Thursday 28 November 2013

SPFL Under 20 League, 27 November 2012, Accies 0 - Hibernian 4

After Saturday's first team defeat the last thing I wanted to see was another one but unfortunately that's what I got last night with the Accies under 20 team being well beaten by Hibs courtesy of goals from hat trick hero no. 10 Cummings and a single strike from no. 9 Caldwell. Accies started brightly enough and in just over 2 minutes had a shot on goals but it was Hibs who scored first in 19 minutes through Caldwell. Accies keeper Currie blocked a Hibs shot but the ball fell to Caldwell who struck it well. This sparked a period of Accies dominance but shots from Mcnaught, Ryan (twice) and Brophy (twice) in a 13 minute spell were all cleared or saved. As half time approached it looked as though Accies would go in a goal down but in 41 minutes Currie failed to hold a ball and Cummings was on hand to put the ball in the back of the net. The second half started in similar fashion with Accies having a free kick just outside the box but Ryan's attempt was well over. Cummings added a third for Hibs in 69 minutes when he met a cross with a spectacular overhead kick that gave Currie no chance. Hibs compounded a miserable night for Accies when Cummings completed his hat trick in 77 minutes. The ball fell to him in the Accies half and evading a defender he had only the keeper to beat which he did. This result leaves Accies in sixth place in the Under 20 league table with 20 points but still only 2 behind leaders Inverness and with 2 games in hand. Also at the game last night following on his saturday visit was Alloa manager Paul Hartley. As he was supposed to be interviewed by Inverness for thier vacant managerial position yesterday he must have flown down the A9.

The full Under 20  table is available at :-

Tuesday 12 November 2013

SPFL Under 20 League, 12 November 2012, Accies 2 - Dunfermline Athletic 0

After losing their last two games, Accies under 20's got back to winning ways at New Douglas Park on Tuesday night with a comfortable 2 - 0 win over Dunfermline Athletic. Before the kick off I was able to admire the progress that Peter Howson is making on his wall mural. Away fans and those in sections A to D of the main stand are going to have a cracking view and if they tire of the football they can at least admire the mural. Captaining the Accies team was Jesus Garcia Tena and although he didn't score this was a captains' performance earning my man of the match vote. 

Accies started brightly and in 3 minutes a cross from Craig Johnston fell to Tena  who hit the ball awkwardly passed the goal post. Three minutes later an identical cross from Johnson was cleared just before Tena could get a  foot to it. In 17 minutes Mcgrath found Tena again but he was  quickly ruled  ruled offside. Dunfermline came into the game later in the first half with corners in the 30th and 33 minutes but made little use of them. Their best and possibly only chance of the game came in 39 minutes when the ball fell to Dunfermline's no 7 Ryan Ferguson near the goal line, but Currie for Accies managed to turn the ball past the post for a corner. Shortly afterwards Accies broke up the field and a cross from Tena on the left hand side of the park was expertly struck by Mcgrath from 10 yards out side the box giving the Dunfermline keeper no chance. 

The second half was somewhat disjointed with both sides making multiple substitutions but Accies were rarely threatened and secured all three points in 80 minutes when the ball fell to Greg Docherty, who from about 20 yards struck the ball past an again helpless Dunfermline keeper. That was all the action and I wonder if Tena may make a first team appearance on Saturday or will Mcgrath be filling a strikers slot?

Accies - Currie, Finnie, Mcmann, El Zubaidi, Kilday , Watson, Longridge, Docherty, McGrath, Tena (c), Johnston Subs Smith, Armstrong, Harrison, Granger, Quinn. 

Friday 1 November 2013

More Managerial Merry Go Rounds

In September I reported that Richie Burke of Livingstone was the first managerial casualty of the season and wondered if the axe would fall on Danny Lennon or John Brown? Such are the vagaries of football that six weeks later both these managers look safe for the time being with Saint Mirren sitting in 11th position in the Premiership but 15 points above Hearts and Dundee suddenly putting a series of wins together to claw back within one point of Accies before last weeks' defeat. But there have been other casualties. Perhaps no surprise that Jimmy Boyle of Airdrieonians was October's, quickly replaced by Gary Bollan himself somewhat surprisingly sacked by Livvie last season despite achieving two promotions. November is only a day old and the biggest name so far has joined the ranks of the unemployed with Pat Fenlon 'resigning' from his post at Hibernian after a 2 year spell that so him take the club to 2 Scottish Cup finals but fail to improve significantly on their league position and this week saw his team knocked out of the League Cup by arch rivals Hearts. A winner of 5 titles in the League of Ireland he has found Hibs a tougher nut to crack and the club is now seeking their 10th manager in 16 years according to the BBC. So whose next ? The spotlight in recent weeks has been on Kilmarnock, Queen of the South and Morton. Despite funds which most recently allowed him to sign Nacho Novo on a short term contract its not looking good for Morton's Allan Moore. But one thing I can say with certainty is that there will be no shortage of candidates for whatever vacancy occurs.

Monday 28 October 2013

There was a young man from Limerick (Aka Stuart Taylor) Part 3

On Friday Stuart Taylor's Limerick played their last game of the Irish season away to Derry City needing a win plus Cork City to lose to secure 6th place. Limerick went into the game having taken 13 points from a possible 18 in their previous 6 games and must have been optimistic. This was the conclusion to Stuarts' first season as a full time manager and Limericks' first season back in the Irish top flight for 19 years.

Limerick with a similar emphasis on youth to Accies fielded a team averaging 20.5 years, half of them teenagers against a Derry City team considerably older and experienced. Trailing a goal to nil at half time, unfortunately the flood gates opened in the second half and Limerick ended up on the end of a 6 - 0 drubbing bringing the curtain down on what otherwise might be described as a successful season.

Stuart took up his position in January this year giving him just less than half the Irish close season to get to know his club and players so securing a seventh slot after so many years out of the top league and doing it with a young squad must be regarded as a positive story. Not surprising that already his name has been linked with vacancies in Scotland even if  it was rivals Airdrieonians!

Quoted on the official Limerick site, Stuart has already begun planning for the new season. "We're a club that is always looking ahead and always looking to progress," he said "We're in negotiations with the players that we want to keep at the club. We have one player tied up from outside .... and we have another couple that we have been talking to.." I hope to get back over next season to see how things are developing and if his team progresses I expect Stuart to be gracing our touchlines or possibly even the english leagues.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Taking a child to the game

I have step children who were both committed Celtic fans before I had a chance to influence them. I took my stepson to an Accies game when he was 12, he was bored, and he never came back. I've seen plenty of youngsters bored at games, dragged along by parents either desperate to plant the seeds of lifelong loyalty or forced by childcare necessity to involve the kids in the parent's interest. So I thought long and hard about how to introduce my son to Accies.

My son's five. He considers himself an Accies fan: he's got a season ticket, a scarf, and he asks about the score. (As an aside, he doesn't have a replica kit - when is the shop going to be stocked with his size in home kit?) But he doesn't understand the rules of football, and he doesn't have the attention span to stick with a game on the telly, far less 90 minutes of live football.

I thought long and hard about how to introduce him to Accies. I swore I would refuse to take him until he was desperate to come, rather than risk losing him to boredom. But childcare necessity, my soft-heartedness, and the club's generous free season ticket offer intervened.

He got his first (free) season ticket last year, and on Saturday will use this year's book for the first time, in what will only be his fourth Accies game. I'm hoping to break his record of staying just past 60 minutes, but I don't expect to see the end of the game - which is a pity, because I doubt Saturday's game at home to Falkirk will be decided until the last half hour, perhaps the last fifteen minutes or less.

I wonder how others deal with this dilemma? I know some bring bagfuls of toys, and bribe the kids with crisps, sweets and soft drinks. I know it helps to move around a bit - visits to the toilet, the kiosk, changing seats at half time, etc. But my challenge is to engage him more with the game itself, pointing out features we all take for granted, explaining what's going on, justifying the rules, and so forth.

