The Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football in General.

I think we can safely say that the Scottish Premier League (SPL) is not the highest standard in the World and this is also borne out by the Scotland soccer team in terms of their world Fifa position which at the moment is number 67! One in front of the United Arab Emirates!!! And well behind Australia,Japan,Mali and even South Africa!!!!What a disgrace for a soccer loving country and the famous Tartan Army!!!!!

Ok it is easy to criticise however let’s look at some facts. The two strongest (SPL) teams historically have been Celtic and Rangers and the competition between these teams over the years provided some world-class players who kept the SPL standard at a reasonably level .In addition some of these players found their way to other higher quality football leagues ie.English Premier,La Liga etc which in turn assisted in bringing the Scottish Football National team to a reasonable level.

Where did it all go wrong?I think that the creation  of the EPL(1992) did for sure influence this, especially with all the Television rights from the likes of Sky and now BT Sports  bringing in millions of pounds , which of course, brought in finance for much better players from Europe ,Africa and to a lesser extent from South America.It’s no coincidence that Scotland have not qualified for a world football competition since 1998!!!

I think however,that, what was a very inconspicuous position for the SPL, became precarious when Rangers were dispatched to the lower ecelaunch of Scottish football ie the 3rd Division because of financial issues.I should say that I am not defending Rangers ,only pointing the results of them being relegated to 3rd division of Scottish Football.

I myself was not living in Scotland when this happened  (2011/12) however since returning to Scotland it is obvious ,from what I have read, is that 99.9% of the Scottish Football managers wanted Rangers relegated !This of course left there main rivals Celtic with no real opposition .Ok you will get some of the other teams putting a challenge from time to time however by and large it had been a walk in the park for the boys from Celtic Park.The teams from the lower leagues obviously realised the financial implications of Rangers and their huge support visiting the likes of some of these teams,where one large following from Rangers fans would arguably bring in more spectators than for all the other home games combined!!

Prior to being liquidated in 2011/12 Rangers had won the SPL 09/10/11 with Celtic being successful in /12.Since then Celtic have won all SPL Titles in a canter and at the moment with only a few games remaining they are 27 points in front of second placed Aberdeen with Rangers a distant 36 points adrift!!
I should Also add the the last time the SPL (or formally known Scottish First Division) was won by a team other than Rangers or Celtic was back in 1984 when Aberdeen lifted the title!!!

However Celtic  themselves ,although qualifying for Europe have never got past the pre qualifying(from 2012) stage and even when they have managed to get into the Europa league they were eliminated in the first round they played in.What a shambles!Yes in this year’s Champions league they had one or two good results but bottom line they finished the bottom in round robin and never even got into Europe Cup!Other Scottish teams who have qualified for the Europa Cup and failed just as bad. IE Aberdeen,Motherwell,Hearts to name a few.

The bottom line is that ,with Rangers out the way the challenge to Celtic has gone and the SPL is now worse than ever, and until Celtic can be challenged seriously the standards will continue to drop! (As already mentioned 27 points in front of second plaved team!) Where is the competition.Answer.None!!!! Somehow the powers to be will have to start from the bottom up and provide proper playing and coaching facilities for up and coming young players whilst at the same time initiate some negotiations with the Media to try to have more TV/Radio financial backing so as to encourage better players into the SPL otherwise we are doomed to continued failure!!I am sure of course that Celtic fans are loving this situation and who can blame them, however no good being a big fish in a very small pool!!Remember some of the great players who played for Celtic and Rangers plus of course Scotland.Billy McNeil.Jim Baxter.Jimmy Johnstone.Willie Henderson.John Greig.Kenny Dalgleish.Bertie Auld.Eric Caldow,plus many others like Dennis Law.Dave Mckay.Gordon Strachan.Willie Millar,Alex MacLeish,Graeme Souness,Alan Hansen etc.

I am afraid we have no one at the moment who comes close to these legends of our game and unless change happens sooner rather later we will not qualify for another international tournament for foreseeable future.Celtic will continue to dominate the SPL and , with no challenge in sight they will continue to be Scotland’s only Champion League Participants for decades however I doubt without much succcess whilst at the same time Scottish football will continue to stagnate!

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RWC 2015

Well there has been many articles and blogs already written about the forthcoming RWC and many pundits have given the ups and downs of both teams. Most have the All Blacks as favourites with of course the English ,especially the media giving them a great chance!I thought therefore that I would add my two pennies worth so here goes.

