30 October 2006

Fitba Tonight

I'm off to Almondvale tonight to see my beloved Livi take on the Accies in the league. It is an experiment in Friday night football at the club to see if juniour club supporters and Old Firm, Hibs and Hearts supporting dads might accompany their children to a Livi game.

Anyway it means I'm able to see my team play and still attend the Scottish Lib Dem Conference on the same weekend which I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise, to thank you Pearse Flynn for chosing this weekend for this experiment. It also means that for this conference at least I'll be relaxed during the afternoon sessions as other delgates from rival teams may be fretting over their teams performance (in recent years some good friends have been supporters of relegation rivals).

20 October 2006

Mission Accomplished - Don't Go Lawrie

Lawrie Sanchez said when he took over as Northern Ireland football manager that he's love to overtake the Republics team in FIFA's world rankings. Well this week it was announced that hThis was mission accomplished.

Northern Ireland have risen 13 places to 45 while the Republic have slipped 6 places to 49. Now our next mission must surely be to built on the start to the European Championship Qualifiers and get to the Finals and then even if we fail to pick ourselves up again and aim for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. I hope that Lawrie stays with the team to accomplish missions 2 and 3. After all Tom Cruise made MI-3 did he not.

12 October 2006

Northern Irish Football 20 Years of Hurt. Is It Over?

The last time Northern Ireland qualified for a major football tournament finals was the 1986 World Cup. Which brought to an end legendary Pat Jennings career against the most worthy of opponents Brazil.

Who would have thought that in this international week that the best performers of the home nations would be Northern Ireland with a win last night against Latvia and a good away draw against Denmark. The last time Northern Ireland had such a good chance in international football Scotland were also riding high so the current parallel in performance must be a good omen.

25 September 2006

Sign up a Disabled Sportsperson to Play for Celtic

I'm all for disabled sports and as far as possible for them to play alongside able-bodied competitors. I've actually played bowls with a paralympian on my team, against a deaf rink in bowls who I jokingly signed to 'shut up' as they wouldn't stop signing as I was attempting to play. I've also been a guide runner for a blind club mate in athletics. However, what on earth is this latest directive from the Scottish Executive?

Yes sports clubs should be encouraged to integrate as far as possible disabled sportspeople in their clubs, this is easier for some sports than others. Athletics and bowls are the two sports I've been actively involved with disabled athletes and many clubs can quite easily provide provisions for competitors of various disabilities. However, you cannot have a wheel chair athlete run fairly against an able bodied athlete.

Why? Because they have a higher gearing and at equivalent levels of fitness will always go faster. Blind footballers need specialist equipment, ie a ball that makes noise, and therefore to put blind footballers up against seeing players is unfair to the disabled as the sighted players have a slight advantage as light travels faster than sound and can sight the ball without trying to train on its direction.

I love watching paralympian sports, their competitors often adapt sports to suit their level of ability. Wheelchair basketball is as much a non-contact sport as the NBA version. But the competitors who end up getting up ended in their chairs pick themselves off, dust themselves off and carry on playing.

The Sports 21 directive contains the line that clubs should develop an "inclusive selection policy which guarantees all members a game each week". How is this sort of approach going to encourage participation in sport? Yes the directive is right in encouraging participation in disabled sport but not every club is necessarily going to be able to offer a weekly competitive place within its make up on an inclusive policy. Some teams may have to group together to match abilities into a team that can compete together.

As for bowls I'll carry on playing against wheelchair bound, blind and deaf opponents and occasionally lose and occasionally win against them.

19 September 2006

A Home for Brighton and Hove

I may not be in Brighton so therefore I didn't get to see the protest first hand that The Clown of Pevensey Bay has been urging other Lib Dem bloggers to post about.

However, I can emphasis with that poster of various comments. For starters I used to live not to distantly from the original home of the English franchise FC, formerly Wimbledon FC now moved to Milton Keynes and known as the MK Dons. I also support what many Scottish fans deem to be the English equivalent of Livingston.