I'm hoping for plenty of goals and excitement - not things I typically expect from our encounters with Falkirk. It's more likely to be a bruising, perhaps bad-tempered encounter, decided by a goal or two, with hopefully Accies emerging on top. Will my bairn appreciate the bairns?

Wednesday 23 October 2013

SPFL u20 League Accies 0 - Kilmarnock 1

The next under 20's league game came around quicker than expected with a rearranged game against Kilmarnock at New Douglas Park on Tuesday night. No European football for me on the telly instead the silky skills of the young Accies stars and their Kille counterparts.

Unfortunately I arrived too late to get a team sheet and the Accies twitter site is currently devoid of any information so I was flying blind when it comes to players details. This is a game that for large periods Accies dominated earning a series of corners and hitting the woodwork at least three times but somehow managed to lose 0 - 1 and in consequence of results elsewhere surrendered their lead in the Under 20 league.

Accies kicked off playing towards the Spice of Life stand and for the first 15 minutes or so this was a fairly equal game although Accies had a chance as early as 7 minutes when a cross from the right was well struck by Accies no 10 but hit the right hand post. Accies took a grip of the game and had a series of corner kicks none of which delivered an early goal. In the 30th minute another well struck Accies shot from outside the right hand side of the Kille box appeared to hit the crossbar. It was only in the closing minutes that Kille had their first real chance. From  a corner one of their players headed the ball down for an easy save by the Accies keeper. From the kick off the ball fell to Killie again and the keeper made another good save however the ball again fell to a Kille player who seemed to have an open goal in front of him. He appeared to think he had all the time in the world to score and fortunately the ball was cleared by Accies. So at half time, despite Accies having four corners to Killie's one and two hits off the woodwork,  the teams went in 0 - 0.

The second half was more of the same. On 53 minutes Accies got a corner but the Kille goalie got down well to palm the ball past the post for a second corner from which Accies struck the ball over the bar. In 59 minutes yet another corner for Accies saw a headed ball hit off the bar and over. Both teams made a substitution in 71 minutes and shortly afterwards Kille got the winning goal. A well struck volley by Killie's number 8 ended up in the top right hand corner of the Accies net. In 85 minutes  an Accies throw in was headed down in the box and the Accies players claimed it came off a Killie arm but the referee wasn't interested and apart from a late Killie corner the game was over.  Disappointingly, with Inverness winning 1 -0 against St Mirren, Accies are now sitting behind Inverness in the Under 20 league although with a  game in hand. Ominously Celtic, whose under 20 team were thrashing Ajax 4 - 1, are in third but with a game in hand on Accies and two on Inverness.

Sitting in the stand with Ronnie and Les was Allan Maitland. Will he end up at Airdrieonians? I suspect not but lets wait and see.

Wednesday 16 October 2013

SPFL u20 League Accies 1 - Partick 1

I took in my first under 20's game of the season last night at New Douglas Park when top of the league Hamilton entertained Partick Thistle. Kicking off at 6pm,  allowing us all to see the Scotland game afterwards, it was good to see both Ronnie and Les at the game with Alex and Frankie in the dug out. This was a strong Hamilton team with Longridge, Tena and McShane all with considerable first team experience with us or elsewhere featuring. Both teams were evenly matched throughout and the final 1 - 1 scoreline reflects this. 0 - 0 at half time I was glad to see that one of the kiosks was open for refreshments as it certainly wasn't warm.

The second half was as before with both sides having their fair share of possession. However Accies opened the scoring in 71 minutes when Scott McMann scored direct from a corner kick, the ball appearing to go right through the opposition keeper's hands. Accies didn't keep the lead for long. Three minutes later Chis Duggan struck  a volley past Blair Currie that he couldn't have stopped. That was all the goal excitement and while we dropped points and our nearest rival Inverness and Celtic both won, Thistle 3 - 2 over Hibs and Celtic 2 - 1 over Ross County, Accies remain top of the Under 20 league on 17 points the same as Inverness and Celtic but ahead on goals difference.

The full updated table is available at

With Stephen Hendrie again featuring for the Scottish under 19's in a 1 - 1 draw with Germany last night, a result that gives them a place in the Uefa European Championship elite round, this is a great time to be following the Accies youngsters. The next home game is not until the 12th of November against Dunfermline but I would encourage all Accies fans to come along and get a taste of the next generation of Accies and Scotland stars!

The Accies starting line up was Currie, Finnie, McMann, El-Zubaidi,Tena, Watson, Mcgrath, Longridge, Mcshane, Brophy and Docherty. Subs for Accies were Armstrong, Harrison, Smith, Quinn, Granger, Hughes and Law.

Sunday 13 October 2013

Raith Rovers - past times

Just as with popular music and hair styles, one's taste in football strips doesn't appear to move on  much after the mid twenties arrive. For example,  Dunfermline will be forever associated by me with the black pinstripe design on a white background which they wore when they won the Scottish Cup in 1968, and when they dumped Everton and West Brom out of the Cup Winners Cup.

And if I want a laugh, I merely have to picture the Ajax strip ( yes Ajax ! ) Hearts deported when they lost 7-0 at home to Hibs. However such nostalgic hankering most emphatically does not apply to the strip worn by this week's opponents Raith Rovers in the late 1960s. which  was a white top with two horizontal hoops, the dignity and gravitas of which has been captured perfectly by the David Bedford lookalikes in the recent 118 adverts. Quite deservedly they shipped ten goals at Ibrox in that strip although, unlike when we lost 10-0 at Parkhead, they did at least manage to score a couple themselves. (incidentally our Billy Lamont's place as top rated footballer in the Daily Express was unaffected by this setback !)

I also suffered my own personal setback at a Rovers game. Readers might not know this, but  before it was flattened in 1978,  the the terracing at the Clydesdale Street end rose to a fairly substantial height near the main ( and only) stand. This explains why so many were able to cram in - officially and unofficially, at the Montrose cup tie. When I say terracing, a more accurate description would be grass, foliage,  and wilderness - all patrolled by legendary Accies steward, big Jim Burke

But it was a fantastic place as a youngster to mess around and play during  frequent boring interludes on the pitch. Anyway on this occasion I decided to commemorate a 3-1 defat by Rovers ( such defeats were routine in those days) by swinging on a broken crush barrier, falling over, crashing against it and almost breaking my nose. No-one found it in the least offputting that the barrier had been broken for, well, years without attracting any interest whatsoever, health and safety regimes lay many years ahead, and the general consensus was  that I had got (firstly) exactly what I deserved, and (secondly) a very useful lesson for the future about self preservation.

A more favourable recollection was my introduction to national media, which occurred when I was pictured on the front cover of The Accies Matchday Magazine, celebrating Big Neilly's goal in the 3-3 draw with Rovers in November 1972. Such an accolade was not to be sniffed at as Tom Marchbank and Alan Dick had revolutionised the Accies programme, which now not only had photos ,but a different one on each cover - just like the papers !

Incidentally, up until then the Accies programme had enjoyed a variety of contributors, each with their own individual style - biblical, in the case of Charlie Bent who reported that after Tommy Cogill's  goal at Clydebank, "the fans rejoiced and sang his praises "!

The return game in March 1973 was a less happy occasion, as our long unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-0 reverse.  Alan D, being even then  a guardian of sporting fair play ,was less than happy with the circumstances of our defeat and the "simulation" of the Raith, and future Hearts winger, Malcolm Robertson. Alan duly referred to Malcolm's "Oscar winning performance " in the next edition of the Accies MDM, and you all know what happened  next......... albeit on this occasion only a censure by the big wigs at the SFA.

There's plenty more to follow as we're not yet into the last 30 years, but that'll do for just now !

Thursday 10 October 2013

Morton- past times

Unlike the old firm, Morton have faced Chelsea in European competition, back in 1968, in the Fairs Cities Cup, which was won that year by Newcastle, following a riotous semi final against Rangers. Chelsea had won the first leg 5-0 at Stamford Bridge, but still picked a strong line up for the return tie at Cappielow, which they won 4-3.

