Mark Warburton – A Job too Big

The honeymoon is over for Mark Warburton at Rangers FC. The job is bigger than most people and it is becoming increasingly clear that the 54 year old Englishman is out of his depth in the hot seat of one of the most high profile clubs in Europe.

When he and Davie Weir were recruited after their questionable departure from Brentford it was seen as somewhat of a coup, a Managerial team who had led The Bees to their highest ever finish of 5th in The SkyBet Championship.

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Warburton comes across as a confident and slightly arrogant man, but he is now finding out why so many of his Old Firm predecessors have failed…The Glasgow goldfish bowl is a pressure cooker!

Yes he has the Scottish Championship title and Petrofac Cup to his name from his full season in charge, however – these were the least the club expected from the 2015/16 season given the failure to retake their place in the SPL at the 1st time of asking in the previous year.

7 games into his 1st season managing in a top flight league and he is finding the going tough. A mere 9 points from 21 is not something which you associate with a domestic superpower like the Ibrox side. Currently they sit in 7th place, 7 points behind Celtic – who also have a game in hand against the current basement side Partick Thistle.

Draws against Hamilton, Ross County and a 10 man Kilmarnock are bad enough, but throw in defeats against Aberdeen and a 5-1 hammering from Celtic, without Griffiths and you have some serious questions to answer north of the border. Over the course of a season these results raise questions, but in September it should leave his position untenable.

In fact, he is currently 3 points worse off than Paul Le Guen’s side in the 06-07 season. The Frenchman was the club’s shortest serving manager lasting just 8 months.

Pre-season recruitment has brought Warburton’s scouting into the spotlight. The wages being spent on the additions of Barton, Kranjcar, Hill, Senderos and Gilks could be put to better use. Whilst the near £3m spend on Garner, Dodoo and the under-used Jordan Rossiter are not proving value for money. You’d have thought that given recent sanctions the Rangers Board many have learned lessons in frittering away money, perhaps not.

Joey Barton has been paid £80,000 during a 4 weeks suspension and left him with plenty of time to promote his new book, further calling into question Warburton’s role as chief. A manager cannot be undermined by someone such as Barton and anything other than the tearing up of Joey’s 2 year deal will further weaken his position. Kenny Miller is fresh from an overnight stay in the slammer which doesn’t help his cause either.

Perhaps more importantly Mark Warburton just does NOT UNDERSTAND the Old Firm and what it means. Quotes such as “no major gulf, ”nobody died” and his amazement at the negativity at the result will not bode well with the diehard fans. He certainly shouldn’t have looked to the English top 4 loving TalkSport for inspiration as he did after the Killie draw. Note to all fans outside of the EPL… TalkSport, talk repeated nonsense.

There is also no sympathy from any neutral in Scotland that John Beaton awarded a decision against The ‘Gers at the weekend. Sorry Mark but your over reaction raises nothing but smiles and sniggers, god knows every other team has had it against them 10 times worse and in much bigger games.

Celtic are certainties to make it 6 titles on the spin this season and you’d struggle to make a plausible argument against them equalling the record of 9 in a row. That could quite easily become 10, 15 or 20 given how far away Rangers are. The likes of Hearts and Aberdeen are getting closer and they are now Celtic’s main rivals for domestic honours, not their city neighbours.

His “magic hat” has slipped, his team are in the bottom half of the SPL and the inevitable discontent from the terraces has begun…

Mark Warburton your time should be coming to an end because the job is just too big for you!

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First Mark Warburton image sourced from; www.skysports.com
Second Mark Warburton image sourced from; www.dailyrecord.co.uk

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Champions League – 2016/17 Group stage

The groups have been drawn and with only a few days to go until Europe’s premier club competition gets underway, we thought we’d have a look through each group and provide our tips on who we’re predicting is likely to progress to the next stage.

With some new faces added to the familiars it should create added interest in this year’s competition.

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Before we begin we’d like to say that we do not agree with UEFA’s seeding system and the multiple rounds that some clubs have to go through just to make it into the pots.

Champions deserve an automatic place in the competition not sides who finish a distant 4th. This would help the smaller leagues and nations throughout the continent as the money will be distributed in a fairer manner. We all know that the rich are getting richer and the poorer teams are being left further behind.

Anyway we have no say in these matters so onto the groups…

Group A

Arsenal – Basel – Ludogrets Razgrad – PSG

Wenger’s men once again pay the European price for domestic failure, a 2nd place finish in group A will ultimately lead to a meeting with a top side completing the season mission of last 16 stage. A PSG side under Unai Emery should progress comfortably in top spot leaving the minnows battling for the Europa League place.

Group B

Benfica – Besiktas – Dynamo Kiev – Napoli

One of the more intriguing groups of this year’s competition, All tricky sides in their own right and don’t expect to see too many away wins. Ultimately we expect to see Napoli and Benfica progress given their slightly greater European pedigree just don’t ask us in which order!

Group C

Barcelona – Borussia Monchengladbach – Man City – Celtic

The group of death for the Scottish champions, despite their impressive form under Brendan Rodgers, this group is one step too far and a big Eurovision “nil pois” could be on the cards for the Glasgow side. The Germans will take 3rd place, Pep’s City 2nd both unable to displace Messi & co from their usual 1st place.

Group D

Atletico Madrid – Bayern Munich – FC Rostov – PSV

Last season’s finalists will count themselves unlucky to be in with Bayern but you can’t see past both of them qualifying, the order will depend on the meetings between the two. PSV and Rostov are in to make up the numbers in Group D.

