Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When My Football Club launched in August 2007 it had many grand ideas that attracted football fans the world over.

The aim of owning an English club side and having an active participation in the day to day affairs excited many. Three years on though and many are disillusioned.

The fact is though that they shouldn't be.

I was almost tempted to take part in the experiment myself, opting instead to continue to give my money to the East Fife Supporters Trust and the AFC Wimbledon Dons Trust. To me, supporters trusts are the ONLY way forward for football fans to have an active voice in established football clubs.

And there lies the key to this whole situation.

When many joined MYFC I think it was on the hope that the scheme would purchase an existing Football League Club and preferably a big name.

It was originally hoped to attract 50,000 members to MYFC. Initial interest registered garnered just over this and by the time that paid membership started to be taken, the scheme hit a high of around 31,000 members. According to Wikipedia membership is now down to around 4,000.

Part of the reason for this decline can be put down to natural loss of interest amongst the punters but another big reason is probably due to the fact that MYFC ended up buying a non league football club in Ebbsfleet United. Not a name or scenario to excite thousands of people worldwide, although one that would make someone like myself a lot more interested.

The other thing that put many off was the actual involvement in the day to day decisions of running the club weren't what many had hoped. They couldn't pick the team basically.

As if that was likely to happen at any top level football club, even the top level non league ones.

For schemes like this to really thrive, and even let the paying members pick the team, you need to start a club from scratch. You can't buy into an existing club and expect the existing board and fans to let a bunch of strangers around the world tell you how things should be done. No manager in their right mind would also take such a job if he had no say on team selection.

Members of MYFC need to accept that. Many didn't and haven't continued membership.

When an existing club is bought what you have to remember first and foremost is the existing fan base. They are the lifeblood of the club and it's them, not a bunch of anonymous members who should be listened to and that why Supporters Trusts are the only way to go in cases like this.

This week's BBC Non League Football Show ran an interesting documentary on the whole My Football Club phenomena (from 38 minutes in). The good times and bad and the logistics and realities of it all. Well worth a listen, especially Ebbsfleet manager Liam Daish's thoughts on it all.

For those that do want more hands on ownership, especially if picking the team appeals to your senses of "real" fantasy football, then the way to go is for newly established clubs that have set up solely under MYFC type schemes and the very low level established ones that have gone down that route. There's a few out there.

I would point you towards AFC Hull though.

AFC Hull currently play at level 10 of the English non league pyramid (14 in Football League terms) in the East Riding Amateur League Premier Division, having won the First Division in their first ever season in 2008/09.

I've just become an owner and best of all, it's entirely free to join up at present.

It's a long way to go to the top, but it would be one hell of an interesting ride to get there.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Craig Burley made a very interesting comment yesterday during the Celtic and Motherwell game on ESPN. Well there has to be a first time for everything!

Celtic have used 14 different nationalities so far in this young season and only have one player (Scott Brown) in Craig Levein's squad for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

It's a point that can be very open to debate, but is this really a bad thing for the Scottish national team?

Growing up, it was felt that if you didn't play for either of the Old Firm your chances of getting in to the Scottish national team were greatly reduced. Looking at Levein's 26 man squad, this is certainly far from being the current situation.

It's hard to think that West Brom, Wolves and Blackpool have more players in the Scottish squad this time around than Celtic. You could argue that they're playing in the top flight of English football, which is a damn sight better than the top flight in Scotland. But then you just have to look and see that there's even more players from a Welsh team in the squad, with Championship side Cardiff having two players listed.

Changed days indeed, although the other half of the Old Firm, Rangers, do still have eight players in the squad.

There's a couple of ways to look at all this.

Looking at the Rangers situation, it's great for the national team that they have so many players in the squad who will play regularly with each other, know each others game and hopefully gel all that quicker.

I hate praising Rangers at the best of times, but well done to them for not only looking at Scottish talent, but for actually using it as well. It doesn't seem to have done them any harm domestically.

Celtic on the other hand are struggling like hell and you could certainly argue that such a mish mash of nationalities doesn't help their cause.

For years though, the Old Firm have killed up and coming Scottish talent, signing any Scottish players that shows promise in the SPL (and lower leagues) to take away even further any possible element of competition in our domestic game.

Celtic's plundering of Hibs in recent years has been appalling and is still continuing with the signing of Irish striker Anthony Stokes. Both Old Firm sides have done it to Hearts, Aberdeen and numerous other clubs as well.

And what invariably happens to these players? They're stuck on the bench or the reserves, have few appearances as foreign players get picked ahead of them, get farmed out on loan and then sold or released again without making an impact and to the detriment of their careers, their valuable formative years wasted.

I personally feel that it's no bad thing that there's only one Celtic player in the squad. I want to see our top Scottish players playing at the top level to help us out internationally and like it or not, that's in the English Premiership.

When you look at our best Scottish international sides (especially those in the 1970's), they came about when our top players were playing for top level sides like Leeds United and Liverpool.

Sure they might not be playing for the top, top level sides in England but then how many English stars are at Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United? 35% of our current squad are currently playing in the Premiership. This has to be good for the Scottish national team if not the Scottish domestic game.

If one Old Firm side is dominating domestically when it comes to the Scottish talent pool then so be it. It's for the good of the game and the players developments. Keep as many of them together as you can and then let the better ones play higher level.

Only 42% of the current squad are playing in the joke that is top flight Scottish football. I think this can only help us. Will it? Well we'll soon find out, starting in Lithuania on Friday.

C'mon Scotland. Do us proud.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

This is just superb. Nothing else needs said!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

We knew it was coming and today was the day. Poor Dumbarton were the recipients, as everything clicked for East Fife and they delivered a six nil hammering of the poor Sons.

With the Fife being in such fine pre-season and early season goalscoring form, some team was going to be on the end of a doing pretty soon. If only we could keep that defence watertight at the same time.

Full marks to all the lads today, they delivered just that, thanks to a hat-trick from loanee Hibee Kurtis Byrne.

Three goals in each half saw East Fife move up to third place in the table and it could have been oh so many more as they controlled proceedings at Bayview from start to finish.

Lloyd Young had kicked things off after 15 minutes before a quick double from Byrne had the Fifers coasting at the half. Bobby Linn continued his fine vein of form to make it four a minute before the hour mark, before Byrne completed his hat-trick on 71 minutes and Robert Sloan completed the rout with seven minutes remaining.

It was almost perfection and justification to Stevie Crawford for his attacking tactics this season.

Even the defence is starting to look like they're not complete strangers any more with Murdoch and Smart start to form a good partnership at the centre of the defence.

With a Challenge Cup quarter final coming up next away to Queen of the South, today's performance couldn't have come at a better time. Hopefully they can continue this next Saturday and show that it's not just at fortress Bayview that they can turn on the style.

C'mon the Fife.

Friday, August 27, 2010

We're always on the look out on ebay for any interesting pieces of East Fife memorabilia. Any item, any era, whether it be programmes, cigarette cards and just general interesting bits and bobs.

It's the curse of the collector. You always want more.

We've put together quite a collection here at AFTN over the years, going way back, and a lot of the items are either up, or will be up, on the Bayview Bible section of the website. We still harbour hopes of setting up an AFTN East Fife museum at some point!

There's two items I've personally been trying to get hold of for ages now, but still to no avail.

One is the beer glass brought out to celebrate the 1938 Scottish Cup win. I was the highest bidder till 2 seconds to go on one of these a few years back and have regretted missing out ever since.

The other is the first ever history of East Fife published in 1948 and called "Through The Years With East Fife FC".

So if you happen to have either for sale then please get in touch!

We picked up a really fun item the other week from ebay from FootyBits. It's a fridge magnet of the cover of the programme from our historic 1938 Scottish Cup win against Kilmarnock.

It's nothing flashy and it's just a basic homemade fridge magnet, but it's a lot of fun and really nice to start your day by getting some milk out of the fridge and being reminded of the proudest day in East Fife's long history.

It would be good if they could add some of the League Cup final programmes to their range. They do also have the 1950 Scottish Cup final programme cover for the 3-0 loss to Rangers. Don't really want reminded of that one so much!

So check out their ebay store and add the must have thing for your fridge this season. If you do order, then tell them that AFTN sent you their way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another season, another embarrassing performance from Scottish clubs in Europe.

Just over a year ago we were decrying Scottish football as being a national embarrassment. 54 weeks on and very little has changed as Celtic, Dundee United and Motherwell all crashed out of the Europa League this evening.

At least Motherwell and United made a bit of a game of it and fought for their Europa League places, whilst Celtic just capitulated and were frankly dire.