Their team included Bonetti, Harris, Webb, Hollins, Tambling, Osgood etc -  as well as a first ever selection of Alan Hudson as substitute. What the Kings Road superstars made of the Cappielow facilities is anyone's guess, unlike my own friends' opinions which have required not clarification but censorship.

I have to own up to a fondness for Cappielow, based partly on nascent luddite tendencies, and also  the fact that we hardly ever lose there. I remember bribing a woman to go to our 2-2 draw in January 2004. Primitive plumbing facilities required the toilets to be positioned beside the catering stalls, - you can imagine what happened next, and I recall Accies fans eying impassively the amber torrent flowing past the tea bar as they queued for their half time refreshments. I am still reminded of this by my companion, and not with any feelings of nostalgia either.

But Cappielow is a true old fashioned venue, with seats into which you have to be shoehorned, and a bar  on the corner of the ground which literally will  leave you rooted to the spot. I first went there in 1976, when we won 2-0, and our results have stood up pretty well ever since. Most supporters will recall another 2-0 win, in August 2007, when in Eric Morecambe style, Billy played all the right players, but not necessarily in the right order. If I remember correctly David Elebert was at right back, and Tom Parratt pushed into midfield.

Our return fixture later that year attracted controversy when Marko correctly overruled the referee's decision, and chalked off a Morton equaliser for a handling offence. Marko's decision  caused apoplexy among Morton supporters on a well known website, and for many years after this they appeared to harbour a fair amount of hatred for the big man, right up until he left us and joined ........Morton.

Finally, to Love Street and the venue for our B and Q Cup final victory in 1992. Opponents Morton included in their side current Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes,  but were unable to prevent Accies from retaining the cup with a 3-2 win, which included a rare goal from Chris Hillcoat.

To the surprise of most observers, Morton  have spent most of this season around the foot of the league table, and are currently stuck there in best Norseman style. However  they were the first visiting team to leave Parkhead with a victory this term, a feat from which Barcelona no doubt drew inspiration, albeit unlike Morton they didn't have to do it against 11 men. So a victory this Saturday cannot be taken for granted but is certainly achievable, even in the absence of Scotland pick, Stephen Hendrie

Wednesday 9 October 2013

The romance of the cup

I disagree with those who talk about cup competitions as "distractions" from the main business of the league.

I have seen Accies win the championship or title of the second tier in senior Scottish football three times in my life, and will no doubt see it again - who knows, perhaps as soon as this season? However, I have never seen us in the final of the Scottish Cup or the Scottish League Cup - nobody has seen us in the latter, as we have never made it that far, and to remember the former, you have to have been following Accies nearly 80 years ago.

I have seen us lose heavily to Dundee United at East End Park in the semi-final of the League Cup, and attended two out of three of our Scottish Cup quarter finals under Billy Reid, including the ill-fated replay at Dens Park in 2007 (the one I missed I saw on TV, as it was broadcast live from Ibrox).

My remaining ambition as an Accies fan is to see us contest a final at Hampden, and every year I travel in hope.

This year the Scottish Cup journey begins at Palmerston Park, Dumfries, as we have been drawn away to Queen of the South in the third round of the William Hill Scottish Cup, on Saturday 2 November.  The stumble on the last day of last season has cost us, as finishing third or fourth in last season's SFL 1 would have ensured we missed this round and joined in the fourth round; our loss to Cowdenbeath meant we dropped to fifth and thus entered the draw a round earlier than we have done for ten years.

So it's that wee bit tougher this season.  We have three league games to negotiate before then, including crucial home ties versus our closest competitors, Raith Rovers and Falkirk. But I'm looking forward to another cup campaign with relish.  Maybe this year...

Wednesday 2 October 2013

Livingston - past times

I have to confess to amnesia about most previous matches against Livingston, and their myriad of predecessors.

Having commented in the last article about hard hit shots, I omitted to mention Rory Boulding's last minute equaliser for Livingston at NDP in August 2011,when he fairly leathered the ball into the Spice of Life stand goal.

At this point, I have to turn to penalty shoot outs. I have often thought of Birmingham City as a pleasingly hapless club, and I recall that in fact  one year they enjoyed the shortest ever FA Cup run, when they forgot to post their entry form. On another occasion the Main Stand burnt down, when a fireman confused water with petrol. Their trophyless history (until recently) was blamed on a gypsy curse, which led to another next generation gypsy being dragged along to attempt to lift it.

The manager at the time, Barry Fry also tried to help matters along by urinating on all four corners of the pitch, although it is unclear whether this was an exercise in exorcism, or merely ( like the cricketers) a pleasant end to a social outing.

Anyway I got it into my head that they managed to miss virtually every penalty in a sudden death shoot out. I just can't remember the fixture, although Swindon did literally miss every one in 2008. Which brings us to 1992 and our B and Q Cup semi-final with Meadowbank, when after 14 penalties we won.....2-1. Out of 7 penalties faced, the losing Meadowbank keeper saved 4, saw one missed, and missed one of his own!

Meadowbank first appeared in senior football in 1974, and as new leagues were formed the following year our paths rarely crossed, as we were ensconced in the middle league, and Meadowbank less happily in the lower one.

We did cross paths though in the final match of the 1987-88 season when in an unrepeated gesture of  largesse ,the Accies directors let in everyone for free. The resulting crowd of just over 5,000 witnessed a 1-1 draw, and saw the First Division trophy presented to us- a sight not to be repeated for 20 years.

Watching a match at Meadowbank's stadium, imaginatively called Meadowbank Stadium, was also an impactful experience, reminiscent of the cresta run. It combined  Cappielow like cramp with feelings of vertigo, as the seats were not only steeply stacked, but also tilted forwards at an alarming angle.These challenges have been, albeit with some reluctance, consigned to history and Almondvale is now a very comfortable setting for a match.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Alloa - past times

I think that the hardest shot I ever saw from  an opponent at Douglas Park was Stewart Beedie's match winning volley for Hibs in a League Cup tie on a balmy August evening in 1986. Joe McBride's penalty in 1966 for Celtic in their lucky 7-1 win may have run it close, being described admiringly as a "shell" by a nearby Accies fan.

The hardest hit shot by a Hamilton player, however, came incongruously  from none other than wee Jose Quitongo at Alloa's Recreation Park in December 2003. But for the restraining qualities of the net, it is impossible to say where, indeed in what county, the ball otherwise would have come to a halt. Precise calculation was admittedly  made more difficult  by the fact that Jose was actually standing on the Alloa goaline when he unleashed his piledriver.

It may be my failing memory which makes it difficult for me to recall the precise chain of circumstances which led to this startling outcome. Jimmy Greaves once said that Accies players should take the field with miners helmets between the months of November and March, and  in fairness the standard of Alloa's floodlights was even worse than ours. For what it is worth, I remember peering though the gloom and noticing that an Alloa passback had been completely missed (or perhaps not seen) by the Alloa goalkeeper, and Jose running through decided to test whether it was possible to lash the ball over the bar while standing on the goaline- the answer was no....just.

Jose was unperturbed by his exercise in self indulgence and celebrated his goal by leaning nonchalantly on the goalpost, refusing to move, and demanding that his teammates join him to celebrate. Steve Convery  completed the scoring during his  injury break ( ie break from injury), and then ran menacingly towards the Accies fans in the covered enclosure. We were all about to scarper, the cowards that we were, when it became clear that celebration was all that Stevie had on his mind.

The second fixture there saw Hamilton reduced to ten men, then fashion an equaliser - a feat they repeated a week later at Airdrie after Jim Sherry was sent off for a slight foul on Willie McLaren. The controversy at Alloa arose when Stuart Callaghan, not a player afflicted by great self doubt, tangled with Brian Carrigan, who was then somewhat suckered into retaliating against the former Accies man.

