City Senne hits the heights of Cumbernauld

I’ve been a bit lax lately on the old blog posting, for which I can only apologise.

I’ve actually been keeping myself busy with the ridiculous notion of actually working for a living in order to feed and clothe my son, Andrew who, at just five-months-old, seems to eat more than I do on a weekly basis!

Anyway, one of the things I have been working on is this great story below about the former captain of the Botswanan national football team who has just signed for Eastfield AFC in the Scottish amateur leagues.

Leith Athletic actually played Eastfield a few weeks ago but thankfully City’s international clearance hadn’t come through in time and we didn’t have to line up against him.

Having seen some of his ball skills during the photoshoot I have no doubt he’ll be a great addition to Eastfield’s squad. He also told me that his wife is expecting their first baby in a couple of months so he’ll soon be finding out just how much a five-month-old eats.

All the best to City and his new team. He is a genuinely nice guy and I look forward to coming up against him for Leith in the future.

Sadly, only the Scottish Daily Express saw the merit in this story while all the other newspapers deemed it unworthy of their pages – although BBC’s Reporting Scotland also carried a piece. I might be biased but I think his is a story worth telling. I’ll let you decide for yourself:



THE former captain of the Botswanan national football team has made a comeback to football – by signing for a lowly Scottish amateur side.

Gofhamodimo “City” Senne is a national hero in his native country and more used to playing in front of packed stadiums against some of Africa’s greatest ever players.

But the man who captained his country for eight years has now swapped rubbing shoulders with the glitterati of African football to turn out in dreary Lanarkshire for Cumbernauld-outfit Eastfield AFC.

City, who has played against African legends such as Cameroon stars Roger Milla and Francois Omam-Biyik, former Marseille striker Abedi Pele and ex-Leeds favourites Tony Yeboah and Lucas Radebe, will now be pitting his football wits against Scotland’s amateur players on muddy council parks in the Central Scottish Amateur Football League.

City, now 42, said the toughest thing about adapting to the Scottish game is the inclement weather and the pace of the game.

He said: “I am really enjoying playing football again and it doesn’t matter what level you play. My age is against me but I am still fit and as a footballer, when someone asks you for a game of football you don’t say no.

“The weather is really difficult because it is so cold. I am used to temperatures of around 30 degrees in Botswana so it is strange. As a defender, I was always used to getting a lot of time on the ball and being able to pass it but the Scottish players close you down a lot quicker and it will take a bit of getting used to.

“The players also shout a lot but I have no problem understanding them. In football you communicate through movement and you know where people want the ball to be played.

“I knew a little bit about Scottish football before I came here. I had heard of Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen, Dundee United and Motherwell. They are very old and famous clubs. Henrik Larsson is also very famous and scored a lot of goals for Celtic before going to Barcelona and Manchester United.

The defender, who also captained Botswana’s top club side Gaborone United, signed for the Cumbernauld side after a getting a job with the brother of Eastfield’s manager.

City came to Scotland to study at the LSMT Business school in Glasgow and to pay his way he took a job alongside Lee Brown – brother of Eastfield manager Chris – in a electrical retail warehouse.

Chris, 32, said: “City was working with my brother and when they found out they had a mutual interest in football they swapped stories and eventually Lee convinced him to come along to our training.

“You can see that he has played at a good level and he’s still in very good shape – there’s not an ounce of fat on him.“He’ll definitely bring a bit of experience to our side as we have a fairly young team and he will hopefully be able to bring on a few of the younger boys.

“He’s played against some unbelieveable players and although it is a different level at Eastfield he still plays with great enthusiasm. He will be a great signing for us.

Gus Mackay, president of the Scottish Amateur Football Association said: “My congratulations to Eastfield AFC for having attracted a player with such an international pedigree as City Senne.

“Scottish amateur football is by far the biggest participation sport in Scotland and there are players of all abilities from various backgrounds playing on parks every week across the country.

“If anyone wants to find out how to get involved they can visit the SAFA website,”


PS Thanks to both Lorenzo Dalberto of Deadline Press & Picture Agency and City Senne for agreeing to take part in a photoshoot during a sub-zero evening in Cumbernauld. It was certainly a long way from both Italy and Botswana respectively.