The Champions League draw has pitted Rangers against Man U and Valencia, so not much hope offered there for advancement at first glance.

Another European Scottish adventure over before it's begun.

The state of our national game is depressing stuff.

Two weeks in and already you know it's a two horse race for the SPL title. Yeah, 99.9% of the time it always is, but at least you have a feeling for a few weeks that someone will challenge them. This year I can't even see any semblance of a challenge.

Aberdeen may have made a terrific start but they've played two weak teams. There's an outside chance they may challenge Celtic for second, but slim. Rangers should sadly face a leisurely walk to retaining their title this season.

Off the pitch, nothing appears to have been done around youth development, league reconstruction and creating some air of competitiveness to the top flight.

It's the same old, same old and the game is lumbering along from one embarrassing season to another.

The national team raised a little hope with the appointment of Craig Levein. After the display in the Swedish friendly earlier this month, it's hard to get too excited or too carried away with the forthcoming Euro 2012 campaign.

The grassroots of the game in Scotland still needs the same radical overhaul that it has done for the last few years. This same overhaul is also needed in the higher echelons of the SFA and SFL.

We're banging our heads against a brick wall. All of us advocating for change are. It's not going to make us give up but the lack of advancement on any of the key issues is sapping to the enthusiasm.

Will we ever see glory days back? The way it's going, a whole generation may miss out.

Monday, August 23, 2010

We asked The Undisputed, author of our popular "View From The Bay" section, to have a look at this whole stadium business for us...

*******************

So, East Fife have announced the possibility that they will be moving to a new stadium. Or rather, the media have announced the possibility that East Fife will be moving to a new stadium. Which is a quite different thing really. East Fife were too busy leading us all up the garden path about major developments at our current home, which the Board likened to the model which made Barcelona what they are today.

So, while we stood at the Open Day - 'Open' Day, mind you - listening to their sincere utterings on how New Bayview would become Nou Bayview, we’re now led to believe that this was all nonsense, and that they already knew this to be nonsense. But, it seems we’ve to forget about that and trust them now – with the whole future of our club, no less. Well, that’s okay then.

Whatever the pros and cons, whatever the likelihood of all this seeing the light of day, with all the uncertainty that’s going to surround the development, one certain change that needs to be made to the plans immediately is the provision of a mound at one end of the park. Just in case it’s required in due course.

With the news being broken, the Board have grudgingly had to give out some details of the plans, including a drawing of the proposed set-up. The drawing may look like it has been prepared by our major shareholder using her new crayons but at least it’s something. The plan has in fact been prepared by the same architect who wants to build a version of Dubai’s Palm Islands off Leven Beach. Opposite Johnny’s Amusements and just along from where Mr Doriano’s ice-cream van used to sit. Quite.

The plans show a grand array of facilities which will apparently include a supermarket, hotel, food outlets and community pitches.

Then, there’s the Park & Ride. Now, tucked away in the back corner as this is, I can actually see this attraction being quite popular, alas only of an evening, and only then with the local dogging community. Which does fit in rather well with the concept of Park & Ride right enough.

These are early days and the provision or otherwise of certain facilities isn’t yet clear. Will there be car parking? Will there be Taxi Ranking? Will there be a taxi for Rankine? Time will tell.

When we moved to New Bayview, all manner of facilities were promised. As well as housing and an old folk’s home, there was to be a marina. There’s still no housing, the only thing resembling an old folk’s home is the back row of the centre stand on a Saturday afternoon, and well, the only Marina I’ve seen down there was Ronnie Cassells’ old car, grand if you’d four hours to get to Cliftonhill on a Tuesday night, but no sort of a magnet to the rich and famous – in fact, with the amount of Araldite holding that contraption together, no sort of a magnet to anything really.

On 14th November 1998, East Fife played their first game at New Bayview. With the score standing at 0-0, the Forfar keeper blasted an attempted clearance which only made it a few yards before clattering into Barrie Moffat’s family jewels, leaving our striker writhing in pain as the ball (the match one) rebounded into the net for the stadium’s first-ever goal. Let’s hope that, if and when New Bayview closes down, we’re not left feeling the same way and that the family jewels of East Fife Football Club, such as they are, remain intact.


The Undisputed

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When East Fife announced a few days ago that they were planning on moving to a new state of the art stadium, the plan was met by both excitement and suspicion from the Fife faithful.

With the news coming just weeks after the Club announced at their open day the plan to expand the current ground, many have been wondering what is behind this sudden quick change of plan, who will benefit most from it and how East Fife will be left after it is all done, if indeed it ever does see the light of day.

As we said on Wednesday, we're quite happy to move from the current ground and we were cautiously optimistic about the whole plan in light of seeing the exact plans for it. Well now we have these plans and having seen them, frankly, this seems like pure pie in the sky.

Here's the initial artist renderings of the new site:



Many thanks to St Pauli Fifer for snagging these for AFTN. They're a little bit blurry in places, but you get the gist. You can view bigger versions of both images by clicking them.

Before we look at all the nonsense surrounding the ground (ponds and fun fair rides FFS), let's look at the plans for the actual stadium itself.

It's very disappointing initially. It looks like a 2000 capacity home stand, a 1000 capacity away stand and bugger all else. There is scope there for some terracing but not plans by the looks of it at this stage. For that reason, it is imperative that we continue to lobby the Club and make representations through the East Fife Supporters Trust on this matter.

After all, it just looks like we are making the move for the sake of an extra 1000 seats that we don't actually need 99% of the time. So why make the move? What is actually in it for East Fife? We already own our current stadium outright and it is in a better position transportwise. Some things just don't seem to add up at this early stage.

There's all this nonsense about being ready for a potential SPL2. So that means we're planning on being ready for a League that doesn't exist and basing our entry to this non existant League on a criteria that also doesn't exist yet!

I think if we were to get terracing and a proper four sided stadium out of all this, it would be an easier sell to the majority of fans. I could live with the people making money out of our move if we get what we, as fans, want out of it. If we don't, then as we've said, what is behind moving us? It's certainly wouldn't look like it was for the benefit of East Fife Football Club.

Looking at the plans for the overall non footballing part of the complex, it's very fanciful to say the least. I think all that's missing from the renderings are the unicorns and the magical forest.

Restaurants (notice the plural), lodges, water features, funfair rides, a supermarket, retail space, crafts (wtf?!), picnic area and an academy of sport (I take it this is the college they were referring to in the initial announcement).

Yes this would revitalise the local community but does the local community actually want this in the first place? How is this all going to be funded? Are partners already in place? How much of this is going to get approved by Fife Council and how much of it will ever see the light of day?

Are we going to be left with just a new stadium and training pitches, very little different to our current one, and possibly a supermarket? That's my current fear, as it would make the whole move pointless.

Remember when we moved to the new ground? We were promised a revitalised marina and docks area. Twelve years on and we're still waiting.

The old adage "if something smells like shite and looks like shite, then it's probably shite" is all I can think of here.

I await for the Club to prove me wrong. I'd love to have East Fife playing at this venue (ground changes as outlined above in place). If the Club pull it off then they deserve the biggest pat on the back in the Club's history.

In the meantime, more and more doubts are being raised by the fans and more questions are being asked surrounding the reasons behind it all.

The only people that can allay these fears are the Board themselves. They don't have our trust for various reasons and they need to earn it. They can start by having some frank dialogue and meeting the fans to discuss these plans. Preferably sooner, rather than later, and preferably before the plans are submitted to Fife Council.

Interesting times ahead. Let's hope things don't take some horrible turns on the way.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

So that's how it feels.

On so many occasions in recent seasons, East Fife have dominated games or should have taken something from games, only to see it grabbed away from them, often in the closing minutes through a spate of late goals.

It's not a nice feeling when it's done to you. Now we know how it feels for the boot to be on the other foot.

Peterhead must be gutted that they left Bayview this afternoon with nothing to show for their endeavours, whilst East Fife rode away laughing in their Dick Turpin masks.

The Blue Toon should have been out of sight had they taken their multitude of chances. As it was, all they had to show for all their pressure was a Martin Bavidge goal two minutes before the break.

With seemingly little hope of East Fife getting back into things as the game ticked into the last quarter of an hour, we got one of those lucky breaks that ended up turning the game.

As the ball deflected up in the air from Scott Durie's cross, Craig Johnstone was on hand to volley home to tie things up on 76 minutes.

Six minutes later and we were in a surprise and undeserved lead when Robert Sloan lobbed a perfect free kick on the edge of the box over the wall and into the net, with the Peterhead goalie totally left standing.

