“League games more important than Cup Final” – Pat Fenlon before Dons clash

Hibernian manager Pat Fenlon spoke to our sports reporter Joe Birchenall ahead of his sides fixture tonight at Easter Road. Fenlon’s charges face Aberdeen, a side who they have not beaten in the league since May last year. However, Hibs face the Dons on the back of a thrilling Scottish Cup semi-final win against Falkirk, which saw them claim a 4 – 3 victory despite finishing the first half three goals down. Fenlon, however, is keen to push on and to focus on remaining league games, saying he is disappointed to have finished outside of the top six.

Fenlon also discusses the breakthrough of youngsters Alex Harris and Danny Handling, his reaction to Neil Lennon’s SFA woes and the imminent departure of Hibs top scorer Leigh Griffiths.

Caldwell and Grant star as Hibs progress

Scottish FA Youth Cup – 3rd Round
Hibernian 2-1 Heart of Midlothian (AET)
Saturday 12th November 2011, Easter Road Stadium

7 points clear at the top of the under-19′s league table Hearts were the favourites to progress at the expense of local rivals Hibs. However failure to turn their dominance into goals proved to be their ultimate downfall as Ross Caldwell netted a brace to knock Hearts out of the cup.

Hearts started brightly from the kick-off and pushed upfield to win a corner after just 26 seconds and also before the five minute mark Jason Holt produced a dangerous cutback which flashed across the 6 yard box, however there was no player ready to pounce and send the ball into the back of the net.

The opening 20 minutes were however very even as both teams attempted to gain a foothold in a hotly contested Edinburgh derby. Hibernian’s Daniel Handling floated a cross into the box and the unmarked Phil Addison blazed over from inside the box with a volley he was unable to keep down. Ross Caldwell then played an incisive through ball for Daniel Handling and his angled drive had Hearts goalkeeper Jack Hamilton beaten, yet it thumped against the bar in what was the closest to a goal in the game yet.

Paul Grant in the Hibs goal was in excellent form, and he needed to be as a firm header from Callum Paterson looked destined to make the net bulge. This was closely followed by a disallowed goal. Grant was unable to keep out a speculative overhead kick from Jamie Walker however the young Hearts number 11 seen his fantastic effort ruled out for offside.

The game remained open as Hearts continued to prove to the stronger of the two sides, Grant had to pull off another fine save after David Smith had danced through the Hibernian defence and had a near post effort blocked by the presence of the Hibs stopper.

When Hibs finally broke free of the relentless Hearts attacks they almost scored. An erratic clearance from Jack Hamilton fell to Daniel Handling whose effort ended up on the wrong side of the post.

The second half started off in an uneventful fashion. With both sides eager to grab the first goal passes were increasingly going astray. However Fraser Mullen collected a pass from David Smith and his effort from inside the box hit the back of the net. His goal was created with great technical ability, which was apparent in the first half as both sides played intricate passing football. However a slack piece of defending allowed Mullen to slip into the box and drill his effort home on 61 minutes.

Ross Caldwell raced in on goal soon after and rounded Hamilton, however the ball rolled into an awkward angle and with an open goal his effort hit the post which then rebounded back to Sam Stanton who saw his effort blocked en route to goal and cleared by the Hearts skipper Christopher Kane.

Hibs continued to burst forward and after efforts from Euan Smith, Jamie Doris and another from Caldwell the persistence paid off.

In the 86th minute a long ball from Jordon Foster was dealt with poorly by Kevin McHattie and Brad McKay and allowed the omnipresent Caldwell a clear chance on goal and his forceful drive ended up in the top left hand corner of the net.

With the game at 1-1 extra-time beckoned and with both sides having chances wasted it was Hearts who ultimately paid the price for failing to convert their efforts.

Billy King for Hearts showed good footwork and managed to have his drive blocked by the Hibs goalie. From the goal-kick the ball found Caldwell who managed to stave off the challenge from McKay and let fly with another unstoppable effort. Hamilton was beaten all ends up as the hugely influential Caldwell managed to net his second goal of the game.

Hearts should have equalised as Sam Nicholson found himself in the 6 yard box when a Jamie Walker cross arrived. With an empty goal in front of him the game should have been leveled. His effort cannoned back off the bar much to the relief of the Hibs team.

