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Riveted by Stamford Bridge cracker

Chris Jardine | 11:06 UK time, Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Well, Chelsea and Liverpool certainly showed me didn't they?

I'm sure I wasn't alone in being a little disappointed when the Champions League draw paired these two together for the fourth time in five seasons.

Sure, there have been exciting moments such as Luis Garcia's controversial goal and the penalty shoot-out two years ago.

But I certainly didn't think we would see more goals than last year's 4-3 victory for Chelsea.

Frank Lampard celebrates one of his two goals against LiverpoolAfter Chelsea's convincing win at Anfield last week I suppose we knew that Liverpool would go to Stamford Bridge and have a right good go, but 7-5 on aggregate?

I never saw that coming!

Chelsea goalkeeper Peter Cech has come in for a bit of criticism recently after a shaky performance in the almost near collapse against Bolton on Saturday.

And he didn't exactly cover himself in glory last night.

I tend to give credit to the individual who creates or scores the goal as opposed to pointing the finger at mistakes.

While I take my hat off to Liverpool's Fabio Aurelio for his brilliant set-piece I just can't understand Cech's own positioning, or that of the player in the "one-man wall" that the keeper set up.

I'll be having a little word with our goalkeeper Dougie Calder when I'm in Stranraer for the reserve game tonight to get his take on it.

Coming down a level or two and it's shaping up to be a very exciting end to the season for Annan Athletic, and Third Division fans in general.

It's looking like a two-horse race between Cowdenbeath and Dumbarton for the championship with up to five others battling it out for the remaining two play-off positions.

We're currently sitting in pole position to secure the final place and we could yet have a say in the destination of the title when Dumbarton travel to our place on the final day of the season.

I'm finally ready to admit that we have been talking about what we can and want to achieve this season.

I must stress that this has only been between the players because the management team of Harry Cairney and Derek Townsley have been great in playing everything down and telling us just to relax and enjoy our football.

Whatever happens between now and 9 May we can certainly hold our heads high after a remarkable season.

However, I'm sure if we fail to reach the play-offs, deep down you will find nothing but disappointment amongst the players and staff at the club.

Although to a certain extent we have been punching above our weight in the division, there has always been a great belief within the squad that we could do well.

Like most of the teams in the league we've been through a tough patch, but hopefully that belief in ourselves has been illustrated in our performances and results.

I'll make no apologies, but I'm going to finish off this week with a bit of a moan.

The reason being that it was actually Graeme Bell doing the moaning about this thorny issue - although it does concern me as well!

There have been several times this season when the stadium announcer has got the substitute's name mixed up with the number.

Firstly, no player is happy with being on the bench but it's even worse when he doesn't even get credit for coming on and playing his part.

Fast forward to Saturday's game with East Stirling - Belly and I are both on the bench and both of us come on in the second half.

I bought the Sunday and Monday papers, as I always do, only to read that Robert Campbell and Liam Cusack have replaced myself and Belly.

And the two of us were un-used substitutes!

I'm hoping there the odd reporter takes the time to read my column and maybe they could tell me why this happens?

The boys usually have a laugh and a joke at training about reporters guessing the ratings of our matches.

Surely they don't guess the substitutes as well...


  • Comment number 1.

    This has been the most excieting end to a season in years (maybe it's just because we're up there!)

    Saturdays game (Cowdenbeath v Dumbarton) is going to play a massive part in deciding where the trophy goes. We now have 5 buses going through to Cowden, I'd imagine there are a lot more driving through. I genuinley think we can beat them, we are on a good run & I think we have them a wee bit worried. I just hope that it's all wrapped up before the last day, for us to come down to Annan needing a win would be a big task, especially if you guys need a win yourselves for a playoff place!

    So let's hope we wrap up the league & you guys give whatever second division team comes down a thrashing & then give Cowden/Shire a hiding & we'll see you in Division Two next year (faints)

    Hope the Bobby Cam & wee Liam are doing well for you, there both missed around here!

  • Comment number 2.

    No offense but someone needs to edit these articles.

    A sentence per paragraph doesn't work.


    It's very annoying.

  • Comment number 3.

    Well '49 and that's a wrap', maybe you should get your own house in order before criticising anyone else....offenCe.....

    Great blog Chris

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ 2 and 4

    Quit being so childish, the guy's taken some time out to write all this so if you've nothing positive to say then go away. It's not like anyone's forcing you to read this.

    Stranger things have happened in football I suppose, so who knows, maybe the media are just pulling random names out of a scrabble bag when it comes to writing about your games.

    Anyway, best of luck with the run in Chris.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    The misplacing of names against numbers will be down to whoever prepares the teamsheets that get handed round the various hospitality areas and the press/stadium announcer on the day. A lot of the stats for the games outwith the SPL are taken from the Press Association, who will have 1 person taking a feed of information, usually from the stadium announcer or the club. Either that, or the gaffer has just given you guys the wrong number in the changing rooms!!!

