Tag Archives: Football

Next Man Up

Dave MacKay (Pic. courtesy of Stirling Albion)

The latest incumbent of the proverbial “hot seat” at Forthbank has left the building following a truly toe-curling 3-0 defeat to Albion Rovers at Cliftonhill. The Wee Rovers had a single point and an extremely negative goal-difference pre-match, but that mattered not as they cantered to a three-goal victory against a thoroughly dis-spirited looking Stirling Albion side. This horror of this performance and result, allied to Stirling being on a run of 3 wins in 21 matches, saw things come to a head. Without much ceremony, an incredibly brief statement simply stated the obvious i.e. Goodbye Mr MacKay. Nobody was surprised, and reaction amongst Stirling fans has been fairly universal – there was no other decision to take.

Was a bit of a strange time under MacKay. He replaced the disastrous “project” that was Stuart McLaren and, really, things didn’t get much better. In his first full season, we started well and led the table after a dozen or so games. Unfortunately, the wheels kinda came off and despite a brief spurt to make the play-off spots we slumped again and only just hung on to achieve post-season action. However, we lost both legs to Peterhead in the semi-final and actually ended the season on a run of nine matches without a win. Moving on, an uninspired off-season, with a lack of anything remotely resembling a “marquee” signings, tempered expectations somewhat for the new campaign.

One win in four in the league-cup was then followed by two wins in eight in the league (plus defeat at Alloa in that nonsense tournament with the Welsh, Irish, English non-league sides). Worst of all was the manager’s continual bemusement after defeats. Time and again he just had no answers and you got the feeling that whatever happened next week would be down to luck more than judgement. Sadly for Dave that luck ran out for good at in Coatbridge.

Who next? Well, time will tell. Whoever it is we need to finally find someone who can lead us out of the doldrums. For far too long we’ve drifted. For too long we’ve watched sides get promoted who we should be getting promoted ahead of. Stirling is a decent sized town and has the potential for so much more. Those who turn up to watch the side deserve so much more than has been delivered over the last few years.

‘Mon the Beanos and thanks for reading.

Skippy Bounces Back To The Beanos

Skippy2Just a brief addendum to the Blog, this Sunday lunchtime, to make large the news that Stirling Albion have announced their new managerial line-up. Following the departure of Greig McDonald and Marc McCulloch, after the 4-0 home reverse to Stenhousemuir, the club set about the process of finding their replacements. After two weeks of sifting applications and hosting interviews that process is now at an end. The result is that former players Stuart McLaren and Martyn Corrigan have returned to the club.

http://www.stirlingalbionfc.co.uk/2014/11/02/new-management-team/

As the above piece on the SAFC official organ proclaims, Stuart ‘Skippy’ McLaren is to become manager with Martyn ‘Kaiser’ Corrigan his assistant. Including nicknames may be overkill on my part, but it shows they were well enough liked the first time to earn one!

This blog, and I’m sure all Albion fans around the globe will wish Stuart and Martyn the best of luck. Based on the evidence of the match at Hurlford, they’ll need it.

Thanks for reading.

(Pic courtesy of Stirling Albion FC)

The End is Nigh

Greig McDonaldReaders of this blog will appreciate my current passion for creative fiction laced with a generous splash of Scottish politics. However, my first love (even before ‘she who must be obeyed‘) was the gallant footballing entity that is Stirling Albion FC. Since 1980 they were a huge part of my life – games were rarely missed, and when the internet was invented I became their one and only unofficial site. For 13 years reports were filed after every game and the burning of midnight oil became a common occupation in the name of SAFC. For a variety of reasons that passion quelled in the last couple of years. I’m still not sure why. However, I think it was a combination of reasons – poor football, lack of connection with the club/team, other things to do and really just exhausted mentally after so long writing about our travails.

So where is this leading I hear you ask?

Well this short blog entry is just to mark an important moment for Stirling Albion. We don’t change managers very often, but today saw our latest incumbent fall on his sword. Greig McDonald and his assistant Marc McCulloch resigned after our 4-0 home defeat to local rivals Stenhousemuir. Bottom of the League One table, with one win in our ten matches to date, our goal difference is a horrific -16 (13 worse than anybody else). A statistic of one first-half goal in our 13 competitive matches in 2014/15 tells the story of a problem which was never solved. It was one we had last season too, until a late burst of form saw us gain promotion via the play-offs.