That aside, matches between the two have been played out in relatively good spirit in recent years. This was not always the case, however, as in the early 1970s Alloa were alleged with some justification to be one of the dirtiest teams in football. Chief prosecutor was again Accies former programme editor Alan Dick. In December 1973 after two defeats in quick succession, Alan thundered in best London Times editorial style that it had all been worth it, because Accies would not have to play against Alloa again that season. If I remember rightly, Alan surprisingly escaped the wrath of the SFA beaks on this occasion, a rare example of him dodging the rap.

What qualities do you want to see in a football manager?

I was listening to the BBC Scotland football phone in on Saturday night on the way home and was interested in an Aberdeen supporter praising Derek McInnes (not Adams!) for showing much more passion than his predecessors.  This, and the recent antics of a certain former Sunderland Manager has led me to think about the qualities I want to see in the manager of my team.  I'm not sure I do want to see obvious 'passion' on the touchline.  Too often that seems to end up being arm waving and incessant shouting.  A manager should be a leader too and that precludes, for me, some of the more outlandish behaviour we see week in week out on the touchlines up and down the country.  A leader should be able to accept 'challenging' decisions by officials and rise above inevitable playing rough and tumble during a game.  I prefer a manager who can look on dispassionately, analyse the match as it unfolds, act accordingly to revise tactics during play and at the interval and direct matters in the expectation that players will carry our their instructions, revised during the game or not.  I expect the manager to carry out thorough post match analysis and being able to explain to players where they went right and where they went wrong.  This will allow players to develop a better understanding of the issues they faced in the match and being able to do better the following week.  If they cannot do that then they don't have a future at their current level, whatever it might be, never mind any higher level.

Of course this is made all the more difficult when the manager is actually on the field throughout the game!   How do the manager and the captain interact on field during play?  What role does the Assistant manager/coach fulfil?  Have Accies got it right this season in this respect?  Time will tell, and that time may start with St Johnstone tomorrow night.  Good luck to all in the hoops.   

Monday 23 September 2013

Accies v St Johnstone, Scottish League Cup, Tuesday 24 September

Great preview on the BBC site:

They're the favourites, and as Alex Neil says, we can just enjoy the game, as anything we take from it will be a bonus.

Some bonus, though, with a chance of a quarter final place. Dare we dream?

Sunday 22 September 2013

St Johnstone - past times

St Johnstone's  Muirton Park was often used as a venue for semi finals, particularly if Aberdeen or one of the Dundee teams faced a team from the central belt. However possibly its  most famous fixture was the final match of the 1961-62 season when Dundee required a draw to win their first ever League title, and the home side also a draw, but to avoid relegation.The outcome was a 3-0 win for Dundee and demotion for the Saints, including their young forward, Alex Ferguson.  Ferguson, a horrible opponent even then, would crop up against us from time to time ( - he played against us, and scored, on his wedding day!).

Not so St Johnstone as, following their immediate promotion in 1963, they met us only twice until November 1976, when Jamie Fairlie's early goal gave us a 1-0 away win. The day will perhaps be better remembered as the day of the League Cup final when Ally McLeod's Aberdeen beat Celtic 2-1, and our supporters' bus north met upwards of 100 buses going the other way, part of a mammoth Dons support, not usually associated with a provincial club at Hampden.

The return fixture against the Saints resulted in an improbable 6-0 victory for us. It was a dreadful match in the middle of an otherwise uninspiring set of results. Last day drama in this fixture still lay many years ahead.

St Johnstone were also our opponents when Jose Quitongo played one of his most memorable matches for us. His arrival had transformed our performances during  what still proved to be a relegation season. Our fixture in January 1996 on a rain sodden  day saw him perform a sliding tackle, nick the ball from Allan Preston in mid slide, then slalom up the park. Preston understandably lost his composure completely at this piece of audacity, and lashed out at wee Jose. Jose was able to ride the "tackle" but still managed to fall theatrically in exaggerated fashion ( Jose never dived), and Preston was duly sent off. Paul Hartley then lashed a punt/Hoddlesque exquisite pass  into the roof of the net, and Accies went on to  win 2-1.

Two of the matches in our promotion season of 2007-08 stick out. In the first, and immediately after the famous Cup win against Kilmarnock, our progress towards the title came to a juddering halt with a 4-1 defeat. The second, on 22 December,  was of huge significance - having been caught by Dundee, anything less than a win against a very good Saints side would have allowed them to pass us. As it was, a James McArthur goal was enough to secure a home victory in a difficult match, and we never  looked  back.

Thursday 19 September 2013

Crowd figures - The only way is up

Last season our home average attendance for the season was 1231 which was a 30.45% drop on Season 2011 - 12's average of 1770. As I have previously commented success breeds success and should attract increased crowds. Equally after a relegation season and two seasons where the team was being restructured around youth and results were poor our slump in support is not surprising. So what will success on the park for 2013 - 14 and a potential title challenge mean for Accies and attendances. The season is still relatively young and to date we have had only 2 home games . Total attendance for the two is 2462 which somewhat spookily averages out at last years' figure of 1231. I had hoped that the successful conclusion to last season might have given some momentum to crowd figures early on but not so. However given the significant increase in the price of a season ticket which is rumoured to have led to a drop in uptake then if we are currently holding onto last years average figure perhaps thats a positive. Looking ahead if this good run of form continues then I would expect there to be a steady increase in attendance figures. The last time we won promotion in season 2007 - 2008 our average attendance was 1715 so I cant see us exceeding this. Perhaps some local advertising and match day promotion might help but would an advert in the Advertiser make any difference compared to the impact of lengthy articles, I doubt it. Anyway I have persuaded my daughter to go on Saturday so at least I'm contributing +1

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Accies vs Cowdenbeath - SPFL Championship, Sat 21 Sep 2013

Eight competitive games into the season is an arbitrary time to be taking stock, but it’s a while since we went into a home game that most Accies fans and nearly all neutral observers expect us to win – and that alone speaks volumes.

Alex Neil took charge for seven league games at the end of last season, won 5, drew 1 and lost 1 – the loss coming in our previous encounter with Cowdenbeath, when we led 1-0 until a red card for Ryan saw us play more than half the match with ten men and ultimately lose 3-1. The points tally of 16 was a significant contribution to our year’s total of 51 – more than 2 points per game, versus just over 1 point per game for the season up till then.

It was hard to judge Neil as a manager on just those seven games, but the eight so far this season have exceeded them, in terms of points, goals, performances and bravura.  Who would exchange Neil’s exuberant Accies for the same group of players who struggled last season under Billy Reid?

Neil himself admirably keeps his feet on the ground.  In his post-match interview at Kilmarnock, following our League Cup win, arguably the highlight so far of his time in charge, he said it was all right as long as we are winning.  This remains the question mark – football is all about confidence, and what will happen to this young team’s confidence when we lose a couple on the bounce? Not that there’s any sign of that, but over a long season, injuries, suspensions and luck all inevitably play their part.

It is astonishing how much better the team looks, and the credit for that lies chiefly with Alex Neil.  I was among those who defended Billy Reid to the last – I felt he deserved it, given his record as Accies' most successful post-war manager – and I feared managerial change could set us back. Neil was a risky appointment, untried and unknown, but he has exceeded all expectations: his fifteen game record in all competitions so far is won 11, drawn 2 and lost 2 – the form of title challenges and cup runs.

Our very young defence looks remarkably settled, with Cuthbert and Canning marshalling the youthful trio of Gordon, Devlin and Hendrie; in the middle, Gillespie, Crawford and McKinnon all look brighter, with Andreu a more than useful addition; and Keatings up front has staked his place. Who misses Stevie May? There suddenly seems to be depth to this squad, and competition for places all over the park. Most significantly, we carry a range of attacking threats that our opponents must fear.

