Scottish football edges closer to oblivion

 

Scotland has a population of around 5 million, similar to that of Croatia and Norway. The league system is compromises of 4 leagues: the SPL, First, Second and Third Divisions, with a 12, 10, 10, 10 share of clubs. In reality only the top two divisions comprises full time professional clubs.

 One shepherd should easily be able to supervise a flock of 42?

 Not so in Scotland, where we need 2: The Scottish Premier League (SPL) and the Scottish Football League (SFL).

Both of which look like toppling our national game over the cliff edge.

The SPL is headed by Chief Executive, Neil Doncaster and SFL –all those out with the SPL- by David Longmuir. While both men come from different backgrounds they share the same ability to use political language and the passive voice. They rarely answer any questions directly and never stick their neck out.

 Doncaster in particular has performed his role in a manner that would get most men shot in some countries. He has bundled his way through one mini crisis to another. It is amazing he still remains in his post.

 Longmuir is viewed by many to be a Rangers double agent, protecting the interests of the stricken Ibrox club above all. His eye on an Ibrox post in the long term.

Into this mix we also have the Scottish Football Association (SFA) – or Sweet Fuck All, as this is what they do. They have a simple enough task:

“The ultimate responsibility for the control and development of football in Scotland”

In the last 20 years they have, in various ways, run the game into the ground. The national team has not qualified for a major tournament since 1998 and currently are in 66th position in the FIFA rankings, between Libya and Togo (the same Libya who are recovering from a civil war).

 

 

Tis all comes on the heels of the McLeish report: an in-depth investigation into Football in Scotland, commissioned by the SFA. In reality this turned out to be a total waste of time, money and effort as most of the recommendations have been ignored. The messages seemed clear: the Scottish game is on its death bed and change is needed immediately. Nothing happened.

The current football associations “controlling” league football in Scotland are a disgrace. Their procrastination and bumbling is beyond farcical and would not be permitted in any self-respecting football nation. However, our national game is a far cry from the halcyon days of the 60’s and 70’s.The footballing public has all but given up on these fools producing any sort of remedy to our ills and now we are staring oblivion in the face.

What comes next is anyone’s guess.

Champions League quarters spring no surprises.

Barring any spectacular surprises the semi-finals of the Champions League will be made up of Spanish and German giants. Also guaranteeing a box office final at Wembley.

Malaga 0 – 0 Dortmund

Dortmund may rue all their missed chances but should overcome the Spaniards at home.

Real Madrid 3 – 0 Galatasaray

Real have taken a huge step towards the semi’s with a solid home win.

 

Bayern Munich 2 – 0 Juventus

All Bayern need to do, is play the Italian way in Turin to progress.

Paris SG 2 – 2 Barcelona

The PSG equaliser in the dying seconds provides hope, especially with Messi likely out with a hamstring problem. Barca should have enough in the Nou Camp even without a full defensive complement.

My tips for the last 16 Champion league winners

The Champions League is only a week a way and as it falls into the last 16 it at last becomes interesting.

Manchester City and Chelsea were biffed out with barely a whimper joining Ajax and Benfica as the only real “big team” eliminated.

This leaves a very healthy looking draw with all of the big guns and some exceptional ties.

I’m going to go through them one by one and give a forecast/guess/punt:

1. Galatasaray A.S. (TUR) – FC Schalke 04 (GER)

Schalke have put their dreadful league form behind them and upped their game in this year’s CL.However Galatasaray did well to edge out Cluj to claim a last 16 spot, beating Man Utd on the process.

Much will depend on the 1st Leg and how the Germans can handle “hell”.

My pick : Galatasaray to progress through on away goals.

2. Celtic FC (SCO) – Juventus (ITA)

Celtic have been amazing so far and have proved to be a match for anyone at Celtic Park. If they can keep a clean sheet in Glasgow and protect a lead in Turin they could edge past a strong Juve. However I feel their midfield is too week to withstand the likes of Andrea Pirlo and Claudio Marchisio.

My pick: Juventus overpower Celtic in Turin.

3. Arsenal FC (ENG) – FC Bayern München (GER)

Bayern are simply too strong for a limited Arsenal. The Germans are running away with the Bundesliga thanks in main to the free scoring Mandzukic, Shaquiri and Muller (Gomez is injured).

The Arsenal defence looks porous with Mertesacker still to find his feet and goalkeeper Szczesny mercurial at best. Giroud and Walcott are impressing in EPL but that won’t be enough to overcome Bayern.

My tip: Bayern safely through by an aggregate of at least 3.

4. FC Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) – Borussia Dortmund (GER)

Despite falling 12 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga, Dortmund have played well in season’s CL topping the Group of Death.In Lewandowski and Marco Reus they genuine class and a top manager in Jurgen Klopp.

