Saturday, December 8, 2012

Football can be a cruel mistress.

Mind you, so can Simone. I still have those stiletto marks on my back.

Football brings us highs and deals us lows. That’s what makes the game what it is and why we love it so much. It can toy with your emotions, ruin your weekends, but we still keep coming back for more.

If it was all sweetness and light then where would the fun be in that?!

Further proof that football simply isn’t fair came last weekend in Milton Keynes.

The Franchise FC – AFC Wimbledon game really was as close to a good v evil battle as you’ll ever get in football. Sadly evil triumphed.

Was there anyone, apart from perhaps some Palace fans, that didn’t want the Wombles to win?

I’ve been a long time AFC Wimbledon supporter and continue to be a proud member of the Dons Trust. They’re a great footballing and fan success story in this era of the money men and one which we should all applaud.

We should also never forget the help and encouragement that the Dons gave us in our struggles against Derrick Brown in those dark days of not so long ago, including a feature on our plight in their matchday programme.

As I’m sure you all know, a heartbreaking stoppage time loss to a freak goal was the end result of the most bitterest of games.

But Wimbledon got their goal and showed that they belonged with the bastardised version of themselves. Even men with glass eyes must have been moved to tears with what Jack Midson's goal meant to so many. Scant consolation, but at least some was there in their heartbreak.

As East Fife fans we’ve obviously encountered our own share of heartbreaks over the years.

Those gut wrenching games where you head through the turnstile full of excitement and often hope more than expectation, but you leave ninety minutes or so later heartbroken and feeling like you’ve been put through a wringer.

So what East Fife stick out for you in this category from over the years? It doesn’t have to be late winners, just games where you left so low it hurt.

I still remember heading to Boghead on the last day of the season in 2000. East Fife were chasing promotion and we took a huge travelling support west for the last game at the ramshackle ground. We just needed to win.

We took the lead. Then in true East Fife fashion, two goalkeeping howlers saw our hopes fade and die.

There's not a sadder feeling in football than standing with a deflated blow up champagne bottle all limp between your legs!

Trying to drown out the tannoy guy with East Fife chants as he tried to make an emotional farewell to the old ground gave us a little, bitter joy, but at least the post match Indian was nice.

For me though, the date 26th January 1991 is the one that still haunts me the most.

If you were at Bayview yourself that day, I’m sure you already have the blood vessels ready to burst at the very mention of it.

Second division East Fife versus Premier League Dundee United in the Scottish Cup, Don McVicar’s elastic watch, a 97th minute equaliser and Alan ‘expletive’ Main.

It was heartbreaking at the time and it still hurts just as much when you think back on it now, made even worse by the fact that we took the lead in the replay three days later before bowing out in extra time.

I can still see the goal and the subsequent tangerine celebrations. I can still hear the silence that befell the whistling Bayview faithful. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible.

My Fife memories only go back to 1984, so I’m sure some of the old yins reading this will have plenty more to pick from. Get in touch with us and share yours or leave them on the AFTN forum.

Whatever they were, we know we'll still be back and there will be more. Never mind, they just make the happier memories all that sweeter.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When you think Major League Soccer, you don't naturally think East Fife. They don't exactly go together, much like Raith Rovers and silverware.

There are some connections there though, as tenuous as some of them are!

And where there are those connections, I like to bring them to the fore in my writings and ramblings about MLS. Any excuse to mention the mighty Fife to baffled North Americans!

There are players that have played both for East Fife and in MLS, and there are players past and present in the League that have played against East Fife.

What more of a link do you want than that?!

Perhaps the most famous ex Fifer to ply his trade in MLS is legendary striker KENNY DEUCHAR.

The good Doctor had one season with Real Salt Lake in 2008, making 29 appearances and scoring 3 goals.

His bustling style never quite set the heather alight in Utah and he was freed at the end of his only season there. He did leave a couple of spectacular goals behind as his legacy at least.

Long before Deuchs made his way over to the States, cult defender STEVIE PITTMAN blazed the trail.

He did have a big advantage of course - he was American!

Pittman was born in North Carolina but moved to Scotland when he was two. He played most of his footballing career over here and made 83 appearances for the Fife, netting 10 goals and becoming a much loved cheeky chappy amongst the Fife support.

He left Methil in a big move to Shrewsbury Town in March 1989 (where he played alongside the legendary Vic Kasule!), before heading to the lower levels of the American game. Stevie got his break in MLS though in 1996 when he joined Tampa Bay Mutiny.

He played that season in Florida and made 29 appearances for the Mutiny, scoring one goal.

The following season he made the move to the dreadfully named Kansas City Wizards (they're now called Sporting KC, which frankly isn't all that better).

Stevie made a further 26 MLS appearances for The Wiz, without finding the net, and he soon returned to Scotland to play for Clydebank, Stenny and Linlithgow Rose. Not quite the same surroundings as sunny Florida!

Trinidad internationalist CRAIG DEMMIN has been featured in ‘The Bayview’ recently. The defender moved to the US after his time at Bayview ended and although he mostly played at the D2 level (the league directly below MLS but with no promotion or relegation between the levels), he had one season in MLS.

Demmin also played with Tampa Bay Mutiny, this time in 2001, their last season in the League before they folded. He made 19 appearances, with no goals.

We always like to claim Fife loanee TAM MCMANUS as one of our own. We still have very fond memories of his time at Bayview in 2000 that nearly gained us promotion.

Tam made the move to the US in 2008 and played one season with Colorado Rapids. He played 20 games for the Rocky Mountain side, netting an impressive six goals, which for this League is a good tally for the whole season.

Tam's 40 yard goal in Week 9 against Chivas USA even won the 'Goal of the Week award'.

Unfortunately Tam and the Rapids couldn't agree personal terms for the 2009 season and he was soon on his way to Ireland, never to return.

