If you have read a paper, watched the news, or been on campus at all over the past few months, you will be aware of both the Yes Scotland and Better Together campaigns involved in the future of Scotland. The facts are these: there will be a referendum on Scottish independence towards the end of 2014; if successful, Scotland would become independent by 2016. The question will be ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’
After one-and-a-half qualifying campaigns under Craig Levein, which included some inglorious highlights such as a 96th minute winner at home to Liechtenstein, the 4-6-0 formation in Prague and draws against the international powerhouses of Macedonia and Lithuania, the SFA finally appointed a new manager so that we can put that bastard of a tenure to bed. The man they’ve chosen is Gordon Strachan.
So, the new plan to ‘save Scottish Football’ has emerged from the dark dungeons of the SPL and SFA. Obviously oblivious to the fact that the SFL have a huge voting majority of Scottish football teams, the SPL have suggested their own ‘improvements’ to the football setup in Scotland, adopting what has been described as a ‘continental’ model. This is true; the system being proposed by the authorities in Scotland is indeed based upon models which used to be in place in such footballing big-hitting nations as Austria. ‘Used to’ being the crucial term, here. Indeed, as an interview with former SFA President George Peat revealed, the Austrian Football Association actually approached Scotland when this model fell apart, and little more than a decade later, we’ve decided to give their model a bash.
Former tennis world number one Rafael Nadal has announced his return to training in Majorca and has been confirmed that his return to competitive tennis will come in January’s Doha ExxonMobile Open. Nadal hasn’t played competitive tennis since his shock loss to big hitting Czech Lukas Rosol in the second round of this year’s Wimbledon Championships due to a recurrence of his long-standing knee injury. With the return of a player widely considered to be one of the best of all time after what is a very serious injury, and by no means one that is likely to ever heal permanently, it will be interesting to see what effect this will have on the domination of tennis in the second half of 2011 by Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray – and indeed Roger Federer – and whether Nadal will be able to rejoin the “Big Four” in 2013.
The news of genuine proposals for reform into the structures of Scottish football have been met with sighs of relief by the majority of level headed football fans. I would be inclined to agree; the current four- tier structure is baffling due to the simple fact that there are 42 ‘senior’ clubs split into a needlessly complicated 4 tier structure involving playoffs, splits, promotion, relegation, and a bottom tier from which finishing bottom brings with it no repercussions, even when it’s done five times in succession (ahem, East Stirlingshire ’02-’07).
The new structure being proposed unanimously by the SFL clubs (that’s the clubs from the three tiers below the SPL, for those struggling to keep up) suggests the replacement of the 12-10-10-10 system with a shiney new 16-10-16 system compromising of a Premier League, a “Championship” and a “First Division”(a blatant copying of the English Football League structure) . This is a move that was greeted with fairly selfish reactions from the Old Firm, with Ally McCoist backing the changes, presumably as it would likely see Rangers hit the top flight again quicker, and Neil Lennon opposing the changes as it would gain his side no advantages over the other teams. SFL teams universally back the changes because, well, anything is better than what we’ve got now.
Now, my problem is not that I disagree with the changes proposed – although I am slightly baffled at a middle tier of just 10 teams – it’s that the deep rooted problems in Scottish football require significantly bigger reforms than changing the league sizes to rectify. Thankfully, the turmoil facing many top clubs in Scotland has provided an easy context to reflect the issues in the running of the game. Now avoiding the Rangers example entirely (being from Glasgow, one understands that this may be slightly divisive to those as passionate on the topic as I) a fine example of the problems facing Scottish football can be found over in Edinburgh with Hearts.
Following Vladimir “Mad Vlad” Romanov’s decision to leave Hearts in a state of financial turmoil for the seventh time or so (not including those times where he simply didn’t pay his staff because he couldn’t be arsed) the question has to be asked of why the SFA don’t seem too bothered that a man clearly unfit to run a football club is running a football club. Surely to ensure the longevity and financial sustainability of member clubs is in the interest of Scottish football, and is therefore the responsibility of the authorities to ensure appropriate people are in charge of the member clubs. The disastrous consequences in failing to perform this role can be found in the liquidation of the Rangers Oldco, and the demotion of the football club to the Third Division. The new league structure could very well increase revenue and interest in the league, but this does not necessarily mean that clubs will go to the wall less often.
With these reforms being proposed things are looking bright for Scottish football. Whether the future is bright, I’m not entirely sure, and to be honest, I’m fairly certain I’m not the only one. But considering SFL Chief Executive David Longmuir is the face of these changes, and also holds the distinction of being the only reasonable man of authority in Scottish football, that’s at least a small positive. But still, with Snoop Dogg’s apparent interest in buying shares in Celtic, the next few months will certainly be interesting if nothing else.
