23 October 2008

2009 Parcours for Tour de France Revealed

Mister Stephen is rather excited about the route for the Tour de France 2009 which has been revealed today.

As he likes both F1 and le Tour he is quite excited of the prospect that le Grand Départ is in Monaco and seeing as this will need a spectacular back drop for the finish, it may well finish on or near parts of the Grand Prix circuit in Monte Carlo.

The cyclists, who may or may not include Mister Yellow Wristband, then will cycle along the Mediterranean coast. Before leaving Barcelona to head into the Pyrenees. They will then head through the Massif Centrale en route to the Alps.

But it is the penultimate stage of hell, finishing on Mont Ventoux . The most barren, the most inhospitable, the most feared mountain in Tour history that will be the ultimate decider of next year's tour. Nothing will be set on stone until the riders reach that final summit one day before the procession along the Champs d'Elysée.

It may lack too many summit finishes but it is a tough, hilly tour, with a real sting in the tail.

7 October 2008

Schumacher and Piepoli Found Out

Back in July I reported how ITV 4 attacked Stefan Schumacher after his stage win in this years Tour de France over anomalies and a police intoxication test. Well in retesting of samples by the French Anti-Doping Agency the German along with Italy's Leonardo Piepoli have tested positive for Continuous Erythropoiesis Receptor Activator (CERA) and 3rd generation version of erythropoietin (EPO). Italy's Riccardo Ricco had already confessed to using CERA which makes winners of 5 of the 21 stages of this years race now proven drug cheats.

While endurance events like the Tour de France are a target for the use of EPO and CERA type enhancement drugs it is good to see that the Tour is taking testing to new levels and retrospectively carrying out tested when new tests are available. It means that the cheats cannot get away with it, even if they think they may initially have masked their misuse.

The continual testing in professional tour cycling and the comparison to a normal sample looking for anomalies seems to be working in highlighting just what samples look suspicious. As the examples of Schumacher and Piepoli show as do other examples from this year's Tour the organisers are doing their utmost to change the image of the sport. It means weeding out the cheats but they are pro-active in seeking out samples from anomalous samples in the run up to the race during competition, and now show they are prepared to follow up with new testing procedures after the event if necessary. They want the greatest cycling spectacle to be above suspicion. However, to do that every suspicious improvement or result is going to have to be looked at, sudden improvements and rapid recovery are signs that something may be up.

Other sports including Athletics may well take a page out of the Tour de France's book. As their regime is starting to pay off, racers are calling for clean racing and are shunning those who are now caught out. They are being suspended or sacked from their teams upon suspicion even if they are a favourite. That is one sport taking the drug cheats seriously and treating them as such.

15 August 2008

Three Men Won a Gold

Staff, Hoy and Kenny
Yeah the Brits finally have put three men on the top of a medal podium in the Beijing Olympics on the first day of the track cycling as Team GB exploded unto the velodrome.

Jamie Staff got the qualifying round off to a flyer with the fastest opening 250 metres ever in the team sprint, allowing Jason Kenny to lead out Chris Hoy for the final 250 setting a World Record 42.950 secs to set the standard. They eased through the first round to face France in the final which they secured with a run of 43.128 over half a second up on the French.

Elsewhere in the velodrome Bradley Wiggins was quickest with an Olympic record in qualifying for the men's 4000m pursuit with debutant Steve Burke a credible 5th. In the women's 3000m version Britain were 1st and 2nd with Wendy Houvenaghel and Rebecca Romero dominating proceedings.

Elsewhere on the various bits of water the sailors are guaranteed at least a silver and bronze medal going into tomorrow's match races as Ben Ainslie in the Finn and the Yngling girls finished far enough ahead of their challengers to make it a two horse race for Ben and at least a bronze for the Yngling crew with the Brits leading both standings. Paul Goodison also now heads the Laser class and Nick Dempsey has moved up to third in teh RS:X Windsurfing class.

