Sunday, 3 August 2014

Maybe This Battle Is To Fight Indifference


We're into August now so probably time for some gloriously disjointed pre-season previews, along with some other random musings

There will be more previews (probably) from me before the season starts, but for today let's have a quick look at the 3 teams promoted to the EPL, along with Dundee and Hamilton

Very much a surprise package in last season's Championship, and as such not massively equipped with Premier League experience and quality , but high on enthusiasm and youthful endeavour- not unlike the position Crystal Palace were in 12 months ago (signings such as Marvin Sordell, Michael Kightly and Lukas Jutkiewicz very much fit that bill). They have to start as favourites for relegation and indeed that will probably be where they end up, but they're a well-run club who won't bankrupt themselves chasing the impossible. They should be a decent watch, too

QPR and Leicester
These 2 are getting lumped together as there are numerous similarities between them. Both have spent (and will probably spend more yet) squillions on their sides thanks to not-at-all-dodgy Asia owners, both based their Championship successes of last season on strong, robust defences, expect to see some eye-bleedingly bad football from both sides, and both will probably survive by the skin of their teeth on the final day, thanks to some frantic January transfer window activity and maybe a change of manager or 2

Last season's 1st Division winners have added a good mix of youth and experience to their side- fine young talents from the SFL such as Paul McGinn, Greg Stewart and Scott Bain come in along with old heads of the SPL such as James McPake, Kevin Thomson and Paul McGowan as part of a comprehensive squad overhaul by up-and-coming manager Paul Hartley. Their squad is as strong as any outside the top 6, and they should therefore avoid the relegation places quite comfortably. Being on a more sound financial footing these days, thanks on part to having a larger support base than many of their direct competitors, should ensure there's funds available should Hartley feel the need to strengthen further

Not unlike the aforementioned Burnley, Hamilton's promotion was a tad unexpected, but they capitalised on the fact that Hibs are shite to seal their place in the Premiership. They have a very successful youth system, which makes up a significant part of their side. They've added a quality goalkeeper in Michael McGovern, who finally gets a chance to play regularly in the Premiership, along with experienced winger and all-round pest Dougie Imrie, and player-manager Alex Neil will still pull on his boots when required. There's a startling lack of Premiership experience outside those 3, though, and they don't have the supporter base of Dundee to finance extra signings if they're required come January. They'll play some decent stuff and work hard for each other, but that alone probably won't keep them out of the bottom 2 come May. Another adventure through the play-offs is a possibility. And now...

A Day Out at the Commonwealth Games
Earlier this week, this intrepid reporter decided to take in some action at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This involved a trip to the newly-converted-and-soon-to-be-converted-back-again Hampden Park.

The weather was pleasant enough, and the route from the city centre well signposted to allow us to walk from George Square out to Hampden. 45 minutes later, we were in the International, a regular pre-match haunt for Scotland games. A very reasonably priced pint and a game of pool took us to just past 5pm, at which point the games to Hampden opened ahead of a 6:30pm start for the athletics. The route from the pub to the stadium was exceptionally well-marked, with enthusiastic volunteers every few hundred metres pointing folk in the right direction- this was the case inside the stadium too. The security at the games had been much talked about, but in reality it was nowhere near as onerous as it was made to sound, and certainly nothing like what one can expect at an airport these days.

Once inside the stadium (security was cleared in 5 minutes, with plenty of lanes run by staff as friendly as you're ever likely to get running these operations), the catering facilities were a significant upgrade on the usual Hampden fare- a wide variety of hot and cold meals and snacks were available, along with a selection of beer, wine and cider. Admittedly, the prices were on the high side, and there were understandably some queues at some outlets (15 minutes was the longest wait I personally had for some fish and chips), but it was massively refreshing and encouraging to see such choice.

After the athletics (£40 for 3 1/2 hours of top-end competition), the weather again was forgiving enough to allow a walk back to Queen Street (shout out to Scotrail here for putting on extra trains on many routes). There were, however, shuttle buses as far as the eye could see to ferry spectators back to the city centre, with ample staff again on hand. I could go on, but won't and will instead get to the point.

Why can't we have this for football matches at Hampden? Why do we not get extra catering facilities at Hampden for cup finals 9and semi finals) and Scotland qualifiers? Where are our extra shuttle buses? Outside of the services between Central Station and Mount Florida (which are at the behest of the police more than anything) where are our extra trains? On the pitch, the Scotland national team are doing as well as they have done in a long time. Off the pitch, however, there's plenty of room for improvement


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