Eleven Questions Dundee United Fans Should Ask Themselves

August 24, 2016

You could say that it’s been a fun week to be a Dundee United fan.

Of course, whether you agree with that depends on your defining fun as witnessing civil war breaking out among the different factions of supporters, defamatory blogs being published and then rightfully retracted and accusations flying all over the place.

The reasons for Dundee United’s slump have been written about time and time again. The facts are that we’ve run at a loss for a long time and in spite of selling players for relatively lucrative fees, we’ve wasted a lotdufc of that on failed management teams and dreadful recruitment. We’re now at the point where we’ve been relegated and are trying to claw our way back up on a reduced budget while the chairman – who admits he’s made mistakes – is open to offers to offload the club.

Everyone knows this and everyone has had their say on it. We all want change. Unfortunately for as long as Stephen Thompson remains at the club they want to have their say on it over and over again.

But it’s boring. It’s just going round in circles to the point where most of us have switched off.

I’ve lost count of the amount of fellow Arabs who have told me they’ve had enough of it.

So I thought I’d jot down a few questions that we can all ask ourselves – about the state we are in and what might happen in the future – and maybe it will curb some of the blind rage that’s going about.

Question 1: Do you feel that the constant negativity and abuse directed at the club and those in charge of it…

  1. Encourages potential new investors to come forward
  2. Discourages them because they might think if they fall out of favour they’d be the subject of abuse and a lack or privacy
  3. Makes no difference one way or the other

Question 2: The received wisdom surrounding the club’s finances from those who claim to be in the know is that the club has very little in the way of cash-flow. If we assume that to be the case, do you think the best way to solve this problem is to…

  1. Sell a player who is far from a first choice pick in our weakest area of the squad for money similar to what Dundee received for their top scorer and then potentially use some of that cash to strengthen.
  2. Keep Harry Souttar and sign more players with money that we’ve just accepted is not there?

Question 3: Do you think it’s reasonable to be angry at the club for both operating at such a damaging loss and then not adding to that problem by spending even more money?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 4: What do you think the role of a football chairman is?

  1. To run the club in a financially sensible way and potentially perform less effectively in the league.
  2. Throw all his or her own money at it and hope for the best.

Question 5: If your answer to Question 4 was Option 2, would you think the same thing if it was your money?

  1. No
  2. Yes (but really, no)

Question 6: Do you agree with the statement “The sort of person rich and savvy enough to have the sort of money to be able to buy Dundee United is probably too rich and savvy to want to throw their money away owning a football club”

  1. Yes
  2. No; what about Eddie Thompson?

Question 7: If your ideal candidate for a new chairman is an Eddie Thompson type who – and let’s not forget how much debt he got the club into trying to achieve this – will happily throw his personal fortune at the club in the hope of buying success, don’t you think he or she would have tried to buy the club already?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 8: Do you think that it’s healthy to get so angry about the running of a football club?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 9: From the point of view of a fan, did Dundee United being relegated have any effect on your day to day life?

  1. Yes
  2. No

Question 10: Really?

  1. Absolutely, my life has been turned upside down.
  2. No

Question 11: Have you read all these questions and come to the conclusion that I must be some kind of Stephen Thompson apologist/stooge?

  1. No, I think you’ve raised some reasonable issues.
  2. Yes, you’re a prick and your blog is pish. Why don’t you stick to watching Dr Who you shitebag.

If you chose Option 2, then I guess you can resume sharpening your pitchforks…


Why Ryan Gauld’s Proposed Transfer To Sporting Lisbon Is A Good Thing

July 1, 2014

So it looks as though Dundee United starlet Ryan Gauld is set to complete a move to Sporting Lisbon for a fee of around £3m with the potential for more in add-ons.

The news has captured the imagination of Scottish Football fans across social media, and as you might expect, the reaction has been interesting and diverse.

While most observers seem to agree that it’s a good move for both the player and the club, there are some interesting viewpoints out there.

One United fan suggested that we shouldn’t sell him, but instead loan him out to a lower division side in Scotland to get first team experience.

