Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm not wanting this to sound like some kind of mad Delia Smith style rant, but tomorrow is a key game for East Fife. A lot is resting on it and not just whether we end up in the relegation playoffs or not.

Going back down to the Third Division, a league we fought unsuccessfully to escape from for years after our last emabarrassing relegation campaign, could be a death knell to the Club.

Attendances are already dwindling and the pressure from the fans for an instant return could heap a lot on the shoulders of Stevie Crawford and to be honest, I don't know if he would be able to respond to that so early in his managerial career.

He has plans for how he sees the future of the Club. He needs time to make this happen. He wants to bring through youth. Dropping down to the Third wouldn't give him the time he needs to do these things.

Tomorrow we need both the players and the fans to rise up and show us what they're made of.

To the players. Watch the fight of teams struggling elsewhere and of those like Man United and Arsenal, whose never give up style of play has seen them title contenders for so long.

We know we have too good a squad to go down. We know you are good players. Show us that.

To the fans, we need to hear you. If things start to go wrong, don't let your heads go down. The players need us loud and proud.

Together, united, we will not be defeated.

C'mon the Fife.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

** Apologies for the lack of updates the last couple of days, technical hitches. Blogs were written but not posted, so may retrospectively post them, or maybe not! **

Inter Milan claimed their place in a European Cup final for the first time in nearly four decades earlier tonight.

It's good to refer to the competition by it's old name every now and again, and this season's semis line up at least made it feel like a real Europeanwide tournament once again.

Inter's peformance at the Nou Camp certainly harked back to the days of old, with a gritty backs to the wall defensive display that would have made some of the Eastern European sides from years ago very proud.

It's disappointing that flair didn't win out over defensiveness in the end, especially as it seys up a pretty dull final as far as I'm concerned.

Barca only have themselves to blame though for not doing what they needed to, despite the gritty determination of the Inter back 9, especially with the one man advantage after Thiago Motta's controversial sending off.

I hate to praise Inter after such a defensive display, but their resoluteness was very impressive. There was going to be no breaking down of that defensive wall without a struggle and so it proved to be.

Sometimes that is what's needed to win the match, I fully accept that. It's just not nice to see a childhood game of attackers and defenders being played out to a worldwide audience in such an important game.

That said, if Stevie Crawford comes up with the same game plan against Arbroath on Saturday and we get what we need to avoid the relegation playoffs, then you won't hear me complaining.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Three minutes. That's all that stood between East Fife securing Second Division football for another season and being faced with a must-not-lose match next Saturday.

A defensive blunder on 87 saw Jonny Smart and Div Muir both go for the same ball, with neither clearing it and allowing Stenhousemuir's Paul Quinn to gleefully fire home for a vital point for the visitors.

East Fife had taken the lead on 54 minutes and as the game ticked to a finish it was looking that next week's match at Arbroath would be meaningless and the annual fancy dress end of season spectacular would be a lot more enjoyable.

It was not to be and despite the Fife having numerous chances which once again they didn't take (a clinical striker is in short supply in our division but we deseperately need to magic one up from somewhere for next year), the points had to be shared.

The draw kept East Fife 7th and Stenny 8th, thanks to their ten goal advantage over Arbroath.

With Stenny hosting Peterhead, a club with nothing to play for, on their plastic pitch next Saturday, you would expect them to get at least a point from that. It means that we HAVE to take something from our last match of the season at Arbroath.

A point, three, I don't care by this stage.

Let's just hope that the players can actually keep their eye on the ball and the ultimate prize for 90 minutes next Saturday.

C'mon the Fife.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This could be a tense weekend for East Fife fans (next weekend could be worse!), so we thought we'd have a 'Friday Fun' day since we haven't done one for a while.

This should lighten your mood for a little. It's one of our favourite penalty kicks that we've ever seen. That is to say our favourite one that doesn't involve East Fife scoring or England missing!

It's just over three years old now, and we still have no idea who's playing (if you know, please tell us!), but you'll still enjoy the craziness:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

With the first part of ex East Fife star Henry McLeish's Scottish Football Review due to get published tomorrow, Supporters Direct today took the opportunity to publish the findings of their fan review of the state of the game in the country.

In September last year, Supporters Direct launched a survey to try to measure the views of supporters on a range of issues facing football in Scotland. The 20 question survey drew a response from more than 1300 football fans representing 31 Supporters Trusts across Scotland. It was less than the 2000 responses they had hoped to achieve, but stll enough to gauge a very valid opinion of fans' views on the game at present.

The questions posed included how happy fans were with their individual clubs, the league structure, administration of the game and youth development.

The League structures are pretty much debated every year and when you have a season like this one where two First Division sides reach the Scottish Cup semis, and one the final, it's a subject that will never go away until the necessary changes are made.

Of course, what these changes should be is hard to get everyone to agree to. But we do seem to all agree that there HAS to be changes and soon.

Should teams play each other two, three or the current horrendous four times a season? An overwhelming 83% of repsondents went with the twice a year option, which we at AFTN also favour. 13% went with three, always ridiculous I feel with regards to fixture fairness and home advantage. 4% wanted four times as at present. Those respondents obviously haven't been at the spate of East Fife-Brechin and East Fife-Arbroath games in recent seasons.

Most pleasing to me in the survey results though was that 84% of fans would like to see some kind of pyramid structure introduced into the game in Scotland, akin to the wonderful English system that gives hopes to any club and club owners that show ambition.

With proper promotion and relegation, some of the dregs of the Scottish game will be forced to change and improve or let others who offer more to the game step forward. Yes, survival of the fittest is harsh but it is for the greater good of the game in Scotland, and yes, I do appreciate this affect our beloved East Fife somewhere down the line.

Other stand out results of the survey were that 90% of fans want more streamlining when it comes to administering football in Scotland, but sadly 91% of fans feel that they have no power to influence change in the game, although they feel they should have that chance.

