Monday, January 31, 2011

It may have been a day of twists and turns on the last day of the transfer window (more on that tomorrow), but someone seemed to forget to tell that to good people down Bayview way.

There was one piece of shocking news first thing though. Former gaffer, Stevie Crawford has left East Fife to move along the Kingdom to Cowdenbeath.

Now it may be due to my distance away from the Fife at the moment, but I truly never saw that coming. Some did. Stevie was the last remnant of the Willie Gray spending era and East Fife clearly needed to get those wages of our books. Now we have, leaving a gap in our striking department, the size of the usual gap in our defence.

We wish Craw all the best, as he completes his tour of the Kingdom by moving along to the Fife's in-bred neighbours.

It really does come to something though when we're losing good players to the like of Cowdenbeath. How far we've fallen.

Same is true with Clubs like Brechin, who were rumoured to be in for Bobby Linn.

The Fife faithful have breathed a huge sigh of relief though since it would appear, pending any announcements not being made public yet, that we've managed to retain Boaby's services till the end of the season.

Between our catastrophic defence, the loss of our top loan players and the loss of our consistant scorer from recent games, losing Linn on top of all of that could have been the final nail in our relegation coffin.

Failing to strengthen the defence still might be.

We do have the possibility of adding freed players and maybe another loanee, but John Robertson has to plug that defence somehow.

Robbo's lack of movement in the transfer department could also be an indication that he isn't planning on hanging around past the end of the season and the Club didn't want him to build the team for yet another new manager.

Or it could just be we have no money to bring in anyone new.

Whatever it is, it just means we have a long three and a half months ahead of us on a road that nobody knows where it's leading.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Well that's another weekend of FA Cup action over.

An old joke about the Scotland national team is good on paper, shit on grass. Turns out this weekend's fourth round matches were the opposite of that. I didn't think it was a very exciting draw when the balls came out of the pot a few weeks ago. There didn't seem to be any real chances of decent shocks or games that would have you on the edge of your seat. How wrong I was!

Crawley Town are the talk of the round, of course. And so they should be, just not for all the reasons that have folk fawning all over them though.

The Torquay-Crawley game was the tie of the round. What a cracking match. Real football at a real football ground. I was really hoping that it would go to a replay as I could definitely have watched another 90 minutes of it. There's not a lot of games these days that leave me disappointed that it finishes, but this had it all.

A Cup "upset", sending offs, two penalties awarded, two penalties being saved, needle, flying tackles, end to end action. Everything you want from a football match, including the woodwork coming into play. If you haven't seen it, find it to download somewhere.

Crawley's 1-0 win is technically a Cup shock. They're the first non league side to reach the Fifth Round since Kidderminster Harriers in 1994 and only the sixth side since the second world war. They're far from being your normal non league side though. No non league side has made the sixth round and thankfully it looks like Crawley won't be the first as we'd never hear the end of it from them. If they do beat Manchester United at Old Trafford though then I would give them all the plaudits they deserve.

From nearly going bust two years ago, to the huge cash investment, to where they are today. It's a great story and for me, a grumpy old traditionalist, sums up a lot of what's wrong with football. Just plough in money to buy success and then become arrogant assholes with it.

That said, Crawley are a very professional set up on the pitch and they play some nice football when they choose to just do that. They should go up from the Conference as champions this season. I'm hoping this Cup run will catch up with them and allow my AFC Wimbledon to go up the easy way, but with the players at their disposal, you can't see past them just now.

I don't want to be two faced about it. East Fife won the Third Division Championship in 2007/08 thanks to Willie Gray's big cash influx. It's not that, per se that I dislike Crawley for. It's their attitude to their new found fame and status.

They're a hard Club to like. Their fans have become hugely arrogant and in their manager Steve Evans, they have one of the most unlikeable bosses in the game today. The way the players have been acting on the pitch is also disgusting and it was on full display at Plainmoor yesterday. Feigning injuries, kicking out at opposition players, timewasting. Believing the hype a little bit too much me thinks. They're not Billy Big Boots, they're just big fish in a small pond, for now, and they really need someone to bring them back down to earth with a bump and remember where they were two years ago. Failing to go up this season would do just nicely.

Can't believe I'd ever not want a non league Club to pull off Cup shocks but there you go. What their win and Cup run does do though is to boost the non league football scene and hopefully it will help some fans check out their local teams and boost the game there. It really is where it's at in England!

The atmosphere at Plainmoor was fantastic. It was real football at a proper football ground and so was Stevenage's game at Broadhall Way against Reading.

Stevenage were the story of the last round for me and they fought so hard in their fourth round tie, falling agonisingly to a late goal from the Championship side.

The Stevenage fans were tremendous throughout and it was another case of what football should be about. Forget your Premiership sides, this was fantastic stuff. I watched five of the games yesterday and these two were easily the most entertaining. Just a shame they never got the live TV audience to see them and they wanted to focus on the bigger sides.

Leyton Orient were one of the other lower league heroes, clipping the wings of high flying Championship promotion chasers Swansea City, whilst Brighton looked impressive against Watford. Elsewhere it seemed to be a case of so near and yet so far. Coventry and Huddersfield will be kicking themselves for seeing their chances of a Cup shock slip away to late goals from their Premiership rivals, whilst Notts County may feel that their best chance of an upset against big spending Man City has now gone, but they'll fight for their lives in the replay in Manchester.

Finally, we have three candidates in the "What The Hell Were They Thinking About?" category over the weekend.

In third place, Arsenal's Sebastien Squillaci, who must have known he was going to see red for blatantly taking out Huddersfield's Jack Hunt. Nearly cost his side the game or given them a replay they just wouldn't have wanted.

The runner-up goes to Torquay United's Chris Zebroski for one of the worst handball's you'll ever see. Why did he do it? What good could come of punching the ball away in your own box? Although the subsequent penalty wasn't scored, his dismissal ultimately cost them a place in the fifth round and it could have been the Gulls going to Old Trafford in the next round.

The winner though has to go to Swansea City's Darren Pratley who decided to chest home Scott Sinclair's goalbound effort from an offside position on the goal-line. Living up to the Prat part of his name wonderfully, as his side crashed out 2-1.

So once again the FA Cup has delivered a fine weekend of action. The Fifth Round draw looks way more exciting on paper than the fourth round one. I'm pretty sure it's going to live up to it's billing on grass as well.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Livingston are one of those teams we hate.

They killed Meadowbank, play in a plastic stadium to plastic fans and we haven't managed to beat the fuckers since 1998.

You can now add to this that we've played them twice this month and we've lost to them twice thanks to horrific last ten minute collapses.

What it boils down to is what we've known from pre-season. Our defence is shit.

Top scorers in the division with 39 goals, second worse defensive record with 36. Add in the two Cup maulings from Aberdeen and Queen of the South and it's dire stuff.

John Robertson has two days left of the transfer window to try and get something sorted out as this could take us down come May.

Today's game started where the last encounter left off, with Livingston scoring. It only took Keaghan Jacobs 35 seconds to get the League leaders off the mark before a 25 yard cracker from Liam Fox doubled their lead on 12 minutes. The build up to second goal aided by poor Fife defending and it was starting to look like another awayday for the calculators could be in store.

Full credit to East Fife though. A number of Fife teams of the past would have put their heads down and just given in there and then. We've all seen it over the years.

Livingston ended up dominating the first quarter of an hour and the last ten of the game, but East Fife were in the ascendancy for the rest of the match. As has been the case so often this season, it was Bobby Linn who raised Fife hopes when he cracked home a 30 yard free kick on 28 minutes, which went through Livi keeper Tony Bullock's hands, to send the leaders in with a 2-1 lead at the break.

And this lead was to hold for most of the second half before the Fife pressure got results.

Former gaffer Stevie Crawford tied things up when he drilled home from the edge of the box on 72 minutes after a quick Fife break and some neat interplay with Jim Hamilton.

The Fife nearly took the lead minutes later but a deflected effort crashed off the bar for a corner. From the resultant corner, the ball eventually fell to Div Muir and he volleyed home from 16 yards out to send the players and the travelling Fife support into raptures and a much deserved win looked to be on the cards.

Eleven days ago, ten man Livi broke Fife hearts with goals in the 82nd and 87th minutes. Today it was 82 and 89, but at least they had their full complement this time and Fife legend Kenny Deuchar wasn't the one doing the damage. Scant consolation but I'll take any I can.

Bobby Barr tied things up with a nice solo goal and his trickery left the Fife defence standing. Jacobs then got the last minute winner to go with his first minute opener and it was more terrible defending that led to it.

A through ball split the Fife back four wide open before John Ovenstone dived in way too early in an attempt to tackle Jacobs, allowing him to skip past and fire home from a very tight angle. You also have to question Michael Brown for allowing the ball to squeeze in.