Shaktar are no mugs and have  a mix a Brazilians( Luis Adriano) and leading Russian players. That being said Dortmund should progress.

My tip: Dortmund to close the show in Germany.

5. AC Milan (ITA) – FC Barcelona (ESP)

Despite their purchase of Mario Balotelli the Italian giants will simply not have enough to beat Barcelona over two legs. Serie A has weakened drastically in recent years and Milan even more so.

Expect a Messi hat-trick and another Iniesta/Xavi show.

My Pick: Barcelona to breeze through.

6. Real Madrid CF (ESP) – Manchester United FC (ENG)

The tie of the round sees Ronaldo return to Old Trafford and Mourinho back in his element. Real trail Barca in the league but I feel they still have too much for Ferguson’s reds.

Man United have chanced their luck in the EPL and benefited from a weak EPL. Ronaldo and Ozil will run rings round Johnny Evans and embarrass De Gea.

My tip: Real Madrid rout in Madrid

7. Valencia CF (ESP) – Paris Saint-Germain (FRA)

Free spending PSG have the tax  dodging Beckham and a host of international stars in their squad. They should have enough to eliminate Valencia , but i hope not.

The French giants have a bottomless pocket of wealth while the Valencianistas are broke as a joke.

My tip : Ibra is sent off in first leg and Valencia prevail.

8. FC Porto (POR) – Málaga CF (ESP)

The 8th tie is perhaps the weakest but the most evenly matched. Both teams did well to progress and at the expense of better funded Eastern European giants.

Porto currently top their domestic league while Malaga lie in 4th in the stronger La Liga.

My tip : Porto to progress by the odd goal.

Strachan starts against Estonia

 In 2014 football will truly return home and Scotland has about as much chance as the Vatican City of making it. An awful start to the qualifying campaign sees us languishing at the bottom of Group A, 2 points from 4 games and 8 points of the pace.

It has been a hideous start and about as salvageable as the Titanic. The more you think about it the more depressing it gets.

 Even if we win all our remaining games there is little chance of making one of the 8 play-off places.

New manager, Gordon Strachan will probably be in Brazil, as a pundit for ITV. His aim must be France 2016 and building a team at least capable of competing for one of the 24 places available.

New Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

It is not an insurmountable mountain to climb but it is Kilimanjaro rather than Ben Nevis. Scotland has an adequate first 11 who thus far have under-achieved but we do not have the riches of say Belgium or Croatia (Both of which are in Group A).

 

The current strongest 11 is probably as follows:

 

 

 scot

 

These players, barring Jordan Rhodes are the most experienced players available. The younger players such as Fraser Fyvie , Tony Watt, Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay Steven should  evolve through the under teams and B squads.

 Players such as Robert Snodgrass, Danny Fox, James Forrest, Barry Bannan, James McArthur, Christophe Berra and Graham Dorrans will be in the full squad and be drafted to cover injuries, suspension or loss of form.

Next month’s friendly against Estonia will be little more than a welcoming party for Strachan, it matters not.  The qualifiers start again next month with a double header against Wales (home) then Serbia (away).  An away fixture against Croatia follows in June before the remaining fixtures are played in August September: Belgium (home), Macedonia (away) then Croatia (home).

Strachan’s big test and chance to ingratiate him with the Scottish support will come on August 14th when the Tartan hordes travel down to Wembley. By that time the English will have qualified for Brazil but it will afford us the chance to get a rare win against the Auld Enemy.

Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last  derby.
Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last derby.

Long time ago in a galaxy far away, the winning of this fixture was of paramount importance nowadays however it will have little resonance and in Scotland’s case a consolation prize for not making Brazil.

Strachan is favourite to succeed Levein

Ina glowing testament to how popular the Scotland job is, every possible candidate is without a job after being punted in the last year.

The bookies favourite is Gordon Strachan who was relieved of his managerial position with Middlesborough after a fairly disastrous term. A genuine playing legend (thanks mainly to his  goal versus West Germany in 1986 and the following goal celebration) he has had a mixed managerial career.

Although successful in Scotland with Celtic (3 league titles and 2 last 16 Champions League berths) Strachan had difficult spells at Southampton and Coventry City.

He is the popular choice with fans and journalists alike but may find it difficult to liaise with the hopeless Scottish Football Association.

2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or Shortlist

2012 FIFA Ballon d’Or Shortlist:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid C.F.)
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid)
Mesut Ozil (Real Madrid)

Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)Leo Messi (FC Barcelona)
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Andres Iniesta (Barcelona)
Xavi (Barcelona)
Gerard Pique (Barcelona)Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Robin van Persie (Manchester United)

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Mario Balotelli (Manchester City)
Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus)
Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)

Neymar (Santos)

Didier Drogba (Shanghai Shenhua)

Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG)

Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)