Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The draw for the second round of the Scottish Cup was made today at the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park. The sixteen ties gives us the prospect of at least seven non league teams entering the hat for the Third Round draw, when East Fife will enter this year's competition.

My tie of the round is the potential cracker between Bo'ness United and Queens Park. I fancy the Junior side to spring a wee shock there against the Spiders.

There's the possibility that 14 non league teams could be awaiting East Fife, with only two all Third Division ties coming out of the hat.

With that in mind, coupled with the fact that I'll be taking in the Fife's Third Round match on November 20th, here's hoping for a cracking away day and not the winner of Montrose v Arbroath, a trip to Forfar or a home tie.

So what would be our dream trip here at AFTN come November?

If Wick Academy can overcome Whitehill Welfare then a trip to the far north would be a fantastic weekend away. Myself and SoC spent some fun times there for a pre season friendly many moons ago

Of course a trip to any of the Highland League sides would be nice, especially the ones we've not been to before like Deveronvale, Inverurie or Golspie Sutherland. In fact, forget Wick. Golspie are my new choice!

If we can't get any of them, then a trip to something "exotic" like Aberdeen Junior side Sunnybank would be interesting. Or the chance to travel to pastures new in St Cuthbert Wanderers or Wigtown and Bladnoch would be equally as fantastic.

I'm getting quite excited at the thought. Let's hope I'm not cursing the draw in a few weeks time! Please, on this rarity of occasions, give us a cracker.

The full second round draw is:

Deveronvale or Inverurie Loco Works v Dalbeattie Star
Forres Mechanics v East Stirlingshire
Newton Stewart or Preston Athletic v Annan Athletic
Clyde v Berwick Rangers
Wigtown & Bladnoch v Buckie Thistle
Beith v Glasgow University
Rothes or Nairn County v Cove Rangers
Keith v Spartans
Stranraer v Fraserburgh or St Cuthbert Wanderers
Bo'ness United v Queen's Park
Whitehill Welfare v Wick Academy
Golspie Sutherland or Fort William v Huntly or Girvan
Montrose v Arbroath
Edinburgh City v Threave Rovers
Albion Rovers v Sunnybank
Elgin City v Edinburgh University or Brora Rangers

(Ties are to be played on Saturday October 23rd).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I spent a very pleasant few hours yesterday indulging myself in my non league football obsession.

First up was the live game between York City and Darlington in the Blue Square Premier. Not a classic, but it was football to watch! I watched the second half with the sound down so that I could catch the latest episode of the Non League Football Show live.

Towards the end of that though I made the switch to live internet radio commentary of the FA Cup Second Qualifying Round replay at Kingsmeadow between Kingstonian and Margate, which had gone in to extra time tied at one apiece.

What a great decision that proved to be and yes, you could say I could do with getting out more!!

We've taken an interest in Kingstonian for a wee while now at AFTN and plan to take in one of their matches in November on our footballing travels we have planned.

Their game last night went to penalties and what an exciting shoot out that was to listen to. The first five penalties were scored, the next five missed, Kingstonian went through 3-2 and then there was a rammy in the middle to round things off! Great stuff.

What was also great stuff was the actual commentary itself. I'd gone on to the Kingstonian official website in what I'd thought would be the faint hope of finding some kind of audio commentary. They had live text but no audio as I thought. I then thought I'd check out the official Margate website and success!

Margate have a tremendous set up. They have Gate Radio, which is Margate FC's own official internet based radio station. Available exclusively via the club's official website, they aim to bring supporters full match commentary from all Margate's home games and selected away games, where facilities allow. The commentary from each live game is recorded and made available via the website for supporters to listen to on demand. They also provide post match reaction through interviews with management and players and other news from club officials.

It's cracking stuff from the Ryman Premier League side, especially when you consider that they have home crowds of around the three or four hundred most weeks, so they're not catering to the masses. The commentator is also very enjoyable to listen to, unlike some we have to endure on our televisions each week.

The whole thing got me thinking about how great it would be for us exiles, and those closer to home that can't make the games, if East Fife had something similar.

We finally got East Fife TV up and running last season and this term that has gone from strength to strength and has been fantastic so far.

If we could take this further and offer live radio commentary of our home and away games (assuming that the SFL's archaic legislation allows for such a thing), then I would be in heaven, as would many others.

Obviously a lot hinges on someone wanting to volunteer to doing this and for us to be allowed to do it, but it's an exciting prospect, to me at least!

Whether this is something that the Trust can look in to in association with the local colleges, I don't know, but as a member I'll be raising the idea to find out.

If a Club the size of Margate can have such a fantastic set up, then hopefully we can do the same. Who knows, it may give us a whole host of new, far flung fans from around the world cheering on the mighty Black and Gold.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It doesn't take a lot to tickle my funny bone at times. Watching tonight's Blue Square Premier game between York City and Darlington provided me with much amusement every time York's Michael Gash was announced on the ball.