So there we have it folks, the big wigs over at the Scottish Football Association have finally acted on the national shame that was Craig Levein’s tenure as Scotland boss and shown him the door. This act of basic competence – albeit belated – has led to the question of who will replace Levein as manager. With the doubtless talent at the disposal of the new manager, whoever that may be, this week I will dedicate my column to the potential candidates for the role and the chances of each of them of landing the top job.
Former Scotland International Gordon Strachan has received the most high profile media attention and has been installed by every bookmaker as favourite. For this reason he is highly uninteresting to talk about, because everyone else is talking about him. He’s ginger, fairly short, and has a good track record as a manager. Also famed for his bizarre, nonsensical responses to fairly valid questions from the press, so at least that would be interesting to watch. On a more serious note, his spell in charge of Celtic would be enough to convince the majority of the Tartan Army that he’s the right candidate to move the side forward.
Compton’s Odds: A logical choice, and bizarrely, a logical choice that the SFA may actually take. I see him as strong favourite and with good reason too. However, his disappointing spell at Middlesbrough may raise a few eyebrows. 1/5.
Having achieved moderate success in his previous spell as Scotland boss, Walter Smith comes with all the pedigree that anyone could possibly ask for. Having been touted for the job by Smith’s assitant at Rangers and Scotland, now Rangers manager Ally McCoist, his name has been thrust into consideration. A stellar managerial career with two excellent spells at Rangers, a vastly underrated spell in charge of Everton, and a very impressive job in the role previously. This appointment would be controversial however, as Smith left the Scotland job in unfavourably circumstances, resigning in order to return to Rangers in the wake of Paul LeGuen’s sacking, prompting legal action from the SFA.
Compton’s Odds: It goes without saying that Smith has one of the more accomplished CV’s of all the likely candidates for this role. However, his potential commitment to the role may hinder his chances. His resignation from the role previously for greener pastures and his hinting towards retirement when leaving Rangers may call into question the longevity any spell as Scotland boss would have. It’s also unlikely that the Tartan Army, or indeed the SFA themselves, have forgiven Smith for leaving the role previously. 16/1.
Was too old to be a footballer, and is too young to be a manager, so I guess you get the best of both Worlds. Always read the game superbly, but has no managerial experience. He is currently a youth and reserve team coach at Everton, but there’s no way of knowing how well he’s doing, seeing as he’s a coach, and we never really know what they’re up to. A scholar of the game with a great footballing mind.
Compton’s Odds: It’s a long shot, to say the least, and as respected as he is as a player, including his achievements as former Scotland captain, Weir may need to make the step up to management somewhere else for some experience if he’s ever likely to hold the national team top job. Then again, everyone said he was too old when he signed for Rangers, so he’s used to overcoming the odds. 66/1.
What a farcical appointment this would be.
Rightfully considered a legend of Scottish football, and one of the finest players ever produced by this nation, Dalglish deserves much praise, respect and his position in Scottish Football’s Hall of Fame. His managerial career however, has been nothing short of a train wreck. Yes, his spells in charge of Liverpool and Blackburn Rovers were successful, but they were also in the eighties and early nineties, and everything since there has been shamefully poor. When in charge of Newcastle United he lost nearly as often as he won, and his spells at Celtic and Liverpool were uninspiring to say the least. As much as the “Dalglish Factor” seems to work for the first few weeks in charge, his managerial nous has never been proven, and I for one don’t believe that he has what it takes to be a successful manager in the modern game, and his sporadic gaps from managing suggests his commitment to improving his record is lacking.
Compton’s Odds: A big name boss, but the disappointing spell at Liverpool recently will probably see the SFA avoid what would likely prove an expensive mistake. 33/1.
What a wonderful, wonderful appointment this would be. A sterling reputation within the footballing world thanks to a fantastic spell in charge of Fleetwood, culminating in promotion to the Premier League and FA Cup success in the 2018-19 season. Compton is the shining beacon through the otherwise foggy set of potential appointments. His tactical wizardry, hands-on approach, and legendary ability to manage his players effectively there is little doubt that the trademark cheeky grin and charming quip to the media would be a reflection of the undeniable success he would bring to the role.
Compton’s Odds: Easily the most qualified and desirable candidate. The only concern over this would the fact that the SFA are most likely looking for a long-term project from their next manager, and holding onto Compton and fighting off the advances of some of the World’s most desirable football jobs may prove too off-putting for the authorities to take the chance on. Wages would also be a major issue, although he would certainly be worth every penny. Finally, there may be concerns that as valid as all of his achievements are, they were all achieved on Football Manager. 5/1.
One of our newest contributors, Yasmynn Lloyd, took a trip up north over the summer to the Outer Hebrides.
As a 4th year, I am more than accustomed to the Scottish weather. And I know as much as anyone that it isn’t exactly desirable. It’s not, shall we say, the main draw for people coming to uni here.
So when my parents announced at the start of the summer that our annual family holiday was neither going to be a fortnight all-inclusive in the Caribbean, nor a week in a luxury New York hotel and it wasn’t going to be a beach holiday in the Canaries or yachting in the South of France, I was devastated. It wasn’t even going to be camping in Cornwall or a caravan in Wales.
