really show it on the terraces. It was such a quiet atmosphere, lifted in spells, but overall it was pretty lacklustre stuff, at least that's how it came across on TV. Is there too much at stake these days for the fans to get in full flow? Are they on the edge of their seats or is it a different kinds of crowd at those grounds these days?

Weigh that up with the atmosphere at Fratton Park yesterday between Portsmouth and Hull City. The battle of the basement dwellers was a cracker on the pitch but also an electric atmosphere of it. The noise came through loud and clear, as did the chants and songs. It was like a total 1970's old school atmosphere and when Pompey got their two winning goals in a minute late on, the place went mental. I loved watching every minute of it, apart from that fucking annoying Pompey bellringer.

The teams at the bottom may not have the money or players that the big guys have but they can certainly turn in more passionate performances and the fans seem to respond in the same way.

I'd much rather watch those games on my TV for the rest of the season.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Well we said on Tuesday not to get too carried away with the Fife's seemingly upturn in fortunes. Today certainly brought everyone connected to the Fife back down to earth with a bang.

It was one of this season's shockers on display today, as the Fife crashed 3-0 at home to Stirling. It was a mystery as the team's performance went from the sublime to the ridiculous in the space of a few days.

The Binos certainly controlled the game and as a near identical brace from Jonathan Page, either side of half time, and a third from Stuart Elliot inflicted the damage. All headed goals as well, showing where one of our many weaknesses lay today.

If the 709 crowd in attendance were expecting to see a Fife side that had turned the corner, they left disappointed. Player-boss Stevie Crawford dropped himself to the bench, which was a big surprise as he's been one of our most consistent players in recent weeks, but he may have had a slight illness if reports are to be believed. I doubt it would have made much difference though.

What today has shown is that we are nowhere near being the team we need to be. We are incapable of stringing a run together and before getting carried away hoping for a climb up the table, we need to get the basics of a team right.

The remainder of the season for me is all about seeing who we want to keep for next season and finding our right style and formula. We're back down to 8th. I personally don't care if that's where we finish. We just need to have some improvements and, as I've said before, have some optimism going into next year.

Just now, we have little.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On a night when Sport Relief aired on the Beeb, we thought it was a good idea to draw attention to a Race For Life run that eleven ladies with East Fife are undertaking in June in memory of Nan Marshall, wife of East Fife Director Dave and a friend and well known face to many East Fife fans who sadly recently passed away.

The race takes place on June 20th and we know it's been mentioned on the AFTN forum but we also wanted to raise it to a wider audience here too as the girls are looking for sponsors and donations from fans of all Clubs.

You can donate at East Fife by asking for Debbie or Leona. You can also donate online HERE.

Along with Race For Life, they are arranging a fundraising disco in memory of Nan, which will be held on Friday 18th June with all proceedings going to both Cancer Research and Victoria Hospice, who cared for Nan in her final weeks. They are looking for any donations for their raffle and auction.

If anyone can help we would be so grateful and you would be helping a fantastic cause. Nan meant a lot to everyone who knew her and we want to make this event a huge success in loving memory of such a kind and special person.

If you feel that you can help you can do so by asking at East Fife for Debbie or Leona. Alternatively they can be contacted at debsajm@hotmail.co.uk or office@eastfife.org.

Cheers guys.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

STV (that's Scottish television for those not in Alba) launched an interesting football related programme this evening.

Giving the Scottish public an opportunity to settle the argument "once and for all" (yeah like that's likely to be the case!!), the programme aims to answer the question: "Which eleven football players would combine best to make up Scotland's greatest ever team?".

It is a debate that regularly rages between Scottish football fans - which eleven players and manager would make up our best team? Can this five part series help the Scottish fans select Scotland's greatest national side?

"Scotland's Greatest Team" goes out at 9pm on STV for the next four Thursdays after tonight and it kicked off the series with a look at Strikers - why they just didn't start at the back and work their way forward like we did with AFTN's All Time Great East Fife XI, I don't know. Well, I probably do. Strikers make for much more interest and grab in a first programme.