Brighton and Hove Albion fans have been following their team to home games at Gillingham for 2 years before squeezing into the 8,850 seat Withdean Stadium, since the Goldstone Ground was sold in 1997. The club are seeking to build a new stadium at Falmer and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister announced on 28 October last year that the application had been successful. As a fan who has lived in fear of losing their team recently I imagine the delight that must have caused.

However, it appears that John Prescott's department made a error in neglecting to notice that some of the car parking was in Lewes Council area and not in Brighton and Hove unitary authority.

5 July 2006

Tale of Two Stories

The editor of the Italian sports daily Gazetto Dello Sport must have been one of the Italians who partied shortest last night. When his nation won 2-0 against the hosts Germany in the World Cup he must have taken great joy in shouting the Italian for 'hold the front page'. Instead of the call to relegate 4 senior teams including Juventos and AC Milan he was able to celebrate the Italians regular 12 yearly reaching of the final.

While England fans are upset that it has been 40 years since their team won and reached their only final the Italians seem to have established a regular timetable since 1970 they have reach the last two every 12 years. In 1970 they lost to Brazil in Mexico, in 1984 the won in Spain, in 1996 the lost in the USA. And now 12 years on they're back thanks to Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero scoring two goals in the final minute of extra time.

Now as a Livingston fan I saw my team concede a number of late goals last season, but never that late. So I can appreciate how gutted the German supporters were as Alessandro turned away to celebrate his late decisive strike.

But as Terry Venebales said moments before the goals went in it was a classic example of a thrilling 0-0 120 minutes.

3 July 2006

From the Bahamas with Love...

...good luck.

Well it appears that Sir Sean Connery thinks that young Andy Murray might have been up celebrating reaching the third round at 3 a.m. before his win on Saturday against number 3 seed Andy Roddick. However, his call if probably more likely due to the elder Scot forgetting the time zone difference.

However, as young Andy said there is "nothing cooler than being woken up by James Bond". Even though he went back to sleep and let the answer machine take the message. Good job it was about an important message.

One problem with Saturday's match, apart for the murmur around the court as England failed in the penalty shoot out, was that both players were called Andy. So the cheers from the stands were for Roddick or Murray instead of Andy which could have lifted both players simultaneously. Thankfully that will not be replicated this afternoon. Although the Scot will be facing a Cypriot in Mediteranean conditions it looks like Andy is better conditioned to counter such things this year than last.

Come on Andy.

20 June 2006

Blair Expects Every Scot to do their Duty

The Facts:

On 6 May 1953 Mr Leo Blair's wife Hazel gave birth to a second son in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was given the name Anthony Charles Lynton Blair.

He spent his early childhood in Australia before moving with the family to Durham. But he has his secondary education in the city of his birth at Fettes College, Edinburgh.

Yesterday he became another Scot to become all English saying:

"I support England very strongly, but if Scotland was playing - not England - but a game against someone else why [take the attitude] that I don't want Scotland to win when they are part of the United Kingdom?"

The thing is Tony it is just this sort of attitude that the English will happily adopt an Scot, Welsh or Northern Irish sports team of person as their own when doing well but always reject them when they start to wane that leads to the Celtic nations looking for teams of excellence to support, especially if we are neutral. That plus the fact that the English still go on about 1966. So the Scots have to keep reminding the English that they were the first team to beat the World Champions when they met in 1967. The same may eventually be true of Rugby from 2003 but the Irish take great pleasure in reminding the English who beat them first as world champions.

We also live in a multi-cultural society Mr Blair are you asking the Australians, Germans, French, Americans, Italians and others who live in England and are supporting the land of their birth or forefathers to support Ingerland? Or what about Norwegians, Austrians, Russians or New Zealanders who are merely supporting a team maybe they have some connection with, or maybe has some players in their league?