My first thoughts are that we don’t have any cricket scores in the Round Robin stages and that all the teams outside of the big teams put up as good show and make their countries proud! So lets look at the pool stages. With the exception of pool A the so-called pool of death,the two qualifying teams should really be straightforward although I think not before a few scares! Having said that even the pool of death seems relatively straightforward with the injuries to key Wales players,Halfpenny,Webb and Davies being huge blows. Who will therefore qualify and in what order? In pool A I think England and Australia will finish in top place and in that order.In pool B it has got to be South Africa and Scotland( I do however think that Scotland will give the Boks a tough time and I also think that Samoa will give Scotland a tough time!) In pool C it has got to be New Zealand and Argentina.Pool D I expect France to top with Ireland second.

This will give us quarterfinals follows.

Q1. SA v Australia Q2. NZ v Ire. Q3 Fra v Argentina and Q4. Engv Scotland.

Who will move to Semi Finals?

Well I think that Australia will beat the Boks as they did in 2011(albeit in controversial circumstances!) I think Australia will have too much experience and class in back line and will win comfortably!

The All Blacks will have too much class for Ireland.

The France v Argentina will be close however I think France will have too much flare in Back line and will scramble over the line!

The England v Scotland semi will be a cracker and will be a repeat of the game in 1991 when our Gavin missed a penalty under the posts which helped England to proceed!

This will then give us semis between Australia and All Blacks plus England and France.

In the Rugby championship Australia showed how to beat the All Blacks by getting in amongst them and cutting down the time and space,and although the All Blacks gave them a hiding in the return ,it was at fortress Eden Park where All Blacks haven’t lost since god was a boy! I think in this game the Wallabies will have enough firepower to cause an upset and get thro to final.

In the other Semi final,between the two six nation heavy weights I expect a war of attrition with England coming out on top! Only just!

This will of course, give a repeat of the 1991 and 2003 finals and although England will have home advantage (as in 1991) I expect Australia to match them in the forwards,and with the better back row, I think that the exciting wallabies backs will spoil the party!

This article is of course based around the teams finishing in the pool order I have indicated,however, I think that the only doubt is pool A where the England and Australia positions may be reversed. Nevertheless I still expect Australia to come through and win the RWC 2015!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Health Issues.

This is not something I would normally write about however I thought I would put it out there to see if  there is any feedback.

Although I am 72 years old I consider myself to be relatively fit and healthy. However you just  don’t know what is around the corner as I will now explain. Last Tuesday the 24 Feb I had gone for my normal daily run ,in Dubai,where  I am  on the holiday. That evening I also went for another jog/walk with my son. During the day I had felt a little nauseous although who doesn’t from time to time. I had light snack in evening and off to bed.

The following morning I awoke around 7am ,and now was feeling quite sick. There were however no other symptoms,no pains,aches etc. I decided not to wait around and went to loo ,stuck fingers down throat and tried to be sick. At the beginning all I was bringing up was wind! Eventually however I was sick. This was proceeded by a bout of violent shaking of my hands and legs. The last time this had happened to me was in Tanzania in 2002 when I had malaria!I thought maybe it had returned as malaria can of course, be recurring. This shaking went on for about  an hour and a half,however,after being very sick a couple of times, the shaking stopped.I then fell asleep for a few hours and when I woke I felt OK,although I had slightly high temperature. My blood pressure and sugar glucose levels were normal.

That evening I had   a nice dinner(small portion). Within half hour of this I began shaking again. This time I thought I had better get to hospital. On the way to hospital I felt sick again. We stopped the car and I brought up my dinner on to the sandy desert! Immediately after this the shaking stopped! I decided to forget hospital and just return home.

For the next three days,(Thursday,Friday and Saturday) I had  a slight temperature which I just treated with panadol. I only ate some toast,packet soup and drank plenty of water during this time.

By Sunday March 1st I was beginning to return to normal although a little worse for wear. On Monday 2nd March I went for a gentle jog with no  ill effects. I had a break on Tues but today Wed ,March 4 I went for my normal run(around 10km) and everything is fine and it as if the events of last week had never happened! Keep in mind ,with exception of the shaking,being sick,there were no other symptoms,ie, BP was normal,glucose levels OK,no aches,pains,no upset stomach.

I would be interested to find out from anyone who reads this,if they know of anyone,friends etc who have had similar experience and who had symptoms diagnosed as I just don’t have a clue.