Meanwhile in the rowing more British crews secured final places as both the lightweight men's double scull, Zac Purchase and Mark Hunter, and lightweight men's four, Richard Chambers, James Lindsay-Fynn, Paul Mattick and James Clarke. It makes 10 finals at the rowing lake that Britain will have representation.

Britainia really is doing rather well on and in water at this Olympics.

13 August 2008

It's Team GB & Norn Iron

It was good to see Alan Campbell power over the last few hundred metres of the men's single sculls this morning for a number of reasons. Firstly he has only just recovered from knee surgery but also because his that oft forgotten part of Team GB's name. Yes the Coleraine lad was proud to remind viewers who were able to watch his post race interview with Sir Steve of the Five Golds that he was Northern Irish and wanted to thank the team at the Sports Council for Northern Ireland in Belfast.
Elsewhere Emma Pooley showed that she had learnt how to ride that circuit from the women's road race well when she secured the silver in the women's time trail of the finishing circuit she twice launched attacks over on Sunday. She finished behind and American called Armstrong, but we're quite sure that Lance hasn't undergone gender reassignment to compete as this was Kristin Armstrong who had ended the 23.5 km tough uphill then down again time trail 24 seconds ahead of the Brit. Pooley was 4 seconds ahead at the intermediate check at the Wall 10.8km in but as the commentators said due to her diminutive climbers stature she had to make up time on the climb for the hard work on the descent to the finish.

Yesterday individual bronze for Zara Philips' replacement Tina Cook (must be the name these games) and the team bronze were also won by the eventers at the equestrian centre added to the British medal tally.

11 August 2008

British Women Leading the Gold Rush

Oh yes plenty of jumping up and down on the sofa over the first few days of the Olympics. Although hopefully the neighbours weren't too disturbed by Mister Stephen's whoops at around 10:30 yesterday morning and even earlier this morning. Mister Stephen as an ex-athlete and still competitive sportsman really is a great olympic-phile he was even caught watching live archery this morning on interactive, whilst Rafa Nadal was another option.

However, Team GB&NI (have to give the full IOC recognised name) saw their 200th ever gold medal came after a great team performance in the women's cycling road race. Nicole Cooke was in a breakaway of five entering the last corner of the course, but had dropped off on team orders because of concerns over the wetness of the rain soaked course that a crash may happen. She made up the 20 metres of so she'd dropped behind on the climb to the finish to make up for coming fifth four years ago.

But she was quick to go and hug teammates Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws who had aided he win. Pooley had attacked on the climb on the first finishing circuit and again at the foot of the second and final climb. Which forced other countries to haul her back while Nicole sat and waited. Sharon had been on the ground twice through crashes but took her turns at or near the front to ensure that Nicole was ready for a final surge. With 5 kms to go Nicole found herself in the decisive break that was to stay ahead of the main field to the end thanks to the work her teammates had previously done and continued to do disrupting the chase.

Then this morning the first gold in the pool for GB since Aidrian Moorehouse, who was commentating, in 1984 and the first for a women competitor since Anita Lonsburgh in 1960 went to Rebecca Adlington. Like Cooke she came from behind at the end to snatch the women's 400m freestyle. Not even in the top 3 at the final turn behind America's Katie Hoff and teammate Jo Jackson. Hoff at 25 metres appeared to have gold sown up a whole body length if not more ahead of the two Brits who appeared to have sealed the minor medals but somehow the Brits kept coming at Hoff and on the final stroke Adlington for the only time in the race was ahead, winning by seven hundredths of a second. She only led the race for a mere fraction of a second but it was the vital fraction of time when it mattered.

24 July 2008

New Maillot Jeune

The Tour de France reached the Alps at the weekend the stage up there on Sunday say subtle changes in the General Classification in what was turning out to be a very tight race. Monsieur Frank from Luxembourg had a narrow lead over Mister Cadel from Australia. After a rest day on Wednesday nobody really was able to attack when the fight resumed on Tuesday, but yesterday's stage was to finish on top of the famous Alp d'Huez.