Leith Athletic 3 v 1 West Kilbride

If a convincing win and performance on a Saturday afternoon always affords a more enjoyable Saturday evening, it’s safe to say the Leith Athletic players would have had a few sore heads on the Sunday morning.

A scintillating start to their sixth round Scottish Cup tie with West Kilbride saw the Edinburgh-side blow away the visitors with three quickfire goals in the opening 30 minutes to send them into the last 16 of the country’s biggest sporting competition.

From the first whistle, and with the wind at their backs,  the fired-up Leith side went straight for the jugular against the much-fancied – and much-hyped – Ayrshire side.

There had been whispers that the visitors were among the favourites to lift the trophy this year, particularly with their good home form but in truth, they were unable to live with a Leith side who outfought and outplayed them in every department.

The writing was on the wall as early as the second minute when Jamie Lauder danced his way past three challenges on the left wing before rolling the ball into the box where the onrushing Rory Stewart coolly dispatched into the corner of the net.

The roar from both on the park and the sidelines rivalled anything to come from nearby Easter Road where Hibs were taking on Celtic on SPL duty and within 10 minutes there was more reason to raise the decibel level again.

Andy Penman looked to burst through the West Kilbride defence with a neat turn of pace before he was scythed down as he raced through on goal. The referee, perhaps feeling pangs of sympathy for the way the visitors were being ripped apart in the opening stages, decided not to even book the West Kilbride no4 when, in truth, he should have seen red for the challenge.

But that was quickly forgotten when Lauder stepped up to expertly curl the resultant free-kick around the wall and under the body of the despairing keeper.

It had been a rip-roaring start but Leith weren’t finished there and before the half hour mark had been reached they found themselves three goals to the good when Andy Fraser flicked on an Iain Gordon clearance for Stevie Radsynski to make no mistake and fire low past the goalkeeper from 18 yards.

A smart Gordon save low to his right following a long throw in kept Leith’s three-goal cushion in tact going in to half time and the visitors faced a mountain to climb to stay in the competition.

A professional second half performance was called for against the wind and Leith duly delivered, managing to contain the best West Kilbride had to throw at them while still providing a real threat at the other end on the break.

The visitors’ best chances were being fashioned from corner kicks and long throw-ins as they struggled to break down a superbly organised Leith defence.

Gordon pulled off another good save when he backpedalled to touch a looping header over the bar and another chance was averted when David Connor managed to toe the ball away from West Kilbride’s no8 at the back post when he was faced with a simple tap-in.

West Kilbride did manage to pull a goal back and again, the chance came from a long throw-in which the Leith defence, for once, failed to clear and the no9 was able to bundle the ball home at the back post.

As the game wore on, the visitors were beginning to realise they wouldn’t breach the Leith defence again and with 10 minutes remaining their chance completely evaporated when no7 saw red for a second bookable offence.

Radsynski had a chance to put a bit more gloss on the win when he found himself one-on-one with the keeper with just minutes remaining but he elected to try and square the ball to substitute Mattie Hutchison rather than shoot and the chance was lost.

Nevertheless, the win was already in the bag and Leith were left looking forward to a last-16 tie with a local derby agaisnst either Redhall or Lothian Thistle.

Before that, Leith are back on league duty against promoted Buchanan Thistle at home, KO 2pm. Thistle’s last visit to the Links saw them upset the odds with a 2-1 cup tie victory in December 2006 and the Leith boys are sure to have revenge on their minds.

Man of the match: There wasn’t a failure in a Leith jersey and no shortage of candidates. Radsynski and Lauder are worth mentions for their contributions but this was the best game I have seen Dougie Thom have in a Leith jersey. The left back was strong going forward as usual but added a steely dimension to his defensive game to win numerous tackles and headers before starting the Leith attack.

Dick of the day: No Leith contenders for this one on the day so it goes to absent midfielder Chris Beaton who decided swapping a windswept Scottish Cup tie in Leith for the sunshine of Dubai was a good idea. After that performance, it could be a while before he finds himself in the team again.