Cowdenbeath might have been more motivated than Accies on the last day of last season – needing a win to stay up, while for us it was about little more than pride, but that will be different this time.  Accies will want revenge, and I predict a reasonably comfortable Accies win – perhaps 2-0.  With pretty much a full squad to choose from, and in impressive form, that is no less than we now expect.

Congratulations in advance to match mascot Duncan Ryrie.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Cowdenbeath - past times

It is not widely known but the first ever match at Douglas Park under floodlights was against Cowdenbeath - in January 1973, which we won 3-0. The stanchions were placed along the front of the terracing, and what with the existing pillars, the spectating experience for the next 14 years was like watching a match at Checkpoint Charlie ( one for the teenagers !).

There had in fact been feverish speculation for some time  before this, when holes were cut in the shed roof. Unfortunately the only visible result of all this activity was rain sweeping in on top of the already disgruntled  punters below.

Cowdenbeath unusually at the time wore a sort of pinstripey shirt, a foretaste of the kit monstrosities to come in the 1990s. And they weren't a bad team either, having been in the top league only 2 years earlier.

Equally there was a definite respect for  the standing of Cowdenbeath and the other Fife clubs. All of them had  their unique history, and were welded into the fabric of their local community. For all that Cowdenbeath are now known as "The Blue Brazil", this is a relatively recent moniker. For most of their history they were known as "The Miners", a nickname which is now sadly obsolete.

Central Park is also a venue where Newcastle-like post match breakdowns are not practicable. No sooner have  the tears started to  flow than the whole ground is shuddering with an ear bursting cacophany as the stock car racing literally gears up for its start.

The most famous encounter between us occurred in August 2002, when the opening day fixture took place only as a result of public subscription, in the form of wages contributions- a far cry but yet not so long before the days of McCarthy million pound transfers. The outcome was a 3-1 win for Accies, and a Marouane Fellaini like performance from.................big Ally Graham, who marked his debut with two headed goals and an assist.

 Big Ally was no shrinking violet either as a player or as a man, and at a previous club had confronted its fanzine writer about poor "notices", the tone of  which was immediately transformed into something approaching  sycophancy - no doubt purely by coincidence.

In conclusion, Cowdenbeath is an exceptionally well run club. Under the stewardship of the colourful and unapologetic Donald Findlay is a team of talented and well connected directors- even if most of them happen to be solicitors! The progress in the boardroom predictably has been matched by achievement on the field with various promotions in recent years for which Danny Lennon and current manager Colin Cameron take great credit. Having been turned over by them in May, a difficult fixture is anticipated this Saturday.

Friday 13 September 2013

Dundee - Past times

Mention is often made of the famous Accies v Montrose Cup tie from 28 February 1973, when the attendance is now reputed to have reached Seville like proportions ( Montrose incidentally at the time - like Southend, used to play in a Chelsea strip!).

Had we won, our quarter final tie would have been against Dundee, and their status at that time can be seen from the fact that Montrose's biggest ever crowd of 8983 ( apart from when the Town Hall burnt down!) was achieved at that match. As befitted one of Scotland 's top clubs, Dundee swatted away a good Montrose team fairly effortlessly, and in fact went on to win the League Cup the following season.

Dundee were truly big hitters at that time. In the following year's Cup quarter final, the 3-3 draw at Easter Road attracted over 35,000, and the replay at Dens 30,888. Therafter it all went horribly wrong, and they contrived to slip into the relegation zone in the final week of the first season of the Premier League in 1976. And so, they did finally show up for a match at Douglas Park on a cold rainy night later that year, and promptly lost 4-2 to us, and after taking a 2-0 lead. I can't tell you anything about any other matches, as for many years there hadn't been any !

Even in the midst of all this despondency Dundee helped set the  record attendance for a First Divison match, which still stands to this day, over 20,000 at Tynecastle in January 1978. But that first fateful relegation, on goal difference allowed neighbours Dundee United ( and Aberdeen) to survive in the top league,and to this day Dundee have never  properly recovered from it.

Dundee United had been very much  poorer cousins in Dundee, and had won absolutely nothing of note in their history. With Dundee now exiled in the lower division, and ironically under the stewardship of former Dens coach (and player, and Accies player, and boxer) Jim McLean, United pressed ahead, and for 37 years have never looked like being caught. Dundee meantime had to be content with welcoming a rich assortment of  ludicrous characters into their boardroom, and whilst this did admittedly add hugely to the merriment of the rest of us, it did  little to add to the reputation of what had been one of Scotland's  finest clubs.

We have three further fixtures against Dundee to come this season, and time then to bring matters  up to date, during a period when we were finally able to establish a rivalry with them.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Dundee vs Accies - SPFL Championship - Sat 14 Sept 2013

Accies return to action after a 2 week break with a visit to Dens Park to play 3rd placed Dundee.  Dundee have signed former Scotland striker Craig Beattie since last week's penalties defeat by Stenhousemuir in the Challenge Cup, but whether he will be fit to play on Saturday is anyone's guess.  Accies are on a fine run of form and I look forward that continuing, with the starting XI likely to reflect our success at Falkirk a couple of weeks ago.  While that game was not without its difficulties for Accies, it is clear that when we play well we have little to fear from any other team in this league.  Consistency will be the key to a good run in the Championship this year.  We have reinforced encouragingly in the last few weeks with Garcia Tena finally signing in the last week.  I don't expect him to feature as anything other than a sub on Saturday, but he certainly seems to have made an sound debut as Accies' u20s defeated Dundee Utd on Tuesday. 

This game will be provide another indication of the likely strength of our fledgling promotion challenge.  Would I take a draw if it was offered now?  I'm not sure, really, given the last few weeks… 

Managerial Merry Go Round

Only a few weeks into the season the first casualty that I am aware of has taken place. Richie Burke of Livingston has left the club citing personal reasons to be replaced by the highly experienced and respected ex Raith Rovers and Hearts manager John McGlynn. Burke was only appointed in March but this season, after 4 league games, Livingston sit bottom of the Championship with one point after losing three games and drawing one, shipping 10 goals to only 3 scored in the 3 all draw with Queen of the South. In the League Cup they have done somewhat better beating Elgin and Airdrie to earn a home tie against Motherwell later this month. This was a position that some Livi fans were touting Bill Reid for but somehow I can’t see Billy being tempted to join a club, which has had 5 managers in just over 18 months. John McGlynn is certainly credited by most Raith fans as having turned the team around earning them promotion from old Division Two so expect Accies to come up against a well organised Livingston team that will be difficult to break down and score against. Couldn't they have waited until after we had played them!  Who’s next?  Well an Accies win against Dundee must put a bit of pressure on John Brown whose squad is certainly expected to be challenging for the title. Or will it be Danny Lennon of Premiership St Mirren?

Tuesday 3 September 2013


As the transfer window closed last night, one of the last deals was James McCarthy from Wigan to Everton in what the BBC report as a deal worth £13million. Speculation regarding the percentage sell-on clause for Accies has never led to the figure being confirmed, but we do know there is a clause, and there is no doubt Accies will land a seven figure sum. A substantial windfall for the club. And a great opportunity for James.

Thursday 29 August 2013

Falkirk .v. Accies

Accies can take nothing for granted when they make the short drive to face second placed Falkirk at the Falkirk Stadium.

The Bairns have started well with seven points from nine whilst Accies are in a rich vein of form with maximum points so far.

New signing MAC will be hoping to continue his goal scoring against Falkirk after making his "debut" on Tuesday night in the convincing win over Kilmarnock. He

Alex Neil is hoping to add a couple of new faces before the transfer window slams shut on Saturday and is hoping Garcia Tena, formerly of Livingston is one of them. He has been training with Accies for several weeks and Neil is quoted in the Advertiser as hoping he will be signing before the deadline.

I am planning on making the journey up to the game and seeing my first away game of the season, I think it will be close and would bite your hand off for a draw just now. We are in a good run of form but I don't want to see us lose and Falkirk overtake us into first place.

I tipped Falkirk and Dundee to be our two main challengers this season with the three of us being the top three come the end of season, It didn't however put me off my £10 bet at 8/1 on Accies to win the league.