The series has the potential to be great viewing and provide the long suffering Tartan Army with a great set of shows to reminisce over some great players and great moments.

A panel of 'experts' was put together to narrow down the national team players to a selection lists of 6 strikers, 10 midfielders, 10 defenders, 4 goalkeepers and 4 managers. The team will play a 4-4-2 formation.

Disappointingly they were only looking at players that had pulled on a Scotland jersey from January 1st 1967 to the present day. So not so much Scotland's greatest EVER team, as the greatest modern day one.

The strikers shortlist consisted unsurprisingly of Kenny Dalglish, Joe Jordan, Denis Law and Ally McCoist, along with the more surprising Mo Johnston and Alan Gilzean. For me it would have to be Dalglish as a certainty and probably Law shading Coisty, but ask me another day and I might have that the other way around.

Tony Roper really isn't the best presenter, and those putting forward the nominees have the potential to have us cringing, but that aside, it was fun to watch and I'm looking forward to the other four shows.

At the same time it was also depressing stuff as the programme just went to show how dire the current talent pool for the Scottish national team is today. Oh for some modern day Laws, Jordans and King Kennys.

Still we have our memories and the final team selected by us, the punters, will be revealed on April 22nd. I wonder if we could clone them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The attendances at football matches across Scotland are dwindling. There's a number of reasons for this, not all financial, but that's for another day. The falling numbers have been very evident in the Second Division this season and especially at Bayview. Last night's crunch game with Arbroath could only muster 488 paying punters and that included a good contingent making the short trip down the coast.

What can be done? There's no easy solutions but we were very impressed with an idea pitched on the AFTn forum today from poster TACTICIAN (see HERE). They've certainly got their tactics right here. We've republished the post below in it's entirety. Please add your own thoughts and suggestions to the thread in the forum:

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For one game before the end of the season, the SFL/Irn Bru announce "SFL Free Football Saturday". Use some League/sponsorship money to fund it along the lines of -

1st Div - Average paying supporter = 1000 x £15 = £15000 x 5 games = Approx £75000 cost. £15000 to each home Team (split with away team?)

2nd Div - Average paying supporter = 500 x £12 = £6000 x 5 games = Approx £30000 cost
£6000 to each home Team (split with away team?)

3rd Div - Average paying supporter = 300 x £10 = £3000 x 5 games = Approx £15000 cost
£3000 to each home Team (split with away team?)

Total cost to SFL/Irn Bru= (£75000 + £30000 + £15000) = Approx £120,000

See what crowds turn up for Free football - I would hope bumper/record crowds at all 15 games! Even then, compensate it a bit by charging £1 at Gate for - SFL/Irn Bru raffle for prizes (roughly £20,00 back? Maybe more). Compensate (loyal!) Season Ticket holders by getting a 10/1 or 15/1 voucher for the raffle at their gate

Add to that increased merchandising/bar/food/programme revenue a chunk of the outlay would come back or add to Club coffers. Also attract return/new support - impossibe to calculate but something there too.

Try it for one weekend, before the end of the season. It would take a bit of organising, but worth the investment/Advertising/Exposure I think.

Then again we could always carry on as we are!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Finally. That's the word I would use to sum up East Fife's performance tonight.

Finally we give ourselves a bit of breathing space at the bottom. Finally the players show the fans what we know they are capable off. Finally we start to look like a team.

It was a brave performance tonight, full of fight and just what we needed to see as East Fife beat fellow basement dwellers Arbroath 3-1 at Bayview Stadium.

It could have all been so different. Falling behind to an early Steven Hislop goal after only six minutes, that was perhaps the defining moment of the Fife's season to date.

For a team which has had more downs than ups this season, turning in some pretty woefully lacklustre performances at times, heads could have gone down. The fight could have drained from them at that moment and to be honest, that's what I expected to happen.

