COURTESY of “The Beast from the East”, it looks as if we are not going to have a lot of football to possibly attend tomorrow. And therein lies the problem with a winter shut-down in Scotland.
We had a shut-down earlier this season, and, truth to tell, could probably have played through it. Now, courtesy of the unpredictable British climate, we lost a lot of midweek games, and will lose more this weekend.
As a well-known junior commentator said some years back: “The Juniors have a mid-winter shut-down, we just never know when it will happen.” The problem is now hitting the senior game.
The Oriam - hosting a top rugby match this weekend
I note, with rugby similarly hit, the BT Premiership clash between Heriot's and Currie – a sort of Hibs v Motherwell if you like – will go ahead tomorrow on the indoor pitch at the Oriam on the Heriot-Watt University campus. Fantastic initiative and good thinking by the Currie club. That's what Scotland needs – more indoor facilities, or roofed, 21st century stadia.
I WATCHED Rangers dismantle St Johnstone on Tuesday night, courtesy of BT Sport. Graeme Murty has certainly got his side playing some good football – that first goal, from the in-form Windass for instance was as good as you will see. While you still have to fancy the Champions, there are now signs of a definite title challenge coming from Ibrox.
Graeme Murty - has his side playing well
IF Rangers can hold their nerve, and win when Celtic come to Ibrox later this month, then, anything might happen. As I have said before, this is not a good Celtic team, they are flaky and a Rangers' win just might tilt the balance of power. However, course and distance form still favours Celtic – but, things are not as clear-cut as they once seemed.
ALSO on Tuesday night, Kilmarnock went to Tynecastle and came away with a draw. A wee bit disappointing for us Killie fans, but, we are not complaining too-loudly.
Our hero on the night was goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald, for that last-minute penalty save from Kyle Lafferty. This was a classic case of a local favourite returning to bite you on the bum, and, I'll bet there were dedicated Jambos standing in the Diggers post-match lamenting the fact Hearts ever let Jamie go.
Jamie MacDonald - in form and in my view, worth a Scotland call
I first encountered Jamie when Hearts loaned him out to Queen of the South for experience and he never let-down the Doonhamers. He has won ten Under-21 caps, but, has never gone on to a full cap. He has also picked-up a lot of big match experience, by playing in no less than four national cup finals, and, at 31, he is still young for a 'keeper.
When I first started watching Kilmarnock, their goalkeeper was the great Jimmy Brown, another former Hearts man who was very unlucky not to win a full cap – although he did back-stop the Scotland touring party in every game during their 1949 close season tour of North America. MacDonald is following in Jimmy's considerable boot steps. I think Alex McLeish could do worse than look to bring him into the full Scotland squad.
I NOTE the SPFL is considering disbanding their Development League and reverting to Reserve Leagues. Well, given young player development in Scotland is a bit of a joke – why not?
If the Hampden High Heid Yins do go down the road of Reserve Leagues, I hope they go the whole hog and revert to playing the games on a Saturday afternoon. They just might find, such a move would attract more people through the turnstiles, more-so if the pricing was sensible.
When I first got into football, the Scottish roads system was not as good as it is today – OK, maybe there were fewer pot holes, but, there were not the dual carriageways and motorways of today. Following Kilmarnock to Aberdeen or Dundee was a no-no, it took for ever to get there, so, if Killie's first team was at Pittodrie or Dens Park on a given Saturday, their reserve team was at Rugby Park, and we went along there to support the team. That way, you had an idea who was about to break through.
For instance, one of my Dad's oldest friends was a Killie shareholder and weel-kent fan, but, he had other interests on a Saturday. I remember him admitting, he would telephone Willie Waddell on a Friday, simply to find out if “Young McLean” would be playing in the reserve team at Rugby Park the next day.
Tommy McLean, back when older Killie fans would go to watch him in the reserves
If the 15-year-old Tommy was playing, he went along, otherwise, he might pass. Another potential use of reserve games might be for the clubs to “wallpaper” the ground, by giving Under-16s free access, and arranging for organised school parties. They just might instil regular attendance into a new generation of fans.
Some critics of the plan to revert to reserve teams have suggested the teams fielded would mainly comprise “fringe” established players. Well, the powers-that-be could always bring-in a rule, similar to that in the Olympic Games, that the teams fielded should be mainly Under-23 sides, with say a maximum of three over-age players. That might work.
I NOTE, the “Glib and Shameless Liar” lost his appeal in the Court of Session this week. Perhaps we are approaching end game in his tenure as Mr Big at Ibrox.
Certainly, having fallen foul of the law, the man from south of the Limpopo has either got now to put up or slink away. His reign has been a series of car crashes and in my view, Rangers would be a lot better off without his malign presence.
But, even if they can divest themselves of their liability of a Chairman, Rangers still face huge financial pressures in their rebuilding plans. The “natural order” of things, which some refer to, will not happen, if it ever does, for a wee while yet.
Billy McNeill - Happy Birthday and Hail Cesar
FINALLY – many happy returns to one of the true greats of Scottish football, Billy McNeill MBE, who celebrates his 75th birthday today.