The result leaves East Fife in the relegation playoff spot, but with games in hand and the only team in the bottom five with a plus goal difference.

The two games against Livingston have shown the Fife support what the team can do at the right end of the park. Keep that going and we should be safe, even with a defence that leaks more than a sieve at times.

It's going to be tight though. I think we can forget any thoughts of making the promotion playoffs and that's a good thing as this defence could ship double figures in the First and I can't see much money being available to strengthen.

John Robertson has us playing some nice football but we need to get the wheels back on our bus pretty soon and starting Tuesday night at Forfar would be perfect.

Mon the Fife.

EAST FIFE: Brown, Durie, Ovenstone, McGowan, Smart (Fagan 83), Muir, Linn, Hamilton, Hislop (Crawford 70), Sloan, Johnstone (Young 65) [Subs Not Used: Lyness, Weir]

ATT: 1,340

Friday, January 28, 2011

There's some things you just love to see in football. In last week's Friday Fun section, we looked at goalies scoring. But you can't talk about such things without mentioning dogs on the pitch. Even men with steel hearts love to see a dog on the pitch.

The trouble is these days you never see a dog on the pitch (to quote the legendary Half Man Half Biscuit - twice).

I haven't seen a dog on a football pitch since that time I accidentally stumbled across the Raith v Cowden Ladies match. Lots of rovers on display and a few howlers too.

The question that always puzzled me was how did people get dogs into the ground in the first place? It's hard enough trying to get a snack into a game these days.

This week's FF section has two videos of dogging delight.

First up is a match from the 1995 playoffs between York City and Bristol Rovers. The commentary on this is pure gold:

The dog was obviously a Rover. If it had been a City fan then surely it would have been a yorkie.

Ok, before I get my coat, here's a montage of canine capers, all set to the backdrop of Half Man Half Biscuit's "Even Men With Steel Hearts Love To See A Dog On The Pitch".


Thursday, January 27, 2011

I often wonder what a lot of the old footballing legends make of the current crop of players and the game in general today.

Not with regards to the talent and skill on display, as you can argue till you're blue in the face as to whether your side's 1950's legend was better than the 1990's one with no conclusive answer. No, it's more their behaviour off the pitch and just how they conduct themselves and communicate with the fans and the world these days.

Many aspects of modern day football will be unrecognisable to the game that they were involved in and that's certainly not all bad. Far from it. There's no doubting that football's changed in all regards and many of the changes are for the better.

The internet changed the game hugely. It beggars belief as to how I managed to produce 38 printed issues of the AFTN fanzine without having the host of material available to resource at my fingertips that I have today. Now, AFTN as a website is the resource to all things East Fife itself.

The internet killed much of the importance of the printed media due to the quickness and instantaneous way it can communicate results, action and information to people all over the world. No more excitement in picking up the sporting pink paper to find that afternoon's scores on the way home from the match when you can get texts and tweets all afternoon long to keep you in the loop. Some papers still manage to have the scoops that generate the internet traffic and writings themselves, but they're often not the good kind of footballing story.

The way we live changes so fast and even blogs, websites and general news sites are now finding themselves outdone and second to the news by the current rash of social media sites, only this time the news and stories are coming straight from the horses mouth.

Players seem to want to cut out the middleman and become the reporters of their own lives, with Facebook and primarily Twitter being the mediums of choice.

Facebook has brought the players so much closer to the fans. You can actually officially have them as your friends. It's something I mostly choose not to do. I make a few exceptions for the guys I know read and enjoy AFTN. The rest, well they're not my friends. They're people I watch on the pitch every week and who bring me joy and break my heart in equal measure. Actually, maybe they should all be our friends. They're ticking all the right boxes.

When I was growing up, the thought of having a hero like Kenny Dalglish or Trevor Brooking (West Ham fan you see) giving me one to one updates on their lives would have been the most exciting thing ever. Trevor Brooking's may just have been about him having another cup of tea or cutting the grass, but I'd still have found that exciting.

Now we take it for granted and many betray the trust of "friendship". A lot of footballers have been caught out posting their inner feelings on the game, their manager or the Club on their Facebook, forgetting that not all their friends are what they say they are. Or maybe they do remember that and just don't give a fuck. Said "friend" then posts comments on internet forum, player gets into trouble, everyone suffers.

It happened on AFTN with an East Fife player this season. He was pissed off after a defeat, made some of his thoughts known then the next thing you know it all over my forum from one of his flock. You could say he was just an idiot for posting it in the first place or for accepting fans he doesn't really know as his friends. I truly felt bad for him, mainly due to the fact that at least he was showing he cared about my club.

It seems that every player is on Twitter these days and sharing everything it feels at times. Some are a lot more interesting than others, some are a lot more revealing and some are basically just egotistical wankers, but we still follow them, so who's the stupid one?

The players are scooping the press. They're keeping the fans fully in the loop, something their club is never going to do. The clubs must hate it with a passion.

One of the most famous and prolific tweeters in the game is Robbie Savage. Love him or loathe him, you have to admit he's entertaining.

I fall into the love him category and was excited in some regards when he announced that he had been offered the chance to join my MLS team, Vancouver Whitecaps. I'll admit I was more excited for what he was going to bring to the team and the city off the pitch rather than on it.

Robbie first mooted the interest on his Twitter a couple of months ago, asking if anyone knew what Vancouver was like. He then broke the news that he'd been offered the move, discussed the thought process involved in considering it, hemmed and hawed about the pros and cons of the move to him, his career and his family and then finally announced he wasn't crossing the pond after all and was staying at Derby till the end of the season and to build on his UK media work (Robbie Savage Turns Down Move To Vancouver).

All of this was on his own personal twitter! Imagine how much he'd have written about it if he had more than 140 characters at his disposal.

The Whitecaps made no mention of any of it and must have been mightily pissed off that Savage leaked the details of the whole thing. It was mildly embarrassing and left the Whitecaps fans with more questions than answers about the situation.

We'd have known nothing about it though if it hadn't have been for Twitter. Since it all fell through, I don't know if that's a good thing or not.

A lot of players in football and other sports have already fallen foul of being too open and honest on Twitter and it's only going to get worse.

In the US, Hope Solo a goalkeeper for the women's team Atlanta Beat (I know, it's not a real sport but for the basis of this article let's pretend it is) was fined, suspended for one match and ordered to do 8 hours community service due to comments she made on Twitter about officials. She'd previously been in trouble for other comments she made on the site.

I wonder who the next big name player is going to be to get into trouble for his tweets? Whoever it is, you can be sure it's going to be before this season is out.

More and more clubs are just going to end up banning their players from using social media sites and take away their rights to free speech. I also wouldn't be surprised if Fifa didn't step in to this at some point soon and issue a blanket ban. After all, if you can't celebrate scoring a goal, why would you be allowed to express opinions? Just become unemotional robots.

So make the most of these tweets whilst you can. It won't be long until the next fad comes along to bring the players into your daily lives. Possibly chips in your head or maybe just rocks.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blackpool's heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Manchester United in the Premiership last night must have been so hard to take for Ian Holloway and his team.

You can call them brave and applaud their philosophy of continually taking the game to the undefeated League leaders all you want. The only thing that matters to them is that they let a vital point, three in fact, slip away.

Now I know I'm always waxing lyrical about Blackpool and Ollie in the blog this season, but without wanting to bore you all too much, and remembering that this is primarily an East Fife and Scottish football blog and not a Blackpool and Premiership one, we just can't get enough of them here at AFTN Towers.

Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air to this season's Premiership and the best team to watch by far for exciting games.

I love their attitude and attacking play. You're not going to get too many teams playing three up front against Man U, whether you're at home or not.

It's this attacking style that could be the death of them though, which would not only be sad for the club but for football in general.

Going in two up at half time, many teams would have defended for the whole second forty-five, but not the Seasiders. I love this attitude. I commend them, although others would say this was just sheer folly.

At times, they did find themselves defending deeper and deeper, and by looking for the killer third goal, they left themselves short at the back and were punished for it, depriving them of their first win over Man United since 1963.

The defeat still leaves them sitting mid table though. By no means safe, but it's not brown trousers time for them just yet either.

We've gone on ad nauseum already this season about the hope they give to the smaller sides the land over, but they should also inspire all the teams in the Premiership as to how to play the likes of Man U and Chelsea.

Don't sit back. Take the game to them. Play your normal attacking game (if you have one) and you'll ruffle them up, as they don't like it up them and don't know how to respond to it at times. Man U were all over the place defensively in the first half until Sir Alex got hold of them at half time and sorted them out.

The problem in top leagues all over the world, and especially in England and Scotland, is the fear factor. Not so much fear of losing, so many clubs just seem resigned to this fact when they face the top sides, but fear of being gubbed.

What do they really have to lose? Possibly vital goal difference if it all goes horribly wrong but I'd much rather have my team go down fighting, attacking and making me proud, than just sitting back, getting shafted anyway and still facing the drop.

