Thoughts from SPL matchday 1
So the first round of SPL fixtures have been completed with a week of July still to go. If you are looking for a detailed analysis of each fixture, player ratings etc. then you’re reading the wrong blog. I will however share some of my thoughts from the first weekend of the SPL.
First things first, at no point did any of the punters attempt to storm the dugout and attack the opposition’s manager, as far as we’re aware no manager/former politician/lawyer received a viable explosive device alongside their gas bill, no-one was forced to resign due to incompetence, dishonesty or for forwarding offensive e-mails. This surely signals a collective enlightenment within Scottish society (either that or the nutters are still in Benidorm stocking up on cheap fags).
In terms of matters on the pitch a few things stood out. Hearts outstanding first half display at Ibrox earned a share of the spoils and turned Rangers Flag Day party into a bit of a damp squib. The limitations within the Rangers squad have been well documented, and Saturdays display will serve as a reminder to new owner, Craig Whyte that the rebuilding of Rangers cannot be done on the cheap. While media coverage is usually focussed on incoming players there is no doubt that ensuring Alan McGregor remains at the club is the most important piece of business McCoist will conduct this summer. The Scotland ‘keeper was once again outstanding, and probably saved his team from a rare Ibrox reverse.
Celtic got off to a satisfying start with a victory at Easter Road over a dogged but limited Hibs. If Neil Lennon can keep star men Beram Kayal and Emiliano Izaguirre out of the clutches of their Premier League suitors, along with the mooted purchase of a new no1 and someone to provide a different option upfront, then the Celtic support will be confident that the Championship flag will be hoisted in the East in 12 months’ time.
Motherwell recorded an impressive win over Inverness and will do well to keep a hold of the talented Jamie Murphy who rounded off a flowing team move to open his account for the season. Also in that game Keith Lasley fired in an early contender for goal of the season only to be outdone by Kilmarnock debutant Rory Mckeown’s stunner against Dundee United.
All in all a relatively positive start to the SPL campaign then. I however have stumbled across an even greater reason for optimism, and it concerns the rather unlikely combination of the Scotland national side and South American silverware.
On Sunday night I settled down to watch the final of the Copa America, this is a tournament where putting the ball in the net has been maybe not expressly forbidden, but at the very least frowned upon, and the main objective for the majority of the teams seemed to be to repeatedly kick the opposition until an actual fight breaks out. Now any Scottish football aficionados will tell you these are qualities naturally present in many who have pulled on the dark blue jersey. Combine this with pitches that would make even the Fir Park groundsman blush and it becomes ever clearer that the Copa America is the natural home of the Scottish national side.
The Copa consists of the ten CONMEBOL sides plus two invitees, one of which is always Mexico. It’s time to start a campaign for that last place in the 2015 tournament. European football is heavy on passing and light on thuggery, our lack of success in international football is not a failing of tactics or technique it is purely a geographical issue. In a competition where the emphasis was on fouls rather than the more traditional goals we would surely excel. The players would bloody love it as well; imagine the money Kenny Miller would save on fake tan! And next to the Paraguayan midfielder Walter Ortigoza, Charlie Adam looks like the poster boy for Slimfast.
If we want to add to our Kirin cup success of 2006 (remember that?) then forget the Euro’s, we’ll still have a punt at the World Cup but the Copa 2015 is the way to go. The campaign starts here.
There is one moment from the weekend’s action that deserves special attention. It involved Dundee United’s mercurial/infuriating/utterly pish (delete as appropriate) attacker Danny Swanson. This young man managed to sum up every facet of his game in about 8 seconds of action. First his attempt at a clipping a free kick over the Kilmarnock wall barely reached shin height (infuriating) he then swept a sublime half volley into the bottom corner from the rebound (brilliant) then during his celebration removed his shirt (not very clever) the next phase of his celebration then involved the internationally accepted, ‘that’s my name’ back to the crowd point at name and number move, however having removed his shirt our Danny was left pointing to the back of his black vest (crowd left either laughing or shaking head in disbelief). I think instead of the murmurs of discontent from the Tannadice faithful the next time Danny’s on field decision ends a promising move, we should all just be thankful he’s managed to get out of bed and find his way to the stadium in time for kick off.
Football’s back and, for now at least I’m bloody delighted.