Why McNamara is the right man for United

by Johnny Connelly

Trading Up – McNamara jumps ship and heads for Tannadice

Just as the ever-echoing knell of Scottish Football’s funeral bell seemed to be resonating louder than ever, up pops Stephen Thomson with a timely shot in the arm that could, and indeed should, transform the fortunes of one of the country’s biggest clubs this season.

 It’s been a funny old season so far in Scotland’s top flight for several reasons, most apparently the absence of one half of the Old Firm. When the news first broke that there’d be no Rangers in the SPL this season, one of the first questions that football fans began to ponder was ‘who’ll challenge Celtic for the title?’ You’d be forgiven for expecting Dundee United to be in with as good a shout as any, (at the start of the season of course).

Their dogged style, recent history of moderate success, and formidable squad (on paper at least) led many to believe that they were contenders. Without going into too much detail, it didn’t come to fruition, much to the frustration of the Arabs.

With Peter Houston at the helm this season, the club embarked upon a whole host of baffling signings, and an abominable run of form at Tannadice. Radoslaw Cierzniak apart, the signings were poor, and the Tayside club have recorded just two wins at home in the league. But with players like Johnny Russell, Gary Mackay-Steven and Jon Daly to call upon going forward, there’s no way the club should be languishing behind ‘smaller’ clubs like St Johnstone, Motherwell and Inverness Caley Thistle (as impressive as they’ve been this year).

When the friction between Houston and the board became too much and it became clear he’d be leaving, I did worry that we’d see some haggard or soulless Scottish Football journeyman being rolled out to act as a safe bet. Sometimes change is needed, and Stephen Thomson saw this.

The slow death Scottish Football is enduring is as a direct result in part to some of the unadventurous and fundamentally dull managers like Jim Jeffries, Bobby Williamson and Gus McPherson (to name but a few).

It would have been easy for Thomson to go down this route, but he’s taken a gamble on a young, passionate manager with a penchant for attacking football. I for one believe this gamble will pay off. Jackie McNamara ticks all the boxes.

He’ll command the respect of the players given the illustrious career he carved out despite not necessarily being the most talented player out there. McNamara, with a spot of good fortune and the right attitude on and off the park, won titles, played for his country, and played against some of the best players in Europe.

I’m confident McNamara will instil this idea of knuckling-down to reap rewards and punch above your weight in his new Dundee United squad. Are any of the less well-rounded, young players at United any worse than McNamara was at Dunfermline as a player? I think not. If Jackie can get across to his players that attitude outshines ability any day of the week, then there’s no limits to what his squad can achieve.


Plaudits rained in from all over the media for the success McNamara brought to his Patrick Thistle squad, and rightly so. His Partick side has lost just once at home this season, and can go top of the First Division if they win their two games in hand over Greenock Morton. This, combined with steering his team to the final of the Ramsdens Cup, drew in big crowds, sometimes upwards of 5,000.  

Football fans vote with their feet. If the product on the pitch is good enough, the club won’t have to worry about empty seats. This was the case at Partick Thistle under McNamara, and Stephen Thomson will be hoping that his new manager’s passion attract fans back to Tannadice to cheer on the Terrors.

No manager’s appointment guarantees success, and everyone at Dundee United will know that there’s a lot of hard work to be done over the next few months. That said, given the options available, there was no better choice than McNamara. For the good of the game in this country, I hope the new Dundee United manager transfers and enhances the same excitement he generated at Firhill, to his new employers 80 miles up the road.

Hats off to Stephen Thomson for being bold enough to try something bold, and good luck to the SPL’s newest manager, Jackie McNamara.


How Not to Run a Football Club – Lessons Scottish Football can learn from Chelsea, Man City & QPR

By Johnny Connelly

These days it seems to be something of a rare occasion when the farcical nature of the beautiful game supersedes that of our own football north of the border. But this, my friends, is one of those times.

The seemingly never-ending chronicles of the Rangers tax-case appear to be finally put to bed, Celtic are just 1 win away from reaching the last 16 of the Champions League, Hearts live on to fight another day, our ‘dysfunctional’ & widely discredited league format is expected to change, and the national side have parted company with their most unenthusiastic and least successful manager in history. Yup, things are looking up in Scotland.

Many more significant successes could be thrown in too, such as Craig Brown transforming Aberdeen, and Terry Butcher working wonders within the constraints of crippling financial resources. But let’s take this moment to poke fun at the complete and utter shambles that some of the ‘bigger’ clubs in the ‘best league in the world’ have embroiled themselves in.

We all know, and we’ve known for some time, that the unsustainable nature of spending south of the border puts football institutions that have existed for well over 100 years in danger. Danger they wouldn’t have faced otherwise.  It’s abundantly clear that Premiership clubs have two primary income sources. The first is the comically over-inflated TV deals from Sky; and the second is the cash in hand payouts from the band of billionaires who’ve taken over these clubs to fill their egotistical void for an elaborate human, emotional, and living plaything.

The second of these income sources currently is what sets the clubs apart in terms of silverware (by in large, as a rule of thumb). The clubs with the biggest money men have had the advantage when competing for honours in recent years, but what a hollow existence for a football fan. To watch your team, strewn with passionate journeymen, battling bravely against relegation one second; to then be catapulted towards competing for the title and signing the most expensive players in the world, just as soon as the money man sees fit to turn on his magic money-tap.

Both of these income streams are not secure. What happens when Sky get bored of the big money payouts? When they don’t feel the product they’re being given is worthy of the hefty price they’re paying? Or when they themselves come across financial difficulty in years to come thanks to the ever-developing world of digital entertainment?