That's where Supporters Trust are so important and why Clubs like East Fife have benefitted from our Trust's involvement. If you're not involved with the EFST or your own club's Trust then there is no better time to seek that involvement than now.

Strong Trusts and a strong Supporters Direct will benefit everyone. We all want the same fundamental thing at the end of the day - our club and our national team to prosper.

The full results should be up on the Supporters Direct website shortly.

The results shouldn't come as too much of a surprise to us, the fans, but whether any of the idiots that are currently running the game will do anything about them is open to debate.

With McLeish's review also likely to be hard hitting tomorrow, it's now finally reached the stage where they shouldn't be able ignore the calls for change any longer.

And let's be honest. It can't get too much worse in the Scottish game than it is at present.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

We were upset to hear the news today that AFC Wimbledon Club President Dickie Guy was in hospital following a serious heart attack.

A true Wombles legend, Guy made over 600 appearances for Wimbledon between 1967 and 1978, when they were a non league side. He also played a handful of games for them once they joined the Football League in 1977, but decided not to give up his day job and become a pro footballer.

He once made 275 consecutive appearances for the club and gained national acclaim in the Dons 1975 FA Cup run, where they eventually fell to Leeds after a fourth round replay, but not before knocking out First Division Burnley (the top flight at the time).

Dickie has always been a huge champion for the Wimbledon cause and was particularly outspoken at the Milton Keynes move by Franchise FC. This fight, along with his legendary status, made Dickie the natural choice to become the Club President of the recently formed AFC Wimbledon in 2004, a position he still holds to this day.

He has seen the new Dons rise up through the Leagues and so close to regaining their League status for a second time.

All at AFTN wish him a speedy recovery and our thoughts are with him and his family at this time.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gordon Smith's resignation as Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association yesterday has surprised us here at AFTN.

Not because we felt that he was doing a particularly good job but because there were no real signs that he would be as pissed off with some off those in the SFA as we are.

The SFA cited "personal reasons" for the departure, but Smith, who was in the role for approaching three years, today indicated other factors behind his resignation. It wasn't a glorious period in Scottish football history, but then not a lot has been in recent years.

During his time in the hotseat, he oversaw the failure to qualify for Euro 2008, the failure to qualify for the forthcoming 2010 World Cup, the appointment and sacking of George Burley as Scotland manager and the whole Ferguson/McGregor drinking affair, amongst many other lowlights.

That of course is just the national team stuff. He was also responsible for developing the game in Scotland. Looking around at how many clubs have been in financial and other perils this season and the performance of Scottish clubs in Europe, well that's gone well hasn't it?!

To be fair though, this isn't all Gordon Smith's fault. We've been constantly calling for change in the Scottish game in this blog since we started. So has he. He came into the job WANTING to change the Scottish game but found the somewhat archaic structure that still exists in the echelons of Scottish football handcuffing him.

The Scottish game is rotten on so many levels at present. What started as one of the most promising looking SPL campaigns, has turned into a canter for a poor Rangers side. The European performances by the Scottish sides were embarrassing and crowds are falling all over the country. You have clubs on a financial precipice, clubs with ambition having nowhere to go, clubs with no ambition taking up room, fans fed up of playing the same teams every few weeks, blazers, committees and serious questions as to where the next exciting crop of youth talent is going to come from. We could go on.

It's interesting that Smith's resignation has come at a time when ex East Fife player Henry McLeish is due to announce the first part of his review of Scottish football. A review that is expected to demand fierce change. Change and some in the SFA are not comfortable bed fellows. A fact that I'm sure Smith found out time and time again.

Gordon Smith may have had his perceived faults and I wasn't exactly a fan of what we had seen getting done, but I'd rather have a man with his actual footballing background than a bunch of faceless blazers determine the future of the game in Scotland.

The problem now though is who will actually want to replace him?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Panini sticker albums. I never ever finished them. Always a couple short, with the best intentions of sending off for the ones I needed, but never ever got round to it.

My mum would bring me home a couple of packets with her shopping every week. Such excitement opening them and if you saw some shiny foil in there, well wow!

You'd carry your doublers around everywhere with you, ready to swap in the vain hope of getting the obscure card you needed from some other obscure kid that you'd just randomly bump in to outside of shops that your folks had gone in to.

Got, got, got, need, got, need, got, got.

Few friendships were born out of this routine, you knew it was just business. It also seemed impossible to complete your collection. Some stickers just didn't seem to exist. Others, mostly of eastern European teams it appeared, had obviously been the results of the repeat print button being stuck at the printers.

You'd hear the rumours that someone knew this kid that had the complete set, but you never saw the proof.

It's great to see that they're still around today and still going strong. I'm not sure the excitement is quite the same amongst kids when they have some violent video game to play instead or some random thought to tweet or post on Facebook.

It does seem that the new releases are more anticipated and welcomed by grown ups trying to relive their own childhoods whilst forcing it onto their own kids!

This is especially true when it comes to the Panini World Cup sticker collections, the latest of which was just launced earlier this month. I know it's a four yearly event I avidly look forward to!

But it's not the same. Kids don't cherish them as gold. And you don't even have to buy the stickers in packets of five any more if you don't want to.

In this technological age, you can buy full boxes of 100 packets of stickers on ebay. That's what I did for the 2006 World Cup! Whilst this got me most of my collection, I was obviously still short of some, although there were very little doubles in the box - an "interesting" side note there!

Of course I still never got round to sending off for my missing ones and my collection sits in beside all my other football memorabilia and previous incomplete World Cup sticker albums that I kept hold off going back to 1986.

This year ebay still has all the boxes you can buy but there's also a lot of people around the world selling complete sets of all 640 stickers. Some of them will even stick them in the album for you!

Even swapsies have taken on a new modern day twist, with a Facebook page set up to help facilitate people's wants.

Sure it may be safer than going up to some strange kid who pulls a knife on you and takes your cell phone of you, but it's not the same!!! I pity the poor, lonely fat kids who will now be devoid of any human contact.

