Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 7.12.19

A winter-sun December Saturday it is and it comes as a relief in case the atmosphere inside Meadow Lane this afternoon becomes decidedly frosty. I’ll be meandering through the city for Notts County’s 3pm kick-off versus Sutton United in the Vanerama League. Heady days.

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The Magpies have been experiencing a fairly torrid time of late after an excellent run of nineteen games in which they lost only three. Things have slightly nose-dived since however with Notts drifting out into a mid-table berth. It’s all very disappointing for the team’s faithful and appears to be pointing very much towards another season of non-league football for the club unless there is an immediate and dramatic upturn in fortunes.

The city and its roads will no doubt be overcrowded today, exacerbated by Christmas shoppers, thousands of students and the (I have to say) pretty naff Christmas Fair in the Old Market Square, set to fleece visitors or their hard-earned.

Back in the heartland, Hibs take on the tough challenge of the Dandy Dons of Aberdeen. It would be good to think that Aberdeen will turn up with less of a cynical attitude than on various other visits in the past few seasons. Hibs manager, Jack Ross has the task of lifting the team after a disappointing road trip to Dingwall midweek with a 2-1 capitulation. Seeing Hibs yet again give up a lead is not edifying at the moment and questions are being asked.

These questions are invariably concerning the Hibs defence which is achieving sieve-like qualities recently. There is a major problem at Easter Road in this area of the team with several key players aging at the same time. Great and good servants such as David Gray, Lewis Stevenson, Paul Hanlon and a soon-returning Darren McGregor have for some time been needing replacements coming through but Porteous aside, there has been little by way of that. Anyhow, thinking of you, Hibees from my spot at a game here.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 16.11.19

It’s international break weekend (boo) so just the one fixture under scrutiny today, Notts County v Barrow. I’ll meander along to Meadow Lane via a quick watering hole stop to witness any damage or otherwise. Two days ago it was looking like this might be a boat trip with part of Nottingham under water. Today presents two teams in fine form, the Magpies having lost only three in the past nineteen games and Barrow having won a tremendous nine out of ten previous away games It’s fair to say that it’s anyone’s game today and the team that comes out of the traps in the best fettle will prevail. Arguably rare at this level too, both teams are renowned for trying to play good football and a passing game so it should be a reasonable spectacle which always makes the afternoon more agreeable along with the Scotch Pie and Bovril.

(Image: Economist)

North of the border and Hibs, well it’s all been happening, apart from a blank football Saturday. New manager, Jack Ross, safely installed, we can only hope for a little stability returning to Easter Road after a slightly disastrous first part of the season. It’s almost been laughable seeing some of the comment about him before barely setting foot in Leith. I sometimes wonder what drives this kind of attitude of sky-high expectation, albeit the Hibs support certainly deserves a little bit more success over the piece one could argue. Safe to say, apart from Pep Guardiola or Jurgen Klop, any candidate is going to get trashed by one section of Hibs fans or another. Good luck Jack Ross, I still believe Hibernian is a fine club, well run and with some potential. You’re going to need some good fortune though.

South Africa – World Champions 2019!

CONGRATULATIONS THE RAINBOW NATION!

You were absolutely awesome today and played like men, with heroism, skill and determination. You brought pride to your nation.

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The South Africans were not in the slightest scared by England’s bull and over-confidence

The following was sent to me by a South African pal before the game:

‘One of the teams in the Rugby World Cup Final will run onto the field knowing they have a better head to head success rate over their opposition; at home, away, at neutral venues, at World Cups and in World Cup finals. They will know in their last 17 matches against their current opposition they have won 13 games, had 1 draw and lost only 3 times. They will also know they are in fine World Cup form, having scored the most tries, the most points, dominated key statistics like lineout steals and scrum penalties and also conceded the least tries at the tournament so far.

They will take confidence from knowing they have won two World Cups in six attempts (with two bronze medals also secured), never lost a World Cup final and have never been beaten in a World Cup knockout match by any northern hemisphere side. They will also be boosted by the fact they won their most recent involvement against the British and Irish Lions, have just knocked out the World Cup hosts in the quarter finals and also knocked out the six nations grand slam champions in their semi final. They will run onto the field with the support of a Rainbow Nation behind them, knowing anything can happen in a final. The other side, England, will run out as firm favourites.

Goosebumps! Lekker Bokke!’

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 2.11.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A squelchy day in the rain is promised for me at Meadow Lane for me today as Notts County take on Hartlepool United at 3pm The ‘Monkey Hangers’ are pushing for a play-off position where the Nottingham side currently reside after a quite magnificent run of form of late. The Magpies, fresh from battering Woking 4-0 in midweek away from home in a seriously good performance will be attempting the tightest defensive record intact.

A football hits the back of the net
(Image: Independent.ie)

It’s been interesting watching Notts’ progress since the shaky days of late summer when a side was cobbled together just two days before the first game of the season. They have grown in stature, cohesion and confidence week-by-week. Pleasing too to see Notts boss, Neal Ardley grow with the team after the relentless pressure he had been under since joining the club. A good and decent man.

After the game it’s a dash home by tram and bus to Redhill and hopefully access some coverage of Hibs in their League Cup semi-final against Celtic at Hampden Park. There have been tough times for the Hibees this season of course, with the team consistently offering mediocre and punchless displays. Celtic meanwhile sit atop of the Scottish Premier League and are scoring freely. Expectations will be modest for all Hibees today but at least the team have shown some solidity and resilience of late. My wish is that they have a really good go at Celtic and don’t allow them to play their football. ‘Mon the Hibs.

Nottingham Forest also find themselves pushing for a play-off spot currently after relinquishing what might easily have been a second spot berth for them with two successive defeats. They travel south to Luton Town today hoping to get back on track. Manager Lamouchie reports healthy selection problems.

Peter Cormack, Dementia and Protecting Footballers

Some sobering news about a former footballing hero of mine today, Peter Cormack. Peter and his family have disclosed the news of his dementia diagnosis and symptoms of it he has been experiencing for some years.

Peter was an entertaining and swashbuckling attacking midfield for my team, Hibs, moving to Nottingham Forest where I was able to watch him many times as a youngster. I loved to watch him play and so did my dad who had a very high regard for our fellow Edinburgh native. As a boy I liked to try to emulate his prance-like run as Peter ran on the balls of his feet.

e1a7a3d444848ede5217f683c3823873(image: Hibernian.co.uk)

Perhaps Peter’s high watermark as a player came when performing for Liverpool in what became a trophy-laden career, as well as gaining nice full Scottish caps. As a player even as a skinny youngster he could certainly ‘dig’, pass the ball and had excellent control and vision. He was also versatile enough to leave his midfield berth and take over in goal for Hibs in an emergency as well as playing up front or in wide positions as well as his normal midfield slot. His great talent was spotted at an early age by then Hibs manager Jock Stein among others, when in 1964 in a prestige friendly game against Spanish giants, Real Madrid, Peter, just seventeen years-old scored against the legendary club.

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(Image: Shoot Magazine)

Peter, though not a big man by any means was so very talented in the air – a great header of the ball due to his agility, ability to leap and his superb timing. It brings up the subject of another former footballer, the late Jeff Astle – also an exceptional header of the ball – who passed away due to a degenerative brain disease in 2002 caused by repeated traumas through heading the heavy leather footballs of the day. This is in light of a recent dementia study that has resulted in the Scottish Football Association considering a ban on Scottish children heading the ball

On a wider note, I have a growing feeling that professional footballers, perhaps due to considerations of their their ‘wealth’ (or assumed wealth) are being somewhat sacrificed for the needs of the game. In Peter and Jeff’s day footballers were perhaps considered differently with much more modest rewards available from the game. In the modern era, it seems to me that players are increasingly vulnerable to addictions such as those of gambling, alcohol and recreational drugs. Stories of depression, anxiety and even suicidality in players due to pressures of the industry and attendant lifestyle are becoming more common and are almost certainly under-diagnosed and reported due to stigma and ignorance. It’s almost as though the players cannot complain about the issues or problems they are experiencing in the public’s view due to arguably, a minority being paid fortunes to play the game many would love to.

I do feel the football industry and individual clubs need to focus more on the health and well-being of football players – no matter how much or little they earn. Money is not a protective factor for health or mental health in these circumstances. Tales of excess and ruined lives litter the professional game and those stories are certainly not relegated to the modern era solely. Players it appears are increasingly more indulged and overprotected in everyday matters of running heir lives and careers. Their personal health and well-being however seems to be a lesser consideration. In some ways, attitudes in the game have not evolved significantly from past days with certain subjects still being subject to stigmatisation.

Good luck and bless you Peter Cormack. You gave me so many happy memories which I will always cherish. Let’s all wish for the better protection generally of the professional football players of today.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 12.10.19

Autumn rolls relentlessly on and for me it’s another visit to Meadow Lane Stadium in Nottingham to watch Notts County v Torquay United. How the not-mighty have fallen as the representatives of the English Riviera make the long trip to civilisation, possibly populating a motorised scooter. The Magpies’ boss, Neal Ardley appeared in the local media the previous day answering fan questions and reaffirmed what a genuine, principled and real football man he is. Well done Neal.

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Meanwhile, the team in black and white stripes continue their press towards the play-of positions and with a good and sizable squad look well placed to make a charge on promotion as the season wears on.

The cat will no doubt come to the end of the drive to wave me away on this brave quest of bus, tram and terrace warfare.

At the same time, my one true football love, Hibernian, kick-off at New Douglas Park as they take on Hamilton Academical in an unpredictable-looking fixture. There have been some more encouraging signs from the Hibees of late after a fairly terrible time this season so far with at least a little more grit being apparent in their play. However, the jury remains firmly out on manager Heckingbottom at the moment, if only for having a silly Yorkshire name. The grand old team still appear to be labouring under some mediocre close season recruitment Do what you’ve got to do Hibs and put a display on please for my pals in that faithful away support in deepest Lanarkshire.