And that's your lot with regards to players that have played both for us and in MLS. I'm sure there will be some more to add in the future, or maybe even someone I'm totally missing out!

As we covered in a previous programme, there is also a very firm East Fife connection on the coaching staff at Vancouver Whitecaps right now, with former player and first team coach Gordon Forrest current in charge of the Caps' U18 and U23 teams.

As for players who have faced East Fife and played in MLS, well there are a few more of them as you may expect.

Here's a poser for you. From our reckoning, which four players played for teams in MLS in 2012, having previously faced the mighty Fife?

The answers are: David Beckham (Los Angeles Galaxy), Kris Boyd (Portland Timbers), Adam Moffat (Houston Dynamo) Barry Robson (Vancouver Whitecaps).

All bar Moffat have also scored against the Fife.

I never did get to ask Beckham how well he remembers his two goals for Man United in Jimmy Bonthrone's testimonial at Bayview in 1995.

I did though chat with Moffat about his time playing in the Third Division for Elgin City against us. He's a player I dearly want to join Vancouver Whitecaps and as the current Caps coach, Martin Rennie, is responsible for bringing him to the US from Scotland in the first place, that's not just a faint hope.

Kris Boyd scored his 50th and 51st goals for Rangers against East Fife in the League Cup in 2007. Monumental for him them, but he's certainly struggled since moving to Portland and if they could offload him this close season, I'm pretty sure they will.

Barry Robson is at the Whitecaps, as regular readers will know. Robson scored his first ever professional goal for Inverness Caley Thistle against East Fife in December 1997. He also played for Forfar against the Fife at the turn of the century.

Robson scored his 100th career goal for the Whitecaps this summer, making me probably the only person other than himself to have been present when he scored his 1st and 100th career goals!

And all this tenuous East Fife connection stuff works the other way too.

For example, did you know that Fife goalie Michael Brown is the proud owner of both home and away Vancouver Whitecaps strips? Well you do now!

It's these little quirks that help me keep a little bit of East Fife close by when I'm watching football in another land.

Still never the same as being at a chilly midweek game at Bayview mind.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vancouver Whitecaps 2012 Major League Soccer season is now over.

Last year the Caps were the worst side in MLS, well adrift from most teams in the League, and in particular from their Cascadian rivals in Seattle and Portland.

34 games played, just six wins (none of them away from home), ten draws and a whopping eighteen losses, for final points total of 28 and rock bottom was last year's scorecard.

It was a hard season to watch.

But what a difference a year makes - and of course, a Scottish manager. It's in our breeding!

As we've mentioned before, Vancouver has two Scots in charge - manager Martin Rennie and assistant coach, Fifer, Paul Ritchie. And they've done an amazing job, on the whole, turning the team around.

If we were to give them an overall rating for the season, you're looking at a B minus.

They overhauled the squad twice. Once in the close season, as everyone expected, and once midway through the season, which baffled everyone at the time and still does.

This season, they've take the Whitecaps from dead last to fifth in Western Conference, becoming the first Canadian side in the history of MLS to make the playoffs.

It was a short lived playoff run as they faced one of the hardest playoff games they could have got, going head to head with a star studded LA Galaxy side in California in a straight knockout cup tie.

Vancouver went in as huge underdogs, against a LA side that had only failed to score in one home game all season.

It ended up as everyone expected for the Whitecaps, one game and out, but not before they shocked LA, and all of MLS, by taking the lead just three minutes in.

They went on to lose 2-1 after a nightmare three minute spell for them towards the end of the match, as they tried to park the bus and defend with nine men behind the ball for the remaining 87 minutes.

Maybe Craig Levein has a future in North America.

The Whitecaps also set the MLS record for the longest clean sheet streak to start a season, going 427 minutes without conceding a goal. Some difference from the team that had the third worst goals against record in MLS in 2011 with 55 goals.

That was the good news. The bad news was that after Rennie midseason overhaul, the team struggled like mad and scraped into the playoffs by the skin of their teeth at the end.

The Caps put the old adage of "it's not how you start, it's how you finish" to bed by logging 67% of their points total in the first half of the season. 29 points from those 17 games. 14 from the rest.

They ended up with a four point cushion, but that was more due to Dallas imploding rather than them finding their early season form.

And a lot of the blame was being firmly laid at the manager's strange dismantling of a winning team and the 'Scottish connection'.

The dismantling was bizarre. With the team not just challenging for the playoffs, but a high seeding and possibly even a Conference title, three of Vancouver's top players, and fan favourites, were moved on.

Davide Chiumiento, a Swiss midfielder with flair and some crazy skills, was transferred to FC Zurich. Frenchman Eric Hassli was moved on to Toronto and his countryman, Sebastien Le Toux, to New York, despite only joining the side in February.

Between them the three players had scored six goals and had ten assists (a huge stat to people over here), and the heart of the team was ripped out, along with some close team chemistry and most of the attacking threat. I'm not sure that people will ever really find out why.

Again, as we've mentioned before in these pages, Vancouver has gone Scotland crazy and it's not just in a managerial capacity, with Barry Robson and Kenny Miller heading over the Atlantic to become highly paid 'Designated Players' (marquee players if you'd like) and to replace the guys that had moved on.

They've both struggled, as has Kris Boyd at Portland. MLS seems to be a League that many UK players struggle to adapt to. It took both David Beckham and Robbie Keane time to settle in at LA.

The Scots have underperformed and with the DP tag and the fact that in a League with an open salary policy, everyone and their dog knows just how much money they're earning ($1.24 million for Miller and $596,499 for Robson), the fans have been on their back.

They've been on their case for everything from not scoring goals, bringing disharmony to the dressing room, replacing fan favourites and, in Robson's case, being whiny and waving his arms around like one of those weird wind men things you find outside car dealerships. There's also been rumour of dressing room disagreements with some of the other top players.

Is it fair to say they've flopped? Yes and no.

