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The current set-up in Scottish football is moronic. For those who may be hazy on the details:
* Top division is SPL. 12 teams. 1 team is relegated.
* SFL run the next three divisions, each of 10 teams.
* One team promoted from Division One.
*  One team relegated from Division One.
* Ninth team in Division One plays a playoff with 2nd, 3rd, 4th in Division Two.
* Same system operates between Divisions Two and Three.
* There is no relegation from Division Three.
* In each division teams play one another four times.
* And there’s the super crazy split at the three quarters point of the SPL season to dictate who your last set of games is against. After 33 games, the division is split into two halves. The teams then just play once more against the teams in their half. And the teams are fixed in their half, so the 7th place team usually finishes with more points than the 6th place team. [THIS IS NOT A JOKE. THIS IS THE GENUINE STRUCTURE OF LEAGUE FOOTBALL].

All of the above makes my head hurt with its stupidity. Every season is like groundhog day with minimal turnover in teams, and multiple meetings against one another. And the very bottom end is a closed shop.

Regardless of the Rangers issue, the entire Scottish football system needs to be entirely revamped. And a solution should be found for that, over and above any Rangers issues.

There are 42 teams across the SPL and SFL. There are only just over 20 proper-sized football clubs in Scotland (clubs with crowds of 1000 or more). The rest are amateur-sized munchkins.

They need to stop the playing one another four times per season. They need to become a real league, a sensible amount of proper-sized teams playing one another twice per season.

All the leagues need to be run by one body. A new body with all new staff. Purge the morons of the SPL. And draw up a whole new set or rules and league regulations. Particularly with clear rules on punishments for financially mismanaged teams, administrations, CVAs, dual contracts, and liquidations. And paying keen attention to rules around suspensions and match officials’ working conditions and neutrality.
And perhaps also even do something similar with the personnel, structure, rules and regulations of the SFA. Make the new ruling bodies genuinely independent and non-partisan. Rid the league’s ruling body and the SFA of any perceived Old Firm bias of one direction or other.

The structure of the leagues is the most important part. It is difficult to get right though with the limited number of proper size teams. This is how I feel it should be laid out, with proper size divisions and sporting integrity:

* One top national division of 18 teams. With two teams relegated per season.

* Then a second national division of 18 teams. The top team promoted. And then 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th have full playoffs to decide promotion of one to the top division.
And two teams are relegated from the second national division.

Then a regionalised pyramid structure of amateur or semi-professional clubs below all of that.

The only flaw in that is a weak 2nd division, but that is pretty unavoidable. And you would hope that all the aforementioned improvements to Scottish football would lead to an improvement in the attendances, finances and playing quality of the likes of Ayr, Berwick, etc.

For me the restructuring should be entirely regardless of the Rangers situation, but with the above scenario I would place Rangers in Division Two with a substantial points penalty for at least one season. But this isn’t about Rangers.

Scottish football needs root and branch reform, a blank piece of paper and an entirely new league structure. And it needs to be created with sporting integrity, regardless of the Rangers issue, and without bullying or media-grandstanding.

The SPL and SFL have emailed the SFL clubs with their own pair of proposals, but they both sound regressive and bad for the gamehttp://t.co/Oa9KlllD

The SFL clubs seem in no mood to be railroaded by the authorities, so we’ll see how all this mania pans out.

Turbulent times for Scottish football.

by @tom7p

Follow us on twitter @feetballsblog

Let me set my stall. I’m in no way condemning the analysis of football games as a whole. There are countless examples of delicious analysis morsels. But much like scone dough, if you over work it you’re left with a little dollops of rubbish which no amount of cream and jam can rescue.

The two most glaring examples that come to mind are; the Chelsea Vs Barca semi final(s) and the recent Spain Vs Portugal penalty shoot out. In both examples, the margins are so incredibly fine that the entire analysis would have completely changed if the trajectory of a strike was altered by a single inch.

