Tag Archives: Falkirk FC

SCOTTISH CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS 2015-16

7 Aug

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Ladbrokes SCOTTISH CHAMPIONSHIP PREDICTIONS

1
Rangers

2
Hibernian

3
Falkirk

4
Queen Of The South

5
Raith Rovers

6
Dumbarton

7
Alloa

8
St Mirren

9
Livingston

10
Morton

Once again the Championship is where it is at.  Already taken up more column inches and the season has not started yet. 

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Rangers simple have to win this year. No one could have predicted the catastrophic events on and off the field last season and Mark Warburton has invested well yet kept enough experience to settle this side.  The Petrofac Training Cup demolition of Hibernian set a standard that might not always be held up but means that the no brainer is to back the Govan team to win this league and win it comfortably with or without Scott Allan.

This brings us onto Hibernian. Alan Stubbs seems more intent in kicking his rivals transfer bids than kicking his team into shape.  The only positive about the Scott Allan transfer saga for him is that it took away the pressure from losing at home to Rangers so badly in spite of taking an early lead.  Solid in second for the Leith side if they get their act together.  The Hibees have to hope that they will finally win a playoff tie in the new league set up.  Peter Houston’s Falkirk runners up in the Scottish Cup for me are solid in third a good cup team strengthened in right areas with a superb youth system and training set up.  Dangerous in playoffs given their cup record and always a tough proposition at the Falkirk Stadium. Third with a chance in Playoffs.

Queen of the South in fourth seems such a waste but its stable and that is exactly what the Dumfries side are solid dependable with enough skill to cause any team problems.  James Fowler has simply operated a business as usual police and you know for the Palmerston players same as last year and a good shout in play offs is not the worse result ever.  Good cup record too so always a danger.  Raith Rovers Grant Murray has that mix of youth and experience and looking at them it is another year in the Championship gaining experience with the occasional shock to build towards a genuine push next season.  Starks Park on a cold Tuesday in December is a cold and foreboding place and more than a few visiting teams will leave points in Fife.  For their part, blowing hot and cold away from home is a worry for the Kirkcaldy Side. 

Dumbarton in sixth Ian Murray may have departed on a ferry across the Clyde but Stephen Aitken has a solid well-drilled squad with a good mix and the shadow of the rock makes the sons a tricky proposition at any time.  Staying in Championship is their priority. Playing Rangers brings back the historical shared League title glory. 
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Alloa in seventh.  The much-maligned plastic pitch at Recreation Park is a great leveller whether there is anything that wrong with it or not.  It gathered a reputation that Hibs Fraser Fyvie can testify too and this fear makes teams travelling to play the Wasps wary of the sting in the tail.  Danny Lennon should enjoy his trips back to Paisley and his guile; self-assurance and need to get one over his former employers should place Athletic above St Mirren.

St Mirren Eighth.  A dismal season last year with a decision to release Danny Lennon compounded by a strange promotion of Assistant Manager then when he was sacked a senior player!  The only thing that distracted people from looking at the shenanigans in Paisley was the events happening just along the Paisley Road West in Ibrox.  Disastrous home form for the last two seasons and not much better away.  The League Cup Winners of 2013 have choked on the smell of Brasso and choked in the face of opposition from every league in all Cup competitions.  Ian Murray has jumped across the Clyde to sort it out but selling Kenny McLean might stabilise finances but hurt the team.  A year of rebuilding and should stay in Championship without challenging either the top four or endangering relegation spots. Important they keep the Buddies Fans onside too.
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Livingston ninth Mark Burchill is trying to rebuild a club that has been subject to more financial audits than is healthy for any club in recent years.  Do not get me wrong Burchie is the man for this job and although I predict a lowly finish, I do feel they have just enough to stay up. 

Morton Tenth.  The jump up is enormous they done well to beat Dunfermline last year to win promotion but it has to said there is really nothing that makes you think they will set the heather on fire.  Jim Duffy will enjoy the Renfrewshire Rivalry with St Mirren but Greenock will only be a destination in this league for one year.

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Debt Free – Is The Badge Enough?