The money man issue is less secure still. At least Sky & EPSN’s involvement is based on a tangible Return on Investment. Like a spoiled child that knows they can get anything they want, a time will inevitably come when boredom sets in. The brat will want a new toy, and the deluded football fans will be left pondering how on earth their beloved team will ever clear debts of hundreds of millions of pounds, and pay the remainder of their top stars’ £120k per week contract.

It genuinely baffles me how most Premiership football fans feel any connection at all with the product their team is putting out for them to support on a Saturday. This week has been a classic example for them.

Look at Chelsea. By hook or by crook, Roberto Di Matteo led them to win the Champions League. They weren’t the best team in Europe; they weren’t even the best team in England. But he did it, and he did it with camaraderie and a likeability factor – something that hasn’t been seen at Stamford Bridge since the days of Gianluca Vialli or Claudio Ranieri’s tenure.

Di Matteo – Good, but not good enough

Roman Abramovic arrived and transformed a middle of the road, semi-likeable club into a glory-hunting, unmitigated machine of imperialistic endeavour. Chelsea started spending Abramovic’s millions, signing players who’d never have touched the club with a bargepole previously, and accepting nothing less than 100% success. Mourinho came and went, followed by Avram Grant, Luiz Felipe Scolari, Ray Wilkins, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas, and of course, Roberto Di Matteo. Now, the club have taken on another big name manager, Rafa Benitez. They’ll spend yet more money chasing the impossible dreams of a disengaged Russian billionaire, he’ll fail, and then the cycle will continue all over again. What a horrible existence for a football fan to endure, regardless of the standard of the product on the pitch.

Man City are finding themselves being pulled down the same road of despair. Without going into too much detail, the current owner, billionaire Sheik Mansour, propelled a club that typically finished between 10th-16th in the Premiership, into a club that signs players for in excess of £30m, and pays players like Toure around £250k per week!  It’s almost unbelievable, yet it’s what is being put to the average football fan as ‘the way the game is headed’. People forget that Mark Hughes was ousted in bizarre and immoral circumstances as City manager. Now, after the owner has spent over £1bn on the club, it’s Hughes’ successor, the once untouchable Roberto Mancini who is hanging by a thread. Mancini to his credit delivered City’s first ever Premiership title; but has floundered in Europe, and now looks as though he could go the way of the Dodo, (or as we mentioned above, the Roberto).

Hanging by a thread – Mancini could be next for the chop

QPR too parted company with their manager this week, and again it was Mark Hughes who was the victim. Hughes was correctly sacked after failing to secure a Premiership win 4 months into the campaign, but the nature of his departure was despicable. Hughes was sacked, and his successor named all the space of 24-hours. What a cold and pre-meditated way to run a business, especially a football club. But before anyone begins to feel a modicum of sympathy for Hughes, let us remember that his appointment at Loftus Road to replace Neil Warnock was conducted in a similarly horrible manner.  When ‘loveable’ cockney rouge and purveyor of many a brown envelope bung deal, ‘Arry Redknapp’s phone rang about the QPR job, he must have been elated. How this man hasn’t been convicted for his abundantly clear dodgy dealings is beyond me, but for him to be appointed another Premiership job with a fortune to spend on players in January is almost laughable.


Sacked – Mark Hughes was shown the door after no wins in 4 months

Surely nobody has forgotten that this man drove Portsmouth to the brink of obliteration? But has everyone forgotten his failure at Southampton? The man took over Saints on December 8th  2004, picking up just 12 points from 16 games. He relegated the club without a whimper, finishing bottom of the English Premier League. Watch this space for yet more comical spending and ‘unproven’ allegations of irregular financial conduct this season on ‘Arry’s watch. Of the 3 aforementioned exorbitantly spending clubs, QPR concerns me the most, as it’s the one that would stand the least chance of survival if and when the money men catch the next train out of town.

The irony is, stability at these clubs isn’t an impossibility. The correct application of corporate branding, developing your own talent, living within your means, and having a clever man pulling the strings is all that’s required to succeed on all fronts in England.

Look at Manchester United. Despite the challenges of having to battle against these big spenders, being taken over by the Glazers, and the huge changes in the game over the last 20 years, Fergie has ensured that his team are successful.

Sir Alex has outlasted 5 British Prime Ministers, 5 American Presidents, 10 Liverpool managers, 18 Chelsea managers, and 19 Man City managers, while picking up 37 trophies  along the way.

To hark back briefly to Chelsea as a comparison, during the Abramovic era, the London club spent more money (approx £90m) hiring and firing mangers, than Man Utd have spent on players (Net transfer spend). Everton too show themselves to have a successful model. Davie Moyes receives plaudits year on year, not least for his current team that plays exciting and endearing football. The Merseyside club’s attention to financial detail is in stark contrast to that of Chelsea, having spent less money on players in their entire Premiership existence, than the European champs have spent hiring and firing gaffers in the last 8 years. Wenger’s Arsenal are another great example of how it can be done, but the pressure is certainly mounting on the Frenchman to adopt the seemingly trendy, reckless approach to spending.  I hope for the Gunners’ sake, they keep their faith in the Arsene’s approach.

We could analyse the dichotomy between the spending styles until the cows come home, but as I initially stated, it’s clear that the Chelsea, Man City and QPR approach isn’t a morally objective one, and leaves those clubs with a finite lifespan.

North of the border, we’ve suffered in silence. Never really having the power to compete for their players (with the exception of the O’Neill years at Celtic, and the Advocaat years at Rangers) in modern times, but we’re certainly on the right track. Whether they like it or not, Rangers have been forced to start from scratch, and they’ll do anything to avoid a repeat of the strategy that led to the club being liquidated. In the coming years, they’ll adopt the same approach as Celtic, which is proving as successful as could be hoped for. Don’t count on TV money, as it could disappear tomorrow. Count on a good scouting and youth system that allows you to sell players on for exponentially more than it cost to acquire/produce them. Count on a clever global and European marketing strategy to expand your brand and tap into new revenue streams. And finally, focus on keeping the product entertaining for the fans. If the fans can buy into what your club is trying to achieve, then a prosperous future is secured.