Plenty of Aberdeen fans have amusingly suggested that if Gauld is worth £3m then Peter Pawlett must be worth at least £5m. I somehow don’t think a bid of that much is forthcoming…ryan-gauld-131125c

Then you’ve got Dundee fans saying he’s rubbish, that they can’t understand why he’s going for so much and – knowing as they do more about United’s financial security than Stephen Thompson himself – that all the money would go to servicing debt.

And one punter – whose allegiances remain a mystery – suggested that he felt Gauld would be making a massive mistake going to Portugal ahead of “The Premier League” (that could either be England, from where no bids have been received, or Scotland where he currently plays) and that he was “throwing his career away”.

Of course, a lot of that is nonsense. A player is worth either what a club is willing to pay for him or the opportunity cost of that player leaving the club. That’s it; there’s no magic formula to it.

United and Sporting have agreed a deal, and for me it’s not only a terrific piece of business for both clubs in terms of value, but it’s also fantastic for the player himself and for Dundee United’s reputation.

Some Arabs remain unconvinced, as they think if we held onto him for another season, we could get higher offers.

I would ask those fans to consider this…

As good as he is, Ryan Gauld has had a poor run of form since January. There have been a number of theories put forward for why that is, including his obvious growth spurt, his turning 18 and discovering alcohol (which I really hope isn’t true), overconfidence or jadedness. I’d say mostly his form dipped because teams seemed to set out to stop him playing. They bullied him and marked him out of games. The sort of performances we saw from Gauld in the run up to Christmas are not 100% likely to happen again because of that.

If I was Gauld – who has said in the past that he sees his future on the continent rather than in the UK – I’d be thinking “If I’m going to reach my potential, I need to play in a league where I’ll have more time and space on the ball and won’t be an instant target for other clubs”.

Meanwhile, if I was Stephen Thompson, I’d be thinking “I know this guy is a huge prospect, but if he plays the whole of next season the way he played the latter half of last season, he won’t even attract bids of £500k let alone £5m”

So the time is right for a move.

Like I say above, it’s great for United’s reputation too. The club sells itself as a place where players can learn their craft, play in the first team and then move on to a higher level. Say United decided to reject the bid; how bad would that look to Gauld and any other player thinking of moving to Tannadice?

To lose a player of Gauld’s ability will be sad for the fans, but there are plenty more fish in the sea. We’ve still got a front four including Nadir Ciftci, GMS, Stuart Armstrong and Ryan Dow, and coming up to challenge them are the likes of Charlie Telfer, Blair Spittal, Aidan Connolly, Scott Smith and Scott Fraser, so the future is still bright as far as I’m concerned.

I wish Ryan Gauld all the best, and hope for himself, the Scottish National team and Scottish Football – for if his move is a success it might encourage more teams to spend big bucks on our players –  that he fulfils his undoubted potential. He’s got a great chance to do it, and I hope he grabs it with both hands.

 

 


Scottish Cup Final 2014: The One That’ll Go Down As A Damp Squib

May 20, 2014

Well that was a damp squib, wasn’t it?

In the lead-up to the Scottish Cup Final between Dundee United and St. Johnstone, I just didn’t feel as tense or excited as I had in the days and weeks before the 2005, 2008 (League Cup) and 2010 finals. Personally, I think that’s because I’d witnessed us winning the cup in 2010 and therefore was shed of my “Scottish Cup Trophy Virginity” (that’s something that every Dundee fan currently living still has, and probably will have 1o0 years from now, but that’s another story) having not been to the Cup Final of 1994.

Either way, I just didn’t feel as pumped up about it as I should have been.

While in 2010 I couldn’t even touch my breakfast, in 2014, it went down fine and I even went to work for a couple of hours before heading through.

But even when I was there, the whole thing seemed flat.

The Cup Final Display: Looks great on TV but takes away from the atmosphere inside the ground

The Cup Final Display: Looks great on TV but takes away from the atmosphere inside the ground (Picture Courtesy of Ritchie Patton)

Why?

