The Pink Yin

Scottish Fitba 2020/21

With the country adopting a new 5-tier policy of local measures against the spread of Covid-19 it's possible that some clubs, if they are in areas designated as being in Levels 0 and 1, will be allowed to let fans into their grounds. Ross County had 300 in their ground for the match against Livvy on 6 November.

 

One or two clubs have decided to hibernate for a season, and It's likely that some will go bust and have to start again after the crisis has passed. This has already happened in England where Macclesfield Town have joined Bury in the great penalty box in the sky.

We played our first SPL games on the same day that in England they were playing last season's Cup Final, and we've now completed the semi-final stage of our own Cup competition.  The all-Edinburgh match started things off  and it was Hearts who came out on top 2-1 in a match that would have been much more entertaining in front of a packed house. After beating Aberdeen in the other semi, Celtic will play the Jam Tarts in the Final on 21 December, all being well.  By then this this season's competition will have completed the first and second Preliminary Rounds.

If fans had been allowed into stadiums to see the beginning of the season in the SPFL's three lower divisions I'd have been at Stranraer v Elgin for sure, but it wisnae to be, and the matches took place in front of the privileged few and the ball boys/girls only. 

Down at Stair Park social distancing is never a problem; the manager and directors perform a lap of honour if 300 people turn up, but the club have come up with a clever plan. All home matches will live-screened, season ticket holders can watch for free and anyone else can pay £7.95 per game or £99 for the entire season.

One drawback to the scheme is that it might represent such good value that fans don't bother going to the ground anymore, in which case the team might as well play its home games in Glesga, where most of the players stay. But then there would be no point in calling the club Stranraer FC and the fans would no longer have any connection with them so they would stop watching. Luckily, compared to the real thing watching streamed football isn't much cop at all so this scenario is likely to remain nothing more than a dystopian fantasy.

PREMIER LEAGUE

21 NOVEMBER

DUNDEE UTD  2-1  HAMILTON

HIBERNIAN  2-2  CELTIC

KILMARNOCK  3-1  ROSS CO

LIVINGSTON  0-1  St MIRREN

St JOHNSTONE  1-1  MOTHERWELL

22 NOVEMBER

RANGERS  4-0  ABERDEEN

Having been 2-0 ahead in the second half Hibs' draw with Celtic will feel like a defeat, but Hamilton and Ross County will feel even worse. At Rugby Park Killie lost a man to a red card after only 8 minutes but still went on to beat County 3-1, while the Accies conceded twice in the final quarter at Tannadice, missed a penalty that would have saved a point and went home with nothing. 

Aberdeen seem to be a competent side but they turn to jelly against the Auld Firm, and it's happened again. Had Rangers been allowed to invite fans inside Ibrox they might well have sung "Can we play you every week?"

Livvy manager Gary Holt was really down in the dumps after his side lost to St Mirren, and his resignation 5 days later was no surprise. The poor lad looked as if if he had had all he could stands and he could stands no more, like Popeye.

24 NOVEMBER

HIBERNIAN  2-2  St JOHNSTONE

Hibs have a place in Europe to play for but they had to come back twice against the Saintees at Easter Road. All the bottom 8 are involved in a scrap to avoid relegation but St Johnstone look good enough not to have too much to worry about. 

25 NOVEMBER

HAMILTON  1-1  ABERDEEN

1-0 down at half time, a 6th successive League defeat for Accies was on the cards but Marios Okgmpoe equalised and might just have saved his team's season from turning into a nightmare. The Hamilton players will certainly have felt better at full time than they've been used to for the last few weeks.

The  Motherwell v Kilmarnock  and Motherwell v St Mirren matches, which were cancelled because of Covid-19 outbreaks at Kilmarnock and Paisley, have both been awarded to the Steelmen by a score of 3-0 after a disciplinary tribunal found that Killie and the Buddies disregarded a number of mandatory safety measures and consequently brought the outbreaks on themselves.  It's not often a team wins 3-0 twice in one day and those two victories have moved the Well up the table quite nicely.

                                  P           GD        Pts       PPG                             

Rangers           15        +37           41         2.73

Celtic                 13         +21           30         2.31

Aberdeen       14          +4           27         1.93

Hibernian       15          +5           26         1.73

Motherwell    15          +3           21         1.40

Dundee U        15          -6           20         1.33

Kilmarnock   15          -1             17          1.13

St J'stone        15          -6            16         1.07

Ross Co             15         -16           13        0.87

St Mirren          13          -11            11        0.85

Livingston      15         -10           12        0.80

Hamilton         14         -21             8        0.57

Kilmarnock and St Mirren each deducted 3 points and 3 goals, Motherwell awarded 6 points and 6 goals.

CHAMPIONSHIP

 

20 NOVEMBER

DUNFERMLINE  2-1  HEARTS

Well. That's a result to set the cat among the pigeons. It's the first time Hearts have not won so far this season. The Pars scored two quick goals in the second half and the task of pulling them both back was too much for the Jam Tarts, whose position at the top of the table has now been usurped by their opponents.

21 NOVEMBER

ARBROATH  0-0  MORTON

AYR UTD  2-0  DUNDEE

INVERNESS  2-0  RAITH

QUEEN of the SOUTH  2-0  ALLOA

                                

Caley Jags burst Raith's bubble with a 2-0 win, in front of a sprinkle of happy fans inside the stadium, that will have also gone down well at East End Park and Tynecastle. In Dumfries the three vital points went to the Doonhamers, whose win dumped Alloa onto the bottom of the table. 

24 NOVEMBER

HEARTS   3-0   ALLOA

Hearts were content with a 3-0 half time lead and Liam Boyce missed the same penalty kick twice, allowing Alloa to keep the score respectable. There was no indication that when the two sides met again 4 days later it would be the Wasps that progressed to the next round of the League Cup.