Edit: Just to make sure you’re paying attention at the back, the Hibs game is next week.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 28.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game and it’s off to the city and Nott’s County’s Meadow Lane I go for the 3pm kick off against Fylde FC. It’s bargain giveaway day today as owners of club, the Reedzt brothers, have kindly offered the game for just £3 admission as a thank you for the club’s faithful sticking by their team in the dark days of last summer.

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Surprisingly, my new cat-pal-visitor decided not to follow me in the persistently precipitous weather. Cats are so smart. Notts Manager, Neal Ardley in almost a year at the club hasn’t overseen his team experience back-to-back wins in all that time and after a midweek away win, here’s another chance for the Magpies. My Saturday afternoon will be punctuated by a Scotch pie kindly provided by my Glaswegian pal at half time and earlier, checking up on the goings on at Easter Road where Hibs play Celtic. Probably by viewing my iphone through my fingers.

It’s turbulent times at Easter Road of course. Most of the dialogue features releasing Manager Paul Heckingbottom as nauseam with little debate about any other subject. I remain convinced that the Yorkshireman will find it incredibly difficult to turn fortunes around. His own lack of popularity being partly attributable to some challenging and slightly dismissive comments directed at the club’s supporters.

It was good news for Nottingham Forest last night as after an exciting 3-2 away win they went top of the Championship. Great to see Forest on top again – even if it may be short-lived. They are looking like strong challengers this season and play some exhilarating football at times through the likes of the excellent João Carvalho, Joe Lolley and Lewis Grabban.

You’ll excuse me now as the Hibernians have just kicked off and gone ahead courtesy of any own goal by Celtic’s Ajer…

Postscript:

Notts performed grittily in grinding out a 2-0 victory. Another clean sheet would have been pleasing to them as would a terrific goal by forward, Thomas. I think many have seen the team perform better this season and lost. A moment of note was when the referee was injured in a collision with a Fylde player. Needing to retire from the game, the announcer on the public address system requested any ‘fully qualified referees to please come forward’. Handily, the Pavis Stand generally finds itself well stocked with ‘referees’! The Magpies now find themselves on the cusp of the play-off places for the first time this season.

Hibs competed well in a slightly tempestuous and feisty game with quite some controversy. Manager Heckingbottom managed to get himself banished to the stands after kicking a Gatorade bottle in anger, hitting a linesman! Some good signs but much work to do.

Saturday’s The Day We Play The Game 14.9.19

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A sunny September day in Nottingham and it’s a trip to Meadow Lane to see Notts County v Halifax Town. The last time I watched these two football behemoths face off must have been about 1973 at The Shay in Halifax, comfortably the most awful football ground I’ve ever stepped in (and that’s a few).

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There’ll be no loose shale underfoot on the terrace for opposition fans to throw at each today in a comparatively sterile atmosphere.Just a need to duck no doubt from a few errant long balls coming down from the stratosphere from Notts’ cultured defenders.

My first love, Hibs’ supporters are on the sixty-mile road to Kilmarnock to see Hibernian play. Come on the Hibs!

Forest take on league leading Swansea in a tough-looking fixture on the road at the Liberty Stadium.

Postscript:

Notts ran out worthy winners by a goal to nil having played practically half the game with ten men after captain, Michael Doyle received a red card.

Hibernian suffered a miserable-sounding 0-2 reverse to Kilmarnock amid fresh clamour for manager Heckingbottom’s head – preferably before the Edinburgh derby in just seven days time…

Forest had a terrific 1-0 win over first-placed Swansea with skilful Portuguese midfielder, João Carvalho apparently showing his full range of trickery.

Happy 75th Birthday, Pat Stanton

Happy 75th Birthday Pat Stanton, Hibernian legend.

Perhaps no player embodied the ethos of the Hibernians more than Pat. On the field of play he was elegent, poised and personified class. He played the ‘Hibs way’ and led by an an example that few, if any, could ever match. What a glorious and wonderful footballer he was. You knew you were in the presence of greatness when watching Pat Stanton play the beautiful game.
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‘What a time that was at the Hibs. We were the last of the romantics.’ – Pat Stanton’.

A descendent of Hibernian co-founder Michael Whelahan an emigree of County Rosscommon after the Great
Famine in Ireland, Pat Stanton upholds the link between present day and the 1875 of its Irish founding fathers.

As a young man, Pat with his dark, Irish good looks, and gentlemanly and kindly manner was a fine ambassador for the club he loves. He remains so at 75 years. Safe to say, no player in the club’s long history demands more respect and fully deserved, downright adoration. Happy Birthday, King Paddy.

‘Sir’ Geoffrey Boycott

Ex-cricketer, Geoff Boycott is awarded a knighthood by the recently departed Tory leader. I’m no fan of the honours system and here we see a particular beastly example of it. Boycott was found guilty just over twenty hears ago of beating his partner, Margaret Moore and received a three-month suspended prison sentence plus a fine of 50,000 francs.

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Margaret Moore after the 1996 attack

The court was told of him punching his partner twenty times with Boycott’s story being that she’d had an ‘accidental fall’.

We have to consider if the subject of domestic abuse is still not taken seriously. 

To give a further insight into this man’s character, in 2017, when asked about his prospects of gaining a knighthood he commented that he would be more likely to be given the award if he ‘blacked up’. He then bluntly stated that knighthoods were given to West Indian cricketers such as Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Vivian Richard ‘like confetti. (Clue: they were much better and less selfish cricketers than you mate).

I had a brief experience of Boycott a lot of years ago as a youngster. After leaving school I had a job at Trent Bridge Cricket Ground for a few months. Part of my duties on match days were to go out on to the pitch at the end of the session and ask the batting team whether they would like the light or heavy roller to be used on the wicket before the next session. I remember Boycott’s slightly threatening response to this simple and unassuming question: ‘I want the heavy roller and I want the full f**king seven minutes lad.’

I mean really, to a sixteen year-old kid?

Compare this say to gentleman, Clive Lloyd, the West Indies captain’s response: ‘The heavy roller please young man, thank you very much’.

Les Strongman

i WAS SO SORRY to hear of the passing of a real Nottingham sporting legend. Les Strongman. Canadian Les, hailing from Winnipeg, Manitoba, joined the inaugural Nottingham Panthers line-up immediately after the war in 1946 and over eleven seasons iced 508 times for the Panthers recording 733 points (402+331). Les also had stints playing in Malmo, Sweden, Zurich, Switzerland and for the Wembley Lions in London.

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Les Strongman appearing for the Nottingham Panthers 1950/51.
Les was reputedly the first hockey player in the UK to wear a helmet after sustaining a head injury when hitting the boards at Lower Parliament Street

When the club reformed in 1980 after being extinct for twenty years, Les re-joined in a coaching role and latterly coached the younger teams and took a committee role. Many will remember him for his newsagents business opposite the old Nottingham Ice Rink on Lower Parliament Street which he kept for many years. I managed to see him skate in charitable affairs and his coaching role long after retirement. Well into his sixties, his style was remarkable, super smooth and effortless. The left wing also had a laser beam of a shot. The greatness of his youth was still clearly evident.

In addition to being a great gentleman, Les had clearly been a very special player and was often talked about along with his amazing line-mate, fellow Winnipeg native Chick Zamick as centre ice to Les. Together they plundered hundreds of points for the Nottingham team in a wonderful partnership.

After many decades living in the UK, Les decided to re-emigrate back to Canada in his senior years to be closer to his son and daughter. He died peacefully, aged 95 years after a lifetime of achievement. He will be remembered fondly in the city which he chose to call home for so many years.

Rest in Peace, Les Strongman

A Notts County ‘Protest’

A Notts County ‘protest’. This is a football club that faces possible extinction in just four days time. A winding up order due to an HMRC debt of approximately £250,000 has been served and postponed twice in hearings. The coming Wednesday hearing could dictate prior administration or even possible liquidation on the day. No more football club.

The club’s Chairman and owner, Alan Hardy, has a litany of arrogant, reckless gambling on Notts’ future in order to feed his narcissism. His building interiors company is in receivership with 100 staff unceremoniously made redundant without payment due to money taken out of it to feed his football vanity project.

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Nott’s County’s playing and non-playing staff remain unpaid after reassurances of meeting this commitment by the owner.
He has seemingly, continually lied about the future of the football club by issuing false promises. He has additionally, embarrassed himself, his family and the club by accidentally exposing his genitals on a Twitter post. A short while ago he manifested his lack of humility by complaining endlessly and finally appealing against yet another speeding conviction – driving at fully 77mph in a 40mph zone. Apparently, Mr Hardy is the ‘busiest man in the world’ and the laws of the land do not apply to him.

He has not denied negotiations with a consortium of possible new club owners who have at the helm a convicted fraudster with a changed name who shamefully embezzled money out of pensioners and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Hardy has presided over the Nottingham club’s demise in being relegated from the Football League after a long 157 year history. Currently the team find themselves without enough players to adequately cover requirements and using last year’s kit as Puma state they have not received payment for a new one from the club. Today the team also find themselves in their first friendly fixture of the season away at Nuneaton Borough FC, needing to drive their own transport to the game due to no money being available for a team coach.

The image shows the extent of Notts County’s fans’ action in response to the near-complete demise of their club –just thirty fans protesting outside the Meadow Lane stadium. (Apparently, it was raining). Plenty do care though care and it’s those faithful and persevering souls I feel sorry for.