Thankfully the black and gold heroes proved me wrong.

Jamie McCunnie turned in the display we've been waiting to see from the former under 21 international for most of the season, with goals after 25 and 81 minutes. His brace sandwiched a 20 yard drive from Stewart Murdoch, who gave the Fife the lead after 75 minutes. It was a great first Fife goal from the man on loan from Belle and Sebastian. What's that? Oh different spelling, he's from Falkirk.

So many players deserved special plaudits this evening. Bobby Linn was back to the old Boaby and ex Ger Alan Lowing, who has joined the Fife till the end of the season, was different class.

The win moved the Fife up to 7th spot and only two points off 5th. Let's not get carried away though. Some are already saying that they hope the whingers and Crawford critics are eating humble pie now. I would temper those thoughts.

Remember, these are mostly the same players who have not performed consitantly all season. Let me see another 3 or 4 wins in a row to back up the opinion that we've turned the corner.

If nothing else though, we have some time to bide. We're now six points clear of the Smokies, with superior goal difference giving us an extra point in reality. Let's just see some constant improvement to the end of the season. I'll be happy with that and at least that will have me looking positively to next season.

C'mon the Fife.

Monday, March 15, 2010

East Fife have a proud history. The glory days may be a distant memory now, but at least we'll always have that.

Four major Cup wins, including becoming the first and only Club outside the top flight of Scottish football to win the Scottish Cup.

It's a record that we've proudly held since 1938. It's come close to being under threat from Gretna (remember them?!!) and Queen of the South in recent seasons, but it's a record that's still intact.

Losing that record would be hard to take. Losing it to one of our biggest rivals would be impossible to take!

So good news for Fife fans everywhere today when Raith Rovers, this year's diddy team to reach the Scottish Cup semis, weren't paired with fellow Division One side Ross County in today's draw but SPL leaders Rangers (or Dundee United).

It's a tough one for me. I detest Rangers with a passion and everything that they and their fans stand for. I would love nothing more than for Dundee United to beat them in their quarter final replay. That said, United may give the Rovers that glimmer of hope of pulling off another Cup shock and reaching the final.

In the other semi, Cetlic will play Hibs or Ross County. Hibs are just so unpredictable away from home that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Highlanders record the shock of the round in their replay and with Celtic having one of their worst teams for years, who knows what that semi might be.

It's frankly a nightmare! Hopefully one that will be sorted out to our satisfaction soon though with a Hibs - Dundee United final.

It would be fitting for fans of both of those sides to get some reward for their team's spirited displays this season and of course, it would let Fife fans the world over sleep that little easier once again.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

There's possibly no other player in the game today that splits opinions as much as David Beckham. We personally can't stand the guy.

It's not nice to wish an injury on any player we know (yes, we yell "snap the bastard" at times!), but if that injury has taken place then we don't find it wrong to take joy in the fact that the hasbeen now looks to be out of the World Cup in South Africa in June.

Beckham is a player living on past glories. His well publicised move to the LA Galaxy has been a flop and we still feel he was out of order in seemingly trying to walk away from his commitment with the MLS side just to extend his flagging England career.

The Galaxy in turn will be furious that they have lost their player before the 2010 MLS season has even begun. A fact made worse with him injuring himself not only in Italy with AC Milan but unchallenged in the last minute of a game.

Great news for Scottish fans everywhere though! Now if only Wayne Rooney could befall the same fate!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

We wanted the players to show us they cared. We wanted them to show us some fight. We wanted them to reply to their critics by turning in a sublime performance on the pitch.

We got those things today as East Fife tore apart Peterhead, running out 3-0 winners at Bayview Stadium but failing to give themselves any breathing space in their relegation playoff battle thanks to Arbroath also winning this afternoon.