    As for the race towards the end of the season, what are your thoughts on clubs giving up sections of ground traditionally occupied by their own fans? I raise this as a St. Johnstone supporter who, providing we beat Queen of the South on Sunday (live on BBC Alba), can go to our nearest and dearest rivals in Dundee next weekend to win the league and they are giving over their traditional South Enclosure (aka "the Derry") to us for the anticipated large crowd. Fair to say we are delighted, but they are obviously not!

    Final question - what is your thoughts on the overall standard of refereeing this season? I am especially interested as you are at the sharp end of where all new senior list officials come into the league structure looking for the promotions towards the upper echelons of the Scottish game.

    Good luck for the remainder of the season.

  • Comment number 8.


    Good blog as ever and best of luck with the run in. Was gutted when the club I play and coach with (Spartans) did not get in the league, but am glad you have made a good go of it and shown that the rest of the SFL that the EofS teams can easily compete over a season. Hopefully Spartans will be joining you in the league soon (preferably if the SPL was extended to a 16 team league and 6 new teams admitted, but more likely when one of the others sadly bits the dust)

    Now you are playing in the SFL, what is your opinion on having promotion to and relegation from the 3rd division, somewhat akin to the English conference (I could see one from the highland league and one from the EofS getting in and 2 going down), however I think the chances are very very slim due to chairman having to look after themselves and their club. Do you think it would shake up the bottom of D3 of the teams knew they could go down every season rather than the if you finish bottom 3 in a row situation that they have now?

    Also, playing in the lower leagues, what is your take on summer football. From an amateur prospective, I would like it due to the condition of most of our pitches during the winter and spring. What it is like at your level and do you think summer football could lead in the long run to a better standard due to actually being able to play football on some grass rather than the cow-fields of the winter. I have also heard a lot of SFL teams are looking at the new generation Astro-turf as a long term solution. I play on it and love it (and from a coaching perspective it is great for the kids), but know a number who feel you get more injuries from it (twists and impact around the ankle and knees being the most common). I see it as a good long term money move for the SFL teams (community pitches that allow other people to pay to use it during the week and yourselves to train on it), but it is naturally expensive and I guess would need either large government or lottery support to do on a large scale. Have you much experience of the new astro and what is your view.


  • Comment number 9.

    I hope Annan get all the success they deserve after replacing Gretna who basically bought their way to success.Being and airdrie fan I have to say that steady progress is better than buying your success and when you win something it actually means something a bit special and we have had our fair share over the years.By the way, we will escape relegation with Kenny in charge.

  • Comment number 10.

    It's actually the fifth time and five seasons that they have met in the Champions League.

  • Comment number 11.


    having a nice open system is a great idea but too many chairmen have to much self interest for it to happen properly

    your idea works this season (i.e. elgin go to the highland league & berwick to the eos league) but what happens if Albion Rovers or a more central based team are the bottom two ... or, for example, forfar & montros happen to be bottom two, who do you send up north & who do you send down south (east)

    What about the Junior clubs that want in?

    I also think that clubs like yours are in the minority, most semi-pro/amature teams don't want anywhere near the SFL due to the increaced costs, minimum gate prices would probably send attendances plummeting (ask Elgin!) the need for floodlights & certain extra safety features, police & stewarding costs put a lot of clubs off, especially the 'big fish in a small pond' teams.

    a team from the SFA would have to come in & say 'the whole league system is going to totally change from top to bottom & were going to run the whole thing, you can either come with us or play in a sunday league' it would then take years & years of legal wranglings to fix

    the closed door of the third division is much like the almost shut door of the SPL, the teams that are in dont want anyone else in the teams that are out are not even sure if they really want in or not

  • Comment number 12.


    What I believe happens in England is that the teams are put into the most relevant division and then if unequal someone will move. There “should” always be teams in fife for example where a trip to Aberdeen is little different to a trip to Berwick, Annan etc etc.

    Though I agree that there is far to much self-interest for this to happen and it would require a review of various regulations, but if changing the league like this, I don’t changing some regs would be such a big thing.

    As for the Juniors, I am unconvinced that many, if any, want to join to SFL and if they did they would either apply when spaces come up (non have thus done so) or apply to join EofS league and go in that way.

    As for clubs not wanting in. 6 applied last time and others would if the chance was there. A lot don’t because they are behind Cove, Spartans and would not currently stand a chance.

    I don’t think the league as it currently stands suits many and if England can have a system that allows you to go up and down throughout the levels, why can’t we?

  • Comment number 13.

    #2 - That is the standard format for writing online - it makes it much easier to read, without straining the eyes.

  • Comment number 14.