Notts County Depart The Football League

Yesterday saw the black and white side of the football divide in Nottingham depart the Football League after a disastrous season. On the final day of the season, Notts required all three points at Swindon Town with the Magpies’ relegation rivals Macclesfield needing to lose at home to Cambridge United. It was a difficult task but one that looked  for a short period into the second half of the games with Notts a goal to the good and Macclesfield trailing by a goal. ‘ It’s the hope that kills you’ as the saying goes though with matters coming to an ignominious end among tears of sorrow among the faithful at the final whistle.

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(Pic: Nottingham Post)

It’s at least good to see that many true football fans can recognise the sadness in the situation of Notts County being relegated from the Football League yesterday. The ending of 130 consecutive years in the League, which they were a founding member of. Notts have been in existence for 157 long years.

Living here, I’ve taken the opportunity to attend Meadow Lane quite regularly this season (and Forest too) and observed this absolutely disastrous season unfold. Most would apportion much of the blame to Chairman, Alan Hardy, a local businessman who bought the club 30 months ago. An attention seeking, somewhat egotistical figure, he has in the past few months presided over not only the demise of Notts County but also his largest company, Paragon, leaving a redundant, unpaid workforce and a trail of creditors including many smaller sub-contractors.

Earlier this year he added to the circus by inadvertently posting a picture of his genitals in a Tweet. Yes, you did read that right, he left his phone’s camera roll on the image he posted. Prior to that he was prosecuted for speeding at 77mph in a 40mph area which he continually griped about in the media and arrogantly appealed against.

Sacking two managers earlier in the season, (the first one widely reported as being allegedly heavily on the sauce) he panicked and sanctioned the signing of several players in January for third Manager, Ardley. The problem is that around 80% of the Manager’s choices did not want to sign for the Magpies due to their perilous position and also because by now many agents refused to deal with Notts due to previous non-payment.

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Distraught Notts fans (Pic: Nottingham Post)

Neil Ardley has struggled with an almost impossible situation since his appointment in November. He’s shown himself to be a good, honourable and decent man though naturally has had much of the blame set on his shoulders. The club’s supporters have been magnificent in their support, turning up in average numbers of 7,300 at home, the third highest in the division.

I’m not a Notts or Forest supporter, I’m 100 per cent Hibs but I enjoy the local teams here doing well and creating a vibrant sporting culture in the city I live in. Notts County meant a great deal to my late mum’s brothers for many years. We know how this works in football, these are the ties that bind, through the generations. I myself was introduced to Nottingham football as a youngster by an uncle who who would kindly take me to both Meadow Lane and Forest’s City Ground on alternate Saturdays. A very varied experience with Notts at the foot of the Fourth Division playing in front of 3,000 fans and Forest challenging at the top of the First Division with regular attendance between 30,000 and 40,000.

At this time there is said to be a takeover in process by a South African consortium. The truth of that is subject to some doubt though. It would not be overly dramatic to say that the whole club’s future lies in the balance. Things will be tough on the field too, there have been some notable successes of teams leaving the Football League and returning stronger, Luton, Lincoln and Mansfield etc. but there are many more that have stayed in obscurity, almost fatally wounded.

Congratulations to Macclesfield on their hard fought survival, they deserved it. I do feel incredibly sad for Notts County’s supporters though after the darkest day in their long history. A little piece of my family background disappeared with it too.

Notts are in the balance…

Saturday’s the day we play the game.

A possible swansong for Notts County as a Football League club beckons on Saturday for a somewhat ominous-feeling visit to Meadow Lane a few miles away. The Magpies make their final home appearance of a disastrous season against Grimsby’s Mariners. A day which must bring a heart-sad feeling to many a Notts supporter. I can feel for them.

Recent weeks have seen growing anger and disbelief at their team’s many dismal showings and the extremely worrying news regarding the at-risk future of the club itself. Although crowds have remained fairly healthy for a team propping up the rest of the Football League, it’s been sad to hear some of the vitriol aimed at the players and especially the manager, Neil Ardley.

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Fighter – Notts midfielder Michael Doyle

I really can’t say whether Mr Ardley is a good manager or not. He was brought into an incredibly dire situation with a bloated and underperforming squad, shorn of confidence, one with little dynamism, energy, goal-scoring and no clue on the basics of defending. His single window of opportunity in the transfer market in January being recently reported as featuring 80% of his targeted players being ‘unwilling ‘ to sign for Notts, leaving him with limited choices. He is however, clearly a good and honest football man though, unselfish and courteous towards his many critics. I find it a little sickening the way he is being referred to by some ‘fans’ of the club – enough indeed to make me question how much success they really deserve. I don’t need to expand on the recent reported death threats and vile abuse forwarded at club staff via an ever more appalling social media. They are beneath contempt.

In January , the ex-Wimbledon manager, Ardley, brought in fully eight players from what were slim pickings. Within those players have been the experienced midfield heads of Scot, Jim O’Brien and Irishman, Michael Doyle. Clearly a pair of battle-hardened warrior pros they have strove manfully with others such as the excellent Mitch Rose to bring some fight into a lacklustre situation. Another veteran, former Scottish international Craig Mackail-Smith has belied his age with some energetic performances, when played.

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Subject of abuse – Neil Ardley

The weeks have passed and opportunities for safety appeared and quickly disappeared on a regular basis, Notts unable to capitalise on the failings of their relegation rivals and now there are just two games left to alter the fate of this club. It is now partly out of their own hands with a win for Macclesfield Town tomorrow spelling relegation to the desert of non-league football after 157 years long years.

It is a little tragic yes, but then Notts County don’t have or deserve any special privilege in these matters, by the end of Saturday or the following one they will have recognised and deserved their fate and so will their rivals. Before this set of fixtures I have really felt deeply for the first time that they are more likely to be relegated than not. Time may have finally caught up with them.

I do believe though that Notts have players such as the aforementioned Doyle and O’Brien who will fight to the death in these two games. We can ask for no more. I’m going to channel a little bit of Jimmy Sirrel magic for them, they really need it.

Neil Lennon and Hibs

Very sad and dismayed at the news from Easter Road that it appears Neil Lennon may have managed his last game for the club. A great many rumours and not too many facts being reported currently and so I’ll reserve judgment for the moment.

I am a fan of Neil Lennon’s abilities. He makes mistakes like every single other manager but for me is the most talented Hibs manager for many a year. Crucial is his winning mentality, steel and determination which he brought to the team. Far from being the ‘soft touches’ often considered in the past – something which many had yearned for.

My main comment for the moment is the concern that his assistant and the rest of the managerial staff seem firmly supportive of him and on his side. They appear to feel he has been treated badly by inference. That speaks loudly to me and raises real concerns akin to the bad old days of the manner in which the club and team were managed.

One For Sorrow….

Notts County 0 – 1 Cambridge United

IN A SOMEWHAT turbulent week for Nottingham football partly due to the departure of Forest manager, Aitor Karanka on the opposite banks of the Trent, I took advantage of a giveaway offer of two pounds admission at Meadow Lane to watch Notts County entertain Cambridge United on this murky January afternoon.

If there is such a thing as a ‘six-pointer’ this game would undoubtedly have qualified as one. The Magpies rock-bottom and propping up the entire league and the Cambridge men only a couple of places above. Notts desperately needed to drag their opposition deeper into the dogfight but proved unable.

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(Pic: Nottingham Post)

New signing, Jim O’Brien immediately slotted in well for the home team with the Scot giving an assured display in the middle of the park. At long last someone with the ability to put their foot on the ball and look for a pass. Someone with a little time and organisation to dictate play. A shame to say but few of his teammates took his lead. Allessandra might be excused with his neat touches but there were few other exceptions. The wholehearted Stead, a classy performer at higher levels of the game in previous seasons very much looked his 35 years all afternoon, winning few headers and generally being behind the pace of the game. Notts not only defended poorly but the rearguard continually launched the ball forwards nervously and aimlessly to no one in particular.

In general, Cambridge looked the superior team all over the park, more dangerous in the box and more efficiently guarding their own. A large crowd of over 15,000, apart from the Cambridge contingent who were in fine voice, showed signs of restlessness as Notts’ mistakes piled up Conceding deep into the first half saw the Nottingham men on the back foot for the second period with a mountain to now climb.

It may be recorded that despite throwing everything they could at Cambridge, the Magpies looked ineffective and not seriously looking like scoring through the second half. The crowd grew ugly in mood, especially so as they booed the players off the pitch at the close.

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Beleaguered Manager, Neil Ardley

(Pic: Nottingham Post)

Some reflections: I felt for manager, Neil Ardley today who cut a bewildered figure in this technical area. A man of some considerable experience with now just one win in eight games since arriving. He must be seriously wondering how to get a result out of this side.

There is a despondency about the club and around the ground that is palpable. Many look resigned and almost beyond anger. I left the stadium wondering how on earth the club could pull this situation of likely relegation to non-league status around. The fact is I cannot envisage their safety. I feel that despondency for their supporters too. I truly don’t believe that they will avoid their fate. They do not have the talent, heart or ability to survive and they will deserve their fate because of this.

Today, for the first time I felt truly sorry for Notts County. For over 150 years the city of Nottingham has owned two league clubs in Notts and Forest. I largely grew up with that since early days here and it is part of the fabric and culture of this city.

Sadly, I fear for not too much longer.

Newcastle United 0 Dustbins 1

Quite a few Hibs supporters I know seem to have a soft spot for Newcastle United. Maybe it’s an East coast thing but I can’t claim similar, quite the contrary. It’s probably partly to do with them unfairly ejecting Nottingham Forest from the FA Cup a lot of years ago when Forest were giving them a beating at St James’ Park and their fans invaded the pitch and physically attacked the Forest players. A story from a local radio interview this morning with Frank Clark, highly decorated Forest full-back and former Newcastle player therefore seemed extra funny.