What a fantastic name to have for opposition fans and aptly, his performance this evening was as gash as his name suggested.

Now for those reading this, especially those outside of the UK, who don't know what's funny about this, well the word gash has two slang meanings. It can mean being rubbish ("he's playing gash tonight") and it can also mean a woman's vagina ("she had a smelly gash").

For a footballer to have the name Gash is getting right up there with Celtic's Brazilian flop Rafael Scheidt.

It's just the kind of name that is prime for ripping the piss out of for ninety minutes. As I said, simple things for simple mind and add to that the fact that it wasn't the most exciting game in the world to watch!

Anyway it gave us the idea to come up with a team of hilarious names for one of our Friday Fun posts, so let us know your nominations for the team in the comments section below.

I think we'll be hard pressed though to beat my all time favourite player that I've gotten to shout abuse at in person. Step forward Minnesota Stars forward Devin Del Do.

The poor bastard certainly gave us some of the chants of the season in the Vancouver Whitecaps Southside.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Was listening to Off The Ball on iPlayer during the week and they were talking about this McGlashan sketch from the wonderful old Channel 4 show Absolutely. It features the character McGlashan, the anti English Scottish nationalist, and his views on England's easy draws in World Cup group.

I checked out some of the other stuff again on You Tube. Forgot how funny this show was. Must get some of the DVDs. Enjoy:

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Premier Sports television deal to air the Blue Square Premier is now well under way.

There's been four live games so far and it's been pretty enjoyable stuff for a fan of the non league scene like myself. Also, as a Dons fan and Trust member, it's been great to see two AFC Wimbledon games live, including tonight's cracker at home to big spenders Crawley Town.

The deal hasn't been without it's teething problems. There's been a number of fans upset at a multitude of things including the choice of games and teams shown, the fact that the channel is only available on the Sky platform, but mostly because of the short notice at moving games to midweek nights, disrupting many pre booked travel plans.

Wimbledon were fantastic in putting on free coaches to Luton for their rearranged game last Friday. Fans of other clubs haven't been so lucky. With the late signing of the deal, this disruption has been pretty much unavoidable and with the announcement of the schedule up to the end of 2010 now, hopefully fans can now get their travel all booked up in advance to secure the best deals.

I was pleased that they didn't move the Wimbledon-Luton game at Kingsmeadow on November 30th, as I'd booked part of my trip home around that game and couldn't have made any rearranged date.

For the hardcore fans that have found themselves out of pocket, they are rightly pissed off and it's hard for them to see exactly how much the League will benefit from the exposure. It's great for exiles like myself, but we're not the ones that should really matter at the end of the day.

Tonight's game was great entertainment in the second half, with Wimbledon pressing hard to overturn a 1-0 half time deficit. I took the day off work to watch it and was jumping around my living room at the two late goals that saw Wimbledon take the three points and jump back to the top of the Blue Square Premier table.

The win knocked Crawley off the top and thankfully so. They have adopted an "everyone hates us attitude" this season and they're right to do so, as everyone does. It's not even just the big bucks they're spending. Their management team and fans are a pretty obnoxious bunch. It would be delightful to see them fail this season.

It's maybe not as slick football as you'll find in the Premier, but it's great to see it back on our television screens. The deal and the channel may still have some kinks to iron out but their gameday coverage has been on the whole excellent.

As a lower level football fan, give me this any day over the Champions League.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The 8th Homeless Football World Cup kicked off in Rio de Janeiro yesterday and Scotland have made a tremendous unbeaten start to the competition, beating Hungary 9-7 on Sunday and Namibia 8-2 and the Netherlands 7-5 today.

The competition is partly the brainchild of one of the founders of the Big Issue in Scotland, Mel Young, and the first tournament was held in 2003 in Graz, Austria and was won by the hosts.

Scotland's record in the World Cup ain't too shabby, winning the 2007 event in Copenhagen, Denmark and also notching three fourth place finishes, along with hosting the 2005 tournament in Edinburgh.

Hopes are high for the team in this year's tournament and they've made the perfect start so far.

It's a great tournament and has really made a difference to the players who have taken part in it over the years.

After the inaugural tournament in 2003, 31 of the 141 players who had taken part were in regular employment and off the streets one year later.

Following the event in Edinburgh in 2005, it's been recorded that 77% of the players involved "significantly changed their lives forever moving into jobs, education and training, coming off drugs and alcohol, finding homes and renewing relationships with their families". A fantastic figure.

Homelessness is a problem that blights so many of the big cities around the world today. I see it first hand every day in my own city and with my line of work. The tournament was originally conceived as a way to have a way of uniting people from different cultures and to actively encourage them to work together and make a difference. Nothing does that better than football. It's the world's game and the world's unifier.

To be eligible for the Homeless World Cup you need to be over 16; have been homeless at some point after the previous year's World Cup; or make your main living income as a streetpaper vendor; or be an asylum seekers who desn't have have positive asylum status or a work permit.