At this point in time, Scotland has an exciting league setup. Every team in the top flight is taking points off everyone else. The honours are very much up for grabs, and the relegation battle will likely go to the wire. This, together with the ongoing work to restructure the league to be more commercially viable, Celtic’s impressive form against Europe’s elite, and the opportunity to appoint a new Scotland manager with fresh ideas, puts Scottish football in a very good position indeed.

So let the English media poke fun at the SPL and the national side if they wish. We’ve identified the problems and are working to fix them. All this, while our friends on the other side of the border sit blissfully unaware of the ticking time bomb that is their current league setup; as they pompously preach about the ‘best league in the world’, truly believing theirs is an infallible football industry. How wrong they are.

Why Gary’s Jumping Through Hoops to be Lennon’s no.1 Striker

By Johnny Connelly

With no Rangers in the SPL, Celtic unquestionably have an easier route to retaining the title. Despite the benefits of this, it does create another issue for Neil Lennon’s men. Keeping a whole squad of players performing at their best becomes difficult when the consequences of dropping points are exponentially less severe.

Even at this early stage in the season, (despite a few instances of complacency) Celtic’s quality has shone through, and only a great fool would bet against the SPL trophy staying at the Parkhead club’s trophy cabinet.

Given Lennon’s relative lack of experience in the dugout, many have questioned his ability to handle the problems that face a huge club like Celtic. That said, the way he’s managed to tackle this most recent issue is nothing short of remarkable.

So, the million dollar question, how do you keep players performing at their best when your biggest rival is no longer breathing down your neck? Or in a more universally comparative way, what do you do when your biggest external competitor disappears?

The answer?  Simply introduce more internal competitiveness.

Lennon has illustrated this ethos beautifully raising the stakes when it comes to competition for places in his starting XI. This is how Celtic will succeed and flourish without Rangers, and it’s already bearing fruit in the form of a resurgent Gary Hooper.


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? – No, it’s Hooperman

Hooper netted the opener for the Bhoys against Motherwell on Saturday, taking his tally to 8 for the season already. This time last season, even with Rangers in the league, it was December before Hooper reached this tally. I put this down to increased competition for places.

At the start of the season, Celtic’s striking options were less considerable. Hooper was the main man, usually partnered with Stokes. The only real competition was from Georgios Samaras and Tony Watt. Samaras was and is playing the best football of his career, but is more effective as a winger. Watt too looks promising, but at just 18 years of age, will be used sparingly.

Lennon must have looked through his squad list and saw few other alternatives. He chose to loan out the cumbersome Darryl Murphy, youthful James Keating, and the flop that is Mo Bangura. Had this been left the way it was, I believe Celtic would have been subjected to a lesser Gary Hooper than the one that’s tormenting defences currently.

Enter Miku and Lassad Nouioui. Two experienced strikers to give Hooper a much needed boot up the backside in training every day. Over the last few seasons, if Hooper’s form was below par, he’d still start (more often than not). This season will be different. He’s widely regarded as Celtic’s best striker, but this time around, if his form drops, he’ll find himself on the bench.

Hooper notched up 29 goals last season in 50 appearances, (58% conversion). This was his second highest ever return, just 1 goal off his career best. This season so far, his record is 8 goals from 12 games, a marked conversion improvement at 67%.  On the basis of these current figures, and the fact that Hooper will soon be hitting his physical peak as he turns 25 in January, Lennon will be hoping his man will manage around 34 goals this season.

Celtic’s central midfield too has long been feeling the benefits of a healthy competition. Lennon has a plethora of options available to him in the middle of the park. Victor Wanyama, captain Scott Brown, Joe Ledley, Beram Kayal, and Filip Twardzik all fit there naturally, while the likes of Charlie Mulgrew, Kris Commons, and Paddy McCourt too can slot in if need be. This wide choice has made Celtic’s midfield the strongest area of the team, and allowed the club the luxury of being able to sell on a player like Ki for £7m, a healthy profit without weakening the team.

Lennon has quietly applied the same logic to the forward line, and arguably the back four with the addition of Efe Ambrose to the team. More or less the whole squad now knows that they are not bomb proof, and their place in the squad is not guaranteed. Possibly Fraser Forster and James Forrest are the exception to this rule currently, but given the nature of Lennon’s past dealings, it’ll only be a matter of time before they also find themselves having a sterner test in training to justify their selection.

This policy of increased competition for places has proven successful, but it a work in progress without question. This season won’t see a record points total for Celtic, and it’s unlikely to be one that’ll feature heavily when the complete history of the club comes to be written. What it will be able to boast though is that it’ll be a successful season both on and off the pitch. Financially the club is being run in a prudent manner, the fans will be entertained and see their heroes play against the finest teams in Europe, and the players, under Lennon’s shrewd setup, will be assured that only the best performances will merit their next opportunity to pull on that famous green & white jersey.

As Jock Stein once said, “Celtic jerseys are not for second best, they don’t shrink to fit inferior players”, and Neil Lennon’s competitive squad will ensure that Gary Hooper and the rest are no exception to this.

Is McCoist running out of time in the Ibrox dugout?

This whole notion of Ally McCoist’s managerial ability being cast into question is being reported by the mainstream media as though it’s a new phenomenon. I ask you, have these cynics been living under a rock since the former Question of Sport panelist took over at Rangers?

True enough, the Ibrox club have been a shambles in the early part of this season, what with embarrassing draws against Peterhead and Berwick Rangers in the first month of their unprecedented new campaign in Division 3. But the team’s capitulation under McCoist throughout last season could have been enough to remove him from the hot-seat.