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Frank mentioned a coach at Newcastle in the early days who’d organised a training session where the first team would play a ghost team (an imaginary eleven). This particular day they tried a different version using dustbins as the opposition – the ball came to Frank and he passed it back to the goalie, Gordon Marshall. Unfortunately, Gordon was sorting out his cap and gloves at the edge of the goal and Frank’s pass went straight past him and into the net.

The coach was furious and abandoned the game – the dustbins had won!

NEWCASTLE UNITED 0 DUSTBINS 1

Notts County – A Broken Club

Notts County 0- 3 Cheltenham

I’m really beginning to believe that for the first time ever, Nottingham will have just one League club come next season, losing the oldest of all League clubs. The Magpies are in a dreadful tailspin as shown today by a resounding and somewhat pitiful capitulation at home against a team placed almost rock bottom and without a win in nine games.

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This team has few notable qualities. It can’t defend to save its life, has no creativity, it is dispirited and broken. There is no leadership but more to the point, little ability. The club’s Chairman, Alan Hardy has shown himself to be ego-driven and impetuous in his decision making. He behaves as though he understands the game and what is required for success but in reality is merely an enthusiastic fan manifesting a misplaced arrogance.

Manager-less after sacking a manager who had just fourteen games with the team, there are few quality contenders to replace him. Notts are far from a ‘big’ club as I seem to keep hearing and they are certainly no ‘sleeping giant’ as is oft-quoted. They appear to be a very old institution in terminal decline, travelling headlong to possibly years of oblivion. I have a different football allegiance personally but I do feel to lose that history will be a sad day for the city.

Leicester’s Loss: Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

In perhaps the most apt result of the day, Leicester City win their game away at Cardiff. The whole of the Leicester City  playing and managerial staff lining up to pay tribute in an emotional minute’s silence for the tragic loss of Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. The Chairman sadly losing his life seven days prior in a horrific helicopter crash whilst leaving Leicester City’s King Power Stadium.

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Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha

Nor should we forget the other four people who sadly perished in that terrible scene, Kaveporn Punpare, Nusara Suknamai, Izabela Roza Lechowicz and Eric Swaffer.

Well loved in the city for his kindness and philanthropy, I feel for that club and the people of that city. It has been my good fortune to recently read of his many and selfless deeds here in the East Midlands. There are far too few people like Vichai in the world of football and in the world generally

Just one example of the type of man Vichai was. May he and his friends Rest in Peace.

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Jose Ragoobeer, who lost his family

‘My whole family died and Leicester City’s owner was there to help me’

The Bipolar Nature of Modern Football

You know, sometimes I really feel like turning my back on football completely, as I’ve been known to do in the past.

Football fans have always been fickle and that’s the truth, no surprise there, nothing new. It didn’t seem to work on a game-to-game basis as it now does however with the bipolar nature of many supporters in these times. It’s tiresome, immature and largely fuelled by social media the internet in general and by people who can barely spell ‘Hibs’ who really shouldn’t be left alone in charge of a computer or mobile phone.

It seems we live in times where many cannot accept a defeat of any description without lashing out or finding someone to blame.

And it’s utterly boring.

The Cowgate, Edinburgh ‘Little Ireland’ – scene of the foundation of  Hibernian FC

It’s been a tumultuous week in the Edinburgh football world with a bad tempered and fractious clash between two age-old protagonists in Hibernian and their city rivals, Hearts in midweek. After that game many stood in support of Hibs Manager, Neil Lennon who suffered in a violent incident and who has now spoken of the greater problem surrounding that sectarian abuse in Scotland. We’ve witnessed ‘Only one Neil Lennon’, ‘in Lennon we trust’ and the usual stuff (that is quite incongruent with how he was spoken of before he took charge at Easter Road I should add) and the dubious reception he was afforded by some.

Since that time he has proved his worth, ability and professionalism time after time, while Hibs in general have reached greater heights as a club than they have in many a year. Lennon is the best Manager I have witnessed at the club since Eddie Turnbull and the Famous Five legend vacated the role some thirty-eight long years ago. Attendances at Easter Road are the highest in a generation, the grand old club is buoyant, expertly and professionally run with vision and purpose and in a more healthy financial position than I can actually recall. Apparently, this is not good enough though.

Below is just a fraction of the childish garbage I’ve read this evening since the final whistle sounded today. Don’t worry though, you can be certain Neil Lennon will be a football genius by the time Hibs have won their next game.

Sometimes I think I’ll just concentrate on watching ice hockey instead. I feel pretty sickened with the whole thing just recently…

‘Forget the hype..Lennons nae better a manager than that has gone before..alex miller, jim duffy, Mcleish, even boaby williamson’

‘Cmon tae f***..he’s an average manager at best….big chip on his shoulder’

‘Off the field antics affecting us.’

‘Horrendous result.’

‘Starting to worry bout this side. Lennon is not convincing me with his recent starting 11s’

‘Not convinced Lennon knows his best team. Starting to have my doubts’

‘I don’t even think he rates us (Hibs) with some of his comments.’

‘tactical decisions have been questionable’

‘Starting to get a bit concerned’

‘Lets be honest last two displays have been terrible.’

‘would you blame both on Lennon ? I would’

‘How s**** whittacker (sic) is’

‘Without Kamberi, Jamie MacLaren is useless’

Notts’ St Patrick’s Day Draw In Blizzard

SATURDAY 17TH MARCH, ST PATRICK’S DAY and a lunchtime visit to Meadow Lane Stadium to take in a local Nottinghamshire derby game between Notts County and their counterparts some fifteen miles north, Mansfield Town. Most definitely a ‘six-pointer’ with the Stags lying just two places behind Notts in third place in League Two.

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Notts County V Mansfield 17th March 2018

A less familiar 1pm kick-off meaning a direct journey via bus and bus to the Meadows, just short of Trent Bridge and taking my seat with a friend only just in time two minutes before play proceeded. A strange kaleidoscope of weather on the way there through short, sharp blizzards of fine dry snow which failed to settle at this stage but made it almost impossible to see properly as I strode across Old Market Square with muted St Patrick’s Day celebrations ensuing. I felt a little sorry for the damp squib that this year’s revelling appeared to be. The previous day and with some slightly alarming warnings of poor weather conditions, the organisers had decided to abandon the usual exuberant celebrations with an outdoor stage in Slab Square when representatives from an Irish County are invited to lead the event and receive hospitalities with a background of traditional music and dance. What a great shame and I hope the Irish diaspora of the locality can once again enjoy festivities as usual gain next year. I’m pretty sure they made the best of things though.

St Patrick’s Day parade in a snowy Nottingham Old Market Square. (Image: Nottingham Post)

The game itself set off at furious pace is is the way of these games with a length of the pitch falling in the shade of the Derek Pavis Stand white over with thin powdery snow. Today was not to be a day for silky football skills but rather a war of attrition waged in sub-zero, quite appalling conditions at times. At regular intervals the blizzards re-emerged making it quite difficult to watch the game effectively as snow came breezing through under the high roof of the stand resting on the few thousand people within it. A quite bizarre scene at times and one I scarcely recall witnessing in thousands of games over many years in different stadiums.

With just a short journey for Mansfield’s following, a good 4,500 or so of their supporters inhabited the Jimmy Sirrel Stand and made their presence felt from prior to the whistle. A 12,500 attendance rated as a healthy one for a League Two game in such unpleasant conditions.

With prevailing weather conditions prohibiting more expansive play it was probably not surprising that the first goal was a somewhat scrappy one, Notts’ experienced veteran, Shola Ameobi rattling the crossbar with a header and the ball falling to the Magpies’ Hawkridge’s feet to bundle into the net.Play being fairly even, it was a significant marker for Notts in getting their noses in front.

Notts other experienced striker, John Stead played an influential part in the game in his promptings from up front, attempting to bring his teammates into the play. There were a few angry skirmishes as one might expect from such a tightly fought fixture with much at stake. Notts midfielder, Noble impressed at intervals with his commanding play while Mansfield’s Conrad Logan enjoyed a solid performance, the former Hibs hero solid in the Stags’ goal.

Wintry conditions at Meadow Lane. (Image Nottingham Post)

The game appeared to be blustering towards a merciful finish and a victory to the home side before referee Woolmer signalled for seven minutes of stoppage time. After a full 98 minutes, Alessandra of Notts handled just inside the area to concede a penalty to Mansfield which Kane Kemmings emphatically dispatched into the Notts County net. With little time left, honours ended even at 1-1.

I noticed that post-match, Magpies young Manager, Kevin Nolan was unhappy about the decision and the amount of time being added on, not for the first time recently him complaining about officials in his frustration. I hope he manages to address this as in this case, for me, it was nothing more nor less than a stonewall penalty as playbacks showed.

So thankfully, I filed out of Meadow Lane and towards the Meadows and the city centre beyond. One late piece of drama was on the bus itself with some confusion reigning and passengers trooping off the bus from the upper deck. We were finally told that a man was unwell upstairs and that emergency services had been summoned. I walked off to catch the appropriately named ‘Jimmy Sirrel and Jack Wheeler’ tram further towards the city whilst I read in retrospect that the unfortunate ‘casualty’ had to be ‘extracted’ from the upper deck by the fire services. I hope he’s alright, whoever he is.

The tram drew through a fairly dismal looking Old Market Square, the Irish boys and girls no doubt ensconced in Nottingham’s comfortable bars, and towards home and a warming hot drink and a welcome place by the fireside.

Sir Roger Bannister

Rest in Peace, Sir Roger Bannister. Seen here in the classic shot of him about to breast the tape at Iffley Road, Oxford becoming the first man ever to run a sub-four minute mile. Ably assisted by fellow athletes, Chris Brasher and Christopher Chataway. Not only a great athlete but a learned man and a gentleman in the true sense.