Matches are played on a court, street soccer style, and are 4 a side, including a goalie, with rolling subs and two seven minute halves.

The 2010 tournament runs from September 19th to 26th and features 43 national mens teams split into 8 groups (and 12 womens teams split into two groups). The Scots are in Group H and will complete their group games against Belgium tomorrow.

You can follow all the action, including some videos of the games, on the official Homeless World Cup website.

So head along there and give the lads your support and hopefully bring a second World Cup trophy back to Scotland.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last season saw East Fife derailed by inconsistancy and conceding what seemed at times like a constant stream of late goals.

Six games into the 2010/11 campaign and it seems that old habits really do die hard, although on this occasion some horrific officiating played a huge hand in proceedings to create one of those games that will pop up in Fife quiz questions for future generations.

Defeat to a stoppage time goal for the second week on the trot was hard enough to take in itself. To lose 3-2 to a hat trick of penalties from Ayr United's Mark Roberts though was another matter entirely.

The game, which saw four penalties awarded, two red cards shown and five bookings, was described by the BBC match report as being an "ill-tempered game", but this couldn't have been further from the truth.

There was hardly a bad tackle in it and both sides were punished from some really poor officiating.

Ayr took the lead in the 13th minute when a penalty was awarded for a very dubious shirt pull in the box. This was cancelled out by East Fife's own penalty award on the day after Lloyd Young was fouled three times in the box. Only one penalty could be given and Robert Sloan duly dispatched the equaliser on 27 minutes.

This spurred on the Fife and they had their best spell of the game, justly taking the lead when Kurtis Byrne netted from close range.

The turning point came a minute before the break when Bobby Linn was adjudged to be the last man when he brought down an Ayr player in the box. What the hell he was doing back there as the last man and not a defender is another argument. The Boaby saw red and Ayr saw level terms when Roberts converted penalty number two.

The Fife's brave second half rear guard action looked to have secured a well deserved and confidence boosting point before referee McDermott wanted to hog the after match talking points (for that read strong abuse from the Fife faithful) and awarded Ayr their third penalty of the afternoon in the final seconds or regulation time.

The award was another strange one after Jonny Smart appeared to clear the ball cleanly whilst under pressure from Roberts. With no-one appealing for anything the ref pointed to the spot and Roberts hit home his hat-trick.

You would think he would have been happy with that but he then went on to prove that he is in fact a complete dickhead. Looking to timewaste and take the ball, the Fife's Stuart Cargill had other ideas. Roberts then aimed a kick and punch at the Fife player and saw red for violent conduct. What a fucking fud.

The final whistle came to a chorus of boos and East Fife fans struggled to comprehend what the hell had just happened out there.

The thing is, East Fife didn't actually play all that badly. They were outplayed in the second due to Ayr's numerical advantage but they had held their own in the first 45. To hold out for pretty much the whole second half with ten men, and under constant Ayr pressure, was a big boost for the defence that has looked shaky at times.

Some players now seem to have been posted missing and the gaffer leaving himself out of the team seesm to be having a detrimental effect. It shouldn't considering his age and that of those that should be capable of filling his void, but that is becoming more evident with each game.

Still 30 games to go, so no major panic stations yet. Considering league leaders Livingston are next and their reserve side just destroyed a strong Fife reserve side 7-0 midweek, coupled with our poor away form, next weekend could very well end up being a horror show.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: East Fife 1 - 0 Ayr United (Ayr win 3-1 on penalties)

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, S Campbell, Murdoch, Durie, Johnstone (Deland 78), Young, Sloan, Byrne (Cargill 81), Hislop (Smart 60), Linn [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Tansey]

ATT: 664

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I've always known my life revolved around football. I've always known it took up a lot of my days, but since leaving Scotland it's become even more so!

I was amazed when I first moved to pastures new that there was more live football on my TV screen than I got in the UK. So many games, so many Leagues from around the world, so little time.

This season I just seem to have immersed myself in football more than ever before and even trying to keep this daily blog up to date has sometimes proved a struggle.

There's been all the live Premiership and Football League games in glorious HD on my TV. Add to this Champions League, Cup games, MLS, highlights shows and finding time for much else, like work and a wife, can prove difficult!

The fantastic new SFL highlights package and East Fife TV has to be included as well.

Then we have catching up with downloads of Match of the Day, the Football League Show, Soccer AM, Sportscene and radio shows like Off The Ball, The Danny Baker Show and The Non League Football Show.

I've had to drop some things like Goals on Sunday, to make room for Premier Sports new Blue Sqaure Premier coverage. I'm not getting time to write as much for the East Fife programme either unfortunately.

Then there's actually going to watch live games as well, doing a second blog for a supporters group and acting a Director of Communications for their committee.


So apologies if this daily football blog sometimes misses the odd day here and there as has happened a couple of times this year.

It's either that, become unemployed or divorce!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I've become quite obsessed with non league football the last few years, as regular readers of this blog will know!