The 2-1 final score was just what we needed though. A defeat would have meant one point from our opening nine, but now we sit on four and mid table in sixth place, with a goal difference of zero.

As time ticks away on the transfer window, everyone connected with the Club, including boss Stevie Crawford, knows where our problems lie. We don't want to keep harping on about our shoddy defence but they were exposed time and time again today and if Peterhead had had their shooting boots on, the final result could have been a very different story.

If we can fight back and grind out wins when rank rotten though, then the hopes are still there. If we can tighten up the back line at the same time, then we should have a very exciting remainder of the season ahead of us.

Plugging that hole is proving difficult and I can see time running out before we are able to do this. Waiting till January could be disasterous for us. Let's hope that doesn't happen.

Dumbarton next. A very winnable game and a chance to open up an early seven point gap between the two of us.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: East Fife 2 - 1 Peterhead

EAST FIFE: Brown, Durie, Young, Smart, Deland (Sloan 75), Linn, Murdoch, Muir, Johnstone (Ovenstone 88), Hislop, Byrne (Crawford 63) [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Cargill]

ATT: 565

Friday, August 20, 2010

After the demise of Setanta Sports in the UK, non league football found itself without a home on television, which was a crying shame as the Blue Square Premier has been one of the most exciting leagues in England in recent seasons.

This season should be no exception, so it's great news that the Conference has completed a broadcast deal yesterday with Premier Sports TV to see the Blue Square Bet Premier back on our tv screens soon.

The deal will see 30 live games each season exclusively broadcast on the channel, including the playoffs and playoff final. The action will kick off on September 4th when Grimsby take on Luton, followed by the all Welsh affair between Newport County and Wrexham the following afternoon.

At present, Premier Sports TV is only available through Sky, with a subscription rate of £6.99 per month.

The channel was formed last year by one of the part owners of Setanta and a number of sports previously shown by the Irish channel, and not picked up in the UK by other broadcasters such as gaelic football, hurling and Aussie rugby league are currently shown on Premier Sports.

It's a good deal for the Conference and although it may not see their product aired to a huge audience, it's just great to have some top notch non league action back on our screens again.

Hopefully it's a success. It's hard to justify more money on sports channels in this current financial climate. I just hope there is enough people with an interest in non league football and the other sports that the channel shows to make it a continued success.

The deal could be a good money earner for Conference clubs, as the Conference will receive 50% of all subscriptions once a nominal level of subscribers has been achieved.

No other competition has had this style of agreement before and in addition the Conference will also earn 50% from all internet revenue associated with the deal and allow them to retain advertising rights allied to those adverts shown with their matches. This really is a "joint venture" first in football and hopefully will see other similar deals reached.

If such a deal could be reached for the Scottish Football League then that would be fantastic for all involved.

I just hope the deal doesn't mess around with my chance to see AFC Wimbledon play Lutin on November 30th, as that's a great game to potentially broadcast!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Yesterday's huge announcement about East Fife's ambitious plans to move to a new stadium came as a huge surprise to most of us. A very welcome surprise, but a bit of a shock none the less.

Now that most of us have had time to ponder and reflect upon these developments, and with details pretty scant at present anyway, it's time to turn our attention to what we want to see from the new stadium.

All we know so far, is that the plans are for an initial capacity of 3000, with an artificial playing surface, training grounds, a plan for community use and a whole retail and leisure development tagged on to the complex.

It all sounds great.

The proposed site is ideally situated for road transport, not so much for public transport, but hopefully at least a very regular scheduled bus or shuttle bus would be in operation by the time that things are complete.

Better car parking facilities are a must. The ones at Bayview Stadium are far from ideal and you do get the impression that this was one of the last things on the minds of the developers when it came to the planning of our current home. Hopefully free parking as well, as I get so pissed off with extortionate rip off parking at lower league grounds (hello, Airdrie). I could live with a token charge if season ticket holders got it free.

Decent car parks will also open up the opportunities to have further car boot sales and even farmers markets and other fair type events.

One thing is certain with the new stadium. The plan is for seven days a week usage. This will involve community use for both football and leisure.

The plastic pitch is the thing I hate most but I can certainly live with that. I would love a real grass pitch, but I guess the community usage plans do kind of dictate that artificial is the only way to go to sustain it.

With the new state of the art pitches out there, it shouldn't actually be too bad. Vancouver Whitecaps will be adopting such a pitch when they move up to MLS next season and from what I've initially seen of this, it's very acceptable and nothing to be worried about. Long gone are the horrible high bounces of the early ones that we saw at Stirling Albion's Annfield back in the day.

It's not just going to be the football pitches that will be looked at to draw in the local community and rightly so in this current climate. We need to re-engage the Levenmouth public and we'll do that by offering a top restaurant and social club at the ground providing food, drink and entertainment all week long. I'd love to see a carvery on matchdays, similar to that which AFC Wimbledon have launched this season.

The site of the new stadium is certainly within reach of a number of pubs, but I feel it is important for East Fife to establish their own identity here and to give us the kind of set-up that I've so often envied from a number of the Highland clubs where the football team really is an important and valued part of the local community.

Many of us miss the old Bayview Social Club. Sure it was nothing special and a lot of the memories are tinged with false nostalgia, but the whole ethos of it is missing at the new stadium and we desperately need that connection back.

I'm sure the new stadium will have good office space, but hopefully the Club plan to have a proper Club Shop. The current one is good and serves the purpose, but I'd love to see something more substantial. A proper shop and not a portacabin.

I also have a dream. For the future, not now!

I would love to establish the AFTN EAST FIFE MUSEUM at the stadium, where myself and other fans could donate their East Fife memorabilia upon our old age and deaths for the wider fanbase to enjoy. All our programmes, momentos, cigarette cards, strips and more, with video footage of our games through the ages replayed on many screens for all to enjoy either again or for the first time. This, coupled with what the Club also has in this regards, would be a beautiful nod to our wonderful past. As I say, it's a dream!

Of course, we've saved the best till last. What do we actually want to see from the stadium itself?

Now as far as we're concerned, terracing is a must. If the Club go down the all seater route then they are frankly missing out on the chance to correct the errors that we currently have to put up with. To revitalise the home support. To give us the advantage that an intimidating home crowd atmosphere can provide.

I'm hoping, more than anything really, for terracing and a proper four sided stadium. I'd love to see two 1000 seat stands along the touchlines (hell, I'd go for 1500 seat stands from the start and a 4000 capacity). One for the home fans, one for away. Then behind both goals, standing terracing, with 500-1000 capacity at each end. At least one for the home fans. You could even stick executive boxes behind the other goal. The home one should be a covered shed to add to the noise and atmosphere. If there was to be an away end as well then leave that uncovered and let the away fans get soaked like the good old days!

If East Fife are looking for inspiration then they should look no further than AFC Wimbledon's Kingsmeadow Stadium. I'm sure other readers will have their examples, as a previous thread on the forum showed.

A 4,722 capacity stadium, with room for expansion. One stand along a touchline and then three covered standing areas. The main stand sits 1,125 and also contains the stadium's three bars.

It feels like a proper football ground and when I visited there last November, it was a joy. I'm looking forward to two further trips there later this year as well. Oh for something similar.

I would also like to see a "buy a brick" scheme, so popular elsewhere, where fans can buy a brick with their name on it at the new atadium. It's an easy moneyspinner and one which also gives the fans something to proudly look at for years to come and a lasting legacy.

All that we're left with now is the name. We HAVE to keep Bayview in there somewhere. I wouldn't be surprised to see a corporate named stadium though. We'll still call it Bayview. Let's just make sure that the Club do as well in some capacity.

It's an exciting time to be an East Fife fan, both with fresh attacking style of play on the pitch and now this off it. We're looking forward to more details as they come out.

So what's your hopes and aspirations for the new, new Bayview? Leave your thoughts both here in the blog and in the thread that's currently going on the AFTN Forum.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

When East Fife Chairman Sid Collumbine appeared on BBC Radio Scotland's Beyond The SPL programme this evening, it came as a bit of a surprise.

He's not exactly what you would consider a guest that would be up there in high demand. Funeral directors don't have the reputation for their dazzling wit and repartee after all.

What he was to go on and say though was the biggest shock of all.

After just 12 years in their current Bayview Stadium home, East Fife are going to be on the move again, planning permission permitting.

Collumbine has announced the Club's ambitious plans to move from their current prime piece of real estate, to a £4.5 million state of the art new stadium complex about a mile and a half from our current home on the outskirts of Leven and Windygates.