    As an Aberdeen fan, I have to agree that following the SFL is a little more interesting than the SPL. At least there's competition in all three SFL divisions, unlike the foregone conclusion in the SPL (the only question being, will it be Rangers or Celtic?). I know that Aberdeen don't have a chance to win the league, so it comes down to playing for 3rd and trying to get into Cup finals. It's great to follow the lower divisions because for the most part the level of competition is pretty even in each division. Spread the wealth and give every team at least a chance of being a champion occasionally. It's good for football and good for the fans.

    Having said that, I'm no fan of the 12-team SPL and I'd love to see a return to a 20-team league with one or two lower divisions, plus automatic promotion and relegation into and out of the lowest division. The quality of football in the Highland League is every bit as good as the SFL (and I dare day the same is true of the EofS) and it would be great to give other teams a chance to prove themselves on a bigger stage. If the feeder leagues to the Conference in England can figure out which teams belong in the north and south, then surely that won't be a problem in Scotland. That's no reason to oppose a feeder system here.

  • Comment number 15.

    7-5 on aggregate, this is ubelievable !

  • Comment number 16.

    Decent read Chris although I have to agree with #2 regarding the one sentence, one paragraph comment. For me it is a very strange style of composition. Paragraphs help the flow of a piece of writing and are an important part of separating themes within any article such as this.

    3. At 2:45pm on 16 Apr 2009, Spartan_White wrote:

    #2 - That is the standard format for writing online - it makes it much easier to read, without straining the eyes.

    What an absolute load of rubbish. Splitting paragraphs up with a gap is normal and correct practice. I've rarely seen it done this way before. How is it a strain on the eyes to read one sentence after another anyway?
    It may be trivial in your eyes, but if your going to publish the written word, it should be done following the rules of the language, rather than making up your own. They exist for a reason.

  • Comment number 17.

    #16 - DisneysDreamDebased

    "but if your going to publish the written word"

    ..should be you're, not your.

    It may be trivial in your eyes...

  • Comment number 18.

    #2 No offence (offense is like color, keep it for American websites.)
    I think you will find these 'blogs' do have editors or sub-editors, do you think Chris chose the photograph too?
    Some of us find these articles a bit more refreshing than the predictable efforts from professional journalists.
    Having said that I do accept your right to be critical, within the 'house rules' as stated. I managed to read post #6 before it was removed and though it was a somewhat "cutting comment" I am not quite sure in which way it transgressed the 'house rules.' Chris and Gavin (Strachan) should perhaps be given a little more leeway than an experienced hack but should not be above taking some flak.
    As for the blog I thought it was pretty good, and I did not notice the apparently annoying layout.

  • Comment number 19.

    Haven't Liverpool and Chelsea been paired together in the last 5 seasons as opposed to the last 4?

  • Comment number 20.

    Chris, just wondered if you could use your immense power with the BBC Sport editorial team to persuade them to run a feature on the Fort William vs Rothes Highland League match on Saturday 9th May.

    Fort William have lost their last six games by the following scores: 0-5, 0-4, 0-5, 1-6,1-3,0-8. They have 1 point this season and achieved only 3 points last season.

    Rothes are almost as bad, with only 1 win and 4 draws making up their 7 point haul this season. Could this be Fort William's best chance in years to end their winless streak? I live in Brighton and I am traveling up to Scotland especially for this game in the hope Fort William can pull off the impossible and win a game.

    Do you remember when the media circus descended on Poole Town in the late 1990's when they draw 0-0 to avoid achieving British football's longest losing run...well maybe it's time that same media spotlight found it's way to poor old Fort William's plight and their best chance of victory this season.

    What do you think...?

  • Comment number 21.

    7 - I suppose that giving up sections to away supporters makes sense if it means a bigger crowd. I don't know much about the ground in question but I'm assuming this is a favoured part of the ground for Dundee fans? If this is the case then it does seem very strange but obviously you will be hoping it benefits your team.

    As for the referees I think the overall standard has been poor in Scotland this season. It is a difficult job but some of the decisions have been baffling to say the least. It's been up and down in our league this season and we have been on both ends of poor decisions - most recently poor decisions cost us on Saturday.

  • Comment number 22.

    8 - I would like to think a pyramid system is the way forward in Scotland. There are certainly improvements that could me made and you are right it certainly would shake the 3rd division up. I'm not sure how many clubs would vote for this proposal and I think you would get a negative response from the clubs in the 3rd division. My big worry would be the financial implications for clubs having to improve their facilities.
    Summer football - I don't think that's for me to be honest and I can see the future, certainly at our level, being in the artificial surfaces you mentioned. Both Stenhousemuir and Montrose have plastic pitches and I have no problem with these surfaces at all. If anything they encourage good football and there has been no games called off involving home fixtures for these clubs this season.


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