It is often said that however wears the Maillot Jeune atop the Alp usually wins in Paris with this being the last mountain stage of 2008 only a time triallist could have changed that scenario after yesterday's stage. Well before the first of the 21 turns up the Alp Senor Carlos a teammate of Monsieur Frank made a break and nobody was able to go with him.

Senor Carlos isn't as good a time triallist as Mister Cadel and had to make up a lot of time if he wanted to go higher on the final podium than he had before. Whenever anybody tried to launch a counter attack after Senor Carlos either Monsieur Frank or Monsieur Andy his brother, and the third CSC rider in the leading group, would be the first to close them down and sit on their wheel. Monsieur Frank was wearing the Maillot Jeune and his brother was in white as the best young rider. Senor Carlos went further and further away before finishing over a kilometer and 2 minutes and 3 seconds over the next man. Mister Cadel was a further 12 seconds back.

It makes for interesting times in the penultimate stage Time Trail as Senor Carlos leads, Monsieur Frank is 1:24 down, Herr Bernard 1:33, Mister Cadel 1:34. Will it be as tight or tighter than Mister Greg beating Monsieur Laurent in the 1989 Tour remains to be seen, this may come down to seconds like it has been for most of this years race.

Update the winner on the Alp this year did go on to win the Tour by 58 seconds over Evans in Paris, keeping up the mythology of the winner always winning the Tour.

As was my style for sport at the time this was written as my alter ego Lionel de Livi

10 July 2008

Off the Mark

Yippee! Mister Stephen was jumping on thge sofa last night for the first time in 6 years a Brit won a stage at the Tour de France.
In recent times it has either been as a time trialist like David Millar or Chris Broadman, or as a part of a breakaway as happened with Sean Yates. But when you are the world madison champion the bunch finish of a long flat stage in le Tour is nothing to get too worked up about. So Mark Cavendish (on the right) saw off experienced tour sprinters Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel and Thor Hushovd to see his first stage win in this race to go with his two in the Giro d'Italia earlier this year.
It will go some way to make up for this disappointment he faced last year when he crashed on the aproach to Cantebury when he wanted to start his Tour career with a win on home soil.
The 23 year-old is set to team up with Bradley Wiggins for the Maddison in Beijing next month but he is likely to see out the tour first, maybe hoping to win on the Champs Elysées. That hold no worries for Rod Ellingworth Team GB's cycling coach who earlier this week told the Times:
"I want him to finish the Tour and he does, too. He'll gain a lot from that in terms of experience and also form ahead of the Olympics. Am I worried about the effect that three weeks on the road will have on his track form ahead of the Olympics? No. He's so good anyway — his speed, his cadence, his ability to ride the track — that it all comes automatically to him."

As with sports reports of the time this was written in the style of my alter ego Lionel de Livi

9 July 2008

Schumacher Fast on Two Wheels

Mister Stephen is getting over the lack of Wimbledon on television this week by settling down to his month long trip round the roads and mountains of la belle France. He is very much hoping it is a clean race however from what I've seen those cyclists sweat a lot and must need a shower ever day.

Anyhoo, yesterday a German man named Schumacher (no not Michael or Ralf) won the first time trial of le Tour 2008. Unusually in recent years this was not the prologue but occurred on day four. You can see Herr Stefan Schumacher to the left holding one of my cousins.

Now ITV4 were quickly on Schumacher's case last night, in possibly a sad day for the sport. You see he didn't just beat the rest he smashed them. Schumacher is a one day racer and may have had a chance over a shorter time trial but over 29.5 kilometres he was 18 seconds quicker that Scot David Millar and Kim Kirchen both fancied time triallists and also 33 seconds faster than the world time trial champion Fabian Cancellara.

However as ITV4 and others were quick to point out last September the Gerolsteiner rider crashed his car while drunk and as well as a high blood alcohol content there were amphetamines detected. As it was a police rather than a UCI sanctioned test this has not affected his participation in cycling but until the statutory results of tests on the stage winner and other selected participants are known there will remain a cloud of suspicion in this sport that is trying to shake that image off.

Today he set off in the longest stage of this year's tour in yellow, 12 seconds ahead of Millar and Kirchen, 235km from Cholet to Châteauroux.