The new stadium would have a 3,000 initial capacity with a fourth generation artificial playing surface, training pitches, top notch stadium facilities for the fans, a hotel, a supermarket and even a college! There are plans for a youth academy as well.

The sports, retail and leisure facility shouldn't cost East Fife a penny either because of a potential land swap deal with Muir Construction. This in itself is an amazing achievement for the Club, but the whole development should be a boom for the area and revitalise Levenmouth and move it forward into a new era.

The hope is for the stadium to be ready withing two years and the most important part of all of this, as far as we're concerned, is that East Fife will own the stadium from the start. They won't be tenants and there won't be all the horrendous wranglings we endured when we moved into our current home.

When East Fife played their last game at Bayview Park on October 31st 1998, 95 proud years of history ended. When they played their first game at the newly built Bayview Stadium two weeks later, little did we think that we'd only be there for just over a dozen years.

Now let's be honest here from the get go. Leaving our soulless, atmosphere sapping current stadium is not a big loss.

I hate the current ground. Many, if not most, of our fans hate the current ground. Visiting fans hate the current ground. A move is very welcome and something which I've sensed was going to be on the cards for a few years now, especially with the value of the land in and around the stadium and it's location.

Having put up with a horrendous view of the power station all these years, it is a shame to be now moving when the old eyesore is due to come down! We'd finally be having that bay view we've been waiting for!

After many years in the doldrums and the disinterest from the Levenmouth public, East Fife have done great work of late to try and become a community club. Today's announcement will only add to all this and build on other successful projects such as launching East Fife sides as under 14, 15, 16, 17 and 19 level.

It's all a great step in the right direction and very reassuring to the future of the Club that seemed so bleak in the dark Brown days of 2005 and 2006.

We do have to throw out a word of caution though. There could be a lot of money to be made in this deal, depending on how all the final details play out. We need to know that this move is being made for all the right reasons and that East Fife Football Club will be the main beneficiaries from any large monies made from the deal.

Have a Trust director on the Board now should hopefully give us fans more transparency. This isn't the time to be negative about the project in any shape or form. For now, we have to trust that our Board and owners have the best interest of the Club at heart and are moving us in the right direction. I truly would like to believe that they are. We'll know more when we find out more but for now I would like to congratulate Sid and the Board for all the hard work that has gone in to this up to this stage.

The Club had planned to make the announcement to the fans first, but unfortunately news leaked out before this was possible, making tonight's radio announcement a necessity.

Further details about the move are scarce just now but more will hopefully be following soon. The key to all of this initially is Fife Council providing planning permission for the new stadium. That in itself didn't go very well in the 1990's when we were looking to move away from Bayview Park, of which one of the options was a move to a similar site as the proposed new area.

Times have changed of course, redevelopment of that area has been great and the chance to revitalise the current Methil Docks area should hopefully see no hurdles from the Council that can't be overcome. It is also a new regime in the corridors of power at Fife House and with everything that's been happening, they need all the good news stories they can get.

Tomorrow in the blog we'll look at what we'd like to see from the new stadium. In the meantime, for those who want to hear Sid's announcement, you can listen in HERE and for those that want to wallow in nostalgia for both the old and new Bayviews from 1903 to present, well look no further than HERE.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

For years now, one of the proliferations seen on UK TV is the panel game show. Where once it was only quality, kickstarted by the long running and still highly entertaining Have I Got News For You, it seems that they are now everywhere and of very varying quality and subject matter.

It's cheap television, it's easy television and it does serve the purpose of getting some good comedians out to the wider viewing public. Hell, it can even help make a seemingly gibbering buffoon a mayor! It also makes for some very bad shows in the process as each station looks for it's panel show fillers for their schedules.

What TV is crying out for though is a topical sports based panel show or failing that some decent clips ones with a new take on things and not just a re-hash of old ideas or a platform for some cheap jibes. It's safe to say "What Happened Next?" has been done to death.

The grandaddy of sports panel shows, A Question Of Sport, is a little dated now but, depending on who the guests are, can still be pretty entertaining. It's amazing to think that it's still on and going strong after 40 years and around 900 episodes.

It's not exactly cutting edge though. Neither was the sports show to come out of the original HIGNFY/Buzzcocks era, They Think It's All Over, although that did have the good sense to feature AFTN on it in 1996!

They Think It's All Over finished in June 2006, having probably run it's course by over a couple of seasons. The "Feel The Sportsman" round still being the classic thing to come out of it. Since it's demise there hasn't really been a sports panel show of note.

This year though saw the rise of two contenders, a high profile one and one that most people didn't even know about, which was a shame as it was probably the better format of the two.

The latter one I'm talking about is The Umpire Strikes Back on ESPN Classic.

Hosted by Mark Chapman, of BBC radio fame and not the killer of John Lennon, there were twelve half hour shows aired from March this year. The two regulars were sport loving comedians Kevin Day and Des Clarke and each week they captained two teams of two with an array of sporting names.

I liked it, the critics not so much. It was labelled a bit dull, mainly due to there being no bells and whistles and the questions and clips were more important to it than the guests it appeared. That's no bad thing you know for a panel show!

It was never going to be topical or ground-breaking, primarily drawing as it did footage from the ESPN classic archive, but it did have a very funny modern day round called "Twitter Ye Not", where guests had to work out things from sports peoples tweets. So the set was a bit dull and the humour a little dry at times, but I've spent worse 23 minutes every week.

Where USB failed was that it was launched the same week as Sky's new all singing, all dancing sports panel show A League Of Their Own, with the ubiquitous James Cordon, and was completely overshadowed as a result.

Sky's show got the bigger names and better exposure and had an ace in the hole with the fantastic comedian John Bishop as a regular panelist.

I haven't joined the James Cordon backlash. I still find him very funny and this was a good vehicle for him and whereas at times it looked like it may become "The James Cordon Show", he reigned himself in when he needed to.

It was an entertaining ten episodes (and two specials) and it was no surprise that Sky renewed it for a second season earlier this month. There were some fun rounds, but again, nothing startling.

If only one of these channels, or any of them really, would go down the topical route, then I think they'd have a real winner on their hands.

When Mock The Week has rounds featuring topical sporting news stories as a subject, they've been hilarious and I'm sure we all remember the infamous Frankie Boyle/Rebecca Adlington gag and subsequent furore!

Same with 8 Out Of Ten Cats and Kevin Bridges stints on sport on Channel Five's recent Stand Up For The Week.

Until we see this become a reality then we're just going to be stuck with more clips shows and the same guests doing the rounds on all the different shows. That's why radio shows like Off The Ball and The Danny Baker Show are so successful, as we mentioned yesterday.

Satire and sports are bedfellows made in heaven. Let's see more or failing that, at least repeat the 1996 They Think It's All Over Christmas Special.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Two of our staple Saturday morning and early afternoon pre game entertainment shows reached the grand old age of 15 on Saturday.

Before all these TV enforced early kick off games on a Saturday, the best pre-match warm up for East Fife's action on a Saturday was Soccer AM in the morning on TV followed by Off The Ball on the radio in the afternoon and, for a little while, post match as well.

Both are still going strong, but the quality of them has become markedly different from each other.

As soon as Tim Lovejoy, Fenners, Sheephead and Robbie Knox left Sky, Soccer AM has been rapidly going downhill fast. The best way to watch the show now is to record it and then fast forward through all the dross and dull guests, usually saving yourself about two hours in viewing time. Better this than to take your chances with the (not really) Best Bits show later on.

Back on Saturday for it's 16th season, Helen and Max have found themselves cut down to two hours. Clearly someone else has noticed that the quality isn't there any more to last the whole three hours.

Max has really grown on me over the past two seasons and has become a very likeable presenter but some of the "gags" and segments in the show last season were pretty poor. Hopefully the reduction in airtime can allow them to filter out the dross and just concentrate on the quality. There were some promising new sections on Saturday, but I still found myself quickly going through a lot of the show.

It's a shame, but of course we at AFTN will always hold the series in high regard following our two "Fancam" apearances on it in the early years. Both of which should be up on You Tube by the end of the year!

BBC Radio Scotland's Off The Ball on the other hand has stuck to their same winning formula over the years (although they had their airtime cut post match but extended pre match) and is still an entertaining listen. I really miss driving around Scotland listening to it pre-match now and especially after the game. SO much better than listening to the pish that is Jim Traynor's phone in.

It's a shame that many will now forego it in favour of catching the early kick off game in the pub, in their house or on the radio instead.

Those that do that and exiles the world over can still listen to the full two hour show via the BBC iPlayer on demand for a week after or catch the "best bits" via the weekly Podcast. Don't forget there's the Saturday and Sunday editions of the show now too!