I hate myself for doing it, but I'll probably just go down the route of buying a complete set online this year. At least I'll have my first ever complete album.

Obviously I'll buy the stickers loose and attach them myself. How can you get someone else to do it for you? You're already losing the joy of ripping open the packets. To remove the sticking in from the whole experience would just be sacrilege!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

It could be the most bizarre reason to postpone a football match this season, but both of the UEFA Europa League semi finals are in doubt this Thursday due to the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano eruption and the airline restrictions enforced because of it.

UEFA will decide if the matches will go ahead and whether Liverpool and Fulham need to make the long trips to Madrid and Hamburg by land.

Neither Club wants to go down that route but seeing as how the Champions League clubs are having to travel by that method, with little complaint incidentally, I really don't see what they have to moan about.

Add to this the fact that Newcastle are going to be making an 800 mile round trip to Plymouth on Monday night due to being unable to fly and it seems a bit off for the Premiership clubs to be kicking up such a fuss.

Fulham's trip to Germany would only be slight more than Newcastle's journey down south in the same country.

I'd toyed with coming back to Fife to watch the last two games of the season, vital ties that they are. Thankfully I chose against this.

Now that would have been a pisser if I had to miss them due to being unable to fly. Possibly not as much as making it over and then the Fife blowing it! Thankfully neither is going to happen though.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Two games left and all to play for. That’s what East Fife are faced with for the remainder of the season following this afternoon’s results in the Scottish Second Division.

The second half of the three games of interest today could hold the key to shaping the final outcome this season. At half time, East Fife were sitting on 40 points with Arbroath and Stenny tantalisingly tied on 38. By the 65th minute in the games, one point separated all three relegation battlers and East Fife had dropped down to a perilous 8th place once again.

After the final whistle had gone in all three encounters, late goals by Cowdenbeath and Stirling had saved the Fife’s bacon and given them a three point advantage over a place in the relegation playoffs, basically four due to our superior goal difference.

With our last two games being against the teams around us, we won’t be able to rely on other sides too much going in to the final battles and nor should we have to. Our Second Division future is firmly resting in our own hands.

A win today would have basically made us safe. That’s how tight it is and how small the margins of error are. If Arbroath fail to pick up a point next week at Dumbarton, then we will be playing Division Two football next season, barring us shipping a barrowload in our last two games.

If we have to go to Gayfield on the last day of the season needing anything to avoid the relegation playoff, then I don’t fancy our chances much.

Today’s performance wasn’t poor. It wasn’t great. It was very average. Not much different to a lot of other games this season, but what is frustrating is that these games ARE very different. We should be battling for our lives, for every single second of the game.

Sure we had chances cleared of the line and the woodwork kept us out, but the bottom line is we didn’t score and we didn’t take anything from a vital game.

Football is all about chances and luck. You need to be lucky and create and take your chances and sometimes you just need to chance your luck.

The difference between greatness and mediocrity for many sides is the team’s spirit. The fight and desire that they have and display.

How many times in recent seasons have Celtic and Rangers ground out a win due to some late winner? Our opponents today, Brechin City, have done that to us on our last two visits to Glebe Park. They battle to the very end.

Just look south of the border this season. Arsenal are making a habit out of being late, late show specialists and it’s kept their Championship dreams alive for most of the season.

Today’s Manchester derby was a great example of what it takes to be a great side. Man United seemed down and out. Dropping any points to their city rivals today was basically handing the Premiership title to Chelsea it appeared. They played like men possessed for that three minutes of stoppage time (and to be fair so did City). They wouldn’t give up and they didn’t and they got what could be a huge winner with basically the last action of the game.

That’s the attitude and performance that makes winners. That’s what makes Champions. And that’s what we need to see from EVERY East Fife player in the next two games.

Friday, April 16, 2010

With the World Cup kick off now just 55 days away, it's quite alarming that 500,000 unsold tickets were put up for over the counter cash sales in South Africa this week. That sounds like a lot of potential empty stadiums to me.

Whilst FIFA and organisers try to put a little bit of gloss on the fact that 100,000 tickets have been sold during the first two days of these sales, it is worrying that this amount of tickets have remained, up until now at least, unsold.

The sales themselves haven't been without their own problems with computers crashing, scuffles breaking out, police using peppers spray and even one fan dying from a heart attack. It makes you question how smoothly other aspects of the finals and their infrastructure will be come June.

It also doesn't disguise the fact that there are still a hell of a lot of tickets left to be sold and with fans of competing nations citing many things such as lack of affordable flights and safety issues as reasons for not going, you have to wonder whether this will prove to be one of the least successful finals in recent years.

Hopefully I'm wrong, as I would hate for these finals to be used as an excuse for not awarding future World Cups to developing nations and instead only the big and wealthy countries get a slice of the pie. That would do damage to the game, but maybe not as much as a disasterous 2010 Finals would do to Africa.

On the plus side, it is good that locals will be getting a chance to go to the games, but the atmosphere is going to be horrible for those watching at home, with more swarming bee sounding horns than good old fashioned chanting. Might be a case for watching a lot of the games with the sound down.

Despite all these glitches, the excitement is building. Panini sticker albums are now available and it's the chance to relive childhood swapping once more.

The way it's going, you could probably swap some of your doubles for actual tickets.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I got to take part in a very unique experience on Tuesday evening - a photoshoot. An actual proper photoshoot, with professional cameras, lighting and even make up!

Vancouver Whitecaps are about to launch their ad campaign for the season to attract fans to their games and build their on the continually growing interest in their move to the MLS next year.

When you're competing in an ice hockey mad city and are up against a CFL team (Canada's NFL) that play games during the same part of the year, it's hard for the Caps not to just get media attention but to get the punters through the turnstiles at the same time.

One key component to attracting new fans is the uniqueness of football fans in the North American sporting culture. We're still looked at as a very odd bunch by your general American or Canadian in the street. The fact that we sing and chant and actually create an atmosphere that isn't generated by some guy on a mic or an electronic scoreboard telling you to "make some noise" is still alien to a lot of North American sports fans.