If East Fife were ever to make it to the dizzy heights of the SPL, that's how I'd want them to go about their business, but how many managers are as brave (some would say foolish) as Ian Holloway? Not enough.

Whatever does happen to Blackpool this season, they'll have made their fans proud and given them a season to remember and surely that's what football should be all about.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anyone who supports one of the smaller top level sides or a lower leagues side will know exactly the quandary that Blackpool now find themselves in with Charlie Adam.

You're a club who it could be argued are punching well above their current weight. You're having your best season for many a year. You've thrown off that "favourites for relegation tag" and are sitting mid-table but still in a potential perilous position. It's all going great and the fans are cock-a-hoop.

Then comes the dreaded transfer window and the bigger clubs are sniffing around your biggest game turner. It's not unexpected, and neither are the miserly offers coming in for your star player.

In Blackpool's case it's made all the harder by the fact that the Club are playing out of their skins just now and what happens with Charlie Adam could affect not only the rest of this season, but their financial situation for many years to come.

For years they've been a selling club, now the fans want them to be a buying one or at the very least, keep hold of their best players.

It's a sad fact of life that the bigger clubs always want a bargain. They know they've got the upper hand and it's almost bullying the smaller sides into making the sale. So many clubs need to bring through players to sell just to survive, but what kind of survival is that really?

Charlie Adam was always going to be a transfer target in this window and the way he has been playing in the last few weeks can only have raised interest even higher. He's been outstanding and inspirational, almost sublime at times.

What has been surprising is the quality of the clubs coming in for him. A move to a team like Liverpool would be a dream for him but full credit to Blackpool for standing firm and turning down Liverpool's reported £4 million offer.

I loved Ian Holloway on Saturday saying stick a one in front of it and then they can talk.

It's a kick in the teeth to the team and the player to make such a bid but only to be expected. I'm sure Charlie Adam doesn't really care for the fee is, he just wants to make the move now and yesterday he put in a transfer request, which again Blackpool did well to turn down immediately.

Charlie Adam was just an average SPL player when he went to the Seasiders. Nothing special. But Ian Holloway, Blackpool and Adam himself changed all that and he's now a hot commodity. Blackpool undoubtedly helped him get to where he is today and Adam undoubtedly did the same for them.

Are they even or does the player owe the Club a thank you by going for the highest amount they can get for him? You'd like to think the latter but does that sentiment still exist these days? In fact, did it ever?

It's not just a plain and simple case of selling Adam and banking the cash for Blackpool.

If they hold out till the summer, Adam's star should be shining brighter and he may get an even better move and for a higher fee. Then again, he could go off the boil, Liverpool lose interest and he ends up somewhere like Wigan or Fulham. Not exactly as glamourous.

The most important aspect of all this though is what will happen to Blackpool if they allow Adam to go in this window? Will they freefall? Can they replace him with a quality player for that money, at this time?

The answer to that last question will be no.

The crux of it all is weighing up is getting money just now worth more than what keeping him and staying in the Premiership is worth and of course it isn't. Staying up will be a huge deal for Blackpool and will make them as a club for years to come. Ollie says it's worth £46 million to them if they avoid the drop. Going down and you're not going to have another Portsmouth on your hands, they're too financially savvy for that, but you could be looking at a team that will struggle to reach the dizzy heights of the Prmeirship again for many a year to come.

It's times like this that make it so hard and so frustrsating to support one of the smaller sides, although all the other advantages make up for it.

It's a momentous decision for Blackpool and Liverpool aren't going to give up on their man. The Tangerines don't want to have a moody, upset player on their hands either, possibly disrupting the wonderful team harmony they have at the coming crucial period.

You can't fault Charlie Adam in this. Any player would want to play at a big club and the chance for a Scot to play at Liverpool under King Kenny is a giant lure. Having him there will also be a huge boost to the Scottish national side and that can only be good for us.

So what the eventual outcome going to be?

Well, I see Adam going in the next few days for around £8 million in the end.

As for Blackpool. They'll not have time to find a decent replacement, so their current squad need to raise that bar even higher than they already are to secure their Premiership future.

The way they've gone about this season, you wouldn't back them not to do it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The UK media love a bit of hysteria and whipping up a frenzy from angry minorities. They have got a lot of column inches and airtime to fill after all.

The off camera comments from Sky Sports' Richard Keys and Andy Gray about female lino Sian Massey, who was running the line in the game between Wolves and Liverpool in the Premiership, have been heavily reported over the weekend.

Sexist remarks were made about Massey, another female official from the past and West Ham vice Chairman Karren Brady, with Keys apparently declaring that the game's gone mad.

The comments have created quite a fuss from angry women and modern men.

Calls for condemnation and discipline have been rife, but let's be honest here, they didn't say anything that most men haven't said or thought themselves, plus the important thing to me in all of this is that they were not broadcast, so it's just like you and me having a chat down the pub.

The recording of the comments were passed on to the Mail On Sunday newspaper by an anonymous source - what's to bet it's a woman or someone with an axe to grind. The person that leaked the recording is the person that should be getting disciplined or sacked.

When I was watching the game in question on Saturday, my immediate reaction at Torres' goal, and whether it was offside or not, was to shout out "what are you doing, you stupid cow" and wonder why a woman was being allowed to run the line in a Premiership game. I'm sure I wasn't alone readers. All the replays have shown Massey to be correct in allowing the goal to stand. Well done love (insert smiley face!).

It would be easy to dismiss the whole thing with a sexist gag here and a ridiculous "women should be in the kitchen" remark there, but that would be wrong. Besides, we know that men make the better cooks anyway.

The whole thing does let us talk about the elephant in the room surrounding women in men's football. It IS ok to talk about this you know and in fact we really should.

Yes, it's 2011 and not the dark ages, but let's face facts here, women are always going to struggle to gain acceptance in men's football whether they be officials, managers or even commentators and presenters. I'm not even going to go into the rights and wrongs of that here, it's just fact.

Women have equality in sport, but in most of them the two sexes don't mix, so why is it wrong to keep it that way in football? Why is it bad to say so? Surely that's why there's women's football, just like there's women's tennis, women's golf, women's rugby and so on and so on.

Of course, women's football is a joke, as we've covered before in this blog. I've tried to give it a chance but it's just laughable. Some people like it, some people are passionate about it, but it's mostly in countries where they have no heritage of the game or where it's not understood or taken seriously enough. There are some exceptions to this, but even in countries like Germany or Brazil, the women's game struggles to be taken seriously by the majority.

I was recently reading a copy of 'Shoot' magazine from July 3rd 1971. Alan ball's column for that particular issue ran with the headline "Soccer Must Stay A Man's Game".

Here's some of the column:

"Of course it all started very casually. A few girls get together and decide that anything a man can do, they can do at least as well. It's all very much a novelty at this stage and nobody takes it seriously...

...Once the novelty had worn off, who exactly would go along to watch? Once can imagine men going along to poke fun rather than cheer. To laugh rather than applaud the finer points of play...

...As long as its not taken too seriously and the game played for pure enjoyment, well okay! But the signs are that it is becoming part of a big organisation, with whispers even of a World Cup for women's teams. Surely that is taking things a bit too far!...

...I see that a girl of sixteen has just passed her referee's examinations...And there's no harm at all in the women supporters getting to know a bit more about the game, rather than just the players in it"

Fantastic stuff! It's quite hilarious reading it 40 years later but he does make some good points and you could argue that many men's opinions haven't changed much in those four decades.

Channel 4's excellent "The Manageress" drama 20 years ago hasn't signalled top level women's managers in the men's game either.

Whenever a woman is either a referee or a linesman in a man's game, it puts added pressure on them. People are just waiting for them to make a mistake and pounce on them for it. Can you imagine the uproar there would have been had Massey made the wrong decision on Saturday. It's not right for it to be that way, but it is, so why put them into that situation in the first place? If it's to try and change people's perceptions then why do we need to do that in football when, as we've said above, it's not the case in other sports?

My opinion of women referees and officials is clouded due to the hapless display I witnessed first hand of a hapless Canadian ref called Carol Anne Chenard who completely lost control of a USL Championship match in 2009, probably costing Vancouver Whitecaps the title. It was painful to watch. As chants of "this game's too big for you" rang out around the stadium, the players saw her as weak and harrassed her constantly. Never seen her ref a Caps game since.

I had a disucssion around women commentators recently too and how painful it is to listen to them. Sexist? Stuck in our ways? Too used to male commentators? Whatever the reason, they're not enjoyable to listen to and it just sounds wrong. I can't help that that is how I and many others feel and we shouldn't be made to feel bad or be branded sexist for it.

I'm all for female presenters of the shows. It's a good mix, as long as they're informative and not just there for eye candy.