If you've never heard it, then give it a listen. The humour's maybe not the sharpest out there but at least it's funny and Tam Cowan and Stuart Cosgrove have been together with it from the start and are as amiable as ever. It's been a 15 happy years and I think a huge key to their success is that a lot of the show is fan driven and relies on emails and phone ins from the fans for a lot of the content and humour. That's what makes shows like Off The Ball and people like Danny Baker have continued success.

I'll always remember my first, and so far only, guest appearance on the show! It was the day East Fife won promotion at Clyde on April 13th 1996. It was Stevie Archibald's era and the 2-2 draw saw us go up with three games to spare. Stuart and Tam had me on as the show's guest that week pre-match, put a taxi on from Glasgow to Cumbernauld for me for the match and then back to the studio after the game for post game round-up, complete with champagne celebration, and then out for drinks in Glasgow afterwards. Great team and great hospitality.

Happy Birthdays guys. Here's to another 15 years at least. You're still showing the other bigger name shows how to keep popular. Don't ever change!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We don't know if we're going to make this a regular or a sporadic new feature of the blog, but we thought we'd have a snappy new title for most things Premiership, kicking it off with a look at the opening weekend:

******

Performance of the opening fixtures obviously goes to BLACKPOOL. So much is going to be written about the Seasiders today that there is very little new we can add. They're pretty much every neutral and real football lovers favourites in the Premiership this season.

We can't go without commending an absolutely fantastic performance though.

I was lucky enough to watch the whole match and they dominated from start to finish against a brutal WIGAN ATHLETIC side. It was one of the few Premiership games that I would quite gladly watch over again. It was four going on eight or more if they'd taken their chances.

Ian Holloway, a manager who I personally adore for his ethos and management style, promised that if Blackpool would be going down then it would be playing attractive football the way he wants it. They're certainly living up to that billing so far.

As a word of caution though, remember how well Burnley started their campaign last season and look at the end result.

Well done though to the Tangerines and to Olly. This really is the stuff that dreams are made of and let's hope they don't wake up for a long time to come.

******

Wigan on the other hand put in one of the worst performances I can remember seeing in recent years and that's saying something considering the Latics were thrashed 9-1 by Tottenam in November and 8-0 by Chelsea in May last term.

Roberto Martinez' coat must be on a shoogly hook at the moment. I'd put my money on him being the first Premiership managerial casualty of the new season and Wigan one of the favourites to be filling one of the relegation spots come May. If they follow up on last season's precedent, there may be a lot of poor footballers up Wigan way with the amount of refunds to their fans they're going to have to dish out.

With Chelsea away being on offer next weekend, it can't be much fun being a Wigan fan at the moment. It's a shame for they're a club I admire for coming through the leagues the way they did and hanging in at the top level for so long. It would be a shame to see all that good work undone.

******

At the other end of the table, even though Man U have still to play tomorrow, it's a boring case of same old, same old. With CHELSEA destroying West Brom 6-0, that's an ominous sign for those of us hoping for a little more parity amongst the big boys this season. Same boring two horse race again then. And to think they look down on the SPL for that.

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And talking of same old, same old, LIVERPOOL and ARSENAL served up yet another half of boring, cagey football from a match up of the big four. That was a dire first half this afternoon and certainly not for the first time. Sure the second half was better, but it would have been hard not to be. It shouldn't take a sending off to kickstart these teams into life. You really can't see either of these teams seriously challenging what it simply now just a "big two".

I'm also not sure I can take a whole new season of Arsene Whinger either.

******

The goal of the opening weekend was undoubtedly David Jones' beautiful chip from a free kick for WOLVES. Marlon Harewood's first for Blackpool also requires a mention for the striker's tenacity in the lead up to the goal. I always thought Harewood was a very undervalued player at my club, West Ham, who the least said about this weekend the better.

******

It was good to have Match of the Day back. Despite all the live and as live football at my disposal on my television at the moment, this old chestnut still takes some beating.

The new opening title sequence, intertwining old and new top flight stars playing together, may be a little bit tacky and choppy in places but I really liked it. Seeing a lot of the old shots of players and grounds really took me back to happy childhood memories, of this and of course Sportscene.

The times may have changed, but the thrill of football is still very much the same for me.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

We felt that last season we were saying pretty much ad nauseum as to how much of a rollercoaster we felt East Fife's season was.

Well it looks like we have another one in store. Not only that, the games are rollercoasters in themselves, as this afternoon's narrow 3-2 loss away to Alloa Athletic showed perfectly.

The problem with the "we'll try and score more goals than you, no matter how many that might be" approach that we seem to have adopted this season, is that it's not always that easy.

With the defensive frailities that we currently have, any team that takes it's chances or can shut us out or are just simply better than us, will beat us pretty much every time and some of those beatings will be pretty fierce, as the Raith Rovers League Cup tie showed.

Today's defeat could both have been worse and better in equal measures. Stewart Baillie produced another penalty save, this time in the opening minute from Andy Scott, to keep the game goalless at the half, but once again having gone in front,admittedly after having fought back from being a goal down ourselves, we surrendered a lead and were unable to come back.

The dour first half, which saw Alloa have the better chances, didn't offer much of an exciting prospect for the second forty-five but how wrong we were.

Bryan Prunty shot Alloa into a lead on 51 minutes but Craig Johnstone levelled things up just three minutes later from close range at the back post. Stoney was then instrumental in the Fife taking the lead when his cross was head home by Jonathan Smart on 65 minutes.

Thoughts of another Fife goal fest, or at least a victory, were soon dented though when Alloa got their second penalty of the game three minutes later after Robert Sloan upended Kevin McDonald. McDonald got up and he made no mistake from the spot to tie the game at two apiece.

The game was back on and Alloa's pressure on the Fife defence saw it's rewards when Kevin McDonald's cross left the East Fife's back line in no man's land and James Lister headed home the what proved to be the winner with thirteen minutes remaining.

A disappointing loss, but another exciting attacking performance from the Fife, with lots of promising signs.

With a couple of weeks left before the transfer window shuts, we badly need an experienced centre half and maybe one other more solid defender. Our defence was perfectly described to me by someone today as a "bombscare". Our inability to deal with long balls and defend set pieces is seriously worrying.

If we can plug this and quickly then I honestly believe we have a team and an attractive attacking style that will do some damage in this League and a playoff spot shouldn't be too far out of our reach.

One point from six though is concerning and we don't want to fall too far off the pace right out of the gate.

The next couple of weeks will be key. Let's hope we find the lock.

C'mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Baillie, Durie, Smart, Murdoch, Deland, Linn, Sloan, Johnstone (S. Campbell 81), Young, Hislop (Tansey 69), Byrne. [Subs Not Used: Brown, Dick, Cargill]

ATT: 688

Friday, August 13, 2010

Earlier this week Dunfermline Athletic winger Willie Gibson rejected a move to Crawley Town of the Blue Square Premier, despite the Pars accepting a £150,000 bid from the Conference club.

Now there were probably a few surprising factors to this story for many. Firstly there was the incredulous fact that Dunfermline had any players who were actually worth that sort of money in the first place. He wasn't one of the Pars that got turned over 4-1 at Bayview in last month's friendly though.

Some would wonder how a Conference club was prepared to pay that sort of money and then others would have wondered who the hell Crawley Town were in the first place.

For those that don't know though, Crawley Town are the big spending and heavily backed second favourites to win this season's Conference. Their odds have been slashed to 5/1 at many bookies after their summer spending spree.

Their current situation is hugely different to that of even just a few months ago.

Last season manager Steve Evans had to let a number of players go but this campaign he has been given the funds to build a team capable of taking the 104 year old Club into the Football League.

The Club have been plagued with financial problems for a few years now. Just four years ago they had reported debts of £1.8 million. These debts were apparently cleared but in February this year they faced a winding up order for further debts, including money owed to HMRC in a familiar footballing tale these days.

For the Club to go from this to title challengers in a few short months is remarkable and a lot of the thanks for this lies at the door of co-owner Bruce Winfield. Winfield announced in July that all of the clubs debts had been cleared and that a number people had been investing money in the club and giving them funds to spend to improve the squad. Considerable share capital has also been raised.

The Club agreed a lease with Crawley Borough Council earlier this year for their Broadfield Stadium ground which gave them a more control over day to day matters and has allowed them to progress the Club at the same time.

Their close season transfers have included a number of players with Football League experience, including the well known Sergio Torres who was signed from Peterborough for a fee thought to be around £100,000.

