The good thing about being a fan of Scottish football is that off-field events often make up for the lack of entertainment the actual process of twenty two men hoofing a ball around a park provides. This of course is in no small part due to “Mad Vlad” Romanov, the chairman of Hearts.
After a mixed season last year, Hearts were active in the transfer market over the summer months, bringing in experienced, proven SPL players. Fans of the Gorgie club approached the new season with a cautious optimism, their early displays did nothing to dispel the thought that Hearts would once again gain the dubious honour of being, ‘best of the rest’. What we had all overlooked though, was that it had been almost two weeks since Vlad had done anything a bit mental. You do sometimes get the impression with Romanov that he’s worried we’ll forget just how “Mad” he truly is. The furore over his backing, then sacking, then quietly loaning out to Kaunas (the Lithuanian team he “owns”) of convicted sex offender Craig Thompson had just died down when he decided that after 3 games, and an all-round encouraging start to the season, it was time for another new manager. Anyone questioning this move was apparently a “fool” or an “idiot”.
A new manager was in place, seemingly before Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown had time to clear their desks, never mind organise some goodbye drinks. Paolo Sergio seems to have spent the majority of his career in Portugal getting sacked, so should feel right at home (but would be advised not get to comfy) in one of the ‘hottest’ hot seats in football. Now apparently Romanov has decided he quite fancies winning the title this year, this can only end well.
In Romanov’s defence, Jim Jeffries was nowhere near as popular amongst the Hearts support as some would have you believe, also like all the best of this new breed of “sugar daddies”, Romanov craves “sexy football” from his team and I doubt even their wives would associate Jeffries and Brown with the word “sexy”.
The new regime at Tynecastle got off to a cracking start as they progressed to the final qualifying stages of the Europa League, thus setting up a mouth-watering “Battle of Britain” with Tottenham. Although instead of a glamorous tie against the crème de la crème of the EPL in the nation’s capital, recent events in the London borough of Tottenham (and Harry Redknapp’s obvious disdain for the tournament) have turned it into a trip into a warzone, to get beaten by Spurs reserves.
Rangers crashed out of Europe at the hands of the (not so) mighty Malmo. This game looks like it was Madjid Bougherra’s final one in the royal blue, and he used it to confirm that he had now completed his transition from asset to liability. Steven Whittaker should still be apologising to his team mates, and fans, after his utter stupidity (in getting sent off for retaliation) gave Rangers a mountain to climb that they really could have done without.
In the SPL this week, it was ‘raining goals’ at East End Park as Dunfermline and Inverness shared the spoils in a six goal thriller, at Tannadice an entertaining 1-1 draw between Dundee United and St Mirren was overshadowed by a triple leg break suffered by United captain Scott Severin, Motherwell continued their good form with a win over Paolo Sergio’s Hearts, in a game where both Keith Lasley of Motherwell and Ian Black of Hearts were sent off (more on Black later). Aberdeen’s main objective last season seemed to be providing as much of a boost to Celtic’s goal difference as they possibly could, so they surprised everyone on Sunday by not only losing by just one goal to nil, but by keeping 11 men on the park and not even giving away a penalty. Whilst this signals some progress at Pittodrie, they have now gone 3 full games without even looking like they might fancy scoring an actual goal.
The celebrations of the Celtic support were muted somewhat after news filtered through that last year’s player of the year, Emillio Izzaguire, had suffered a broken ankle that would rule him out for 4-6 months.
The injuries suffered by both Izzaguire and Severin are huge blows to both the players and their respective clubs, and everyone wishes them a full and speedy recovery. One slight positive is that both injuries were sustained in perfectly fair challenges, and there can be no demonising of a guilty party, as is so often the case.
This brings me onto Ian Black, the Hearts midfielder. He was dismissed in the game at Fir Park for a tackle that was a combination of late, reckless and high. Ian Black is a viscous, talentless cheat and has no right to call himself a footballer, there is no place in the game for “players” such as him and the sooner he disappears the better for everyone. If you think I am being unfair then you have either never seen Black play, or are a member of his immediate family.