17 Nov

On paper what Stewart Milne has achieved as Chairman of Aberdeen Football Club is miraculous. 
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He took over a club languishing with a debt of both ambition and finance trying to compete with the Big Lads down the road.  Chris Donald the legendary Richard’s son simply had ran out of ideas on how to maintain the club let alone make it a success. He joined the board in1994 becoming Chairman in 1998.
I mention Dick (Richard) Donald as he along with the long forgotten Chris Anderson were instrumental with a certain Sir Alex Ferguson in heralding the most successful period in the Dandy Dons history. The haul of cups in a twenty four thousand all seated stadia was achieved by hard graft and more importantly no debt. That’s right no debt in a All Seated, mostly covered (all but for two corners) bringing in League titles, Scottish Cups and of course a European Cup Winners Cup in 1983. Beating the Galaticos of Real Madrid in Gothenburg with no debt. I would doubt that Dick and Chris even had a overdraft facility at the bank. If it was not for a similar although not quite as successful Dundee United then it would be easy to say this Aberdeen team and club were the last of the old school scottish clubs bringing sucess on a shoestring with nothing more than Savvy, sweat and skill.

The wild days of the late seventies to mid eighties. Before the football revolution of Satelite Television money. When the top league in Europe was Serie A. Heady days indeed.

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Alex Ferguson and Dick Donald in front of benches of the beach end. This would be demolished and replaced by a all seated stand named after the former chairman. http://www.afcheritage.org

Back then life in Aberdeen was simple, play league games, win more than you lose and you know a maximum capacity of twenty four thousand seemed not enough to satisfy the Crowds that regularly filled Union Street as a open top bus paraded a trophy. The supply and demand for tickets to the next big match on the conveyer belt at Pittodrie was such that a loyalty scheme for tickets had to be employed. Go to two out of three selected games get a token at each game. Two out of three tokens enables you to buy a ticket to the big game. Genius from the Donald/Anderson board marginalise the glory hunter and simultaneously increase the home gate to otherwise less desirable games. Did I mention genius because that was exactly what that scheme was. Not only did it reward loyalty it increased revenue. It singularly meant that few fans could complain that they did not deserve a ticket to the glamour games.

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Union Street Open top bus trophy parade (www.bbc.co.uk)

This from a tight well run ship by the sands. No debt and securely ran to budget, with a customer base that was generally happy. All this safe in knowledge that demand for tickets outstripped supply yet ticketless fans did not turn on the club.

The club’s assets in 1984. A team with a minimum of Four Scottish internationals, sometimes suplimented by two or three peripheral in scottish squad. A good splattering of Under 21s in and around the first team and playing staff. Scotland’s first All Seated all covered twenty four thousand capacity stadium situated on prime coastal land including a reasonable sized carpark across Pittrodrie Street and of course no debt. It would not be unusual knowing the way this club was ran then if a profit was not made in more than a few years. A profit to reinvest or save for rainy days and contingencies. A perfectly solid proposition and business model of a Brasso scented football club on it’s way to lifting the League title.

Ten years later the club was in turmoil. Dick Donald had passed as had Chris Anderson and the club was facing a spiraling debt and lack of investment. As other clubs had invested and became winners Aberdeen had not quite invested wisely became nearly men.

The invention of Sky TV and increased monies had exposed Aberdeen’s board as lacking the ready cash to spend. The Taylor report had inforced massive improvements in the stadia and the addition of the Richard Donald Stand had stretched the finiances of the club past breaking even with profits in good years to a club living at the wrong end of it’s newly found overdraft. This added to a fan base that was struggling to come to terms with the lack of success in comparitive terms. There was a sizable chunk of this fan base who expected to win the league every August even though it had been NINE years since the League trophy had left Aberdeen for what could soon be described as it’s perminant home in Glasgow.

A unwilling partner was introduced Stewart Milne. He was almost press ganged onto the board of the Club he had no real links to the club previously had also shown no interest in ever being Mr Aberdeen FC. Almost as if he did not want the poisoned chalis that enhabits the Beach End. A BIG enough section of Dandy Dons where less than welcoming about the Builder from Alford’ inclusion on the board. After four years on the board there was still a chunk of unhappiness when he became chair. The main concern seemed to be ownership of Pittodrie. It is prime land well within reach of the City Centre. The real prospect of Stewart Milne Homes where Fergie won HOME Games worried a lot of Reds. It was not uncommon for Mr Milne to be haranged and harrassed in the street by disgruntled Dons.

Fast forward twenty years. Aberdeen after clever financing by Aberdeen Asset Management, Stewart Milne and cash injection by William and Elaine Donald (WM Donald Builders) Aberdeen sit debt free. The league cup sits proudly in the trophy room a average of sixteen thousand fans fill seventy five percent of Pittodrie. A buzz not seen in thirty years has returned to the reds and sitting atop is Stewart Milne the unwilling and some would say unwanted saviour of Aberdeen football club.

No one could deny him a smug look on his face. He has achieved the very targets he set out twenty years ago. He has stabalised the business brought on field success and the feel good factor back. He has also beautifully extricated himself from the major shareholder position that seemed to sit so uncomfortably within his port folio. Oh and as predicted he owns Pittodrie and associated land which he intends to build flats on.