With the Chelsea Vs Barca game, Roberto Di Matteo was lauded as a tactical mastermind for stifling Barca. Sitting deep and packing the box to frustrate, then pouncing on the break to snatch their improbable goals and earn a historic victory. Yet in the two legs Barca had; a penalty hit the post, a shot cleared off the line, and 3 other shots hit the post. If any one of these had actually sneaked in then the game would have drastically changed. Barca would no longer have had to be incredibly attacking, instead they would be quite comfortable stroking the ball around midfield in their own special brand of football masturbation, drawing a Chelsea side now desperate for a goal out from the depths of their box and thus making them more vulnerable to the Barca attacks. Roberto Di Matteo would have been lambasted for his unambitious tactics, portrayed as a man out of his depth and quickly removed from his post. As my girlfriend is fond of saying “the difference a few inches would make”.

The Spain Vs Portugal penalty shoot out is another example of a desperate search for analysis, when good fortune should probably be the main conclusion.

Both teams have their first penalties saved, both score their next two penalties to tie the shootout at 2-2. Ramos slots a cool chip into the net, giving Spain 3 goals from 4 penalties. Bruno Alves steps up, smashing his penalty into the crossbar, achingly close to the perfect penalty. Fabregas steps up for Spains fifth and final penalty, smashing it into the post, which then deflects into the net. This led to Fabregas batting away the praise, lauded as a man cool under pressure who consistently delivers for Spain when they need it most. Bruno Alves had “bottled it”, with doubts cast over Nani’s admittedly bizarre decision of stopping Alves as he reached the penalty box, only to nip in and steal his 12 yard appointment with fate. Ronaldo was also brutally cast as the glory hungry diva, opting (assuming he had any say in the matter) to take the potentially decisive final penalty, instead of taking all 4 of the previous penalties and securing his countries progression to the final.

One man hits the post and his country progress to the final, the other hits the post and sends his country home.

Allow me once more to venture into the realms of the “what if”.

Alves steps up to take his penalty. A fraction of an inch lower, it skims the bottom of the crossbar before straining the net of the top corner, the perfect penalty. Fabregas steps up to take his penalty, a fraction of an inch further to the left it hits the post and deflects wickedly away from the goal. Ronaldo steps up for the final penalty, smashing it home. Ronaldo is a hero, the perfect captain taking the brunt of the pressure away from his team mates and excelling. Fabregas “bottles it”, the pressure “too much for him”. Alves is lauded for shaking off the increased pressure heaped on him by Nani, his emphatic penalty compared to Pirlo’s glorious Panenka for psyching out Fabregas and inspiring victory.

Once again, just one inch the difference between glory and disgrace.

Now clearly it’s a leap to hypothesise these potential glories. Ronaldo could have missed, they all could have missed. It’s just an example of how extensive analysis is not always able to explain the victories or defeats. Sometimes lady luck really is to blame, and perhaps we should all just shut the fuck up every now and then.

by @Miketweetgood

Follow us on twitter @feetballsblog

Here at Feetballs we’re striving to bring you the best of our inane football brain farts. We appreciate that they might not always be delicious smelling, but we hope that they are.

It would be great if you could let us know what it is you like about the blog or have liked in previous articles, would like to see, or even things you don’t like at all.

I solemnly promise that I won’t cry, so you can be as critical as you like. Just leave your comments underneath (I believe they can be anonymous), or chat to us on twitter @feetballsblog.

Loveyoubye!

 “If being an egomaniac means I believe in what I do and in my art or music, then in that respect you can call me that… I believe in what I do, and I’ll say it.”
― John Lennon

Cristiano Ronaldo eh? The ultimate in marmite footballers. On one hand you can hold him in the same esteem that one may hold your Cruyffs, your Beckenbauers, your Peles, and on the other you may hold him with the same disdain that one may with your Bartons, Savages, or Terrys.

Let’s get one thing straight, Ronaldo is an excellent footballer, there’s things he can do with his feet that many can’t do with their hands. He’s the spark, the ingenuity, the ‘x-factor’, that footballing demi-god every team wishes they had in their side. So, why the derision? Why the hatred? Does Messi get this much stick from all quarters? Never.