Update: There was sadly more to Schumacher's speed than the quality of his rice cakes, he later tested positive for EPO and was banned for 2 years from racing in France.

The was posted in the original as part of my alter-ego Lionel de Livi

29 March 2008

Football Stadia Tour 8: Firhill

Between 26th January and 4th March this year one clash appeared on the schedules 4 times that was the Jags from Firhill, Partick Thistle, against the team who were once the Jags from Edinburgh, Livingston, formerly of course Meadowbank Thistle.

The first clash scheduled for Firhill was in the league and was called off, according to an official statement from Partick Thistle, due to one of the staff of the Glasgow Warriors Rugby Club who ground share at Firhill, forgetting to tun on the under soil heating. So on the 2nd February the two teams met at Almondvale in the 5th Round of the Scottish Cup, although it was a 0-0 draw Livingston had the better of the match and were unlucky not to proceed on the day. However, the replay on the 12th is the next stop on this tour of Football Stadia of this fan.

The season in the cup has not been a good one for visiting unfamiliar grounds. In the Challenge Cup we went to Cappielow to face Morton. In the CIS Cup we hosted Ayr before going to Dens Park for a thiller decided after 14 penalties all on target of which 3 were saved. The in the Scottish Cup we'd hosted Alloa Athletic, and Cowdenbeath before another trip to First Division opposition.


Firhill is not in the Partick district of Glasgow but in nearby Maryhill where they moved into Firhill in 1908. it is easily accessed from off the M8 providing neither of the old firm especially Rangers are also playing at home on the same day. However, the coaches do park up a steep hill behind the ground, and as the police were over officious on our trip there for the cup made some of the elderly and disabled members of our coach party walk up the hill to resume their seats after it being pre-arranged that they could be picked up outside the gate after the ground had emptied.

The Ground

Firhill is one of the SPL compliant ground in Division 1 as they played there as recently as 2003-4, before facing the humiliation of two seasons of relegations to end up in Division 2 before we both met up again for the first time since 2004 in Division 1 they as newly promoted we as newly relegated.

The Current capacity of the ground could be as much as 10887. However, the oldest part of the ground the Main Stand which has 2900 seats has not been in use since January 2006 due to the high cost of maintenance and stewarding of this area.

Opposite the Main Stand is the Jackie Husband Stand which can hold 6263. It was built on the site of the old enclosed terracing known as the shed in 1994. And now houses the home support.

The North Stand is the newest part of the Firhill built in 2002 to meet the old SPL criteria of 10000 seats and paid for by selling off land behind it to build student accommodation. This houses the visiting support. Opposite to the south is the now demolished terraces which the club had looked to build into a new stand but which Glasgow City Council never gave permission to be developed.

The Atmosphere

It was a cup tie to both sets of fans were well up for this. Sadly for visiting fans to Firhill the vast majority of their vocal support prefer to sit in the southern end of the Jackie Husband Stand and therefore well away from the visitors. However, there are pockets of home fans who do sit near the north stand and get involved in banter back and forth between the two sets of fans. As this match went to penalties which were taken in front of the North Stand the crowd in Jackie Husband did tend to filter over towards us making the atmosphere at that point of the evening quite intense.

Some of the younger Livi supporters were up for this and were Samba-ing around the stands at times. The noise got very loud especially towards the end of normal time in the extra time that followed.

The Programme

The Jags Programme is produced by the same company as Livi's costs £2.50 and is a full colour glossy paper production. A Cup Tie against Partick does have an added sense of history for Livingston as Partick are the only team to have faced the club in all three of its guises as Ferranti Thistle, Meadowbank Thistle and Livingston, and this was looked into in the programme on the night.

Pie and Bovril

Having been waiting outside the stand for a good 20 minutes before getting into the match many of us headed straight to the concession stands to warm up. There are also hot dogs on sale at £2.50 should you desire. The bovril was lovely and warm and a welcome heater on what was to end up being a long night. Cost Steak Pie £1.90 and Bovril £1.50 total £2.40.