Both have contributed to the team, but in the eyes of the fans and the media, nowhere near enough for the money they're commanding.

Robson has played 17 games, scoring three goals and contributing two assists. Ironically, that makes him the team's fourth top scorer, as they've struggled to find the net all that often.

Miller has played 13 games (five of them as a sub), scoring just twice and contributing one assist.

Their performances were getting so much criticism that both of them were dropped to the bench for the last game of the regular season.

Robson regained his starting spot for the playoff game against the Los Angeles Galaxy, but Miller had to be content with being on the bench again. Except he wasn't.

He made it clear that this was a different role for him. Not one that he is used to. And it seemed not one that he was particularly happy about.

With the money he is on, it's also not a situation that Vancouver can continue with.

Miller didn't help his cause by having a great chance to give Vancouver a 2-0 lead in the playoff game against LA, but with the empty goal gaping, he failed to even get his shot on target from ten yards out.

For many, myself included, that was the final straw and he needs to head back to the UK pronto.

Robson may get a reprieve, but the jury is still out on him.

At least one UK ex-pat did come into Vancouver amongst in the summer amongst all the reshuffling and do well.

Former Ireland international Andy O'Brien has come to Vancouver and excelled, immediately making himself one of the starting centrehalfs.

So that was the tale of Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012 and their band of Scots.

With the club now going through their end of season evaluations to see who will be kept on, they will soon break off until pre-season training recommences in January.

If they Scots management team decided to focus on some more UK players, let's hope there's more O'Briens and less Millers.

Poor old Kenny Miller. No-one seems to want him to start these days.

A footballers time in the limelight and glory days are indeed a short one.

[You can read all about Vancouver Whitecaps daily on AFTN's Canadian website at:]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 4th 2012.

That was the day that the SFA bigwigs finally did something worthy this year and got rid of the disaster that was Craig Levein as the Scotland manager.

It's a day that should be celebrated with street parties, but the mood was really more subdued. Whilst great to see the useless numpty depart, you still have to have a heavy heart at the fact that it's too little, too late, with any hopes of being on the 'Road to Rio' ending up in a roadside ditch.

Levein had totally lost the support of the bulk of the Tartan Army and after the disastrous World Cup qualifying campaign so far, his position really was untenable.

His spell as Scotland manager has been a shambles and he will be remembered pretty much solely for negative reasons, and there's been so many of them to choose from.

Squeaking by Liechtenstein at Hampden. Being humiliated and torn apart by the US in May. And of course, Prague. We could go on.

The worst Scotland manager ever? Worst than Bertie Vogts? At least the German tried to bring through the young players.

Never hire anyone with Cowden connections is what I take from all of this. Hated him then. Hate him now. And we'll still hate him here at AFTN wherever he goes next.

Thankfully he apparently hates East Fife as much in return, so we'll never have to have him here at Bayview.

So what now? And why did this sacking take so long? If he'd gone after the two home games, or at the end of the failed Euros campaign, would we be in better shape?

After all, he played a lot of the players most of us would have picked? Is it them who have let us down?

Well yes, everyone has.

Our World Cup hopes are doomed and we've been reduced to facing Luxemburg next week in friendlies. Not even a hint of glamour there for either team.

At least whoever takes over can't really take us much lower.

I'm almost at the stage of giving up on international football. My other adopted country of Canada haven't made the World Cup since 1986 and they had a great chance to make it to the final qualifying stages of the CONCACAF region. They just needed a point in Honduras. One single, measly point. Instead they got destroyed 8-1!

I must have broken a lot of mirrors in my previous lives if that's who I've been given to support on the national stage!

Right now it's looking like Gordon Strachan for the Scotland job, but I'd love to see him (or whoever get the job) bring a legend like Kenny Dalglish or Joe Jordan in beside him. Just to have some kind of nod towards the past when we actually qualified for these tournaments.

We've nothing to lose now, so it has to be a case of the new guy blooding the youngsters and the talent we have coming through at U23, U21, and even U19 level, and looking with an eye to the very long future by keeping and playing these guys together as a unit from now until whenever. That's what so many other successful countries have been doing.

Signal the end to the old guard like Kenny Miller. You've served us well, thank you for that, but fare ye well.

The next appointment as Scotland boss is vital to our footballing future. We can't rush in to the decision.

Another failure like Levein and we'll be reduced to be at Luxemburg's level for a long, long time to come.

If this year has taught us anything though, it's that it's hard to feel safe for the future when that future lies in the hands of the Scottish Football Association.

Monday, October 22, 2012

What is the role of a club like East Fife in the big money, corporate world of modern day football?

Can we ever recapture our glory days of the 40's and 50's? Will we ever made the top flight again, never mind being one of the top four football clubs in the country?

You have to be honest and say right here, right now, things look a little bleak.

Are we destined to kick around the bottom two divisions of Scottish football for the rest of eternity, with maybe one season in a blue moon making it to the promised land of the First Division?

I'm sure League construction will be our answer to that, as surely the game here will return to at least a three, and hopefully two, division set up.

Basically, what I'm asking is will we ever be considered anything but a minnow in the Scottish game any time soon?

Despite what our heads may tell us, I'm sure every one of you reading this has a heart screaming "Of course we will. We are East Fife Football Club. The most successful club in the Kingdom and our time will come again".

For without that optimism, what is the point of going along every Saturday?

So how do we get back to those glory days and to go back to the first of these many questions, what is our current role in the Scottish game?

I like to think that one of several answers to these questions is interlinked - developing top young local talent that will not only help East Fife FC, but also the Scottish game.

When I started watching East Fife in the early 80's we were proud of the conveyor belt of young talent that we either produced ourselves, or got at an early age and moulded them and developed them in a black and gold jersey.

Stevie Kirk, Paul Hunter, Davie Kirkwood and of course our current manager, and East Fife legend, Gordon Durie were just a handful of players that saw East Fife challenging very competitively.