Leith (4-4-2): Gordon, Young, M Stewart, Wallace, Thom; Fraser (Hutchison), Connor (Hunter), R Stewart, Lauder; Penman (Fairbairn), Radsynski

Subs not used: McCall, Milligan

The real Aiden McGeady exposed. As plain as the nose on his/her face……

mcgeady-celtic.jpg     aiden-mcgeady-utrect.jpg       

I received a tremendously revealing e-mail yesterday – no, not that kind – which has blown the biggest ever secret in Scottish football. For years, Celtic have claimed that tricky winger Aiden McGeady is a product of their famed youth system.

However, as this photograph exclusively reveals, Celtic’s scouting network extends far and wide and they actually picked up the twinkle-toed trickster from FC Utrecht ladies team.

The proof is undeniable, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Arthurlie Utd 2 v 1 Leith Athletic

It was a deeply disappointing weekend for Leith Athletic with a game that should have seen the team travelling back from Glasgow with three points in the bag turning into a potentially damaging loss in terms of league title aspirations.

The trip through to play Arthurlie United in the far flung reaches of Barrhead in the west of Glasgow represented a good chance to pick up some league points after a combination of cup matches and weather postponements had put the league campaign on hold.

But the anticipation that built up on the journey along the M8 quickly evaporated when Arthurlie took an early lead through a headed goal from a free-kick.

Jamie Lauder, playing in an unfamiliar right midfield role was quick to hold his hands up for failing to track the run of the home side’s no11 and his looped header beat Iain Gordon in Leith’s goal.

Leith showed good fight to get themselves back into the game midway through the first half when Andy Penman struck a great low shot in off the post from 20 yards.

Following the early scare there seemed at that point there would only be one winner with Leith dominating much of the possession and territorial advantage.

However, a failure to close down in midfield saw Arthurlie’s no6 fire a long ball over the head of Gary Young at right back and as the home side’s left winger looked to cut inside on goal the ball seemed to strike the Leith captain’s arm and the referee duly pointed to the spot.

It was a harsh decision in that the handball was entirely accidental but by the letter of the law a penalty was the correct decision and Leith found themselves behind again.

A minor tactical alteration saw Lauder moved to left midfield and come more into the game while Penman was moved to the right-side of midfield where he continued to provide a threat to the Arthurlie defence – although there no doubt the Arthurlie central defenders would have been glad to have him out of their hair. 

The second half represented Glasgow’s answer to the Alamo with Leith piling on the pressure and carving out several gilt-edged chances. However the normally deadly Dale McCall, who had shot wide when one on one with the keeper in the first half, squandered another great chance when he shot straight at the goalkeeper from eight yards.

It would be wrong to pinpoint McCall – who would usually have several mortgages riding on his shoulders when he gets a chance on goal – as the only culprit as Leith contrived to miss enough chances to win the game several times over.

The visitors were strangely denied a penalty when a goal-bound Lauder free-kick was handled by an Arthurlie defender in the wall but, despite the fact the original free-kick was no more than five or six yards outside the box, the referee decided the handball took place outside the box and awarded another free kick on the edge of the area. Lauder’s second effort missed by inches.

The game was perfectly summed up by Arthurlie no10 at the final whistle who told me: “We’ve lost games where we have absolutely hammered the other team as well.”

In truth, it was one of Leith’s better performances in recent weeks with good football played and plenty of chances created. But ultimately these chances were not converted and the performance was of no comfort heading back to Edinburgh empty handed.

Man of the match: Chris Beaton played well at sweeper but Leith’s best performer had to be Penman. After receiving some stick on e-mails last week he delivered his best performance of the season and capped it with a great goal. He was unhappy about being moved to right midfield following a good start to the match up front but continued to provide a threat throughout.

Dick of the day: This is a harsh award given his excellent goalscoring record for Leith but McCall will know that Filip Sebo’s gran could have tucked away the best two chances of the game.

Leith (4-4-2): Gordon, Young, Beaton, Wallace (Drago), Thom, Lauder, Connor, R Stewart, McAuley, Penman, McCall (Radzynski)

Next game: Saturday 23 Feb KO 1.30pm. Great chance to bounce back in a home match at Leith Links against the much fancied West Kilbride in the 6th round of the Scottish Cup. The winners play Lothian Thistle or Redhall Ams in the last 16.

