Friday, 8 August 2014

Well, It Can't Be Any Worse Than Ewan's

Less than 24 hours before the SPFL season starts-time for a quick Q&A:

Have I written up everything I had planned to? Of course not

Do I want to get this here blog a slightly higher profile? Here's hoping

Will I suggest a few wildly optimistic bets your way? Yeah, sure

In an attempt to get every team written up, will I compromise the quality of my writing? Quality? What quality?

Eagle-eyed observers will note that I tipped Hamilton for a place in the bottom 2 of the SPFL Premiership (whoever came up with the idea having Unicef sponsor the league might be on to something- even I don't want to get into a bidding war with those guys) in my previous entry- joining them could be any one of a number of sides. Kilmarnock are this writer's pick- losing Kris Boyd and replacing him with Josh Magennis is a joke that doesn't even need a punchline. Manager Allan Johnston's baffling decision to play the hapless Craig Samson in goals ahead of the talented Antonio Reguero has seen the Spaniard decamp to Ross County (who themselves should be clear of the relegation places while not quite having enough to seal a top 6 place), while the rest of the squad looks short on depth and somewhat callow- fan favourite Alexei Eremenko has returned, but looked well short of full fitness last season. There are some talented youngsters coming through, and the experienced Lee Miller should plunder a respectable number of goals without getting close to Boyd's tally, but a tough season looms. St Mirren aren't much better- they'll probably be a decent watch, but surely cannot keep relying on 78-year-old Steven "elbows" Thompson in attack, while Jim "the Ghost" Goodwin is still far too undisciplined to be relied on in central defence. Keeping hold of their own talented youngsters, as well as unearthing a hidden gem or 2, will be key to their survival. Partick Thistle lack an out-and-out goalscorer, and the departure of the excellent Aaron Taylor-Sinclair is a (not unexpected) blow, but they've recruited sensibly, favouring quality rather than quantity (Ryan Stevenson is a very decent signing, and should contribute goals from midfield, while Abdul Osman should find the Premiership to his liking), as manager Alan Archibald trusts his side, which still chiefly comprises of members of 2012/13's 1st division winning squad, to learn from their 1st season in the Premiership.

Ahead of them, expect last season's top 6 to be this season's top 6. Or at least expect it to be last season's top 4, St Johnstone and a team from the Highlands- John Hughes did nothing to advance ICT's prospects upon taking over, they've so far failed to recruit anyone, and there's inevitable interest in talismanic striker Billy McKay- lose him (or even if he fails to rediscover last season's top form) and they could finish some way below last season's 5th place. Ross County once again have had half a new team arrive in Dingwall- the return on loan from Cardiff of Filip Kiss is a considerable coup. Another 7th place finish is probably as far as they could hope to finish, but any slips from the top 6 and the Staggies can challenge. The loss of Ryan Gauld won't actually be that keenly felt by Dundee United- Gauld was in and out of the starting XI at Tannadice for much of last season. The departure of Andy Robertson will be much more keenly felt- the former Queens Park youngster firmly established himself even in only 1 season as arguably the country's outstanding left-back. Many of Dundee United's signings are something of a gamble- much will  depend on how they settle in along with what is already a pretty strong side. Aberdeen should beat Motherwell to 2nd place- Motherwell's defence simply looks too porous to sustain a challenge to Derek McInnes' impressive outfit, who are arguably the pick of the handicap market at +25

Moving on...

What I've Seen At The Festival So Far
Because you get modern culture on this blog too, now

Quick rundown of the shows this writer has been to see so far at the Edinburgh Fringe festival, along with handy /10 marks

Bob Graham's Travel Guide For Agoraphobics
A nice, pleasant, relaxed way to start an afternoon at the festival, as Bob regales the audience with tales on the perils and horrors of flat-sharing, growing up in the countryside and, well, travelling. Doesn't have the intensity of some of the feistier comics on the circuit these days, but that arguably works in his favour in the time slot. A perfectly enjoyable hour. 7/10
1:40pm, the Beehive (not Tuesdays)

Rauls Are Made To Be Broken
Geordie whippersnapper Rahul Kohli has an intoxicating brand of youthful energy and cynicism, drawing on many of his own tales of racial prejudice. It's a more intense 40 minutes than the previous show, and despite only being 22, Kohli has plenty of amusing anecdotes to draw on, as well as proving himself adept at interaction with the (admittedly small) crowd. One to keep an eye on for the future- it would be interesting to see him on a bigger stage. 8/10
3pm, Espionage

An Irish hip-hop improv show doesn't necessarily sound like a recipe for success but somehow it works, thanks largely to the 3 extraordinarily talented performers. The show, where the trio have 1 hour to write a number 1 song for P.Diddy (really) is heavy on audience interaction and participation. The show does start to repeat itself a bit in the 2nd half (they could cut 10 minutes out without leaving the audience short-changed), but a rip-roaring conclusion rounds off a very enjoyable hour. 8/10
9:10pm, Udderbelly (not Mondays)

Brendon Burns and Colt Cabana Sit in a 150 Seater and Provide the Commentary to Bad Wrestling Matches
The title is fairly self-explanatory- Aussie comic Brendon Burns, something of a fringe veteran, teams up with a relative newcomer, profession (and ex-WWE) wrestler Colt Cabana, along with a special guest each night (Daniel Sloss on this occasion). The show was an absolute riot from the get-go, with a noisy and knowledgeable crowd who clearly knew their wrestling (it's beneficial, but not essential, to have at least a modicum of wrestling knowledge going into the show). The performers go over various wrestling clips, mixed in with hilarious, unscripted material- Burns frequently goes off on tangents, while Cabana seems totally devoid of any restraint on his inner monologue, and is only too happy to point out the faults of his industry. It's very rare to go through an entire show with regular moments of stitch0inducing hilarity, yet that's achieved here easily. An absolute must-see. And that's the bottom line, because Stone Cold Shifty said so. 10/10
10pm The Stand at St Andrew Square (not Sundays)


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