Faced with the age old problem that all provincial clubs have to come to terms with, holding on to this talent at Bayview was/is impossible and I think we probably all accept that our top young stars will move on one day and play at a higher level and maybe even pull on the blue of Scotland on the world stage.

It makes us proud when it happens, but when was the last time we did such a thing? In the last 10, 15 years, how many young players have we brought through the Youth ranks of Bayview and into the first team?

There's Stevie Ferguson, Paul McManus and .....

It's been a sad state of affairs and what we've ended up doing is bringing in players developed by local rivals such as Raith Rovers, or young loan players from Premier clubs.

It is a situation that has to change for East Fife to become challengers once again. We need to develop our own and give these guys a chance in the first team before bring in loan players with no emotional ties to the Club.

We have a great youth set up at Bayview just now and the guys running these teams are doing a fantastic job, which is self funded, and they deserve a medal for their commitment to improving the club's future.

The Reserves have been doing fairly well this year and the U19s have beaten Premier League opposition (Motherwell) to advance in the Scottish Youth Cup.

East Fife currently have teams at U14, U16/17 and U19 level, along with 12 full time apprentices, and a five year development plan is in place.

This is the future of our club and they deserve all of our support. Try and get to the games and if you can afford it, make a little donation to the £110,000 yearly running costs.

For East Fife to continue to not just survive, but also thrive, in the Scottish game, we need this be a success and we need these guys to get their chance of playing in the first team. They need to see that there is a realistic reward for all of their hard work, and just now that isn't happening.

Is it too far fetched to hope that we can maybe have a team consisting primarily of local talent one day? I'd like to think it's not.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What a difference a few weeks make for Vancouver Whitecaps.

A couple of issues ago in East Fife programme The Bayview, we looked at the "Tartan Transformation" that Vancouver has gone through on both the managerial and playing side.

Things were seemingly going swimmingly, as last season's last placed side comfortably looked on course to make their first Major League Soccer playoffs. It wasn't a case of 'if' they made them, but just what seeding they would get.

The Whitecaps are in the Western Conference and five of the ten teams make the post-season action.

Just a month ago, the Caps had an eleven point lead over sixth placed FC Dallas, with a game in hand.

As you read this today, that game in hand is still in play (until tomorrow), but Dallas have slashed that lead to just one point and it's squeaky bum time in Vancouver for a side that have now lost five games on the bounce, bookended by two defeats by Dallas.

Even last season when the Whitecaps were very poor and bottom of the heap, they never lost five in a row.

So what has gone wrong? Well the blame seems to be being laid firmly in Scotland.

Many are pointing the fingers at three Scots: players Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, and manager Martin Rennie.

Robson and Miller have come to Vancouver on large 'Designated Player' salaries. That DP tag allows some of their wages to not count against the salary cap and is meant to attract marquee players to the League like David Beckham, Robbie Keane and Thierry Henry.

Unfortunately, such a tag also brings with it such expectations to perform and neither player has been. Or should that be, both players are has-beens?

Miller has been a flop for the Caps so far, scoring just once in eight games. When you've replaced a huge fan favourite, that's never going to wash.

Robson has scored twice in 12 games and had initially won the fans over by scoring in consecutive home games, but can't seem to play in the hot conditions away from home. His dour demeanour and regular shouting at team-mate's mistakes hasn't gone down too well either with the mild-mannered Canadians.

Manager Rennie is getting the most blame. He inexplicably tore apart a winning team mid-season selling and trading star players and fan favourites to make way for the Scots and others, in what many have likened to him playing fantasy football with the team and just bringing in people he's admired from afar in Scotland.

Since he started swinging the axe, the team has only won two games and seems to have lost any sort of chemistry and harmony. Even the players are talking about the need to generate some new chemistry, amidst rumours of internal fall-outs.

The other killer for Vancouver is the crazy MLS scheduling.

They have played 10 of their last 14 matches away from home, and like many of the vast number of Asian drivers in the city, they're just not very good on the road.

By the time tomorrow's home fixture with Colorado comes around, they will have played just four home games in the previous 94 days. It's insane, but the only saving grace is that they now have four of their last five matches at home, where they are strong and should be able to save their season.

Mathematically they need 12 points from 15 to guarantee a playoff spot. Realistically, looking at the remaining fixtures for both Vancouver and Dallas, six should be enough.

If they fail, then it will be one of the biggest collapses in MLS history and there will be calls for heads to roll both on and off the pitch.

It could leave Vancouver looking for their fourth manager in just two years. Thankfully it shouldn't come to that, but even if they make the playoffs, it's going to be a hard ask to do anything once they're there.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'm not sure what we've all done in a previous life, but it clearly must have been bad to merit supporting both East Fife and Scotland.

With the Fife struggling in the League and looking like a relegation battle may be looming, and Scotland looking to have already blown their 2014 World Cup qualification chances, it's pretty bleak around these parts at the moment.

All of this could turn around in an instant of course. That's the wonder of football.

At times like this though, it's hard not to let your memories take hold and look back to happier times. The glory days.

You know, the days of "Five in a row", Archie Gemmill's wonder goal against the Dutch, David Narey's toepoke, wee Gordon trying to jump the boards, John Gordon Sinclair and BA Robertson having a dream. When you could buy a packet of Panini World Cup stickers and excitedly hope that you got a shiny SFA badge or a self adhesive photo of god (Stevie Archibald).

Ah happy days.

Oh but wait. The East Fife fan part of my brain is kicking in and I'm seeing Peru, Iran, Hansen and Miller colliding to let Russia score, failing to score against ten man Uruguay, Costa Rica. Aarghhh.

Horrible memories. But you know what? I wouldn't swap them because it was Scotland playing in the World Cup Finals, when we were consistently one of the best teams in Europe. At least we were there.