Eastfield 2 v 4 Leith Athletic

It was a successful, if unspectacular, weekend for Leith Athletic as they emerged 4-2 victors over Cumbernauld outfit Eastfield AFC in the M&M Cup on Saturday.

It was a relief for the Leith team to finally have a game after poor weather had seen off all but one of their games since the turn of the year.

The venue was Ravenswood playing fields, perched perilously close to the busy M80 midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow and despite the heavy rain in previous weeks the pitch was in decent condition.

However, despite playing lower league opposition, the enforced winter shutdown had a detrimental effect on Leith and they struggled to get out of second gear for much of the game.

Such was their sluggish start that it was the home side who took the lead midway through the first half when Leith’s Andy Fraser and Rory Stewart challenged for the same long ball to allow Eastfield’s no 11 a clear run on goal and he easily despatched past Iain Gordon in the visitors’ goal.

Leith drew level soon afterwards when burly striker Dale McCall (phrase copyright of Evening News reporter Ian Mackay) found himself unmarked in the box. To McCall’s amazement the home goalkeeper thought it best not to close down the Leith no 10 and he found himself with enough time to take a touch and find the bottom corner for his sixth goal in four games.

The visitors took the lead before half time when Chris “Gums” Beaton enjoyed a rather fortuitous bounce of the ball following a Jamie “Priest” Lauder corner from the right-hand side.

To anyone who doesn’t know him, Beaton cuts a menacing figure on the park as when he steps over the white line he is forced to relinquish his two front teeth to reveal a gaping smile that only a mother could love. But he was given ample opportunitity to show off his toothless grin when he challenged an intended clearance by an Eastfield defender and the ball found its way into the net via a kind ricochet.

Eastfield then saw one of their main goal opportunities evaporate when Leith sweeper Mikey “that was never a penalty” Stewart was forced to limp off with a badly bruised ego and a sore knee. Rumours that the injury was self-inflicted when he threw one of his toys out of his pram and caught the inside of his knee are unsubstantiated.

With Stewart leaving the field to be replaced by Gary “Guns” Young, Eastfield’s chances of being awarded a penalty during the 90 minutes were greatly diminished (he is almost in double figures for the season so far).

A half-time rollicking from manager Churchie inspired Leith to move further ahead shortly after the interval through Martin Wallace (Waldo). The defender found himself in the area following a set piece on the left hand side and he broke the offside trap to poke the ball past the static keeper.

The two goal cushion saw Leith go into cruise control with the second half passing rapidly without much incident. One pre-match prediction did, however, come to fruition with goalkeeper Gordon managing to land the ball on the opposite side of the motorway following a hurried clearance.

Thankfully a multiple pile-up was avoided but an Eastfield official had handily brought with him a lumninous yellow jacket (it must be a regular occurrence) and he was overheard muttering several expletives as he took his life in his hands to fetch the matchball from the other side of one of Scotland’s main transport arteries.

With Stewart sidelined, the mantle of serial penalty-surrenderer was up for grabs and almost taken by David Connor (yes, that’s me) but thankfully the referee didn’t spot the unintended but blatant display of volleyball inside the Leith penalty area.

A lapse in concentration at the back saw the home side reduce the deficit with just 10 minutes remaining through their no6.

However, the two goal lead was then quickly restored when Andy “he’s huffier than Anelka” Penman scored from the spot after he was pulled down in the area (not a stonewaller but I’ve seen them given.)

Shout of the day from an Eastfield defender followed the awarding of the penalty when he bemoaned the ref for “giving a cheap penalty when we’re playing one of the best teams in Scotland.”

Leith certainly did nothing on the day to deserve such lofty praise but as committee member and new grandad Mattie Hutchison has been known to utter: “You can’t win anything at this stage of the season. You can only lose it.” Job done.

Man of the match: Unfortunately there were few contenders in a Leith jersey but Waldo probably just about shaded it. He wasn’t as potent an attacking force from right-back as he would have liked but he hardly put a foot wrong defensively and capped off the performance with a well taken goal.