So you were promoted last season and are still getting rid of your manager?

greig-mcdonaldYes. That may surprise some, but in reality promotion appears to have been the exception in what was in the main a poor tenure under Greig McDonald. The truth is that one or two results were the difference between 3rd and 5th (missing the play-offs) and we were on the right side of those results. However, fairs fair. We won promotion and we owe Greig thanks for that. Yet, the feeling persisted that something just wasn’t right. There were too many poor games. Too many scoreless first-halfs. Too many times the same mistakes were made in what was a weak division. Sadly for Greig those mistakes continued this term. A step up perhaps, but we simply had to do better than we’ve done. Four and five goal defeats at home just isn’t acceptable. The team seems to be playing with no plan, no goal, no real strategy. We don’t build on good performances, good moments. Lesson’s are never learnt.

Confession time – I never really took to Greig McDonald. Seemed a decent enough bloke, but one who was rushed into management on the back of an injury ravaged playing career. In my view he struggled to get the best out of his players and he struggled to get the best of opposing managers tactically. Just think he wasn’t ready. A lack of contacts, being too close in age to his players, a relatively blank CV – none of this helped him. Don’t think it’s the worse thing for him to move  on and get some experience at a lower lever, or perhaps as  coach. He needs be able to get the best from players and to be able to influence games more. Not writing him off, but it was definitely best for both parties to move on before our position became hopeless.

Now it is crunch time for the club. We can’t afford to slip meekly back into the basement division. We must get a manager who can inspire, organise and lead the team up the table. Hopefully we will do just that soon.

Thanks for reading.

SFL1 Play-Off Review 2013/14 (aka ‘We Are Going Up!’)

8-DSC_0213Up until a few weeks ago it hadn’t been a particularly memorable season for Stirling Albion; in fact it hadn’t been memorable at all. A promising start fizzled away as we found ourselves several points and places distant from the one automatic promotion spot. However, in the Scottish Football League there is of course the season saving entity that is the “Play-Offs”. For those who aren’t aware what these beasts are, well simply put, they give teams who haven’t automatically earned promotion, or relegation, the chance for redemption. Even this way out of the murky waters of SFL2 appeared unlikely at one point, until a barnstorming end to the campaign saw us rack up the wins needed to secure third place and a date with Annan Athletic.

As an aside, the play-offs are funny things. If you’re not in them then it’s because your season is over, and as such you’ve likely switched off from football. I know myself that when this happens the play-offs pass by almost unnoticed. Yet, if you’re in them then they are undoubtedly the most intense games of the season. To come out on top you play four games in twelve days: a two legged semi-final followed by a two legged final. As the third placed team our opponents were the second place team, the aforementioned Annan Athletic. The highest placed team gets the second leg at home which meant our play-off run started on Wednesday 7th May at home to the Galabankies. A fast start saw Stirling 3-0 up in half an hour. Despite cooling off after the break we still managed to record a 3-1 win on the night. Three days later a big Stirling support made the 100 mile trip to the border town of Annan for the decisive second leg – they weren’t to be disappointed. Another quick start had the Beanos two up, and 5-1 on aggregate after only a few minutes. The home side rallied briefly before the visitors cruised to a 5-3 win on the day and a whopping 8-4 over the two legs.

1-DSC_0203In the final, Stirling would take on East Fife. The side from Methil in Fife were fancied by many to challenge for promotion in 2013/14. Those predictions were left looking rather silly as a theoretically strong Fifer’s side simply failed to add up to the sum of its parts. In their semi-final it required a marathon penalty shoot-out to overcome Clyde. Indeed Clyde blew a chance to win when Michael Daly saw his penalty saved. It was therefore Gary Naysmith’s East Fife outfit who would be our opponents. Stirling manager Greig McDonald had eight years as a player with the Fifers, but there is no doubt where his loyalties now lie. Therefore it came down to this – one tie, two legs in five days. The prize for East Fife, to stay in SFL1; the prize for Stirling Albion, to get promoted to, and replaced East Fife in SFL1.