It's been scary to see how many Clubs in the lower end of the football pyramid go out of business, whereas the big ones in the football league get reprieve after reprieve.

Whether the courts would like to wind up all of them but know there would be outrage with clubs with a lot of fans like Portsmouth or Crystal Palace, I don't know, but the smaller ones certainly don't seem to get the same chance to sort things out as others.

Probably all just perception of course because we don't know all of the financial ins and outs of every club. There is also the fact that bigger clubs, with a larger fanbase and more income coming through the turnstiles every week, may have a better chance of turning things around and at least finding a new buyer.

Whatever is behind it all, it's the fans of the non league teams that suffer greatly at the end of the day.

Blue Square North side Ilkeston Town joined the list of sides being wound up last week when, after a two minute hearing, the court registrar said she felt the Club was "plainly insolvent" and the final compulsory winding up order was issued.

With all the debts being occurred by football clubs in recent years, it's understandable that patience will run out from the courts and HMRC (who are usually the main creditor and as we've said before why do so many Clubs let this known expense go unpaid?). When you find out that Ilkeston Town were wound up for a debt of just £50,000, it's even more shocking and a huge warning to others.

Ilkeston had just sold a player for £20,000 and were planning on using that towards the bill, with the rest being paid off at £1000 per month, but HMRC pushed on with the order.

Seeing that the day before Sheffield Wednesday managed to avoid being wound up, despite having an unpaid tax bill of a staggering £1.1 million, then something just seems plain wrong.

As we said earlier, we haven't seen all the books of Ilkeston Town, so a lot is unknown, but from face value, it certainly does seem to be one rule for the big boys and one for the rest.

Fans of Ilkeston Town hope to relaunch the Club further down the pyramid. Good luck to them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I knew it was too good to last. Exciting, attacking games in the Champions League.

What can you say about tonight's UEFA Champions League match up at Old Trafford between Manchester United and Rangers? Nothing very complimentary, that's for sure.

It's a good, and unexpected, point for the Scottish Champions but man oh man, that was a point won by anti-football. Not that Man United were very much better. They clearly underestimated how hard it would be to break down fortress orange.

You could argue that it's a damn site better than anything the end result other Scottish clubs have got from their European travels this season, but if that's the best that Scottish football can throw up then maybe we should just take a few years off and actually work on building the game back up to acceptable levels domestically first.

With the national team struggling to find their goalscoring touch in recent games, it would appear that a (for once) very Scottish Rangers side seem to have the same troubles.

Whatever happened to that good old fashioned Scottish striker from not even that so many years ago? You know the one. He could actually score goals.

Where are today's and the next generation's Ally McCoist, Charlie Nicholas, Steve Archibald, Joe Jordan? What are we doing wrong?

I honestly thought a couple of years ago that Kris Boyd would be that man, but I think his move to Middlesborough and his recent Scotland performances have found him out in that regard.

Let's just hope that somewhere out there, there's some 15 or 16 year olds that we don't know the name of yet that will drag us out of this depressing mire and move us forward. Scotland and Scottish clubs need proven goalscorers more than ever before.

I wonder if it's too late to try and get Super Ally back in shape?

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's been quite the week for late goals. Some good, some bad.

Scotland's 97th minute winner against Liechenstein saw us celebrate in the moment like we'd actually qualified for the Euro 2012 Finals.

Everton's two goal stoppage time fight back against Man United was some of the best five minutes of football you'll see in the Premiership this season, in terms of excitement.

Then we had East Fife's loss up at Forfar to a 94th minute goal, but the less we say about that again the better.

Lots of games worth staying till the end of, yet time and time again some fans decide to leave early and miss all the action.

It's just desserts for their lack of faith and funny as fuck when you hear their "sad" tales, but you have to ask the question why do so many fans bugger off early.

A good mate of mine missed Scotland's dramatic winner when he left Hampden in disgust. Fud! A lot of Everton fans left before injury time when their side was 3-1 down. Bigger fuds.

Why do that to yourself? Is it really that important to try and beat the crowds and the traffic out of the car park? Surely you knew the game was going to last till that particular time, so you shouldn't have anywhere else to go.

Sure occasionally you may have to be somewhere else unavoidably. The only two games I remember ever leaving early were hastily arranged midweek games that clashed with two concerts I had tickets for. Even then I stayed till as very late as I could and missed the start of the gigs.

I think some fans just get into that routine of 'must leave early to beat the traffic', especially fans at the top clubs.

Barring a pressing emergency though, how can any fan leave a match when it's delicately poised? It's baffling to me.

Maybe there should be a "full ninety minutes (plus stoppage time)" campaign to draw attention to their foolishness. I think Danny Baker's just the man for that one!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's not been a cracking week and a bit footballwise, so we thought we'd cheer you all up with some Sunday Fun and one of the most bizarre penalties you'll ever see.