Nicholson had another chance, this time in the second half of extra-time, McHattie’s free-kick was delivered in and Nicholson met it with his head, but it was tame and straight at Grant. This was the last effort Hearts had in the game and Hibernian held on for the win and almost added a third, however Alex Harris couldn’t find the net after an impressive run.

At the final whistle the crowd of over 2000 people gave both teams a standing ovation after an enthralling encounter and Ross Caldwell enjoyed milking the applause from the home support by running down the touchline.

Hibernian enjoyed the victory by making the most of their chances and having Grant in fine form despite the pressure from Hearts. The main issue for Hearts will be one of missed chances whilst their fierce Edinburgh rivals progress to the 4th round of the cup.

Hibernian: Grant, Doris, Stanton, Monaghan, Foster, Verth, Horribine, Gold, Caldwell (Donaldson 113′), Handling (Smith 58′), Addison (Harris 69′). Substitutes not used: Horne, Mitter.
Goals: Caldwell (86, 95)

Heart of Midlothian: Hamilton, Mullen, McHattie, Kane, McKay, Tapping (A. King 105′), Paterson (Nicholson 90′), Smith, Stewart (B. King 79′), Holt, Walker. Substitutes not used: Carswell, McGhee.
Goals: McHattie (61)

Celtic supporters plan Hampden protest

By Sam Hendry

A group of Celtic fans are planning to hold a protest outside Hampden Park over reports of an alleged cover-up by members in the higher echelons of the SFA.

A Facebook group set up to organise the protest, which will take place on Saturday between 12pm and 1pm has already attracted over four and a half thousand members since its creation on Sunday.

This follows the recent match between Dundee United and Celtic at Tannadice where the away side were awarded a penalty, only for referee Dougie McDonald to overturn his decision after apparent consultation with his assistant Steven Craven. Both match officials have since admitted lying about the incident to referee observer Jim McBurney and Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

Celtic supporters are unhappy with several high profile decisions made against their team

Craven has now resigned and has controversially accused Scottish Head of Referee’s Hugh Dallas of attempting to cover-up the true version of events and place the blame for the incident on the linesman.

On their Facebook page, the protestors have said, “we believe that, just as Hugh Dallas attempted to make Steven Craven a ‘scapegoat’, so the S.F.A will now attempt to do the same to him and Dougie McDonald, in order to ensure that the whole incident can be ‘swept under the carpet.’ This cannot be allowed to happen.

“The purpose of the planned protest is to highlight this on-going situation. We demand that an independent investigation is carried out into refereeing in Scottish football. We must do everything in our power to ensure that the S.F.A. becomes a more transparent and accountable organisation, responsive to clubs and fans. Decisions like those taking place in the last few weeks should not be allowed to happen or be covered-up in future.

“The thing the SFA hates the most is adverse publicity. They are active in making sure that some damaging articles never see the light of day. If we, the Celtic support, turn up en masse, the media cannot ignore this.”

The SFA were unwilling to comment on the planned protest at this time.

The final whistle on Scottish Football? An insight into the current furore

By Christopher Hall

For years Scottish Football has had it’s issues, everyone knows that.

Sectarianism, racism and debt have all manifested themselves over the last few years within the match day terraces and streets of Scotland. Refereeing enquiries, while omnipresent, are usually taken no farther than the post-match summary from the irate gaffer.

However, the question looms nearer. Are the current refereeing scandals a genuine threat to the game and the final nail in an already watertight coffin?

Only time will tell.

The happenings within the SFA will either be lost within a plethoric archive of footballing news articles or there will be a genuine outcome to this long running saga which poses a real significant threat to our national game.

To simply understand the situation you would personally have to comb through an infinite amount of news articles and reports and still not establish a firm conclusion. On the one hand, you have the letters from Neil Lennon outlining his misgivings with decisions given against his Celtic side at Tannadice and more recently at Parkhead in the Old Firm derby. On the other side, there are officials such as Stephen Craven deciding to quit the game in bizarre circumstances after his involvement in a decision to overturn a penalty for the Glasgow team last week. There appears to be a smoke screen appearing within the game which wont be cleared until the SFA provide their official investigation and a proper conclusion is reached which will allow normal service to resume.