Admission £15 (concessions on this night were £5, but under 16s were allowed in for free for the league fixture a few weeks later and are for the rest of the season)
Programme £2.50
Mince Pie and Bovril £2.40
Total £19.90

League Table of Cost
Morton £17.90
Stirling £18.10
Queen of the South £18.60
Partick Thistle £19.90
Clyde £20.60
Dunfermline £21.50
Dundee £21.60
St. Johnstone £21.90

Match Report

Sadly the match was played on a pitch which could hold up the ball better than having 17 players behind the ball at time. However, having been the better side in the 0-0 draw at Almondvale Livingston started lively and the Jags Northern Irish Under 21 goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey time and again kept his side in the game making saves from point blank positions. He was finally beaten just before half time by Graham Dorrans.

Dorrans, Robert Snodgrass, Steven Craig all had chances to seal it up for the lucrative tie in the next round. But Tuffey earned himself a deserved man of the match awards between the stick. I counted at least 20 times he came to their rescue.
However, the only other goal came from the head of Partick's Mark Twaddle late in the game re-igniting the Jags support.

Into extra time and Craig James scooped one just over the bar for Livi, but the only Livingston substitution used was Steven Wier on for Snodgrass. The Partick defence looked dead on their feet. We had speed in youngsters Keaghan Jacobs and Leigh Griffiths on the bench. But still be plodded on in what was becoming an almost static game now.

Then the dreaded end of extra time and penalties. First up was Craig James who scored, but that was cancelled out by the first Partick kick. Graham Dorrans who'd been looking tired throughout extra time stepped up hit a well struck penalty to the keeper right post but it was saved, Colin Stewart though was about to do the same for Livi. 1-1 after two each. Liam Fox calmly put Livi's next one away, but so did the Jags. Then Steven Weir makes it 3-2. The Partick lad under pressure misses the target. Livi's regular penalty taker Dave MacKay steps up, we're all hushed but the ball instead of ending up in the net is parried by my mate Laurie stood beside me.

However, it's not over yet as Simon Donnelly has to score Partick's 5th or they are still out. Sadly he does. Experienced head Lee Makel is up next for Livi and makes it 4-3. Rowson then matches that for the Jags. Allan Walker steps up and places it wide beats the keeper but it ricochets off the post. Then Alan Archibald steps up to win it with the last kick of the game for Partick.

Final Score Partick Thistle 1 Livingston 1 (P (Partick: Twaddle 83, Livingston: Dorrans 41)

Next up we have the final away leg of this season's travels when we journey to Hamilton's New Douglas Park.

Previous Stadia Dens Park, East End Park, Cappielow, Broadwood, McDiarmid Park, Palmerstone, Forthbank

23 March 2008

Football Stadia Tour 7: Forthbank

I was amazed to find out who one of the biggest fans of this series on football stadium is. So for her sake I'm determined to get to the end before the end of the fitba season.

So I'm continuing to rattle my memory banks and going back to the game on the 19th January over at Forthbank the home of Sterling Albion.


Forth Bank is on the outskirts of the Stirling on the Eastern side of the city and is on the edge of a retail park. The club moved here from their old ground Annfield which was close to the city centre in 1993. It leads to the old trivia question of which two teams other than Liverpool have been based at An(n)field, answer at the bottom of this post.

The Ground

The capacity of 3808 includes 2508 seats is made up largely of two stands facing each other over the pitch. The West Stand houses the home support, hospitality, changing room and office facilities. The East Stand houses the visiting support, the press and police control room. There are terraces behind the two goals but these are rarely used at present, the south terrace would be used by home support and the north by visitors if the need arose.

The Atmosphere

Sadly Stirling Albion have one of the smallest supports in this league, and even though Livi can manage one of our largest travelling supports for the short hop over to Sterling with them being over the other side of the park the atmosphere is largely lacking.