Reading about Roger’s great feat at Oxford and his modern, individualist thoughts on training were an inspiration to me as young teens middle-distance runner. For me he appeared to know exactly what he was trying to achieve and the way in which he would do it. The planning of the Iffley Road event was a final testament to that clear and uncluttered thinking.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011, his words when talking of the subject three years later were characteristic:

‘I have seen, and looked after, patients with so many neurological and other disorders that I am not surprised I have acquired an illness. It’s in the nature of things, there’s a gentle irony to it.’

Dignity, greatness and an inspiration to all – Sir Roger Bannister

Lowdham Book Festival 2017: ‘The Lord Of Milan’

IT’S FLAMING JUNE ONCE MORE and that means the annual Lowdham Book Festival, a very favourite series of events of mine in a local Nottinghamshire village. Driving into the village and observing a new 20mph limit on Main Street, Saturday’s fluffy white clouds were punctuated by spells of very warm sun shining on the familiar homes and businesses lining the village’s main thoroughfare.

My destination this afternoon was mainly about a visit to the quaint Methodist Chapel for a talk promoting a book about a somewhat little-known Nottingham sportsman, one Herbert Kilpin, by author, Robert Nieri. The book being the product of a labour of love and some thorough and serous, yet enjoyable sounding research in Northern Italy and nearer home in Nottinghamshire.

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Herbert Kilpin

Hebert Kilpin, termed ‘The Lord of Milan’ was the ninth of fifteen children born to a butcher at 129 Mansfield Road, Nottingham, a modest and narrow building still situated though renumbered since Kilpin’s day. Young Herbert was a keen footballer and played for local amateur teams the Garibaldi Reds and Nottingham Olympic on the nearby Forest Recreation Ground, where Nottingham Forest were named.

Herbert entered the lace trade as an assistant in Nottingham, working in the Adams Building on Stoney Street in the city, as the author explained in a job that entailed him running up and down spiral staircases in the warehouse all day long, helping him keep fit for his football. It was here that he met Edoardo Bosio, an Italian-Swiss merchant and football innovator who formed the Internazionale Torino Football and Cricket Club. Herbert at 21 years, was persuaded to join Edoardo in Turiin to work in the textile industry and to play for the Torino club.

After a period, the Nottingham man moved to Milan to work where he continued to commute each weekend to Turin to play for Bosio’s club, probably a three-hour train journey each way in those days. Eventually, Herbert decided to form a club of his own in Milan. What followed changed the history of Association Football as the early AC Milan came into being, the storied Italian team in the famous red and black strip, chosen by Kilpin for its intimidatory qualities, which became for a period the word’s top club with fully seven European Cups to its name among other significant European and domestic silverware.

A few years ago, Milan supporters became interested in the origins of their founder and a number visited Nottingham to see the home where he was born in 1870. Unfortunately, at that time, some were unaware that since Kilpin’s day the buildings on Mansfield Road had been renumbered due to the building of the Victoria Railway Station down at the foot of the road. This resulted on some of the Italian fans reporting and visiting erroneously a restaurant some doors away. This misapprehension has been corrected since and a small ceremony held to herald Kilpin’s real home.

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Herbert Kilpin’s home, Mansfield Road, Nottingham (centre blue building)

Recently, a former long-closed restaurant in Nottingham has reopened as a public house and happily been named as The Herbert Kilpin, advertising Herbert’s great achievement in initiating the huge Italian football club. A city bus which travels Mansfield Road has been named after him and a youth football trophy is also named after him.

Affable, informative and pleasant speaker, Robert Nieri told us that he had been involved in talking to children in local schools about Herbert’s amazing story, of his modest skills but huge determination and spirit and that this is what the schoolchildren reported they took from the butchers son’s story – that you can achieve anything you want to in life given the determination and work ethic. Perhaps this message was Herbert Kilpin – The Lord of Milan’s greatest achievement of all.

Denis Law – The King

I came across the below pressing clipping on Twitter on the excellent Scots Footy Cards @ScotsFootyCards account. It reminded me of what was a quite pronounced Indian summer to my number one football hero, Denis Law’s career. The memories came flooding back. I will write more extensively about ‘The Lawman’ on another occasion but just wanted to acknowledge this nice snapshot into his latter dynamic career.

Denis Law

I remember this period of Denis’s career very well. Manchester United’s glory days receding into the distance at the time. The legend of Sir Matt Busby pushed ‘upstairs’. Bobby getting older and the Belfast Boy sadly succumbing to the drink.
Denis was 33 years-old and by some people’s reckoning it was pretty much all over for the mercurial ‘Lawman’. Injuries had seemingly taken their toll. And then…a new lease of life and an eventual Scotland recall in time for the World Cup in West Germany.

Around this time I remember Jimmy Hill waxing lyrical about Denis’s performance on Match of the Day one Saturday evening. Back from injury or suspension – the latter hardly a rare occurrence – he dominated the whole game covering every inch of the pitch with his electric pace. I swear sparks were flying off him in all directions. Clearing off his own line one minute, buzzing menacingly in the opposing penalty box the next. He was totally irresistible He was Denis Law.

Tommy Gemmell ‘Lisbon Lion’

TODAY SAW THE PASSING of the great Celtic and Scotland full back, Tommy Gemmell, immortalised ‘Lisbon Lion’, and formidable warrior in the green and white hoops for a decade between 1961 and 1971. Tommy, a driving force of nature from his defensive berth scored in two European Cup Finals for Celtic, most memorably the pile driving hammer blow that bulged the much-fancied Inter Milan’s net in 1967.

The Craigneuk, Wishaw man played on some 418 occasions for the Bhoys, scoring a remarkable 63 times and making 18 appearances in the Dark Blue of Scotland. The Celtic defender was also a fearsome penalty taker with a success rate of 34 goals from 37 attempts. It is my belief that the Celtic side of that era was not only the finest club side in the world but certainly the best I have witnessed in my fifty-something years of watching the beautiful game. That every player in that side hailed from a reasonably close radius of Glasgow made their greatness even more notable. it is a great and wonderful player indeed that can dominate in that kind of company for such a prolonged and consistent period.

It was a memorable night indeed 25 May 1967 when I ran home from playing football on the local recreation ground with my friends to find a place with my dad in front of the small black and white TV in the corner of the room. Although dad and I were died in the wool Hibs fans, Celtic represented not only themselves but also Scotland that night and we sat in great excitement whilst home-grown Celtic imposed themselves on the great Milan giants of the game. Dare I say even, a team of our own ‘ilk’ in Celtic, speaking as a Hibs fan.

Tommy was hugely instrumental that night and we cheered wildly when his rasping right-footer from the edge of the penalty area hit the net to do Celtic and Scotland proud. The first British team to win the trophy, as is sometimes overlooked south of the border I have to add.

European Cup winners, 1967 Celtic ‘The Lisbon Lions’

Even as a youngster, I was always struck by Tommy’s great likeness to the superb entertainer, Danny Kaye. So alike, they seemed almost interchangeable at times. It amused me today to read in an obituary that Tommy himself was very aware of this fact and indeed saw himself as a master entertainer!

Big Tam was not a man to be messed with though as West German internationalist, Helmut Haller found out to his cost after taking a sly kick at the Celtic man in a 1970 World Cup qualifier against Scotland. Tommy chased Haller down and simply kicked him up in the air after the whistle had blown. The full back would tell a tale in later years that he was ‘still looking for his foot’ after the incident! Unfortunately, Celtic Chairman, Sir Robert Kelly was not amused, claiming that Tommy had besmirched the name of Celtic with his aggressive behaviour which resulted in Celtic Manager, Jock Stein dropping him for the Scottish League Cup Final the week after. Not best pleased, Tam immediately slapped in a transfer request which he later withdrew. Damage, perhaps lasting, had been sustained to his relationship with the legendary Parkhead Manager though.

Tommy later played 39 times for Nottingham Forest and on 94 occasions for Dundee before retiring to a stint in management with Dundee and Albion Rovers. He will be remembered for his dynamism, power and irresistible, surging ability from his defensive position. He was most certainly one of Scotland’s greatest men.

God Bless, Tommy. Sleep well.

Tommy Gemmell 1943-2017 ‘Lion of Lisbon’

Goodbye, Philippe Montanier

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NOTTINGHAM FOREST BOSS,  Philippe Montanier’s reign of just seven months ends making the club increasingly rudderless. Perhaps surprisingly quoting Churchill, the Frenchman departs with the words ‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts’. Poignant words for us all to consider.

Montanier evidently made a few mistakes but he is a decent man of honour and one with considerable experience and success. Crucially, I don’t believe he was allowed to run his own team due to the meddling of crackpot Chairman, Fawaz. This was most spectacularly seen when Scotland starlet, Oliver Burke, was offloaded to Red Bull Leipzig for £13M and replacing with very little – despite promises to the contrary.

His leaving mirrors the departure recently of John Sheridan, from Notts County – another good football man and talented manager, also after seven months.

Is anyone else utterly bored stiff with the stupid and pointless managerial merry-go-round that is professional football these days?

Hibs open Easter Road on Christmas Day for those less fortunate

Hibernian FC is a football club that in recent times has rediscovered and unearthed overtones of its original purpose in the community it represents. That early initial purpose, born and conceived back in the 1880s, is one of the cornerstones of why I love this club so much, that together with family tradition, truth, loyalty and the glue it embodies to me.

Christmas time should be one of joy and yet sadly, we understand that it can be distressing, lonely and heart-breaking for many, many people.

I am happy to read today that my Hibs are opening the doors of Easter Road on Christmas Day to those in need, providing up to 250 people a Christmas lunch, carols, a Christmas movie and other festive activities.

How proud can you be? Perhaps no more proud than I am at this precise moment at reading this announcement. You know what too? I have come to expect no less of them.