Well you could argue it was because of the performance, but I don’t think that’s valid. Oh sure, the game itself was a disappointment for Dundee United fans, as a mixture of great tactics for St. Johnstone, poor performances from some United players and a huge slice of bad luck came together to ensure a deserved St. Johnstone win, but it wasn’t like the United end was bouncing up until victory was out of our reach; it had been like that the whole time.

The entire Cup Final Experience was crap this time.

And I’d put that down to a few reasons.

1. Cup Finals Should Be At Hampden

I’m not sure why Hampden Park comes under as much criticism as it does. I like it, and always have. I get that the layout of the stadium means that some seats offer crap views, and I also get that it’s located in a stupid part of the world. Of course the National Stadium should be in an easy to reach, central location rather than hidden away in Glasgow in an area with limited parking and no sign posts to show people how to get there, but it is where it is.

For me, Hampden means you’re going to a special event.

Getting to Hampden to watch your team means that they have achieved something (assuming they aren’t playing Queen’s Park of course).

So to have the final at Celtic Park – a stadium that you can go to watch your team play once or twice a season – didn’t feel quite so special.

Instead, it just felt like any other game.

Moreover, it meant there were less people in the centre of Glasgow. I parked in the Buchanan Galleries like I usually do, and walked to Central Station to get a train to the ground. Normally there are hundreds of fans milling about in club colours, excited for the big kickoff. Not on Saturday. On Saturday, I walked through the city centre as the only person wearing obvious club colours. Decked out in Tangerine – or Safety Orange to be precise – I looked and felt like a right dick.

It only got worse on the way back to the car too!

2. Terrible Event Planning

But even if you allow for the game to be at a different venue and the related issues, that doesn’t excuse the lack of build up and atmosphere in the ground on the day.

So who’s to blame for that?

I would say mainly the SFA.

As far as the SFA goes, whoever was in charge of the tannoy should have been playing some club related tunes in the build-up to kick off. Like every time I’ve been to Hampden for Finals or Semi-Finals, there should have been a rendition of Love is in the Air to get the United fans going, and some airtime for whatever song the St. Johnstone fans sing.

That gets people up for it; it gets them excited and in the mood, and it gets the people who are only there for the day – the non-fans who go to Cup Finals only – feeling part of an occasion. My strongest memory of the 2010 final was  the singing before the game; it was electric and it got the hairs on the back of your neck standing up.

But there was none of that. So the call to action was gone.

I had some words with a few Celtic fans on Twitter who were angry that I’d dared to suggest that there was a lack of atmosphere in Celtic Park, because there apparently always is on big games for them. But you’ve got to remember that before kick-off, they play the Celtic songs. People don’t just randomly start singing You’ll Never Walk Alone in unison.

Tunes play a big part in atmosphere; there’s just no doubt about it.

But even beyond that, there were other niggles too. Some fans couldn’t get in to the stadium for 45 minutes after they arrived because of turnstile issues, while the Main Stand only had one employee at times manning the concessions stand. That might seem trivial, but when people disappear for 25 minutes of a Cup Final because of the length of time it takes the staff to serve pies, then it’s going to dampen the mood.

3. The Display

Now this is a controversial one, but I think there’s merit in what I’m saying here.

Don’t get me wrong; I think the amount of work that went in to making that display on Cup Final Day – from the people who raised the money for it, to the guy who designed it to the dozens of helpers who went along on the Friday to painstakingly put each card by the correct seat – was top class. Everyone involved should be proud of their efforts.

But the thing is, if people are too busy holding up a piece of paper to generate an audible atmosphere right before kick-off, then it affects the occasion. And I think it did on Saturday.

It also doesn’t do anything for the fanbase, because they can’t actually see what the display looks like at the time, and with the best will in the world, if that is the difference between a player being motivated to play well or not, then that player needs to get a grip.

4. The Weather

It might seem a small thing, but a Cup Final on a day with crappy weather is not as good as one on a gloriously sunny day. I’ve been to enough of them to feel the difference.