The plan to move into a lend lease type agreement with Aberdeen City Council and build a stadia to replace Pittodrie. This is the same council who refused planning permission as recently as 2 years ago to the building of a stadia on the southern edge of Aberdeen. So at best you could describe Aberdeen City Council as a unreliable Partner. A worry is regardless of the independant wealth of the shareholders, whenever the shareholding of any business is spread across partners any future investment will usually involves transfer of or dilution of shares and involve agreement across a three sided share holding. Throw in a unstable Political Council (as every Council is by design and nature) and you have a overly complex stakeholder situation.

Effectuvely it has took twenty years for Stewart Milne to get a parcel of land and to pass the problem on.

The problem is this when your business has no collateral(just image rights) you are immediately exposed to liabilties and risk. No one foresaw the Taylor Report because few had predicted the horrible events in the mid eighties at Valley Parade and Hillsbourgh. Even though Pittodrie was “ALL SEATED” millions of pounds HAD to be spent on the stadia to replace benches with seats to bring the stadia up to code. How this was finianced along with the Richard Donald Stand that replaced the Beach End was loans secured on the land at the golf course end of Pittodrie Street.

So everyone is happy Fans have the shiney silverwear and dvds. The business is set fair for a good future. Stewart Milne has his land. Aberdeen Asset Management have shares and the Donalds achieve an ambition of owning their home town club. The Council have a new partner and stake in a stadia. For a one club city it’s a community partnership of cosiness. Lovely everyone is happy. No clouds on this horizon.

Using a public/private model not dissimilar to what is happening at Falkirk and Livingston. The perfect justification for a frachiase style municipal pride with a dirty great big bit of civic infrastructure.

This raises some questions though and they involve being naturally pessimistic. The Community Club model works obviously in the Forth and Almond Valleys but is that really the ambition of one of the top five clubs in Scotland. All due respect to Falkirk and Livingston clubs without the recent history of titles or even 30% of the fans of Aberdeen. Is that really the default ambitions of Aberdeen FC? Surely the Dons are a division above Falkirk etc. Because once you strip the decoration away your left with the exact model of Falkirk. Also if you are relying on any additional investment or safety net funding to be sourced from only two sources (existing board members or finding external investment diluting shares) with little more than a emblem as security then you really are backing yourself into a corner. The unpredictable nature of football club finiance leaves a exposure to unexpected bills and the ilk. Will it be enough for the Dons fans to be “THE BIGGEST COMMUNITY CLUB IN SCOTLAND“? Especially when as most expect the three amigos currently in the Championship make their return to the Premiership and begin to frighten silverwear again.

If you are reliant on fickle fans for income, the variables of prize money, media deals and sponsorship for the maintenance and improvement of your playing staff at the same tims as running a no debt shop you are totally at the mercy of injuries, suspensions, dodgey referee decisions, famine and pestilence. Simply because to RELY on continued success in any sport is inherently dangerous. To trust winning on the field breads sucess off it fails to see the other side of that coin. Losing on the field leads to failure off it.

Of course you set up a selling club ideal like Hamilton Accies once again a punt of many variables. The fact is a not unpredictable bad year for injuries etc in hand with lack of youth players that year is leads to a reduction of income. Any reduced income to balance the books means no investment in youth system or and selling a player or two with no replacement. This annoys fans who vote with their feet and don’t buy tickets. The perfect spiral.

Then you have a reliance on a ever changing Council who at any time can decide or be forced by others to pull out of any comercial deal they have with any partner. A Election and in order to save a school a stadia gets sold. Don’t even think you have to have a lobbiest in the Town House because a vote in Holyrood or Westminster or Strasburg and the House of Cards of a Stadia built on a foundation of sand is washed away.

Dundee United are on their way to debt free as are Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian but these clubs have the safety net the gaurenteed security of owning land the catch all of last resort. A quick look at the old firm where fans have actively protested to ensure that parcels of land (including the stadia) remains within the portfolio of the club. The security of the land is one thing the value of the history and sentiment is another. There is a massive difference in the levels of security between being a Owner/occupier and a tennant! The importance of this was shown at Chester, Wrexham and Portsmouth. More recently Coventry City have had protracted issues simply being able to afford to rent what was designed to be their home.

God forbid similar situation in Scotland. A under funded under pressure local council having to choose between leasing land and facilities to a Football club or selling land (with no real sentimental or historical value) to fund old aged pensioners care.

So Aberdeen Debt free for first time in years? Yes but at a cost of almost every asset.