So instead of villifying Richard Keys and Andy Gray, let's thank them for bringing the subject of women in football out into the open and let's get some serious discussions going as to why football is being singled out to include women in it when other sports aren't.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

FIFA's "Laws Of The Game 2010/11" Rule 12 - Fouls and Misconduct (Cautionable Offences) is a complete farce.

"A player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he commits any of the
following seven offences:

• unsporting behaviour
• dissent by word or action
• persistent infringement of the Laws of the Game
• delaying the restart of play
• failure to respect the required distance when play is restarted with a corner
kick, free kick or throw-in
• entering or re-entering the field of play without the referee's permission
• deliberately leaving the field of play without the referee's permission"

It is offences 1, 4, 6 and 7 that can all be applied to goal celebrations as West Ham's Frederic Piquionne unfortunately found out to his peril yesterday at Everton's Goodison Park.

Piquionne was sent off for a second bookable offence after putting the Hammers 2-1 up yesterday in the 84th minute. With his team rooted to the bottom of the Premiership and having had a shit start to 2011 both on and off the pitch, you can't help but understand Piqionne's obvious joy and relief at possibly securing three vital points for his side.

Running over to the Hammers jubilant travelling support, he hurdled the advertising hoarding and celebrated with his fellow Irons, receiving a yellow card and his marching orders from referee Walton in the process.

Now obviously I'm biased in this particular incident because I'm a West Ham fan, but putting that aside, I would have felt exactly the same if it has been an Everton player.

It's absolutely ridiculous. Sure you can argue that them's the rules, and it says that it MUST be a booking, but it's one rule almost all football fans the world over would like to get rid off. Walton's hands were tied and it probably cost the Hammers two vital points and who knows, at the end of it all, maybe their Premiership status.

The farce surrounding bookings for goal celebrations stems from FIFA's decision in February 2007 to get tough on this horrible blight to the game. Forget diving, harrassing referees en masse, spitting, reckless challenges. How dare a player show any emotion at all when it comes scoring a goal.

The fans make football. Without us, football would be nothing and FIFA would do well to remember this sometimes. We want nothing more than to celebrate our team scoring a goal and if the player celebrates in with us, then it makes it all the more special. What harm does it do? It delays the game by seconds and as long as there's no incitement of the oppostion support, then why not let it happen. It's not planned. It's natural human spontaneity.

In 2007, it was announced that "FIFA are to take a tougher line with goal celebrations from next season. They are set to agree new legislation next month that will mean a player must be booked if he climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal, removes his shirt over his head or covers his head with his shirt. Referees must also show the yellow card for gestures they consider provocative, derisory or inflammatory. This could extend to a player cupping his ear with his hand or even celebrating a goal in front of the opposing supporters.".

The latter is way more of an incitement to oppostion fans than celebrating with your own. We see it almost every week but it's seldom punished but by the letter of the law, it MUST be.

In the "Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees" section in "FIFA's Laws of the Game" document, it is written for section 12 that:

"While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been
scored, the celebration must not be excessive. Reasonable celebrations are allowed, but the practice of choreographed celebrations is not to be encouraged when it results in excessive time-wasting and referees are instructed to intervene in such cases.

A player must be cautioned if:

• in the opinion of the referee, he makes gestures which are provocative, derisory or inflammatory
• he climbs on to a perimeter fence to celebrate a goal being scored
• he removes his shirt or covers his head with his shirt
• he covers his head or face with a mask or other similar item

Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence in itself
but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible.
Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common
sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal".

Something has to be done to try and make FIFA see commonsense and relax these rules. It's gone well past the ridiculous stage and high profile fall outs from the law make it look even more so worldwide.

There's little enough joy and fun in football these days and less than many when you're a West Ham fan.

We complain when players don't show passion and commitment to the cause and act like all they care about is picking up their huge wage packets. We want to see that they care about winning as much as the fans every week, then when they do show it, apparently FIFA don't want them to.

Why change the things that are really damaging the game though when you can just clamp down on emotions. Completely fucked up.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's getting beyond a joke now.

When I was back in Scotland in November, East Fife's game against Ayr United on the 27th was called off due to the referee's strike. If it hadn't have been, the chances were that the weather would have got to it instead. Either way, it deprived me of possibly making the journey to Somerset Park to see the Fife before heading back to my new home.

In the subsequent eight weeks that have now passed, East Fife have had ten games scheduled. They've managed to play three due to the weather and postponements.

It's been soul destroying for the fans being let down at the last minute and not having games to go to. You can only imagine how the players are feeling.

The three games we have had have been bizarre. After all the sterling work of the fans to get the Bayview pitch cleared of snow, we were rewarded by a 6-0 thumping of Stenhousemuir. The four weeks that followed without a game took it's toll in the 6-0 thumping we then got from Aberdeen in the Cup and then ten man Livingston scored two late goals on Tuesday night in a 4-2 League defeat.

At least we're seeing goals when we are playing. Sadly mostly getting picked out of Michael Brown's net.

With Tuesday evening's match at Bayview being passed fit, hopes were expectant that today's crunch game against bottom placed Dumbarton would have no problems going ahead. Sadly more cold weather, more frost and that troublesome area of the Bayview pitch covered by the overhang of the stand have combined to force another postponement.


If you think we've had it bad at East Fife, just along the road at Warout Stadium, Glenrothes Juniors have been having a more hellish time.

My options for watching football on November 27th were between the long trip west to see East Fife at Ayr or stay in my hometown and watch the Glens take on Tranent in the Third Round of the Scottish Junior Cup. I may have plumped for the latter if I'm being totally honest.

Knowing the refs were on strike, my decision was made easy and I was looking forward to seeing my first Glens game for around four years. My grandad always took me there all the time when I was a nipper and I was really looking forward to getting back.

Sadly that game also fell foul of the weather, as have the subsequent SIX attempts to get the match played including this afternoon's scheduled match. They will try again next Saturday though! At this rate I still might get to see the game the next time I come over. Now that would be a story!!

This winter has just been unbelievable.

Unsurprisingly it has led to renewed calls for a winter break and then all the arguments we get from both the for and against camps. What it ultimately boils down to though is that the Scottish weather is so unpredictable that we have no idea when to have a break.

No-one could have predicted it would be so bad in November and I've seen it snow in April and even May before.

Michel Platini has entered into the fray now though, advocating a global adoption of spring to autumn football seasons, with international matches being played in the winter months (somehow!). I'm sure this has nothing to do with the continuing farce of the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

This idea should prevent most postponements due to snow and frost in Western Europe but sadly not torrential rain and warthogs on the pitch. It seems to work ok in the likes of Finland, Ireland, Canada and the US.

Having had the 'pleasure' of summer football these last three years, I can tell you that it's not all it's cracked up to be. Standing out in the blistering sun isn't all that more appealing that nearly losing your toes on a cold day at Arbroath. Overall though, it is nicer, but the lack of cracking night games in the dark, under floodlights, is the worst part.

Some of the big players have immediately come out against Platini's plan but something has to be done, and it's getting to the stage that anything's worth a try, because if we have another couple of winters like the last two in Scotland, there's not going to be any football teams left to watch in the first place.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wednesday 28th February 1990. I remember it well.

The weather had been fairly crappy. I wasn't working and apart from the money I brought in from AFTN fanzine sales, was pretty skint. The prospect of travelling 150 miles and over three hours to watch East Fife take on Stranraer at Stair Park in a rearranged Scottish Second Division match didn't really appeal.

To this day, one of my biggest regrets was not making the long journey to the game that night and not because the Fife came away with a 2-0 win.

Legend has it that there were around 7 East Fife fans at the game. Like the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, the people that claim to have been there is probably into three figures.

Those lucky punters that were there though saw that rare thing in football - a goal from open play by a goalkeeper. Ray Charles was the Fife hero that night as he blootered a wind assisted kick into the Stranraer net. Oh to have been there to see it.

There's just something special about goalkeepers goals. Everyone loves to see them, well, unless it's against your team of course. The scoring goalie is a hero and you can only imagine that it's one of the worst nightmares for the opposition goalie who lets it in.

The first recorded goal by a goalkeeper from a goal kick was on April 14th 1900, when Charlie Williams scored for Manchester City against Sunderland. I remember seeing footage of Pat Jennings scoring one, but for me, and I'm sure for many of you reading this, the most memorable goalie goal that I've seen was Jimmy Glass' last gasp winner for Carlisle United on the last day of the 1998/99 season. A goal that gave them the 2-1 victory over Plymouth that saved them from relegation from the Football League into the Conference.

FC United of Manchester have made a lot of headlines this season in the FA Cup and they're back in the news again this week, as their goalkeeper Sam Ashton became the latest member of the scoring goalie club last Saturday.

Three minutes into their EvoStik Northern Premier League game away to Retford United and Ashton clears the ball upfield. The ball takes an unfortunate bounce over Retford goalie Luke Herriott's head and into the home teams' net for a goal that Ashton will remember for the rest of his life.