To the fair minded individual, it is obvious that referees are not hired on the basis of their religion, creed or race but by their ability to handle a football match in a manner which is fair and competent. Edinburgh Napier News looks at some major decisions in Scotland in the past five years which have added fuel to the flames within the Scottish football refereeing debate:

* Hearts fans are incensed after Defender Takis Fyssas is given a straight red after an alleged challenge on Celtic midfielder Shaun Maloney (Jan 2006)

* St Mirren are in the news as Gus Macpherson is threatened with a fine for criticising an assistant official in a cup match against Dundee United. (Feb 2007)

* Craig Levein is fined £5000 by the SFA after a post match outburst against former whistler Mike McCurry. Levein was outraged after a string of bizarre decisions which went against his team in a match against Rangers (May 2008)

* Rangers player Kyle Lafferty is fined by his club after deliberately feigning injury which resulted in a straight red card for Aberdeen defender Charlie Mulgrew. (May 2009)

* Stephen Craven and Dougie Macdonald are under fire after awarding Celtic a penalty against Dundee United before quickly overturning the decision to the shock of Celtic Manager Neil Lennon (October 2010)

If you think that you’ve got what it takes to become a referee in Scotland the why not follow this link

Scottish football petition to appear before Holyrood

By Neal Wallace

A petition urging changes in Scottish football will go before the Scottish Government next week.

The petition is put forward by Iain Jack, who set up Help Change Scottish Football, and requests two fundamental changes; to merge the Scottish Football Association (SFA), Scottish Premier League (SPL) and Scottish Football League (SFL) into one representative governing body, and to investigate the SFA’s use of public funding.

Jack believes the SFA does not take enough responsibility for the problems facing Scottish football, saying that the task “beyond the scope of a lot of the clubs”.

Empty stadia can be seen across Scotland. Photo by Stuart Chalmers

With many fans affected by the recession, clubs have seen a sharp decline in attendances. Hibernian‘s average attendance has dropped from nearly 15,000 four years ago to 11,000 this season. Celtic recorded an 11,000 drop in their average last term. Sky Sports’ David Tanner believes the game needs modernising, and should look Stateside for inspiration: “If you look at American sports you can get all kinds of franchised food. None of these things are available at Scottish football. That has to be modernised or the game will die. I think the attendance levels dropping reflect that.”

In a statement, the SFA said this was an issue for the SPL and SFL and made no further comment.

Mike Riley, Chairman of the Hibs Supporters’ Club, believes the introduction of a winter break would encourage more fans to come to the game: “I think Scottish football’s seriously got to look at that. That would bring it into longer situations where we’re having good weather. Making it better for the young kids as well.”

Jack believes the SFA have not done enough, stating that: “The reality is that there aren’t any real sort of plans. That’s why the SFA have to lead it.”

A change in the system has to be decided at club level through a mandate, but without the backing of all three governing bodies it cannot be completed. A single governing body, Jack believes, would make changes easier to implement: “When two large companies merge to form a larger corporate entity, each company will be different in it’s business systems and it’s technical areas. The decision to merge is often a simple one. Scottish football has to undergo a similar process but has to see beyond the detail which hampers decision making by confusing the issue.”

Diving row hits Scotland

By Phil Turnbull

The Scotland versus Wales friendly match tomorrow is threatening to be overshadowed by the continuing row over diving.

In a week where Liverpool striker David N’Gog dived to win a penalty in a Premier League game against Birmingham, the diving row has now reached the international scene.

While Scotland hitman Kevin Kyle conceded he personally would take a dive in attempt to influence the outcome of a game, national team-mate James McFadden yesterday hit back, saying: “No way, I couldn’t dive”.

faddy

James McFadden (picture credit: skysports.com)

Birmingham striker McFadden said: “You try to play as fair as you can. You can foul for tactical reasons but I don’t think you can get away with a tactical dive.”

“I would not deliberately do that and try to con a penalty or to get a benefit because in the end you look stupid.”

Earlier in the week Kilmarnock striker Kyle admitted he would dive in a match if it helped Scotland to win.

Asked if he would take a tumble in the box, Kyle said: “I probably would because you go out on a Saturday afternoon just wanting your team to win at any cost and you take every opportunity that’s available to you.”

Kyle’s views are at odds not just with McFadden, but also SFA Chief Executive Gordon Smith.

Smith has been at war with FIFA over players diving ever since Arsenal star Eduardo dived to win a penalty against Celtic in the Champions League Qualifiers, eliminating the Glasgow side in the process.