Last time I checked I was free to support Northern Ireland living here in Scotland. In fact the other Livingston fans applaud me for it. I also support Ireland in the Rugby whether at Murrayfield or, as happened once, at the Scottish Lib Dem conference with the party leader stood beside me.

So when all this jovial anybody but England support is out of the way at some point from the 24 June to the 9 July we'll either be hearing about the 40 years of hurt continuing or ending ad nauseum until the next World Cup or beyond. So allow the Scots their 4 weeks of pleasure Mr Blair, after all tis only a game of fitba.

17 June 2006

Could Scotland Knock Sweden Out of the World Cup?

The last time Sweden faced Scotland on 17 November 2004 the land of Abba and Sven Goran Eriksson celebrated a 4-1 win.

However, Sweden have yet to qualify for the second round of the World Cup, they need a single point to go through. Following Argentina's 6-0 win yesterday against Serbia and Montenegro England need to impress to be taken seriously by the other serious contenders, Portugal, Germany, Holland and Brazil have all looked equally fragile so far only Argentina and Spain have stood out.

So let's say Sven allows Gerrard and Lampard some freedom and that he has Owen and Rooney fighting it out to impress to play alongside in form Crouch in the second round. The team might just leave Sweden on four points with either a negative or neutral goal difference.

In the simultaneous game at Kaiserslautern on Tuesday night Trinidad and Tobago must play for a win against Paraguay who will only be playing for pride. Now sat on T&T's bench so far unused in this campaign sits Jason Scotland. Should Leo Beenhakker find his team winning and in with a chance of progressing he may wish to rest his starting strikers. Now he has used 5 already but maybe to gee up the Tartan Army support that has adopted his team he might throw on Jason Scotland.

So imagine the scenario:

T&T are 2-0 up Sweden are losing 3-1, therefore Trinidad and Tobago are one goal up on goal difference.

Scotland comes on with about 20 minutes to go.

Sweden score through Henrik Larsson (Scotland [the nation] doesn't know whether to laugh or cry) Sweden are now ahead on goals scored level on goal difference.

Jason Scotland scores and T&T deny Sweden by one goal as the games come to an end.

Pubs across Scotland start singing Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland after all they all seem to have been looking up the lyrics. As most of them have come through here in that search.

13 June 2006

Scotland World Cup Song Soars Up Charts

"The World Cup Finals are on their way
With all the teams off to Germany
Brace yourself cause on every screen
There'll be nothing but the England team
But wait!
There's hope at hand
We can still support Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland"

From Scotland, Scotland, Jason Scotland by the Trinidad and Tobago Tartan Army

Despite only selling 12 copies in London the above single has made the top 30 of singles charts. Somehow Scottish football fans have managed to get a World Cup song into the charts in a year that their team did not even qualify. Maybe that is what is meant by the immortal lyrics of the 1978 song 'Well we'll really shake them up when we win the World Cup'. At least in one respect the Scots are managing to maintain their hold on memorable World Cup songs.

However, the official Trinidad and Tobago song 'Fighter' by Maximus Dan is not fairing so well on the UK charts for the Soca Warriors.

22 May 2006

Auchinleck Final Thorn in Thistle's Ambition

Yesterday at Rugby Park Kilmarnock the Scottish Junior Cup ended in a narrow 2-1 win by Auchinleck Talbot over Bathgate Thistle.

Bathgate had been getting progressively more garlanding in Blue and White (Thistle's colours) through the week and for a change a guy was selling scarves and flags on St. David's Street on Saturday. While Auchinleck picked up their seventh Junior Cup title this was the first appearance for Bathgate in the final in their 60 year history. However they were unable to emulate their West Lothian rivals Whitburn Juniors and Linlithgow Rose who have both lifted the OVD Scottish Junior Cup in the last decade.

Maybe Auchinleck were taking revenge on West Lothian as the last time they appeared in the final Linlithgow Rose beat them.

11 May 2006

Don't Elope to Gretna this Saturday

If you were planning to elope this weekend it is probably best not to. Even the BBC have cottoned on to the news that the small border town is liable to be deserted this weekend.