Poor Retford United. They're rock bottom of the League, they lost the game 4-0 and now they have the ignominy of having the opposition goalkeeper scoring against them. To make matters worse for Herriott, he only joined the club the game before from Ossett Albion. He may be wishing he'd stayed there now!

Basking in the afterglow of his wonder goal, Ashton was in top form on the FCUM website:

"It was really windy, Scott McManus passed the ball back and I just wanted to get something on it because the pitch was awful. Then after I hit it I thought, "That's going in that! Their keeper had come out to clear the ball but it bounced over his head and rolled into the empty net. The lads are telling me it was a fluke but it wasn't - I meant it".

On the way back to Manchester Sam was also heard to be pushing for a goal bonus!

It's been a great season for Ashton. His FA Cup heroics, including the last minute penalty save against Brighton, and now this. Enjoy the goal for yourselves and if you want to find out more about goalscoring goalkeepers, then check out the excellent Goalkeepers Are Different website. Have a fun friday...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

For those football fans of a certain age, the mere mention of the North American Soccer League conjurs up a whole host of thoughts and opinions and most of them won't be all that flattering.

Ask them to name a team from the League though and for many, the New York Cosmos will be the reply.

The NASL was a curious spectacle in football and one that thankfully we'll probably never see again. The League ran for 17 seasons from 1968 to 1984 and, for a short spell, had big names, glitz, glamour, Americans and Canadians falling over themselves to go to some games and a total disregard to football's heritage and rules.

The memory cheats.

As we get older we start to look back at things with a fondness we never particularly had for them at the time. You just have to look at the love for all things 1980's that has been so prevalent in recent years. The 1980's were shit.

It was an awful decade for football, fashion, a lot of the music, politics, unemployment and life in general. If you were to believe all the stuff about it now, it was the most wonderful time of everyone's life. Try telling that to a miner's family. The 1970's were equally as shit, but at least they had punk!

Some people look back on the NASL now with that fondness. Those in the States feel it was the golden age of North American football, whereas in reality it was a glamourisation and bastardisation of the working man's game. It reached a state that made it almost unrecognisable to the game we were watching week in and week out in the UK in an attempt to get the dumbass Americans to take the game seriously.

The "Americanisation" included 35 yard offside lines, shootouts to decide draws (because someone has to win, it's the American way), playoffs, mini-games to decide drawn playoff games and game clocks that counted down and not up.

It seemed to work as they came out in their thousands to watch. Or so we now believe. The harsh reality of it all was that only a few teams pulled in the really big crowds. Many struggled. The average attendance in the League ranged from a low of 2.930 in 1969 to a high of 14,440 in 1980.

Whilst teams in Chicago, Boston and Hawaii (wtf?!) struggled to draw in more than a few thousand at times, teams like Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Minnesota Kicks were pulling in crowds of over 20,000 plus.

All of this pales into insignificance though when compared to the New York Cosmos. Founded in 1971, the Cosmos won 5 Soccer Bowls and 7 Divisional titles in their 14 NASL seasons. Plodding along to crowds in the three and four thousands, they added Pele to their squad in 1975. German legend Franz Beckenbauer and fellow Brazilian here Carlos Alberto joined Pele in New York in 1977 and attendances soared.

For the seven seasons from 1977 to 1983, the Cosmos drew 262,292 fans to their games, a staggering seasonal average of 37,470, peaking at 47,856 in 1978. They were the NASL's hottest ticket and in a sports mad city of baseball and gridiron nuts, the must have ticket in town.

It can be a much overused word nowadays, but they really were a phenomenon, no matter what you think of the validity of the whole NASL.

The interest in football waned in the US, as the big names left, the television coverage dried up, the League over expanded and too many people thought they could make a quick buck by backing the latest 'in thing'.

The NASL folded and New York Cosmons disolved in 1985, leaving football in the US and Canada struggling to recover and it never really has. Hosting the 1994 World Cup and the rise of the MLS (which is still a mickey mouse league in so many ways) have helped and with the addition of Vancouver and Portland (keeping with their NASL heritage names) to the fold from the second tier of the game in North America, the 2011 season could be their biggest and best yet.

The name of the New York Cosmos has always been gone but not forgotten though. Memories, books and the brilliant DVD "Once In A Lifetime" (a must see) keep their legacy alive. They're still the team many people think of when they think of football in the States and they've been dead and buried for 25 years.

But now they're back.

And in true Cosmos style, they're doing things the glamourous way.

The Cosmos name had been kept by the old team's general manager G. Peppe Pinton. He didn't want it devalued or disrespected but when a group wanting to take the team and the name to MLS proved that they would do neither, Pinton sold the name and image rights, paving the way for the return of the famous Cosmos to the North American football scene.

Pele announced the club's return on August 1st last year and was installed as the new Club's honourary president.

Yesterday though saw the Cosmos return to the streets of New York in dramatic style, with some glitzy advertising in Times Square and they backed it up with a dramatic announcement.

Manchester United and French legend Eric Cantona has been made the new Cosmos' Director of Football, with the aim of bringing the Club to Major League Soccer in 2012 or 2013 as the MLS' 20th Club.

They've no ground, they've no players, there's already a team in New York but those little things aren't really going to stop a Club like the New York Cosmos. They have their name!

If they do return, we can only hope it doesn't signal the decline of the MLS and a return to the bad old days of glitz and glamour over sustainability and progress. "It's a wonderful project. It's kind of a mix between football and art" was one of the things Eric chipped in yesterday. Says it all really.

As long as Vancouver Whitecaps can turn them over again on their way to the Championship, as they did in 1979, then that's all that really matters to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

It's not easy being a West Ham fan and especially not this season.

Regular readers will know that I've been a West Ham fan since the mid seventies for some unknown reason. It's certainly not for the glory!

Whilst others in my school were cheering on Rangers and Celtic, I had East Fife and whilst others had Liverpool and Man United as their English teams, I had West Ham. All that suffering to bear from such an early age. I'd have been as well just wearing a sign that said "please steal my dinner money".

This season's plight has been one of the worst. Dire, although with some great uplifting moments, then back to even more dire.

November's 5-0 Carling Cup triumph over Man United is already starting to seem like a distant memory to most West Ham fans. My excitement of being able to see it in person at Upton Park makes it still live on. At least I have never seen them lose in person!

Sure, we still have a great shot at making the Carling Cup final, but even winning it will not ease the agony of relegation. The drop is looking ever more likely by the week. There's some result that lifts the gloom, but no consistancy to see us stay out of the relegation zone, whilst other teams seem to at least find some periods of form.

This weekend's debacle seems to have seen the Club hit rock bottom and I'm not talking about the 3-0 (going on 6-0) drubbing by Arsenal that has us still rock bottom.

Whilst on the BBC website on Saturday morning, I was genuinely excited by their "breaking news" that Avram Grant was to be replaced after the game against the Gunners by Martin O'Neill.

It cheered me up no end and even watching the loss play out that afternoon, I was buoyed that it didn't matter too much as we would soon have a manager in place that knew how to get the best out of players, didn't mind a battle, showed passion on the touchline and was charismatic.

O'Neill did wonders at Celtic and I feel he did an excellent job at Aston Villa. If he hadn't resigned before the season started, I don't think you'd be seeing them in the trouble that they're also in right now.

Avram Grant seems like a nice guy, but we all know that sadly nice guys tend to get pissed all over in the current footballing climate. He just doesn't have the demeanour in the dugout that instills an air of confidence to the fans in the stands, looking more suited to a part in one of the classic Universal horror films of the 1930's than a Premiership manager.

He fought well with Portsmouth last season, but the announcement that Grant was now most likely staying in the managerial hotseat till at least the end of the season, could very well be the final death blow to West Ham's surival hopes for this season.

On the plus side, it should stop the endless, almost daily, speculation surrounding his position. That can only help the Club and help everyone involved with it to focus their attentions 100% on avoiding the drop.

We may never know what's happened surrounding O'Neill. Did things move to quickly? Did he not like the news breaking whilst Grant was still in a job? Was there ever any truth to all the rumours in the first place?

Whatever it is, it's a blow and today just signalled further bad news for the Hammers with their plans for moving to the new Olympic Stadium heavily criticised and defender Manuel da Costa being charged with an alleged sexual assault.

It's just been an annus hooribilis for the Hammers that shows no sign of ever ending.

The stadium criticism isn't too worrying as Spurs' proposal has also been criticised heavily. I don't want them to move anyway. I want them to stay at their home. Let's hope they can do that and still maintain their Premiership status in the process.

For if they do go down this season, I don't think they're going to be one of those sides that's going to be coming straight back up again.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It was always going to happen. We all knew it deep down and we can't act surprised.

East Fife legend Kenny Deuchar came back to East Fife tonight, sadly turning out for another side in black and gold, and helping his new Livingston team to a 4-2 victory over the Fife in dramatic fashion, netting a hat-trick in the process.

