The Week In Scotland – The Kiss and Make Up Edition
The Fletchers Return To The Scotland Squad
Yes, Darren and Steven will pull on the dark blue Scotland shirt again soon after long-term enforced absences (for very different reasons!) from the squad, which is fantastic news for our already-slim qualification prospects for Brazil 2014.
Darren hasn’t played for Scotland in 11 months and has just returned from a 10 month lay-off from professional football due to his chronic bowel condition. From a personal point of view, I’m just glad he’s back playing football again, as it looked like retirement was looming at one point. His return to the squad can only help us. National manager Craig Levein summed up the whole situation and everyone’s thoughts when he said:
“I just have huge, huge admiration for the boy, to know what he has gone through, to see his resilience, his bravery and his absolute determination to play for Scotland. He’s been on the phone over the summer and he’s itching to play and get back involved.
Getting him back, for me in a selfish way, is a great thing for me and for Scotland. But the person that I’m most happy for is Darren. He’s the one who’s had to grit his teeth at times and get through it and get himself back to this point where he’s on the fringes of coming back into the team again.
“Playing for Scotland means that much to him that he’s fought his way through this illness. He’s a talisman. He has a presence about him that has a calming effect on the rest of the squad. He’s a fantastic football player – but a really good human being as well.”
Not often I agree with Levein, but well said.
Steven also returns to the squad after a stonking 20 month absence, after a very public falling out with Levein. Steven had shown recently a strong desire to return to the squad and Scotland and Sunderland team-mate Phil Bardsley is believed to have helped broker some sort of truce between the two, as Levein puts it:
“It’s a big plus for me and the rest of the team for him to be involved. I got a phone call through a third party (Bardsley) during the week and there was an indication from that person that Steven was desperate to come back and play.
Things progressed between myself, this third party, his agent and the boy himself. I got a text saying he was willing to have a chat about it so I called him last night and he was desperate to come back and play. For me, then, it’s a no-brainer.”
Craig Gordon Still Without A Club
Seeing as we’re on the national team, ex-Sunderland and Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon has said he is focussed on regaining full fitness before he signs for another club:
I’m just trying to get back fully fit with that before I start looking for a club. I’ve still had a few niggling problems with my knee injury, which I’ve had on and off for quite some time now.
Since becoming the most expensive British goalkeeper ever in 2007 after moving to Sunderland from Hearts for £9 million, he’s been plagued by injuries. He injured his knee in his second season, an injury which kept him out for months. The next season, he broke his arm, leaving him injured for four months before breaking the same arm yet again in pre season training in 2010.
In April 2011, he underwent knee surgery again which kept him out for eight long months, by which time Simon Mignolet had long displaced him in the Sunderland goalmouth, and Allan McGregor had done the same in the international set-up.
In addition to the knee niggles Craig mentioned above, I’ve heard his arm is also a major cause of his reluctance to find a new club due to mobility issues around his elbow. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but I do know it’s a damn shame to see such a talented young goalkeeper on the sidelines with serious doubts hanging over his future. If you’re in any doubt about his skills, look at the save below, which was voted the Premier League Save of the 20 Seasons award.
A Good Week For Celtic
Celtic finally won a Champions League group game away from home, after 19 long agonising attempts. They went over to Russia to take on Spartak Moscow in a game not a lot of people (myself included) expected the Scots to take any points from, and after the first 10 minutes it looked like that would be the case, as Spartak put the Celtic defence under a lot of pressure.
Against the run of play, Gary Hooper put Celtic 1-0 up, finishing off a cracking counter attack. Spartak equalised just before the break and then went 2-1 up just after the second half kicked off, Emmanuel Emenike scoring both goals. Spartak went down to 10 men shortly after the second goal, Argentine defender Juan Insaurralde deservedly seeing red for fouling Hooper when he was clear through on goal.
The red card made all the difference, and Celtic took full advantage of the numerical advantage. Dmitri Kombarov’s own goal drew Celtic level before Georgios Samaras headed home Emilio Izaguirre’s cross in the 90th minute.
Despite the result, Celtic were slightly fortunate on the night, and had Spartak kept all their players on the field, there’s no doubt in my mind they would have kept the lead. That being said, it was a fantastic effort from Celtic, and it’s a result that should secure European football past Christmas.
Fraser Forster was called up to the England squad for the games against San Marino and Poland. Obviously, Roy Hodgson is a fan of the site, as I predicted a call-up for Forster last week. He’s massively improved as a player during his time in Scotland, and while he won’t dislodge Joe Hart any time soon, if he continues at the level he’s playing at, he should be able to secure the back-up position for the forseeable future.
Neil Lennon and the Celtic fans continue to champion a call-up for Gary Hooper to the England squad. I said it last week, and I’ll say it again this week. No. Just…no.
England have a lot of better options than Hooper at the moment. If Gary continues to get better and keeps banging the back into the back of the net, then in the future a England cap will be in his grasp, but not right now.
Do Celtic Miss Rangers?