 

 

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Six Nations Italy v Ireland 2015: France v Scotland 2015

This game was played in front of partisan crowd in Rome,however,in reality there was nothing much to shout about. The 26 – 3 victory was based on a much improved second half performance by Ireland,with the first half not having much to talk about. Most teams who visit Italy seem to get dragged down to the same level as the home team and this was no different! The much vaunted Italian scrum was well held by Ireland however the latter in first half were one paced and created very few chances. The second half saw the Irish raise the tempo for which the Italians had no answer. Except for a few flurries in last ten minutes Italy were very disappointing and look bankers for wooden spoon again!

France v Scotland

This game was played at a high tempo with France especially opening with some typical attacking French flare .The French forwards on a number of occasions created quick ball for their backs, who,although creating chances,either knocked ball on or were stopped by resolute Scottish defence. The Scots themselves were creating a few chances themselves and took one of them scoring the only try of the game. The conversion was missed and ,at half time France led 9 – 8 thanks to 3 Lopez penalties,a penalty to Scotland having been converted by Laidlaw!

The second half saw both teams trying to throw the ball about however another Lopez penalty was only score well into second half. Both team had chances to score score tries,with France ,especially being guilty of making costly errors when it seemed easier to score! In the end,another Penalty by Lopez saw France win by 15- 8. In conclusion both team can be given some credit for trying to play some open rugby,and,although they won’t win the Six Nations I think they will be difficult to beat at home.

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The Big Bash T20 Cricket 2014/15

For myself,up until now The IPL(Indian Premier League) has,over the last few years,been the premier T20 cricket tournament in the world,and,although it is still up there,the Big Bash League in Australia is most certainly up there along side it! I have been playing the BBL in Superbru for a couple of years and that is in fact how I became interested in this competition. It wasn’t until ,during my recent holiday in Australia that I became aware on how huge the BBL is in Australia! There are Eight teams in the BBL.  The Perth Scorchers,Adelaide Strikers,Hobart Hurricanes,Sydney Sixer’s,Sydney Thunder,Melbourne Stars,Melbourne Renegrades and the Brisbane Heat.

Some of these teams had big-name overseas stars,with the likes of Kevin Peterson(Melbourne Stars) and Jacque Khakis(,Melbourne Renegades)  Andrew Fintoff(Brisbasne Heat) plus West Indians Darren Sammy and Adrian Pollard, making appearances. What really impressed me however were the huge crowds which came to these games,with attendances in ,40000 to 50000 a regular occurrence. I watched nearly all of the games and the standard of T20 cricket beckoned belief! There were many games where teams looked dead buried however achieved some remarkable comebacks,scoring 60 runs or thereabouts from the last three overs happened on a number of occasions and the excitement was just monumental! I have now left Australia however I will be watching the final,between the Sydney Sixer’s and Perth Scorchers from Canberra from my base in Dubai,!To the players,organizers and of course the huge crowds of the BBL 2014/15  well done and be in no doubt the BBL  is well up and possibly surpasses the IPL!

Well I can’t complete this blog with mentioning the final! Scorchers require ,1 run from last three deliveries.Easy you would think! In comes Bret Lee .Bang, batsmen bowled! In comes Lee again,Bang,batsmen bowled! The tension is palpable! In comes Lee again.Batsman hits ball and runs. Sixer’s fielder picks up ball and throws over the stumps. A banker run out looks on,however ball is dropped and Scorchers get the run and a well deserved victory. What a game! What a tournament! The IPL have lots to live up to!

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Life Changing and Humbling Experiences Going Through Life

I am sure that most of us have Life Changing or Humbling Experiences as we could through our lives.  My wife , myself and family , early on in our Expat Life’s(and later), had a few of these”moments” which , at the time had , either a positive or negative effect on our lives. We , have been very fortunate to visit some very interesting parts of the world although sometimes maybe not the safest! In Uganda for example , in 1972 during the Idi Amin Crisis, myself, Anne and friends were locked up in a prison whilst our house girl was baby sitting, Pamela, Kenneth and Alisdair. Fortunately we managed to talk our way out and make our way , via Dead bodies back home to our children. When we were taking Pamela and Kenneth to Boarding School in Kenya in late 1972 Pamela had a gun held at her head by Uganda Soldiers!

Fast  Forward to Papua New Guinea , not sure exactly when, however , I had a gun stuck in head outside our apartment. The two thugs took my car and personal items. I was however probably lucky , as, later that day, these same two thugs shot and killed two bank  tellers  in Port Moresby.