The Programme

The Forthbank News cost £2. Apart from the outside and centre pages is entirely black and white. However, these are utilised well as inside the front cover is action shots, the centre fold contains more action shots. One of the centre pages is colour advertising but the other is the home team pictures. Inside the back cover is an attempt to get the team line-ups displayed pictorially. However, putting our left back at right back, right back at centre back, and centre back shunted to left back did sure a lack of research into how we'd been lining up when fully fit all season.

Pie and Bovril

At the start of the season there was much fund raising going on to get a new pie oven for the away end at Forthbank. This effort has been greatly appreciated as hot pies are available although a little tinkering with the recipe would be appreciated.

Cost of a pie was £1.10 and it comes served to you on a paper plate. Bovril is £1 in a Styrofoam cup. The case was a little too salty and too floury for my tastes, and there was only a mince pie no steak and gravy available.


Admission £14 (although £10 for concessions makes this an expensive outing for families)
Programme £2
Mince Pie and Bovril £2.10
Total £18.10

League Table of Cost
Morton £17.90
Stirling £18.10
Queen of the South £18.60
Clyde £20.60
Dunfermline £21.50
Dundee £21.60
St. Johnstone £21.90

Match Report

Sterling got off to a sharp start in this game, getting an early free kick which Livi keeper Colin Stewart had to stop. But we'd seemed to settle down when a Eric Paartulu shot took a deflection off Cameron 'Cammy' MacDonald's heel and into the back of Stewart's net.

However, Livingston didn't look dejected having scored 8 goals in their previous two outing and hit two goals within 4 minutes just before half time. Firstly after Colin McMenamin failed to convert a Steven Craig cross, Graham Dorrans connected and a second deflection of the game saw the scores levelled. However, the next goal was a peach being lobbed in from 25 yards out Steven 'Stef' Craig fired it into the top corner giving Binos keeper Scott Christie no chance.

IN the second half Livingston continues to dominate. Graham Dorrans running the Stirling midfield and defences ragged, and right back 'Super' Dave MacKay was at his rampaging best getting forward whenever the opportunity arose. It was one of these runs that led to the third goal, coming from deep he penetrated into the Albion box, and rather than taking a pop himself laid it off for Stef, whose shot was cleared but it fell to an advancing Robert 'Snoddy' Snodgrass who powered it into the net. Craig just slotted a chance from a free kick wide from impossibly close in, but when Christie failed to cut out a Dorran's cross, Snoddy fought off two Stirling defenders with a strong back post finish.

Dorran's later hit the post and Liam Fox also slotted one just wide. But the livi fans left happy with an emphatic win on the road to keep a good run going.

Final Score Stirling Albion 1 Livingston 4 (Stirling: Paartulu 28, Livingston: Dorrans 35, Craig, 39, Snodgrass 58,65)

Effect on the relative teams' positions. Livingston climbed above Morton into 7th place but Stirling remained rooted at the foot of the table in 10th.

Next up should have been a trip to Firhill in the League but we ended up there next anyway with a replay in the cup with an away tie against either Rangers/Hibernian on offer to the winner.

Trivia Answer: The two other teams based at An(n)field were Stirling Albion 1945-1993 and Everton, the original occupants of the Liverpool ground, 1884-1992.

Previous Stadia Dens Park, East End Park, Broadwood, McDiarmid Park, Palmerstone

20 March 2008

Glad it wasn't just me

I try and avoid doing two football related post on the same day, as that isn't the main thrust of my blog, but today I do feel justified in making an exception.

Is this the face of the dirtiest player or just the unluckiest player in Scottish football? The stats for Murray Davidson's first team games makes poor reading. 2 starts, 2 yellow cards, 2 red cards. That is the bear facts. He has also twice received two standing ovations by the visiting supporters, as he has yet to play a home game for the first team, because on both occasions the fans felt that he was harshly treated.

His first game a start was against Dundee. Where he received his first yellow after it appeared that his opponent had stood on the ball. He did appear to talk to the ref so it may have been for dissent rather than the actual non-challenge that this card was given. But having stood in the middle myself you have to learn to give a little slack and let the players air their point providing it is done and dusting very quickly. Otherwise you could end up booking everyone on the park.