Majority shareholder Dermot Desmond certainly does. It’s common knowledge Rangers are now in Division Three after their financial meltdown and Celtic look like they’re about to dominate the SPL and Scottish football for the foreseeable future . Dermot told BBC Sport:
“For us, it’s disappointing that they’re not there. But that was a decision by the various clubs, a decision by the various leagues and we accept those decisions.”
The Irish businessman went further:
“Rangers is a great football club, it has a great history and it’s unfortunate that they have been relegated. We would certainly like to contest with them every week – we believe we’ve got a better team and a better management structure. Rangers is a fantastic football club, it is one of the greatest football clubs in Great Britain, we’ve got to acknowledge that. But we can only look after ourselves.”
Scottish football pundit Hugh Keevins has also suggested that Celtic’s slow start to the SPL season is because of Rangers’ absence from the league, and that Celtic would have panicked more if their rivals were there to take advantage of their league slip-ups. Maybe Celtic need Rangers more than they think…
St Mirren right back David van Zanten doesn’t score every often. Indeed, he hasn’t scored since November 2009. Naturally, he’s agreed to a charity bet that he’ll score a goal this season, or wear a mankini as a forfeit, as a result of his ‘prolific’ goalscoring exploits. Van Zanten was approached by Saints supporter David McDonald on the Black and White Army website (a top top website) who proposed the incentive to score. Then team-mate Lee Mair got involved. And van Zanten’s worst nightmare could now be about to unfold. But he knows it is all for a worthwhile cause — Yorkhill Sick Children’s Hospital.
“David had suggested that for every goal I scored this season he would donate £100 to a charity of my choice. I thought that was a great idea and he put it out to the other fans who also jumped on board with it. It gathered some speed but then the inevitable happened which was the question of what happens if I don’t score?
“They all agreed they’d still pay donations as long as I did a forfeit. I was maybe a little naive because I agreed not knowing what the forfeit would be. Unfortunately for me, they asked Lee Mair to come up with a forfeit and he decided on the ‘Vankini’.
If I don’t score then I have to go out in front of the crowd at the last home game of the season in a mankini singing ‘Like a Virgin’ I picked Yorkhill as my charity as I have two young kids myself and it is every parent’s nightmare that something happens and they need help.
At the moment, there’s almost £800 in donations sitting in the JustGiving account while others have also pledged. Hopefully we can raise a nice bit of money.”
I hope he never scores again.
And to be honest, I think it’s a safe bet. As my colleague Steve Norman will attest to, I’m bloody good at FIFA. Yet even I can’t make David score in that game. Better get a waxing session booked in Zanty…
Motherwell Forget To Pay The Electric Bill
The game between Motherwell and Dundee Utd had to be called off on Saturday due to a power-cut affecting the Motherwell area. Motherwell’s stadium Fir Park does have a backup generator which kicked in almost straight away, but chief executive Leeann Dempster arranged for the game to be called off on safety grounds.
The game will be re-arranged for a later point at a cost to the home team, believed to be £40,000. The club handled the situation extremely well and only had the safety of the fans in mind, which had to be commended. Anyone who bought a ticket to the game was either offered a voucher for free re-entry for the re-arranged game, or a refund for their ticket.
Dundee And AC Milan Team Up
The SPL strugglers have linked up with the Italian giants.
Under the agreement, AC Milan will send a team of coaches from their world-famous soccer school and academy to Dundee. Milan’s soccer school project manager Silvio Broli, technical supervisor Davide Corti and academy representatives Stefano Baldini and Gianfranco Parma will conduct the course in Dundee on October 11-12. Scottish coaches have the opportunity to take part in a two-day AC Milan Course for Coaches at the University of Dundee sports facility, and Dundee are hopeful that the two clubs will collaborate on other projects in the future.
Hampden Park Closed To Football
Hampden Park will become a football-free zone for a year as it is transformed into an athletics arena for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. The stadium, used for Queen’s Park home games, Scotland home matches and the latter stages of Scotland’s major cups will close from November 2013 until late 2014.
It is not yet known if Queen’s Park will be allowed to play some of their games in each of the two seasons at their home ground, or if the SFL will insist on them ground-sharing for two complete seasons. Lesser Hampden, the small ground adjacent to the main stadium, is not an option to host their matches because it is to become a warm-up area for the athletes, leaving the club effectively homeless for a year.
Celtic played at Hampden in the 1994-95 season while they redeveloped Parkhead…maybe they could return the favour?
Morton’s mascot Cappie the Cat was stolen and brutally dismembered following a break-in at the club’s Cappielow Stadium. A local police statement appealed for witnesses and added:
“Cappie’s feet and hands were found at the scene and his head was discovered on a hedge in a nearby street. His body has still not been located.”
As a St Mirren fan, I for one am not going to laugh at this misfortune affecting our dear rivals, the great unwashed. Nope. Not me. I will remain professional…
***Did I miss anything? Got something for me to add in next week? Any comments to either please me or destroy my soul? Post below or find me on Twitter @Manky365***