Once again it was player-boss Steview Crawford who led by example, heading the Fife into the lead after only 9 minutes. Bobby Linn doubled the advantage six minutes later and although it was nine minutes from the end before Lloyd Young made it three, East Fife ran out deserved and comfortable winners, importantly turning in a fine performance in the process.

It shocked many of the fans, but was also so frustrating as it shows what we know the team can be capable of, but just don't produce anywhere near often enough.

The win, coupled with Peterhead and Dumbarton both losing, has moved the Fife to within a point of both sides above them (albeit they do both have a game in hand). Arbroath are the team to watch though, playing with a new found confidence and knowing that a win against us at Bayview on Tuesday will see them back in the survival race with a bang.

If the Fife lose the rearranged game, then the battle for that spot in the relegation playoffs is going to be brutal.

Tuesday simply is huge.

Friday, March 12, 2010

As regular visitors to the AFTN website will have noticed. It's packed full of historical content, along with fun and interesting articles, but our ability to keep it updated and fresh this season has been shocking!

The news and results updates have been non existent, despite our best intentions at the start of the season.

We revamped the site a wee while ago now. Gave it a fresh and different look. We were never fully happy with it though and with the introduction of new technology for viewing websites and different browsers and screen resolutions, the site frankly looks unappealing and very amateurish at present.

We've decided to do our version 3.0 of AFTN now in the summer and have already settled on what we feel the new look will be.

It may come before the season end, but will most probably be in May or June.

So bear with us and all we need to do now is to make sure we update it regularly!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One of the saddest stories this week was the demise of Chester City Football Club.

On the same day that Portsmouth had to axe 85 positions to try and stay afloat, Chester finally ran out of options and were wound up in the High Court yesterday.

It's always sad to see any Club go out of business and when it's one that has a proud 126 year history, it's just heartbreaking.

The end wasn't exactly a shock. Owing over 26 grand to HM Revenue & Customs, Chester had been booted out of the Blue Square Premier at the end of February. After failing to fulfill a fixture at Forest Green Rovers when the players refused to board the team bus and serving an original seven days suspension as a result, 75% of the Conference sides decided on the explusion for breaching five league rules and the Club's seemingly inability to fulfill their remaining fixtures.

The Club had been sitting on minus three points following a 25 point penalty for going into administration last summer after getting relegated from League Two on the last day of the season. They played their last ever game at home on February 6th against fan run club Ebbsfleet United (a Club with their own cash problems). They went down 2-1, in front of only 425 fans. It was a sad way to bow out.

The low attendances had come about as a result of a boycott from fans group City Fans United (see HERE), who were unhappy at the way the Club were being run by the current owners. It's one of those gutwrenching decisions. Do you boycott and risk killing the Club you love through lack of income coming in or back an owner you can't knowingly support. At least with the former, if the Club dies, the brilliance of the English pyramid system can allow you to rise pheonix like once again and restart your Club the way it should be run and that's what's going to happen with Chester.

CFU now plan to rebuild the Club and try and get a new team playing in the Unibond League, the 8th tier of the English game and three below where they currently were.

Good luck to them. I hope they get their Club back, bigger, better and stronger than ever. They'd dropped down to the non league before and bounced back in the 2003/04 season. Hopefully they can follow the successes of AFC Wimbledon and get that step closer to their place in the Football League once again.

The fans have suffered for a long time. They deserve something to go right for them and it's looking good already. They look to have secured their current council owned Deva Stadium for the new team.

It's the first step of a long road back. AFTN wishes you all the luck in getting there.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When Real Madrid made their obscene multi multi million cash splurge in the close season, we said in this blog at the time that anything less than both the Champions League and the La Liga title would have to be considered an epic fail for the Spanish giants.

Now, come early March, all that Real have left to go for is that Spanish league title, with April 10th's showdown with Barcelona now taking on added significance to the massive game that it already was. Real coach Manuel Pellagrini's coat is most definitely on a shoogly hook now.