I'm lucky. As a kid, I got to grow up with all the excitement and assemble a collection of memorabilia full of Naranjitos and Piques. When those four weeks in June and July actually had some emotional attachment.

When will see these likes again?

Unfortunately for East Fife, most of our memories don't go back to our special glory days, because most of us weren't born to see the three League Cup wins and Scottish Cup history being made. And don't the lino lickers down the road enjoy reminding us of that fact.

It's in our history and these achievements will never be taken away from us. We may not have seen them, but we can be proud of them and have a tear in our eye when we read about them.

When will we see these likes again?

I've been watching East Fife since the 1983/84 season and I've seen one Championship, a scattering of promotions, some great Cup giantkilling feats, a lot of heartache, and a lot more disappointment.

You don't follow a club like East Fife for the glory. But it would be nice more than just once in a blue moon or, at the very least, have the feeling that you're at least trying and there is some hope.

And that just it with the Fife and with Scotland right now. There doesn't seem to be a lot of hope around in the fanbase, and it is really hard to see the situation both are in changing any time soon.

It's depressing, but you don't give up on your team, no matter how many knocks you receive along the way.

That's always been the old mantra, but sadly this does seem to be changing and there's more and more people walking away from both club and country.

What is the solution? Who knows? But whoever has it would do well to come forward soon before things get into too grave a state.

Will we ever see the glory days return for East Fife and Scotland again? It looks less likely with every passing year.

I still have the hope, but the expectation has long since faded.

Maybe in the next life.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Most of the fans don't want Kenny Miller to start and want to see the new up and coming, young goalscoring sensation leading the line.

That's the story for Miller right now for both club and country.

For Scotland, the fans want to see 22 year old Jordan Rhodes. For Vancouver Whitecaps, they want to see 22 year old Jamaican international Darren Mattocks.

Miller has been a loyal and valuable servant to Scotland, but at ten years the elder to both of these players, he is maybe looking at his best form being behind him and having to play a secondary role.

And it would seem that the Scottish media have been quick to pounce.

Miller has seen a lot of changes during his playing career, but one of the constants is the negative attitude the media have here. It always appears that they love nothing more than failure so they can go to town on the player(s) involved.

It must get wearing but you also get used to it.

Kenny spoke with AFTN after the recent qualifiers and the first thing we had to ask him was what he thought of the media's coverage of the two draws:

"The Scottish press get something in their head. They've got different agendas to probably what the team have got.

"They've taken a negative spin on it. On Saturday they had a negative spin on it, and obviously rightly so on Tuesday night, because it was a poor performance and a poor result."

So do the team, the media and the fans just need to get over it, move on and try and do better away from home to keep our qualification hopes alive?

"We've got to get over that.

"When you've been playing the game as long as I have, you don't get too high about the highs and you don't get too beat up about the lows. You've just got to pick yourself up and get on with it.

"That's kind of where we stand with the national team just now, and that's what we've got to do. We've got to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next double header next month.

"Personally, you've just got to get on with it. I've been knocked down many a time in my career and come back stronger."

It's not going to get much easier for Scotland or Miller, with the highly fancied Belgians coming up next month.

Belgium are clearly resurgent and many people tip them to win the group, helped by on-form Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini and Eden Hazard from Chelsea.

"They're a fantastic team . They've got a lot of high profile players, which we've seen one in particular really light up the Premiership in his first three games this season.

"When that game comes around, we'll make sure that the manager has a set up and a way that hopefully we'll get the right result."

Wales are up before that and anything but a win will pretty much end Scotland's already faltering qualification hopes. Then watch the media reaction!

Making the move to Canada and Major League Soccer, where the sport battles for column inches with the big four of American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey, has meant that Miller isn't under the same media scrutiny.

That must be nice:

"Well it's that. Obviously, if you're not doing well sometimes you deserve criticism.

"The way the Scottish press is, they are what they are.

"They've got a job to do and they choose to do it the way they do it and that's the way we've just got to accept it.

"I've been well used to it over the last 12/13 years of my career, so it's not going to start to affect me too much now."

Despite the poor results and the negative press, Miller has no intention of stopping making the transatlantic journey to play for his country:

"Going away and playing for your country is always an honour. It's something that I've always said I'll enjoy doing."

How long he'll be a starter is now the big question. The one thing you can't question is his commitment to his country.

Perhaps if there were a few more like him out there, putting their country ahead of their own issues, the national team wouldn't be in quite the doldrums that it is right now.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The ‘Road to Rio’ gets underway with a vengeance on Saturday with what I would already class as the first of two must-win games for Scotland.

Our constant failure to qualify for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France has left us in a vicious circle of lower seedings and increasingly tougher qualifying groups.

This won’t change until we qualify once again and restore the glory days of regular qualification and ‘five in a row’. You have to have that hope or else what’s the point?

A near whole generation of the Tartan Army has missed out of the joys of watching their country at a major tournament.

I’ll state now that I think Craig Levein is the wrong man for the manager’s job and should have been punted before this campaign got underway. Unfortunately, we all need to get behind him for now.

I’ve probably have more hope than expectation with the current Scotland squad due to the toughness of the group. Two home wins to kick off the campaign would give us some momentum to rise up and be a respected footballing nation again.

What gives me the most hope is that we are finally starting to see some of our younger talent come to the fore and play at the top level. Nineteen members of the squad are playing in the top two divisions in England, with 11 of them in the Premiership.

Only two players are currently plying their trade abroad, and one of them, current captain Kenny Miller, has been having a bit of a rough start over in MLS with Vancouver Whitecaps. Miller has mustered only one shot on target in his first few games there, but he did at least bury that chance!

We had a chat with Kenny about the upcoming games, the hopes of reaching Brazil and the younger talent coming through.

Is Saturday a must win?