The action comes from a penalty shoot-out in the Kings Cup between Maghreb Fez and FAR Rebat on September 9th:

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Saturday, another away match for the Fife, another goalfest and at the end of it all, another pointless exercise.

It all looked like being so different when Kurtis Byrne fired the Fife into a 14th minute lead and we went in at half time looking pretty comfortable.

What we didn't know at that point was that the turning point of the match happened at the 33 minute mark, when Stewart Murdoch was forced off injured and was replaced by John Ovenstone.

East Fife's defensive frailities have been there for all to see this season, but the signs have also been there that a Murdoch/Jonny Smart pairing at the back were starting to click and be a lot tighter.

Losing Murdoch seemed to send the defence into shambles mode and the man to exploit that was ex Fife hitman Chris Templeman.

As is so often the case with the Fife, a player who turned out to be useless for us, gets a new lease of life (and waistline by the looks of it) at another club and comes back to haunt us.

Temps did this in style with a second half hat trick, tieing the game up after 54 with his first, before volleying the home side into the lead with thirteen minutes to go.

When John Ovenstone headed the Fife back level with just four minutes to go, it looked like a fair share of the points would be the end result. That's even how some stations reported the final result!

Sadly for East Fife though, Temps wasn't finished yet and hit the Loons' winner with basically the last kick of the game, four minutes into stoppage time.

Another heartbreaking late loss that we saw so many of last season. Let's hope we're not going down that road again and let's hope we get the albatross of not getting anything away from home off our necks soon.

We're just going to have to accept that it's going to be a high scoring season for us at both ends. As someone joked on the forum, maybe we'll be the first team to both score and concede a hundred goals in a season. It's starting to look that way!

Back at fortress Bayview next week though. Let's hope for some more points from home and a bit more hunger and fight to boot as that was severely lacking in today's second half performance.

C'mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, Durie, Smart, Murdoch (Ovenstone 33), Young, Sloan, Johnstone (Tansey 79), Linn, Byrne, Hislop (S Campbell 82) [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Cargill]

ATT: 590

Friday, September 10, 2010

The way that recent tournament draws have gone, you could be forgiven for thinking that someone at UEFA really had it in for Scotland.

Whilst England always seem to get easy groups, the Scots have had it tough and usually against either World Cup winners, European Championship winners or both.

After the Under 21's fanastic victory over Austria on Tuesday evening, I wouldn't have been surprised to see Scotland drawn against Spain in the playoffs.

With Scotland in Pot A as a seeded team, the tantalising prospect of England was also there, but they got what is, on paper at least, a fairly easy tie against Romania.

Scotland were drawn fifth out of Pot A and placed second in the tie, meaning that they would be at home for the vital second leg of the playoff. Just what we could have wanted.

Of all the teams in Pot B, I would have loved us to get Belarus or Iceland. Belarus would have given us the possibility of one of those dreaded eastern European travel disasters right enough.

As it turned out, I think we got the best draw possible for us - Iceland!

With the first leg in chillsville and the return leg in Scotland, we have an excellent chance of qualifying for next year's Championship in Denmark.

The ties will be played between October 8th and 12th. Hopefully the lads get a huge turnout to cheer them on to that very rare thing in Scottish football these days - a spot in some finals.

Good luck guys. We're behind you all the way. Do us proud.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In amongst all the doom and gloom coming from Scotland's shocking performance against Liechenstein last night, let's hope that the brilliant performance from the Under 21's at Pittodrie is not lost in it all.

Going into the last group game of the UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifiers, Scotland knew that only a win against Austria would see them progress to the playoffs and when the visitors took the lead after just ten minutes, things looked bleak for Billy Stark's side.

However, in the other big Scottish fightback of the night, the young charges tied the game up on the half hour mark, before sending the 2,064 fans in attendance into raptures when Chris Maguire hit a 20 yard screamer into the top corner in the final minute.

It was a brave and spirited fightback and sees the Scots top the group and go into Friday's playoff draw as a seeded team. It also throws up the mouthwatering prospect of a two legged playoff against unseeded England next month.

Next year's Championship will be held in Denmark and it would be a huge boost for the Scottish game if the under 21 lads could make it to the finals.

Scottish football badly needs some good news story and hopefully the uner 21s can deliver and get the fans out in force to see it.

If the senior team continues to play the way they are, then perhaps Craig Levein should look at moving some of the younger guys into the senior mix. It might give some of our more established overpaid flops the kick up the arse they badly need.

Well done to all the under 21 guys. You did Scotland proud.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Principality of Liechenstein. Population 35,789. Fifa world football ranking 141. UEFA ranking 50 and one of the teams you could rightly regard as minnows in the world of football these days.

As we know, there are fewer and fewer of them these days - or so we keep being told by the media. It would appear that Scotland, 41st in the FIFA rankings and 23rd in UEFA, are doing their damndest to get down there amongst them.

There were 37,050 fans at Hampden Park tonight. More than the population of Liechenstein itself. I don't think any of them, not even the Liechenstein fans amongst them, expected the events that unfolded this evening to take place.