A BBC Scotland trailer is basically showing a couple turning up in the town but finding the Old Smitty and various Churches in the area closed for business. There's even a glimpse of Brooks Mileson's greying pony-tailed head running off away from the couple.

The tag line is 'Gretna the only town in Scotland that can break Hearts'.

The reason that Gretna will appear to be a ghost town on Saturday is of course the fact that the Scottish Second Division Champions are facing Champions League qualifiers Hearts at Hampden in the Scottish Cup Final.

It is one of the most hilarious bits of Sports event advertising I've seen for a while so well done the guys at Queen Margaret's Drive for coming up with this piece of genius.

23 April 2006

And Yesterday's Sports News

Whilst I was up in Elgin my heart also had a part of it left in Fife at East End Park. While out and about delivering I was tuned in to Radio Scotland to find out how the Livingston Lions were doing in their crucial, must-win game against Dunfermline.

The first problem was transport. As kick off time approached and the weekly sweep of team news was going on there was no team from Livingston, the team coach was caught in traffic jams getting over the Forth Road Bridge. Eventually at 2:45 the team coach turned up and John Robertson was able to give the radio commentators the news they were looking for. An unchanged squad from last week.

Roddy McKenzie;
David McNamee, Harald Pinxten, Greg Strong, David Mackay;
Richard Brittain, Colin Healy, Allan Walker, Wes Hoolahan;
Sam Morrow, Noel Whelan.

So there was a delay to the kick off to allow the lads to warm up properly and they came out on fire when the game finally got underway. The Pars' Glen Ross could only stop Wes Hoolahan by pulling on his shirt in the 9th minute and the resulting Richie Brittain penalty gave the traveling Livi support hope. However, the Pars fought back and eventually in the 38th minute forced McKenzie to bring down Mark Birchill in the box for an equalising penalty which Birchill himself put away.

1-1 was probably a fair reflection of the first half but I didn't want a fair reflection. Livingston came out strong at the start of the second half with half time substitute Steven Hislop scooping a shot over from 12 yards then Colin Healey curling one just wide from outside the box. However, his next effort from distance did find the back of the net and for the second time in the afternoon Livi fans including those of us in Elgin lived in hope again. There was now less than half an hour to go.

However, Dunfermline continued to turn the screws and in the 78th minute McKenzie blocked a shot from Taraschulski but Birchill pounced on the loose ball and planted it in the net. The hope wavered slightly but there was still time. Then in the 85th minute a Birchill shot appeared to be handled over the line by his teammate Noel Hunt, but after consulting the assistant referee the goal was given. Yet again in the last ten minutes Livingston's luck ran out. How many times this has happened this year I have lost count. Most spectacularly we once lost two goals to Hibs in that period and their largely silent fans started to chant easy, easy with only 2 minutes remaining.

Mathematically Livingston are not officially relegated yet. We are nine points behind both Falkirk and Dunfermline, they on 27 points us on 18 with 3 games remaining. However, our goal difference is 21 worse than Falkirk and 15 worse than Dunfermline so next year we'll be heading to St Johnstone, Hamilton, Ross County, Clyde, Airdre Utd, Dundee, Queen of the South, Gretna and A.N. Other following the playoffs.

On happier news Liverpool's win at Old Trafford in the FA Cup Semi-Final over Chelsea must really be adding to Jose Mourinho fears of drawing Liverpool in cup competition.

15 April 2006

Accrington Stanley Who are They?

In 1962 Acrrington Stanley Football Club went bust and were forced to resign from the English Football League. However, this afternoon after 44 years in the wilderness they have sealed their return to the English League by winning 1-0 away to Woking. Paul Mullin who scored the goal that made history will probably have a statue soon outside the club's Interlink Express Stadium soon (the fact that this is on Livingstone Road gives this Livingston supporter some hope.)