Dick of the day: No contest. Andy Penman for an outrageously bad (and ill-timed) attempt at a Roberto Baggio-style cross. You know the one where you kick the ball with one foot behind your standing foot? Yes, what a pillock indeed. His befuddled attempt resembled more Michael Flatley on horse tranquilizers than Il Divino Codino.

Special mentions: Congratulations to Mattie “Hootch” Hutchison junior who was able to celebrate both a Leith victory and the head-wetting of his first child Joshua James Hutchison  on Saturday night. (note to Social Services – young Joshua was born a couple of weeks ago, the father did not miss the birth of his child to turn out for Scotland’s best amateur side.)

Congratulations are also due to Grant Fairbairn who made his long awaited comeback from a nasty knee injury with a substitutes appearance against Eastfield. He almost marked it with a goal within seconds of coming on but unfortunately his physio treatment did not extend to giving him a new right foot as well.

A mention also for Scott McAuley, for no other reason than he is the only player not to have received a mention in this copy so far. Decent game although some woeful attempts at shots (I believe one actually went out for a throw). You should see him shoot in training though.

Leith team (4-4-2): Gordon, Wallace, M Stewart (Young), R Stewart (Hutchison), Fraser; Beaton, Connor, Lauder, McAuley; McCall (Fairbairn), Penman

Next fixture: Arthurlie away in the league. With Leith nine points (I believe) behind leaders Drumchapel with three games in hand, it is vital we start getting some more points on the board.

Overseas Premiership games a great idea – but with warnings attached

I have just read on the BBC website here that the English Premier League are considering introducing an additional 39th game to the season – with points and league placings at stake – and allowing it to be played overseas.

Cue much gnashing of gums and cries of discontent from the masses who fear change and believe that matches should still kick off at 3pm every Saturday on the dot, with two points for a win and numbers 1-11 on the back of the shirts.

But these would be the same people who laud the Premiership as the most exciting league on the planet, boasting the biggest teams and the most prestigious talent. The fact that this claim is built on obscene amounts of cash raked in from flogging broadcast rights around the globe will be lost on them.

Now has come the time to give something back to the countries in the Middle East, Asia and North America who have funded the exponential growth in the Premiership – and it needs to be more than the lip-service pre-season tours and tournaments embarked upon in previous years.

Playing an additional round of matches abroad seems like the ideal way to reward the millions of fans in these countries while ensuring homegrown fans don’t lose out.

Of course, it would be naive to suggest that the Premier League are doing this to thank the overseas fans for their support. They see this as yet another opportunity to promote their brand and milk them for all they are worth – and they will lap it up, of that there is no doubt.

The experiment worked well last year for the Miami Dolphins who played a “home” game against the New York Giants at Wembley in October – the first time an NFL game had taken place outside the Americas.

However, there are warnings to be heeded and mistakes to be avoided. It would be absolutely unforgiveable if, as is initially suggested, the overseas games were to take place at the tail-end of the season after all 38 domestic games had been completed.

Can you imagine if Man Utd and Arsenal were locked on points heading into the last game of season and their respective games took place thousands of miles from the UK?

Or if Wigan and Sunderland had to outscore each other on the final day to secure Premiership survival and instead of being roared on by their own fans they played it out in front of a strange crowd in a US college stadium?

This would rob the fans who had watched their team all season of sharing in the joy or despair that goes with following football. This distinct possibility surely rules out overseas games taking place at the end of the season.

Equally, the start of the season for every supporter is a time filled with optimism and hope for the season ahead as they believe, once again, that this will be their year. For 90 minutes at least. It would be wrong to take that away from the hundreds of thousands of season ticket holders every year.

Therefore, the sensible option would seem to be midway through the season – after 19 games. This would no doubt be a welcome change when attendances start to dip in the winter months of January and February and would seem like an entirely reasonable compromise.

There is no doubt that top level football is more global than it has ever been and clubs and fans should embrace it – because they certainly can’t stop it. I just hope that the globalisation doesn’t come at the expense of the homegrown fans. There’s no reason why it should.