A partial cause to celebrate? Cautiously, no one has a crystal ball but fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Because the basic look of this brave new dawn is the Dons
OWE NOTHING
but
OWN NOTHING
more than a badge.

As for the new major shareholders, what exactly have they bought? A business that is little more than a badge? A company with assets? A trading name or a vanity project?

Retaining image rights and a transiant variable playing staff could well be enough in the future but you wouldn’t bank on it.

ALL IMAGES SUBJECT TO OWN COPYRIGHT AS LABELLED

SPFL Championship Predictions 2014-15

9 Aug

This has been the most difficult to predict in essence you have FIVE teams competing for two places of value. Any of the ten teams in this league can and will beat any other team in the league. This is Scotland’s first league of Death.

1. Rangers
2. Heart of Midlothian
3. Falkirk
4. Hibernian
5. Raith Rovers
6. Queen of the South
7. Livingston
8. Dumbarton
9. Cowdenbeath
10. Alloa

Rangers not surprising first but almost in spite of boardroom officialdom and fandom the Govan Giants have just got on with it. This is the third leg of a five year plan and the plan to get promotion is the only plan they have. The addition of quality proven strikers and some interesting defensive squad players mean that the quality may not be what the fans remember but it’s a squad more than capable in the league company. Rangers should at least be more comfortable playing teams with a more traditional league style. The days of every game feeling like a cup tie are gone. The opponents faced this year will have players more used to playing against the Old Firm. No more visitors enjoying the party and going to very welcoming clubs for games.

Heart of Midlothian A club freed from admistration and the points deductions start the season with no points and how the Gorgie Road loves it. New coaching staff Under Robbie Neilson. The rotating door of players at Tyncastle has left the club relying on youth with only the tiniest whiff of experience. The youth though has gained experience last year. Can the freedom from admistration free up the players? Maybe but I think some of the starlets will freeze in some of the less luxurious souroundings. With a tiny squad there could be problems mid winter. A solid second and go up via fearlessly in play off.

Falkirk Peter Houston’s Bairns have a fearless brand of youth. I think that this very youth will be the reason that Falkirk will finish third. Having no fear will win certain games and pick up points at others but having all your experience sitting on dug out with the Manager and coaches will drop and lose points at others. A year of great experience to aid season 15-16 but not this year.

Hibernian Disjointed shambles is how to describe Hibs last term. Free falling under Pat Fenlon to terminal velocity under Terry Butcher. A new manager and Chief Exec is not always the best way to turn round a club (ask Manchester United last season). Alan Stubbs may well arrive from Everton Coaching role highly recomended but is the likeable Ex Celtic defender able to be his own man alone at the top. Not so sure given the anti board feeling and loss of players at Easter Road I have picked forth place, it could be a while before we see Sunshine on Leith.

Raith Rovers Kirkcaldy will be a interesting venue for many clubs. With relatively short distances to the league’s big three then there will not be room to dance on the streets of Raith let alone on the terraces. Christian Nade will relish Tyncastle and Easter Road as well as Ibrox. Add Ross Perry and Grant Murray has a nice wee blend of Youth and experience for Grant Murray with a point to prove. An experience gathering fifth for all at the club.

Queen of the South Jim McIntyre will have this squad fired up and raring to go. Expect more points won at home than away. The trip down to Dumfries is the longest away day for all the other nine clubs and will cast up some unusual results. With Billy Dodds as a coach expect top class strikers. A sturdy sixth place for this biblical club.

Livingston John McGlynn man of many clubs and most of them are now in this league. He will definitely be a man on a mission to prove people wrong. With player coach Mark Burchill expect surprises from this mainly young squad but a strong seventh.

Dumbarton Former Hibs and Rangers Player Manager Ian Murray will have the Sons of the rock up for the challange with Lee Mair and David Van Zanten in the part time squad I almost had this team further up the league. In the end it was the part time football that has me placing them eighth.

Cowdenbeath Jimmy Nichol will know no fear he has seen it done it and wore the t-shirt both as player and manager. A uninspiring looking squad on paper will no doubt be a very strong team forged by Nichol. Don’t forget Cowdenbeath Chairman Donald Finlay QC will revel in the media attention this league and his club will receive. Ninth but reveling in finiancial security and increased public visability. Playoff bound without a care but good chance to stay up.

Alloa Unlucky Barry Smith will struggle to keep the wasps up with nothing but youth. Even the maligned plastic pitch at Recreation Park won’t save them automatically down. Tenth but will enjoy the away days.