There are some really good, really active and really vocal supporters groups for football teams on the continent and Vancouver has the Southsiders - a key marketing asset for the football club and a group I'm very proud to currently be a part of.

The Caps new ad campaign (of which we'll post the finished results once they're live) is trying to capture the passion and raw emotion that you only get at a football match and I think we did that last night in the three ad premises that we shot with the Club. They really play up how important fans can be to a club.

The ads will run all over the city and in local media. They should generate a lot of interest and talking points and hopefully bring in more fans, especially the couch potatos that probably think it only happens over in Europe and not in their own back yard.

It got me thinking though. Are we missing a trick in Scotland when it comes to trying to get the punters back to games? We do very little to advertise or promote the game here most of the time or the passion and enjoyment, along with the heartbreak and sadness, that can be found supporting your local club and not the bigot brothers.

When you have teams like Cowdenbeath, Clyde and Stirling Albion fighting for their actual survival as a football club, never mind in their respective divisions, and the fans can't be arsed getting along to give them their money, you have to start asking what can we do to bring people back to the game in Scotland? Something has to be done.

I'm not saying we could do the same kind of campaigns as the Vancouver Whitecaps have done (seeing a handful of fans yelling at an empty Cliftonhill might not have the same impact), but we should promote the game.

Growing up I always remember the ads in the East Fife Mail and around Levenmouth advertising the next East Fife game. They stopped some time in the 90s I think and although the Club dallied a little with repromoting themselves in local shops, pubs and Leven High Street a few years back, it eventually came to nothing and has seem to have counted for nothing as our crowds continue to dwindle.

The Scottish Football League should take note of campaigns like the Whitecaps ones and try and generate some interest in the lower leagues. Play the local card. The fact that you can actually feel close to the action and part of the club. Capture in visual form the joy that Ross County fans are feeling right now.

If attendances in Scotland keep going the way they are then there's going to be more and more clubs facing financial peril. The North American way may seem a little too razzamatazz and un-Scottish but let's face it, no matter how far fetched it may seem, anything's worth a try.

Something has to be done to get attendances up before it's too late. Or maybe it already is.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Watching some of the English Premiership games tonight, something was really bothering me.

There was a lot of passion on display from Tottenham, Everton and Aston Villa. Real commitment. A real desire to win and secure the European places they are so keen to get.

Why then do Clubs like these fight so hard to make it into Europe and then once they get there moan about the long travelling they have to do and the fixtures building up and then proceed to field weaker sides so they get knocked out anyway?

It's a real mystery to me.

They should give the European places to the teams at the bottom of the table. Once they're relegated they'd love nothing more than to play in European competition.

I'm sure they'd play their proper sides.

Sometimes the big teams just don't know how good they've got it.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The season SPL split has now taken place after the weekend's games (although not officially as there's still some other busines to be taken care of).

For those not sure what this split is all about, the top six teams play for the Championship and Europa League places and the bottom six play for relegation and a bunch of meaningless, lowly attended games if you happen to be unlucky enough to finish in 7th and 8th place.

We've always found it farcical, not ground breaking. You'll notice how other Leagues around Europe haven't been rushing to follow suit. The fact that the team finishing 7th can then collect more points that the team finishing 6th but still finish below them, is just one of a number of headshaking points associated with the split.

Now there's not many times that you'll see us agreeing with Rangers in this blog but we're with them on their latest complaint today. The unfairness of the remaining five fixtures for each team.

Rangers find themselves away from home for three consecutive matches over a 10 day period. I'm sure their huge 13 point cushion at the top should soften that blow. At least mix the fixtures up though.

Motherwell aren't happy either and the remaining fixtures will see them travelling to Celtic for the third time this season. A case that is also annoying St Mirren when it comes to them and Falkirk.

This latter situation is made all the more key when these two teams are currently in the bottom two positions, tied on points and battling for their SPL survival.

The unfairness of the split fixtures this season just highlights how unfair the split is in general and one of the reasons why it should be ditched forthwith. If you can't guarantee fairness in the fixtures then why have such a system?

Rangers are calling for an end to the split, which we fully back, and a change in the SPL set up to 18 teams (which we're not so sure about).

The SPL split has given a lot of excitment over the last couple of seasons, at both end of the table. I will say that. But sometimes you have to shun excitement in return for fairness and integrity and the SPL certainly seem to lacking in both of those these days.

Monday, April 12, 2010

In 2004 Claude Anelka put out an offer to football clubs. He would give them a £300,000 investment to become their manager.

The brother of the rather better known Nicolas, Claude was a football agent and a DJ, with some semi-pro experience as a player in France. He was quoted at the time as being fed up with the "crazy things" he saw as an agent in football and wanted to go into management. He had no senior coaching experience.

So, with no track record to speak of, only one Club was stupid enough to accept - Raith Rovers FC - and his appointment, along with other factors, was nearly the death of them.

All hail King Claude - East Fife hero!

Appointed both Manager and Director of Football at Starks Park for the 2004/2005 season, he was in the hotseat for a grand total of 8 games, managing just one solitary point in the process, leaving them firmly rooted at the bottom of the Scottish First Division (they eventually got relegated, thirty points away from safety).

There were a slew of strange signings. Unknown players, with no pedigree that anyone in Scotland knew of. Some of them were even from the Paris 7-a-side League!

He was removed from his role as Manager of Raith in September but continued in his role as Director of Football. This itself only lasted a matter of a few more weeks and by the end of October he was gone from Stark Park, the Club was in serious trouble and the Rovers Board was in turmoil.

His departure was much to the relief of the Raith fans and the hilarity of the East Fife ones.

When he left he was quoted as saying "It has been very hard to listen to the abuse and jeering that the fans showered upon me, week in, week out".

He then pretty much disappered from the radar, although did pop up to manage French youth side FC Trappes. I'm sure there were others dotted about.