Why do the two players get compared so much anyway? Is it too hard to just enjoy the two players at the height of their games? Maybe this is a rivalry borne from brand identification more than anything. Messi; Adidas, Barca, El Mundo Deportivo. Ronaldo; Nike, Real Madrid, Marca. Is this why the two are locked in this never-ending rivalry? Possibly…

 

Recently at a press conference before the recent Portugal/Netherlands game Ronaldo was asked about Denmark’s fans chanting ‘Messi’ towards him, which obviously annoyed him no end and brought out a few childish giggles. “You know where he was at this time [last year]? Do you know? He was being eliminated in the Copa America, in his own country,” Ronaldo said at the post-game press conference. “I think that’s worse, no?” Strangely it reminded me of that scene from Happy Gilmore where ‘Shooter’ McGavin was dismissing questions about Adam Sandler’s character.
“Trying to reach the green from here, Shooter?”
“I’m afraid that’s impossible, sir”
“I beg to differ. Happy Gilmore accomplished that feat no more than an hour ago.”

Even at the Czech Republic game a banner was unfurled with the message that “Messi is still better”. It seems wherever he goes, and whatever he does, he is constantly compared to the diminutive Argentine master.

The two players couldn’t be more different either. One is a 5’7″ scruffy looking chubby faced kid who wouldn’t look out of place at a skate park or a garage band, the other is a 6’1″ muscular, athletic, good looking, tanned, Adonis with a string of model girlfriends. One looks very much a Rolls Royce player, the other a KIA. Both are very much aware of how good they are, it’s a pre-requisite for a world class talent to never have doubts about your ability, however one is as humble as a lamb, the other thinks he’s a popstar.

 

Maybe it has a lot to do about the environmental and social upbringing of both players more than anything. There’s a story doing the rounds about Alexander Hleb during his time in Cataluña asking Xavi Hernandez what sports car he should get, the reply “You can drive what you want in your spare time but don’t bring it to the training ground, it’s not the type of thing we do at Barcelona” Maybe it’s this ethos taught to Messi during his early formative years has had an effect of keeping his feet on the ground and being thankful for what he has. Ronaldo however, well, there’s only so many sports cars, supermodels and lavish lifestyle choices one can make. Whilst Messi is engaged to a girl from his home town of Rosario in Argentina. Meanwhile Cristiano can be seen having a boozy vodka-fuelled night in Paris (Hilton).

There’s been a few times it’s been mentioned that Ronaldo needs to be the centre of attention, he’s had accusations of being ball-greedy, not being a team player, being very much an individual, a ‘total fucking rock star from Mars’ to put it mildly. It was noted in several media outlets than when Silvestre Varela scored the last-gasp winner for Portugal against Denmark during the Euro 2012 group stages, he was the only player not to celebrate with the goal scorer despite being the closest to him; almost as if he was pissed off he wasn’t the one who got the winner.

Messi on the other hand is not only the greatest individual talent in Barcelona’s long illustrious history, but also one hell of a team player. If he wasn’t a team player, he wouldn’t be in that Barcelona side at all (the reason Ronaldinho was tossed on the scrap-heap, well… that and the pies). It’s the way they’re bred apparently.

 

On a recent interview with Time Magazine Messi was asked about comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo.

“I never really fixated on him or compared myself with another player. My mentality is just to achieve more each year, to grow both as an individual and as a team, and if he wasn’t there, I’d be doing the same thing.”

In comparison Ronaldo recently said in an Interview;

“It’s like comparing a Porsche to a Ferrari. We push each other in competitions. Some people say I’m better, some people say it’s him. People try and decide who is best at the moment; I’m thinking it’s me”.

Although he said that with his tongue firmly in his cheek you can see from the 2 interviews that one player is definitely thinking about the other. You can just imagine him coming off the pitch at Mallorca or somewhere like that after bagging a hat-trick to run straight to the nearest TV and then curse his luck as Leo sticks 4 past a hapless Villarreal and the headlines head north to Barcelona again, like an evil villain repeatedly getting thwarted by super human heroics.

 

Both have had awful times at international level however. Football purists will say 60-80 goals a season will mean very unless an international tournament is won by either of them. In this instance I believe Ronaldo has finally bested Messi. Only one player is ever going to drag his international team-mates to glory, through his sheer bloody-mindedness, arrogance and that “give me the ball attitude” rather than his humble, team playing counterpart. Argentina look to Messi for answers, Portugal already know the answer, give the ball to that guy in the number 7 shirt, he’ll do the rest.