The Gers held a commanding lead in the league, only for cracks to emerge, giving a resurgent and blood-hungry Celtic side the impetus to go on and claim the title.

With the vast majority of his top players still pulling on the Rangers jersey, McCoist’s men succumbed to 3 SPL defeats and a draw in quick succession:

  • Losing 1-0 at home to Killie
  • Losing 2-1 at home to Hearts
  • Losing 2-1 to Dundee United at Tannadice
  • and a 0-0 draw with Motherwell at Ibrox

These results aren’t those of a team challenging for a title, and I’m sure alarm bells would have been ringing if the club and the Scottish media in general hadn’t been engulfed by the financial issues surrounding the club.

Ally McCoist
The pressure mounts – McCoist has a tough job on his hands

McCoist’s failings didn’t just start towards the end of last season. Rangers’ Scottish Cup participation ended when a hungrier Dundee United side rose to the occasion to claim a 2-0 victory. The League Cup also eluded McCoist’s men at an embarrassingly early stage in the season, thanks to a plucky Falkirk side managed by former Rangers player, Steven Pressley. The Bairns stunned McCoist’s men as early as September in a five-goal thriller. Yet for some reason, it was put down to a minor blip.

These errors and poor performances had damaging effects on Rangers, in terms of morale and of course revenue, but McCoist’s card was marked earlier still, in a shambolic European campaign that lasted all of two fixtures.

If ever there was a season where Rangers needed a run in Europe, it was last season. The club were on the brink of financially instigated oblivion. The fans knew it, McCoist knew it, the players knew it, and the board knew it. Despite this, the manager failed to inspire his players to overcome mediocre Swedish outfit Malmo, losing out 2-1 on aggregate, and losing any hope of the estimated £15m windfall that comes with Champions League football.

Yes, the Malmo result was bad, but what was to ensue next bordered on laughable. Minnows NK Maribor were all that stood between Rangers and a slot in the Europa League Group Stages. We all know what happened next

Some of the more defiant and stubborn pockets of the Rangers support would have you believe that McCoist’s troubles came as a result of Craig Whyte’s reluctance to release funds for players. While this was partly true, McCoist DID have money to spend, the fact is, he simply spent in poorly.

Last season’s signings:

  • Juan Ortiz – £500,000 from Almeria
  • Lee Wallace – £1,500,000 from Hearts
  • Alejandro Bedoya – Undisclosed from Orebro
  • Carlos Bocanegra – Undisclosed from St Etienne
  • Matt McKay – Undisclosed from Brisbane Lions
  • Mervan Celik – Free transfer from GAIS
  • Dorin Goian – Undisclosed from Palermo

Of those 7, how many would you give pass marks to? Goian and Bocanegra certainly. Lee Wallace, perhaps. But the remaining 4 were without question, poor choices by McCoist.

So, does his signing policy instill confidence in the Ibrox faithful this year? Espeically Given that these guys will need to be the men who guide Rangers back to the big time?

Ian Black, Fran Sandaza, Kevin Kyle and Dean Shiels should be a cut above their current opposition, and we know little of Anestis Argyriou. None of the SPL signings have shown the skills that would lead you to believe they usually ply their trade 3 divisions higher than they are currently being asked to.

As much as it’s admirable for McCoist to stand by the club he loves, even when he knew it was a sinking ship, his catalogue of errors, poor decisions, and general tactical ineptness would lead any Gers fan to worry.

Had it not been for the financial troubles, the Craig Whyte (remember him?) debacle, and the Rangers tax case media circus, McCoist would long have been out a job.

A hard-nosed journeyman like Kenny Shiels, Billy Davies, or Terry Butcher was the appointment required to steady the ship in these choppy waters.

If Rangers have learned nothing else over these past few years, it’s that their club is a business, and a results driven business at that.

Gone are the days when the club could make a sentimental appointment like McCoist. Whoever took over from Walter Smith was going to have a huge task on their hands, and it’s starting to look as though this job is too big for McCoist. His endeavors in a Rangers shirt have no bearing on his ability as a manager.

I have no doubt that Rangers will win the 3rd Division title this year, but McCoist will make it a harder chore than it should be. His pool of resources dwarfs all of the other Third Division clubs’, even when added together.

The time for taking risks is over, but it leaves Charles Green with an unenviable dilemma to resolve.

Getting rid of McCoist would all but destroy the rapport he’s worked so hard to build with the support, but would allow Rangers to appoint someone who’s fit for purpose. Someone who’d utilise the resources at his disposal, and make the shrewd (sometimes unpopular) decisions that’d see Rangers ascend back up through the divisions in a prompt fashion.

Keeping McCoist, and giving him the short term vote of confidence would further adhere him to the Ibrox faithful in a way that Craig Whyte could only dream of. It would however jeopardise the future of the club, given that a convoluted route back to the SPL in the long term could plunge Rangers back into the financial difficulty that landed them in the Scottish Third Division in the first place.

The route back for Rangers will be a long and arduous one, and to my mind, McCoist will be more of a hinderance than a help along the way.

How Old Media killed Rangers FC…and how New Media danced on its grave – PART II

PART II – How New Media danced on Rangers’ grave

By Mr Custard

Where was I? Oh that’s right, Old Media killed Rangers…

I was brought up with a newspaper coming through the letterbox every day in our house. We had a big family and it got passed about. We knew it was biased in places but we were intelligent enough to read between the lines and find the truth. I was a paper delivery boy for years too, I did the same round Joe Jordan did. I remember getting a bollocking for delivering the Evening Times Saturday night copy late because I had been at Pittodrie that day. When the internet came along it opened people’s eyes. It became quite clear the newspapers were feeding us lie after lie. Unsurprisingly, circulation numbers began to dwindle. Now I don’t miss them. On my commute to work I can pick up fresh news, with interactive moments from various sources. Right now I would never dream of picking up a ‘red top’. Why would I pay to read the jaundiced words of Traynor, Keevins and Hateley? Before this era they were the only show in town, empowered by their own ego and their words were given credence. Now? In this internet age (which they seemingly can’t understand) they have been shown up as dinosaurs, and their meal ticket has run oot.