Stupid interview questions leave me sick as a parrot

I feel that, at 27-years-old, I am too young to be a fully paid up member of the Grumpy Old Man society but sadly I often find myself shouting obscenities at the TV or radio when I hear sports journalists firing inane, random and completely pointless questions at the country’s sporting stars.

One recent incident springs to mind when, following Rangers’ victory against Hearts in the League Cup semi-final, captain Barry Ferguson was asked at the end of the interview whether he would prefer to play Dundee United or Aberdeen in the final.

Amid my wild-eyed rant at the TV I was just able to make out Bazza’s response along the lines of: “We don’t care who we play in the final. The most important thing is that we are there.”

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who could have predicted Ferguson’s asnwer before he had even uttered his first syllable which begs the question, why on earth was he asked it in the first place? The BBC journalist in question – unfortunately I can’t remember who it was – should have had an array of other more relevant questions to ask and, if he didn’t, should have done the decent thing and ended the interview early rather than waste precious seconds of both Ferguson’s and the viewers lives by blurting out the first pointless question that came into his head.

But amid the litany of stupid questions asked in post and pre match interviews, there are thankfully a few cracking answers which show the interviewer up for their ineptitude and lack of planning.

Celtic manager Gordon Strachan is well renowned for his quips and I have listed some of his best below.

The England football team also had great fun with the media during a World Cup campaign (I think it was in 1998) where the players had to mention as many song titles in interviews as possible without arousing suspicion. If anyone can get a hold of the clips anywhere it is quality viewing. I can’t find them anywhere.

But the all-time winner must go to Walter Smith when, during his first spell in charge at Rangers, he let rip at broadcaster Chick Young after taking offence at his line of questioning.

Thanks go to PR man and former crime journalist extraordinaire Stephen Rafferty who, on his blog (here) at Sure PR, reminded me of the clip. (the audio is slightly behind the visuals but you get the picture!)

If anyone has any other examples of great interview answers from sporting stars then please post them below.

Gordon Strachan quips:

1. Reporter: “Gordon, can we have a quick word please?” Strachan: “Velocity” [walks off]

2. Reporter: Can I ask you about Augustin Delgado [an underperforming player Strachan had purchased for Southampton] Strachan: I’ve got more important things to think about. I’ve got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Augustin Delgado.

3. Reporter: Welcome to Southampton Football Club. Do you think you are the right man to turn things around? Strachan: No. I was asked if I thought I was the right man for the job and I said, “No, I think they should have got George Graham because I’m useless.”

4. Reporter: Gordon, you must be delighted with that result? Strachan: You’re spot on! You can read me like a book.

5. Reporter: This might sound like a daft question, but you’ll be happy to get your first win under your belt, won’t you? Strachan: You’re right. It is a daft question. I’m not even going to bother answering that one. It is a daft question, you’re spot on there.

6. Reporter: Bang, there goes your unbeaten run. Can you take it? Strachan: No, I’m just going to crumble like a wreck. I’ll go home, become an alcoholic and maybe jump off a bridge. Umm, I think I can take it, yeah.

7. On Wayne Rooney : It’s an incredible rise to stardom, at 17 you’re more likely to get a call from Michael Jackson than Sven Goran Eriksson.

8. Reporter: Gordon, Do you think James Beattie [one of Strachan’s players] deserves to be in the England squad? Strachan: I dont care, I’m Scottish

9. Reporter: You don’t take losing lightly, do you Gordon? Strachan: I don’t take stupid comments lightly either.

10. Reporter: So, Gordon, in what areas do you think Middlesbrough were better than you today? Strachan: What areas? Mainly that big green one out there….

Beeb celebrates victory over ITV with Euro 2008 fixture list

It would seem that the BBC has managed to secure a major coup with the sole UK rights to screen the final of the European Championships in Austria & Switzerland this summer.

For as long as I can remember, the final of major football tournaments has always been shown on both BBC and ITV networks, resulting in a bitter ratings war between the two.

The upside to the double coverage is that it allows viewers, particularly in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to attempt to choose a channel where the commentators and analysts wouldn’t find reason to refer to England every other minute in a match between two other nations (in reality, settling for the one with the fewest mentions of England usually has to suffice).

It also means that if the smarm of one channel got too much, you could at least swap over to the other side so you only had to endure 45 minutes of continual annoyance from the one commentary team.

