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:

city-senne16.jpg

BY DAVID CONNOR 

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, www.TheSAFA.org.uk.”

ENDS

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

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.

Tough tackling Raff puts his foot in where it hurts

As I was waiting on the Leith Athletic team bus to take us across Middle Earth and into the dark reaches of Glasgow on Saturday a forcible kick from behind me landed square on my posterior.

As anyone who is well-schooled in the art of football dressing room antics will know, such schoolboy actions are commonplace and therefore, on turning round I was already preparing myself for swift and painful retribution on the offending party.

However, rather than see the grinning face of one of my childish team-mates, I was instead greeted with that of former Daily Record and Scotsman crime reporting guru and now successful PR man Stephen Rafferty.

Raff is an old mentor of mine and he, along with other Scottish media stalwart Scott Douglas, stand guilty of launching my media career when they gave me a job at Deadline Press & Picture agency many moons ago. At the time I was suffering from post-university blues, working part-time at a British Gas call centre and being rejected from junior reporter roles at every local country bumpkin newspaper imagineable.

So it is always an enjoyable occasion bumping into Raff – either by chance or on the media social circuit.

This chance encounter, I am delighted to be able to report, is because Raff’s eldest, Liam, has firmly nailed his colours to the wall and signed for Leith Athletic’s under-17 side.

With his old man being a staunch Hibby, there was never any real chance that the Young Raff would be turning out for a team on the wrong-side of the city but it is always good to see young talent join the Leith ranks. The club has a fantastic youth set up catering from kids at five-years-old right up to the (even bigger kids) in the full amateur side so there’s no doubt young Liam has made a good choice.

I’m told he is a tough-tackling, no nonsense centre half who strikes fear into the hearts of opposition strikers. I can’t say that I’m surprised – his dad built his reputation on going in where it hurts, tackling Scotland’s criminal fraternity and digging up hard-hitting exclusives. And, as these pictures on Scott Douglas’ blog show, Raff wasn’t averse to sticking his feet in to get things done either.

However, next time Raff, I’ll settle for a tap on the shoulder rather than a boot up the jacksie!

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.

Leith Athletic match postponed

This was supposed to be the first ever match report (following the Evening News’ error-strewn version last week) on this blog to follow the fortunes of the mighty Leith Athletic in the Foster’s Central Scottish AFL Premier League.

However, our match with Colville Park, from Motherwell, was called off on the Friday when a pitch inspection determined the surface unplayable due to heavy rain.

I suppose we can’t really argue that Tam Currie (former player and now committee member and groundsman extraoirdinaire) should have done more to make the pitch playable because the Hibs match at Easter Rd (just a few hundred yards away and with a full-time ground staff) was also deemed unplayable. So neither the Big Leith team or the Wee Leith team got to play at the weekend (I’ll let you decide which is which).

Instead, we settled for a game of 5’s at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange where I’m delighted to say that my team (the reds) were critically acclaimed for playing the most attractive and exciting brand of football on the day. Unfortunately we were let down on a few occasions by some goalkeeping malfunctions including a notable error from the self-proclaimed Franz Beckenbauer of Leith, Mikey Stewart.

Other notable highlights from the day include:

  • A bleary-eyed Rory Stewart turning up at 2.20pm, just 10 minutes before the session was due to end.
  • A rare appearance from PC Steven Herd (aka the Mannequin) who managed to escape his police training regime at Tulliallan to remind us all what a handsome bugger he is.
  • A complete lack of tantrums or hissyfits from Churchie (team manager) although this was partly down to the fact the he managed to choose himself supposedly the best team, including the only goalkeeper.
  • Scotty “Hotshot” McAuley passed to a team-mate.
  • Mikey Stewart lobbed Scotland’s number one amateur goalkeeper, Iain Gordon, in 5-a-side goals.
  • A shockingly indecisive refereeing performance from Matty Hutchison. I suspect the SFA will be on the phone to offer him a job soon.

We are due to play Buchanan Thistle at home this coming weekend in the league. With us sitting just three points off the top of the table and with a game in hand, it is a vital match.

I’m desperately hoping it will be on, partly because we need to keep the games coming thick and fast but mostly because I couldn’t stand being on the same team as Moaning Mikey Stewart at the Corn Exchange again.

Roll on Saturday…………………

Seven-up for Leith but match report leaves Connor feeling Tango’d

It was a successful weekend for Leith Athletic after knocking in seven goals and reaching the last 32 of the Scottish Amateur Cup.

It was also a weekend of celebration for yours truly as one of those seven goals was knocked in by my own head – thus breaking 18 months of scoring heartache.

The demolition of fellow Edinburgh-side Balerno was an efficient and professional job from the boys and was capped off, in my mind at least, by my first goal in a Leith jersey (apparently friendlies against the u-19 side don’t count.)

However, my moment of glory has been cruelly snatched away from me thanks to a notebook malfunction from interpid reporter Ian Mackay, who was covering the game as a local derby for the Edinburgh Evening News. It is always great when we see Ian at the side of the pitch (apart from the fact that he has proved a bit of a jinx in previous matches) because it means you can look forward to reading about your efforts in the News on the Tuesday. Who doesn’t like a bit of self-promotion?!

I was therefore overjoyed that the goal which opened my Leith account would be immortalised in print for all-time. But, as you can see from the match report here, any record of my goal – which was the fifth of the game – has been obliterated from memory.

Instead, Stevie Radzynski – who has more than 50 goals to his credit over the past two years – has had an additional fantasy goal added to his tally. That hardly seems fair!

So, for the record, the goalscorers on Saturday were (in order): Chris Beaton, Dale McCall, McCall, Radzynski, DAVID CONNOR, Andrew Penman, Penman.

I have no wish to nitpick where Ian is concerned because he does a tremendous job promoting and reporting on the efforts of our local sports teams (not just football) for the Evening News and on his website too. I too have stood freezing on the side of council parks, with the wind threatening (and succeeding) to blow your notebook out of your frost-bitten fingers and the cold creeping up through the soles of your shoes. I know that it can be difficult to record accurately what has been happening in those conditions – particularly without the benefit of instant replay.

Therefore, I won’t hold it against Ian. I’ll just pray that he is there in another 18 months time to record my second goal for Leith. And Ian, I’ll be double checking the notebook before you leave.

NOTE: anyone who wants to follow the regular fortunes of Scotland’s best amateur side (as I have just crowned us!) should drop in regularly as I will be posting weekly match reports and reporting on our progress in various competitions.