                                   P        GD         Pts          PPG

Dunfermline   5        +7             13           2.60

Hearts                  5        +8            12           2.40

Raith                      5        +9            10           2.00

Ayr                          5         +2             8            1.60

Inverness          5         +1              7            1.40

Morton                5         -4             7             1.40

Dundee               5        -5             5             1.00

QoS                         5        -3             4            0.80

Arbroath            5        -6             2            0.40

Alloa                      5        -9              1             0.20

4 DECEMBER

QUEEN of the SOUTH  v  INVERNESS

LEAGUE ONE

24 NOVEMBER

DUMBARTON  0-3  FALKIRK

Falkirk's fans will be in danger of enjoying the season if the team carries on like this. It was a bad night for the Sons, who were well beaten and dropped from 4th to 8th in one fell swoop.

28 NOVEMBER

AIRDRIE   1-1   COVE

EAST FIFE  P-P CLYDE

MONTROSE  0-1  PARTICK

PETERHEAD  0-1  FORFAR

                         P     GD       Pts           PPG

Falkirk               6      +8          14             2.33

Cove                   6      +7           13              2.17

Airdrie               6      +6          10              1.67

Partick              6      +2           10             1.67

Clyde                 5      -4            6              1.20

Dumbarton  6       -1             7               1.17

Montrose        6      -2             7              1.17

Peterhead     6       -3            6             1.00

Forfar                 6      -5            5            0.83

E Fife                   5       -5           4            0.80

The draw between Airdrie and Cove was good news for Falkirk. Partick Thistle have made a quiet start but are, almost unnoticed, climbuing up the table. Well done to Forfar for their first League win of the season. 

 

 

LEAGUE TWO

28 NOVEMBER

ALBION ROVERS  0-1  STIRLING

ANNAN  0-4  EDINBURGH C

BRECHIN  1-4  STRANRAER

ELGIN  5-2  COWDENBEATH

QUEEN'S PARK  3-1  STENHOUSEMUIR

Queen's Park conceded their first goal of the League season but recoveredto beat Stenny at Hampden. Neither the Wee Rovers nor Brechin have managed so much as a draw at home so far. Brechin equalised before half time against Stranraer but the on-form Cleyholers added another 3 goals in the second half.

                               P        GD         Pts            PPG

Queen's Pk   6         +9            16             2.67

Elgin                  6          +8           12             2.00

Stirling            6          +6            11              1.88

Stranraer      6         +2            10              1.67

Embra C         6         +5             9              1.50

Stenny             6         +1              8              1.33

Annan             6          -2             7                1.17

Cowden          5         -7             4             0.80

Albion R          5         -6             3             0.60

Brechin           6        -16            3             0.50

And we've had the League Cup to haver about an aw. The competition resumed this weekend with these ties:

28 NOVEMBER

ALLOA   1-0   HEARTS

ARBROATH  1-3  DUNFERMLINE

HIBERNIAN  1-0  DUNDEE

LIVINGSTON  4-0  AYR UTD

MOTHERWELL  1-2  St JOHNSTONE

St MIRREN  2-1  ABERDEEN

Alloa struck a blow for the part-timers against Hearts only a few days after losing to the same side. Livvy were 4-0 up at half time and able to take the second half off at home to Ayr. In both all-Premiership ties it was the Saints who marched on.

29 NOVEMBER

CELTIC  0-2  ROSS COUNTY

FALKIRK  0-4  RANGERS

It's obvious where the media's focus will be following the result at Parkhead but let's big up Ross County for a terrific win. The Staggies, who were missing some of their regular first team players, are the pride of the Highlands this week. Ross Stewart scored the first goal from the penalty spot, and Alex Iacovitti headed in the second late in the game.

Some Celtic fans held a non-socially distanced demonstration after the match, angry because their side won't, for once, win every available domestic competition. They should try following Stranraer; then they might have something to complain about. Or they could gently remind themselves that football is only a game and not, by a very long way, the most important thing in the world.

The 2021 Scottish FA Cup is here at last, and away we go...

28 NOVEMBER

1st PRELIMINARY ROUND

 

LOTHIAN THV  2-1  St CUTHBERT

PENICUIK  2-3  MUSSELBURGH

The Cuikie's Cup run was a great adventure last season but there'll no repeat this time after Musselbrough won the Battle of the Athletics. St Cuthbert didn't disgrace the Sooth against LTHV by any means, only losing to a last-minute equaliser followed by a Lothian winner in extra time.

12 DECEMBER

 

2nd PRELIMINARY ROUND

BANKS o  DEE  v  VALE  of LEITHEN

BLACKBURN CS STROLLERS

BSC GLASGOW  HADDINGTON

CLACHNACUDDIN  v  CAL BRAVES

COLDSTREAM  BO'NESS

DEVERONVALE CAMELON

DUNDONALD  v  EASTHOUSES

DUNIPACE  v  BERWICK

E STIRLINGSHIRE  v  INVERURIE

EDINBURGH UNI  v  TRANENT

FORMARTINE  v  TURRIFF

GALA FR WIGTOWN & B

GLASGOW UNI  LINLITHGOW

HILL of BEATH  v  WHITEHILL

HUNTLY  v  DALBEATTIE

JEANFIELD  v  STIRLING UNI

KEITH  v  FORT WILLIAM

LOTHIAN THV  v  LOSSIEMOUTH

NAIRN  THREAVE

NEWTON STEWART  v  BROXBURN

NEWTONGRANGE  v  ROTHES

PRESTON  v  HAWICK

SPARTANS  v  EAST KILBRIDE

STRATHSPEY BUCKIE

TYNECASTLE  v CUMBERNAULD C

WICK  v  MUSSELBURGH

 

There'll be no replays this season, for obvious reasons.