Would It Have Been Different If We’d Won?

You might read this and think this is just sour grapes from a guy who went to Glasgow to see his team lose the Cup Final.

I can understand that, but I can assure you it’s not true.

I’ve got no problem with St. Johnstone winning the cup and am pleased for their fans. If it had been any other team – especially Aberdeen. Dundee or the Old Firm – I wouldn’t be happy at all, but I don’t mind our local rivals and think it’s good that they’ve won a major trophy for the first time.

Yes, I’d have been happier if United had won, but my sense of deflation was there long before we lost.

It just didn’t feel like a cup final, and reading what people have been saying online about it, I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way.

So roll on next season and Hampden being back in play.

Hopefully we’ll be back there again, and we’ll leave victorious!


Five Ways To Potentially Improve The Scotland National Team

March 27, 2013

As the dust settles on another miserable failure of an International Week for Scotland, people are up in arms.

“I thought things would improve under Gordon Strachan!” was the cry from the average naive Scotland fan who had pinned all the blame for our previous performances on former manager, Craig Levein.

And while Levein could easily be blamed for some of his tactical and team selection decisions, we shouldn’t kid ourselves to think replacing him with someone else would suddenly make things a lot better; especially if he doesn’t actually change anything.

The last two games have felt worse than anything under Levein. Rather than it being the case that you felt individual decisions from the manager (like 4-6-0) might have cost us dearly, the performance level against Wales and Serbia was just appalling, and the blame for that must be shared between manager and players, as it should have been under Levein.

After the match, the inquest began, with the pundits on Radio Scotland asking if Scotland simply had rubbish players and questioning in all seriousness whether or not we are on a par with the likes of San Marino and Andorra.

Now maybe I’m an optimist but I think that is knee-jerk nonsense.

For a start, we are unfortunate to be in probably the strongest group overall, with our lowest seeded team being Wales, and while we have suffered the indignity of being the first team eliminated from qualifying, that has more to do with how far

Good player he may be, but Shaun Maloney just doesn't do it for Scotland

Good player he may be, but Shaun Maloney just doesn’t do it for Scotland

ahead Belgium & Croatia are rather than how far behind we are. There are eight teams on equal or fewer points than us in the other groups.

That shouldn’t detract from what has been a terrible campaign though. Changes have to be made, and while there is certainly no quick fix solution to Scotland’s problems, I could identify five easy ways things might improve for us in the future.

1. Only Call Up Players Who Are Actually Playing For Their Club Sides

In the wake of the defeat to Serbia, Gordon Strachan mentioned that neither Steven Whittaker nor Charlie Adam had played much football for their club sides lately, and in a way used it as a bit of an excuse.

Sorry Gordon, you – like a number of your predecessors – should know that a footballer who isn’t match sharp goes into a game with a disadvantage. You called Whittaker up knowing he hadn’t played for a while, and you did it at the expense of plenty of other players who turn out for their clubs week in week out.

I’m aware that the incentive to play International Football isn’t as strong as it once was for players, but Strachan should make it clear to his troops that if they aren’t getting a game for their club side, they can’t expect to play for the National Team.

 2. Stop Calling Up Players Based On Who They Play For

This is a similar issue, but it’s been the case for near on 15 years that a player seems to only have to register for an English club to get a call-up.

Ricky Foster played in the SPL for 10 years and yet one month after moving to Bristol City he got the Scotland call-up. We all laughed, because he obviously wasn’t a better player in a month, but behind the laughter is a real problem.

The same thing happened with Paul Dixon. Following his move to Huddersfield he got the call-up and was man of the match on his debut. He was just as good while at Dundee United.

There’s a belief that playing in England suddenly means you are more worthy, and yet as many managers will claim, there are plenty of SPL players capable of doing well down there.

The Scotland manager shouldn’t be afraid of picking SPL players and giving them a chance. What they don’t seem to realise is that if they do, the player might end up getting a move to the Holy Land of Football as a result.