Interestingly since that post-Denmark press conference Cristiano has upped his game significantly with 2 virtuoso displays in 2 games, netting 3 (could been 17) and winning games for his country. He’s finally showing his Madrid form for his country, something he has been slated for by certain sections of the Portuguese press.

With Messi successfully bogarting the #1 spot for FIFA Ballon D’or for 3 successive seasons, the most famous footballer to ever be named after Ronald Regan (I hope that’s true) has finally got the chance to put one over his Los Culés arch-nemesis. An international tournament with the blistering brand-mark of CR7 on it would secure that, surely? 2 games, 2 wins, and he can thank his Portuguese team-mates in his acceptance speech in Zurich in 2013.

 

Or will it be a case of him running up to the podium and running away with the Ballon D’or trophy the way ‘Shooter’ McGavin did with Happy Gilmore’s winner’s jacket?

 

by @semtex_elvis

follow us on twitter @feetballsblog

There are several players who command complete adoration from their own fans, but a big old “meh” from others:

Busquets at Barca; despised around the world for his dubious footballing morals without really seeming to stand out as being exceptional enough to forgive this black mark on his character. Yet constantly lauded as the best defensive midfielder in the world by Barca players and fans alike.

Carrick at United; loved by (most) United fans for his calm possession and ball retention, yet never have any fans of rival clubs been desperate to snatch the polarising talent of Michael Carrick from under United’s nose.

Stewart Downing at Liverpool; dazzling home fans with his allergy to assist’s and his goal-shy gait. Effortlessly eschewing the common assumption that wingers have to actually do anything of merit.

And finally Laurent Koscielny at Arsenal, a man so utterly deserving of adoration that it once led my friend Josh to remark that “I’d be happy with 10 Koscielny’s and a Van Persie”.

 

Laurent Koscielny is possibly still suffering from the hangover of 10/11 in the opinion of many fan’s, his debut season in the Premier League, and indeed only his second season of first flight football whatsoever. Koscielny has enjoyed a metoric rise from the French third tier to the Premier league in just 4 years. Ligue 2 player of the season in 08/09 while at Tours (alongside Arsenals latest signing and best mate Olivier Giroud) he earned a move to newly promoted Ligue 1 side Lorient, where his impressive displays secured Lorient’s best ever finish in 7th place and secured Laurent a move to Arsenal. His debut season at Arsenal will unfortunately be remembered for a handful of communication errors leading to unnecessary goals, the Birmingham blunder with Wojech standing out as especially painful. However the signs were there to suggest that once he’d managed to shake off the stabilisers, Arsenal would be left with a real talent. His supreme performance against Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League a particular highlight.

 

The widespread surprise at his exceptional performance in the heart of the French defence after Mickey Rourke in disguise (Mexes) picked up a suspension, just goes to show that he remains an under appreciated player. Yet for anyone who has had the pleasure of watching him week in, week out the commanding performance against the world’s best should come as no surprise. While Robin Van Persie rightly took all the praise this season, Koscielny was a close second. His assured and consistent performances at centre back have been a joy to behold. An intelligent player with precision passing, impressive strength for one so slight, an effortlessly graceful touch and the speed to nip back and make last ditch tackles to cover the more “adventurous” Vermaelen (http://goo.gl/zlXIT). Even chipping in with the crucial goal in a nerve shredding game against West Bromwich Albion on the final day to secure vital Champions League football for the next season and pip Sp*rs at the post.

 

The awkward adolescence is well and truly over. The acne has cleared and his delicious footballing breasts have blossomed, so much so that I would swap him for no other defender in the Premier League.

Laurent, I love you.

 

By @miketweetgood

Follow us on twitter @feetballsblog

Last night a previously impressive Russian side, who seemed to be an outside bet for the title, slump to a Greek side who were so completely rubbish against the Czech Republic its a wonder they weren’t forced to pack up their Feta and go home early.

Russians weren’t even particularly bad, they dominated possession and played with real attacking intent. Andrei Arshavin a particular highlight with his smart, incisive passing, clever runs and even tracking back to help in defence, which prior to the match seemed less likely than Andrei being named a contender for Russia’s tallest man.