Deuchs has made the move Almondvale following his release from Falkirk, where he has spent the season as nothing more than a bit part player on the bench. He's now joined Livingston until the end of next season.

Now the question on the lips of all Fife fans is could we have got him back at Bayview? Did we try? Knowing our current financial plight, I'm guessing no is the answer to both of these questions.

The good doctor's star has started to wane a little bit after his goalscoring exploits with Gretna and his surprise move to the US to play for Real Salt Lake. He's never really set the heather on fire since returning to Scotland. He can still do a job though at the lower level of Scottish football and he showed that this evening to East Fife's peril.

Things were looking good for the Fife, going in at half time one up from a Stevie Crawford goal. Livingston fought back quickly after the break though, with Deuchar tying things up after 57 minutes.

Kenny obviously felt guilty after scoring against us and made amends four minutes later when he brought down Craig Johnstone in the box and Robert Sloan converted the penalty to put the Fife back ahead.

The lead was also only to last four minutes before Deuchar once again fired Livingston level on the 65 minute mark.

East Fife saw their chances of a win increase when Livingston's Mick O'Byrne was sent off with ten minutes remaining. Unfathomably for the Fife though, it was Livingston who turned up the heat in the closing minutes, scoring twice. Iain Russell shot home after 82 minutes before Deuchar completed his hat-trick with a header with three minutes to go. Bastard!

Heartbreaking and infuriating all rolled in to one.

The defeat has sent East Fife back towards the relegation zone, now sitting perilously one point off the play-off spot and three off the bottom, whilst propelling Livingston back to the top of the pile.

The lack of games, the loss of key loan players, the current financial plight of the Club and the mauling at the hands of Aberdeen in the Cup, have shaken the belief of many Fife fans that John Robertson has turned things around and a push for the playoffs was still a possibility.

It's how we respond in the next few games that will shape our season. We need something to get the good feelings back. Let's hope that can start on Saturday at home to bottom placed Dumbarton. A defeat will mean a long four months awaits us.

Mon the Fife.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The fans didn't want it, we were told that a lot of the Scottish Premier League clubs didn't want it, but the bigot brothers did, so surprise, surprise, we've now got it.

The SPL Clubs todays decided to plough on with the much needed League reconstruction in Scotland, but by adopting the much-loathed and the completely pointless in what was behind calls for this in the first place option of a top tier of ten clubs.

Radical. Well, perhaps in the mid seventies.

So we'll now have a SPL of ten sides and 12 deluded fuckers in the 'Championship', where they can just dream of gaining promotion and playing meaningless matches to dwindling crowds and getting royally fucked in defensive displays against the Old Firm axis of evil, whilst going over budget and facing administration a few years down the road when their 'spend now/face the consequences later' attitude finally catches up with them.

Can't wait.

Only three Clubs backed a 14 club top flight, whilst the fans were crying out for 16 or 18 in attempts to reduce the monotomy of having to play the same sides 4-6 times a season.

What this will mean for the leftover SFL CLubs is anyone's guess at this stage.

Regional leagues, adding in Junior sides, SPL reserve teams playing in what will no doubt become Leagues One and Two. All these option will be on the table, but at the end of it all, it won't stop East Fife having to play Brechin and Arbroath ad nauseum whilst chasing that elusive goal of promotion to the 'Championship' and the chance to be rooted to the bottom of the table for a season, whilst being on the end of 6 and 7 goal drubbings.

When fans started to cry out and force the issue on change, this isn't quite how we saw it.

The bets should start to go down now as to when the first person comes out and says it's not working and we go through reconstruction for the umpteenth time.

Fucking clueless, the lot of them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I enjoy watching the Premiership. That's a good thing since there so much of it on my television screen these days!

I don't think it's the be all and end all of live football though and as regular readers of this blog will know, we do feel it's full of self-important primadonnas with over-inflated egos who seem to forget there's hunners of cameras on them as they dive and fall all over the place at times.

Then there's the massive fear of failure and the financial consequences, some of which can basically kill a club, not only through relegation but with getting to what we're led to believe is the promised land in the first place. That fear certainly has an impact on some of the football played at times.

You can still give me a lower league or non league match to go and watch live any day of the week.

The "business end", that much overused phrase these days, of the Premiership is usually where most of the action has been at in recent seasons, as the top spot had basically turned into a two horse race that wasn't a whole lot more exciting than watching the Old Firm in Scotland.

This season seems to have seen a transformation in the Premiership though. It's getting pretty darn exciting all over!

The title race could be deemed as a three, four or even a five horse race, depending on how the results go in the next couple of weeks. Who will fill the remaining European spots is anyone's guess and then you have large clubs like Liverpool and Aston Villa in trouble and facing a realistic relegation battle.

There's still been some boring games of course, it is hard to get excited by Wigan at times, and a lot of the ones between the "big four/five" continue to disappoint.

Now that the excitement level has been cranked up in the Premiership though, it needs to continue. The fans will expect nothing less! Well, ok, some won't care as they just want to see Man U and Chelsea on their televisions every weekend.

A lot of this excitement is thanks to Ian Holloway and his Blackpool side. We won't continue our fawning over this but they have shown other small teams that you don't need to be frightened to attack and take the game to the bigger sides.

You'll get the odd thrashing, but you'll get amazing things like doing the double over Liverpool. More importanly, it will get you points. Defensiveness doesn't get you wins and I think some other sides have stood up and taken notice.

Wolves, West Brom and Stoke are other sides that ruffle a few feathers with their no-nonsense style of play.

As an exile at the moment, I get more live football and as-live games than I did in Scotland. This means I get to wake up on a Saturday and a Sunday to a plethora of live games. At times, there are three live 3pm kick off games to choose from on a Saturday.

This has invariably meant that a lot of Blackpool's games have been live for me to see and I've been loving every minute of them. None more so than this afternoon's game between the Tangerines and West Brom.

I would go as far as to say that it's one of the best Premiership football matches I've watched. Try and grab some highlights or the full game if you can.

It was a great advert for the Premiership and was non stop action. Maybe not full of the big names and talents as elsewhere this weekend but the passion and commitment by everyone to a man was a pleasure to see.

I tell you, if every game was played in such a carefree, end to end style then we'd have a much better League on our hands. Every current and wannabe Premiership manager and player should be made to watch it.

Hopefully all this excitement and attacking football can continue but I can't help but feel that come April, when some harsh realiities are starting to sink in with some clubs, the defensiveness and cageyness will be back in droves.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Been in a bit of a Fall mood recently. Digging out my old vinyl and CDs, so thought I'd have our first Friday Fun of the year as a football related tune by the Manchester legends.

Here's a video for their "Theme From Sparta FC". Some of you may recognise it as the theme music from the BBC's Final Score programme.

Great name for a supporters group somewhere and some great lyrics for them too:

"We live on blood, We are Sparta FC".


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Who'd be a referee at the best of times? Who'd be one in the Scottish Premier League this season, especially when it comes to officiating a Celtic game?

You can't really win when you're a ref. Even if you have a blinder, you're damned if you do, damned if you don't, with a multitude of studio and amrchair pundits just waiting to pick over the carcass of your decisions from every angle possible.

Of course, things aren't helped by the number of refs who have far from a blinder. In fact, them and their linesmen seem to be more blind than anything else.

Every team has had them. Every fan has been made irate by them. You just have to mention the name Don McVicar to an East Fife fan and the bloodvessels on the side of our head will look like they're about to explode and that was coming up to 20 years ago now.

Those infamous seven minutes of injury time that were played at Bayview by Second Division East Fife and Premier League Dundee United in the Scottish Cup in 1991 will never be forgotten by any Fife fan at the game. 1-0 up, ended up drawing 1-1 and then going on to lose the replay at Tannadice 2-1 in extra time. It was heartbreaking and to this day is probably the most heartbroken and depressed I've ever been leaving a football match. Forget the relegations, they were the results of poor seasons, losing a match like that because of the referee is just hard to take.

We abused McVicar to fuck of course in AFTN and how that cunt became the refs chief still baffles us. He can still shove his elastic watch up his arse as far as we're concerned, but we're not bitter!

No death threats were ever issued by East Fife fans to McVicar though. I mean, that would be ridiculous. Despite what happened, it's football and that shit happens. Try telling that to a Celtic fan though.

Willie Collum has been the referee in the news more than most this season. I'm sure he hasn't courted or enjoyed any of it. You think it might spur him on to be a better referee mind you!

Collum, the referee will possibly the most unfortunate name ever in Scottish football, first hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons back in October last year of course. His decision to award Rangers a penalty in the Old Firm game and his general handling of the game had outraged Celtic and led to him receiving death threats.

Mind you, what refereeing decisions haven't seemed to outrage Neil Lennon and Celtic this season, as linesman Steven Craven found out at the cost of his job the same month.