Perhaps this is ITV admitting that, when it comes to the big occasion, the Beeb do things that little bit slicker. Maybe they have been trounced by the Beeb in previous Finals’ ratings wars (I have no idea if this is true). Or maybe, and much more likely, they have decided just to save a few pennies because none of the home nations have qualified.

Nevertheless, I still think it is a major coup for the Beeb and and unbelievable capitulation by ITV, made even more incredible by the fact they have issued a joint press release about it, see below.

As part of the agreement, ITV gets its pick of the semi-finals but surely this is not adequate compensation for losing out on the big event? The BBC are showing four out of the first five games live, while they also have the rights to the last group games in the most high profile group containing Italy, France, Netherlands and Romania when two of those teams will be knocked out.

ITV need to take heed and be careful they hang onto their jewel in the crown in terms of football coverage. If Sky Sports or Setanta were to take the Champions League off them entirely they risk being cast into the wilderness in terms of top level football action – a position they would find it extremely difficult to recover from.

The ITV/BBC press release and full TV fixture schedule foir the European Championships is below.

BBC And ITV Agree Euro 2008 Games Split     

The BBC and ITV can today confirm plans for shared coverage of the UEFA Euro 2008 Championships in Austria and Switzerland.Live coverage of the group stage will begin on Saturday 7 Jun with the BBC broadcasting the opening match between Switzerland and the Czech Republic at 5.00pm and ITV broadcasting the later match between Portugal and Turkey at 7.45pm.During the latter stage of the group phase, where matches are played simultaneously – games will be shown live on BBC One, BBCi, ITV1 and ITV channels. Both broadcasters will simulcast all of their games online.

Both broadcasters will show live coverage of two quarter finals and will show one semi final each – with ITV taking first pick.

The final will be shown live on BBC One on Sunday 29 Jun, with highlights on ITV1 later in the evening.

Roger Mosey, BBC Director of Sport, said: “We’re confident many millions of people will enjoy the tournament on BBC television, radio and online. There will be plenty of familiar faces on the pitch, and some great matches in prospect.”

Mark Sharman, ITV Director of News and Sport, said: “Euro 2008 is one of the highlights of a huge year of live football on ITV and, with some of the world’s best players taking part, we are looking forward to an exciting tournament.”

Full schedule of games (this is the best format I can publish it in. The first game mentioned in each section is being shown by the first broadcaster mentioned in each section): 


Matches (UK kick-off time) Group Broadcaster Venue
1700 Switzerland v Czech Republic1945 Portugal v Turkey AA BBCITV BasleGeneva
1700 Austria v Croatia1945 Germany v Poland BB BBCBBC ViennaKlagen
1700 Romania v France1945 Netherlands v Italy CC BBCITV ZurichBerne
10 Jun 1700 Spain v Russia1945 Greece v Sweden DD BBCITV InnsbruckSalzburg
11 Jun 1700 Czech Republic v Portugal1945 Switzerland v Turkey AA ITVBBC GenevaBasle
12 Jun 1700 Croatia v Germany1945 Austria v Poland BB ITVBBC KlagenVienna
13 Jun 1700 Italy v Romania1945 Netherlands v France CC ITVBBC ZurichBerne
14 Jun 1700 Sweden v Spain1945 Greece v Russia DD ITVITV InnsbruckSalzburg
15 Jun 1945 Switzerland v Portugal1945 Turkey v Czech Republic AA ITVITV BasleGeneva
16 Jun 1945 Poland v Croatia1945 Austria v Germany BB BBCBBC KlagenVienna
17 Jun 1945 Netherlands v Romania1945 France v Italy CC BBCBBC BerneZurich
18 Jun 1945 Greece v Spain1945 Russia v Sweden DD ITVITV SalzburgInnsbruck
19 Jun 1945 Winner Group A v Runner up Group B QF ITV Basle
20 Jun 1945 Winner Group B v Runner up Group A QF BBC Vienna
21 Jun 1945 Winner Group C v Runner up Group D QF   Basle
22 Jun 1945 Winner Group D v Runner up Group C QF   Vienna
25 Jun 1945 Winner QF1 v Winner QF2 SF   Basle
26 Jun 1945 Winner QF3 v Winner QF4 SF   Vienna
29 Jun 1945 Final F   Vienna

Striker signing ensures United’s league campaign won’t stutter

I see Dundee United have signed giant Dutch hitman Mark De Vries as they look to strengthen their bid for 3rd place in the SPL this season.