Where Russia went wrong was that they fell into the classic Arsenal trap. A technically more proficient team, they were quite capable of retaining possession. Where they faltered was in focusing the massive majority of attacks through the middle, trying to thread delicate  through balls through a compact and organised Greek defence who were more than aware of the threat. When this failed they generally resorted to a hopeful long shot, with several coming agonisingly close but few genuinely troubling the keeper.

This led me to wonder why so many teams are hellbent on a ‘plan A’ regardless of the in game success of said plan. Whenever Russia, rarely, tried to attack the Greek flanks they seemed to have some amount of success. Considerably more than when trying to smash their drunk Kossack pony through the walls of Troy. Given that the Greek defence was predominantly concentrated in the middle of the box, fizzing Antonio Valencia style low crosses across the Greek goalmouth would have been an excellent option. Which, even if unfruitful, would have drawn the Greek defence out to protect the flanks, relieving congestion in the box and improving the effectiveness of a more centralised attack. By insisting on trying to force their Arsenalesque attack to work they also had a tendency to lose the ball on the edge of the Greek box with the majority of their defence out of position, leading to a plethora of quality Greek chances and the solitary goal to dump Russia out of the tournament.

There is always a tendency for stronger teams to play their specific brand of football and eventually overpower the opposition, the most famous proponent of this approach being Arsene Wenger. But the ability to adapt mid game is an incredibly valuable asset in top flight football, and one which was seen Alex Ferguson dominate over Wenger in recent years.

It was frustrating to see Russia take an early exit, particularly since I had backed them with my wallet as well as my heart, but their failure to adapt would not have seen them snatch success from any of the elite. Better luck next time.

The strangest of things has broken out on a rooftop in Warsaw…… passionate punditry! A rarity on British footballing tv, particularly at the mutual back-slapping fests that tournament football punditry can so often be. Roy Keane and Jamie Carragher actually seem to care about and genuinely enjoy the football on show in Poland and Ukraine past week! They are providing a hugely refreshing contrast with the bland ill-informed forced-mateyness of the BBC’s coverage.

Roy Keane’s glowering aggression seems to have lifted a little for this tournament (maybe it’s the Polish sunshine) to allow a slightly more relaxed and carefree approach to his opinion-gabbling, though with the unmistakeable undercurrent of possible violence toward Chiles. Jamie Carragher has had brief glimpses of punditing before, never to any great acclaim, too often it has been incomprehensible / bland / Liverpool-biased. This week Carragher is speaking real sense and defying the conventions of the careful pundit by actually saying what he thinks (and maybe slowing his Mersey accent ever so slightly).

It’s wonderful to see that when a team is performing badly they get angry and frustrated, and then launch into tirades on what the team or manager needs to do to fix it. The two bounce off one another with a raft of solutions and tweaks that would improve the performance of a team or a player. It puts to shame the unending lethargy and apathy of the BBC pundit panel, who always seem to want a game to end before it’s even started.

Adrian Chiles has also hence been forced to visibly up his game. Carragher often doesn’t quite “get” the game of punditry, to get an answer from him you need to ask him a straight question. On the few occasions Chiles has tried to pass a puffy pleasantry in his direction in the assumption that he’ll get some bland soccer chat back, Carragher challenges and asks Chiles to pin down what his actual question is. This has led to Chiles consciously thinking about questions and discussions topics, looking for tangible points of tactics and assessment, rather than just ‘banter’. A refreshing development and an offshoot of Keane and Carragher’s passion.

Sometimes it’s such thickly-accented animated invective that you almost think they might be swearing. Keane’s “football” can often sound dangerously close to “fuck all”. It’s a world away from the banality of Lineker and Hansen, and puts to shame the bare-faced idiocy of Savage and Quinn.

Quite often a game will get to half time and you’ll be able to see Keane and Carragher have been chomping at the bit with a welter of detailed subjects of analysis they want to get through. A world away from Lee Dixon and Alan Shearer making ‘jokes’ about not knowing any of the players’ names, or some irrelevant predictions Hansen made two weeks ago.

It’s pleasing to see that Chiles and ITV are doing nothing to rein in Keane and Carragher’s forthright opinions and passion. They are making a fitting companion to Gary Neville’s great punditry on Sky throughout the season.

The punditry bar has been raised.

By @Tom7p

Follow us on twitter, @feetballsblog

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