League Cup Draw

Accies will be at home to St Johnstone in the last 16 of the League Cup, following this morning's draw.  On current form, and with home advantage, this is certainly a tie we would hope to win.

Full draw is:

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Kilmarnock vs Accies - League Cup - Tuesday 27 August 2013

Accies come into this game after an ultimately comfortable win on Saturday against a previously undefeated Queen of the South; Killie on the other hand are looking to have a bit of a confidence boost after a home loss to low flying Hibs in the SPL, or is SPPL?  Those looking for precedents should note that Accies beat Killie in the League Cup in season 2007/8 (albeit at NDP), announcing that October evening that we were a SPL club in waiting.  Accies will certainly go into this game full of confidence and it will be interesting to see who plays tonight, assuming the club's priority is a top 4 finish in the Championship.  I guess Alex Neil will sit this one out, but other than that I don't see too many changes.  It may be that an away game against an established premier league club is too big a step to blooding too many youngsters - we will find out soon!  This will be a good test for the 2013/14 Accies, although my guess is that it comes just a wee bit too soon to be really helpful or indicative - I will be more interested to see how we react in our next two league games (away to Falkirk and Dundee) after this potentially tiring distraction.  As long as we don't end up having to play 120 mins.....  

Thursday 22 August 2013

Accies vs Queen of the South - Sat 24 Aug 2013

It is again a good time to be an Accies supporter.  The managerial change has proved to be a positive move despite an early season Ramsdens Cup defeat and Alex Neil is assured of my support through thick and thin, as was his predecessor.  The signing of MAC (pending formalities) should be another step forward, with my only question being why no other teams seem to have been chasing him given his record in Scottish football.  

Saturday's opponents Queen of the South are one of only 3 unbeaten teams in the Scottish Professional Football League Championship after 2 rounds of games.  Another tight 2nd tier season looks to be in prospect.  39 goals have been scored in 10 games this season with Accies and QoS providing 12 of these - the difference in the teams being the solidity of Accies' defence.  I can't see too many changes to the team after the fine home win against Dumbarton, but Andreu must be close to a start - but at the expense of whom?  While QoS are one of the form teams in the league to date (early, I know) Accies are at home and this is the sort of game we must win if we are to challenge for the one direct promotion spot.  Unlike many, I am no fan of play-offs - but it seems that in this instance they are the closest we will get to a 2nd promotion place, so are welcome none the less, despite the fact that they undermine the league structure and are a blatant commercial ploy.  I reckon this season must be close to being the 50th anniversary of my first game at Douglas Park - promotion would be a fine way to celebrate and I'm not fussed about the route we take.  3 points on Saturday, please. 

MAC back!

Mickael Antoine-Curier looks set to return  to Hamilton Accies, the official site has revealed.

Before everyone gets too excited about the return of 'MAC', the club's resident blazer, Scott Struthers, has pointed out there are still registration problems to overcome before the transfer window closes, and he can't be included in this Saturday's squad.

Fingers crossed these are resolved in time, as MAC at his best is exactly the type of player we need to challenge in the Championship.

In his previous spells at Accies, between 2009 and 2011, MAC made 39 appearances and scored 11 goals (source: unofficial but generally reliable Accies Appearances website).

Thursday 15 August 2013

Accies v Dumbarton - SPFL Championship - Saturday 17th August 2013

This Saturday, Accies host Dumbarton for the first home match of the season and our first competitive match on the new artificial surface at NDP. After last week's excellent away victory against Raith Rovers there is bound to be some confidence and optimism amongst the players, management team and the fans. The big question is whether the promise shown in the last two victories can continue. According to the OS, the injuries to Longridge and Routledge will keep both on the sidelines for a few more weeks. That should mean the only change to the starting eleven will be the return of our captain, Martin Canning to the heart of the defence alongside Mikey Devlin. The dominant performance of Alex Neil last week must leave our manager no choice but to pick himself to start again this week. Last season Dumbarton showed they were capable of virtually anything - good & bad! However there's no doubt they are a much more capable outfit under the stewardship of Ian Murray. They managed to grab a late equaliser last week to earn a good point at home to Falkirk and I believe they will be no pushovers. It's still very early in the season to identify the form sides, however if we are aspiring to achieve a top four finish then this match is the type of game that we really need to be winning. I'm looking forward to an open, entertaining game with a narrow victory for Accies.

Friday 9 August 2013

Raith Rovers V Accies - SPFL Championship - Saturday 10 August

The phoney war is over so to speak when on Saturday Accies travel to Kirkcaldy to take on Raith Rovers in a historic first game for both sides in the new league set up. Raith seem to have had the upper hand in recent seasons at Starks Park but we have won our last 2 games against them home and away, 2-0 on both occasions. Going into this game Canning is suspended and Alex Neil seems to be still struggling with his role as a player manager in terms of playing or not. Against Airdrie he sat on the bench but at Stirling last week resumed his place on the park perhaps mindful that exiting two cup competitions in a row would not set the tone for the upcoming season. Alongside Canning he clearly had the desired effect so I fully expect him to play this Saturday.

Raith have had a good start so far winning both their cup games although extra time was need against Stirling. Up front they have former Accies loanee Greg Spence who scored 15 goals last season and summer signing Calum Elliot. Calum appeared to be heading for Livingstone but ended up signing a one-year deal with Raith. If he can keep injury free, I suspect he will be a key player and he grabbed 2 goals in Raith's 6 - 0 demolition of Queens Park last week.

While Chairman Les Grey is quoted in the Advertiser today (Friday) that he is “still looking to bring in two or three players before August is up.” it should be more or less the same squad as last week with perhaps a full 90 minutes for Andreu and a place on the bench for Andy Ryan who returns after suspension and played midweek against Rangers under 20’s. 

Friday 2 August 2013

Stirling Albion vs Accies - League Cup - Sat 3 August 2013

Accies travel to Stirling on Saturday to play the Binos in a match between 2 teams already eliminated from the Ramsdens Cup.  This League Cup fixture (there doesn't seem to be any sponsor for the League Cup yet) is hardly one to set the pulse racing, but for Accies it represents a second chance to record a victory against lower-league opposition before the league kicks off in 2 weeks time.  As ever with Scottish football there is a curiosity, in this instance Albion were dumped out of the Ramsdens Cup by Raith Rovers, Accies first league opponent in 2 weeks time.  So this game is something of a form guide - maybe.  It is difficult to see Accies showing more commitment to this game than was shown last week, which suggests there may be doubts about participation by Neil and Canning.  Hopefully new signing Andreu will add bite in midfield and Keatings will show his true colours up front.  Ryan is still suspended for this game.  A win would certainly be a morale booster, but with the obvious priority being the league it is likely that success in this game will be provided by a slightly less than optimum Accies team.

Feel free to question Club Chairman Les Gray about Accies' priorities for the coming (current?) season at the Fans' Forum to be held in the function suite at NDP at around 5pm on Sunday 4 August.  Further details available on the official site.   

Friday 26 July 2013

Airdrie vs Accies - Ramsdens Cup - Sat 27 July 2013

The 2013/14 season (with Accies featuring in the SPFL Championship) kicks off, almost for real, with a Ramsdens Cup tie at Airdrie.  There are few clues to likely team selection and formation this early in the season but after a very positive pre-season it seems unlikely that new signing Keatings will not start.  My interest will centre on the part played by player manager Neil.  Alex played 45 mins last Saturday but I will be surprised if he features on the park in this game.  Accies will start as favourites, if for no other reason that they are a division above Airdrie.  Other than that, it's anyone's guess what will happen.  The whole start to the season seems a bit surreal to me - it's still high summer in my book, with the usual raft of somewhat sad European qualifiers going on amid summer 'soccer' tournaments, golf, cricket and tennis.  Well done to Stevie May on helping St Johnstone to win in Europe and good luck to Accies tomorrow.  Oh, and I wonder what 'legends' will turn out on Sunday?   Good luck with the fundraising - more info here.