The Highland League season will be a much shorter one than usual. Each team will play 15 games and Forres Mechanics won't be there because they are taking a gap year.  It will be the first time in over 100 years that the Can Cans will be missing, but they'll be back again next summer.


Of the 16 teams in the League, 10 are based in Level 1 areas so might be able to allow fans into their grounds. Only those in Aberdeenshire know that they will have to play without supporters watching their games when the competition re-starts.

 

These are the fixtures for Day One:

28 NOVEMBER

DEVERONVALE  0-5  BRORA

FORT WILLIAM  P-P  STRATHSPEY

INVERURIE  2-0  KEITH

LOSSIEMOUTH  0-2  FRASERBURGH

NAIRN  P-P  CLACHNACUDDIN

ROTHES  1-0  HUNTLY

TURRIFF  1-5  FORMARTINE

WICK  2-3  BUCKIE

Champions Brora carried on where they left off last Spring, as did Lossie, by losing, and Fort William, by having their match called off because of a waterlogged pitch.

The Lowland League kicked off on 10 October even though the virus is causing more problems in the Central Belt than in the Highlands.

28 NOVEMBER

BONNYRIGG   2-1   EAST KILBRIDE

CUMBERNAULD C  0-1  CAL BRAVES

EDINBURGH UNI  0-6  BSC GLASGOW

GALA FR  1-2  KELTY

GRETNA  1-0  BERWICK

SPARTANS  3-1  DALBEATTIE

STIRLING UNI  0-3  E STIRLINGSHIRE

VALE of LEITHEN  0-3  CS STROLLERS

The winners of the two Matches of the Day were Kelty and Bonnyrigg, while Shire and BSC are still bubbling under nicely. Bonnyrigg's win over EK was a dramatic one; Kilby, down to 10 men, had equalised with 5 minutes to go when goalie Mark Weir punched the ball into his own net, but Rose were then awarded a penalty and Lee Currie, lucky not to have been sent off in the first half, converted it to win the game. Kilby responded angrily but they should blame themselves rather than the ref. Kyle Hutton deserved his red card for a shocking revenge foul on Currie and that last minute penalty kick resulted from a daft trip inside the box.

4 DECEMBER

CUMBERNAULD C  v  SPARTANS

E STIRLINGSHIRE CAL BRAVES

                                 P        GD          Pts           PPG

Kelty                    9        +19            24            2.67

Bonnyrigg     10        +18           23             2.30

E Kilbride        10        +15           23             2.30

E 'Shire              10        +15           22             2.20

BSC                      11        +20           24             2.18

Bo'ness             9         +10            18            2.00

Gala                     9          +3             18            2.00

Spartans        10         +5             15             1.50

Stirling Uni    11          +1               16             1.45

CSS                      10          0               14            1.40

Berwick           11          -2               13             1.18

Gretna               9         -3                9             1.00

Cumber C      11          -7               10            0.91

C Braves         10        -11               9             0.90

Dalbeattie      8        -10              4            0.50

Embra Uni      11        -29              4            0.36

Vale                     11       -44              0            0.00

            

At Step 6 the West of Scotland League looked likely to be the one with the highest standard. Auchinleck Talbot were, once again, probably the best non-league team in the country last season. Unfortunately, coronavirus in the West of Scotland  scuppered the plans for the new season. Several clubs  announced that they are taking the year off, including Auchinleck. The new-style WSL is a welcome development but has come just at the wrong time.

The competition began without five of its best sides and Benburb stepped away after defeats in their first 3 games. Shortage of space and the decision that there will be no promotion or relegation within the WoSL this season so what goes on in the three Conference sections won't make any difference in the Spring, but here are the latest results and standings in the Premier Division.

28 NOVEMBER

CUMBERNAULD U  0-3  DARVEL

HURLFORD  2-1  KIRKINTILLOCH

IRVINE MEADOW  2-0  BONNYTON

KILWINNING  1-2  LARGS

ROSSVALE  3-4  BLANTYRE

R GLENCAIRN  1-2  TROON

The scheduled League match between Clydebank and Beith became a Challenge Cup game instead following the postponement of their tie last weekend. This was a good thing for Beith because the Bankies won the game 3-0. 

                                P     GD      Pts         PPG

Clydebank     4     +10      12           3.00

Troon                  4       +5      10           2.50

Darvel                4       +9        9           2.25

Irvine M             4       +3        9           2.25

Hurlford            5       -1        10          2.00

Blantyre           4       -2        7             1.75

Beith                    3       +1         5            1.67

Largs                   4       +2        6           1.50

Kilwinning      4         0        6            1.50

Glens                   3       -1         3            1.00

Kirkie RR           5       -6        3           0.60

Rossvale          5       -4         1           0.20

Bonnyton        4       -7        0           0.00

Cumber Utd  3       -9        0           0.00

The East of Scotland League is now well under way, and here's what's been happening lately.  

28 NOVEMBER

BLACKBURN  1-2  DUNDONALD

CROSSGATES  1-4  CAMELON

HILL of BEATH  2-0  WHITEHILL

INVERKEITHING  0-1  DUNBAR

LINLITHGOW  2-1  NEWTONGRANGE

SAUCHIE  2-0  BROXBURN

TYNECASTLE  0-0  TRANENT

Last week Tranent scored 12 but this week they didn't manage any goals against Tynecastle in the all-maroon clash. Whitehill have more or less replaced their squad with a new set of players since their last League game but they still haven't managed to get any points yet. A win for Inverkeithing would have been very useful but it was Dunbar who took the three points with a goal in the 85th minute. 

