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Archives for September 2008

Payday mayday at Hearts

Chick Young | 17:01 UK time, Wednesday, 24 September 2008


The coughing and wheezing you hear from Tynecastle isn't, apparently, the patient in the throes of distress.

And for sure it's not the players' pay-packets which are choking with money.

It's just Vladimir Romanov clearing his throat to pronounce another fantastical declaration of intent.

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The Old Firm go marching on

Chick Young | 14:53 UK time, Monday, 15 September 2008


A Hibs fan, I see, was forced to sit in a bath of beans after pledging to do so if his team re-signed Derek Riordan. "We will never get him back," he vowed. His cynicism, it seems, was blowing in the wind.

Oh ye of little faith.

Expect the unexpected in Scottish football; some of the time.

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Out of the frying pan...

Chick Young | 10:57 UK time, Monday, 8 September 2008


Scotland were well done in a Macedonian frying pan.

Only the weather sizzled in Skopje as our national team wilted in the heat. No goals, no points and no progress on the road to .South Africa.

It was a miserable start to a campaign.

The side were dreadful in the first-half and although the application of jump leads at the break coughed some life into the second 45 minutes, I cannot come to terms with George Burley's description that his team were "outstanding" in that period.

There are two plausible explanations for that claim; either it is about the psychology of man management and a verbal cuddle for his players, or he is having a laugh.

fans_blog.jpgThe team were more lie down than stand up.

Outstanding? Out standing in the heat too long, I fear.

One game down and seven to go, so there is time for salvation on the journey to South Africa, but the national team contributed to the summer of misery.

Scotland's challenge in Europe has so far been embarrassingly brief with Rangers and Queen of the South evaporating like thieves in the night.

Our international reputation is heading down the toilet.

I pray Celtic and Motherwell will have the decency to address the situation, but the alarm bells should be ringing for the campaign to reach the first finals in Africa.

In fact lights should be flashing too.

There was talk from some quarters of picking up six points from the opening fixtures, presumably from people who are also members of the Flat Earth Society, but those of us in the real world never embraced that concept.

The truth is that the team's deficiencies were showing on a sweltering Macedonian afternoon.

Here are the facts: Scotland have not qualified for a major finals since the last millennium and however thrilling the last campaign might - at moments - have been, we still finished in the wake of the qualifying nations.

Failure can be as glorious as you like, but it's still failure.

The new manager has still to win in four outings and the brave new dawn is still lurking behind the clouds.

There was no player in Skopje who could grab the game by the throat and drag it up a level.

The loss of a goal so early was a coupon buster because chasing a game in that heat was like playing tig with antelopes.

Our play was blunt and the movement was such that the midfield looked like they were towing caravans.

The game screamed for the grumpy moaning face of Barry Ferguson to nag his team mates to a new urgency.

And I cannot conceive that Macedonia will be at the business end of the group when the last fixtures unfold. Holland, certainly, and Norway, probably, will burgle points in Skopje.

They are not a great side.

None of which is much comfort to a Tartan Army currently trying to cross a continent to reach the next instalment of the great roadshow in Iceland. And drowning your sorrows in Reykjavik is an expensive operation.

At worst this is the beginning of the end for Scotland on this trail, at best a wake up call for a team who must understand the utter necessity of qualifying for 2010.

We just came out a frying pan. Let's not jump into a fire...

A nation holds its breath...

Chick Young | 23:32 UK time, Monday, 1 September 2008


Frightening how time flies when you are enjoying yourself. It seems just a heartbeat ago I was frolicking in France as Craig Brown's Scotland chiselled at the coalface of the 1998 World Cup.

A decade ago? Seems just like ten years. Now I wonder if I'll ever be blessed with the task of reporting my country's campaign in a finals ever again.

It won't be long until South Africa kicks off. I bought a can of sweet corn yesterday which had a use-by date later than the final in Cape Town.

The thing is, will Scotland's chances of reaching the first ever finals in Africa?


It could be all over by next Wednesday night if we don't return from Macedonia and Iceland - two contrasting cultures and climates as you could ever hope to visit in just a few short days - with at least a couple of points.

Currently in the former Yugoslavia temperatures are such that you could barbeque a chicken on the pavement. I pray that Scotland's 3pm kick-off will not lead to a similar roasting.

Of course cries from the media that the team should be checking in to their hotel at least a day earlier than the 24 hours before kick-off that is currently the master plan, will be drowned in allegations of the gentlemen of the press seeking another night out in a foreign land.

But it is a cruel jibe that pierces the heart of this hardened reporter and most of his colleagues.

The football comes first. Reach the finals and there will be many nights out to be had in the South African summer of 2010.

Actually I have to confess that I nurse concerns about this campaign. No Barry Ferguson and Alan Hutton to see us off at the start line and no victories yet for the new manager from which he can take heart.

There is a trusted recipe for success here. You must win all your home fixtures and burgle a few points on the road while realistically targeting the runners-up position in the group.

Press the gamble button for the play-off spot.

And under-rate anyone, particularly Macedonia and Iceland, at your peril.

Still, the Tartan Army will enjoy it all, although they'll be a little bemused by the changing price of a nightcap. In Reykjavik the price of a pint is the price of a brewery in Skopje.

And yet despite this cloak of pessimism which lies wearily on my shoulders our little football nation cannot continue like this.

Twelve years in the World Cup wilderness for a country which used to receive a prize for perfect attendance - if nothing else - in five tournaments on the bounce is far too long.

Indeed only the failure to cross the Atlantic to the burger-fest tournament in 1994, when FIFA'S bid to brainwash America crashed and burned, stopped it being seven in a row.

The Good Lord only knows how I pine for such sweet and cherished days...

Kids have been born and raised and are now heading for a secondary education without knowing how a nation weeps with joy and sadness, how a whole country bares its soul when Scotland goes off to do battle in a foreign land.

This is the start of a long campaign. A nation holds its collective breath...if only to cure the World Cup hiccoughs.

Be still my itching pessimism. It is time for the Lion to be Rampant once more.

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