The second yellow card offence, allegedly simulation was fortunately captured on camera that night. Yes it was inside the box, yes Murray went over. The Dundee player was the last man. So quite possibly a red card should have been shown, if you look at that second pick you can see the Dundee player is totally shocked at the referee's decision as well. This may well have been the turning point in that game from then for most of the second half we had to make do with only 10 men on the park.

Yesterday, we'd already been questioning a few of the referees decisions but were close to celebrating a point earned, which could so easily have been the full three when yet again, Murray Davidson was shown red. He come on when Steven Craig was unable to carry on early in the second half having gone over while taking a shot late in the first half.

Murray had played a blinder he had gone for every challenge and if he'd not won kept after it to try and win it on the second or third bite of the cherry. The challenge that let to his stats looking so ugly happened in the centre circle both players Murray and Kevin Finlayson for Morton, both were committed and both slid in for the challenge. They'd been having that sort of tussle in the middle tough and fair all the second half. Davidson got up ready to carry on playing looking for the ball and there may have been a foot out from Finlayson which caused the lad to stumble.

However, there was stunned silence when the ref called play back and produced a straight red card. As Murray walked off even the Morton manager Davie Irons consoled him. This was in the 89th minute but a minute later the ref reached again straight for red for another challenge on the half way line, this time for Allan Walker.

It is refereeing like this can can turn the most pleasant of games into a hot bed. The same happened with two quick reds in the first half for us against Airdrie United last year. The ref had to face a full barrage for the second half that day. I in hindsight did feel sorry for the Airdrie fans that day sat 5 seats away from the away support. This time the ref had seconds remaining but our support for our team and wrath for the ref were made clear. There has been talk this week of referees deserving respect from players and fans following the Ashley Cole incident with Chelsea. However, they have to earn it same as anyone else. Sadly this season I've seen too many poor refereeing decisions, too many assistants not fit enough to keep up with play, it makes me wonder how they expect to make decisions that are right.

Davie Iron told the press that he thought both red card decisions were very harsh, and has offered Livingston the video footage of the game to take to the SFA to appeal these decisions.

18 March 2008

Gretna Coming to Almondvale

I'm sure joke writers somewhere are having a field day working out how Gretna's next two home games will boost Livingston's attendance figures now that they are to be played at Almondvale. Personally I'm glad that something is finally being done about Motherwell's Fir Park pitch even if it is a little late to avoid so much fixture conjestion.

So yes the current team in administration in the SPL is now going to be traveling even further to the last SPL to be in administration to play Celtic and Inverness. Cetic were the last SPL side to play a competive senior game at Almondvale putting us out of last season's Scottish cup whereas Inverness Caledonian Thistle are no strangers to Almondvale with 16 previous visits to West Lothian in every league on both teams progression up the leagues.

Gretna are still in business and it looks like my team is helping to ensure that their games can go ahead providing the much needed revenue to carry on at least until the split.

4 March 2008

Scottish Highlights of the Rugby Season???

We're in the depths of the Six Nations Rugby tournament and the Scots would normally be gearing up for this weekend's Calcutta Cup match against the Auld Enemy England in high spirits.

But if the reaction to my getting on the coach to return from the football at Hamilton the last international weekend is anything to go by eyes are meandering elsewhere. For I boldly took off my Livingston top to reveal my Ireland jersey on arriving back at the coach around the 5 p.m. kick off time in the Ireland v Scotland game. Only for the initial comments of derision to turn in to comments I think you'll at least be supporting one winning team today.

So with Scottish sporting hopes so low for this time of year step into the breath one Andy Murray. Yes in the depths of Rugby season and tennis is the saviour of the nations hopes. Yesterday he beat wold number 1 Roger Federer without once facing a break point.

Now admittedly in 2008 half of the tournaments Andy has played he has been knocked out in the first round. However, the other half he has gone on to win. In fact he has tended to alternate these two all year. So Roger should have known he was doomed from the start as in the last tournament Andy played in he was knocked out in Round one.