In form Griffiths should have been in the Scotland squad

In form Griffiths should have been in the Scotland squad

3. Select Players Who Are On Form

I appreciate he has a charge hanging over his head, and I know he’s not the most popular figure, but Leigh Griffiths should have been in that last Scotland squad.

Call-ups for the international team should be made on merit, and merit comes in the form of how well a player has been performing recently.

Much like match sharpness, a footballer’s confidence can determine how well he plays. If he’s at the top of his game, it might be that he’s a better candidate that a supposed better player experiencing a bad run of form.

4. Judge Your Current Players By How Well They Are Performing For Scotland

In the wake of the Serbia game, Steven Naismith said that the players were all fighting for their Scotland futures.

I’d love to believe that was true, but I doubt it.

Take Shaun Maloney for example. We all know he’s a good player and has done well for Wigan, but when have you ever seen him play a particularly good game for Scotland? I know he’s scored one goal in near on 30 appearances for Scotland since 2005, but how many assists has he got? What does he actually contribute to the Scotland team?

And yet time and time again he gets the call ahead of players who might be less skilled overall, but could be more effective.

It’s not just Maloney either. The likes of James McArthur, Graeme Dorrans and Charlie Adam just don’t seem to ever do it in Dark Blue, while Alan Hutton and Kenny Miller haven’t performed for us for years.

Miller Time is at an end

Miller Time is at an end

Yet these guys are certainties for inclusion every time, and they get in at the expense of other players who might be effective.

5. Stop Trying To Fit Square Pegs Into Round Holes

All too often, the manager – whether it’s Levein, Burley or now Strachan – chooses to pick a system first and then try to fit his players into it.

That’s something I strongly disagree with.

By all means come up with a system, but once you’ve got that system, pick the right players for it. And sometimes that means leaving out one or two of your strongest 11.

Look at the set-up we had against Wales.

That midfield was appalling. They displayed no willingness to take the initiative, no fighting spirit (unless you count Robert Snodgrass’s lunging tackles as fight) and no work rate.

A team needs someone to take the bull by the horns. Scott Brown does it very well, but if he’s not there, you can’t just say “Ach well, James McArthur and Graeme Dorrans will do”, because all the evidence suggests that they won’t.

Let’s Move Forward

Some might say these ideas are too sensible for a football manager to consider, but I think they are a must for Scotland going forward.

The old way just doesn’t work.

Let’s try something different.

Agree or Disagree? Get Involved In the Debate!

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What Has Become Of The Great Scottish Centre Back?

March 25, 2013

In the wake of Scotland’s 2-1 defeat to Wales at Hampden last week, a number of questions have been raised about our national team and changes that could be made to improve it in the future.

While I wouldn’t put much of the blame on centre back pairing Gary Caldwell and Grant Hanley for the defeat – even though they were caught woefully short for Wales’ winning goal – the heart of the Scottish defence is seen by many as a problem.

Indeed, in the wake of that defeat, football fans and writers alike have been wondering what has become of the once mighty Scottish centre back?

In the 80s we had players of the calibre of Alex McLeish, Willie Miller, Paul Hegarty, David Narey and Alan Hansen challenging for the position, while the 90s saw the likes of Colin Hendry, Colin Calderwood, Richard Gough and Dave McPherson play at the heart of the defence during World Cups and European Championships.

Through the naughties, guys like Steven Pressley and David Weir would often play there for us, and while they weren’t exactly world beaters, I’m sure most Scottish fans would love to have them in their prime kicking about the squad these days.

Oh for a player of David Narey's quality in the current Scotland squad

Oh for a player of David Narey’s quality in the current Scotland squad

Because while the centre back position used to be a strong point for Scotland, it’s now the area where we lack the most depth by some distance.

Now, in 2013, our centre backs include Gary Caldwell, Grant Hanley, Danny Wilson, Andy Webster, Charlie Mulgrew and Christophe Berra.