In May 2008, the Guardian newspaper named him as one of the ten worst football managers of all time (see HERE).

Quite an accolade! Surely with that kind of track record no one would give him the chance as a manager again. Well, apparently someone would!

Step forward new NASL expansion side AC St Louis.

Anelka was appointed their new Head Coach in December last year. He hasn't brought over a bunch of Frenchies to the new St Louis squad, like I thought he might, but he has already made his hilarious mark in the team's first competitive match at the weekend away to the Carolina Railhawks.

So let's look at the situation. It's your team's first ever League match. In fact, it's the team's first every competitive match in their history. You want to make an impression. Well, Claude certainly did that!

With the game approaching kick off and the teamsheets already handed in, the referee was checking each players ID cards (as required in the League there). Slight problem. St Louis player, the experienced Manuel Kante, had left his ID card at the team's hotel!

So Claude was faced with some decisions.

As the teamsheets were already submitted with Kante's name on them it was too late to switch players and have Kante on the bench. He could be subbed out though as soon as the match kicked off, leaving St Louis at full strength. In the NASL/USL each team is allowed five subs anyway, so no big deal.

The other, ridiculous, option would be to start the game with ten men until Kante could recover the ID from the hotel, return to the stadium and join in the game.

I know, I know, it's a no brainer.

Well, apparently not, as Claude chose option two!!!

Kante eventually got his ID, satisfied everything to the ref that he could play and came on after around thirty minutes! Yes, THIRTY!!! By the time he came on, Claude's masterstroke had seen his team go two down after goals in the 4th and 28th minutes, and they went on to lose their first match by that exact 2-0 scoreline.

You couldn't make this up! It looks like it's going to be a fun season in store for St Louis fans. You'll need to follow him!

Claude and his team will be coming to my Vancouver Whitecaps a week on Saturday. I don't know whether to abuse him or sing his praises for fucking up Raith.

Probably both!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Well we can all breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Dundee United did every East Fife fan an enormous favour this afternoon, with their 2-0 victory over Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup semi final.

David Goodwillie and Andy Webster are the two players we have to thank for saving us from what have been an unbearable situation had Rovers made the Hampden final.

If I'd been given the choice of East Fife being relegated or Raith making the final, I have to honestly say I'd have taken the relegation option!

We were never really worried but you never know. Raith had fluked their way to the semis by avoiding the Old Firm and being paired with some very off form sides and anything can happen when you have a semi (not something most Raith fans know anything about).

East Fife's proud history of being the only side from outside the top flight to have won the Scottish Cup is still under threat from Ross County though. It has been a lot in recent years and they probably have the best chance of any of the lower league sides that have made the final in recent seasons.

Their tremendous win over Celtic was one of the biggest Cup shocks ever and full marks to them. If we were to lose our record to them, it would be hard to take but you'd have to congratulate them for it.

And of course, they're not Raith!

Forget backing the underdogs, we'll be Dundee United fans come May 15th. They still owe us after the infamous Don McVicar elastic watch match in 1990 and their job is still just half done.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Bobby Linn's goal five minutes from time at Dumbarton's Strathclyde Homes Stadium this afternoon sent the travelling Fife faithful into raptures and put some serious ease into East Fife's relegation fears.

The Boaby had only been on the pitch for four minutes when he finished off a good move by turning Bob Campbell's cross from the left past Sons keeper Michael White from close range.

The win moved the Fife up to 7th place once again, after Stenhousemuir's shocking 3-0 loss at home to bottom club Clyde (one of their banker three points in the run in you'd have thought).

It may not have been the Fife's best performance of the season but it was one of the most vital.

Michael Brown was in good form again (how weird was it to have two goalkeepers called Michael - one Brown, one White), although Dumbarton were pretty stagnant themselves for most of the game.

East Fife now have three games remaining, as do Stenny, and are sitting on 39 points, one ahead of the Warriors. Sadly the promotion playoffs are now officially out of the equation following Brechin's win over leaders Alloa. No shock in that really!

Arbroath have a game in hand and now their game on Monday against Stirling Albion could have massive consequences. If the Smokies fail to beat the Meerkats then they'll be five points behind us with nine points up for grabs. A win leaves them two behind and with the two teams meeting on the last day of the season, it's going to be nervewracking to say the least.

The SFL fixtures computer has certainly come up trumps with the excitement factor for the neutral. East Fife's run in sees Brechin away next week followed by two huge games against our relegation playoff rivals - Stenny at Bayview and Arbroath at Gayfield.

Stenny have two games against Stirling and Peterhead around us and Arbroath have Cowden at home and Dumbarton away before us.

Looks like we're all going to become Cowdung fans on Saturday!

There's no real predicting how this will play out as everyone is beating everyone else at the moment, but I'm prepared to go on the record now by saying we're safe!

Friday, April 9, 2010

It may be FA Cup semi final weekend in England but tomorrow will see the Premiership basement battlers take centre stage, with the two games being played featuring the three bottom four sides that still harbour hopes of survival.

It's been a tough season for the Premiership's less financially well off clubs. Portsmouth are lucky to still be in business but at least have the FA Cup semi final against Spurs to take their mind off their other woes from this season. My team, West Ham, should be too good to go down but are playing horribly and are really in the mire. Then we have Burnley and Hull City, the division's two low key sides, and the purists favourites to stay up.

From a football romantic point of view, I so wanted both Burnley and Hull to stay up. As we've said so many times before in this blog, it would be great not only for English game to have these two unfashionable battlers survive the drop, but it would also give hope to fans of smaller sides throughout the country that promotion to the top flight doesn't necessarily mean instant relegation again (Hull have already proved this point last season of course). It would be a victory for true football over money football.

It certainly doesn't look like this will be possible. Many have already written off the survival hopes of both sides and I'd hate their survival in the Premiership to be at the expense of my own Hammers! At least it would be some form of silver lining if this were to happen.