1 DECEMBER

PENICUIK  3-2  MUSSELBURGH

The second meeting between these 2 teams in a few days and this time the result of Saturday's Cup tie was reversed. Looking at the table now, both teams might feel quite content with the way the two games went; Cuikie need the points to maintain their promotion challenge and Burgh can look forward to the possibility of a Cup run.

2 DECEMBER

LOTHIAN THV  3-3  BROXBURN

The EoSL's two most in-and-out sides met and it looked as though the Brox were going to take the points when they went 3-1 ahead deep into the second half, but Lothian fought back and managed to escape with a draw thanks to an injury-time equaliser.

                                   P        GD       Pts          PPG

Jeanfield           8       +18        20            2.50

Penicuik             7        +11          16             2.29

Tranent             11        +19        25             2.27

Dundonald      8        +4          16            2.00

Musselb'gh   10         +5          19             1.90

Lothian             10         +2          19             1.90

Lithgae               9         +6          16             1.78

Camelon           8        +8          14             1.75

Broxburn         10        +2          16             1.60

Hill o Beath     10       -2           15             1.50

Tynecastle     10       +8          14             1.40

Sauchie             10       +4          12             1.20

Nitten                  11         +1           13              1.18

Dunbar              11       -15          10            0.91

Crossgates     9       -10            7            0.78 

Inverk'ing         8      -20           3            0.38

Blackburn      10      -20           3            0.30

Whitehill           8       -21            0            0.00

 

The EoSL's second tier is divided into Division 1A and Division 1B, and tradition tells us that A is the best place to begin. Here are the latest scores and tables:

DIVISION 1 A

28 NOVEMBER

ARNISTON  P-P  St ANDREWS

CRAIGROYSTON  2-6  THORNTON

EDINBURGH STH  5-0  COLDSTREAM

EDINBURGH UTD  3-4  ORMISTON

KENNOWAY SH  0-2  HADDINGTON

KIRKCALDY & D  2-1  DALKEITH

ROSYTH  1-2  LEITH

TWEEDMOUTH  1-8  DUNIPACE

In Division 1A , too, there were two Matches of the Day and it was Leith and Haddington that came out on top. Rosyth were the most difficult opponents that Leith have faced, and were 1-0 ahead at half time, but had a man sent off and conceded two goals in the second half. Ormiston will have enjoyed their rare win, while Kirkcaldy & Dysart are now on a 3 match unbeaten run and clocked up their first ever senior League win. That leaves Tweedmouth........

                                P        GD       Pts          PPG

Leith                    6        +18         18           3.00 

Hadd'ton         9       +20        23           2.56

Kenn SH            7        +13         15            2.14

Thornton         8        +8          16            2.00

Embra Sth      9         +5          18           2.00

Rosyth               9       +12          16            1.78

Embra Utd     10       +4          16            1.60
C'royston        8        +2           11             1.38

Dunipace        8       +11          10             1.25

Coldstr'm       8       -10           9              1.13

Dalkeith           9        +3          10              1.11

St Andrews    7        -9            7             1.00

Arniston          8        -16          7            0.88

Ormiston        7        -10          6            0.86

Kirkcaldy        9       -23         4            0.44  

Tweedm'th    6       -27          0           0.00

DIVISION 1 B

28 NOVEMBER

EYEMOUTH  0-6  BURNTISLAND

GLENROTHES  1-3  PEEBLES

HAWICK  2-5  HERIOT-WATT

KINNOULL  5-1  LOCHGELLY

LOCHORE  P-P  EASTHOUSES

PRESTON  1-1  OAKLEY

STIRLING UNI II  0-2  LUNCARTY

Luncarty have still not dropped a point. With Jeanfield ahead in the top division, Kinnoull also looking dangerous and St Johnstone doing respectably in the SPL as well it's a good season so far for the City of Perth.

                                P        GD        Pts         PPG

Luncarty         6        +19         18           3.00

Newburgh     7         +12         15            2.14

Oakley              8         +11         17             2.13

H-W Uni           9        +16         18           2.00

Kinnoull           7         +11          13            1.86

Burntisland  7         +8          13            1.86

Easthouses   8         +7          11             1.38

Peebles             8         +1          11             1.38

Stirling  U II     9        -3          12            1.33

Glenrothes    6        -3           8             1.33

Preston             7          -1           6           0.86

Lochgelly        8       -14          5           0.63

Hawick             7          -5          3            0.43

Lochore            6         -8          3            0.50

Eyemouth      7        -51          0            0.00

Hawick deducted 3 pts. Glenrothes awarded 3 points. 

 

The South of Scotland League (aka the Sooth) is the weakest of the three potential feeders to the LL but it was up and ready to begin on schedule on 10 October. Here's where we are the noo:

28 NOVEMBER

CAL BRAVES II  4-2  NEWTON STEWART

LOCHAR  3-1  HESTON

LOCHMABEN  3-4  NITHSDALE

MID-ANNANDALE  2-5  THREAVE

STRANRAER II  4-1  ABBEY VALE

WIGTOWN & B  2-0  UPPER ANNANDALE

Threave were clearly glad to be back where they feel comfortable after their Cup flop last week. Abbey Vale turned out to be less of a problem that Stranraer Reserves  might have feared. Happiest team will probably be Lochar Thistle, who won the Dumfries derby and registered their first win of the season. Nithsdale's 7 games have now resulted in 43 goals; they would be a very entertaining team to watch if we were allowed to see them play. With Covid-19 apparently well-controlled in D&G, maybe it won't be long before we can do so. 