We've all seen before though how Clubs spending money to achieve success can soon go pear shaped. I'm not sure how I feel about Crawley at the moment. On the one hand, I hate that money can buy promotions but on the other we have to be realistic these days and East Fife wouldn't have got their own Championship trophy in 2008 if it hadn't have been for the money behind them.

Crawley's first big test will come in their season opener against another fancied side, newly relegated, Grimsby Town. The Club have said to fans not to expect success overnight, but with the money being spent and the buzz generated, it'll be hard for Crawley fans not to get too carried away.

If they are to gain promotion, let's just hope it's behind AFC Wimbledon as Champions.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's been talked about for a while now, but today the Carling Nations Cup finally became a reality and I already can't wait for the inaugural competition next year.

A modern day Celtic version of the Home International Championship, the tournament will feature Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. No England, for now at least, and although sceptics will dismiss the tournament for that reason, to me, it's actually a better competition without the English egos being involved. It's more balanced and hopefully there should be a much reduced risk of crowd trouble as a result as well.

So many of us grew up with the end of season excitement that was the Home Internationals, but a whole generation has missed out on these great rivalries to see who was the best in these isles.

A whole generation of footballers have also missed out on the chance for some great dressing room banter with their team-mates in this regard. I've heard some great stories about the Leeds players in the 70's. Let's have stuff like that back. Many footballers in this modern age don't have great stories to relay in years to come.

The Rous Cup that followed the demise of the original Home Internationals was lame and yes, every Scot wants us to beat the English, but it became a waste of players energies in an already crowded football season.

I see the Nations Cup though as a valuable tool for all four of the international managers and a much preferred competitive testing ground than a bunch of pointless friendlies.

The tournament will be played in a League format and instead of home and away matches adding to the fixture chaos, a country will host the event and all the matches will be played in Dublin next year.

The Republic of Ireland are the first such hosts and the games will be played on February 8th and 9th and the week commencing May 23rd.

Hopefully the Nations Cup gets the fans out. Many of us have been crying out for a return of the Home Internationals for a while and now we've got it. It needs to be supported and it needs to be a success to keep it going and to show that we don't need the English to make international football tournaments successful in these countries.

Hopefully a whole new generation, both on and off the pitch, can enjoy these rivalries once more and have something meaningful and exciting to look forward to at the end of the season for many years to come. It's been a long time coming. Let's make sure we make it work.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In recent years, East Fife and Cup quarter finals have not been happy bed fellows. The Challenge Cup may not be the most glamourous of competitions that the Fife take part in each season, but frankly, it's the only national Cup that we have any chance of winning and even that's being optimistic.

Last night's excellent 3-1 win for the Fife over Stirling Albion at Bayview in the Second Round of the Alba Challenge Cup sees us reach the quarter finals of the competition for the first time since 1996.

The Challenge Cup has been a dreadful competition for East Fife over the years, although it didn't start off that way.

The Cup was launched in the 1990/91 season, initially to celebrate the centenary of the Scottish Football League. East Fife reached the quarter finals that season, with a 2-1 victory against Clydebank at Kilbowie being followed up by a 2-1 win over Stranraer at Bayview. This set up a last eight showdown at home to Kilmarnock, with the Ayrshire men running out 2-1 winners in front of 2,101 fans.

East Fife have reached the quarter finals on two further occasions. In 1991/92, when they lost a close 3-2 game at Bayview Park to a Hamilton Accies side, having recorded two away victories at Meadowbank Thistle and Queens Park in the first and second rounds. In 1996/97 the eventual winners Stranraer ended our hopes with a 1-0 quarter final win, after the Fife had put out Falkirk at home in the second round and got a bye in the first round.

This season is the 20th Challenge Cup. There was no Cup held in the 1998/99 season due to a lack of sponsorship.

In those 19 previous Cups, East Fife have crashed out in the first round on 13 occasions, including a woeful spell between 1999/2000 season and 2007/08 where they lost nine consecutive first round match ups, so getting anywhere in the competition is an added bonus as far as I'm concerned!

With the final scheduled for Sunday 28th November, when I'll be back in the Kingdom, you have to allow me the opportunity to dream of a possible Cup Final appearance. We're only two games away and there are only three first division sides remaining.

The quarter final draw is 2.30pm tomorrow. I'm hoping for Forfar or Stenhousemuir at home. With the exciting, attacking football that Stevie Crawford has us playing this season though, then we shouldn't fear anyone.

This could very well be our year.

Monday, August 9, 2010

As regular readers will know, we love our non league football here at AFTN.

With some games pencilled in for attending later in the year, we're just awaiting the first four levels of the English non league pyramid to kick off this coming Saturday.

These four levels consist of the Conference Premier, North and South and the Northern Premier League, Southern League and Isthmian League Premier and First Divisions. Levels 5, 6 and 7 already got underway Saturday past.

This season the AFTN blog will be paying close attention to a number of teams.

In the Conference we'll be continuing our long standing support and bond with AFC Wimbledon and I'll be going to see them play Luton in November.

Alongside the Wombles though, we'll be following the fortunes of Newport County this season. It's been great to see that name back near the Football League again. We used to swap fanzines with the Newport guys that did "Never Say Dai" back in the day and we've had a soft spot for them since.

We'll also keep an eye on Bath City with all those Charlie Fleming connections and following on from they're exciting promotion last season.

The Conference gets stronger every year but this year in particular it looks like being one of the best and most competitive ever. There are so many teams that could win it and challenge for the playoff spots. Apart from all the usual suspects, Crawley Town have been spending big for non league level and could provide and outside bet.

This increased strength of the League, year on year, will only increase pressure for more promotion and relegation spots between the Conference and League Two and rightly so. You just have to look at how well most of the teams that have gone up from non league in recent years have done.

There is certainly a split in the division though between those Clubs who can challenge for Football League status and those, especially the part time clubs, who just aim to live within their means but stay in the top flight and build on that.

It's criminal that with all the pish football we get served up on our TV, the Blue Square Premier is still without a television deal since the demise of Setanta Sports in the UK.

Outside of the top division, AFTN will be following the fortunes with interest of Kingstonian and Cray Wanderers in the Ryman Premier League and our good friends down at Durham City (who now find themselves back in the Northern Premier League Division One North) and Salisbury City, who were cruelly relegated two divisions to the Southern League Premier Division.

Cray Wanderers are celebrating their 150th anniversary this season and are the second oldest football club in the world. We'll be covering them later this week in the blog.

For those of you wanting to keep up to date with all things Non League then we highly recommend tuning in every Monday to the BBC's Non League Football Show podcast.

The first edition for the 2010/11 season was aired this evening and you can listen to it HERE.

It's going to be a fantastic season at all levels of non league football. Don't miss out on where the real action is!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Scottish Second Division got underway with a burst of goals yesterday afternoon and some surprising results.

23 goals in the five matches, including two 3-3 draws, has left AFTN favourites for relegation Forfar sitting top of the table as the first leaders of the season, closely followed by our other tip to fill the bottom two spots, Stenhousemuir, in second. I'm sure it won't be looking like that for long!

East Fife's defensive frailities were exposed by visiting Airdrie United in one of the exciting 3-3 draws, which also showcased our exciting attacking options for this season.

As we've already said from the pre-season and Cup matches, if we can only tighten up the back, even just by a little, then we could have an exciting season on our hands at Bayview. The Kevin Keegan ethos of just scoring one more than the opposition is just what we need right now. I don't care if we have 6-5 games, so long as it's us getting the six!

If we don't do this then we could really be on the wrong end of some hammerings this term.

Stevie Hislop opened the scoring for East Fife on his competitive debut after 30 minutes. Lloyd Young netted on 52 minutes after Scott Gemmill had tied things up for Airdrie two minutes earlier, and then when Bobby Linn got his weekly goal a minute before the hour mark, East Fife should have been coasting at 3-1 and easily seen the game out.

Airdrie's fighting qualities and some pretty bad defending on the Fife's part saw the game level again just eleven minutes later. Poor stuff, but it could have been a lot worse had Gemmill's spot kick just before half time not been saved by East Fife goalie Stewart Baillie.

So a point apiece it finished, but not before David Muir saw a straight red for a last man challenge deep into stoppage time.

The draw has left East Fife in joint fourth spot. Woo, playoffs!

It wasn't just the Second Division for thrills though on Saturday. The Third Division produced 23 goals as well, including a tremendous 5-3 win for Arbroath at Elgin.

Sadly the First Division looks like it won't be as gung ho and will be a more cagey affair, with only 8 goals but some good games by all accounts.