Not only did the Old Media kill Rangers; they killed themselves.


Take the floor shiny New Media. New Media is people led, fan led. It sets the agenda and it runs with it. In this current ‘internet age’ someone can have a good idea and it can gather pace and spread like wildfire. If it strikes the right chord, it’ll run and run instantly. The best example of this is the well known Twitter account, “Rangers Tax Case”. It came into being due to Old Media not only ignoring the biggest sporting swindle to ever hit these islands, it denied, obfuscated, and deflected too. Ordinary people had concerns, a blog aired these concerns and very quickly, a light was sparked and everyone did some digging, shared information and made informed decisions.

For months and months the mainstream media ignored these new findings. Things that had been dug up about Craig Whyte not having ten bob and a packet of fags, the Ticketus scam, the crumbling steel empire of Murray, the proof of dual contracts. The mainstream media denied it all, paving the way for the illuminating light of New Media. This name in itself is misleading in the context of the old. New media is everyone connecting, sharing views and opinions and quickly realising that contributors were far more resourceful and intelligent than their antiquated predecessors. Obviously Celtic fans had the most reason to investigate but they were joined by fans of other teams and fans of fairness and justice who were similarly fed up by the open corruption and bored with the SPL cabal that hadn’t seen the league trophy leave Glasgow in over a quarter of a century.

Instead of buying a newspaper that was already redundant by the time it hit the newsstands, purveyors of New Media could read these articles immediately online, and within minutes form and dissipate this opinion to others, often hilariously. By use of Twitter articles can be easily aired, derided and parodied by fans of all teams. Rangers Tax Case led to Celtic tax case, Aberdeen tax case and St Mirren tax case… all with their own humorous contributions.

After year upon year of comedy reporting that had now been shown up for the joke that it was, the New Media fearlessly put the boot in, and what a wealth of material to choose from. Craig Whyte was openly lampooned which was like shooting fish in a barrel. The ‘Mr Custard’ debacle where Rangers Fighting Fund proceeds were transferred via Paypal to a clown was like something off Chucklevision. I’m purposely not naming names as would lead to cracking contributors being left out but in the midst of Old Media being dire, Joe Public was left to fill the void…and some humorous, well informed minds carried out this task. Each mention of “warchests” was derided. The comedy administrators Duff & Duffer equally got it for their shambolic dealings, as well had their long time conflicted interest in the case. Some clever peeps with too much time and too much Photoshop knowledge were given instant audience and infamy. Comedy “in denial” utterances from the “flat earth society” were also instantly shared with great glee. But amidst all the fun and joviality there was a serious and important message being shared.

From the old MSM claims of “nothing to see here” about the tax case (which bizarrely enough are now officially named as “the big tax case” and “the wee tax case” by all after being christened so on rangers tax case.) to “Craig Whyte is minted”…..we had Rangers in administration on Valentine’s Day, lying talk about being back out of admin for euro qualification, we had lying talk in the press about a CVA being do-able it quickly became clear that the only way to get near to the truth was New Media blogs, and twitter feeds from the footballing family.

Even now we are still being fed lies. Apparently Rangers didn’t get liquidated and are still in existence? Apparently the whole of Scottish football is going to hell in a handcart because “the peepul” aren’t there to scrape their knuckles across the landscape. So all SPL teams aren’t reporting record season ticket sales due to this cancer being cut out of the game?

I genuinely think this is a watershed moment for Scottish football. The schoolyard bully has been given a severe doing, the prefects who looked on have been similarly given a bloody nose. Scottish football has been given a shot in the arm due to new enthusiasm, lower league teams will see their exposure and coffers swell, SPL teams will have a better chance of silverware and there also seems to be a new found sense of “chumminess” between clubs over denying the passengers who wanted to keep the status quo and who served notice on their clubs guardians.

So here we are, Armageddon didn’t happen. Sky is still paying as it was, ticket sales are up and we’re all friends…the future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!

Heroes and Villains: Why our beloved game’s media men should be next under the microscope

By TuttiFruttiBusDriver

The decision to offer Dundee FC a place in the SPL appears to offer a welcome release from the maelstrom of committees, board meetings and legal chicanery that has consumed the thoughts of many during this dreich Scottish Summer of sport. It offers an opportunity for fans of all teams to focus on summer transfer windows, pre-season friendlies, and, perhaps, foster a wee bit of cautious optimism about what the season ahead may bring. Maybe the dust will settle a little and we can concentrate on the football.

However, while it is undoubtedly healthier to look forward with positivity to the new season, it is necessary to get several things in order if this is not to become yet another missed opportunity to address the parlous state of the game. There are many issues that need looked at from a change point of view, none more so than the role of BBC Scotland’s sport department going forward.

The now notorious inability of a vast rump of the Scottish football media to ask questions of David Murray for fear of being banished from the vineyards, private jets and oak-paneled offices is an embarrassment that will haunt many hacks for as long as they continue to eke out an existence in the media. Many key players at the BBC were not immune from this. Similarly when Craig Whyte emerged from the shadows (with a questionable CV to boot) the prevailing practice of parceling up PR-swill while avoiding asking difficult questions continued. On the evidence so far, and with a few notable exceptions as detailed below, Charles Green hasn’t exactly getting the roughest ride either.

Chick Young and Jim Traynor – Purveyors of questionable coverage?