                                  P          GD        Pts            PPG

Threave            5          +12          12             2.40

Stranraer II     8         +21          19              2.38

St Cuthbert    6           +7           13               2.17

Wigtown          6           +4          12              2.00

Nithsdale        6            +3          12              2.00

C Braves II       4          +4            7                1.75

Abbey Vale    6           +3           10              1.67

Uppers               7            -2            9               1.29

Newton              7           -5            9               1.29

Lochmaben   6           -7            5              0.83 

Mids                     5           -6            4             0.80

Creetown        5         -18            3              0.60

Heston               7           -8            4              0.57

Lochar                8          -8            4              0.50

 

Ye didnae think I'd forgotten, did ye? The women's season is back again after a false start in February. Normally the SWFL is a spring and summer competition but this year the players (and hopefully eventually some fans) are going to be feeling the cold.

If ever someone wants me to give up national secrets there's no need to fetch the thumbscrew out. Just say you're going to make me spend 90 minutes watching the Scottish national women's side. That's all that needs to be said on that subject.

The opening League fixtures took place on Sunday 18 October. The second tier has had to  re-arrange its fixtures so the early ones are all, as much as possible, local derbies, in order to reduce the necessity for travel during the pandemic. 

SWFL 1

20 NOVEMBER

HIBERNIAN  2-6  CELTIC

Wow. The result was expected to be closer than that! Hibs have tended to be the second best team in the Scottish women's game but on the evidence of this scoreline the tide is definitely turning. Money talks in professional football, regardless of the gender of the players, and the league table emphasises the point.

22 NOVEMBER

FORFAR FARMINGTON  1-3  RANGERS

GLASGOW CITY  5-0  HEARTS

MOTHERWELL  0-2  SPARTANS

                                             P       GD        Pts        PPG           

Glesga City                5       +18          15         3.00

Celtic                               5       +14          12         2.40

Rangers                        5         +7           12         2.40

Hibernian                    5         +1             6           1.20

Spartans                      5           0            6           1.20

Farmington               5         -5            6           1.20

Motherwell                 5       -10           3          0.60

Hearts                             5      -25           0          0.00

A million puns on the theme of Broken Hearts come to mind but 5-0 isn't too bad, considering. Glesga City probably spent the previous 3 days warming their limbs back up after playing in Reykjavik against Valur on Wedneday afternoon. It didn't half look chilly. Farmington's defenders didn't help their prospects by conceding an own goal and a penalty in the first half against Rangers.

SWFL 2

 

29 NOVEMBER

ABERDEEN  3-0  KILMARNOCK

DUNDEE UTD  4-1  BOROUGHMUIR

HAMILTON  8-0  STIRLING UNI

PARTICK  1-0  GLASGOW WOMEN

St JOHNSTONE  3-0  QUEEN'S PARK

                                        P      GD       Pts          PPG

Aberdeen               8      +22        21           2.63

Partick                      8        +9         16          2.00

Queen's Pk             8        -2         13           1.63

Dundee Utd          8         +4        15           1.88

Kilmarnock          7          -6          9           1.29

Hamilton                 8       +12        13           1.63

Glesga W                8         +2        10            1.25

St Johnstone       7         -4         10           1.43

Boroughmuir      8        -16         6           0.75

Stirling Uni             8       -21          1             0.13

Obviously not a good day to be on the road.

 

CHAMPIONSHIP NORTH

                                  P       GD        Pts       PPG

ICT                          2        +7          6           3.00

Montrose         2        +6          6           3.00

Dryburgh         2        +5          6           3.00

Dundee W       3          0           6           2.00

Dunferm'ne   2        +4          3            1.50

East Fife             2        +1           3            1.50

Buchan              2        -1           3            1.50

Grampian        1        -3          0            0.00

Westdyke        3       -7           0           0.00

Stonehaven   3      -12          0           0.00

Fixtures were planned for 22 November but were not played because of the Covid-19 rules, that appear to allow matches to take place in the top two levels of the women's league but not in the third.

CHAMPIONSHIP SOUTH

Still not started! As above, there was a schedule planned for 22 November, and another pencilled in for 29 November as well but it never happened. The chances of the South section being completed with a full set of teams and all its matches played recedes week  by week. It's a shame but it cannae be helped.

The 14 teams hoping to get to play are Airdrie, Ayr United, BSC Glasgow, Clyde, Edinburgh Caledonia, Edinburgh City, Falkirk, Gartcairn, Livingston, Morton, Renfrew, St Mirren, Stenhousemuir and United Glasgow.

 

Round-Up

RUGBY UNION

 

Not many people saw that coming! In November, Argentina beat the mighty All Blacks for the first time ever, defeating them 25-15 in Sydney. But when the teams met again a couple of weeks later the All Blacks had learned their lesson, and crushed the Pumas 38-0.

 

In the resumed women's Six Nations Scotland were 13-3 behind in the second half when France went down to 14 players after having used up their substitutes. The Scots took advantage and fought back to achieve an exciting 13-13 draw. The result was good news for England too, because it meant that they are the new champions. Scotland's game against Wales this weekend has been called off because of the pandemic. Some of the French players tested positive after last Sunday's match.

The outstanding games, in Wales and Italy, have been called off.

 

The Scotland men's team finished off their 2020 campaign with a well-deserved win against Wales in stormy weather and took the Doddie Weir Trophy. 

 

On 14 November, in Tuscany, the Scotland team were too busy enjoying the weather and the scenery in the first half but knuckled down after half time and beat Italy 28-17 but the following weekend they were beaten 22-15 by France in a game that the Ee couldn't watch because it was on Sky TV. 

 

CYCLING

​​

Time waits for nobody, and it looks like we might see no more of the Manx Missile. After finishing 74th in a one-day event on 11 October Mark Cavendish was in tears, and told reporters he had taken part in his final race. He changed his mind after sleeping on his performance but time and the Epstein-Barr virus have taken their toll and his days at the top are surely over. Great memories, though.

