Anthony Brown: Pulling power of two city rivals something to take great pride in

It says much for the allure of playing for Hibs or Hearts that, if Ivan Sproule were to return to Easter Road this summer, it could bolster the number of players in their second spell with one of the Edinburgh clubs to six.

Regardless of what team you support, the Capital clubs remain two of the proudest institutions in Scottish football and that can sometimes be forgotten by fans and players alike.

There will always come a period when certain players will naturally become too big for Hearts or Hibs - Craig Gordon and Scott Brown spring to mind - and will duly move on to more lucrative pastures. However, every ex-Hearts or Hibs player I've spoken to - no matter how successful they've become - speaks with a genuine affinity about their time in Edinburgh.

Admittedly, Derek Riordan and Ian Murray's returns to Easter Road would have been influenced by the fact they were Hibs fans as kids, but both could probably have got themselves more money by moving to England or abroad. Sproule, despite trying his luck down south, has never hidden his love for Hibs whenever he has spoken to the Evening News.

Across the city, Rudi Skacel left intent on bettering himself and found out the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

Andy Webster knew he would have to overcome hostility from the Hearts support when he returned earlier this season. The easy option would have been to go down south or return to Dundee United, but the appeal of returning to Hearts was too strong. Likewise Adrian Mrowiec knew he was on to a winner when he was offered the chance to come back.

There was also Paul Hartley, who came close to bolstering the numbers, while it's not beyond the realms of possibility that Garry O'Connor may one day be back at Hibs.

Obviously many players have improved their bank balance since leaving Hearts or Hibs over the years but there aren't so many who can genuinely say there careers have improved since departing Edinburgh. For every Steven Whittaker, Steven Fletcher, Christophe Berra, Antti Niemi or Ricardo Fuller who have gone on to bigger and better things, there's a Guillaume Beuzelin, Rob Jones, Jose Goncalves, Larry Kingston or Michael Stewart, who haven't enjoyed the success they would have hoped for.

Sent to Coventry

DOES the advert for the Coventry City manager's job include the line "must have played little more than a handful of games for Hearts and be memorable in Edinburgh only for performances in cup matches"? How else do you explain Andy Thorn - famed in these parts for a rousing cameo outing as a depleted Hearts side beat Celtic in the 1996 Coca-Cola Cup - taking over from Aidy Boothroyd, inset, the two-goal hero in a 6-0 Scottish Cup win over Huntly in 1993? Contrary to rumours, Juho Makela (a hat-trick hero against Alloa) and Darren Beckford - he of 1996 Coca-Cola Cup-run fame - were not in the running for the Sky Blues job.

Impossible Clasico dream

IF there's a positive to be taken from last week's Clasico, hopefully it will be that the antics of two of the most alluring clubs in the world will finally chase away those perfectionists who continue to expect impeccable behaviour from footballers.

The indignation from the high-and-mighty brigade over what happened on Wednesday was embarrassing. Yes, everyone would have liked to see a free-flowing match brimming with skill, but how many of these hyped-up games actually live up to their billing? Look at last summer's World Cup final.

Skill will not always come to the fore, so football will always be reliant on controversy, fallout, scandal and general misdemeanours to maintain interest.

It probably says a lot about society, but bad behaviour is part of the package.

What an El of an odd image

I READ an interesting article in the Daily Mail last week in which journalist Martin Samuel suggested La Liga is well on its way to becoming like the SPL in the sense that only two clubs can win the title. The crux of his argument was that, if Real Madrid and Barcelona continue to pull away from the likes of Valencia, Villarreal and Sevilla, they will eventually start toiling in Europe.

But it was this belter of a sign-off line that caught my eye: "How will (Real and Barca] stay sharp if Valencia have been reduced to the thinking man's Aberdeen?" Now I know I'm drifting slightly off-topic, but the mere mention of the Dandy Dons in such exalted company conjures harrowing images of Diamond, Considine and McArdle trying to get to grips with the likes of Messi, Ronaldo and Forlan.


... Italy's 1982 World Cup hero Claudio Gentile for bringing some sanity to the Gareth Bale love-in. "He's over-rated," Gentile said when asked whether sides should pay 40m for Bale. "His name appeared in the limelight only because he scored three goals against Inter." Spot on, Claudio.


... the cretins in the Chesterfield support who went for the Bury keeper when they invaded the pitch to "celebrate" last week. I'm all for a good old-fashioned pitch invasion, but just leave the opposition players alone.

Dutch side Venlo get serious about the tot in total football

FAIR play to the 18-month-old kid who has landed a ten-year deal at Dutch club VVV Venlo after chipping balls into his toy box. The wee boy looks to have a more deft touch than most of the guys I play seven-a-side with, but his emergence will certainly stretch to the limit the age-old adage of "if you're good enough, you're old enough".

Sticking with Dutch football, I'm struggling to work out how Twente intend to benefit from their link-up with Stranraer. Surely a partnership with Venlo Under-2s would be more profitable.