Admittedly, this is not a huge signing (other than his size) and won’t be of any real interest to anyone not of a Tangerine persuasion. So why, you may ask, have I decided to blog on this?

The answer is simple and, to be honest, pretty self-indulgent. I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing the big man and he is a true gentleman.

A good few years back when I was working at Deadline Press & Picture Agency and De Vries was a Hearts player, the Sunday Mail got in touch to see if someone could seek out the 6ft 3in striker and ask him about………………his stutter.

 W-w-w-w-what? Presumably the Sunday Mail’s reporter’s were too precious to risk asking this giant of a man about something which he was no doubt pretty sensitive about.

Apparently, on his arrival in Scotland, De Vries was reluctant to do any TV or radio interviews and press interviews were pretty scarce commodities as well.

So, with more than a hint of trepidation I set off to Tynecastle to confront the big man about his speech impediment. However, my fear was unfounded and I quickly realised De Vries was an affable and humorous chap who was more than happy to discuss the problems he had faced since he was little.

Indeed, listening to him about life growing up in Surinam and then moving to Holland as a youngster proved an engrossing hour or two.

I believe De Vries has continued to work on his speech and overcome the problem and, if that is the case, then hat’s off to the big guy because it can be a frustrating condition.

I wish him well in his second spell in Scotland because there’s not many nicer guys out there in football.

No doubt United manager Craig Levein, who signed De Vries for Hearts in the first place, will be hoping the big man can prevent the Arab’s league campaign from stuttering after a promising start.

All the world’s a stage – but the SFA have a restricted view

It looks as though the Fat Lady is clearing her throat and readying herself to signal the end of George Burley’s reign at Southampton while the stagehand is preparing to open the curtains on his new lead role as manager of Scotland.

Apologies for the theatrical references but I am merely trying to liven up what has been an extremely dull and uninspiring recruitment process by the SFA.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not despondent by the appointment of Burley and I don’t for one minute believe he will take Scotland backwards in terms of the footballing progress we have made in recent years.

It’s just that, well, everything seems to have been a little flat about the whole thing. Burley will prove to be a safe pair of hands and he will have my full backing but it doesn’t seem as though the SFA have been willing to push the boat out and consider a couple of names that are a bit left of centre.

On the SFA’s shortlist of four candidates to have been interviewed, I believe there was only ever two men who had a realistic chance of being offered the job: Burley and Motherwell manager Mark McGhee. Both were good candidates and there would have been little complaint had McGhee got the nod just as there’s no-one from the Tartan Army readying themselves for a leap off the Forth Road Bridge with Burley’s appointment.

It’s just that, they both seem to be lacking that little something extra that would have provided a spark for the whole process. Tommy Burns and Graeme Souness were never going to get the job (although perhaps Souness was the SFA’s idea of a maverick name on the shortlist) and therefore should not have been interviewed in the first place.

Instead, the names of Burley and McGhee should have been supplemented with someone like Steve Clarke at Chelsea or Alex Miller at Liverpool – both of whom I have touted for the job in a previous post. Then, perhaps a bit of spice should have been added to the mixing pot in the form of a foreign name – no, not Berti but someone with a bit of continental experience and a sound grasp of the english language.

Then, at least we would have seen that the SFA were not operating with blinkers on throughout the process and were open to considering other avenues. At the end of the day, had they still decided that Burley was the right man for the job then so be it – at least they would had performed due diligence in the considering all the options.

All of this sounds like a fanatical anti-Burley tirade, which I can assure you it is not. He is a man of dignity, professionalism and likes his teams to play attacking football. He will be a good appointment, of that I am sure.

I just wish that the SFA hadn’t operated with the blinkers on. Or perhaps, to continue the theatrical theme, they could only afford the cheap seats with the restricted view.