A medical tribunal has heard that Richard Freeman, who used to be doctor to Team Sky and British Cycling, destroyed a laptop to keep its contents away from doping investigators. Dr Freeman claims he was intimidated into prescribing testosterone by the head of British Cycling, Shane Sutton.

Dylan Groenewegan has been banned till 7 May 2021 for dangerous riding, following a crash in the Tour of Poland that left another rider with serious injuries and in need of facial reconstruction surgery. 

ATHLETICS

South African Caster Semenya is banned till she takes drugs to reduce her testosterone even though it's not her fault that her body makes too much. She doesn't cheat, unlike some other athletes we could mention. It's ironic that performers who are caught taking drugs are normally sanctioned but Ms Semenya suffers the same punishment for not doing so. It's like telling a basketball player he is too tall and forcing him to play in bare feet.

RUGBY LEAGUE

An experiment that should really never have been attempted is now over after Toronto Wolfpack were told they would not be allowed back into Super League. There's no reason why American and Canadian clubs can't organise their own competition over there. Now, a Scottish team in Super League would make much more sense. 

The Grand Final had no fans inside the ground to watch it but still provided a thrilling finish, with St Helens scoring the winning try after the hooter had sounded against their old rivals Wigan.

 

 

FITBA

With 5 games of the season to go, Bodø/Glimt's 18 point lead has made them the first team from within the Arctic Circle to become champions of Norway.

The head of Africa's fitba confederation has been banned for 5 years by FIFA, for bribery and corruption. Insert observation about pots and kettles here. 

 

The manager of the Welsh national men's team, Ryan Giggs, has been suspended from the job after being arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. He has been replaced, for at least three matches, by Robert Page. 

Remembering Nancy Riach

 

The Kenneth Roy post-war year by year history of Scotland entitled The Invisible Spirit is a great read but it's not always 100% accurate, and his tale of young Nancy Riach going to bed with a paralysed arm and never waking up again doesn't explain her death properly by any means, but for those of us who had never heard of Nancy because she was famous before our time the story was certainly an encouragement to check out what really happened.

 

Born in Motherwell in 1927, Nancy was probably the finest competitive swimmer Scotland has ever had. At the age of 18, while specialising in freestyle swimming, she was a champion in other disciplines as well and by the time she was 18 she held 28 British and Scottish all-time records. There were no Olympics between 1936 and 1948 but she did take part in international competition and would have been an odds-on favourite for gold medals in the 1948 Games, which were to be held in London.

In 1947 Nancy was in her prime, or at least as close to it as she was, unfortunately, ever to become, and won the freestyle championship in the World Student Games before moving on to the European Championships in Monte Carlo. As was by no means uncommon in those days, she contracted polio (referred to at the time as infantile paralysis) while she was there, but still insisted on competing. At the end of her 100 metres freestyle race she collapsed, and was never to regain consciousness. On 15 September she died, aged 20, tragically before her parents, who had been summoned by team officials and had flown from Glasgow, could get to her bedside. At her funeral 5 days later thousands walked the route taken by her hearse on a dreich day in Airdrie, the sad event being filmed and shown in cinemas by Pathe News. 

Typical

Everybody knows that Scotland aren't very good at team sports these days. Neither the men nor the women's national fitba team have ever gone beyond the first stage in an international tournament, and when it looked certain that the women were about to do just that in last year's World Cup, a 3-0 lead was tossed away against Argentina with a twice-taken injury time penalty kick delivering the coup de grace to our hopes. Since the Rugby Union 5 Nations became the 6 Nations 20 years ago Scotland have never won the title, and it's probably just as well that shinty isn't an international sport because we'd probably get beaten at that as well. It's a good job we have the women's curling team but even their successes have tended to come under the GB banner rather than as Scotland. 

But in 2017 we had an unlikely place on the international sporting stage Down Under when Scotland took part in the Rugby League World Cup. The side looked magnificent in their blue shirts and tartan shorts, and were led by respected Super League star Danny Brough, whose grandfather came from Scotland. While expectations weren't high, nothing could go really badly wrong, could it?

Unlike the 1978 World Cup football team, who were widely expected by Scots (and no-one else) to do really well and subsequently slunk home in disgrace after the flops against Peru and Iran, no-one thought Scotland had a chance of success in the '17 RL equivalent, and how right they were. Drawn against New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga, the team may have hoped, at least, to put in a respectable display. In 2013 Scotland beat Tonga in a thriller at Workington but by half-time in the first match in Cairns against the same opponents it was evident that things weren't going to turn out well this time. Tonga scored 7 tries in 40 minutes and the Scots trudged off the field for the break losing 38-0. In the end the final score of 50-4 wasn't too disgraceful considering the hammering that was dished out in that first half. One thing that was definitely not in our side's favour was the non-Scottish weather. It was such a humid and hot day that quarter time drinks breaks were ordered. The heat mattered not a jot to Tonga's players, but Scotland laboured to a sweaty defeat, which, as it was to turn out, was only to be expected given the probability not all the squad were entirely match fit .

On to Christchurch 6 days later, and a game against New Zealand. The NZ Rugby League team isn't as famous or as dominant as the All Blacks Rugby Union side but they are, nevertheless, one of the top teams in the world and were playing at home, so in the circumstances Scotland didn't do badly to hold them to 28-0 at half time, but the expected avalanche of tries occurred in the second half and the final score of 74-6 meant that the Bravehearts, as the team were dubbed, had conceded 124 points in 160 minutes of action. 