Burnley have suffered big time since the departure of the talismanic Owen Coyle. They weren't in the healthiest of states before he left Turf Moor, but their home form and early season results at least gave some reasons for optimism. Their first half capitulation at home to Manchester City last weekend showed what a desperate state the team is currently in. The defence in particular has been appalling for weeks now but that opening seven minutes was both the best and worst opening by teams that I can immediately remember.

Hull City haven't had the breaks in the last few games. Losing late goals and going down to ten men due to injury are just some of the bad luck that seems to be plaguing them. With their own talisman, Jimmy Bullard, now back healthy though they certainly look like a more confident side and I still have this inkling that he may save them.

Tomorrow's match at the KC Stadium between Hull and Burnley is absolutely immense. There's no over exaggerating the importance of it to both teams and the financial implications for both sides alone is staggering. You certainly have to fancy the Tigers to get the business done, raising their survival hopes whilst pretty much condemning Burnley in the process.

Even three points tomorrow might not be enough to save either side, but it's going to be a cracker, which I'll be fortunate enough to see live on TV where I currently am.

I can't wait. This is real top flight action as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The UEFA Champions League semi final line up was finalised this week and it was very pleasing as far as we're concerned here at AFTN.

Not because there's no English teams in the final four, although that is a very nice added bonus, but because for the first time since 2004 there are actually four different countries represented in the semis.

It's the way it should be and quickly draws a line under the last three season's debacle when three of the four sides came from England (which still couldn't stop a Spanish winner of course last year or an Italian one in 2007!).

We've gone on at length in this blog many times before about how the Champions League is a farce, as countries have too many teams in the competition and how it isn't even about being Champions in your own country any more that matters. We won't go into another long rant about it, but our feelings haven't changed!

Whilst the semis are pleasing, it's still not perfect, as only Barcelona and Inter Milan are actually Champions in their countries, but hey, we'll give Lyon and Bayern Munich the free pass on this one as they've done their countries proud, have set up a great semi line up and have given the competition a bit of credence back in our eyes.

There's four great footballing countries represented and what should be two very competitive sets of ties to look forward to in two weeks. It's truly a battle of Europe for once.

Let's hope both ties provide excellent entertainment. The competition needs it and European Club football needs it.

Maybe, just maybe, the European Cup can be seen in all it's glory one more time this season. It's been a long wait.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It seems so cliched to be writing about this today. I almost didn't as so many other websites and blogs will have covered this in so much detail, but you just have to give a passing nod to the wonders Lionel Messi had on show in yesterday's Champions League game against Arsenal at the Nou Camp.

I'm pretty sure most people who are reading this will have seen his outstanding four goal performance last night. If not, why not and where the hell have you been today?!

The game itself wasn't actually one of the best. It was typical Champions League fare for most of it, a fact many people seem to have overlooked, but Messi's performance was more than a stand out. The first leg, and especially Barca's performance in it, was a classic game. It was a hard act to follow, much like Messi himself.

There's so many words you could throw at him today and many have. Very little of the hyperbole though can really sum up the kind of season that Messi is currently having. Since the turn of the year he has been electric, with four hat tricks in 2010, three of them in the last 24 days, and to net a staggering 39 goals for Barca in just 43 appearances this season is truly gifted when you consider the comepetitions he is playing in.

2009/10 could very well be Messi's career defining season, much like Cristiano Ronaldo had with Man United in 2007/08, only much much better!

It wasn't so much his four goals that thrilled me last night. It was more the manner he took them. His finishing was exceptional. A true masterclass of how to keep goalies guessing and clinically finish. If you were coaching kids, you would just want to stick on a Messi highlights dvd from this season.

I can't remember being more impressed at seeing such a top level performance from a player as I was last night. The ball seemed glued to his boots at times. He seems to have it all and at just 22 he must surely go on to be not just the player of our generation, but potentially the greatest player of all time. If everybody doesn't heap far too much pressure on his young shoulders that is.

To be remembered with such greatness he needs to continually score consistantly at both European and International level. That's a hard ask for any player, past or present. Hopefully we don't see him take some bad paths the way other legends of the game like Maradona and Best have.

He's certainly doing the club part in Europe, with 25 goals in 44 Champions League appearances so far. Internationally, his 13 goals for Argentina haven't quite got me putting him in the same categories as Pele and Maradona just yet, but it's so early days in his career and I'm just hard to please!!

So much will be gauged and written after the World Cup in South Africa in a few weeks. I do worry that the pressure that is going to be put on him won't let his best come across at the Finals. It must be so hard for him just now to feel that he has to keep turning in performance after performance for both Club and country. I think many of pundits actually forget just what age he is.

He's certainly going in to the World Cup with all guns blazing and must have the most amazing confidence just now. I can't wait to see him in action against the world's best. He's one of the few players in the world today that I would actually pay just to watch.

With El Clasico coming up on Saturday at the Bernebau, what's the chances of us seeing another amazing hat trick from Lionel Messi. Might just be worth a little flutter at the bookies. Sunday's match is certainly now more must-see viewing than ever.

If Cristiano Ronaldo can be sold for around £80 million, I'd love to know what value would be placed on Messi just now. I doubt we'll ever find out!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Setanta Sports going bust in the UK last year left a big hole in the schedule of your armchair football fan. ESPN and Sky may have filled in a lot of that hole, but one thing which sadly remained missing was live coverage and highlights packages of the Blue Square Premier.

Football in the Conference the last two seasons had been fantastic viewing. Not every game, but that's true for every league, whether it be the EPL or La Liga. At the end of each season, sponsors Blue Square put together a free dvd for their registered punters and I was lucky to get a copy the last two years and it was

Setanta's Blue Square review highlights programme wasn't a slickly, hi tech produced show, but it was regular weekly viewing in my house and I've missed catching up with all the action this season.

I've tried to follow the season unfolding via the official Blue Square Premier and Club websites, but it's not the same.