Of course gentleman Rog is not going to hold sour grapes. Ahem!

OK so he'll criticise the style of the youngsters play which he says hasn't changed since they first met in 2005. But hang on he's beating Roger twice in their last 3 outings, is in the top 10. Yes maybe he runs a player around and waits for the mistakes, but he has youth on his side and no doubt his style will change as he gets older. Is Roger getting worried? Methinks he doth protest a little too much.

13 January 2008

Frost Affects the Have Nots

Ok there has long been an argument that outwith the SPL there is very little money and tightening of purse strings for other football clubs; yesterday was a great illustration of this.

It was fourth round of the Scottish Cup the day the big boys come into the competition. Seven games were postponed due to unplayable pitches due to a heavy, yet predicted frost, overnight. None of these games involved SPL grounds but three did involve grounds which meet the SPL requirement for undersoil heating. McDiarmid Park, Firhill and Almondvale homes of St Johnstone, Partick Thistle and my own Livingston.

While Partick blame the SRU (Scottish Rugby Union) groundsman who was looking after the Glasgow Warriors. However, seeing as the Warriors were over in Italy on Friday night I have no idea why the SRU groundsman would have control of the ground and the undersoil heating at that time.

What is far more likely is the widening gap in wealth between the top 12 and the rest of Scottish football. Already Livingston have not produced a Match Day Programme for their previous home cup ties against Ayr in the CIS cup and Alloa in the last round of the Scottish Cup, the same was to apply to yesterday's game against Cowdenbeath. The reason being cited is due to the smaller print run the normal special price would not apply and therefore it would run at a loss. It is a shame that many fans myself included are looking at a gap in out programme collections for this season. If we get through and host First Division in the shape of either Partick or Dunfermline will this policy change and give us possibly our first home Cup MTP on the 4th time of asking this season, as we would have been and will be producing them for these teams league visits to our ground.

The fact that three grounds that have adequate undersoil heating were unable to stage games last night is not a reason to have a winter break as across Glasgow from Firhill, Celtic pitch was playable with undersoil heating turned on, and nearby Falkirk, Hearts and Hibernian hosted a game while Livingston could not, and the weather was hardly any better in Edinburgh than West Lothian as I sampled both. Now it is probably purely down to money and cast saving that these games were off. The SPL can fine clubs for postponement but the SFA cannot due to the disparagee in facilities. For example Huntly and Cove Rangers in the Highland League can not be expected to be up to the same standard of pitch as the SPL sides.

The SPL has long been nicknamed the Self Preservation League here in Scotland and with just cause. Only one team from twelve each year will ever be relegated from this cash machine, whereas the ten team SFL leagues have one automatic relegation spot plus the perils of playoffs for the team just above. Needing to come through two 2-legged ties to remain in the same flight the following season. The financing of the leagues outwith the top flight is clearly what needs to be looked at more than rearranging season dates, of course the Turkeys in the SPL will never vote for a more egalitarian Christmas for everyone.

5 January 2008

That's More Like it

9th October 2001 was the last time before today. As I wasn't that frequent an attender at Almondvale then let alone a trip to Pittodrie which is where Livingston last scored 6 in a match.

One player appeared on both occasions. Scott McCulloch came on as a sub for Livi back in 2001 but was today again wearing yellow this time that of Morton's change strip.

I know I started a chant for 6 goals a couple of weeks ago, but somehow my chant of 'six nil we're gonna win six nil' had less effect today, thankfully. It probably would have been 6-0 as well except for a late penalty decision that confounded all the home fans none of whom saw the alledged handball that led to Morton's third chance on goal.

However, our cheeky shouts of we want six deserved a cheeky third goal which came courtesy of Leigh Griffiths one of the under 19 stars. Who broke the last defender with a somewaht lucky rebound off the defenders knee to his thigh then charging down on the keeper who came out but was smoothly rounded. The calmly slotted the ball in te ball into the onion bag.

My Jekyll and Hyde football team produced the good Doctor today after a somewhat disillusional festive period. Hope this leads to another run of good form, although some players have left and others are leaving.