All that was required to make this a classic Scottish sporting story was a Willie Johnston moment and, as it could have been foretold, one came along when the team arrived at Christchurch Airport to catch their plane after the game. Skipper Brough, along with fringe players Jonathan Walker and Sam Brooks, was deemed too drunk to fly and all three were immediately axed from the squad and sent home along with their hangovers. 

As we might have expected that wasn't the end of the story. In the final match the team took on a Samoan side who were, themselves, out of favour with their public after losing against Tonga, their fierce rivals, but were still strong favourite to win. However, there were memories of Archie Gemmill in 1978 when Lewis Tierney dived onto Danny Addy's clever punt to give the Bravehearts an early lead. Addy was in Brough's place at stand off and played so well that he was given the Man of the Match award. By half time, although Samoa had equalised with a try of their own, Frankie Mariano had bagged another for Scotland and Addy had kicked three goals, making the half time score 14-6 in Scotland's favour.

 

Could the team hang on for a famous victory and progress to the next round? Well, not quite. The final result was a 14-14 draw, with Scottish players making 3  goal attempts in the final minutes, all of which looked to be going between the posts only to drift and fade wide. It was a fine performance, certainly, but that old familiar experience of gallant sporting failure was all that the team brought home from New Zealand in the end.

Danny Brough never played for Scotland again, but he might do so yet. He no longer drinks alcohol and at the age of 37 is the Big Name signing that Bradford Bulls hope will demonstrate their credentials for filling the vacancy in the Super League.

The First Rugby International

Celebrations are due on 27 March 2021 because it's the 150th anniversary of the first ever international match. The two competing sides on that day in 1871, naturally, were Scotland and England and the game took place before a crowd of 4000 at Raeburn Place, the home ground of Edinburgh Academicals.


Rugby League had not yet been invented, but it would be a mistake to think that there was only one variety of the game. For starters, each team in the Raeburn Place match fielded 20 players, and the Scottish and English versions of the rules were different enough for the referee, HH Almond, to threaten to walk off the field and abandon the game should the Englishmen not stop complaining about not being allowed to kick the ball out of their opponents' hands.

England's team was, basically, the Blackheath side. The English RU had ignored the challenge from the Scots to take part in a match but Blackheath were a law unto themselves in those days and happily picked up the gauntlet, although the players were probably less thrilled when they were forced to pay their own train fare and to sleep on bare boards in a third class carriage. Their team took to the pitch in the all white with a red rose which is still England's default look today, while Scotland's XX wore brown shirts decorated with a thistle. 

The game turned out to be a bit of a bourach. Many spectators, who had paid a shilling each to see the match, actually saw little or nothing of the action because of the size of the crowd, and referee Almond's Scottish interpretation of the rules annoyed and frustrated England's players.  The reason a try is called a try is that in those early days all that grounding the ball over the line won for a team was a chance to try to kick a goal. Tries that weren't converted didn't count, and there were no penalty goals because the players were gentlemen and so, by definition, would not dream of fouling an opponent on purpose.

 

Scotland achieved two tries and England one, but only one of the three was converted into a goal and that's why Scotland won the match 1-0. Mr Almond confessed that the try that led to the goal should probably have been disallowed; he hadn't seen for himself whether or not there had been a knock-on in the build up, but he worked on the premise that the side making the most noise was probably in the wrong. Since England's players protested so loudly he decided that, according to his own unique interpretation of the laws, the try was legitimate.

On Christmas Day 1872 England and Scotland met each other again, in Calcutta. The local worthies were so pleased and grateful that they created a new trophy made from melted down silver rupees and called it the Calcutta Cup. This is the very same trophy that Scotland and England have competed for since 1879.

Naebody's Fasht

 

On our side of the big pond hardly anybody cares about American sport, or, as they always say over there, sports. This means that no matter how many times we're given information and hype on the subjects we don't give a hoot for basketball, baseball or American football, in all of which the players are shockingly overpaid and over-exposed. 

The Super Bowl? Naebody's fasht. I don't want to know who won and have less than no interest in who was miming at half time or what they were wearing at the time.  The same goes for basketball. With all due respect to his daughter and to the other people who were killed in the same helicopter accident, Kobe Bryant would most likely have still been serving a prison sentence for rape were it not for the fact that he was wealthy enough to pay off his accuser.

Baseball makes no sense to me. It seems to be an unnecessarily complicated version of rounders. The fans clearly love it and it seems to create a good a good atmosphere but I don't have a clue about the rules. Still, Americans (and a lot of Scots) probably feel the same way about cricket, so if the people of the USA love their baseball then fair play to them, but that's no reason to bore the rest of us by telling us who's winning the World Series, because we're not interested.

And then there's ice hockey. It's just daft. I've been to a game and it was impossible to keep up because the players continually jumped in and out of the playing area and the puck is so tiny that unless you're watching on television it's invisible. It's like some crazy ballet in which men in crash helmets rush at each other, wave coshes and then bash each other against the fence. Then, after 20 minutes of fighting, there's another 20 minutes spent eating hot dogs before they come back on, go through the same rituals again, go off again while the crowd eat yet more sausages till finally there's another 20 minutes of apparently aimless violence.


To be fair, the game I saw took place not in the USA but in Sweden. It attracted the very dregs of the town of Växjö, who were largely drunk and aggressive and made Sieg Heil salutes while singing the Swedish national anthem. We left after the second 20 minutes, partly out of alienation but mostly because of pure boredom. It was rubbish.

In much of the USA, particularly the parts where folk tended to vote for Donald Trump, they don't go in much for these sports either. To millions of Americans, a leisure activity that doesn't involve abusing, killing and/or eating as many animals as possible  just ain't worth a dime, son. 

 

 

Daddin fowk in the Gub

Boxing.