The Championship Is Where it Is At

1 Nov

Lets make some large and some not so large assumptions.  At the end of the first Scottish Professional football League Season the tables and playoffs etc will be as follows.  Premiership Champions Celtic,  another statistic that history will cast its own interpretation on.  For me as I have said in the past Celtic winning the top league from 2012 to 2017 is the equivalent of myself beating Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and David Blunkett at a game of I spy.  The minor placings and with it qualifying for qualifying for Europe is almost a irrevelence but lets give it to the New firm and have done with it.  Sorry to any other team hoping to get this honour but as I posted on 31 October (https://ronnydavies1972.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/celtic-and-other-participants/) being second is hardly a prize of distinction either.  In the lower half of the Premiership we have Heart of Midlothian (hampered some would say handicapped by a 15 point deduction a transfer embargo and whatever the Lithuanian is for mismanagement) are relegated and I think its not to much to assume that Kilmarnock will be in playoff place and given the Rugby park clubs boardroom issues and form they too fall into the Championship. 

From the Championship lets assume that Hamilton and Falkirk go up to the Premiership.  Cowdenbeath and Morton fall from the second to third tier.  From the third tier Rangers fly up and are joined by Dunfermline.  So lets look at what the Scottish Premiership and Scottish Championship could without much imagination contain. 

Scottish Premiership

  1. Celtic
  2. Aberdeen
  3. Dundee United
  4. Inverness Caledonian Thistle
  5. Ross County
  6. Hibernian
  7. Saint Johnstone
  8. Saint Mirren
  9. Partick Thistle
  10. Motherwell
  11. Hamilton Academicals
  12. Falkirk

Scottish Championship

  1. Raith Rovers
  2. Dundee
  3. Livingston
  4. Dumbarton
  5. Alloa Athletic
  6. Queen Of The South
  7. Hearts
  8. Kilmarnock
  9. Rangers
  10. Dunfermline

 

Is this the SPL 2 touted for the last years?  I suspect it is definitely not as weak as the top twelve had envisaged.  Certainly I am sure that a SPL 2, second tier league or Championship was by definition meant to take second place to the main event (Scottish Premiership).  Imagine the discussion in the Sky, BT sport, BBC Scotland or even BBC Alba office come a scenario of choosing what match to cover.  Motherwell versus St Johnstone in front of a Half full Fir Park lacking in atmosphere or ambition from the teams (Not one of them are realistically going to win the Premiership) or a full Tynecastle for Hearts versus Rangers in a six pointer for the Lead in the Championship.  Tynecastle’s tight stadia alive, bristling with atmosphere, the teams playing for something tangible.  I suspect that Jonathon Sutherland, David Tanner will be itching to attend Gorgie with a cameras.  Rather than go to rather dull meaningless to the masses fixture in Lanarkshire.  Please don’t think I am anti Lanarkshire and Perth pick any fixture that the Scottish Premiership throws up next season and you can argue to any neutral that any game fits into the criteria of low attendance devoid of atmosphere and meaningless to even the staunchest fans.  The Premiership is in real danger of being football by numbers.  Look at the last two years Celtic have been plaugued by the empty seat brigade only turning up for full houses at certain European games,  the new firm both charging for second place and Europe next year could not sell out twenty thousand seats recently.  A distance of 70 miles saw United sell around twelve hundred seats and Aberdeen have a impressive away support in terms of numbers and miles travelled to away games but failing to get past 75% of tickets sold at Home games illustrates a malaise that is infecting fans up and down the Premiership.  Aberdeen can argue successfully as being the second best supported team in the Premiership yet they fail to fill a stadium that thirty years ago you required vouchers to buy tickets for games.  All this and if anything the catchment area for Aberdeen Football Club has grown in geography and population. 

 

The permutations of the Leagues of 2014-15 are varied but without a doubt the league to watch by fans and media will be the Championship and not the Premiership.  Rangers fan still defiant in their support for the club joined by fans of Dunfermline and Hearts doing the same for the same reasons.  It has became normal for the biggest crowd in Scotland to be at Ibrox selling out to the legions,  it has been dismissed as a joke to some not attached to Govan.  I wonder how this Joke will be laughed at when Sold Out Ibrox is joined by Sold out Tynecastle and Sold out East End Park.  All in the second tier of a league structure without a sponsor. The knives may of been out within the Premiership punishing instead of supporting blaming instead of assessing their own failings as a private members club/governing body. The failings at Rangers, Hearts and Dunfermline owned by unsavoury persons who strangely passed fit and proper persons tests is all in the past. But in the future the same clubs who have suffered at the hands of hidden agendas will be in what to many paying customers and media partners alike be the best league in Scotland.