I was also lucky enough to take in Wimbledon dismantling Ebbsfleet when down in London in November (see Blog here), but it left me with a taste for seeing, more regular action.

Thankfully we're finally going to see some, well the final, action of the League on our screens this season. Last week Sky Sports announced that they would be showing the Blue Square Premier promotion play-off final from Wembley Stadium on Sunday May 16th.

Sadly it doesn't look like it's going to be featuring AFC Wimbledon (next season will see their glorious return to League football, mark my words!), but it does look likely to be featuring two of four ex-league sides looking to reclaim their place back in the Football League. It should be a cracker and is already expected to break attendance records for such a play-off final.

Let's just hope that it signals the start of Sky picking up full coverage of the Blue Square Premier for next season. If not, then I'll have to pencil in another trip to see the Wombles in London this November as well.

Having enjoyed it so much last year, I might just do that again anyway.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Saturday's battle between the top two of Man United and Chelsea certainly wasn't a classic. Not unexpected, as they seldom are these days. With Arsenal keeping it interesting and still a three horse race, thanks to another late late show, the run in to this season's Premiership title is a cracker.

It could (and should) be a lot more interesting and exciting though and the EPL fixture list computer and those that operate it have to take a lot of the blame for this.

To schedule a vital match between Man U and Chelsea right in the middle of the Champions League quarter finals was crazy and it's not the first time they've had to meet at a really bad time of the season.

Now, I'll state right away that I don't care about this from the point of view of wanting to see either club do well in Europe. Nothing could be further from my mind. I'm glad Chelsea have already crashed out and hopefully the Mancs will follow suit on Wednesday. Surely it's in the Premiership's interests though, with relation to promoting the league as being the best in Europe if not the world, to have their sides go as far into the competition as possible. Pitting their country's two best sides in a vital match right in the middle of it all doesn't aid this.

It makes no sense. At the start of the season, most people would unsurprisingly have had the current top two to be the current top two in the Premiership by this stage of the season. It doesn't take rocket science to work out that last weekend was one of the worst in the calendar to have the teams meet in what could turn out to have been the Championship decider.

This takes me to my other point. My main point. Why schedule this game, and other games between the top three, with so many games of the season left?

There's five games left for them all and none of them will meet each other in any of these games. Sure, there's some derbies thrown into their final fixtures to liven it up a bit and possibly throw a spanner into the run in and final destination of the title, but from a neutral football fan's point of view, I'd love nothing more than to see the last two or three weeks of the season feature Chelsea-Arsenal, Arsenal-Man U and Man U-Chelsea battles every year.

That would be a fantastic end of the season. It may not determine the outcome every year, as it could be all over bar the shouting by that point I know, but it would certainly give you something mouthwatering to look forward to for the final weeks.

Yes, it's likely to be exciting anyway, but by changing the fixtures to what the fans would really love to see, can you imagine how almost unbearable the excitement would be?

Possible medical problems for the fans of these teams aside, that would be one hell of a title run in for the fans, players, managers and pundits alike to sink their teeth in to. Man U-Stoke and Chelsea-Wigan on the last day of the season just doesn't have the same appeal to it, does it?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Your local Club is in crisis, whilst at the same time chasing not just promotion but still outside chances of a Championship. There's rumours varying from them leaving town to going out of business altogether. A call has gone out to rally round and save the Club and show what they mean to the community. Who could resist such combinations?

Well, clearly the people of Cowdenbeath.

A paltry crowd of 438, the lowest in the Scottish Second Division yesterday, turned up to see promotion chasing Cowden beat Stenhousemuir 1-0 and, to me, I think that sends a very strong message about the desire of the people of Cowdenbeath to have a football team in their town and throws open the question, do they deserve to survive anyway?

We mentioned Cowden's troubles in the blog on Wednesday. Could it be groundsharing? Could it be a merger or a takeover with Spartans? Either way, their long term future in the town of Cowdenbeath, if not in the Scottish game as a whole, seems bleak and very limited.

In our original article we mentioned that a Club with a 129 year history shouldn't be allowed to die, that franchise football shouldn't be allowed to creep into the Scottish game by the back door and how if the Club do die, it's the local Cowdengelly public that are to blame (as highlighted numerically yesterday).

In the days that have followed the Spartans story breaking though, we've given the matter a lot of careful consideration and chat and want to look at the other side of the story today.

Why should a Club like Cowdenbeath who don't bring anything positive to the Scottish game, and never have done, be allowed to survive? Yes, it's a controversial subject, but let's have that debate.

Whenever a Club is in a perilous state, we all rally round and say "you can't let any club die" and how it's not fair on their fans and how would we feel if it was our Club? I think the latter issue in particular really clouds our judgement and reasoned thinking on the matter. I know it does for me personally.

Whether a Club is our rivals, much hated, whatever, it IS sad if a Club goes out of business. We're always complaining about the state of the Scottish game though and how it needs to change. How can it change though when you have Clubs going nowhere and others that bring little to the table?

Cowdenbeath may have been going for well over 100 years but they have won no major honours in that time, just four lower league Championships to show for all that time and effort. Their current ground is a disgrace when it comes to facilities. Their attendances have been pitifully low for seasons and show no signs of ever turning around and a section of the fans that they do have are just complete trouble-seeking and trouble-inducing pricks, which fans of many, many other lower league Scottish clubs will attest to.

So how exactly does saving a Club like them help the game in Scotland? The harsh answer is that it doesn't. Who would miss them really a couple of seasons down the road? A few hundred hardcore supporters and that's about it. Does anyone really miss Gretna? Clydebank are different because of the way of their demise but only a little.

Moving to a new location, especially a 'new town' like Livingston and Clyde have done, isn't going to help them attract new fans and put them on a firmer financial footing. The moves of the two sides above have gone horribly wrong in recent seasons and both are lucky to still be in existance it has appeared on many occasions this past year alone.