 

I'm reluctant to talk about it here because it's not sport as I recognise it. It seems to me that the bigger and more vicious the fighters the more folk enjoy watching it even to the extent of paying huge amounts of money to see it on a sports channel they are already paying for. Tune in later, everybody, and watch the blood begin to flow.

For myself I can cope perfectly well with wee boxers jinking and feinting and wearing headgear to prevent damage but the daft spectacle of professional boxers pretending to hate each other at the weigh-in, and the provocative things they say about one another, all seem more like mediaeval shenanigans than something that belongs in the 21st Century. The chatter around Tyson Fury seems to consist of admiration for his sheer brutality and apparent lack of inhibition. Fans like their boxing heroes to show signs of mental instability;  it appeals to their lust for blood to imagine their favourite bludgeoning the other lad to a pulp.

Here's a deliberately provocative statement: people enjoy watching heavyweight boxers smacking each other because it satisfies their own violent fantasies. Who hasn't, at some time, wanted to punch their boss? I know I have! Jealous and insecure men that live in fear of bein dumped by wives and girlfriends can relish the vicarious thrill of imagining that they are actually tough guys who don't give a damn for anyone; they would actually like to bash their womenfolk to punish them the fact that they are so dependant on them. As Wilder fell to the canvas on the end of Fury's fist in January with his ear burst all over the place, they saw their significant others, just for a second or two, writhing in pain. That'll teach them to be indispensable! 


Boxing is so greatly associated with masculinity that Sonny Liston's grave tribute simply reads "A man." It could just as easily have read "A gangster who was probably murdered over a dispute with other gangsters" and Freddie Mills' and Oscar Bonavena's headstones could say the same thing. Chuck in the homophobia, which Tyson Fury is notorious for and once led to Benny Paret being battered to death in the ring by Emile Griffith, and the racism involved in rich cigar-sucking white businessmen in dickie bows taking their women to watch predominantly black men punching each other for money in the name of entertainment and you've got an unattractive package all round.

If youngsters are no longer allowed to head a football why are teenagers and growing lads allowed to bash one another in the ring?  I'm sure that, person for person, boxers are killed or badly injured far more frequently than footballers. There's an argument, and I understand it, that if people want to take up boxing and accept the risk of being killed or brain-damaged then it's their own business, but why stop there? We could professionalise fighting with chibs and baseball bats too. Show it on Sky TV and charge £50 a head to watch. Hear the crowd's disappointment if all the participants are still alive after 5 minutes.

 

We don't charge a fee to watch people taking crack or heroin even if we accept that it's up to the users themselves to decide whether to keep doing it. If we are to accept boxing as a sport, we can at least reduce the risk of injury and take the bloodlust away by putting a stop to the professional game and making it all amateur, with mandatory protective headgear. It would still be a contest of skill but with a greatly reduced danger of causing brain damage and we would no longer be staging legalised thuggery, which is what professional boxing frequently amounts to. 

This year we've been told that Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr are planning to climb back into the ring for a scrap. Hey. I saw Chris Waddle play fitba in his fifties an he wasn't up to it; he was fagged out after 5 minutes. We can't expect Tyson v Jones to provide much entertainment; it's more likely that at least one of them will drop dead in the ring.* 

There was a big locked down fight in an Aberdeen hotel in July, and to make sure that social distancing was observed there was nobody allowed into the room to watch and the ref wore a mask and gloves. Hello there! Boxing is a lot more dangerous to individuals even than Covid-19 and the chance of somebody being killed by a fist is greater than the likelihood of dying from the virus. The fighters would have been better off, and safer, sitting down together in the pub. Instead, Scott Harrison battered Paul Peers into yielding after three bloody rounds. 

* Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr did get into the ring together, on 28 November, but thankfully it was just a bit of fun and both survived. That's a relief.

R.I.P. Tarff Rovers

Here's a funny thing. The River Tarff, so most folk believe, is a tributary of the River Dee in Kirkcudbrightshire and has no connection with historic fitba club Tarff Rovers. The stream that flows by Rovers' old park in Wigtownshire, according to all the maps including the OS, is the Tarf Water, with only one F. But a notice on the bridge next to the old ground outwith Kirkcowan says RIVER TARFF so there we go. The folk that stay there should ken how to spell their own stretch of water after all. This means that the maps are wrong and that there are actually two River Tarffs in Dumfries & Galloway.

Tarff Rovers disappeared because of a lack of local interest in 2003 but Kirkcowan did see South of Scotland League fitba again in 2009/10 when Creetown FC spent a year there while Castle Cary Park was being upgraded. In 1969 Rovers beat Alloa Athletic in the Scottish Cup, but when they were drawn against Partick Thistle in 1954 the Glesga papers had to explain who they were and where they came from.

Partick won the game, 9-1.

Most of the blame for the Rovers' death has been laid at the door of a man called Robert Burns (!) who enticed players from far away, including Chic Charnley of Partick Thistle notoriety, leaving no place for local players. When Mr Burns decided he no longer wanted to flash the cheque book the local lads, according to popular rumour, told him to shove his team where the sun don't shine. According to Chic Charnley himself, he got £10,000 for signing up with the team in 1998 an was on £400 per match, but not for long because after a few weeks he was off to Portadown, leaving Mr Burns poorer if no wiser.

 

There's not much evidence that they were ever there,  now. The old ground, once known as Balgreen Park, is just like a common or garden farmer's field that happens to have goalposts in it and an old broken down bothy that, on closer inspection, turns out to be the dressing rooms and stand. The thought that this wee bit of land down a farm track once was home to a semi-professional fitba club is a difficult one to take in. It's only 17 years even now since Rovers vanished, after 129 years of providing fun and recreation for the folk of Kirkcowan.

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