Let’s be honest; these guys are not exactly world beaters. Gary Caldwell is probably the best of the bunch and an alarming number of fans want him dropped. Hanley and Wilson both have potential, but have only played a paltry 88 senior games between them at club level. Webster and Berra don’t fill anyone with confidence when they pull on the dark blue shirt, while Charlie Mulgrew is more a jack of all trades rather than a specialist centre back.

You could see Hanley and Wilson being our first choice pairing for the future if they get regular game time, but who else is there? Who can Scotland call upon in the future?

As the Head of Scottish Research for the Football Manager series of games, I have – I hope – a decent grasp on who is coming through for Scotland and who is available to us now that we might have overlooked (after all, Football Manager had Liam Bridcutt playing for Scotland well before Mark McGhee supposedly ‘discovered’ him) thanks to our extensive database.

The Current Candidates

According to our database, two of the top four centre backs with Scotland as a first or second nationality have sadly already chosen to play for other countries.

While I doubt we were ever in with a chance of landing Liverpool’s 6″5′ Uruguayan – Sebastian Coates – he was at one point eligible thanks to his Scottish father.

Conversely, we did have a shot at securing Reading centre back Alex Pearce, an English-born player with two Scottish parents. Sadly, despite playing for us at Under-19 and Under-21 level, he switched his allegiances to Ireland – who he

qualifies for through the grandparent rule – because he didn’t see a full international call-up from us to be forthcoming. That seems fairly short sighted by the SFA.

Beyond those two, if we wanted to bring in an experienced player tomorrow to bolster the squad, our options would be limited to…

Gordon Greer:

The former Kilmarnock player has enjoyed a relatively successful career in the lower leagues of England and has now shown his quality as the captain of Brighton & Hove Albion in the English Championship.

At 32, International Football may have passed Gordon Greer by

At 32, International Football may have passed Gordon Greer by

Some might say that at the age of 32 he’s not the sort of player we should be bringing in uncapped, but if he displays leadership skills and knows what direction to clear the ball in, he’s better than some options.

Martin Cranie

Having played for England from Under 17 to Under 21 level, Martin Cranie might not be a popular choice to play for Scotland among some fans, but once upon a time the former Southampton and Coventry player was called up to the Scotland

U-17 squad.

Now a regular at  Barnsley, the 6 foot centre back has started 28 games in the Championship this season.

Kirk Broad….Let’s not go there

Scott Boyd

An unfashionable choice playing in an unfashionable team he may be, but Scott Boyd has been a rock at the heart of a Ross County defence that has done astonishingly well in the SPL this season.

Boyd stands out  because there are so few Scottish alternatives playing in the SPL right now. Clubs like Dundee United, Caley Thistle, Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Celtic play non Scots in that position most of the time, while the likes of Russell Anderson of Aberdeen are too old, and Brian McLean & James McPake aren’t even considered good enough to regularly play for Northern Ireland.

Put it this way; if Garry Kenneth can get a call-up then anything’s possible.

Emilio MacEachen

Here’s a wildcard for you; Emilio MacEachen is a Uruguayan born player – just like Coates – who has moved to Serie A to play for Parma at the age of 20.

I recently had a meeting with an SFA Performance Scout who admitted that the level of scouting done by the SFA isn’t exactly top-notch at the best of times, so here’s a player they might not know about.

Admittedly I don’t know a huge amount about him either, but that’s not the point!

Players For The Future

Worryingly for Scotland, there don’t seem to be many young centre backs playing regular or even semi regular football for their clubs.

The current Under-21 side lines up with Kevin McHattie, Lewis Toshney or Fraser Kerr at the centre of defence, and while they have had exposure to first team football this season, McHattie has played almost exclusively at left back for Hearts, Toshney has only just made the transition to centre back for Dundee and Kerr has barely featured for Motherwell since the turn of the year.

Out of all the young players, the most promising of the lot might be John Souttar of Dundee United. I don’t just say that as a Dundee United fan, and I’m actually editing this article to amend what I wrote about him when it was first published. At 16, Souttar has forced his way into the Dundee United first team and has been arguably our top defensive performer over the last 3 months. This is one player who could make a splash.