The phrase 'Accrington Stanley who are they?' was from a 1980s ad for milk were one Scouse boy says to his mate that Ian Rush has told him that if he doesn't drink milk he'll only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley. The riposte from his mate is Accrington Stanley who are they? Unfortunately Rushie's subsequent management career means that Stanley manager John Coleman might be able to ask tonight Ian Rush who is he?

On 12-02-62 the Club Chairman Edwin Slinger resigned revealing debts of £4000 pounds in unpaid transfer fees and similar amount owing to the Inland Revenue. On the 2 March they lost their last League Game 4-0 to Crewe put shortly after £40,000 of further debt to creditors forced the board to resign from the league on 11 March, midway through the season.

Well today the team for so long the joke of English Football have turned that phrase on its head.

So who are Accrington Stanley:

Founded in 1891 as Stanley Villa

Renamed Accrington Stanley in 1895

Name comes from the family name of the Earl of Derby who owned a lot of land in the area. Whether the founders of the Club lived in a Stanley Street of met in an Stanley Arms pub is open to debate but the connection is to the Earl in some form.

1905-6 Lancashire Combination Division 1 Champions

Entered the League in 1931 in Third Division North

1958 Best league position 2nd in Division 3 North

1958-9 Reorganised league finds Stanley in Division 3

1960 Relegated to Division 4.

1962 Resigned from Football League and joined Lancahsire Combination Division 2

1964-5 Promoted as Champions but relegated the following season.

1966 Resigned and folded from Lancashire Combination Division 2

1970 Club Reformed Join Lancashire Combination League

1977-8 Champions Lancashire Combination League, join Cheshire County Division 2

1980 Second in league but not promoted due to ground status win league the following year to earn promotion.

1986-7 Runners Up North West Counties Division 1 (Promoted to Northern Premier League)

1998-9 Relegated to Nothern Premier Division 1

1999-2000 Champions of Northern Premier Division 1

2002-3 Champions of Northern Premier League, promoted to Football Conference

2005-6 After finishing 10th for previous 2 seasons win Conference to return to Football League

As for the foot of the Scottish Premier with Falkirk and Dunfermline drawing 0-0 Livingston's 3-1 win over Dundee pulls us up to just 6 points behind Dunfermline making next weeks trip to East End Park very important.

20 March 2006

Three Golden Doubles

Before this Commonwealth Games the most golds that Scotland managed to win in the pool was 2 and the last time that was acheived was in 1974 when David Wilkie won both the Golds in question (200m breaststroke and 200m individual medley)

When Gregor Tait won one of the titles Wilkie won 32 years previously the, 200m individual medley, to add to his 200m backstroke title, he was just one of three Scottish swimmers in these games to match Wilkie in Scotland's most sucessful swim team ever.

Caitlan McClatchey having already been a surprise in the 200m freestyle took the title in her favoured 400m freestyle this morning. She had won bronze at this distance in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Yesterday, David Carry added the other individual medley title over 400m to his 400m freestyle crown to make it a Scottish 1-2 with Euan Dale in his wake.

Considering that Scottish team bosses said they were looking for 15 medals from these games I don't think anybody was expecting to find 10 of them coming from the pool.

16 March 2006

Pool of Gold for Scots

Caitlin McClatchey shocked Ozzie swim fans by lifting the first gold in the Aquatic Centre, Melbourne in the Commonwealth Games. Earlier in the day she broke the Scottish record for the 200m freestyle being the first Scottish Women to swim the distance under two minutes and was the fastest qualifier for the final. She was up against Libby Lenton who Australians were looking to win seven golds for the team.

Lenton went out strong and was leading at the last turn, however the sprinter from Australia was overhauled in the last 50 metres by the 400m specialist from Scotland to take the first swimming Gold in a time of 1:57.51 a Games Record.

A second Scottish Gold came soon after in the men's version of McClathcey's favoured event the 400m freestyle. David Davies of Wales who is expecting gold in the 1500m event was leading for the first half of the race. However, as the Welshman faded in the closing stages David Carry of Scotland and Canadian Andrew Hurd took to the front. However, the Scot prevailed in a time of 3:48.17.