In the end, Scotland avoided what could easily have been classed as our most embarrassing ever result at international level, but they made hard work of it.

Forget Peru, Iran and Costa Rica. Those results would have been nothing compared to a loss, or even a draw, at home to the whipping boys of Liechenstein. At least those results happened in the World Cup where the sides had beat the best in front of them to be there in the first place.

Even that embarrassing 2-2 draw in the Faroes years ago would have been better than dropping points to Liechenstein. At least that was away from home.

When Stephen McManus brilliantly rose to head home the winner in the seventh minute of stoppage time, the relief around Hampden, and of Scottish fans the world over, was clear to see. A 2-1 win secured and Scotland amazingly top the group!

How did it even get to that stage?

The first half was dire. Scotland threatened little, Liechenstein grew in confidence and had chances as Scotland allowed them to break 3 on 3 at times. The best Scotland had to offer was a cleverly worked corner just before the break.

So scoreless at the half, but even as the team trooped off to more boos than Liechenstein's "God Save The Queen" soundalike national anthem received at the start, you felt it was just going to be a matter of time and if Scotland could break the deadlock early it would be a comfortable 3-0 or 4-0 victory.

Maybe in days of old when Scotland actually had a team and a home record that put the fear into the opposition. Not now.

Before many at Hampden were even seated for the second period, Liechenstein's 36 year old captain Mario Frick curled a beautiful goal from the edge of the box past Allan McGregor and into the top corner of the Scottish goal for a shock lead after 46 minutes.

Now, Liechtenstein have on occasions pulled off some shock results. A 2004 2-2 draw in a qualifier against Portugal is right up there when it comes to their best ever result, as is their 3-0 win over Iceland in 2007. Beating Scotland at Hampden would arguably go down as their best ever though.

The way the Scots were playing, it didn't look like we were going to have an easy route back and when Kenny Miller volleyed home after 63 minutes, it was almost unexpected.

As Liechenstein wasted time and fouled for their lives, Scotland just couldn't find a way through and Liechenstein had a few breaks and chances themselves to seal a shock win as we got a bit sloppy at the back.

The tackle on Alan Hutton near the end was a shocker though and he was lucky not to have a broken leg after that. No booking as the Ukranian ref lost complete control of the match.

With five minutes of stoppage time signalled, somehow the clueless ref found a couple more minutes on top and for that we can only be grateful, as McManus salvaged a small modicum of pride and kept our already faint hopes of Euro 2012 qualification alive.

What was most worrying about tonight performance, wasn't the result, wasn't that we let a minnow score on us and defended poorly. No, what is really frightening is that that was probably the best Scotland team that Craig Levein could have put out there tonight.

When you saw the starting line up there wouldn't have been many complaints. Very attack minded, with all the Tartan Army favourites there. That is the best it's going to get for Scotland right now and that performance was what we got from them.

So who was at fault? The players for not performing? The manager for not getting the best out of them? Although let's be honest here, the latter is a very poor argument. As much as I'm not a Craig Levein fan, he did nothing wrong. He put out his best team, who even if all eleven of them had off days, should have won this match comfortably. It was the players who let us down tonight. End of.

Maybe we really should just admit to ourselves that we are currently not good enough at international level and it's going to be years and take a complete overhaul of the game in Scotland to get back to an acceptable level again. A level that actually sees us qualify for tournaments once more.

We're well of that pace and an embarrassment to the legends of the past.

Of course, we'll go on now and beat Spain at Hampden next month. Aye, that'll be fucking right! They're going to destroy us.

Scotland. We love you so much. Why must you break our hearts so often abd what is it going to take to finally make the powers that be have a good, long hard look at themselves and the game in the country and make the changes that are needed?

If they don't, we're going to be minnows ourselves.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When the News of the World broke their cricket fixing scandal story last weekend, no-one immediately reading the allegations would have thought that it would have ended up causing chaos in football and in the Rymans League Premier Division.
Sadly for Croydon Athletic, their owner, Mazhar Majeed, is also an agent for some players on the Pakistan cricket team and has been arrested and bailed in connection with the claims and a subsequent investigation into money laundering at the football club has left Croydon Athletic in crisis.

Croydon are a relatively new club in footballing terms in their current form. Founded in 1986 when Wandsworth FC and Norwood FC merged, the club were known as Wandsworth and Norwood until they changed their name to Croydon Athletic in 1990 but their history can be traced back over 50 years with the original merged clubs.

After years of playing in the London Spartan League and the lower reaches of the Isthmian League, Majeed bought Croydon Athletic in 2008. At the time, and in the period following, it looked like a case of a benefactor with a love of the game buying into a small non league club but having lofty ambitions to take them to the top. That is after all, an element of the attraction of the non league pyramid for some.

Players were signed and rumours soon followed that top wages were being paid in a bid to take Croydon up the non league ladder. The Club won the Isthmian League Division One South last season by seven points over a Folkestone Invicta side that had had ten points deducted for going into insolvency and their goal difference of plus 53 led to high hopes for the side in this season' Rymans Isthmian League Premier.