It was going to be 14 days in South Uist. Admittedly, this probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me since that is, in fact, our summer holiday every year.
For those of you less than clued up on your Scottish geography, the Outer Hebrides are a group of islands off the north west coast of Scotland. Last stop before Canada. South Uist is the second most southern of the group. Although it’s pretty far away, it’s not too difficult to get to. You can get a train from Queen Street to Oban, from where the ferry to South Uist costs about £20 (although it does take five hours, and on a windy day makes you regret getting the sausage casserole from the canteen). Or you can fly with FlyBe (to Benbecula, one of the central islands) from Glasgow Airport, which takes a much more palatable 55 minutes.
The buzzing metropolis of South Uist is called Daliburgh, and boasts an impressive two churches, 1 post office, 1 pub/hotel, 1 bunk house, and a Co-Op. The island itself is long and thin, and therefore has one main (single track) road, meaning that the bus service is pretty easy to figure out, although it isn’t that often. You can hire bikes or cars, though, which are an easier way of getting about. There are a few hotels dotted about the islands, and a couple of bunkhouses, but there are always cottages for rent; a quick Google comes up with literally tens of results, and since it’s not high season Ibiza, prices are more than reasonable.
As you can imagine for an island, the seafood is out of this world. It can be as short a time as half an hour between catching the fish and serving it up with chips and tartare sauce. Polochar Inn on the south end of the island does really good food; the fish and chips could put most to shame and you’d be shocked at the size of the scallops. But since this is a student magazine, you’re probably not too bothered about massive shellfish and more worried about the drinking establishments. There are a few pubs, including the Borrodale in Daliburgh, none are particularly cheap but neither are they overpriced, and they’re always warm, comfortable and full of red-faced whisky-drinking locals. Particularly during the summer months, village halls up and down the island hold ceilidhs pretty much weekly, and the pubs often have live music going on as well. It might not be Cheesy Pop, but you can’t fail to have a good time as the atmosphere is brilliant.
So you’ve sorted how you’re getting there, you’ve found somewhere to stay and you’ve managed to get some food and drinks. Well done. Now the small matter of filling your days up. For shopping, there’s the co-op, a hardware shop or the gift shop at the Kildonan Museum. Buchanan Galleries it is not, but you can get all the essentials, along with the obligatory magnet and postcard to send to your grandparents.
But the main reason we go back every single year is because it’s beautiful. Even if we get 13 days of torrential rain, that 1 day of glorious sunshine is enough to make the holiday. Sometimes it’s nice to sit in front of a fire with a brew and a board game, or our holiday entertainment of choice this year, box sets of The Walking Dead. Although, the 13th consecutive day of Monopoly with my sister can take its toll on my sanity. But when it’s dry, get your boots on and get outside. Walk east, to the hills; still lochs reflect the endless sky, and following sheep tracks through the heather takes you to places that feel like no-one has ever been before. Or you can go west, to the beach. Miles and miles of untouched beach; white sand, blue sea and rolling sand dunes; not a single person there. It’s a perfect place just to let loose; no-one can see you, and even if they did, no-one cares. Take a disposable barbecue down to the beach and stay until the sun sets at midnight. Unleash your inner child and build a sandcastle. Fly a kite. Sing. Race. Play football or cricket or tennis. Drink tea from a flask or beer from a crate. Even brave the Atlantic and dip your toes in the sea (then squeal and run back up the beach to put your socks and boots back on). But just stand, and look around you, and see beauty everywhere you look, and marvel that such a place exists.
The Olympics in London has created not so much a summer of sport, but very much a British one. Glasgow’s tribute to the heroics of this summer was to host an open-top bus – which turned out to be a truck – parade for the Scottish Olympians and Paralympians, followed by a celebration in George Square. What was interesting to note was the angry reaction of the crowd to the presence of First Minister Alex Salmond.
Bobby Hogg, the last fluent speaker of the Cromarty dialect, spoken by the fisher folk of the Black Isle in Inverness has died recently. His passing has raised concerns over the future of this dying tongue. The Highland Council have made attempts to preserve the language, including a phrase booklet and recordings of conversations between Bobby and his brother Gordon.
Alan Compton brings you his views on the current state of Scottish football.
International week is a time that everyone looks forward to. A country unites behind players from leagues around Europe and cross-city divides are forgotten for ninety minutes as a nation’s prayers are – or in Scotland’s case, usually are not – answered. Fortunately for the “Tartan Army” there is a public hate figure whose baffling decisions and lack of nous with regards to selection, tactics or anything at all to do with football makes the blame game a whole lot easier to win – Craig Levein. What better way to epitomise the sheer fallacy that has been his tyranny so far than with his recent call up of Steven Fletcher – or more importantly, the period of time where without him, Scotland have already lost what little hope they had of qualifying from a group that the national media still haven’t cottoned on to quite how tough it actually is.