A bittersweet slice of American pie

“What have the Romans ever done for us?” opines John Cleese in Monty Python's 1979 classic movie Life of Brian before his fellow revolutionaries from the Popular People's Front of Judea go on to list any number of improvements made by their imperialist overlords.

It's a scene that comes to mind regularly when looking at the various contributions made by American owners in Scottish football. Of course, Monty Python's skit was irony, but in Scottish football it's a genuine question.

Ron Gordon arrived at Hibernian with a glowing reputation as an astute businessman who had made his fortune from broadcasting and banking but he has not been without fault. Gordon deserves praise for having the daring to appoint Shaun Maloney as manager, less so for the manner in which he has trumpeted his own son's recruitment drive at the club (“Personally, I think he’s doing a terrific job”) or the way in which he dispensed with Jack Ross in the midst of a mini-crisis.

Mark Ogren deserves praise for having the chutzpah to install Tam Courts as Dundee United manager last summer but is worthy of scrutiny, say United fans, for his failure to make funds available to replace Lawrence Shankland, Jeando Fuchs and Peter Pawlett and for his decision to cut ties with the Dundee United Supporters Foundation.

John Nelms? His most noteworthy contribution at Dundee seems to be that he will become the first man in Scottish football to preside over the relegations of four teams in two seasons, three of them not even his own. It's easy to sound xenophobic in these circumstances but we've seen here and elsewhere – with Liverpool perhaps something an exception but a club ownership not without its own critics – that Americans still struggle to grasp the fundamentals of how football works in a European context.

It will be intriguing to view the contents of the Deloitte report commissioned by these three American owners – and those at Hearts and Aberdeen – when it is eventually published sometime this year. One story that appeared before Christmas detailed the belief that a key element of the report is that more could be extracted from television companies for broadcasting rights. There is certainly nothing new, however, in the idea that Scottish football's TV deal has been chronically undersold, so it will be interesting to find out what other elements of the study are new and innovative.

The problem with heavily-loaded surveys

London has been named the best capital city for golf in Europe, apparently. As declared by whom I hear you ask? Why by English tailors Charles Tyrwhitt, of course.

“We delved into cost of flights, number of bars and restaurants in the city, cost of a pint and numbers of golf clubs per city and country. From this we were able to finalise a rankings table,” reads a press release from – checks notes - Tyrwhitt's Golf Clothing department.

So where did Edinburgh, with its multitude of courses and rich, venerable place in the history of this noble sport come in?

Well, let's have another look at the data just to confirm. Paris? Yes, Paris is there, so too Rome, Madrid, and Prague, yes that well known golfing metropolis, it's there, too. All in the top five. Now Edinburgh . . . Edinburgh . . . Edinburgh? Nope, not there.

Problems at United extend beyond the players

Scott McTominay gave a glimpse of what life is like at Manchester United at present with his post-match interview following the 3-1 defeat by Arsenal on Saturday in which he identified “a whole lot of problems in terms of players, staff, stuff higher up”. The loss capped a thoroughly miserable week at the Old Trafford club in the aftermath of a humiliation at the hands of Liverpool and the death of Cristiano Ronaldo's new-born son. There was lighter relief when it was announced that Erik ten Hag has been appointed as the club's new manager for next season.

The timing of that announcement should not be underestimated, though. It was clearly done to deflect attention from the nature of that 4-0 loss at Anfield. It would hardly take an expert in body language or speech analysis to determine that all is not well behind the scenes. A source says Ralf Rangnick's recent press conference in which he observed that there were five his former Schalke, RB Leipzig or Red Bull Salzburg players now plying their trade at Liverpool was deliberately pointed. The German feels he is being sidelined at the club despite assurances that he would have a consultancy role at the very least when his tenure as caretaker manager came to an end.

Nine into eleven doesn't go

At my boy's football on Saturday. We were up against the best team in the league – one that goes around hoovering up everyone else's players for an assault on 'winning' a competition that is supposed to be 'non-competitive'. One of my chief bugbears of being a coach of a grassroots team is that very quickly the chief goal of developing footballers goes out of the window, especially against teams that are prepared to do whatever it takes – by fair means or foul – to win.

Another major part of the problem is the format. At this age group we're playing nine-a-side but the availability of nine-a-side sized pitches in our league is patchy and, when they are available, play feels far too cramped in relation to the number of players on the pitch. Worse still, often games are played on seven-a-side pitches and other times they are played on full-size pitches but with the goals moved forward to the 18-yard boxes. It's neither one thing nor the other and I genuinely struggle to ascertain the benefits because the kids all play overly short passes and have no space to work in.

As a result it offers little by way of preparation for the move to 11-a-side when all of a sudden there is a sea of grass between players who are often underdeveloped to make use of it. When I was a kid, 11-a-side pitches were at the smallest dimension permitted according to the rules of football and from memory the goals were slightly smaller, too. Adopting something similar would be a good start.

Glasgow's travel sickness

All the noises from Glasgow Warriors head coach Danny Wilson were positive in the lead up to his side's United Rugby Championship match against Stormers in South Africa. Never mind that Glasgow's away record has been ghastly for much of the season.

“We’re here to win two games,” he said a day earlier. “We know how hard a challenge that is, as other sides have shown. I think if we could achieve that we’d be the first to do it, which would be fantastic — that’s definitely our goal.”

Yet another second-half collapse disabused anyone of the notion that Glasgow were there to take maximum points despite Jack Dempsey's 19th-minute try giving them a lead that hinted that Wilson's words were not misplaced.

Stormers, ahem, blew their visitors away in an onslaught after the break which exposed the same weaknesses that have plagued Warriors on their travels in recent months.

“We need to go and take points now from the Bulls game,” said Wilson of Glasgow's next URC appointment, in Pretoria on Friday night.

You can't fault him for blind optimism.


The number of years it has taken Cove Rangers to rise from the Highland League to the Championship. No wonder so many established SPFL clubs are anxiously looking over their shoulders at upwardly mobile clubs from the division.