On a night when fellow European giants AC Milan also crashed out of the competition, Madrid will be kicking themselves for missing what proved to be a vital slew of first half chances. When Lyon's Miralem Pjanic hit home the equaliser on the night, and the eventual tie decider, a huge roar erupted here at AFTN Towers.

It's always nice to see the big bucks guy take a beating from the "little" guy. You should know that's our ethos here by now.

What was very evident tonight is that although a barrowload of cash can assemble you a number of top players, it can't buy you a "team".

The Real players looked far from being a cohesive unit, petulantly sniping at each other when things weren't wrong or passes weren't made. Lyon on the other hand played as a workmanlike team with a common goal.

It was the result of the week, although last night's fantastic match between Fiorentina and Bayern Munich takes the game of the week title. It was just a shame that the Italian club have bowed out directly as a result of the horrendous first leg refereeing in the tie.

At least we can chalk one up for the "little" guy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's safe to say that tonight didn't go as East Fife had hoped. All in all it was a bit of a disaster, but at least with hindsight, we can breathe a huge sigh of release that it wasn't even worse.

From the attendance to the result to the results elsewhere and even the discipline aspect, it wasn't a good Tuesday.

The Club had reduced admission prices to tempt some of the stayaway punters back. It didn't work, as the paltry 463 in attendance was evidence of, but coming on the back of a 6-2 gubbing at your local rivals, that's not exactly a huge surprise.

Tonight was a night for the players to show what they were made of. How a team bounces back from humiliation is a key sign to their mental strength and attitude, as Stevie Crawford eluded to in the press prior to the game.

When Clyde took the lead two minutes into stoppage time in the first half, thanks to a 20 yard effort from Alistair Park, things were looking bleak. Arbroath were one up at Cowden and the Fife were officially sitting second bottom and in the relegation playoff spot.

Three second half goals, in four second half minutes in the two games changed things dramatically, lifted the Fife back to third bottom and showed how tight this run in is going to be.

Clyde had almost doubled their advantage, and they really should have with a 4 on 1 breakaway, before Stuart Cargill took advantage of sloppy defending from the Bully Wee to hit home the Fife equaliser on 64 minutes.

Phew!

Paul McManus saw red for a harshly judged off the ball incident with 13 minutes left and the Fife finished the game with 9 men when Jonny Smart was sent off for a second bookable offence in stoppage time (to be fair he could have gone on several occasions before this).

Amazingly the Fife held on. It helps to be playing the division's bottom side at times like that.

A scraped draw, couple with a Smokies defeat gave East Fife what could prove to one of their most important points of the season. We now have a three point cushion over Arbroath and with a better goal difference, it feels like four.

What is most worrying is losing two of our key players to suspension at this vital stage of the season. The loss of Shagger is particularly tough and it seems he is facing a three match ban for violent conduct.

When a team is sitting third bottom, having mustered just six league wins all season and 32 league goals in the process, losing the man responsible for 13 of those goals is a potentially killer blow.

With the constant stream of fixtures to come, tonight's result is leaving things looking very bleak and for the first time this year, I'm seriously thinking we may be playing Third Division football next season.

Hopefully the players will prove me wrong. With our last game of the season being away to Arbroath though, it could be a nervy nervy final match.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Having run a football forum since 2003, I'm one of the first to admit that they can be a bit of a double edged sword.

It's great that they give us that freedom of speech to vent our feelings on our team, our rivals and anything else that comes to mind. At the same time, sniping between fans of your own team, never mind those of your rivals, can grind you down a bit at times, especially when some people just love to hide behind their internet anonymity to be particularly abusive about players or fans.

It's a little different at East Fife as so many of us know each other anyway! You know, being away from the numbers and all that!

There's many times though that they're just fantastic reading and it makes me proud to run one. The current 'Bygone Levenmouth' thread on AFTN (see HERE) has been a joy to read and one of our most popular ever threads.

