The fans have their say on the latest news from Scotland’s top-flight
AS IS the case with Griffiths at Hibs, it is not worth considering what our season would have been like without the goal machine that is Niall McGinn. On Saturday, he again proved his worth with a sublime finish.
While nothing in football is written in stone, the declaration that he intends remaining at Pittodrie for at least next season is positive news for fans who always harbour fears about the club’s ability to retain its best talent. Meanwhile, the manager’s press conferences appear to contain all of the right noises, from the references to “our club” to the commitment to giving youth a chance in the remaining games. It is encouraging to hear that the new manager is open to giving all players a chance to impress.
It WAS fantastic to see the reaction from the players who were “hurt” at not being on the shortlist for POTY by proving exactly why they were not included. Super Hooper took two attempts to score in an open goal and Charlie Mulgrew was skinned for the first goal and then for the penalty. Along with big Fraser going down like one of Fred Dibnah’s chimneys for two of the goals, they really proved their fellow professionals wrong! At least FF redeemed himself with some excellent saves and prevented a total humiliation. We gave Motherwell a point to prove and they hammered us. We’ve now downed tools and will have to pick them up again for the cup final against Hibs. After last year, they have a massive point to prove. I’d rather see fringe players trying to win games than the “has my wife booked the villa” attitude.
Who’d have thought Dundee’s survival fight would extend into May? But this weekend may finally snuff out our hopes, with St Mirren at Tynecastle on Saturday needing only a point to send us down, a day before we entertain Aberdeen at Dens.
Following his full-time appointment, John Brown led Dundee to an incredible (for us) third win a row on Saturday 1-0 over Hearts, as Leigh Griffiths did his old pals a huge favour by denying St Mirren victory in a 3-3 draw at Easter Road. If we can keep up this momentum next season, whichever division we’re in, we can start enjoying our football again, rather than dreading matchdays. With any luck, too, play-offs will give another chance to escape the First Division. With more tales of financial woe emerging from Tynecastle, this is all still very interesting...
The Club 12th Man
THE Scott Allan saga has reared its head again. It’s almost two years since he moved to West Bromich Albion and he has now told his side of the story. He gave ex-United manager Peter Houston a few digs and went on to claim he wanted to stay. How much is true we will never know, although it’s not a shock to find out Allan’s agent is the same one United had to release a statement about last week with regard to Johnny Russell. However Houston’s way with the younger players didn’t win him any fans and it’s great to see McNamara taking a totally different approach. He is not scared to give them first-team action and it was a very canny move by McNamara to promote Steve Campbell, the under-19 coach, to the match day bench. It will give the young players a level of confidence.
Hearts lost to Dundee for the third time this season on Saturday, although they had a big helping hand from the referee with a ridiculous sending off for Andy Webster. If it wasn’t for us, Dundee would have been relegated long ago, so we certainly won’t miss them if they do go down.
Talk of administration has yet again reared its head but, as is usual for all things regarding Hearts, the position is about as clear as mud. It seems inevitable to me that this is the route we will go down but we are now in a situation where a 17-point deduction would take us to the bottom of the league and it would now be very difficult to bridge that gap. So, hopefully, those making the decision will feel it makes sense to wait until the season is over.
Where that would leave us in terms of a squad, season ticket money and starting next season is for another day.
The funny thing about being in the bottom six is that it is only really interesting if you are fighting the relegation battle. Thankfully, unlike last season, our SPL status is secure but it leaves our remaining league fixtures looking rather meaningless. Or they would be if it wasn’t for the small matter of a cup final against Celtic to look forward to. The players are surely playing for their places and the manager also has to get the players used to taking the more positive approach needed to win a final. The performances against Aberdeen and St Mirren were flawed but Hibs have looked like the hungrier side. Young Alex Harris has surely earned a starting berth but the case for the defence is harder to make as we continue to ship goals. As long as we keep Leigh Griffiths fit enough to score at the other end, we have a chance. Maybe we should wrap him in cotton wool for the next few weeks.
There are times in a season when it appears that everything is against you. Saturday’s game in Perth seemed to be one of them. It looked liked being a classic backs-to-the-wall game until Raven was sent off, and the outcome hinged on that.
There’s no doubt we are making life difficult for ourselves in the run-in for third place. Having been reduced to ten men, we were forced to hold out and play a counter-attacking game. It was never really going to work against St Johnstone. With the loss of Gary Warren through injury and now David Raven through suspension the situation will call upon those stepping in to show their mettle and turn around our fortunes. We have three “cup finals” left to claim that final Euro spot and make this a season one to remember, so getting something against Motherwell is vital.
Defeat again on Saturday up at Aberdeen. It seems to me that the midfield are killing us, no protection for the defence and no supply to the guys up front. Individually, we have talented players but they can not seem to operate as a unit.
The spat between our gaffer and Lennon is reaching comical proportions. As someone new to the job, Kenny will inevitably make mistakes, and he is probably undoubtedly more intelligent than most tabloid journalists, but it was a schoolboy error playing games with them as he underestimated their mission to de-construct anything positive about our national game and how they would take every off-the-cuff remark he makes and put it out there as the gospel according to Kenny. I love how outspoken and honest he is, but he should have been advised to restrict his comments to Killie and ignore everyone else.
Motherwell clinched a return to European football in style with a thrashing of Celtic on Sunday. This is a glorious time but the higher the achievement in the league, the greater the sadness that we have missed out on a great chance for a trophy. This squad may be the best we’ve had in generations but St Mirren won the League Cup and Hibs are in the final of the Scottish Cup – despite both being significantly weaker. The other frustration is that after finishing third and now (surely!) second, there is no chance to challenge Celtic next season. Instead of building on what we have, Law and Randolph are certain to depart, along with a few others. But perhaps the most important re-signing has already been made in Stuart McCall and, barring something unexpected, he will lead us into our next era.
Once again the SPL chairmen have failed to come to an agreement on league reconstruction. In fact, if anything, we are now further away than we were two weeks ago!
At the initial meeting, the thing they couldn’t agree on was the league format but, given it was an “all or nothing” vote it didn’t go through. They have had talks and made enough progress to meet again but it now seems that they can’t agree on the league format, one governing body or the redistribution of wealth!
The biggest stumbling block is the fact that the SPL is made up of the individual club chairmen, and they will always vote for what is best for their club. The biggest step forward would be to appoint an independent committee to run the leagues, containing people who are not connected to the member clubs – or at least none who is set to gain financially from a club!
We ground out the three points on Saturday against Inverness. It actually seemed to get harder when they went down to ten men – they knew a point would be enough to effectively end our European hopes and went uber-defensive with some extraordinary time wasting after the red card.
But we got there, and now there’s likely to be a very tight race for that third European spot.
Three points is a must at Tannadice if we are to qualify. Anything less than that and we will find it difficult to accumulate enough points against the champions and Motherwell to make it.
Hopefully, Mehdi Abeid will recover from the knock he took on Saturday, and Murray Davidson can be back to fitness – we could really do with our best team for the trip down the Tay.
And so, our fight against relegation goes on. We were within ten minutes of safety on Saturday but conceded yet another goal to Leigh Griffiths. The sooner he goes back to Wolves the better. He’s scored seven times against us this season.
Dundee deserve great credit for keeping things interesting as they looked dead and buried by the split. However, we are the ones keeping their hopes alive by not getting the results we need. One point from three games will see us over the line and that is surely not asking too much. But where it will come from? Hearts away this weekend is always difficult. They’ll be looking for revenge for the League Cup final and some of their fans still seem to believe we lay down in 1986. Hopefully we can get the result we need and not end up praying Aberdeen do us a favour at Dens Park.