The promotion of the club had attracted snipers that they'd only earned it through paying for it, but that undermined all the good work that manager Tim O'Shea and the players had put in to the campaign to deliver the title in a very competitive league.

The money laundering allegations though in the last week have plunged the Club into crisis and it is hard to see how they will be able to continue in their current form.

Wages have apparently not been paid in August and after Saturday's 3-1 defeat at home to Concord Rangers, manager Tim O'Shea and his assistant Neil Smith made an emotional farewell to the Croydon fans and left the Club, as apparently did the entire first team squad, although the latter has not been confirmed.

The video makes sad viewing whether you're a fan of Croydon Athletic or non league football in general.

The whole situation is an alarming warning to all non league and lower league clubs of the dangers involved with the wrong owners in place or relying too heavily on the funds of one man.

We all saw the highs and the lows at East Fife in the brief Willie Gray era at Bayview. A Championship win is fantastic but the aftermath of having to meet huge wage bills when Willie left could have crippled the club beyond repair. Thankfully we saw this through and have the great memories of that 2007/08 Championship winning season.

A completely different and more serious scenario at Croydon Athletic I know, but their fans don't look like they're going to have the same luxury and the Club have postponed their next two league fixtures and withdrawn from their FA Cup tie next Sunday against friends of AFTN, Kingstonian.

As a football club, Croydon had a great set up going, with a reserve team, juniors and an academy all going strong. It can only be hoped that something can be salvaged for the Club and the fans, even if that means starting afresh down the non league ladder.

It's looking bleak for them though but hopefully they can pull through.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

East Fife's dreams of a first national Cup competition semi final spot for 56 years were shattered at Palmerston today by a rampant Queen of the South side in today's Alba Challenge Cup Quarter Final.

The 5-0 scoreline flattered the First Division side, who were on the back foot for most of the first half but they grew in confidence after the first goal and there was no looking back after their second shortly after the start of the second half.

The Fife faithful had been dreaming of their first national semi final since the 1954 League Cup defeat to Motherwell thwarted their attempts to land an unprecedented fourth League Cup trophy win.

It was not to be though, but things could have been so different if East Fife had turned their early domination into a goal or two.

All that good early work counted for nothing though when Paul Burns hit home from close range after 32 minutes and when he added his, and Queens', second two minutes after half time things started to look bleak for the Fife.

When East Fife sub John Ovenstone headed into his own net for the home side's third, there was no way back.

Queens confidence grew and as they relaxed and knocked the ball around, Burns got his hat trick with another close range knock in with eleven minutes remaining.

The home side went nap in the final minute when Bob Harris scored from a free kick and although Fife goalie Michael Brown's positioning was questionable, it didn't really matter.

So a 5-0 final and what a difference a week makes after last Saturday's demolition of Peterhead at Bayview. Still, we're still leading 6-5 in the results for the past eight days.

Back to the bread and butter stuff next week, with a trip to Station Park to take on Forfar. Sure that matters a lot more, but a Cup semi final and possibly final would have been braw.

Although we shipped five today, the defence didn't look all that bad. Two thrashings to higher league opposition so far this season shows the gulf between the top First and the Second Division teams just now. We did beat Stirling though but they're shit and we were at home.

And there we seem to have our current problems in a nutshell. We can't seem to win away and are still looking for our first away win, or even point, this season. Hopefully that will change up at Forfar in a week's time.

Let's hope so. C'mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Brown, Muir, Smart, Murdoch, Durie, Linn, Byrne, Sloan (Cargill 74), Johnstone (Ovenstone 57), Hislop (Crawford 79), Young [Subs Not Used: Baillie, Deland]

ATT: 1,751

Friday, September 3, 2010

Scotland kicked off their Euro 2012 qualification campaign this evening with a nervy 90 minutes in Kaunas against Lithuania.

In a group where we're pitched in against World champions Spain, a second placed finish and a spot in the playoffs is the position that we realistically have to deliver. Anything less can only be viewed as a massive failure.

For Craig Levein, it was his first competitive statement of intent to the Scotland fans and the rest of the group as to what kind of Scotland team we are going to see under the new national team boss.

It would appear that apart from looking a bit better organised, not a lot has changed. The rest of the group aren't exactly going to be shaking in their boots.

The first half provided very few nerve jangling breaks from the home side, none more so than when David Weir was felled off the ball, allowing Saulius Mikoliunas to run on goal and force Allan McGregor into a sprawling save.

That was against the run of play though and the home side looked to pose little danger apart from on counter attacks, especially if Scotland over committed themselves forward as the match went on. Scotland were the far more dominant side and looking dangerous at spells, but ultimately lacking quality and decent support for Kenny Miller.