It is arguable that the senior management at BBC Scotland’s Sportsound conducts a fundamental and radical review of the makeup of their broadcasting team for the forthcoming season. While some have enhanced their reputations with an honest and even-handed approach to the protracted saga (Jim Spence and Richard Gordon spring to mind) others, such as the laughably lightweight Chick Young and the deliberate mendacious Jim Traynor are surely redundant. Young’s grasp of the story is weak and ineffectual. Traynor, meanwhile, has brought nothing to BBC Scotland’s sports output bar a hectoring, bullying, sneering, doom-mongering style that has many listeners reaching for the off-switch.

Traynor can write what he likes in his newspaper (which given the latest circulation figures appears to be living on borrowed time ) but I am sure many license-fee payers resent his views being rammed down their throats in the sake of ‘parity’ or ‘balance’. A slavish desire to see the status quo remain purely out of self-interest has been has main contribution to the debate. Surely this propagandist has no place in a key forum for debate on the issues going forward?

Jim Spence and Richard Gordon, conversely, are notable for the way that they have made room for nuanced arguments. They have focused on complex issues, have tried to make sense of wildly conflicting information and synthesize it into something meaningful for the listening audience. They’ve asked the difficult questions, engaged widely with fans on social media and largely understood that fans are now better informed, more connected, and, with worthwhile opinions (compare that to the loathing of ‘internet bampots’ that you get from Traynor).

It is vital that all those with an interest in the future of Scottish football ensure that the mainstream media charged with holding authorities to account ask the questions that we want asked and provide informed analysis/opinions. Where the pundits are not fulfilling that role then others must be offered the opportunity. Punditry should not be a job for life, it should be determined by an ability to ask the right questions, no matter how uncomfortable those may be, and, a demonstration of sound interpretation of events. The days of the two-dimensional Traynor autocrat or the sycophancy of Young are gone. While social media has radically altered the media landscape by increasing connections, relationships, and, the democratisation of information, it is important that those in charge of the BBC Scotland Sports department fulfill their commitment to serve in the public interest. Weak scrutiny has failed us in the past; it should not be allowed to happen again.

Division 3 for Rangers; but it’s business as usual for Scottish Football

by Johnny Connelly

Charles Green reacts to the news the his Rangers Newco will be playing in the 4th tier of Scottish football

So the Rangers Newco’s first experience of domestic football in Scotland will be in Division 3. The final nail is in the coffin, the four horsemen of the apocalypse have been summoned, the 10 terrible plagues of Egypt will reign upon our game, and the universe will implode around teatime. Well, that’s pretty much what we’re being led to believe by shameless ‘red-top’ tabloid journos.

Give me a break. The seemingly eternal and bureaucratically orchestrated demise of Rangers FC as we knew it has come to an end. Surely this is something to rejoice over? We can actually start thinking about playing football again!

One could be forgiven for thinking that the Scottish media’s handling of the Rangers situation in recent weeks has been one last hurrah for lazy journalists who’ve been spoon fed their copy since the day the HMRC story broke. This “£16m cost” figure is as fictional and unfounded as Craig Whyte’s friendship with Prince Albert of Monaco.

Yes, the absence of Rangers in Scotland’s elite footballing division will have monetary ramifications, but to report only this aspect of the drastic change is an insult to football fans across Scotland.

To illustrate the point, I’ve picked up on two stories reported in the media today on the matter. The first, an understandably stunted and sensationalist piece in the Sunday Mail; while the second is an altogether more surprising angle, from the usually enlightening pen of Graham Spiers.

The Sunday Mail today claimed that 5 current SPL teams will go bust within a month as a result of the Rangers debacle. Sorry, but that’s just factually incorrect to the point that I feel embarrassed for Gordon Parks, who penned the piece. The suggestion was that St Mirren, along with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Motherwell, Dundee United and Kilmarnock will no longer be able to function. This constant scaremongering about such things does nothing for the game in this country. The game is constantly in motion, and will always face new difficulties. Yes, the current Sky & ESPN deals could be subject to a negative change, but doesn’t that ‘crisis’ sound a little familiar?

I seem to remember a similar media frenzy when the proverbial arse fell out of Setanta. Also, on a smaller scale, silly behavior ensued when the Scottish Cup was struggling to find a sponsor. Even in the untouchable land of English football, OnDigital’s meteoric rise, and cataclysmic fall had little or no impact on the day-to-day running of the game. Time has proved that the game always survives, and another option always presents itself.

The SPL clubs will survive too. The Scottish game isn’t exactly wealthy, and never has been. For this reason, the clubs in question have become accustomed to live within their means. A restricted income will simply result in restricted outgoings. It really is that simple.

In the second case I stumbled across today, the aforementioned Mr Spiers put across his usual erudite, punchy and enjoyable opinions on how things have transpired in the last few days. But I took umbrage, not to what he said, but to what he omitted.

A clear focus in his piece was that Peter Lawell, Neil Lennon, and Celtic as a whole will miss Rangers more than they’ve ever missed any aspect of professional football. Perhaps true in some respects. The Old Firm derby is amongst the most prestigious and exciting football encounters on the face of the Earth. Of course the thought of it not being a regular fixture for at least the next three years is somewhat harrowing for football fans, that’s a given, but Spiers failed to highlight the fact that Rangers are where they are by virtue of their own financial mis-management.

Rangers have suffered a fate no different from any other team in Scotland who ever have or ever will go through the liquidation process. There’s no conspiracy, and conversely, no exceptions to be made. Rules and regulations were broken by Rangers. They’ve been punished to the point where their club as they know it, no longer exists. The Rangers Newco begin life in the Irn-Bru Scottish 3rd Division, where they’ll have to claw their way up and rebuild their illustrious 140 history. The world loses one of it’s greatest football derbies, not as a result of an unjust punishment, but as a result of procedures being followed correctly in a structured national football league system.

