Josh Wright

Posts Tagged ‘SPL’

The Not So Beautiful Game

In Football on May 12, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Neil Lennon is attacked at Tynecastle in possibly the next wave of Sectarian violence

Football in this country has escaped the dark days of racism and repeated crowd trouble? On a global scale is it not the most popular sport in the world?  A sport that permeates race, class and politics? The recent events regarding sectarianism and corruption allegations clearly beg to differ, and for the impartial observer threaten to destroy all that is beautiful about the beautiful game.

The evening of the 11th May 2011 will go down as a dark day for football due to the events of an individual who maliciously attacked the Celtic manager Neil Lennon during the crucial SPL clash between his team and Hearts at Tynecastle. The individual climbed down from the seating, ran onto the pitch and assaulted Lennon before being restrained and later arrested. This comes within the recent events of death threats and even parcel bombs being sent to Lennon and a number of other prominent fans of Celtic. It then transpires that the next day a package addressed to Lennon arrived at Celtic Park containing a bullet. These events cannot and should not be taken lightly by all authorities involved, they represent a despicable and cowardly attempt to threaten and endanger a number of individuals.

The Old Firm is more than a rivalry, this is clear; but this connection to and recent revival of sectarian conflict needs to be stopped. We can proudly say that on the whole the issue of racism in football on these shores is no more. The game is now a family game, one in which we can take pride in our teams and enjoy the sport at its very best. It should not be a way to express your damaging political views and in this case an excuse to perform acts of terror.

In a less serious, but undeniably damaging affair, issues regarding Fifa and corruption have once again resurfaced following Lord Triesman’s comments. Triesman, the former FA Chairman, stated that with regards to Jack Warner, Nicolas Leoz, Ricardo Teixeira and Worawi Makudi that their behaviour was “below what would be ethically acceptable.” This is with regards to corruption in the process of bidding to host respective world cups. Triesman’s exact allegations vary from Paraguay’s Fifa member Leoz asking for a knighthood, Thailand’s member Makudi wanting the TV rights between England and Thailand in a national friendly and Brazil’s Fifa member Teixeira asking Triesman to “come and tell me what you have got for me.”

Fifa presidential candidate Mohamed Bin Hammam responded to these claims stating “I will happily and unreservedly restate that I firmly believe Fifa, as a decision-making body and as an organisation, isn’t corrupt,” however it is clear that the appropriate course of action is an independent investigation. With the scandal encompassing the whole organisation, including Bin Hammam and Qatar’s successful 2022 bid, it would be ludicrous to accept a Fifa led investigation.

Both of these events vary significantly from sectarianism to corruption however both threaten the sport that we all love. In many ways people feel disillusioned with the wealth and business culture associated with the modern game however we are now free of the troubles of the past. These recent scandal’s cannot be allowed to progress into anything worse. It is a game first and foremost, and I for one hope it stays that way.

Exodus to the North: Football League Talent North of the Border

In Football on March 17, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Gary Hooper and Anthony Stokes, both former Football League players, are currently enjoying a rich vain of form in the SPL

At the current moment in time the highest level of Scottish Football is awash with Football League talent, with many of the most promising individuals in the English second tier choosing SPL football over the Football League. Whilst the facts speak for themselves, Celtic and Rangers are regularly involved in European football, albeit (apart from the occasional season) unsuccessfully, and are normally guaranteed a form of silverware in one form of the other most seasons, the attraction of this is one that seemingly passes me by, and that in fact for the players involved, England’s second tier should be a greater lure.

Members of Celtic’s current squad include Gary Hooper, Kris Commons, Joe Ledley and Fraser Forster as well as the likes of Daryl Murphy and Anthony Stokes, and in Rangers squad we see Kyle Lafferty. Many of these players have been viewed as potential talents, who have proved their worth in the Championship. If we take Hooper for example, the former Scunthorpe United marksman scored 43 goals in 80 appearances for the Lincolnshire club, and despite interest from the top clubs in the Championship chose a move to Celtic in the summer. Since this move his goal scoring has continued, this season’s statistics read 15 goals in 24 matches, in any league those are fantastic figures. Anthony Stokes’s performances this season have been similarly successful, scoring 17 in 27. However unlike Hooper, Stokes’s career in England had seemingly stalled, with an unsuccessful period at Sunderland which included two unexceptional loan spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace. Stokes has seemingly rejuvenated his career in the SPL, and whilst this has been successful for him, is this league really the best opportunity for some of the best young talent in the Football League?

The average Championship attendance for last season was 18,106, making it around the fifth largest league in the world. These attendances are matched by viewing figures, with media companies spending large quantities on the rights for the Football League, the BBC’s recent contract for the Football League Show being the epitome of this. On the other hand SPL football averages around 13,915, however without the likes of Celtic and Rangers this figure would plummet. Whilst playing in front of 45,000 at Parkhead and Ibrox has its benefits, away fixtures at Hamilton and St Mirren in front of around 4000 limit this. Although comparing the playing standards of the leagues is difficult, if we examine some of the players to have moved between the two and the success they have had relatively it is possible to deduce a distinction between the quality. Kris Boyd, the all time SPL leading goal scorer has struggled at Middleborough, as has Scott MacDonald and Kenny Miller during his period at Derby County in the Premier League. Stokes, a player who seemingly struggled in the English game has flourished at the highest level of the Scottish game.

The standard of Championship football is ever-increasing, with more money being invested and more supporters flocking to games. The Scottish game, on the other hand is in somewhat of a lull, with a lack of a major TV backer following the collapse of Setanta and the upcoming review of the league structure.  This is not a rant in regards to Scottish football which as a league contains one of the most compelling, competitive and highly charged derby matches, as well a multitude of enthusiastic fans and clubs. However is this really the best environment for the development of the some of the talent that has fled from the Football League to north of the border? The growing strength of the Football League should convince players that their futures lie here, and this will provide them with the experience they need to fulfil their potential.