Bravo, my beautiful football club. x

http://www.hibernianfc.co.uk/news/7039

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hibs-chris

 

Some thoughts on George Best

On the subject of George Best…

One could easily write many thousands of words, whole essays elucidating his dynamic story and life. For now though, just a few words on why I  believe George was he greatest of them all.

I count myself fortunate enough to have seen George in his pomp playing for Manchester United alongide Denis Law and Bobby Charlton and also with Hibs and Fulham.

I consider George to be the best of all-time, simply because at his peak it was impossible to understand how anyone could play this beautiful game any better.

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His dribbling was mesmeric and artistic, quite different to anyone else’s and he had an ability to absolutely demoralise opponents by beating them again and again. His surging breakaway runs from deep were something to behold, likewise his fabulous and insightful passing which seldom seems to be mentioned. He was tough and durable too as many a hard man defender in the sixties would testify. It’s accepted that football habits are different now but going down under the slightest pressure for George was not something he did. Notorious defenders such as Ron Harris, Norman Hunter would hack and chop at him and he’d just get up and make them look stupid.

Georgie was not only a supreme attacking talent but would also run back after players and was an excellent tackler. For not a big man his heading was superior due to his athleticism and superb timing.

I’m not one to decry the modern greats but for me it’s a fact that if George was around today, with better playing surfaces more protection from officials and better diet and training he would be the best player in the world…by a significant degree.
He was utterly magic and you couldn’t take your eyes off him when he was on the pitch, so blindingly brilliant was he and so charismatic and stylish.

What’s more, he had a wee time at my club and I for one am happy that is woven into the fabric of Hibernian’s rich history.

Rest in Peace, Jackie Sewell

In this past week, the news came through that former Notts County hero and England forward, Jackie Sewell has passed away at the age of 78 years young.

Jackie was pretty high up in my English uncles’ estimation when I used to get taken to the games in Nottingham as a youngster and I recall the hushed tones in which he was spoken of by them, referring to when they watched him at his peak in the 1950s.

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Jackie played alongside the legendary Tommy Lawton for the Magpies as his inside man and rattled in a startling 104 goals in 193 appearances for the Meadow Lane side. He later featured in the British record transfer fee at the time of £34,500, to Sheffield Wednesday and also appeared six times for England among a galaxy of star names.

It’s fair to say that Jackie was a legend of Nottingham football and his presence upon his passing at 89 years will be sorely missed. Not least at Meadow Lane where he was often to be found attending games into his senior years.

Jackie was quite some player  and ‘Lawton and Sewell’ were quite the thing in the Lace City in their day by every account and they were synonymous as a pair. England centre forward, Lawton was the perfect, classical number nine according to accounts from people I have spoken to whilst Jackie feasted expertly and clinically from the prowess of his partner. They must have been a pretty awesome pairing, to employ a sometimes overused word

Good night and God bless, Jackie.

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Notts County 1975/6

This is Notts County pictured in 1975/6 when they finished fifth in the old Division Two. Apparently this was the last time the Magpies finished above neighbours, Nottingham Forest in the league. Of course, a genius had just taken over the reigns on the opposite bank of the Trent and truly amazing things were just about to happen in Nottingham…

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At that time I watched a lot of football, each Saturday afternoon visiting Notts’ Meadow Lane or Forest’s City Ground. Most Tuesday and Wednesday night fixtures too. These familiar and affectionate imposters in my football allegiances were however only ever secondary to my one true football love residing at Easter Road and the always treasured trips home to see the green and white. What a team and what players we had in that era too…

The interesting thing about this shot to me is that I can instantly, without hesitation, name every single individual in that team photo, even the reserve goalie. In these times, of numerous loans, Bosmans and short term contracts we can barely even remember who played for our team the season before last.

Just to prove the former point, here goes:

Back row: Dave McVay, Kevin Randall, Pedro Richards, Les Bradd, Arthur Mann
Centre: Ray O’Brien, Steve Carter, Eric McManus, Frank Lane, Dave Needham, Ian Bolton
Front: Jack Wheeler (Trainer) Eric Probert, Paul Hooks, Ronnie Fenton (Manager) Brian Stubbs, Ian Scanlon, Mick Vinter.

Lewis Stevenson – Celebrating Ten Years

HIBS LEFT BACK, LEWIS STEVENSON’S  100% service to the Hibernian cause is celebrated tonight with a testimonial dinner. Many have quoted his unique position in being both a League Cup and Scottish Cup winner with the club and that is indeed impressive. It’s a different factor that I always think of with the solid Hibs left back though.

Lewis Stevenson – Hibernian FC

Lewis has never been a flashy or eye catching player, he is though totally dependable and fights with every breath he has for the cause in that green and white shirt. He knows that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back. He is a modest and unassuming character which is becoming more of a rarity in professional football these days, Many times over the years he has been maligned by a section of the support. There have often been frustrating times for the team, generally, in fairness.

My favourite memory of Lewis Stevenson, apart from watching him lift the Scottish Cup, was his incredibly mature and influential performance in midfield for Hibs on the day that Kilmarnock were destroyed 5-1 in the League Cup Final of 2007. He was immense that day, controlling the game to a large degree from his midfield berth, spraying passes all over the field. Just terrific.

It occurs to me that, by my reckoning, Lewis has played under no less than EIGHT managers in his decade at Easter Road though. Each of those managers has realised his worth to the team and sent him over that white line to represent the only team that’s worth supporting. That will do just fine for me.

Well done Lewis – here’s to many more!

Joe Baker – Gentleman and Legend

I talked to a man a few nights ago, just a little older than me, a Forest man all his days. Joe Baker was his great hero as a youngster. He told me that in 1968, when he was just a boy, Joe visited him in the General Hospital in Nottingham. Joe took that little boy a football annual as a gift and signed a photo of him playing in Forest’s dashing away white strip of the time.

Please now flash forward to the early 2000s, not long before Joe passed away. The great centre forward came back to meet his adoring fans from the 1960s in Nottingham. (Joe and his memory continue to hold a very special place in Nottingham – just like everywhere he travelled.) My friend took his football annual from that hospital visit when he was a child to a tiny city pub, The Falcon Inn, where Joe was meeting old friends in town. The landlord who had informed of his visit him asked him to keep it quiet as he didn’t want the wee howf overrun with admirers and fans.

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Another meeting some thirty-five years on and my friend got to meet his hero again. Joe apologised profusely to my friend that he couldn’t remember him as a child. He happily said that he’d signed many annuals for the sick children of Nottingham. My pal told him that he’d been his great hero and Joe simply replied, very humbly, that truly, he could never understand why he was so hero worshipped. He said that he was just doing his job which was being paid to score goals. He also said that his time in Nottingham had been the happiest time of his career and that he loved being here.

I’m a Hibs fan, born with it, I have green and white blood but boy did that last comment bring a warm feeling inside.

Joe Baker – gentleman, legend. God bless him.

Football Disconnected From its Supporters?

Reasons why professional football is a ‘bit rubbish’ nowadays, number 7062:

Oliver Burke, is a promising winger who has spent his fledgling football career at Nottingham Forest, recently breaking into the Scotland international ranks at just nineteen years old. Yesterday, he was sold in a shock move to German club, RB Leipzig for thirteen million pounds – despite the fact that he has played only twenty-five times (six as sub) for the Nottingham club. As an aside, the club’s Manager, Phillippe Montanier apparently received very recent reassurances from Forest Chairman Fawaz Al-Hasawi that the player would not be sold as the transfer deadline approached. Those reassurances clearly mean little when coming from Mr. Al-Hasawi as has been noted previously.

It’s my view that although it appears on the one hand ‘good business’ selling such an inexperienced player for such a vast sum, it is though pretty depressing for fans of any club outside of the elite – and Forest are a good, sizable and well supported English Championship club with a fairly glorious history – to know that as soon as clubs outside of that elite unearth or nurture a good prospect, it’s a very short journey to losing him to a bigger club, often as a mere bench filler.

I don’t think anyone is blaming the player or players and it can be levelled that every footballer has his price but then, so does every fan of every team have the choice of walking the other way when they’ve had enough. Football shouldn’t just revolve around a tiny favoured group of elite teams as it now does. We may as well just produce a generation of Sky TV watching Barcelona fans and be done with things.

It’s an interesting comparison that can be made with North American professional sports. Contrary, arguably to the political complexion of that continent, top sports are run on a more egalitarian system, i.e. the NHL and its draft system which allows teams to rebuild from the ground up by receiving first choice on the top young players emerging into senior ranks and therefore with astute trading and team building becoming competitive. I think it works well. Our football though is run on purely selfish and greedy lines which do not serve the majority of fans but rather entertain business first and foremost instead, often to the detriment of the supporters.

The most important factor is the health of any sport itself and to think otherwise is short-sighted. I’ll go further to say that the most important part of a sport is its fans – a much outdated concept I know these days. Unfortunately, the governing bodies in British football don’t behave in a way that suggest they understand or care about that.

Something really needs to change again in football to connect the fans back to their clubs and players as was once the case. To have that close relationship of being ‘as one’ with your club. It’s just sad to observe these days and it just doesn’t feel the same…

Lasse Viren – ‘The Flying Finn’

CONGRATULATIONS GO TO Mo Farah on a ridiculously good run to retain his Olympic 10,000m title in Rio de Janeiro.

Mo actually hit the ground after being accidentally tripped, picked himself up, controlled the race and won it in style and with absolute class and qualty. With a few hundred metres to go the experienced Brendan Foster commentating, was urging Mo not to look around over his shoulder at the possible threat from the runner in third place but rather concentrate on the man leading him in first place. Mo kept a cool head however, trusted his great ability and reeled the leader in, in classic style to finish a comfortable winner.

There were emotional scenes for Mo afterwards, understandably, as he was obviously recounted in his mind the long hours away from his family whilst training.