What everyone seems to be missing is the huge, gaping avenue of opportunity that’s been thrust into focus as a result of the seismic shift in power within Scottish football. Our game has been on it’s knees for many years, this is no secret, nor is it a revelation. Poor crowds, with even poorer revenue streams have been the symptoms of this, but until now these have been portrayed as the illness.

There are so many unexplored options to boost the wavering stature of Scottish Football, and now is the time to throw our collective weight behind them and turn the game around. Expanding to a 14 or 16 team league, summer football, a foreign player quota, wage caps, Friday night football, reintroducing the Glasgow Cup, and TV finance restructuring are all options that instantly spring to mind, so why aren’t we exploring them?!

Let us also not forget the positive consequences of Rangers holding a place in Scotland’s lower leagues. As the Newco inevitably work their way up the divisions over the coming years, the clubs who are really in the financial doldrums can expect a monetary shot in the arm like they’ve never seen before. Each club in the 3rd division this season can guarantee 2 full houses against Ally McCoist’s men, with the added bonus of two trips to Ibrox too. The money this brings in, and the spectacle for the league itself is something that would be beyond the wildest dreams of clubs like Annan, East Stirling, Clyde, and Stranraer (to name but a few).

This redistribution of wealth, and media attention on our lower leagues can only bring good things. Prior to this odd turn of events, when would any of you have considered going to a Scottish third division game?

The ubiquitous notion that Scottish football is, ‘on its knees’ is being reported as though the troubles have come in the form of a bullet in the head; when it’s really more like a slow debilitating illness.

Now is the time to make football an enjoyable commodity once more. A brief and inadvertent break from the drudgery of the ‘Gers in Crisis’ news stories, and renewed passion behind restructuring Scottish football from top to bottom gives me hope for this season, and seasons beyond. The ultimate goal is to develop a football industry in Scotland where all aspects of society can support their team of choice at a reasonable cost, viewing a decent standard of play, with levels of hospitality and consumer amenities that are on a par with the elite divisions across Europe.

That’s the dream, and there’s no reason why it can’t become a reality.

Yes Rangers are down, but they will return. Cleansed, well structured, and most welcome in Scotland’s top division.

Next season will be a bizarre one. Perhaps the most bizarre yet, but the game goes on.

It always has, and it always will.

EXCLUSIVE : Scottish multimillionaire mulling over Rangers takeover

On a day that will go down as one of the darkest in Rangers’ history to date, Hitthebyline can reveal what could prove to be a shining light at the end of a tunnel of turmoil for the club.

A Hitthebyline insider has had advanced discussions with Jim McColl OBE, who has expressed a desire to end the disastrous reign of Craig Whyte.

Jim McColl - Scottish Multimillionaire
Jim McColl - The saviour of Rangers?

Last month, McColl was mentioned by former Rangers director Paul Murray as being a key figure in a potential consortium to mount a takeover bid. However, it would seem since then that McColl has had a change of heart, and would now like to champion the takeover on his own, (as our insider learned at the weekend while speaking to him at a local golf outing).

McColl is understood to be watching intently and mulling over his options as he looks to become the successor to Craig Whyte, and ultimately end the suffering of the Ibrox faithful.

The Carmunnock born businessman has a reported fortune of over £800m, with a far more transparent and upstanding reputation than the clandestine Mr Whyte. The Daily Record reported in November of 2008 that McColl had overtaken Tom Hunter as Scotland’s richest man, and with recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honors list of 2001, Rangers would be inclined to put to put their faith in the seemingly upstanding businessman, should any takeover bid emerge.

As a lifelong Rangers fan, McColl has long been rumoured to enter into financial involvement with his boyhood heroes. In 2010, the Sunday Herald also reported that he was to be the bankroller of a Rangers Supporters Trust takeover bid, which was to make the club wholly owned by the supporters (in a similar setup to how Barcelona currently operate). This has since proved to be not entirely true, but the multimillionaire conceded to the fact he was providing financial advice to the supporters trust.

In this age of uncertainty for the Glasgow giants, it remains to be seen whether the successful entrepreneur will firm up his interest in the club. With his interest in the club now declared, all eyes will now be on him to see when and if he takes the next step.

A World Without Rangers?

Hitthebyline proudly presents our latest contributor, Edward Champagne. In “A World Without Rangers?”, Edward explores the potential pro’s and con’s of Rangers’ hypothetical expulsion from the SPL, given the problems that could ensue as the HMRC tax case draws to a conclusion.

By Edward Champagne


As Rangers continue to wallow in the perpetual mire thrust upon them by the HMRC tax case and financial misery, one could be excused for beginning to ponder exactly how Scottish Football would be affected by the loss of one of its most successful and well supported teams.

In recent times Scottish football has been dominated by both Celtic and Rangers, with every SPL title since the league’s inception in 1998 having been won by one of the two Glasgow giants. This, however, hasn’t always been the case. In the 80’s both Sir Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen and Jim McLean’s Dundee United won the league title. Who could also forget the memorable 1985 season? – When Alex McDonald’s Hearts side were pipped to the post by Davie Hay’s Celtic
Alex McDonald’s Hearts came so close in 1985 only to be pipped on the line by Davie Hay’s Celtic with the assistance of Dundee’s Albert Kidd.

The question on many fans’ lips in recent weeks is how would Scottish football fair if a Rangers “phoenix” club were not allowed to pick up the SPL licence from the club in administration and to continue to play in the Scottish top flight. Many argue that the loss of TV revenue provided by the Sky TV contract, and the reduced gate receipts would force SPL chairman to accept the new phoenix club back into the SPL, with at worst, a points deduction as punishment.

So for that reason it’s worth looking at the revenue available to SPL clubs. All revenues generated by the SPL in respect of TV, Radio and sponsorship are effectively put into one big pot. A support payment to the SFL and parachute payments to assist relegated clubs are then deducted from that pot.