Later, in South Africa, Anne was in a Super Market being held up and I myself had just left a bank when it was held up at gunpoint!

Were the above Life Changing/Humbling? I think at the time most certainly terrifying, however , unlike others we survived!. What I am about to tell you however, for me is Life Changing/Humbling and will most certainly have me viewing life from a very different perspective  from now on!

Yesterday the 20th June 2014 Anne and I , along with David, Pamela and Gemma attended the “Year of Achievement Awards” at Kaitlyn McIntosh School, Sanderson High School.You may think, so what, every school has end of year award ceremonies. This school however, is much different as it is for children with “Special Needs” Let me say from the outset that all of Pamela Children , ie, Gemma, Callum , Chloe and Kaitlyn have attended special needs and to say that Pamela has brought them up , under, extreme pressure, would be an understatement, and for that , as far as i am concerned she is the original “wonderwoman”!Brought them up she has however, and all of them, with the exception of Kaitlyn will get on with there lives and follow the path it takes them, although it will not be easy.Kaitlyn however will require attention for the rest of her life and all decisions will have to be taken for her as her life progresses. Only recently we had to attend a court session where the judge had to look at the evidence with respect to Kaitlyn medical condition before “awarding” Pamela a Guardianship Cerificate and permission to take care of her/make decisions for her for next five years. Imagine that! Pamela has brought her up for 16 years and yet, there was possibility, all be it, very slim, that Kaitlyn could have been taken into care!

Of course living overseas during Kaitlyn young life, it really is ,out of sight, out of mind and not until you come to the reality of situation do realise the severe limitations that Kaitlyn has. Attending the Award Ceremony however, really brought it home to me. As I said previous, Sanderson High School is for Children with ‘ Special Needs’. This to me was for children with ‘ Learning Difficulties’ , ie reading  writing, counting etc! A couple of weeks ago i took Kaitlyn to her school prom and so I briefly had an indication that this was indeed a very special school. This was brought home to me in no uncertain terms when i entered the auditorium on Friday morning. Many of these children aged between 12-17 , boys and girls, where in wheel chairs, some with oxygen bottles attached to wheel chairs to help them to breath.Many of the other children had walking, talking and breathing difficulties.In spite of all of this, the award ceremony followed the format of what you would expect from other ‘normal frontline schools’ with all the children being given their certificates and awards  for what they had achieved thro out the term.What amazed me was that all of these children had their own personalities and this certainly came out when they were being given their awards!. The teachers who look after and bring out the very best in these children need to highly commended as does the Children’s carers who constantly have to look after their every need whilst they are at school. Last but not least to the parents who bring these children up, you are all saviours and God has you on this earth to look after these children. God bless you all .

Did I find my experience on Friday morning , Lifechanging/Humbling. You bet it did!!!!

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The 2014 Super Rugby Season .

Well it doesn’t seem like yesterday when the Chiefs won their second consecutive Super Rugby trophy and yet here we are again.Well who will win the coveted trophy this year?

I suppose there will be the usual suspects, ie , The Chiefs, Crusaders, Blues from New Zealand. From Australia,The Reds, Brumbies  and Warratahs, and, from South Africa, The Stormers, Sharks and possibly the Cheetahs , who of course got to knock out stages last year. I think the more fancied teams will be much more prepared and ready for the Cheetahs this year, and therefore I don’t see them getting out of group stage.(although i hope I am wrong!)

Lets look at the local pool winners and for me this will be, The Chiefs, The Reds and The Sharks from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa respectively.

Which Franchises are making the biggest noises? Well, that is for sure, the Blues and the Sharks, the latter, especially of whom plenty is expected under the guidance of Jake White. The Blues sees the Prodigal Son Maa Nonu returning, and I am sure they are hoping that his club form reaches the same high standards he produces for the All Blacks, this being sadly lacking in his last two seasons in Super Rugby.

Who will also reach the knock out stages? Probably, The Stormers, the Crusaders and the Reds. There will of course be the odd shock or two thro out the season, there always is, with the Rebels, Force in Australia winning the odd home game, the Cheetahs, Lions doing likewise in South Africa and the Highlanders/Hurricanes causing the odd upset in New Zealand. Have I forgotten any team, oh, yes of the Bulls with Victor Matfield back at the helm will be raring to go. I however, think they have too much re building to do and can’t see any success this year.  Who will win it? Well for me I think this is the year for the Sharks and I am hoping for a home final against the Crusaders!

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