They've not always been wrong to be outraged though, although NOTHING ever merits issuing death threats to anyone over football.

The performance of Collum and his officiating crew in last night's 1-1 draw at New Douglas Park between the Bhoys and Hamilton Accies is likely to be the talking point for the next few days. I wonder how many column inches are going to be written about the situation this time. I know, I know, I'm adding to them with this piece myself.

When the refs went on strike in November it pissed many fans off, myself being one of them, whose trip home to see the Fife take on Ayr at Somerset Park was duly curtailed (although the weather may have got to it, if the strike hadn't).

Why should lower league clubs, who had nothing to do with the abuse and furore this season, be the ones to be punished for the action of some of the big boys?

Despite all this, most of us backed the refs. Yeah they were right to strike. No one should have to put up with some of the abuse they had but it seems to be a story that's never going to go away.

Some of Collum's decisions laat night were woeful. Controversial game and his linos didn't help him out at times.

Now every time Collum is in charge of a Celtic game questions will be asked. Every decision is now going to be scrutinised. Obviously you can't just stop him from taking the helm of these games or a very dangerous precedent will be set, but I just don't what the answer is.

He is human after all and such things are bound to be at the back of his mind somewhere.

It would be most helpful for all involved in Scottish football if all these useless bastards in the middle could just get better in the first place!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh King Kenny, what have you done?

In recent seasons, legends going back to manage Premiership clubs hasn't worked out all that well. Alan Shearer thankfully couldn't save his beloved Newcastle United from being relegated. Going further back, Trevor Brooking made a valiant effort but ultimately couldn't stop his (and my) West Ham United from taking the drop.

Will Kenny Dalglish fare any better?

Realistically, a Club the size of Liverpool, with the players they have and the amount of the season they have left to turn things around shouldn't be anywhere near the bottom three come May. Sitting just three points off it just now though, the League table doesn't make for happy reading for the red side of Liverpool and with a visit to Anfield from the blue side on Sunday looming, it's going to be a cracking derby and more uncomfortable times ahead for King Kenny.

Tonight's match between Blackpool and Liverpool showed two sides with very differing attitudes.

As ourselves and so many others keep harping on, Blackpool have been an inspiration and a breath of fresh air in the Premiership this season. They showed real fight and team spirit to get back into the game and go on and win it 2-1 after going behind to an early goal.

I so hope they can avoid relegation, consolidate and be part of the EPL, whilst playing their brand of exciting, attacking football for many seasons to come.

Charlie Adam was outstanding this evening. Great for Blackpool, great for Scotland. What Ian Holloway has done in scouting the lower leagues and leagues elsewhere and putting together a non-flashy squad is being shown to be a shrewd and successful way of going about things.

Compare that to Liverpool with all their big names, high cost purchases and the distinct lack of being up for a real fight that has been seen in some games of late.

The players there just either don't seem to have the stomach, confidence or the mental resiliance to be where they currently are.

Could this be their downfall? Let's hope so. Would love to see that.

Shame for the legend that is Kenny, but great for football.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The last couple of years hasn't seen a lot of highs for East Fife. Following the Championship win in 2008, there's been a few good wins, a few vital wins, some fine performances and some breathtaking goals. The problem's been none of these things have come at a consistant enough level to make us have what we could class any of the last three seasons as a successful one.

One of the standouts those has been Bobby Linn. Well, at times anyway. Sometimes, especially last season, Bobby was posted missing in a lot of games. It was frustrating because we all knew what his abilities were and we wondered why were weren't seeing it. Was it the tactics? Was it the player? He's one of those players though that can be quiet all game and then produce that one bit of magic that has all the fans talking about just him for the rest of the week.

This season we've seen the return to the Bobby we know and love. He was on fire pre-season. Banging in goals for fun and hat-tricks galore. He started the season well, scored some breathtaking goals, dipped a little, but is back on form again and was one of the standouts in the weekend gubbing at Pittodrie.

With his form and skill, it's not a surprise that Clubs have come sniffing about Boaby in this transfer window and the rumours are that Falkirk, Dunfermline and a Maltese club have all expressed interest in signing him. He can certainly play at a higher level.

With Bobby being out of contract in the summer and free to move on without a fee on a Bosman, East Fife are faced with a mighty dilemma and it's one that hasn't gone unnoticed by the fans.

The dilemma goes way beyond should we sell him or keep him, it's about East Fife's ambition, hopes for the rest of the season and financial state.

The chances are pretty high that Bobby will go in the summer and if we look for too much money just now, clubs will just wait till then and someone will probably come in and sign him on a pre-contract. We'll get nothing for him out of that.

With that in mind and with the state of many clubs in Scotland at the moment, even selling him now could possibly net only £10,000. A pittance really for a player like Bobby, but it would be the first "decent" money we would have got for selling a player in a long time.

Linn is clearly one of East Fife best assets on the pitch just now and when a club like East Fife has an asset like that, we aren't usually in a position to keep hold of it for that long.

Selling him would dent our push for the promotion playoffs. In fact, it could propel us into the relegation mix once again, especially since our other main goalscorer, Kurtis Byrne, has returned to Hibs at the end of his loan spell. Also what message does it not only give the fans, but also new boss John Robertson about the ambition, or rather the severe lack of it, at the club?

Realistically, I don't want us to get promotion this season as I don't think we're ready for it as a club and it could do more harm than good. Another First Division season of humpings ala Bone era and that could put more fans off for good than bring new ones in. I know Cowden seem to be getting by, but I really don't see us doing that.

I'd much rather have a season for Robbo to lay the base for a proper push next season. I don't was to see us going down though and a player like Linn can prevent that.

Selling Linn for a small five figure fee will also set off even more alarm bells amongst the fanbase about the perilous state of the Club's finances. The AGM accounts and losses made for horrific reading. If we're desperate to lose our best player just to get some money in the coffers then things are truly dire.

So what should East Fife do?

Keep him till the end of the season. Lose him on a free, but secure our Second Division safety, whilst sending a message to the fans that we don't need to sell our best players every time.

If Bobby does go though, then all at AFTN will wish him well in his new haunt. Just as long as it's not at the Rovers of course.

Monday, January 10, 2011

I don't know whether it's just from being an exile now and perhaps being out of the loop at times, but today's announcement that the Home Internationals may be back on the fixtures calendar from 2013 caught me pleasantly by surprise.

Whether there is much substance to the initial murmurs awaits to be seen of course, but the stars may be aligning to make this happen.

With the Nations Cup featuring Scotland, Wales and both Irelands due to commence in Dublin next month, the appetite for more matches between the home nations is bound to be rekindled and whether we like it or not, all the countries need England to take part to make it a real success and a real mouthwatering proposition.

Sure we want Scotland to win every match they play. Sure it's fun to see us get one up on our Celtic neighbours, but there's no feeling in the world like fucking over the English and I'm sure my Welsh and Irish friends would agree with me fully.

The Nations Cup is a mere distraction. Glorified friendlies really. The return of the Home Internationals, epsecially at the end of the season, would be the real deal however.

It's a shame that there's a whole generation out there who have no idea what we're talking about of course. I grew up loving May. The games, the rivalries and sitting down watching the games on the TV with the family.

The original Home Internationals died out for a multitude of reasons. Some countries, and I'm ashamed to say that Scotland were one of them, started to field weaker teams, thus chipping away at the importance of it all. Others, yes you England, had grander ideas and wanted bigger and more glamourous games against the likes of Brazil and Argentina (hence the horrible Rous Cup that existed after Scotland and England decided to ditch the others).

You then had the clash with the more important preparations for World Cups and European Championships. Remember, this was an age where Scotland qualified for such things. I know, I know, it's hard to believe. The complaints about too many games and the threat of hooliganism also cooled the tournaments jets.

Fans have clamoured for a return for years. It's always been the English FA that's seemed to be the most against it, but their stance does seem to be softening now. I'm sure the thought of sold out Wembley games is an appetising prospect to an organisation that's spent a lot of money on a losing World Cup bid.

The initial idea about the return of the tournaments is suggesting a Rugby Six Nations style of alternating home advantage. That's how it's being spun but that's how I remember it being anyway.

I was too young to go to the games the first time around. I was at Hampden for the first leg of the Euro 2000 playoff against England in 1999. That was one hell of an amazing atmosphere. If we can recapture that every season then all the FA's would be foolish not to go for it. I know I'd certainly be tempted to fly back for some of them.

All we can hope for in the meantime is that this comes to fruition and that if it does that the governing bodies and clubs treat it with the respect it deserves. Of course, we all know that that is perhaps just a little bit too much to ask for.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yesterday was Cup day both sides of the border as we all know. Both the Scottish Cup and the FA Cup produced a multitude of shocks on varying levels. Sadly East Fife weren't one of them.