It's always hard to judge from the opening fixtures. So many teams over the years get off to a cracker and then fall away, as we've been guilty off ourselves on more occasions than I care to remember.

If the first round of games is anything to go by however, then we should have a great feast of entertainment on offer in the Scottish lower leagues this season and that's just what the game needs at this point in time.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

With a week to go until the English Premiership kicks off in earnest, it's time to put your footballing expert skills to the test and get your team entered into AFTN's Private League in Sky Sports' Premiership Fantasy Football League.

We had 38 entries in last season's competition, with Pingpong's East Fife 1938 side, just pipping East Fife Assistant Manager Jason Dair's Dan United to the title by ten points.

Our World Cup League had 45 people taking part and saw Colin Mercer's League of Extraordinary Genitals taking the title by two points in a hard fought battle with Mark Dowie's Little O.

So who will reign supreme come May next year? Well you have to be in it to win it and here's how you can...

Go to the Sky Sports Fantasy Football Homepage and register your details. Even if you took part last year, you need to re-register. You need to use a UK address to register.

Once in, select your team, then click PRIVATE LEAGUES.

To join the AFTN League you need to enter the PIN 20187.

When we first ran a league like this we got well over 100 people taking part, so let's try and get those numbers back up again. Entry to the AFTN League is open to everyone, no mater what team you support or where you are in the world, so get your team picked today!

We'll have a cut off date of the end of September for accepting new teams in to the League, depending on their current points total when applying.

Good luck to everyone!

Friday, August 6, 2010

With all the friendlies and early Cup games out of the way, we can now finally start to turn our attention to the real meat of the season. The League campaigns kick off in all four Scottish divisions tomorrow and it's important to many teams to get off to a good start, East Fife amongst them after last week's bad defeat to Raith in the League Cup.

East Fife entertain Clydebank at Bayview to kick off their league season, but how do we think they'll fare and how do we see the whole Second Division panning out?

Undeterred by the miserable failure of last season's predictions we're going to have another go!

The only league position we got right last season was Stenhousemuir in 8th. Hell, we didn't even guess any of the promotion, playoff or relegation teams correctly! This year will be different though. Mark my words!!!

This season I see it as a two horse race between BRECHIN CITY and newly promoted club killers and financial blunderballs LIVINGSTON. Most seem to be going for Livi to do back to back Championships, but I really don't see them getting it all their own way this year and am going for the Glebe Parkers to do the business if they can keep their best players healthy.

Newly relegated AYR UNITED should push both team hard for a spell, but I can see them falling off a little as the season nears an end, finishing in third spot, with PETERHEAD, a Jekyll and Hyde team if ever there was one, securing that final playoff spot. On their day they can be the best in the League. They just can't seem to keep that going in sustained bursts.

My heart tells me to back EAST FIFE to finish in at least a playoff spot. My ten quid each way bet at the bookies also seems to indicate this feeling. Going with my head though, I feel our defence is our weak spot by a long way and that we also don't have the strength in depth to keep a challenge going for the whole season.

For those reasons, I see us finishing 5th but having a much better playing style and record than last season.

Who knows what CLYDEBANK side we'll see this season. I don't think even they know what lies ahead. They're used to the promotion and relegation dramas but I think they'll sit out on all that this time round. They'll be close to us but will finish just shy of our points and just above ALLOA ATHLETIC, who I think punched above their weight last year and will be found out this time around.

DUMBARTON are going to have one of those hellish seasons where they'll never be that close to being dragged into a relegation battle but won't be anywhere near doing anything else either. STENHOUSEMUIR will continue their form from last year, but they should do just enough to see of promotion play-off winners FORFAR ATHLETIC.

So here's the official AFTN final table prediction for 2010/11:

(1) Brechin City
(2) Livingston
(3) Ayr United
(4) Peterhead
(5) East Fife
(6) Airdrie United
(7) Alloa Athletic
(8) Dumbarton
(9) Stenhousemuir
(10) Forfar Athletic


Think that's bollocks? Then leave your own predictions in the comments below or in the thread on the AFTN FORUM.

I hope I'm wrong about the Fife if nothing else and will be collecting some winnings from the bookies come next May.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I don't know exactly when it was that I fell out of love with the UEFA Cup. It was certainly well before all the Europa League nonsense. It may have been when the competition added the group stages and became the 'losers cup' by admitting all the Champions League failures.

The UEFA Cup was once a glorious competition, in that it gave smaller clubs and their fans the chance of a European adventure. As much as we hate to admit it, you have to envy the Raith Rovers fans that got to see their club play in the Faroes, Iceland and Germany. You can only sit back and wonder "what if", had the competition existed immediately after the war and East Fife's three League Cup triumphs had seen us take part.

Apart from watching some of Fulham's magical exploits in the latter stages of last season's tournament, I had no interest in catching any of the action, although actually finding it to watch on my TV over here was hard enough due to a bizarre rights deal.

The Europa League, as it stands now, completely devalues the legacy of a competition once held with much esteem. I have a mate who is an avid Ipswich Town fan. Try telling him that his team's 1981 final victory wasn't a major win in an important competition.

Nowadays, like so many things, the competition is all about money and the bigger clubs. Putting in the Champions League third place group teams was the start of the slippery slope, but now that Celtic can crash out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, but still get the chance of European competition in the Europa League is just farcical.

Why don't UEFA just come out and say, look lads, we only want the top teams showcased to the rest of the world, so why don't the rest of you just piss off.

That would then allow all these top teams to piss all over the UEFA Cup's heritage by finding it a pain in the ass and fielding weaker sides so they can get knocked out anyway. Seriously, what is the point in these teams taking part when it's a chore to them?

As soon as the competition added in group stages, you knew it wasn't about the football or the fans any more.

But it doesn't have to be this way. UEFA can instill importance and excitement back into the tournament in one fell swoop. All they need to do is return it to the knockout format that it used to be and should still be.

At a bit of a loose end this evening and craving a football fix, I thought I'd have a scout around and see what action I could find online, knowing it was the Europa League Qualifying Round.

With Motherwell coasting early doors and Hibernian continuing Scotland's inglorious European failures, it was time to find a tie that could at least provide some entertainment. Step forward Montpellier Hérault Sport Club of France taking on Hungarian side Győri Egyetértés Torna Osztály Football Club.

Apart from being a mouthful of a tie, it was two sides that clearly wanted to continue their participation in the competition.

I'd been following Montpellier a little last term as the underdogs done good. Promoted from the French second division in 2008/09, they took Ligue 1 by storm last season and were a breath of fresh air to the dire state that much of French football was in. They challenged for the top spot for a lot of the season, sitting in second and a Champions League berth, before slipping down to fifth and a place in the Europa League. They also have a charismatic owner who prefers to sit on the bench as opposed to taking his place in the corporate boardroom.

Taking the pitch this evening in their blue and orange home strip (think Queens Park away last season but with orange shorts), it was hard not to root for them, looking as they did like giant, walking Irn Bru bottles.

They'd won the first leg 1-0 in Hungary so were favourites to progress at home until Croatian defender Valentin Babic fired the visitors level five minutes before half time. Tied 1-1 on aggregate and with no further goals in the second half or in extra time, penalty kicks ensued and the Hungarians went through 4-3, sending the small band of Gyori ETO fans behind the goal into raptures.

That's excitement. That's entertainment. That's what the Europa League should be about and that's what knockout ties create. So c'mon UEFA, fix this mess, stop treating the competition as a test ground and losers playground and get some excitement back in to it before it's too late and you kill off all enthusiasm for it all together.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Ok, so who had less than a month in the sweep?

Say what you want about Newcastle United fans, but you certainly can't say they're not passionate about their Club. You also don't want to get on their wrong side - especially if you actually play for them.

Sol Campbell's outburst on ESPN'sSoccernet, after Toon fans had christened him "fat belly", is bizarre to say the least.

It stems from a photo showing Sol in a less than flattering light and a more than fattening belly in pre-season training, raising immediate concerns about his fitness levels for a new Premiership campaign.

He labelled the abuse "pathetic" and added that he had just got married and been on honeymoon, offering that as an excuse. Hmm, you don;t have a gut like that from just being on honeymoon! Surely a professional footballer at the top level should never let himself have a big belly like that showing (Gazza excepted).

Hopefully we're not going to see Stevie Hislop come back in a less than svelte figure for the Fife against Clydebank on Saturday.

Maybe this bellygate saga shows Celtic had a lucky escape in not signing him, although, judging by their own defensive woes so far this season, maybe beggars shouldn't be choosers in that regard.