The first leg of the final took place on Wednesday 14th May at an expectant Forthbank Stadium, the home of Stirling Albion. A big home crowd, and a decent away turn out, witnessed a fairly nervous encounter. Stirling took the lead before the break when veteran skipper Ross Forsyth looped a header into the net. Sadly though, Stirling failed to build on the momentum of this goal and it was the visitors who looked more of a threat after the break. Substitute Scott McBride bulleted a leveller following a corner, before in the last minute another sub, Nathan Austin, stunned the Stirling fans with a second. There was still time for the Beanos to hit a post and miss a sitter, but as the final whistle blew it was Gary Naysmith’s men who had earned the spoils with a 2-1 win. Stirling therefore had it all to do with the second leg to be played at East Fife’s New Bayview Stadium five days later.

4-DSC_0208Despite being a goal down, some 700 Stirling Albion fans travelled to Fife still optimistic about their favourite’s chances. Win the game after 90 minutes and the worst we could have would be extra-time. However, if we were two goals or more clear at the end of regulation we would of course be the play-off winners. On a pleasantly warm afternoon the agenda seemed set fair from the start. East Fife were looking to negate Stirling, lock-down midfield and to keep our potential match winners as far as possible from their goal. To be fair in the first half they did a good job of it. The second period was another tight affair. With only 16 minutes left on the clock a goalless draw seemed set to end our season on a low note. However, then step forward our little and large goal heroes. Firstly, top scorer Jordan White got on the end of a knock-down to loft the ball past the East Fife keeper. It was then the turn of his pint-sized strike partner to take centre stage. With almost nothing on, Sandy Cunningham lashed an outrageous half-volley past the spectator that was the East Fife custodian. It’s unlikely the home keeper even saw the ball as it ripped past him into the net. To say Stirling fans went a bit potty would be an understatement.

There was still ten minutes or so to go, but other than one near post save from Beanos goalie David Crawford, the host’s goose was cooked. It was therefore with relative calm that Stirling made their way to the final whistle, and promotion. Well done to the players, coaching staff, Executive and fans of Stirling Albion for making such days possible. See you all again next season in SFL1.

6-DSC_0211

The Artist Formerly Known as RedWeb

redweb2.1 For the last 15 years of my life I have been known to many as RedWeb. My name is not RedWeb. Never has been RedWeb and never will be RedWeb. I am Paul. However, the name of my Stirling Albion match reports website and my own seem to have become one over the years. Even in conversations I will still get referred to as “Red”. Well no more. Hour upon hour spent conjuring up 1500 word reports from a handful of my scribbled notes is over. RedWeb is dead. Paul is very much alive. Perhaps I should be sad. I’m not. I am relieved. I’ve done my bit. Now it’s time to move on.

redweb3.1RedWeb, the site NOT me, started in 1998 as a way of introducing myself to the world wide web. The idea that a PC, a dial up modem (remember them) and some basic software could get you seen and heard around the world was too much to resist. Not that this has ever been an ego trip. Some might say it was but it wasn’t. Well not really. Anybody who publishes their work in the public domain is a little bit of a show off. Let’s be honest. Undoubtedly I thought my opinions on Stirling Albion were interesting ones and I now had the vehicle to let others hear them. Before RedWeb there were only mailing lists. Hard to believe but true for those who have only ever known the wonders of the information age. From then to now, well yesterday, I was hooked. It became who and what I was.

redweb1.1Now who I am and what I want to be has changed. Almost a third of me has gone after a year of dieting and the new Paul has different goals. I still want to write. I love writing. I need to write. However, that writing will now take the form of blogging and dabbles in the world of creative fiction.

Over the last day or so I have received many thanks and well wishes from people who have enjoyed reading my reports and looking at our photos over the years. It means a lot to me that these people took the time to say “thanks”. As much as I may have enjoyed the writing process in itself the fact that it was actually being read and appreciated made it mean more. Let’s face it. Every writer wants to be read. I was no different and never will be.

Ah well. That is that. Today is the start of a new chapter. Indeed you could say an entirely new book. The one called “RedWeb” is complete and my new one loosely titled “Paul” has begun. I hope from time to time you may take a moment to view and enjoy some of the chapters from here on in.