Saturday 20 July 2013

Bring on the new season

Technically the new season started with the open game against Spennymoor Town or was it the Oban tournament?  But my season started with a trip to New Bayview to see Accies take on East Fife. This was a game that showed the benefits of a settled team as the Accies starting line up was probably as near our strongest starting eleven and East Fife; well they demonstrated a team in progress! This was my first visit to New Bayview and it is a lot like Dumbarton’s ground with a single stand accommodating all fans and a concrete wall around the other 3. However it is more than fit for purpose and the steak pies are quite good as well.

I joined just over 60 Accies fans for this game sitting in the summer sun although as the sun shines on the back of the stand it was a cool 19 degrees where I was situated. The game was all but over in less than 10 minutes as that was all it took for James Keatings to score a hat trick. A free kick, a strike within the box and a penalty made up his goals. Some how I think he just might be the surprise signing of the season. Fingers crossed. He added a fourth in the second half to finish the scoring for Accies at 4 – 0,Kevin Cuthbert keeping another clean sheet. East Fife looked a poor lot but to be fair they had 3 trialists in the team and look like a team that is struggling to know each other. 

Alex substituted himself at half time and it will be interesting to see how his player manager role pans out. The only downside was Canning being substituted on 20 minutes. He left the pitch clutching the back of his right leg and obviously has an injury. Hopefully not too serious and it will clear up in time for the competitive season. On this performance we have a settled team that will cause all the other teams in the First problems. Are they league winners? Lets just wait and see.

Wednesday 3 July 2013

There was a young man from Limerick (Aka Stuart Taylor) Part 2

In an earlier blog I looked at how ex Accies assistant manager Stuart Taylor was getting on in his first managerial position with Limerick FC of the Irish Premier League. With the close season upon us and the Irish League playing summer football I took the opportunity last weekend to travel to Limerick to watch Stuart’s team in action against Dundalk who are managed by the ex Dunfermline manager Stuart Kenny.

Limerick is Irelands 4th biggest city with a population of just over 57,00 and in 2011 was nominated European City of Sport. Not surprising when you find they are home to Heineken Cup rugby team Munster, two other senior rugby union teams, a Gaelic football team, a hurling team and Limerick FC. Oh and don't forget the racecourse and brand new greyhound stadium. With all that competition, Limerick struggle to get a crowd and on Saturday night I found myself along with 1248 other hardy souls sitting in the 26,500 capacity Thomond Park, home of Munster Rugby and where Limerick are currently playing while a new stadium is being developed for them. What the crowd lacked in number they made up for in noise with both sides fielding drums but funnily enough no flutes.

The view from the Home Stand

Stuart oversees the warm up

A local commentator in his pre match analysis noted that “Despite their very positive start, Stuart Taylor's brand of good football hasn't produced enough points to see Limerick bother the top teams in the Premier Division. In fact, Limerick currently sit just two points ahead of the bottom three. “ Stuart in his programme notes commented that while the team was playing well they lacked goals. And so it transpired in the first half at least. Despite creating 5 or 6 chances Limerick went in at half time 2 goals down to a Dundalk side that took its chances.  Refreshed by a gourmet burger at 5 Euros, I resumed my seat fearing the worst for Limerick and it nearly did get worse with their defender Shaun Kelly miss hitting a pass back that saw the Limerick keeper pull of a superb one handed save to turn the ball round the post for a corner. However after that the game was turned on its head with Limerick scoring first from a free kick, grabbing a headed equalizer 10 minutes later and then nicking the winner with about 5 minutes to go. The Limerick Post described the game as one of the best games of the season and a tremendous advert for League of Ireland football. I wouldn’t disagree with any of that. Even my good lady who accompanied me enjoyed the game. Afterwards Stuart told the Post that “ to come from 2- 0 down against the on form side in the league, its probably one of the most pleasing games that we have had up until now”.

The win puts Limerick into the top six of the league and well placed to progress further or at least consolidate their position in their first season back in the top league after 19 years. Off the park progress is also being made in developing the club’s youth academy with a link up with the local Technology College giving access to the College’s sports facilities including artificial pitch. If this keeps up I rather suspect we may see Stuart back over the Irish Sea sooner rather than later. In the interim if you get the opportunity Limerick city and football club are well worth a visit.

To follow Stuart’s progress here is the link to Limericks’ official site

Friday 28 June 2013

Getting through the close season

We all have our diversions.  Everyone likes a holiday, but the long close season seems to drag for many fans, even in the likes of this, the most eventful of close seasons.

Last season was almost extended by the events at the end, with the under-19s winning the league cup at the end of May, Cadzow winning the supporters' cup, and the Accies women playing on through June.

Alex Neil was unsurprisingly confirmed as the new Accies manager, following his articulate explanation of the problems of the player/manager role, at the end-of-season fans' forum. No dissenting voices, as far as I know, and everyone is eagerly awaiting how "Sir Alex" rises to the challenge of a full season in the hot seat. The recent announcement that Jon Routledge has renewed his contract may be seen as one endorsement.

And there's always football being played somewhere, with the James boys winning the FA Cup with Wigan, and the Confederations Cup reaching its climax this weekend.

Then there were the off-field problems of Dunfermline and Hearts, neither resolved so far. And the league re-structuring saga, which seems finally to have been resolved on terms favourable to Accies, with Les Gray joining the Board of the new body.

Today's Challenge Cup draw sees Accies scheduled to face Airdrie away, when the season re-opens in just four weeks' time. It's not that far away...

Friday 21 June 2013


Heart of Midlothian have become the tenth senior Scottish football club to experience an insolvency event since the turn of the century.  This is significant when you have to be in your 50s, at least, to remember the last such event in the 20th century, Third Lanark, in 1967.  Since 2000, the roll-call reads: Morton, Clydebank, Airdrieonians, Motherwell, Dundee (twice), Livingston (twice), Gretna, Rangers, Dunfermline, and now Hearts – or almost a quarter of senior Scottish clubs.  Anyone who thinks our game isn’t in crisis isn’t paying attention.

Two of those clubs are no longer senior clubs, but at least they still exist at some level, unlike Third Lanark, who disappeared completely.  Could the same thing happen to Hearts?

Hearts are believed to owe £25 million to their former Lithuanian owners - £15 million to their bankers, Ukio Bankas, and £10 million to their parent company, UBIG (Ukio Bankas Investment Group).  The actual total debt could be much more, even before taking accout of other liabilities, as both these entities are no longer trading, and their administrators/liquidators will play a key role in the future of Hearts.

The timing of this is especially difficult for the Hearts administrator, as close season is a period when there is little income.  The administrator has said they need to sell 3000 season tickets in the next two weeks, just to meet immediate commitments, and redundancies have begun for both players and other staff.  One of the problems is Hearts no longer own Tynecastle – Ukio Bankas hold it as security for their debt.  Another is their players have little re-sale value, although it is the small hope of player sales that has prevented them all being made redundant already.

It looks like it will be hard for Hearts to attract a buyer and achieve a Creditors Voluntary Agreement, both of which they need within a few weeks, if they are to continue in the SPL.  It looks a distinct possibility that they will be liquidated, and according to precedents expelled from the SPL, raising the questions of whether a new incarnation of the club could be admitted to the ranks of senior Scottish football, and if so at what level?  It is also a distinct possibility that they have played their last game at Tynecastle.

The knock-on effect of the loss of the second biggest travelling support in the SPL may impact further on other clubs, especially those already in financial difficulties, such as Kilmarnock, Aberdeen and Dundee United. For second tier clubs such as Accies, it opens up further opportunities for access to the top flight.  If Hearts drop out, Morton may find themselves in next year’s SPL.  From next season, 2nd to 4th in the second tier will have play-offs with the 11th place club in the SPL, but at the current rate, there could be another vacancy every season.

