WE ARE back to purritch and auld claes this week, as our international heroes return to the mundane of club football, and the sword-bearers of the chorus of diddy journeymen, of whom we have far too many in Scottish football, gird their loins for a return to work.
I suppose the main interest will be in how many fans turn-up at Murrayfield, for the Hearts v Aberdeen fixture. There are a number of intriguing sub-plots to this one, which ought to guarantee a good turn-out of fans.
- On paper, these should be the numbers two and three clubs in Scotland, can they justify this billing?
- How will a Levein-organised team differ from what has gone before?
- Will Gary Mackay-Steven be forgiven his diversion into synchronised swimming and play?
- Will the hybrid pitch be a factor – or a get-out for Derek McInnes should the Dons not perform?
It's that last one that gets me. The Murrayfield sward is perhaps the best playing surface in Scotland, unless they switch the game to the nearby Balgreen bowling greens, the players could not have a better workplace on which to perform in the city. If you cannot play on that, you cannot play. But, because it's a hybrid surface, it will give somebody a cause for complaint.
You have to laugh, I remember playing on one public park in Ayrshire, where, I got to the top end goal and was grateful to be back-stopping a very good team, since, it took me most of the first half to remove the broken glass from the six-yard box. Even then, I could do little about the half-bricks breaking through the mud. Hybrid pitches – luxury. And don't get me started on that wonder of Glasgow Corporation's parks and recreation department – the blaize park Ouch!!
Craig Levein - get into the coaches box, the view's better
Anent Mr Levein – I do hope he decides to watch the game from one of the coaches boxes at the back of the main stand at Murrayfield. Then he will realise what a much better overview of the game he gets from up there. Sitting up there never did quality coaches such as New Zealand's Steve Hansen, Warren Gatland of Wales, or oor ain Vern Cotter of Gregor Townsend any harm.
I still wonder at this insistence that football managers should be expected to perform like deranged chimpanzees on the touchline, where they get a very distorted view of the match.
IF THE on-field fare does not satisfy over the weekend, we already know what the big talking point will be – the SFA's decision to let sleeping dogs – particularly mangy, flea-ridden ones such as Rangers EBTs – lie.
This blog has long maintained, an inquiry was never going to happen, for the simple reason it would have reminded everyone what an absolute dog's dinner the Hampden High Heid Yins made of the whole sheebang, from start to finish.
The whole sorry Rangers saga was just about the best indication you could have of how unfit for purpose the SFA was – and continues to be; and how unfit to lead the game were and are, the Hampden “suits”. And the fact many of the guilty men are still in-situ only compounds the folly.
Stewart Regan - is paid to take the flak for the real numpties at Hampden
If a sport gets the leaders and administrators it deserves – Scottish football has been a very bad boy indeed.
BEATING Lithuania and Malta was all very well, elderly Scots such as I, with our years of service in the Tartan Army still think of these sides as “diddy” teams we ought to beat every time; when we play such sides, we still refuse to believe, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that: “there are no easy international games”.
Scotland Under-21 captain Oliver Burke
Any way, for me, the best international result we had was out Under-21 team's defeat of the Netherlands, in Paisley. The Dutch might be going through a less-than-stellar spell internationally at the moment, but they still develop very good young players and, for us to beat them, even with home advantage, was not just a good start to our European Under-21 Championship qualifying campaign, it was a general boost. Well done Scot Gemmill and his boys.
ARSENE WENGER has now become football's grey eminence – the veteran boss who has seemingly been around for ever and no matter what you think of his team's temporary performance, has to be listened to when he speaks on serious football matters.
“Le Professeur” has this week been speaking about football's financial fair play rules, and the way they are seemingly being broken willy-nilly.
I have never understood football's obsession with transfer fees, it is stupid. In business, you don't find RBS breaking transfer records to sign the latest hot-shot from HSBC, or Price Waterhouse Cooper doing likewise to recruit someone from KPMG.
In North American sport, they don't have transfer fees, guys coming to the end of their contracts know, if they become free agents and are still deemed to be valued players, they and their agent can arrange a very lucrative deal with another club.
Bobby Lennox - he did alright for Saltcoats Victoria, one club unlikely ever to fall foul of football's financial fair play legislation
Even when they are on the downward slope, with the right agent and the right club, anything is possible. Just don't kneel in protest when the band strikes up the Star Spangled Banner – then you really are out in the cold and couldn't even get a game for Saltcoats Victoria.
The money saved, by not going on transfer fees, can then be spent on better deals for the players, and on facilities for the fans. But, in football the transfer market has: “Aye been” so we are stuck with it – even when, by paying ridiculous sums for players such as Neymar, clubs like PSG are driving a coach and horses through the rules.