Group E

Bayer Leverkusen – CSKA Moscow – Monaco – Tottenham

We are tipping Tottenham to make it 4 from 4 in terms of English sides progressing and even going to call a group topping top seed position. Monaco aren’t the team they used to be and with Leverkusen hit or miss, Spurs need to take advantage. The German will join them at the top of Group E.

Group F

Borussia Dortmund – Legia Warsaw – Real Madrid – Sporting Lisbon

The champions will be comfortable and expect them to top this group. Do not be surprised to see Sporting cause an upset or two, especially at home. With their recent players sales they are a weaker opposition and Dortmund should have enough to join Real in the next round.

Group G

Club Brugge – FC Copenhagen – PC Porto – Leicester City

The Foxes are in dreamland and although they would have perhaps preferred a more glamorous tie they will quietly be aiming to progress. Porto will provide their sternest test but both Brugge and Copenhagen have continental experience. Tough group to call but it’s Porto and Leicester for us.

Group H

Dinamo Zagreb – Juventus – Lyon – Sevilla

Serial Europa League winners Sevilla have yet to make their mark in this competition, however this maybe their year to avoid the lesser cup. Along with Juventus they appear to be in good shape to see off Lyon and Zagreb.

That’s our predictions for the sides to compete in the latter stages in the early part of next year, not too many surprises it has to be said.

As always we look forward to the start of the competition and the big games that it will undoubtedly bring.

Tuesday 13th September sees the long road to the 3rd June 2017 final begin. With it being a “home” final in Cardiff will we see a British side contest the final 90mins for the 1st time since Chelsea four years ago?

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Champions League Table Image Sourced from; www.youtube.com
Millennium Stadium Image Sourced from; www.itv.com

Scotland 2018 – This Time?

Less than 2 months after Portugal were crowned Euro 2016 champions it’s already time to start a new qualifying campaign!

Given the excitement of having 4 home nations make it to France certainly put things into perspective for the Scots who were sitting at home, enviously watching everyone else having the time of their lives across the channel.

The only bright spark in their gloomy summer was Iceland shocking a continent and sending the Auld Enemy home a lot earlier than many had predicted.

The rest of the nearest and dearest Wales, Northern Ireland and ROI are now on a new level, they have tournament experience and are nations carrying a different expectation altogether.

The SFA have come up with the slogan of “THIS TIME.” for Russia 2018 qualifying group F, so is it to be long haul flights to Moscow or further glorious failure?

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Scotland have been drawn with Malta, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia and England. Even the staunchest supporter sat in the Hampden Park stands will concede that Sam Allardyce’s men will win the group and more than likely, at a canter. We all know where England’s failings lie and it’s not at this stage, in fact they may even be glad of having what should be 2 tough games. This is more than they have had in previous years in the run up to a tournament. A table topping England would leave the Scots fighting for the play off place in the table.

As much as both nations will be looking forward to these games in the calendar this is not where Scotland’s progress will be decided. The trips to Slovenia and Slovakia hold the key… They must not be repeats of Georgia 2007 or 2015!

The SFA have completed the 1st task in ensuring ordering of the fixtures reads well. Playing Malta and Lithuania back-to-back on two occasions gives good opportunity for 6 points at key times in the group. The England games fall in the middle and regardless of the results it should not damage any optimism or derail form, this leaves the BIG finish…

Slovakia at Hampden on 5th October 2017 and Slovenia away a few days later. These are the much heralded 6 pointers, although we think 4 would do and avoiding defeat in either is more than likely going to be a must.

30 points on offer over the next 13 months and we feel a total of 20 needs to be the aim. This is allowing for defeats to England and Slovakia along what we’re sure will be a bumpy road.

Can it be done with what is available we hear you ask? Well let’s throw out a few positives to add to the hope that is always present at the beginning:-

  • Scotland have a new star in Oliver Burke, a recent £13m transfer to RB Leipzig and comparisons to Bale will do for starters
  • Matt Ritchie has been a find, the Newcastle winger has taken to international football like a duck to water, he’ll be a key man
  • Leigh Griffiths is one of the deadliest strikers in Europe, we don’t care what anyone says he should be regarded higher than he currently is
  • They are blessed at left back. Robertson and Tierney = enough said
  • The potential XI below leaves out the likes of Wallace, Maloney, McArthur, McCormack and Rhodes

One major worry for those world -famous passionate fans is at centre half. Berra, Martin, Greer and Hanley can play well but can also provide heart palpitations from Dundee to Dumfries! Perhaps a “we’ll score 1 more than you” attitude may have to be adopted.

The potential Scotland starting XI with everyone fit and suspension free looks like a decent side to us;

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Let’s also note that wee Gordon needs to be fair with his team selection, just because you have inks to the Old Firm shouldn’t guarantee you a starting place. ALAN HUTTON we’re talking about you!

Difficult decisions are part of his job and this time out he needs to be firmer. Don’t attempt to squeeze Naismith in, if Fletcher isn’t scoring for Sheff Wed then don’t start him or McKay is playing mid-table SPL football then leave him out of the squad.

So let the touch paper be lit in Ta’Qali on Sunday evening and see what Strachan and his troops can deliver this time around.

Qualification gives hero status’ whereas failure leaves the SFA with no option but to begin a search for a new management team.

With good selections, belief and a bit of luck on their side it could very well be all aboard for Russia.

World Cup Finals 2018? Let’s hope so, The Tartan Army deserve a European adventure.

Scotland This Time Image Sourced from SFA Twitter; https://twitter.com/ScottishFA
Scotland Starting 11 Image Sourced from LineUp11 App