Many reading this may say it's a case of pot and kettle, as East Fife's attendances don't exactly set the heather on fire at the moment. Highest in the division though yesterday and we know the numbers are there when the Club are competing and challenging at the top of the table. Cowdenbeath are having a season like that just now and they have nothing going for them fan wise. Plus we have a proud history. One that involves winning four major trophies, but yes, you can't live on that alone.

If East Fife were to go bust I'd be devastated. A part of me would have died. I'd be inconsolable, just like the Cowden fans would be. All of us East Fife fans reading this would be. How many fans of other sides that are reading this would really care after the initial hoo-ha had died down though?

We have ambition and have tried to show that in recent seasons, almost to our detriment if things had been allowed to continue as they were going, as has been the case with clubs like Livi and Airdrie. Cowdenbeath never seem to show any sense of ambition. How far do they realistically think they could go in the Scottish game with the numbers they attract? They'd be slaughtered if they went up to the First Division next season, so what's the point you could argue?

Then you have a team like Spartans. They have a very impressive set up. A men's Senior team, Juniors team, both Saturday and Sunday Amateur sides, an under 19's team, various youth teams and an over 35 legends side, along with a woman's first, second and third team. It's the way forward for the Scottish game. A community club that invests in the game at grassroots level and reaps the reward. Why should a team like that be deprived from the Scottish League set up that has clubs like Montrose, Albion Rovers and Cowdenbeath dragging it down season after season?

Cowden do have a good youth set up, but that will not save them alone. They need fans. They need money. And it would seem that no amount of success is going to get them either.

Spartans deserve their shot at League football. Not as part of a takeover, merger or some kind of franchise backdoor bid though. If it's at expense of a club like Cowdenbeath going bust then so be it.

I think the reason that a lot of us get up in arms about situations like we have just now is that we're worried our own club could be next. Well, maybe it could be, but we maybe have to look at the longer term picture.

If we can grow the Scottish game positively then that's the way that our clubs, clubs like East Fife, will survive and thrive. So will the national team in the long term if youth players can actually be nurtured and encouraged.

So if Cowdenbeath do die, I'll shed no tears and have no disappointment unless it's been through franchise football. Then I'd be angry and worried about the game's future, otherwise, in all honesty, good riddance.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

"Jekyll and Hyde football" was a very apt description of East Fife's season made by poster Fat Doug on the AFTN Forum tonight.

After the highs of Tuesday's win, many expected to be brought back down to earth by the League leaders Alloa today and that was the case - although it didn't need to be.

East Fife had dominated early proceedings and, not for the first time this season, the lack of clinical finishing (and good goalkeeping) proved costly and immediately sent us back into the danger zone thanks to Arbroath's 2-0 victory away to bottom side Clyde.

Declan McAvoy's deflected 12 yard finish on 55 minutes was all that separated the two sides in the end and despite the slightly desparation move of putting centre half Jonny Smart up front for the closing minutes nearly paying off, it was another disappointing day at the office for the black and gold.

Alloa had a wheen of players out for this match, but sadly we couldn't take advantage of that fact and although we maintained 7th spot in the league we now have Stenny and the Smokies breathing down our neck, one and two points back respectively and both with a game in hand. Squeaky bum time again.

The debate just now is whether we can class our Second Division safety as being in our own hands or not. I'm a yay on that.

We have four games left, three of them away. Our last two matches are now enormous. I wish I was going back home for them! Stenny at home on the second last game of the season, followed by Arbroath away, could be immense or it could be all over bar the shouting by then if we take points from Dumbarton and Brechin over the next two weekends. Six points from these last two games should be enough to see us safe anyway no matter what happens earlier.

A slight problem with that of course would appear to be our inability to string two consecutive good performances, never mind victories, together.

I don't see Arbroath or Stenhousemuir taking anything from their away matches at Peterhead or Stirling on Tuesday. Arbroath have the hardest run in on paper, but as we know, everyone can beat everyone else in the division this season.

There's certainly going to be no lack of thrills, excitement and intrigue as the season concludes. It would be nice not to have that relegation threat hanging over us, but providing things work out in the end, at least it'll keep us interested right to the very end.

C'mon the Fife.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I'm not quite sure if this should strictly qualify for our "Friday Fun" segment, but here's another one of the amazing football videos you get from South America.

For fans of lower league football, this should appeal. It's from a minor league game in Brazil between Moto Club and Genus.

During the Campeonato Brasileiro Série D match (Rondoniense Division), Genus defender Robson gets sent off, for what doesn't seem too bad a tackle at first glance. All hell then breaks loose after he doesn't leave the field.

There's riot police, pepper spray and a very questionable referee.

Check out the video here.

Always amazed, but never surprised, with what comes out of the continent!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

When the UEFA Champions League quarter final draw was made, the stand out match between Barcelona and Arsenal was enough to whet the appetite of football fans the world over and last night's first leg tie certainly lived up to the expectations - for once!

How Barcelona finished the 90 minutes still level with their London opponents is mystifying.

Barca were simply breathtaking. Their first half performance was as dominant as any that I think I have ever seen in the latter stages of the competition. The 71% first half possession stats backing that up. The first fifteen minutes in particular were outstanding to watch. It was a footballing masterclass from the best Club side in the world and Arsenal have Manuel Almunia and some not top class finishing from the Spanish giants to thank for still being in the tie at all.

When Barca went 2-0 up it looked like it could go on to be 4 or 5, but somehow, and I'm sure they don't know how themselves, they allowed the Gunners back in to the tie. Super sub Theo Walcott was outstanding for the Gunners when he came on. If he plays like that in the second leg, he may find himself in Spain for next season!

Even at the 82 minutes mark, Barca had 65% possession for the whole match and finished it with 62%. For any away side, in any match at that level, it's an amazing performance.

Arsenal certainly don't deserve to be in the tie as far as I'm concerned, but I have to congratulate them none the less. The second leg is going to be an absolute cracker. Can hardly wait the eight days and for a Champions League match, that's really saying something for me!
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