Then of course you sometimes strike comedy gold! That's what the Millwall House of Fun forum has suddenly stumbled across thanks to an unbelievable post by Lions fan Stuwall. It was a post that has earned him the forum's "Cock of the Week" title and has sent the thread viral. At the time of writing this is has nearly 365,000 visits!

It's a cracker and you read it all HERE.

It's the kind of nightmare you dread. One of your own fans giving rival fans the chance to class you all as a bunch of dicks! Couldn't help but chuckle myself reading his stupidity and when the penny finally drops it's priceless.

AFTN has had it's fair share of comedy gold ourselves in our time. Our particular favourite being the whole 'Terry Lawrence' affair. Not an affair in the John Terry sense you understand!

You can read it or remind yourselves of it HERE. Poor Toj, he still hasn't lived it down!

Football and humour go hand in hand. Let's hope that never changes.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

When you move away from your loved one, it's hard at times.

Not being able to go to see East Fife every week now, like I had done for over 20 years previously, was a hard adjustment to make in my life. Sometimes though, being so far away from the action is a blessing and that was the case yesterday.

Saturday's 6-2 defeat at the hands of our local rivals Cowdenbeath isn't just a hard pill to swallow because of the scoreline and the embarrassment it causes. No, what really sticks in the throat is how much better Cowden were than us and how much their players actually seemed to want it more.

When our goalkeeper Michael Brown lets in six goals but is also hailed as our man of the match for keeping the scoreline down to single digits, well that tells you everything you need to know about the game.

Terrible tactics, including team selection and formation, cost us dear, but even with those errors, it was primarily the poor poor performance from pretty much the entire team that let East Fife down.

In the week where the East Fife Board (yes, apparently we do have some people running this mess at Bayview at the moment) agreed terms with Stevie Crawford to manage the team next season, the player boss was forced to apologise to the travelling fans for yesterday's debacle.

"I want to personally apologise to every East Fife fan who paid to watch that performance, it was simply not acceptable" was Stevie post match comments. I guess we shouldn't really hold our breath for a refund in costs from the Club as others have done.

We're close to hitting the panic button for this season. A place in the relegation playoffs is now a distinct possibility. Defeat to Clyde in Tuesday's rearranged game could see an even worse case scenario unravelling.

You would hope that Saturday's result is the kick up the arse that the players needed. If they don't go out and turn in one of the displays of the season against the Bully Wee in two days time then they are a disgrace to the famous jersey.

Someone on the forum recently stated that our season was officially over. Far from it. It's just starting to begin and we have to save it. It took us long enough to get out of the bottom division and it's almost a certainty than in the current circumstances, if we end up back down there, we won't be going anywhere else fast.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

There's nothing like a local derby to get the heart thumping, even if it is a "diddy" one with Cowdenbeath. Still beggars can't be choosers and there's a lot of the former to be found in the streets of Cowdenbeath.

Of course any time we do play the smellies our thoughts turn to what is possibly the most famous tune in the East Fife songbook - The Cowden Family.

There's another derby game going on on Saturday, albeit in a pre-season friendly, as Vancouver Whitecaps take on Seattle Sounders.

As I'm currently involved with the Southsiders supporters group and, as anyone who knows me already knows, a media whore (!), I've been doing some promotional work for the group in the build up to Saturday's game.

I've just done an interview for Radio Sounders and bizarrely the producer of the show is a Partick Thistle fan from Maryhill and it all goes a bit Scottish with chat about the Fife, Cowdenbeath, Craig Levein and a rendition of the Cowden Family hitting the Seattle airwaves.

For those interested, you can listen to a podcast of the show HERE. It's 28 minutes long and if you just want to hear the Fife stuff then head towards the end of it.

Mon the Fife. Mon the Caps.

Friday, March 5, 2010

For the latest "Friday Fun" section of the blog, here's a cracker of a video from Germany that AFTN assistant editor KotS found on You Tube.

All you can really say is nae luck.