"They're home games. If we're going to be successful in any campaign, whether it be World Cup or Euros, you've got to try and put your home games to bed and get three points and as many as you can. Hopefully all of them, but if not, as many as we can. 

We're starting with the two homes games and I think it is vitally important that we pick up points.

It's a tough group and every team will pretty much fancy their chances in making the World Cup, so it's important that we do get the right results at home."

Third seeded Belgium are resurgent and much hyped right now, with many people tipping them to win the group, helped by on-form Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini and the even more on-form Eden Hazard from Chelsea.

Scotland travel to Belgium for their fourth game of the group in October, but Miller doesn’t want to look too far ahead:

"We'll cross them when we come to them.

At the moment we have Serbia and Macedonia coming up first, then Belgium next month.

They're a fantastic team . They've got a lot of high profile players, which we've seen one in particular really light up the Premiership in his first three games this season.

When that game comes around, we'll make sure that the manager has a set up and a way that hopefully we'll get the right result."

Scotland’s morale boosting friendly win last month was pleasing, particularly as they played really well in spells to dispatch Australia 3-1 in Edinburgh. It gives us hope that when we choose to play attacking football, we can do some damage. We just need to play that way more often and lose all the defensive nonsense that Levein seems to adore.

Miller decided not to travel for that game as he was still trying to settle into his new surroundings in Vancouver, and living out of a hotel meant that he wasn't able to watch the game live, but he was getting regular updates on his phone.

One pleasing aspect from that game was an international goal for the up and coming, and highly rated, Jordan Rhodes, who Miller describes as "a goalscoring machine". With so many players out, and changes to the squad, was that a big win for us?

"Well it was. Obviously off the back of the US game, which was a poor performance and a poor result and unlike the team to be honest with you. We've been moving in the right direction.

The Australia game gave us a chance to put that right and the lads who were there by all accounts played very, very well and the result suggests that. A 3-1 victory against Australia is no mean feat.

The lads did very well there and hopefully put that USA result behind us."

Let’s hope so.

We'll see just how far on Saturday against Serbia.

Monday, September 3, 2012

There's something magical about the start of the new football season.

We've all been through it many times before, and some a lot more than others. It still gives me a buzz, even though deep down, I've seen this movie before and I know what lies ahead.

I love watching 'Match of the Day' and 'The Football League Show' on opening day just to see the joy and excitement on the fans faces as they head into their grounds and the sun makes it's rare appearance for the season.

The cynic inside me is saying, you're happy now, but give it a few weeks and you'll be calling for your manager's head and in a relegation dogfight.

The optimist in me though is saying, let them have their moment in the sun, as this is that special time of the season. This time could be the rarest of occasions when it could all be different.

It's the time of the year when every team is level. We're all starting from an equal playing field and even though some teams are more equal than others, we are all united in hope and anticipation in what may lie ahead in the next ten months.

Even some of the most pessimistic fans are full of hope and excitement, often more than realistic expectations.

And if you're really lucky, and your team starts with a high up letter in the alphabet, you could be top of the table or in the promotion positions before the season has even begun! Lucky old Aberdeen.

For many fans, that will be the only time you will see your team up at that end of the table.

Many of us spend the final weeks and months of the season just wanting it to end to put us out of our misery. Then the close season comes and you're bored out of your nut and you're counting down the days until first of all the new fixtures are released and then until the first ball of the new season is kicked in anger.

We've spent the summer scouring the internet forums, twitter and the sports pages to try and glean any indication of possible new signings.

We've checked the various bookies odds at the comparison sites. Can we really be 14/1 to win the League? They're crazy. I'll have £20 on that right away before they see sense and our odds plummet. We always forget that you never see a poor bookie.

That first Saturday of the new season finally comes around and you're all giddy at seeing the new players, catching up with old friends and settling down for another exciting season of fitba'.

Then the first month comes to an end and you're still looking for your first League win, are out of two Cup competitions already and you're thinking of all the ways that twenty quid could have been put to better use.

Yup, that movie's just had it's umpteenth rerun.

But that's the curse of being a fan of a lower league football club. Would we really have it any other way? If yes, then we could all have walked away by now. We're masochists, each and every one of us.

Even fans of Rangers are starting to see it's not so easy down in the lower depths of Scottish football.

What odds would you have got on them being fourth in the Third Division, with two draws, after their first three League matches as their new club?

East Stirling are still pointless. Not exactly a new feeling for their fans in a new campaign.

And for us here at East Fife, well it already looks like we're settling in and taking root in what seems to be our usual position in the Second Division.

Five points adrift of top spot already, and in neither of the promotion, playoff or relegation spots.

Did the summer even happen or have the football seasons become like the weather ones now and we're just combining them into one?

But we still have hope and when you're a fan of a lower league club, sometimes that's all you need.

Monday, August 27, 2012

He may be plying his trade thousands of miles away from home, but Kenny Miller still has Scotland firmly in his sights and on his mind.

As the national team begin their latest World Cup qualifying campaign next Saturday, the 32 year old Scotland Captain still plans to play a key part in sending us to our first World Cup finals since France in 1998.

Miller is looking to add to his 60 international caps and 16 goals, and play an active role in Scotland’s World Cup qualifiers, but historically, when Scottish players make the move overseas, especially outside of Europe, they tend to get a little bit forgotten about by the Scotland manager.

A ten hour flight every few months could soon to start to take it’s toll on Miller, but for now he has no intention of stopping wearing the navy blue of Scotland, telling AFTN Canada that he "definitely" still wants to be involved with the national team:

"Obviously there will be conversations to be had with the manager with regards to the travel, which will be a lot more from what it would be from just going from down south.

"But I'm hoping to still play a part, a big part, in the World Cup campaign that's upcoming."

Has he spoken to Scotland boss Craig Levein about the move to Vancouver and how it might affect his future international career?

"I have had a conversation with him already and he's quite happy for me to play it however I want to play it."

