Focus on the Positive
So that’s it over then. Season 2010/11, almost certainly the most unpleasant in SPL history, has come to a close. And thank God for that.
The summer months might give some pause for reflection and a chance to refresh hearts and minds of everyone involved in top level Scottish football.
From the referee’s strike, to nasty Old Firm encounters; parcel bombs; nutters at Tynecastle; Rangers fans singing sectarian songs abroad; serious allegations against players; 4-6-0-gate and all sorts of stories in-between, it has been a pretty embarrassing season to be a Scottish football fan.
Admittedly, it’s given us plenty to talk about – and we’ve certainly yakked for hours on some subjects on the show – but none of it makes you feel proud about the national game.
Frankly though, I’m sick to the back teeth of negative stories. It’s all we’ve heard about for the past nine months. Therefore, while it may go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons, here’s a few things to remember season 2010/11 fondly by (in no particular order):
The Inverness Caley striker was excellent in their promotion-winning campaign the season before but he had to prove himself all over again in the SPL. He did so in spades. Strong, intelligent, quick over short distances and a cracking finisher, Rooney has mastered the league in his first season, scoring 15 goals for a side finishing in the bottom half. Expect him to go to either of the Old Firm or the Championship by the end of the close season.
Under Mixu Paatelainen, Killie played some terrific football, especially in the first half of the campaign. His summer signing of Alexei Eremenko proved to be a superb bit of business, and the Finnish midfielder bossed games in a way rarely seen outwith the Old Firm. He had no pace, but his range of passing and imagination more than made up for his shortcomings. Craig Bryson also had a great season, as did Conor Sammon, who morphed from the lumbering donkey of last season into a real handful with an eye for goal. His pre-Christmas form even earned him a move to the Premier League with Wigan
Scotland fringe players coming good
Charlie Adam; Chris Commons; Graham Dorrans; James Morrison. All four, but especially Adam, have come out of the midfield shadow left by Barry Ferguson to become potentially huge players for the national team. Adam has been superb for Blackpool and has shown he’s capable of matching the best; Commons has had a wonderful season, scoring a shedload of goals north and south of the border from midfield; Morrison has been excellent for West Brom; and Dorrans has been an important player when fit too. Adams, Dorrans and Morrison were influential during Scotland’s 2nd half comeback against World Champions Spain in October and may well continue to be throughout the remainder of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.
Dunfermline being promoted
Ok, this is hard for me as a Raith Rovers fan, but Dunfermline should offer more to the SPL than Hamilton have over the past two seasons. For one, they’ll bring more fans to their games than the 70 or so that turned up at Hamilton regularly, but McIntyre’s side also play an offensive type of football. Sadly Willie Gibson – their most dangerous player- jumped ship to Crawley but in Joe Cardle and David Graham, they have two talented wingers capable of causing SPL defences all sorts of problems. If they can add another striker to partner (or replace) Andy Kirk, they should ensure safety with something to spare.
Scotland’s young players making an SPL impact
A lack of finances is forcing club’s hands to play more of their youngsters regularly, but it seems to be paying dividends. Dundee United regularly fielded the likes of Barry Douglas, Paul Dixon and Jonny Russell last season while David Goodwillie is already preparing for the step-up after bagging 17 league goals.
Similarly, Chris Maguire at Aberdeen looks Championship-bound and the Dons teammates Fraser Fyvie and Ryan Jack may eventually follow. There’s nothing more encouraging than giving kids the chance and them grasping it with both hands. See also: Murray Davidson (St Johnstone); Craig Forrest (Celtic); Gregg Wylde (Rangers); David Templeton (Hearts); amongst others.
To finish the league’s top scorer after leaving halfway through is some achievement. For Rangers – if perhaps not Scotland – he developed into a potent striker. Not just comfortable with leading the line, he’s found a real eye for goal in the past few seasons and a big money move to Bursaspor was merited. By all accounts, he’s still knocking them in over there. His replacement at Rangers, Jelavic, deserves a mention too. An excellent, technically gifted forward who brings a bit of class to the league.
Baram Kayal and Emilio Izaguirre
Comfortably Neil Lennon’s best summer signings, Kayal is a slow burner who has quietly become influential in Celtic’s central midfield role. Izagurre, an altogether more obviously dynamic player, is as close as the SPL gets to Roberto Carlos. Strong, direct, fast and with a decent left peg, he’s been as much of a threat to oppositions as his more attacking colleagues.
The 10-team SPL veto
It’s the league reconstruction no fan – or many other people – actually wants. Despite this, the SPL seem determined to introduce it and, had enough clubs agreed, the new format could have been in place for the start of season 2012/13. The 12 SPL clubs were due to vote on the issue in April but it was quickly realised that not enough clubs backed the proposals and any motion would fail. Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson was vocally opposed from the outset, as was Inverness Caley manager Terry Butcher, who said of a 10-team league: “If that’s progress we must be living in Wonderland, with Alice as the chief executive at Hampden.” Quite.
Here’s hoping that next season the positives are not quite so hard to find.