(For those who want to read my last ever article on RedWeb i.e. as RedWeb, then you will find it here. Be warned it includes a lot of pictures of me when I was “bigger” than I am now. Shocking but essential viewing, for me at least!)

The Elgin Marbles

fmth_safcI can hear you, “Oh no, he’s about to talk about sport”. Well, that’s just hard cheese. I am indeed going to talk about sport. Even worse for some I’m going to talk about football. Bit of background. For my sins I have followed the fortunes of Stirling Albion FC since early 1981. It all began one Saturday morning I was bored so I asked my mother if I could go and watch Stirling play. They were at home to somebody. They won by a long forgotten scoreline. I was hooked. Unfortunately that first game was the last time Stirling scored a goal that season. Bearing in mind this was January and the season doesn’t finish until May lets you know how long that was. Just to clarify. The week after I started supporting Stirling Albion they set off on an all time British record of not scoring for 14 games. However, as a 13 year old kid I wouldn’t have been any where else on a Saturday. Terrible football but great memories.

Oh yes, we also won a Scottish Cup game 20-0 once. I was there. 5-0 at half-time, 15 more in the second half. We lost in the next round. That’s football. To be more precise that’s Stirling Albion. Over the 32 years since that fateful afternoon in 1981 there have been highs and lows. More of the latter but there comes a point where it all merges into the same thing. You go and support your team. Some you win. Some you lose. Some you draw. You come home and repeat the following week. It’s just something you do because it’s in the blood. Well, these days the passion doesn’t run quite as strong as it once did. For the last 15 years I’ve run this. However, after the current season ends I will be stopping. Time for others to carry the torch. I want to do other things including writing on here. I want to see what else I can do other than write about football.

Well, that’s a bit of background. Quite a lot of background. Even those who like sport may have drifted off by now. As for those who don’t like sport then I think we probably parted the ways several sentences ago. I would like to introduce those still here to the point of this article. Namely that Stirling Albion won a game today. What made that so special was the fact that it was our first away win in our division all season. The season started in August. It’s now March. That’s a long time. The fall guys were Elgin City. Elgin have been in terrible form and some even expected us to win today. That creates it’s own pressure but it’s a pressure we dealt with successfully and headed on the long journey home with the win.

Enough for now. Didn’t mean to write this much but sometimes things just have to be said. I promise to those following my blog that I won’t talk about football or indeed sport too much. When I do I’ll try to make it as interesting as possible for those who wouldn’t think it could possibly be interesting. However, I reserve the right to wander from time to time and you’ll just need to trust and follow or wait till I get back. We don’t need to go everywhere together although you’re always welcome. Last word(s) for today. We won!

Transfer Deadline Day

Sky Sports presenters are like children on Christmas morning. If they get any more excited it’s possible they would actually burst. Not sure if there is actually any recorded cases of over excitement leading to bursting but we could be about to have one. The prospect of Manchester City loaning an 18 year youth player to Oldham or Stoke City signing a fourth choice goalkeeper is all to much for them. Love it or hate the Transfer Deadline Day does make for good and at times desperate television.

Around the grounds we go. Hour after hour of freezing cold reporters surrounded by local urchins hoping to catch a glimpse of their new signing. Scratch that. Hoping to get themselves on television. The sad reality of this twice yearly charade tends to be a lot of uninteresting moves by players most clubs are glad to get rid of. As ever the only club really spending money and attempting to grab headlines, as well as players, is the one managed by Harry Redknapp. The media friendly old rogue is currently employed by Queens Park Rangers where their owner can expect his wallet to be considerably lighter by the time ‘Arry has finished with it.

Up here in Scotland Deadline Day passes without much frenzy. With Rangers not only currently languishing in Division Three but also the subject of a transfer embargo, only their rivals Celtic are of any interest to the media. Even that interest is not what it was witnessed by the lack of people hanging around outside Celtic Park. All quiet on the eastern front. East End of Glasgow that is.

In the old days there was no transfer window. Teams could sign players as and when they liked. Not totally clear why they still can’t. Think I preferred it that way. Sky Sports and the assembled throng of the UK media clearly prefer the monster they have created in Deadline Day. It has is moments but not enough to justify the hype.