Looking beyond them, Murray Wallace of Huddersfield could have a bright future, while promising players like Marcus Fraser and Stuart Findlay of Celtic and Mark O’Hara of Kilmarnock are either too young or inexperienced for us to know for sure whether they could make it or not, and it’s often the case that young players are moved out to full back when they do make the transition.

Whether or not a player makes it at first team level and fulfils his potential largely depends on attitude, but for centre backs, size also matters. If a young player doesn’t fill out or grow tall enough, he might not have a future in the heart of

We'll probably be stuck with Gary Caldwell for a few years yet

We’ll probably be stuck with Gary Caldwell for a few years yet

defence. It’s always a potential risk.

So Is It Something To Be Worried About?

When you compare the amount of young and talented Scottish midfielders and attackers coming through the ranks of clubs both north and south of the border to the number of centre backs doing the same, it’s a real worry.

As a Scotland fan, I’d be confident that if we punted Charlie Adam, Kenny Miller or Shaun Maloney from the national side tomorrow, there would be a number of similar or potentially better players waiting in the wings to take their place. You’ve only got to look at the Tannadice trio of Johnny Russell, Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay Steven to know that there are quality young players out there. And there are plenty more at U-17 to U-19 level too.

But the centre back position is a worry. If you replaced any of the current defenders with the alternatives I’ve suggested, you wouldn’t be guaranteed a better standard of player by any stretch, and there don’t seem to be many young guys out there even remotely ready to replace them.

It seems as though we’ll be asking what has become of the Great Scottish Centre Back for a few more years yet.

Until then, there’s always Gary Caldwell.

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Stuart’s Week In Entertainment March 12-18 (More Friday Night Lights, Celtic vs Kilmarnock, Fifa Street and United vs Rangers)

March 19, 2012

TV

As you might have guessed, I finished off Friday Night Lights last week. What a show.

Anyone who follows me on twitter (@sgmilne by the way) will have seen that I commented that the show came to a ‘well put together and satisfying conclusion’,and I stick by that, though having reflected on it a bit I have a few issues

which I have written in white text below, so as to avoid spoiling it for anyone who hasn’t seen the series end.

Highlight to read…

My issues with how the season ended were that they just seemed to drop a few of the storylines along the way, including  the one with Epic and the also the one with the ginger haired slut. Yes, these formed part of the whole Tami Taylor getting a new job thread, but still, both characters just ended up being dropped without a satisfying conclusion to their story arcs

I also understand that when shows come to an end, the writers like to bring characters back in for the finish, but I didn’t like the way they used Tyra Collette in the last couple of episodes. Why was she all of a sudden back in love with Tim Riggins and vice versa? For two and half seasons they pushed her complicated relationship with Landry yet in the final episode she announces that she’s been in love with Tim since she was 5. It didn’t really wash with me.

And speaking of Landry, while his appearances in the final season were realistic – the first episode has him leaving town and the last episode shows him back for Christmas – his appearance in that last episode seemed very much like an afterthought.

Those are minor issues though. It’s still a brilliant show and it finished on a high with that wonderful final montage.

As I say, even if you’re not into sports, it’s a show worth watching.

Abed & Troy strive to be 'Normal People' in last week's episode of Community.

Other than that, it’s time to get out the party poppers because Community is back! Huzzah!

This week saw a tremendous return for the show. Having recently gone back and watched some of the episodes leading up to it being put on hiatus, they maybe didn’t live up to the high standard set in Season 2 (specifically the episode where they make a new commercial for the College, which started well but ended poorly). The return episode, with Troy & Abed trying to be ‘normal’ for Shirley’s wedding was top quality, laugh out loud stuff.

I don’t know how many episodes will air between now and the end of the season but let’s hope it’s a full run.