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Lasse Viren

His performance reminded me of my own middle distance hero, the ‘Flying Finn’ Lasse Viren who fell in the same 10,000 metre event in the Munich Olympics in 1972. Lasse defeated Australian, Ron Clarke’s seven year-old world record although falling heavily during the twelfth lap when getting tangled up with Belgian, Emiel Puttemans. Mohamed Gammoudi additionally fell over Lasse’s legs during the incident.

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Lasse falls on the way to his classic win

In under 150 metres, Virén raced back up to the leaders however, after losing approximately 20 metres to them. With around 600 metres left, Virén initiated an amazing and totally unprecedented one-and-a-half lap ‘kick’ that only Puttemans could respond meaningfully to. The great Lasse Viren ran through the tape to win the classic event in 27:38:40, still the record for the Olympiastadion München forty-four years later.

Bobby McKinlay – a Portrait of Loyalty

RECENTLY, I CONTRIBUTED to a discussion regarding ‘loyal’ footballers. Those two words together seem an anachronism these days and personally, I don’t see players who deign themselves to stay with the likes of the Manchester Uniteds et all of this world receiving out-of-this-world remuneration

The first player that came instantly to my mind was one that many will not have heard of.

Bobby McKinlay was a Fifer from Lochgelly in Scotland who was associated with Nottingham Forest between the years of 1951 and 1970. Over those years, Bobby made 614 appearances for Forest, his only top class club and scored nine times.

Bobby, though uncompromising enough on the field of play, was a gentleman on and off the pitch and was renowned and loved at the City Ground for that. Young supporters were always, in particular, treated well and kindly by Bobby, him making sure they all got team autographs and bringing treats to share out among the kids when they would gather after Forest training mornings for signing sessions in the club car park.

After retirement he became an officer at the local Lowdham Grange Borstal in Notts, where his even-tempered and understanding way with young people brought him great credit in his new career.

Though playing at centre half, Bobby wore the Garibaldi red fully 439 times before being even booked. The irony is that it was after being pulled up for a foul on an Arsenal player and booting the ball into the crowd, a player by the name of Joseph Henry Baker – a dynamic centre forward who not long afterwards became his teammate at the City Ground starring in a terrific tilt at both the league title and FA Cup, both of which were punctuated by Joe’s lightening quick, exciting forward play, littered with goals and much adulation.

When I think of loyal football players, yes, I think of Bobby McKinlay who left the game of life in August 2002. Times have sadly changed but if there were only a few like him now.

Nottingham Football Report: March 2016

SO CURRENTLY, we have the world’s oldest league football club, Notts County negotiating stormy seas by way of the club being for sale and the team toiling somewhat in the lower reaches of League Two, it’s play-off hopes diminished to a practical state of no return. Unpopular Chairman, Ray Trew has been quoted as saying that ‘oh so brave keyboard warriors’ and their comments on social media about him and his family have finally drawn the conclusion that he wants out – at a price.

On the opposite bank of the River Trent, Nottingham Forest flounder listlessly mid-table with perhaps greater concerns over the ownership of the club than on the pitch. My understanding is that £70m is still owed to former owner, Nigel Doughty’s estate and that a sum in excess of that is owed to the current ownership in loans. I stand to be corrected. Court appearances for non-payment of debts are now becoming a way of life for the City Ground club with the latest set for March 14th for an unpaid tax bill. Only last week Forest were in the media for late payment of their staff which chairman Fawaz claimed was due to a Bank Holiday in his home country of Kuwait. In addition to this, the club still find themselves under a transfer embargo with no guarantee of emerging from it at the end of the season, or if they do, to no great avail.

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On the pitch, Notts County have a huge squad of players, particularly at that level of football, who have underperformed and not gelled by all accounts. It would be easy to suggest that it is a case of ‘quantity not quality’ but the truth is that the club acquired some useful signings for this campaign. They have though shipped goals consistently throughout the season and are now struggling manfully under new manager, Scot, Jamie Fullarton’s stewardship. The ex-Forest coach is arguably the least popular manager in County’s long history whilst the atmosphere at Meadow Lane is absolutely poisonous.

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Angry scenes as trouble erupts between the Notts bench at spectators during Bristol Rovers’ visit

Forest’s quite recent unbeaten run, characterised by many uninspiring draws is now a memory and the support appears increasingly unhappy and disgruntled about manager, Freedman’s cautious ‘style’ of play which encourages teams to come on to them and take majority possession of the ball whilst the Reds sit back and wait for a break.

This is clearly not Nottingham Forest football.

Back at Notts and one thing about this whole sale matter that appears to have emerged is that although chairman Ray Trew claims it is personal abuse that has driven him out of Meadow Lane (and I have no truck with that) it appears emphasised that this kind of thing has become much more apparent since his appointment of Fullarton as Notts’ Manager which is a deeply unpopular decision among the support. We see from reports though that Trew was actually in negotiation with a ‘Danish billionaire’ before Christmas. to take over the club.

Trew has done some good things for Notts County, especially initially when he basically rescued them from administration and possible oblivion and that should be recognised but his apparent arrogance and inadvisable decision making has since caused the club great harm. I do believe, for example, that a great number of the support have viewed the appointment of Fullarton as a ‘two fingers’ at them and this is one of the reasons for the angry ructions at Meadow Lane since. There is a huge gap between the ownership and the support causing a divided and aimless club.

What’s more, I wouldn’t particularly trust Trew as far as I could throw him the way he is conducting business to sell the Magpies. Only when he finally leaves can that club turn a corner and begin rebuilding this great damage sustained. Hopefully a sale will happen sooner rather than later.

What with the happenings on the black and white side of the local football community and Forest’s apparent inability or refusal to pay their bills on time and now the delayed payment of their staff due to a Bank Holiday in Kuwait. I have no confidence in the state of the way either of our city clubs are being run. I particularly felt for the rank and file staff at Forest, in ordinary jobs, waiting to be paid what they have earned last week. In Forest’s case I think the owners are beginning to make a fine old club look a little disreputable and it’s not good to see. On a practical note, potential signings for the club too will make themselves aware of what is happening in terms of the financial irregularities at the City Ground and be much less likely to sign for Forest.

Sad stuff then from both sides of the Trent. Let’s hope both clubs can turn a corner at some point in the near future.

Notts County: ‘Digging tunnels’ again come the Springtime?

I had a seat in the Main Stand at Meadow Lane yesterday, as I’ve got into the habit of late, for the Notts County v Fleetwood game. With yet another fresh season upon us, those with an interest will recognise the sterling efforts of the boys of 2013-14 to keep the old club afloat in League Division One before what seemed like an impossible task at regular intervals came to pass, with the team and manager eventually doing themselves proud – with the club seemingly readying itself for what appeared inevitable relegation.

So it was with some optimism, notwithstanding the huge turnover of players at Meadow, that I alighted the Nottingham tram at Station Street and walked alongside the canal by a busy London Road on a pleasant, part-sunny August afternoon. Meeting my friends at the busy Trent Navigation pub on Meadow Lane, adjacent the ground, it was good to catch up after what seemed a very brief close season.

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Pensive – Notts manager, Shaun Derry

It wasn’t an auspicious start for the Magpies however, the first home league game of the season ending in an insipid and dull 0-1 defeat. Notts, in my humble opinion, lost some very decent players over the course of the close season and whilst it was always going to be difficult to adequately replace one or two of them, I expected a little more fight, urgency and determination from a side put out there by Shaun Derry, a man who’s attitude and integrity I’ve come to respect.

For the opening home game and considering Notts’ terrific and successful fight against relegation last term, I was a tad surprised at many supporters’ criticism of Derry at this early point, both in the ground and online afterwards. For me, he’s done a very decent job so far with few resources. Shaun, being a former Notts player and brought up a gritty local lad appears to ‘get’ Notts and the club’s fans better than most I’ve observed. Probably in common with many others, I’d originally viewed him as another, slightly strange, left-field choice – or more likely a cheap option – but I’ve enjoyed the way he talks about Notts and more importantly, what he seems to instil into the players in black and white stripes.

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‘The Great Escape’ of 2013-14

For the event itself, there is little I can impart that would make it sound like an exciting affair. Notts, though reasonably secure in defence, manifested a great lack of creativity in the middle of the field in particular and were fairly toothless up front too with Jimmy Spencer-replacement, Jake Cassidy having a somewhat lean afternoon. In truth it was extremely poor fare, particularly in the opening half with Notts seemingly unable to string more than a couple of passes together. The Magpies’ engine room huffed and puffed but showed a lack of energy, drive and in particular, subtlety which does not bode well for the coming winter. Notts missed their wide outlets of last season, appearing for a good deal of the game to play a more compressed style. It must be said that there were few, if any, highlights or eye-catching individual performances.

The typically bold, Derry substitutions of bringing on Balmy and Ismail in the second half brought about a short-lived improvement in the side and a little more life to the proceedings but ultimately, Fleetwood ran out with a deserved single goal victory which could hardly have been denied them. It’s early days with the season but an infant currently, first signs however, appear that the level of player brought in will see the Magpies endure another uncomfortable season. One hopes for better.

Without major improvements, sad to say, Notts County will be ‘digging tunnels’ once more when the season moves towards the sharp end…

 

As a footnote. I’d like to pay tribute to club stalwart of so many years, John Mounteney who passed away last week. His stewardship of the club will be remembered and appreciated by all. John was that most rare of individuals in the modern game, a gentleman and one-club man for many, many decades. Sincere condolences go to his family and friends, Rest in Peace, John.

Hibernian – The Broken Harp

IN THE OLD IRISH TRADITION of Hibernian, a wreath of flowers in the shape of a broken harp would be presented at a funeral as a mark of respect. Yesterday’s events when, to quote the old ironic phrase, Hibs, snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, was not a funeral but was nevertheless a sad and emotional culmination of several years of struggle for the club.