If Campbell doesn't get into shape quick and helps Newcastle in what is going to be a tough season back in the top flight for them, then the Toon fans aren't likely to get off his back any time soon and once that happens his days at the club will surely be numbered.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

It's not exactly a secret that team's replica kits are grossly overpriced in the opinion of most fans. This doesn't stop most of us buying them however, so why should the clubs reduce the prices in such an instance?!

The other big boom around strips of course is that of having your favourite players name on the back of your shirt.

It's not a fashion I've ever followed. Well, when you support a club like East Fife it would be just sheer folly with the turnstiles we seem to have operating at the club's front door most seasons.

Players loyalties aren't exactly something to be trusted at pretty much every side. Someone comes in offering them more money and away they go, leaving their name emblazoned on what has now become an out of date jersey sitting in your wardrobe.

It's even worse of course, if the player you chose to show your public support for then buggers off to one of your rivals. At least you have something to burn.

The only thing I've ever contemplated having on my shirt is AFTN and a big number one on the back. Hey, I'll take any publicity I can!

In Vancouver, we decided to get our forum names on the back of our shirts, as the Whitecaps offer a good personalisation service. I never actually got round to buying one of the new replica shirts yet as the Club prepare to move into MLS and should thus have a sale! Ah, you can take the man out of Scotland...

For the last couple of years, Sporting iD, a company who produce heat transfers for licensed players' names, numbers and badges, have produced a top ten list of the most popular players to have their names featured on replica Premier League shirts worldwide.

Cristiano Ronaldo won the 2007/08 poll, although there is no data as to whether this also included people who just had the word "cunt" put on a Manchester United shirt. Fernando Torres won the 2008/09 poll and repeated his triumph last season. It's nice to see that he can win something during his time at Liverpool.

The full top ten for 2009/10 is:

01. Fernando Torres (Liverpool)
02. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
03. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
04. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal)
05. Andre Arshavin (Arsenal)
06. Frank Lampard (Chelsea)
07. Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
08. Michael Owen (a subs bench near you)
09. Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
10. Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)

So some interesting things there. Liverpool fans seem to like buying most strips with names on them it would seem, with three players in the top ten. Man City fans not so much. Well it must be hard enough working out who's going to get a game for them every week never mind anything else.

Michael Owen at number 8 is a shocker. Was that just so Man U fans could piss off the Liverpool fans?

No bigger shock to me though than Jamie Carragher at number 9. I mean, WTF. So you're watching a team, mediocre at best admittedly last season, and you think, you know what, out of all those players out there I'd like to have a useless twat on my back for the season. Weird, unless there's some weird cults that worship him in some far flung places across the world.

Proof indeed that a fool and his money are soon parted. No wonder prices don't come down!

Monday, August 2, 2010

For the last few seasons the Scottish Football League have lagged behind many other leagues in the UK, Europe and across the world when it comes to showcasing their product to a global online audience.

The clubs themselves in the bottom three Scottish Leagues have had to lead the way, with many of them doing excellent jobs on their own tv channels on their websites.

Whereas you could watch round ups of games in things like the Unibond League, if you wanted to find Scottish lower league highlights online, you had to scavenge around. There was no one stop shop and not all clubs were on board.

East Fife had been slow to join the party, primarily due to the incapabilities of their official website, but they got their highlights packages underway last season and this year, under the excellent stewardship of Graeme MacKay they are producing some good highlights for fans the world over. Great stuff.

Even better news though is the launch of SFL TV this season, with the Scottish Football League finally joining the 21st century and having highlights packages of all three of their competitions, along with a "Classic" TV channel of some previous League Cup Finals.

I don't know how long the SFL having been using the tagline "Home of REAL Football" but I love it! We've known that's the truth in Scotland for years now and they can finally showcase this fact to a wider audience. After all, everyone knows that the better football in England is to be found in the Championship and not the Premiership. People should know it's the same in Scotland.

SFL TV kicked off last week with a fantastic 21 minute highlights reel of the First Round Alba Challenge Cup matches.

East Fife's 4-3 extra time victory over Brechin City was conspicuous by it's absence, but fear not, this was just due to a mix up over the format the highlights had to be in and future Fife games will be appearing, sadly starting with last Saturday humiliation at Starks Park in the League Cup. You can still see these highlights HERE on the East Fife site itself though.

The SFL highlights packages won't be up until Thursday/Friday each week, as the individual clubs will hold their rights to the footage until the Thursday after the game, so the first place to look for all the action is the official website of each club.

The other good news for this season is that the SFL have allowed to clubs to show 5 minutes of footage on their sites, up from the three minutes of previous seasons. Any clubs wanting to show more than 5 minutes of highlights have to pay the SFL a fee to do so, which just seems plain crazy to me.

Another thing that seems nuts is that the SFL would charge clubs a fee if they want to make up a compilation dvd at the end of the season. This fee could be over £1000. East Fife Supporters Trust director Eugene Clarke has taken this matter up with David Longmuir of the SFL and we await developments with this regard.

So all positive developments, especially for an exile like myself. I would like to see SFL TV develop even further though over the next few seasons.

Having been following the USL/NASL in North America in recent seasons, the online coverage they give their fans is fantastic. You can watch every game in USSF D2 live or on demand, as well as a highlights package.

Well, fantastic in theory, the delivery has been shoddy at times to say the least, with streams you can't watch for size, sound or buffering reasons. Still, it's free, so you can't complain too much. We do though!

I would love a time when you can watch the SFL game of your choice live online. For a fee obviously, with the Clubs benefitting from any lost revenue. The difference of course between watching games in North America and Scotland is that in the former, it's a bugger to get to ANY away games depending on where your team plays, so this makes a lot more sense.

Even if the game were available in full 24 hours later, that would be great and if they're worried about attendance issues, they could block UK IPs and just have it for those overseas! A pipe dream obviously, but still...

Baby steps though. The SFL should be congratulated for this move. SFL TV is going to be a fantastic showcase for member clubs. I'm looking forward to the season ahead. let's just hope East Fife have more highlights than lowlights in there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Whenever I hear or see women's football mentioned I automatically think back to Tim Lovejoy's days on Soccer AM and his assertion that he'd rather watch monkey tennis.

It's a line I've found myself using a lot recently, as women's football bizarrely has a bit of a following in North America amongst the soccer mums, families and those that really should know better.

Last night, Vancouver Whitecaps ladies team were in the USL W-League Championship final match against Buffalo Flash. The game was on TV and as there wasn't a lot else on, I thought I may as well sit down and cheer on an apsect of my club as they attempted to bring the trophy they last won in 2006 back to Canada.

Fuck me though. That was hard to watch.

I tried to watch subjectively. Take it for what it was - ie not proper football. Cheer on the Whitecaps. But I couldn't help but laugh at some of the "skill" on display and ended up just trying to work out which girls were most attractive. Sadly for me, Buffalo just edged it, as they did the match 3-1. Shocking I know, but you had to see it. Even my wife was laughing at it and she has no interest in football in the first place. She was the one that came out and said that women shouldn't be playing football!

The USL W-League is the second highest tier of women's football in North America, WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) being the highest. So these are the two best teams of the second best league on display, two unbeaten teams, and it was woeful stuff.

There was the odd glimmer of skill, but even after you got over the fact that most of them looked really funny when they ran, it was more often a case of punt and rush, toepokes, misplaced passes and clumsyness.

That said, they could probably have beat East Fife yesterday if the accounts of our first half performance are anything to go by!

The sport draws not bad crowds in North America though. The Whitecaps team averaged 1513 fans for their five home games, with a high of 2247. They drew 1712 to their Western Conference Championship game. All crowds that would put many Scottish football clubs to shame.

It's just hard to take them seriously when you have clubs with names like Hudson Valley Quickstrike Lady Blues, Hampton Roads Piranhas and my particular favourite, Kalamazoo Outrage, which to me just sounds like a bunch of angry lesbians, whilst Ottawa Fury sounds like a team on their periods the whole time. Sadly Buffalo Flash didn't live up to their name and there were no flashes of skin on display. Or skill for that matter.

I don't get it. Many don't get it. But those that do love the women's game, love it with a passion and the most famous set of supporters of the game in North America is the Pali Blues' Tony Danza Army. Yup, you're right in thinking they're name after that talented actor that is Tony Danza of Taxi fame. And no, he has fuck all to do with the team.

Told you they're crazy over here! To be fair to the Tony Danza Army though, they do a fantastic job and show a passion and support for their team that is lacking at a lot of the male USL clubs.

I get free Whitecaps women's tickets in my proper Whitecaps season tickets package every year. I've yet to use one. One year I'm hoping for tickets to the monkey tennis.
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