I also watched Drive this week, and you can find my review of that here

Football

With all the hoo-ha surrounding Rangers and their troubles off the park, everyone has had their say on how Scottish football would survive. This is something I feel strongly about and will probably write about more in the coming days, but one thing I want to mention here and now is that people often say that one of the bad things about an SPL without Rangers would be that it would feel less special. I heard Tam Cowan say on the radio that there’s no better feeling than beating one of the Old Firm.

Up until recently I would have agreed on that. Both Rangers & Celtic are a scalp to defeat. When United knocked Rangers out of the cup a mere month or so ago, it was exhilarating for all United fans. But on Saturday I wasn’t remotely fussed about the victory in the game between Dundee United & Rangers. Rangers are currently a shell of the team they once were, and that’s with them retaining most of their staff. Yes, a victory is always nice, but playing against that Rangers team, I expected a win and my expectations were not let down. Dundee United won that dreary game without even playing well, which is not something you can usually say about a victory over the Glasgow giants.

With their young team -and incidentally, their team isn’t that young compared to Dundee United, it’s just that the younger players never get a chance at Ibroxand so they have no experience playing regular first team football – Rangers

Well done to Kilmarnock on their victory in the Scottish League Cup Final

are no longer a scalp, and so victory against them is currently no more or less special than a victory over Inverness Caledonian Thistle in my opinion.

Contrast that with yesterday’s League Cup Final between Celtic & Kilmarnock.

I’m not even a Kilmarnock fan but as a fully paid up member of The Alliance of Diddy Team Fans, I was thrilled for them when they beat Celtic. And they deserved their victory too. Yes, there was the penalty decision that went against Celtic, and I’m sure if the roles were reversed I would probably be screaming for a United penalty, but as a football fan I reserve the right to be a hypocrite. There is no evidence that the player was touched and if the ref didn’t see contact then he can’t give it.

Naturally, what followed on from there was Neil Lennon reverting to his ‘The Decisions Are Against Us’ patter. Lennon is fine when his team are doing well, but a more ungracious man in defeat you are unlikely to ever meet.

“I wouldn’t say they deserved it” is what he said in his post match victory

I’m sorry Mr Lennon, but they scored and you didn’t. They won and you lost. In his analysis after the game, Craig Levein said that the superb defending on the part of Kilmarnock is a sign of good play from them more than it was bad play from Celtic. Many football fans fail to see that.

Sadly, the game ended on a sombre note with the news that the father of one of the Kilmarnock players had a heart attack just after the final whistle and passed away as a result. I can’t imagine how Liam Kelly must feel and like everyone else would offer my sincerest condolences.

As a final comment on football, people in Scotland often criticise the quality of the product on display, but the last ten minutes of that game were as exciting as football gets. But that’s the point – you can see exciting football anywhere, regardless of the supposed standard of the participants. I’ve watched plenty of ‘big’ matches in England and Europe that have been dreadful, but people don’t really dwell on that. Up here in Scotland we piss on our own chips, telling ourselves that our game is of a poor standard and lauding a product down south that regularly presents football that is dreary in the extreme.

Next week I’ll be at Reading vs Blackpool so I’ll endeavour to make comparisons in the next edition of W.I.E.

Games

My love of Friday Night Lights has seen me press on with Madden NFL 11 on the 360. Sadly, watching Smash Williams terrorising opposition defences has ill prepared me for this game. My attempts at running plays usually end within two seconds. I was mainly playing against a friend of mine, but I imagine if I played against someone who knew what they were doing, I’d be pummelled.

The other game I’ve been playing (as I haven’t got back to Mass Effect 3 yet) is FIFA Street for the 360. It adapts the normal FIFA match engine to work with a variety of Indoor and ‘Street’ football formats. While there is a certain amount of reliance on tricks, and is therefore quite different from any game of five-a-side football I’ve ever played in, it’s a fun and easy game to pick up. My brother is not a football fan in the slightest and is regularly beaten when he tries to play FIFA 12 because he doesn’t appreciate where and when to make passes or how to defend situations. FIFA Street eliminates that and offers a competitive and easy to understand version of the sport for anyone to play.

If only there was a street version of Madden available in the UK!