And how he wants to play it is to continue to spearhead the Scotland attack.

This is great news for the Tartan Army on the one hand, but on the other, Miller's form has somewhat deserted him since making the move to Major League Soccer with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

He's played six games for his new team, starting the last three, and has only managed one shot on target. That shot did find it's way into the net in last weekend's 2-1 derby loss against Portland, but he has looked a shadow of the Kenny Miller we all know and love in a Scotland jersey.

Playing on unfamiliar turf pitches has been one factor, and Miller has struggled with how the ball runs on the surface, but he has admitted he is disappointed with his current form and he needs to snap out of his lull soon.

Kenny knows that this will be his last chance of playing in the World Cup, and with some of the up and coming striking talent maybe not quite ready to be the figureheads of the current campaign, and others like Steven Fletcher not likely to return to the international set up, there is a lot of pressure and expectation on the shoulders of Miller.

The future may lie with the likes of the impressive Jordan Rhodes, who Miller describes as "a goalscoring machine", but he needs a fit and fully firing Kenny Miller alongside him to bring him on.

A whole generation has grown up not knowing the joys of watching Scotland play in a World Cup and another tough group and campaign lies ahead.

Can Kenny Miller and the rest of the Scotland team do what their predecessors have failed to do in the last three campaigns? We'll get our first insight against Serbia next Saturday.

Monday, August 20, 2012

After a summer dominated by the Rangers saga, it still doesn’t really feel like we’re in a position to move forward with Scottish football.

As the story of the Ibrox incompetence unfolded with more twists and turns than a rollercoaster ride at Alton Towers, the biggest story as far as I was concerned was the unity amongst the fans throughout Scotland.

No matter where they were from, or what division they played in, they wanted justice to be seen to be shown.

"Sporting integrity" was one of the two big buzz phrases of the summer and after pressure from supporters, it was allowed to come to the fore.

Many clubs put their heads above the parapet and took a stand. I was glad to see that East Fife were one of them and making us proud.

Raith Rovers and Clyde led the way. The statements released by the Bully Wee deserve some kind of prize for the way they consistently dismantled the threats laid at the door of the Scottish League clubs.

I'm sure many of us never thought we'd be singing the praises of a Chairman of the Linolickers, but Turnbull Hutton was tremendous in galvanising the forces of all us "diddy teams".

The likes of Craig Burley and Gordon Strachan may have a go at us smaller clubs for not having large crowds, but they should first look far closer to home as to why clubs like East Fife have been destroyed by buses leaving locally and heading off to watch the Old Firm.

The other buzz word of course was "armageddon".

It's amazing that we're all still alive today to actually read this piece. If you believed those in power at the top of Scottish football you'd have to have thought that the Mayans were indeed right about the world ending in 2012.

It led to some fun "armageddon watch" pieces on various fan forums like AFTN, but it was always nonsense from the word go.

How none of the leading players in the SFA, SFL and SPL have lost their jobs over the whole debacle is still baffling.

We all need to try and move on now, however hard it feels to do. Fan power won the day with Sevco FC, but we need it to remain strong to force through the necessary changes in the Scottish game.

Rivalries and bitter sniping need to be solely kept to 3pm on a Saturday this season and we all need to remain united, vocal and work together to put the pressure on those at the top for proper League reconstruction from next season.

This four division nonsense has to go. Ideally I'd love to see us go back to just two divisions in Scotland, but would settle for three. We need a bigger top tier, but not one based on exclusion and greed. We need proper promotion and relegation at the top level of the game and a complete overhaul with the chance of Scottish League football at the bottom of it.

Our clubs still can't compete in Europe, our national team looks to only have a chance of appearing at the World Cup or Euros if we act as hosts and every season we're losing fans from the game, never to return. It's embarrassing.

Change is a must and it shouldn't be back off the table just because we didn't do what the bullies wanted.

We all need to make it happen. Whether you're a fan of East Fife, Queen of the South, Annan Athletic or St Mirren we need to unite to make it so.

You might read this and think what's the point, it will never happen. Well they were saying that just a few months ago about Rangers in Division Three.

For the first time in decades, the fans are wielding some real power and we need to build on that. The opportunities are there. We just need to grab them with both hands and act quickly before we all just go back into our usual malaise and live to regret it.

So when you get home after the game tonight, look into how you can do something about it for the good of the game we all love.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Today will go down in history as an important day for Scottish football.

Forget all the nonsense about armageddon and slow deaths, Scottish football will be given a rebirth today.

After years of being ignored by the money men that have ruined our game for too long, the heart and soul of the game in Scotland will finally have the voice they have been deprived of for many a year.

And they need to continue to use that voice long after today to force through the reconstruction and changes that are badly needed in the game in this country.

The 'Rangers' debacle has done something that I never thought possible in the Scottish game. It has united the fans of smaller and lower league teams like never before.

As East Fife fans, we find ourselves standing proudly shoulder to shoulder with our Fife rivals of Raith, Dunfermline and Cowdenbeath, and other teams across Scotland.

The animosity and rivalries are put on the back burner for the common good.

The message is clear. We will no longer be pushed around as an afterthought and the Scottish football authorities will ignore that at their peril.

We've been threatened. We've been bullied. We have nonsense spouted at us on a daily basis of how not admitting Servco to Division One will be the end of Scottish football and millions of pounds will leave the country.

Football is not, and should never be, about money.

The game in Scotland has been in terminal decline for years under the current regime. When we're at the lowest ebb that we've ever been, how can we go any lower? Change can only be good.

Scotland have not qualified for a major international tournament since the 1998 World Cup.

A whole generation have grown up not knowing what it's like to watch their country on the world's stage.

Every season Scotland's "top" clubs crash out of Europe at embarrassingly early stages.

We can't compete with sides from eastern Europe that wouldn't have been fit to lace the boots of our teams in the 70's and 80's.