It’s difficult to write these word without showing anger at the catastrophic mismanagement of the team and the clharpub as a whole but in the twilight of this ignominious period in Hibernian history that anger is reverting to the familiar frustration by myself and, dare I say, a majority of the support.

After angry scenes of protest outside Easter Road last evening we awoke to news that there are staff meetings scheduled at the training centre at East Mains today. Already the media informs us that no less than fourteen players are invited or ordered to end their association with Hibs. There are many fans that wished for this after one abject display after another over a series of months and who can blame them? For me though, the problem is that the man with a great shared responsibility for the club’s demise is the individual serving the ‘don’t come Monday’ messages in Manager, Terry Butcher. It’s an indication, however accurate or otherwise that he is being relied on to rebuild the Hibs – a gargantuan order that I don’t think he is fit be tasked with.

Since arriving at Easter Road I cannot think of one single positive that Butcher or his cohorts Malpas and Marsella have brought to the team. There is simply nothing. They have however brought disarray, discord, indecision and a brand of football that I can only describe as ‘prehistoric’. A (the) main tactic appears to be to dumping the ball into the opposite team’s corners in an attempt to create ‘pressure’. Former Hibs and Hearts midfielder, Mikey Stewart correctly identified this mediocre thinking on Sportscene last evening and added the sentiment that it’s the type of football that ‘deserves nothing’. I am much in agreement with Stewart.

The game itself against Hamilton featured a litany of managerial errors that cost Hibs dearly. cost the team it’s SPFL status in fact, and I remain amazed that this fact isn’t recognised by Rod Petrie and his fellow board members. Those questionable decisions included not selecting the old head and steady experience of Kevin Thomson for such a fraught affair – a man who might well have brought the ball down a little and protected his teammates. Butcher also mystifyingly returned Danny Haynes to the team from nowhere to replace out of confidence youngster, Alex Harris – a strange move indeed and surely either Cairney, who can play a similar position or the aforementioned Thomson would have been superior choices. Within minutes Haynes was being helped from the pitch injured so what did Butcher do? Yes, pitch Harris back into a white-hot relegation battle. For a man who proposes to understand a little psychology and use it with his players I found this, again, mystifying. Embarrassingly, he had to substitute his substitute later in the game. One hopes that Alex hasn’t been set back too far by his treatment by Butcher in general this season. How to ruin a young player’s development.

In the first leg, another youngster, Jason Cummings, happily broke his duck for the first team with a fine brace of goals. What did Butcher then do for this game? Play him further back in front of his own left-back in order that he could keep his treasured 5-4-1 formation, therefore rendering the keen young forward impotent as an offensive threat. Later in the game with Hibs having formerly clearly played for a draw and now desperately playing for a 0-1 defeat, the manager pulled the experienced and intelligent play of Heffernan from the action to be replaced by his favoured defensive midfielder Tudur Jones, leaving Hibs vulnerable with little goal threat should extra time have been necessary, which it proved to be.

Full marks should be given to Hamilton who played good, attractive, neat football at all times and passed it around and through their Hibs counterparts. It looked a sophisticated style when compared to Hibs’ leaden lumping of the ball forward, rendering possession to the opposition time after time.

After an excruciating two periods of extra time we finally came down to the almost inevitable penalty shoot-out and here again, Butcher showed his incredible lack of know-how for a man of his experience in the game. The club’s regular and arguably best penalty taker, Craig was not chosen to take the first penalty with Thomson gamely stepping up to take responsibility for getting the team on its way. The inevitable happened, with Thomson not being a regular penalty taker. Sadly, it came down to young Cummings again to take the do or die fifth spot kick and I felt this was a huge strain on an 18-year-old youngster – unforgivable really. He missed his kick, hid his face in floods of tears and Hibs were relegated. What a way to hang the young man out to dry.

So, the future and who knows, this piece may be out of date very quickly but it appears that at the time of writing the Butcher-Petrie axis remains with us. I have the strong feeling that the former Rangers man employs a somewhat ‘bullying’ style of management and this concerns me if so. There will always be players that can cope with that but others that cannot. That’s the way it is. I recall dear old Brian Clough at Forest terrifying some of his players at times – even to the point of the like of England international, Viv Anderson hiding under a desk when he heard Clough approaching but the big difference was that those same players had respect for their manager. I don’t think that exists with Butcher and the Hibs players. They appear to hate him and he them. The same feelings appear to surround coach, Malpas who has specialised in having run-ins with fans in the seats around the dug-out. Classy indeed.

I’ve said enough regarding this sad and disturbing part of Hibs history but of course there is one man culpable more than any other who I’ve barely mentioned – Rod Petrie. I have plenty to say about him for another time as it seems we are stuck with him still – even though he has brought in the interesting character of Leeann Dempster in order to deflect flak from himself. From the club’s owner, to him and his board, the management staff and the players, all have critically underperformed. In fact the only people who haven’t are the fans. I salute them – especially the ones who can find it in themselves to continue supporting this club after one abject humiliation heaped upon another.

God bless the Hibs.

Hibs: One Last Effort

THE ONLY THING that’s predictable about Hibernian is perhaps the team’s unpredictability and this was again shown (at long last) when taking on Hamilton Academical in the first leg of a crucial play-off decider between the Championship side and a Hibs outfit woefully short of belief and form over the past few tortuous months.  Let it not be understated, the ‘Holy Grail’ of the Scottish Cup notwithstanding, this fixture and it’s second episode on Sunday are gigantic in their importance with defeat over two legs almost unthinkable. Clearly, such an outcome could set the Leith club back years – if not decades in terms of achievement and finance. ‘Absolutely crucial’ is the term dancing on my lips when considering the pivotal nature of the result.

Hibs’ Paul Heffernan

It’s recorded now, of course, that the Easter Road men finally remembered how to win again in the first leg. Heck, they recalled how to put the ball in the back of the net even. On this occasion, 18-year old Jason Cummings providing the firepower with a very welcome initial brace for the first team – something he’s promised for some little time. Well done him forgiving the whole club and it’s supporters a huge and timely lift.

Personally, I was stuck at home in Nottingham whilst the drama was unfolding at New Douglas Park. I did however have the very best and most reliable internet live stream I’ve ever had in a month of Wednesdays so obviously God was looking down favourably on my oasis amidst a Hibee desert. It’s been said by many that the performance was unimportant on the night and of course this has, for once, to be agreed with. Survival in the top flight is all and playing pretty and intricate football can wait for another time. Although many of the usual failings were present and let’s be serious, those shortcomings weren’t going to dematerialise overnight, there were some positive signs visible. I thought Paul Heffernan played an excellent, intelligent striker’s role, working the channels and giving the team different offensive options than the very basic lump-it-forward stuff that we have suffered for what seems an eternity. Alongside him, Cummings, apart from his two goals gave a lively, spirited performance and made himself a constant nuisance to the Hamilton rear-guard. Generally, there was a greater tempo about Hibs than in recent games, commensurate with the type of performance required on the night.

As I write, the Hibernian faithful are buying up tickets fast for the second leg at dear old Easter Road. They will be our twelfth man and no  disrespect to Hamilton who play some neat football, I believe they will make the difference that see Hibernian over the finish line safely and looking forward with some expectancy towards next season’s campaign and a (hopefully) new broom with fresh ideas in the shape of Leeann Dempster overseeing operations at Hibs.

One last big effort lads.

God bless the Hibs.

Hibs and Kenny Miller

READING AROUND THE MESSAGE BOARDS at the moment there is much conjecture regarding the future of erstwhile Hibs striker and former Scotland internationalist, Kenny Miller. The 34-year-old former Rangers and Celtic hit man has of late been plying his trade in that most lovely of cities, Vancouver, with the Whitecaps who compete in the North American, Major League Soccer.

Kenny began his professional career at Easter Road of course before a big money move to Ibrox as a young player and left the Leith faithful with a raft of good memories of his early days. He has managed to have an excellent first class career resulting in an impressive 69 full caps for Scotland, scoring 18 goals in the dark blue jersey. Not necessarily the most potent scorer his game has been exemplified by craft and good honest hard work with no little skill. He has consistently shown his ability to play in an up-front pairing or alternatively on his own as a target man. Looking as fit and effective as ever, he scored a perfect striker’s goal against England in the last encounter in August 2013 between Scotland and the ‘auld enemy’ showing that his fitness levels, know-how and guile leading the line are by no means diminished.

Sources close to him suggest that he is keen to re-join the club he began his career with and end his playing career at Easter Road. Those same sources also state that he has already offered his services on a previous occasion to the club but that these were rejected by former manager, Pat Fenlon, being supposedly well furnished with an on-fire Leigh Griffiths at the time. Media reports state that the Rangers are seeking to bring him back this side of the pond also whilst a predictable silence stagnates around any proposed move from Hibs.

At a fit thirty-four years Kenny still has much to offer a club like Hibs, despite his age he is far in excess of the quality the club presently has on the books in that position and has tip-top fitness levels with at a minimum two good seasons left in him. Perhaps it could be suggested that Hibernian FC has a great deal of other issues to deal with at this current time also with the club facing a crucial two-leg play-off to retain its status in the top flight. For me however, if the club were to show a little dynamism and quick and decisive thinking in bringing Kenny back on board it would be a minor master stroke. The lift to the club and fillip to the support would be immeasurable, even without him being able to hurriedly take part in the play-offs. The fans could view a little intent to progress whilst on the pitch Kenny’s experience would also be invaluable for young players to learn from. We witness the club miss out on opportunities such as this so often due to staid and apparently over-considered thinking. I do believe it is a major reason why we find the famous old club in the dire straits it languishes in.

Over to you Hibs.