This is not to indulge in schadenfreude at the expense of other clubs’ misfortunes, but to acknowledge that many of the old certainties no longer apply.  With incomes falling, no league sponsor, and uncertainty over the terms of the SKY TV deal, it is unlikely we have seen the last insolvency, and few (if any) clubs have a secure future.  If ever there was a time for a combination of financial prudence and marketing innovation, this is it.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Lowland League

The SFA have announced the 12 teams that will make up the new Lowland League as part of creating a pyramid system allowing new teams into the the Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) and also teams to be relegated from there to the Highland or Lowland Leagues. The following link leads to a BBC article detailing the successful teams.

Interestingly despite active canvassing by the SFA, no junior teams applied for a slot and there is a suggestion that they are going to create their own super/super league consisting of the best junior teams from the east and west. It suggests to me the junior teams are quite comfortable with their business model.

The one team in the Lowland League that intrigues me is East Kilbride. This is an amalgamation of a number of amateur teams in the town and has nothing to do with EK Thistle, the junior team or the recently renamed EK Clyde and I would have thought this puts paid to EK Clyde's move to the new town. The EK team that has won a place in the Lowland League is backed by  a local builder who has land and apparently is keen to build a stadium. All he lacked was a team. So if EK are successful over the next few years and gain a place in the lower reaches of the SPFL presumably they will be playing in a brand new stadium which leaves EK Clyde groundless so to speak!

Looking ahead if there is a senior team in EK, I wonder what this might do to Hamilton's already low attendance figures. If the Clyde experience is anything to go by gathering support from a new town base is not quite as simple as might be thought. Without a team, individuals have no doubt been attracted to the Old Firm and it can take a long time to break such habit if it can ever be broken. Whatever no one can say that scottish football  isn't going to be interesting over the next few years as teams come and indeed go!

Sunday 16 June 2013

The case for summer football

There are two main reasons why Scotland needs to switch to summer football - one is strategic, the other tactical.

More players, more competition, better skills

Scottish football is in severe decline, measured by almost any indicator you choose, and over a long period of time.  The performances and results of the national team, the performances and results of the clubs representing us in European competition, the development and exporting of young talent, the financial health of our clubs, and many other factors, all bear testament to decades of decline. The players of today may be fitter, more athletic, more tactical aware, and perhaps even have greater technique, but who doesn't yearn for the ball skills of a Jim Baxter, a Jimmy Johnstone, or even a Kenny Dalglish or Graeme Souness? To say nothing of the successes of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

The key to breaking this spiral of decline is to attract more young talent into the sport - the more good players we have, at every level, the greater our chances of developing the top players we need. Winter football is one of the main barriers to attracting and retaining that talent. Young people today don't have the opportunities to play and learn skills in street football, and new facilities have not been built fast enough. But it's the rain, the sleet, the wind, the cold and the mud that deters the new generations.

And why? Other than the fact that it's always been that way, I haven't heard any argument for playing the game in the least clement weather conditions. It's not as if Scotland has a popular alternative summer sport. We all know fans enjoy attending in better weather, the game looks better (other than to thrawn aficionados of the muddy slide tackle), and most importantly, the conditions are right to practise and repeat ball skills. Playing in the summer is not just desirable, but essential to encouraging more players, identifying and promoting the best players, and giving them the conditions to improve their skills.  That's the strategic reason.

More TV money

The tactical reason is that, for the moment at least, none of the bigger leagues in Europe (Spain, Italy, France, Germany and England) plays in the summer. That creates a gap in the TV schedules, and a chance to secure prime time slots and higher payments, boosting the finances of the game. Scotland could steal a march on these competitor leagues by acting swiftly and decisively. Or it may already be too late, with yesterday's Guardian reporting that Rupert Murdoch may be set to fund summer contests among some of the world's leading clubs - none of which is likely to come from Scotland.

The football community, not least its administrators, is notoriously cautious, conservative, and wary of innovation. On this issue, such a characteristic may be the barrier to progress. Summer football is not some sort of quirky eccentric idea - it is the natural solution to one of the biggest problems in the game. It needs to be implemented as a matter of urgency.

Monday 10 June 2013

Glasgow City 5 Accies 0

This guest blog is contributed by Colette Carr.

Glasgow City maintained their 100% league record as five goals separated them and Hamilton Accies Women at Petershill Park.

The high scoreline did not reflect the game however as Accies contained the league leaders throughout and keeper Megan Cunningham proved outstanding in ability, their efforts not going unnoticed by manager Kevin Murphy.

Murphy commented: “I thought we done great today.” He continued: “The application and work rate I thought was a different class from the team, I thought they worked so hard together as a team, and individually I thought they were great.

“Going into the second half at one nil down we’re in with a chance, granted we never had much of the ball or created a lot of opportunities, but you’re always going to come away to places like Glasgow City and face that, but when the scoreline is at one nil you’re kind of hopeful, and I just felt that when the second goal went in it killed the game a little, the players were getting a bit tired, legs heavier, we just had a bad ten minutes there, tired at the end and conceded.

“I think five nil is harsh for the girls, yes City had a lot of possession but I thought we worked so hard and our efforts deserved better than what they got today.” The hosts started brightly, pressuring Accies, as Ruesha Littlejohn sent her shot wide just moments into the match. Eilish McSorley then sent a long ball up towards Jo Love for City, but Hamilton’s Chloe Quinn was quick to intercept and cleared it away to safety.

City were then at it again, Love combining with former Accies star Sarah Crilly to setup Littlejohn in the box, however, Cunningham dived at the Irish internationalist’s feet shielding the ball.

Just after the 20th minute, Crilly sent a lethal low cross into the goal mouth after losing Carolina Richardson, but Cunningham proved her bravery again, coming out to hold it.

Eight minutes later, Crilly netted the first of the match for Glasgow, her twisting volley flying into the top far corner. Cunningham and Littlejohn found themselves in a one on one again, Cunningham coming out and colliding with Littlejohn heavily, however the referee waved play on.

Accies new signing Gillian Sloey saw yellow after 34 minutes, seemingly for repetitive fouling, and a free kick was given about twenty five yards out on the left. After Leanne Ross’ delivery, Littlejohn’s lob flew over the goal.

Two minutes before time, the Hamilton backline did well to delay Suzanne Lappin’s efforts, but Cunningham pulled out another top drawer save when the City midfielder got her strike in.

Five minutes into the second period, Littlejohn hit the post with her short free kick before she found goal, but Glasgow’s second was chalked off due to a handball.

Moments shy of the hour Suzanne Malone rattled off the cross bar from very close range for the home side.

Accies then found a glimpse of City’s goal, with Cara McBrearty belting the ball deep into the hosts half, before Sloey headed over.

Despite high pressure inside the area from City, Hamilton were doing well to keep the score at one nil, and keep the hosts at bay.

The next seven minutes of the match however would prove to be Hamilton’s undoing, the 75th minute seeing Lappin whipping her shot into Cunningham’s goal, three minutes later Littlejohn coolly slotting from wide, the 81st seeing Lappin picking up the end of a corner to head in and Lappin completing her hat-trick a minute later with another strong header.

A moment before time Cunningham displayed another superb save to deny Love from 25 yards, topping off a great day for the keeper despite the scoreline.

While Glasgow City go away with their 100% record still intact, Accies will be disappointed to miss out on a spot in the top six before the break, and to concede five goals in what was a strong solid defensive display from the Lanarkshire side.

Player of the Match: Megan Cunningham Attendance :103 Referee: Hazel Irvine Glasgow City: Dalziel, Robertson (O’Hara), McSorley, Love, Crichton (Gallagher), Littlejohn, Lappin, Docherty, Malone, Ross (Pagliarulo), Crilly (Barnes) Hamilton Accies: Cunningham, Cairns, Quinn (Lang), Douglas (Donnelly), Ingils (McDonald), Bulloch (King), McBrearty (Black), McCulloch, Richardson, McInally, Sloey

Colette Carr