It is not known how SFA bosses will react to the conflicting points of view from their star strikers.

Meanwhile Scotland captain Darren Fletcher has been passed fit for the clash in Cardiff.

fletch

Darren Fletcher (picture credit: independent.co.uk)

The Manchester United playmaker had missed training on Wednesday, but has now been given a clean bill of health by the Scotland medical staff.

The decision will come as a relief to manager George Burley, who is already without Old Firm quartet Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thompson, Scott Brown and Shaun Maloney.

Sunderland goalkeeper Craig Gordon also misses out due to a broken arm.

Scotland’s last friendly match, against Japan in Yokohama, was dogged by call offs that entered into double figures.

While the Scots have no such problems this time round, Wales have been hit by a raft of withdrawals.

Eight players, including £14 million Manchester City star Craig Bellamy, have pulled out of the Welsh squad, forcing manager John Toshack to select Swansea City centre-half Ashley Williams as his new captain.

Williams will be Toshack’s 11th skipper used in his five-year tenure as national team manager.

Wales versus Scotland kicks off at 3pm tomorrow at the Cardiff City Stadium, and is live on Sky Sports 1 from 2.30pm.

Shamed football stars are no role models

by Andrew Moir

A Lack of respect in football

A Lack of respect in football

As Rangers FC stars Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor are suspended from their clubs and banned by their countriy there are fears that this may influence young players.

The footballers were dropped to the bench for Scotland’s World Cup Qualifier against Iceland after embarking on an all night drinking session following Scotland’s defeat to the Netherlands in Amsterdam. The players did not heed this warning and instead made obscene gestures to the cameras they knew were watching them. This was deemed unacceptable by the Scottish Football Association (SFA) and by Rangers FC. Not only will the duo never play for their country again but they are likely to be sold at a much reduced price when the summer transfer window opens. But are do these players have an influence on aspiring youngsters?

Iain Edmonstone has been a coach of school football teams for more than 20 years. He does not think that this behaviour filters down to aspiring players. “I’m sure none of the young players are impressed by these antics. They certainly don’t see these guys at role models. I certainly don’t see the diving and the cheating at that level.”

While he doesn’t see this replicated in his own players he thinks that the unacceptable behaviour is picked up inside the clubs. “It’s an institutional problem. There’s a lack of respect for management and for the SFA. If you want to look at an example from another sport then, what about Lewis Hamilton? He’s probably been with McLaren since he was 13. There’s an arrogance amongst certain individuals who think they can get away with anything.”

Former Celtic, Ross County and Partick Thistle player Henry Creaney thinks this lack of respect occurs because young footballers are isolated from the rest of society. “It all comes down to money. These kids will go into an academy at a young age and have no idea how other people live. Guys between 18 and 20 have crazy money thrown at them. People don’t love the game in the same way any more. They are looking for money and that includes the parents.”

However Creaney believes that that respect works both ways. “When I played the referees would talk to you. They knew your name and they would interpret the rules using common sense. Now they all go by the letter of the law”

These incidents are not isolated. In August 2008 The English Football Association launched the Respect Campaign. This programme is to be in affect across all levels of football from the glamour of the Premier League right down to local leagues. The campaign launched many new ideas including a code of conduct for players and a new etiquette for talking to referees. According to the FA an average of 7,000 referees quit football every year. Respect aims to change this.

As both players and referees look for different kinds of recognition, mutual respect could be a distant prospect.

Spartans to replay Scottish Cup tie

By Ross Hart

Edinburgh side Spartans have earned a Scottish Cup reprieve after the Scottish Football Association ruled today that Elgin City fielded an ineligible player in Saturday’s original tie.

Mickey Lawson’s side were defeated 2-1 at Borough Briggs but the home team fielded goalkeeper Joe Malin, who signed on loan from Ross County after the date of the original tie that was postponed on November 29th.

The capital club launched an appeal for the match to be replayed after finding out Malin was ineligible and the SFA committee said that Elgin were in breach of Competition Rule 15b. This states that “When a match is postponed, drawn or abandoned, is played or replayed, only those players who were eligible by means of their registration at the date fixed for originally playing the Round, may play.”

The match will now be replayed at Elgin’s Borough Briggs ground on Monday December 15th with a 7.45pm kick off.

Last season, Brechin City were expelled from the tournament after it was discovered they fielded two ineligible players during their victory over Hamilton Academical.

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