Attendances are falling dramatically. Fans are turned off with the game and the ever increasing costs to attend. Why head out in the cold at 6am to travel to a game when you can watch your team kick off at noon in the comfort of your living room?

How is this the way forward and how has this helped the game in Scotland one bit?

There is no slow death. We're already there and this is the chance for a resurrection.

How removed are the vast majority of Scottish clubs from what goes on in Glasgow?

But if the TV and sponsor money were to leave the game, clubs will go to the wall we're told.
If the top clubs can't cope without 'Rangers', what would they have done once they pissed off to another League like they would have done if given the chance?

But 'Rangers' are an institution.

So what. So was Woolworths. They went bust, closed down and now we all get our pick 'n' mix elsewhere and don't give them a second thought.

Whole cities in the US are filing for bankruptcy.

If a football club cannot be a viable business concern due to relying on either one other team or Sky money, then you have to ask about how they actually operate. It's dysfunctional, it's not right and it should not be allowed to continue.

That's what's killing the game in this country.

Such clubs deserve to fail as they haven't followed proper business practices and have clearly spent beyond their means. They will get no sympathy from me.

My club has no debt. No overdraft.

No success too you may say. True, but at least I have a football club to support and when the success does come, like last year's League Cup run, it tastes all the sweeter.

For years, lower league clubs have struggled to survive because buses leave every town to go and watch the Old Firm. Any promising talent form anyone outwith the Old Firm was snapped up, so that the team they were playing for couldn't prosper and challenge their power.

Remember when Aberdeen were winning European trophies? Dundee United too.

Remember how we all united as a country and cheered them on for Scottish glory?

This is our chance to slowly build back to days like that. Teams like that. Proper Scottish football from when we were good. From when we were a force in the world game.

If the SFA were to punish Clubs that vote against 'Rangers' and force a SPL2 without them, you know what? We'd be left in a cracking League with local derbies and top fixtures every week.

It would pack the lower divisions and add an excitement we've not had in years.

I almost want them to go down that road. We'd soon see who was thriving and who was dying.

With the Servco decision day finally having come around, I am proud to be a supporter of a football club that has come forward and challenged all that is wrong with the game in this country.

East Fife have played their part in bringing the issues to the fore but the stars of our battle have undoubtedly been Raith Rovers and Clyde.

Both clubs have not pulled their punches and laid it out as it is in recent days. Their fans should be proud of the men behind their team.

The American poet Robert Frost wrote: "Freedom comes from being bold".

If those that run the lower reaches of Scottish football are bold today, then all of us lower league fans will get the freedom from the shackles of the money men we've been crying out for, but only if we keep the pressure on for change.

This is the chance for a rebirth of the Scottish game. Let's hope we take it.

The death of Scottish football? Far from it. Today is the chance for it to flourish and get the game back to what it used to be - local, not global.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Modern day football feels completely unrecognizable at times from the game when I was growing up.

Now I know I'm a bitter and twisted, old fashioned football fan. I even have the When Saturday Comes t-shirt to prove it. In blue.

I'm a grump. A cynic. Stuck in my ways and don't like change. Pro lower league, grassroots football and anti the money men that are ruining our game at the top (and sometimes bottom) levels.

All this is true. I wouldn't even begin to deny it.

That said, I'm surely not alone in wanting something done to stop all the tinkering in modern day football that takes all of the raw passion and aggression out of it.

"Cleaning the game up" is also ruining it.

Players should be allowed to tackle and tackle hard. No one wants to see players injured. Ok, not strictly true. There are some I would gladly like to see snapped.

Why the modern day change in what is classed as an acceptable tackle? Was there so many career ending injuries that made the authorities feel there was a need to stamp out robust tackles? Of course there wasn't.

Today's sending off of Vincent Kompany in the Manc FA Cup derby is a prime example of the outcome of a game, and a player, suffering because of the ridiculous new laws.

Now, I'm no fan of either Manchester side, so there's no bias there. I just wanted to see a classic Cup tie. In some ways I did. Man City certainly gave it a spirited fightback in the second half, but the sending off deprived us of what could have been.

Maybe eleven v eleven wouldn't have provided us with five goals, but in most games, such a sending off will see the team down and out.

Up to around two years ago, Kompany's tackle wouldn't even have raised an eyebrow or a shout of ire, and neither should it have. He won the ball fair and square and made no contact with the opposing player.

Fair play to Nani, he didn't make anything of it at the initial moment of the tackle. And he's one of the most obnoxious, moaning cunts in the English game.

Of course, he soon joined in the protestations as Rooney, Wellbeck and Carrick rushed to the referee to demand red. Rooney, in particular, was gesturing for a card. Where was his, if the laws of the game are being so strictly adhered to then?

Was Kompany's tackle reckless? Out of control? Dangering the opponent? No. None of those.

The fact that his feet were off the ground and could have been deemed to be in a scissor movement are what seemed to be what sealed his fate.

It's frankly ridiculous. We're turning the game into one for pansies. Billy Bremner must be turning in his grave.

Watch some Match of the Days from that period and work out how many players would have been left on the pitch under modern day rules. Leeds united certainly wouldn't have been so successful, as most of their players would have been sent off and suspended.

Who is it that's wanting this sanitisation of the game today? It's certainly not the fans.

I'm all for sending offs for tackles that fly in with reckless abandon from behind, but 50-50 balls are there to be won.

If one player wants to fly in and one wants to shit out, then that's football. If both want to go crunching in, then that's also football.

Don't spoil our enjoyment by seeing matches ruined by reducing players on the pitch. Don't turn our game into nothing more than kids level of ferocity.

The time to fightback and tackle the ridiculous tackling issue needs to start now.

No wonder fans are deserting the current game in their droves. Not many want to pay to watch boring, tippy tappy games.

Save our game, before in a few year's time we are watching something which doesn't resemble what most of us grew up watching.
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