It's still hard to get as excited about the Scottish Cup results though as we do for the English ones.

No doubt years of growing up hearing about the "magic" and "romance" of the FA Cup has a big part to play in this conditioning, but all that aside, it's still true!

I had both yesterday's ITV FA Cup Highlights package and the Beeb's Scottish Cup hightlights package to watch and whilst I rushed to see the English version, I still haven't pressed play on the Scottish one. Perhaps wanting to avoid seeing the Fife's Pittodrie horror show has had some effect on my thinking.

It was a day of high drama down in England. In fact, a weekend of it, as it continued with today's games.

Many look forward to the Third Round ties the most. I was also in that category until recent years when the plethora of non league teams in Rounds One and Two delight me just that little bit more.

I still love the Third Round of course and all the shock and surprise and joy that seeing a Club like Stevenage putting out a Premier side like Newcastle brings with it. That's was a well deserved and convincing gubbing.

My interest in the FA Cup though seriously diminishes in each round from the Third onwards. In the Scottish one mind you, it's over as soon as East Fife crash out, so that's my interest over till November.

As it stands today, there's only one non league side left in the competition and that's Crawley Town. They face Derby tomorrow and I sincerely hope for a Derby win.

Part of me would like to see Crawley do well as they're non league and still a small side. Part of me would like to see them go on a cup run with replays to aid AFC Wimbledon's challenge for the Conference title. But with the way they've gone about things, their moneybags approach and the fact that I find their manager, Steve Evans, one of the most unlikeable "characters" in the modern game, I just can't wish them well.

The draw for the Fourth Round is also pretty uninspiring. Very little to get you excited and maybe not too many shocks on the cards. We'll have to see how some of the replays pan out I guess.

One year I'd love to take in some FA Cup ties from the very very early stages in August. Be fun to follow a team from one round to the next. With Stevenage putting out Wimbledon I guess I'll be rooting for them going forward now (and of course West Ham).

Maybe this could be the real year of the underdog. Would make the latter stages a lot more exciting for me anyway.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It was always going to be a hard ask for East Fife to do something at Pittodrie this afternoon, especially with their lack of match practice and losing their loan players. And so it came to pass, as Aberdeen comfortably cruised into the Fifth Round of the Scottish Cup.

To everyone's joy, the weather didn't put pay to the game like it did two years ago and a healthy 600 strong travelling support made the trip up North for this afternoon Fourth Round Scottish Cup tie, more out of hope than expectations.

East Fife have both the tendency to score a barrel-load of goals or concede them and unfortunately for the Fife faithful, this afternoon saw the latter.

It was a slow start to the game and East Fife were holding their own, even managing the first shot on target after 11 minutes when Robert Sloan fired wide.

Then 13 minutes and 16 seconds in to the game, the Premier side took the lead almost out of the blue. Chris Maguire, who was always going to be the Dons dangerman of the afternoon, got on the end of a David MacNamee cross from the right and rifled it home from six yards out.

East Fife were forced into a change moments later with Steven Campbell having to go off injured and was replaced by Scott Durie. The change and the goal didn't see East Fife heads go down and they forced a corner on 16 minutes.

Sloan's inswinging corner was met unmarked by Div Muir and the big man headed just wide to the left. They may have gone one down but they were keen to show that they were still in the game.

East Fife were causing the SPL side some concerns at set pieces. Another corner was met by Dylan McGowan and his mishit shot was saved well by Jamie Langfield in the Aberdeen goal.

This didn't last for much longer though unfortunately as Aberdeen twisted the knife in and took complete control of the game.

Maguire went on a great run from his own half and forced Michael Brown into a great save for a corner. Scott Vernon almost doubled the Dons advantage with 22 minutes gone, but headed Paul Hartley's corner wide.

Aberdeen continued to press though and did get their second after 24 minutes. McGowan tried to pass back but was short and Vernon pounced on the mistake. His pace down the right left the Fife defence for dead and his cross into the box saw Maguire hit his, and the Dons' second, high into the net from six yards out.

And it was three on the half hour mark, Scott Vernon this time netting himself from close range after a cross in from Ryan Jack.

Vernon nearly added a second for himself on 33 minutes when he managed to somehow clear the ball from the goal-line instead of putting it into the back of the net. The same player had another great effort on 41 minutes, hitting his 18 yard effort just wide.

Aberdeen were to make it four though with three minutes of the half remaining, with Maguire netting his hat trick with a low effort from 12 yards out.

As half time approached, Bobby Linn at least let the Aberdeen defence know that we were still there, forcing Langfield into a fine save for a corner with a shot from 20 yards out.

That was the last action of the first half. Four goals down, no way back and a long journey home for the travelling black and gold army. Hopefully they could shut up shop for the second forty-five and maybe nick a consolation goal (or two) to at least give us something to take from the game.

Well they did manage to shut up shop for most of what was to be a woeful second half, full of lulls and a lack of action.

To East Fife's credit though they didn’t just sit back and had a few shots on goal, without really ever threatening the Aberdeen net too much. Muir, Sloan, Linn and Crawford all had efforts though.

As the game reached the 81 minute mark, it was looking like the Fife may keep the score down to a semi-respectable four, but Scott Vernon wasn’t finished for the afternoon just yet, hitting home his second from a Josh Magennis cross from the right from 12 yards out.

He almost completed his hat-trick and Aberdeen's sixth a minute later but hit over from six yards out when it looked easier to score. Nikola Vujadinovic also had a great chance with five minutes remaining but weakly headed Peter Pawlett’s cross wide from a good position.

As the game drifted into stoppage time, Vernon had another great chance for his hat-trick but it wasn’t to be, with Michael Brown saving well in the Fife goal.

The action wasn't over yet though and the SPL side did make it six when Josh Magennis got on the end of a Maguire through ball, rounded Brown and easily tapped home in the third minute of stoppage time for 6-0 Aberdeen.

So a rout in the end. The scoreline doesn’t lie about Aberdeen’s dominance and East Fife just simply weren’t at the races. Outclassed, it will be interesting to see how they bounce back in the League in these coming weeks.

All we are left to wonder is what might have been if McGhee had still been in charge and we’d had some games under our belts recently.

So another Scottish Cup campaign bites the dust and we have to focus now on the League and not only avoiding the relegation playoffs but making the promotion ones.

C'mon the Fife.

FINAL SCORE: Aberdeen 6 – 0 East Fife

East Fife: Michael Brown, Dylan McGowan, Jonathan Smart, Steven Campbell (Scott Durie 15), John Ovenstone, Bobby Linn, David Muir, Robert Sloan, Craig Johnstone (Lloyd Young 69), Stevie Crawford (Steven Weir 85), Stevie Hislop. [Subs Not Used: Andrew Collier and Stuart Cargill]

Aberdeen: Jamie Langfield, David McNamee (Nikola Vujadinovic 69), Rory McArdle, Zander Diamond, Andrew Considine, Ryan Jack, Paul Hartley, Derek Young (Josh Magennis 68), Sone Aluko (Peter Pawlett 51), Chris Maguire, Scott Vernon. [Subs Not Used: Mark Howard and Jerel Ifil]

Att: 6,918

Friday, January 7, 2011

East Fife go into the Fourth Round of the Scottish Cup tomorrow hoping to add to the Club's proud giantkilling traditions.

Has our best hope gone however?

When the draw was made in November, us Fife fans we cock-a-hoop at the prospect of facing Aberdeen at Pittodrie.

This season, has seen one of the worse Dons teams turn out in my living memory. They've been woeful at times and the longer Mark McGhee held on, the more hope we had. Add to that East Fife's excellent form under our new boss in John Robertson and the fact that Aberdeen's Cup records in recent seasons against lower league sides isn't too healthy and it was looking like a little shockeroonie could have been on the cards.

What a difference though those few weeks since have made. East Fife can't get a game played, not only losing momentum but our loan players in this period as well. Aberdeen sack McGhee, appoint ex Scotland supremo Craigy Brown and have gone on an unbeaten run of three games, with seven points being taken in the SPL from the last nine.

Aberdeen should be too strong for us, especially losing the likes of Kurtis Byrne back to Hibs. But it's the Cup. Robbo will have them fired up. The Craw will be fired up. An early goal for us or no early goal for them and who knows what could happen.

I'm gutted I'm missing it. Never been to Pittodrie. Missed the Cup game in 2009 and Aberdeen are one of only three Scottish sides I've never seen East Fife play (the other being Hearts and new boys Annan Athletic).

The weather put the spoilers on things two years ago, let's hope it's not going to be another repeat. Also let's hope that we can get our goalie past three minutes this time before getting sent off!

AFTn hope to have Twitter updates from Pittodrie HERE from 3pm tomorrow.

We should be taking a fair few hundred up north for the game. Enjoy yourselves lads and lasses, be safe and cheer one in for me.

C'mon the Fife.
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