Love the way the opposition celebrate:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

It was one of the most stupid ideas of the season and today it was finally killed stone dead, well, at least for now.

The Premier League has rejected a playoff for the fourth English spot in the Champions League.

If approved the plan would have been to have a playoff for the spot between the clubs finishing 4th and 7th in the Premiership. This would obviously have led to the farcical proposition of a club finishing well adrift in 7th ending up playing the top teams in Europe.

Unsurprisingly the "big four" (and yes, that currently includes Liverpool!) were against the idea from the get go, whilst others were more welcoming to the plan. No big shock there then.

It would have made for great TV viewing if nothing else, with four sides going gung ho to hit the proverbial lottery winning numbers, but apart from that aspect of it, it would have just made for a huge fixture pile up at the end of the season, when we're already hearing about too many games being played ad nauseum.

At least the Premiership saw sense.

It would have been hard to devalue the "Champions" League qualifying criteria any more that it currently is, but this idea would have taken the prize for managing to do that.

Somehow, I don't think we'll have heard the last of this though.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Well I have to admit I wasn't expecting it.

A long string of crap Hampden friendly results, with no wins dating back to 1996, didn't fill me with too much optimism, but Scott Brown's loan goal of the game saw Scotland defeat the Czech Republic 1-0 at Hampden tonight, in a game which was a precursor to the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign against the Czechs.

In Craig Levein's first game in charge as new Scotland boss, it was a good result, if not a dominating and hope inducing performance. It's the results that count after all!

The Czechs were the better side for much of the match but were kept out.

I'm not quite sure how much we can take from the match, as both sides were clearly not wanting to show their hands too far in advance of the serious qualifying business ahead.

Still, it's a promising start but we have a long way to go. Hopefully the sole striker will not be a feature of the Levein era and a more attacking and less timid side will have the Tartan Army restore the Hampden Roar once again.

I guess only time will tell.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

With tonight's game yet again falling foul of the weather and that troublesome Bayview frozen pitch, East Fife are facing a horrendously packed end of the season.

With the Fife already scheduled to play 8 games this month (someone must have forgotten to tell the SFL that there are indeed other sheets on their calendar), it was already looking to be a busy and vital month in what is now clearly going to be a fight to avoid a relegation playoff spot.

The weather this season has just been unbelievably bad. The worse I think I can ever remember. The Bayview pitch in particular has been a source of constant trouble and in particular the area right in front of the stand where the roof overhangs the pitch.

There's certainly no easy answer to the problem and who knows what the weather will hold in store for the remainder of the season but if it keeps on going the way it is, we're going to have one hell of a fixture backlog to deal with.

It's certainly going to stretch our squad and as we've said before, it's going to show if they have the stomach for a fight, because that's certainly what we have ahead of us.

Monday, March 1, 2010

This year will see the 5th biennial Sport Relief charity fundraiser.

It's always hard to come up with new ideas to keep the public interested in continuing to raise money for the great causes, so this year they turned to one of the most inventive men in sports radio - Danny Baker.

Long time readers of the blog will know what a fan we are of Danny and he has come up trumps once again with his "Shirt of Hurt" campaign.

It's a simple, yet brilliant, idea.

Would you have the guts to wear the shirt of your fiercest rivals to raise money for Sport Relief? It's hard. It's a huge sacrifice. But I'm sure we're all big enough to do it, just once, for a great cause.

Even Danny and Ray Winstone are getting in on the act - swapping their Millwall and West Ham shirts - and West Brom mad Adrian Chiles wore a Wolves shirt on Match of the Day 2.

So get organised, get your shirts ready, and get your wallets out. Sponsor your friends, family and co-workers to wear a Shirt of Hurt for Sport Relief. You can send your hard-earned sponsorship by clicking onto the Sport Relief site HERE.

The only problem if you're an East Fife fan is what shirt do we hate the most?!!

Sport Relief programming will be broadcast between March 19th and 21st.
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