I can't really remember seeing a half of football when a team was happy enough to commit so many fouls and free kicks on the edge of their box, but that seemed to be Lithuania's tactics. Maybe they knew that the quality of Scotland's set pieces would be woefully poor.

If they could only have taken a couple of these chances, a more relaxed second half would have been in store. If ever there was a game when James McFadden, who was on the bench, could have had a stormer it was this.

So scoreless at the half and the fear was still there that this could be yet another diasterous start to a qualifying campaign. A draw wouldn't be the end of the world but would make things tougher than they needed to be. A defeat would be a killer blow right from the off and hard to recover from.

Scotland started the second half fantastically but again just seemed to lack that vital bit of quality that could turn the game. Lithuania started to come into the game more and were breaking quickly, especially on the left, but still happy to concede free kicks and swamp Scottish attackers en masse.

A few good chances for Scotland were ruefully missed, Kenny Miller missed a great one which he should have buried, and it was starting to look obvious that we were going to have another blank display when so much more was hoped for and expected.

And so it came to pass.

A point from the first away game, against a team very much there for the taking, isn't great. We can only hope that the Czechs stutter there as well and we dominate the qualifying campaign in our Hampden matches. It might not even matter. We're fighting for a playoff spot where every single point lost can be vital. That's two gone already, so even a second placed finish might mean nothing.

Plus points were the organisation and strength of the defence and some of the midfield work, but we so badly need some quality, especially in the striking department. An Ally McCoist style poacher who can pounce and bury the few chances that we get.

Our set piece work from free kicks and corners is shockingly bad for the international level.

It's hard to admit that we just don't have the quality in our squad currently. At least they can bounce back with a win on Tuesday against Liechenstein to hopefully bolster the confidence, especially of our strikers.

New boss, new regime, same old Scotland. Disappointing stuff.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fifa have thankfully stepped into the farce surrounding the possibility of Everton's Mikel Arteta playing for England.

The result being, er, no, of course the Spaniard isn't English FFS.

Things were bad enough when big Jack put together an Irish team full of English and Scots players through all that grandparent nonsense, but all of this citizenship stuff just makes a mockery of international football.

I know countries like France and Switzerland have benefitted for years from bizarre citizenship rules and even the German team at this year's work Cup was full of Polish and other nationalities, but just because other countries are doing this it doesn't make it right.

The Home Nation countries have this "gentleman's agreement" re eligibility that is behind the rest of the world. Sure we may be missing a trick here, but I'd rather have it that way.

As it stands just now, to qualify for Scotland (or England, Wales or Northern Ireland), a player must either have been born in the country, have a parent or grandparent born in the country or have spent five years in education in the country before the age of 18.

That's why there's so many English accents around the Scottish camp just now.

I'm perfectly fine with the parental part. I know that if I had a kid (please shoot me if I'm ever that fucking stupid btw!) and I still wasn't living in Scotland, I'd want him to play for Scotland and not any other country I was living in.

I can just about accept the grandparent rule because so many people find themselves having to move for work or a better life these day. The whole education thing is ridiculous though on the one hand but on the other, if a kid has come from a war torn country for example and found a better life in Scotland and is proud to pull on a Scottish jersey and play for the cause then that's good enough to me.

Having a grown man suddenly change his country's allegiance isn't acceptable though.

It's not to do with passion. I'm sure some people will be more passionate than all those assholes that turn their back on the country just because they fall out with a particular manager. It just shouldn't happen.

Craig Levein has stated that he would like to see the "gentleman's agreement" updated so that we could catch up with the rest of the world. I say that it's not perfect as it is, but it's the most acceptable in my eyes when it comes to the stretching that it already does.

I know we all want to see Scotland become a Finals regular again, but I'm not prepared to have that at any cost.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

It's not often we'll use the words "sensible decision" when it comes to talking about football authorities or governing bodies.

Fair play to UEFA though who have announced that they are banning the annoying as hell vuvuzela from all UEFA-sanctioned games such as Euro 2012 qualifiers and Champions League games, with immediate effect.

It's a victory for those who want to see proper football culture and the ability to hear actual chanting at our games in Scotland and in Europe and not endure 90 minutes of a fad that people have seen on TV and is very cultural to the African market.

A UEFA statement said, "The move was taken for reasons related to Europe's football culture and tradition. Uefa feels that the instrument's use would not be appropriate in Europe where a continuous loud background noise would be emphasised."

UEFA added that "in the specific context of South Africa, the vuvuzela adds a touch of local flavour and folklore" but it then went on to make it clear they felt they were out of place at European games. "The magic of football consists of the two-way exchange of emotions between the pitch and the stands, where the public can transmit a full range of feelings to the players. UEFA is of the view that the vuvuzelas would completely change the atmosphere, drowning supporter emotions and detracting from the experience of the game."

Great news. Let's hope that all the domestic clubs follow suit.

All this means some swarming wasp free sounding Euro 2012 qualifers on Friday. Just in time for us all to hear the England fans chanting for "Fabio out" against Bulgaria.
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