On the velodrome Chris Hoy could only manage bronze this time behind Ben Kersten AUS and Jason Queally ENG. However, it still means that Scotland are second in the medal table with only Australia ahead with 3 golds.

Meanwhile it looks like the guys I used to play against of play in tournaments with regularly, the Northern Irish bowlers, are off to a good start. Hopefully a few Northern Irish medals will be coming from the green again this Games.

26 February 2006

No Slam this Year

It has been a good weekend for many rugby followers, my apologies to Peter Black and and the whole plethora of English Lib Dem Bloggers. As an Irishman resident in Scotland it has been a glorious weekend. We are three weeks into this years six nations and already no country is on course for a Grand Slam and only Italy are really out of the running for winning this season.

With Scotland beating the previously unbeaten English at Murrayfield yesterday, I wish I'd not attempted to change trains at Haymarket at 4:45 yesterday and Ireland beating Wales this afternoon, I'm one happy rugby fan. Now there are four countries with a 2-1 record, England, France, Ireland and Scotland. It makes all the matches in the last two weeks vitally important.

I'm just happy that Ireland are not scheduled to play Scotland during Scottish conference weekend this year. A couple of years back at the BBC reception on the Friday night the head of BBC Scotland addressed the delegates by saying I hope you will all be cheering on Scotland as they take on Ireland in tomorrow evenings tie. I said out load not all of us, know the people to the left hand side would expect nothing less, only to turn to my right and see the then Scottish leader Jim Wallace smiling broadly at my comment. Fortunately he has not borne me a grudge. Although I am led to believe we were cheering on different teams at Murrayfield last year.

Mind you Ireland have the last game of this years six nations on 18th March when we take on England at Twickenham. Who knows how important that game will turn out to be for both teams?

20 February 2006

Scottish Success

Well done Andy Murray on becoming the youngest Brit to win an ATP title. At 18 years 9 months he is 1 year and 1 month younger than Greg Rusedski and 3 years 7 months younger than Tim Henman. Also encouraging is that he has achieved this peak a full year younger than Roger Federer, who he has already played and although beaten was not humiliated.

I know that we shouldn't put pressure on him but I'm impressed he beat Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt on sucessive nights at the end of a tournament so I think we can say his suspect fitness is getting eliminated and pyschologically he is taking on the big players and aiming for success. Unlike Henman, grass may not be his best surface but I'm sure the Wimbledon crowd will be encouraging him all the way when he next appears in SW19.

16 February 2006

Return of Robbo

So I walk into the Lothian Liberal Democrats meeting last and the first question I’m asked is not, who am I backing, what did I think of Dunfermline or what did I think about Charles. No, the first thing I was asked was what did I think about the return of Robbo. Somehow during the day I had missed the news that John Robertson was returning to Almondvale to take over as manager of Livingston.

There has been much speculation with each management crisis over recent years when Robertson would be asked to take the helm of the club he earned his coaching badges with. However, having gone via Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Hearts and Ross County he has now returned to the club he ended his playing career with just when we need an experienced and enthusiastic manager to keep us in the SPL.

Obviously his experiences with Vladimir Romanov at Hearts has caused some heartache to Robbo as he has asked for a clause to be put in his contract that he alone is responsible for first team selection. Well I suppose that will leave us Livi fans in no doubt then on the park who to blame. Only joking John, welcome back.

1 February 2006

And in Sports

Paul Dalglish, son of Kenny, and Livingston's highest goal scorer of the 2005-2006 season has been sold for a nominal fee and in return Sam Morrow. Now I'm no expert but if you are bottom of the SPL and struggling to get goals getting rid of the guy who scored most for someone who has scored none all season looks like a potential nomination for the Darwin awards.

Considering the club had offered Dalglish an extended contract in December this sudden turn around in events takes some understanding.