As Hearts round off their season with a creditable point at Parkhead, we take a look at some of the stories and observations bubbling around the climax to the season.
“There`s only one Csaba Laszlo”
The fans have quickly taken our enthusiastic and gracious manager to their hearts, and I can`t recall the crowd singing about any Hearts manager in his first season – not even George Burley during his short 3 month spell. Perhaps we actually have to acknowledge the contribution of Eduard Malofeev and Angel Cervenkov at this point. After all, the 2 years of “Vlad puppetry” has imbued the fans with an acute sixth sense – namely, the ability to detect a proper football manager when they see and hear one. And boy, do we have a proper manager now !! The improved form of some players has been clear – but more importantly, the sense of teamwork, belief and purpose has been dramatic. The immediate challenge for our man now is to unearth a few good, experienced (and cheap) players over the summer to replace Messrs Neilson, Karipidis and Agiuar, as the club continue to promote some promising youngsters into the first team squad.
“Bye Bye Jimmy? Jimmy goodbye”
Hours after his team pipped Dundee Utd for 4th place in the SPL, the over-weight and over-tanned buffoon announced that he and his assistants were leaving Aberdeen after 5 years in charge. It would appear that discontent among many Dons fans over their team`s inconsistency may have had something to do with both parties agreeing to a separation. Calderwood`s ridiculous (and racially prejudiced) comments have been a feature of this season – especially after games against Hearts – and in a bizarre way, I`ll almost miss his comedy contributions next season.
“Regrets – I`ve had a few?.”
Ahh yes? Mr McGhee. This man has spent most of the season trying to ignore the voice in his head which keeps telling him just how big a mistake he made by not getting on that aircraft to Vilnius last summer. As he watched a rejuvenated Hearts make a solid challenge for 3rd place right from the start, his own Motherwell team struggled to re-capture their form of last season – and when top scorer Chris Porter left in January, reality set in. Mind you, he did make one of the year’s most laughable quotes as recently as March, when he announced that he had the best squad of players outside of the Old Firm. That`ll be squad that finished 7th then, Mark ? He even tried to convince us that he too would have had Hearts up there in 3rd place due to the quality of players we have – hmmm?? we`ll never know, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Hearts fan who believes he’d have done any better than Csaba . Having dispensed with Calderwood, Aberdeen may try to lure McGhee north – any chance he`d have a repeat change of heart just as he is about to board the Megabus to the Granite City for his interview ?
“He ain`t heavy ? he`s our Nade”
Err?. ok, actually he IS heavy. And unfortunately, I think the scales are now tipped in favour of ANYBODY ELSE who Csaba cares to play up front for Hearts. Our French hitman (and I use the term loosely) will need to undergo a dramatic re-invention over the summer, if he is to inspire any confidence among fans that he can find the net next season. Admittedly, he has been hampered by a hernia in recent weeks, and is due to undergo an operation this week. However, the emergence of Gary Glen and David Templeton – plus decent displays from Calum Elliott – suggest that goal contributions are more likely to come from them next season, rather than Mr Nade. So I hope the club try to find a way of shipping him out the door before his contract expires.
“He`s not the Messiah …. he`s a very naughty boy”
Is it just me, or was anyone else under the impression that Barry Ferguson`s days at Rangers were supposed to be numbered, when Walter Smith took disciplinary action against his captain following the Boozegate/V-sign saga ? Moments after he held the SPL trophy aloft at Tannadice, Barry himself admitted that he didn`t expect to be playing again this season. So his re-appearance in the final 2 matches indicates that Walter`s stern discipline * (which won the admiration of fellow “blue-nose” Gordon Smith) played second-fiddle to the needs of the team ? Talking of naughty boys and Gordon Smith, just what can we read into the aftermath of the “assault” on Kyle Lafferty by Charlie Mulgrew last week ? Walter did the honourable (* see above) thing by criticsing his player’s actions, but then played him against Dundee Utd. Jimmy Calderwood made his usual comedy contribution by stating that Lafferty throwing himself was “totally out of character”. Its not clear how Jimmy would know this – but it almost contradicts his other statement that it is “lack of Scottish blood” which is the root cause of cheating – so are we now to believe that being Scottish and/or playing for Rangers exempts someone from criticisms of play-acting ? Then to cap it all, the GFA – sorry, SFA – reveal that their committee which reviews retrospective punishments isn`t due to meet till next month, so no action could be taken against Lafferty on the same day that Mulgrew`s red card got cancelled !! Always one to play down any controversy involving his favourites, Gordon Smith then talked of the need to clamp down on “simulation”. So, from the blatant (and successful) attempt by Lafferty to get his opponent sent off, Smith widens the debate to include “going down easily”. Gordon, old chap – you were a winger??.and as such, I’m sure you “went down easily” on the odd occasion yourself. But please don`t make a fool of yourself by trying to tell us that what you did (and hundreds of others since you) comes under the same category as a “Lafferty collapse” !!
“Should I stay or should I go ?”
Ex-Jambo Donald Park has left his Assistant Manager job at Hibs to take up a Youth Coaching education role at the SFA. Parkie was creditted with helping to develop the Hibs youngsters who made their way west along the M8 in recent years so perhaps we should be glad that he won`t be doing that again !!
Finally, Gordon Strachan has decided that 4 years in the Glasgow goldfish bowl is more than enough. A Celtic friend of mine reckons he would have resigned anyway, even if he`d won a 4th SPL title on Sunday. It`s always hard to tell just how good Old Firm managers really are, since they get handed sizeable budgets and are guaranteed European football – which is as an attraction to incoming players – so there’s degree of self-perpetuation there. But Strachan`s record is pretty good – 3 SPL titles and 2 Champion`s League “last 16” appearances, plus a few domestic Cups – against a backdrop of reduced spending compared with Martin O`Neill. Although it was cringeful on occasion, his media interviews were certainly unique !!