The money left in the pot is then split to provide each club with 4% of the total revenue based on league participation and with the rest subsequently awarded to the club depending on their league position. The bonus system is heavily weighted towards the teams finishing as SPL winners and the team in the runners up position, with 32% of the overall budget going to these clubs.. Only once in the SPL existence have these slots failed to be filled by Celtic and Rangers when Hearts managed to knock Rangers into third position in season 2005/2006.  In season 2007/2008 which was ironically the last season were a SPL member club in Gretna went out of business, the SPL had £18m to distribute amongst its member clubs. It was split in the following manner:

Club SPL Revenue
Celtic £3.06m
Rangers £2.70m
Motherwell £1.71m
Aberdeen £1.53m
Dundee Utd £1.44m
Hibs £1.35m
Falkirk £1.26m
Hearts £1.17m
Inverness £1.08m
St Mirren £0.99m
Kilmarnock £0.90m
Gretna £0.81m

The table shows that although Celtic and Rangers shared 32% of the budget, the SPL commercial revenue split doesn’t explain the financial gulf between the big two and the rest of Scottish football.  This is more explained by the average attendances and commercial power that the Glasgow clubs have over their rivals and the fact that they are the only ones to ever receive the UEFA Champions League bounty. In season 2010/11 both Celtic and Rangers had 3 times more paying fans on average than nearest rivals Hearts.


Average Attendance in 2010/11











Dundee Utd






Inverness CT


St Mirren


St Johnstone




The SPL board made up of Ralph Topping (SPL Chairman), Neil Doncaster (SPL Chief Executive), Eric Riley (Celtic FC), Stephen Thompson (Dundee United FC), Derek Weir (Motherwell FC) and Steven Brown (St Johnstone FC) have to decide what punishment the Rangers phoenix club should endure although the first penalty would be taken out of their hands by parent association UEFA.

UEFA rules do not allow a club who has faced financial administration to participate in any of their European competitions for a period of 3 years. This UEFA financial Fair Play ruling was the reason that Harry Rednapp’s Portsmouth were not allowed to participate as an English representative in the UEFA Cup following their FA Cup win in 2008. This would mean that an extra SPL club would have the chance to gain a European place and the associated revenue which they maybe would have seen as beyond their reach

So the SPL Board have to decide if they want to punish Rangers with or without  a points deduction and grant the transfer of the league licence to play in the SPL or make the phoenix club start again at the bottom of SFL Division 3.

In the scenario that Rangers are demoted to Division 3, it would seem given Celtic’s financial advantage and recent points finishes in comparison to other SPL clubs I think it’s fair to say that they would start as overwhelming favourites to win the SPL but how could other clubs try to bridge the gap whilst Rangers worked their way back up the leagues? Increased attendances? Higher league finishing positions bonus?

When you take into account the limited SPL commercial revenues listed above it would seem that they couldn’t be used to bridge the massive revenue gap especially with a reduced TV contract caused by the lack of the 4 Old Firm TV games so attendances would need to drive the revenue increase.  A look at recent attendances in the SPL show little fluctuation amongst top six clubs e.g. Hearts figures show that regardless of league position they finish somewhere between 14 to 16 thousand and its unlikely they would increase beyond 20 thousand even with the potential of 2nd place.

If we look back to when the Old Firm didn’t dominate Scottish football in season 1983/84, the crowds were not dissimilar to the ones that some clubs are achieving now. This was despite the fact the Aberdeen were holders of the European Cup Winners Cup and their fans had recently seen them defeat the European giants of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.  Scottish football fans of a certain vintage will also remember the excellent Dundee Utd team of the time who were the league champions and had exciting times in Europe beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp and reaching the Uefa Cup final against Gothenburg.

It would seem that for the other teams in Scottish football success would bring increased supporters no doubt but their average attendance would always have a ceiling due to their demographic. When you take into consideration the difference in football now and the absence of live TV the average attendances at the time are quite surprising

Average attendances 1983/84:

Rangers – 21,996
Celtic – 18,390
Aberdeen – 17,138
Hearts – 11,914
Dundee Utd – 10,894
Hibernian – 8,334
Dundee – 7,442
Motherwell – 5,566
St. Mirren – 4,900
St. Johnstone – 4,859

I think everyone in Scottish football would love to see the return of a competitive SPL and have teams from all parts of the country challenging for honours but this looks, given the evidence, to be wishful thinking. Football has changed dramatically since Aberdeen, Dundee United and Hearts were able to challenge the Old Firm and the financial gap is surely too large to bridge given the SPL winner each year would only move further away with the potential of Champions League money.

In summary, a large proportion of SPL fans will agree with the feelings of many Celtic fans that during the well documented period of Rangers’ financial mismanagement, the Ibrox club had an unfair spending advantage, and as such should be punished by the football authorities. The question is however, would that punishment be best served by demoting Rangers into Division 3?

There is no doubt that the dominance of the Old Firm in Scottish Football has caused the competition to become stale and I for one think the other teams would quite enjoy a shot at 2nd or 3rd place if only for 3 seasons. The new Rangers 2012 club clear of debt and with the sizeable support would inevitably return up to the SPL and return it back to a sense of normality in three seasons. One negative facing the SPL chairman would be the loss of 2 potential visits by Rangers to their ground for 3 seasons. However, this would only effect top six finishing clubs and in recent years only Hearts have enjoyed anything close to a full house with a game against Rangers so there is the potential to plug this gap with increased crowds due to their own team performance

The punishment to place Rangers in Division 3 will not change Scottish football dramatically and return it to past glories but it will give the other clubs a chance to compete for the reward of top places finishes, the chance to compete in Europe , give Scottish football a time to cool down with the absence of 4 Old Firm games a season and most importantly maintain sporting integrity

Celtic….. A club for all?

Given the high profile incidents in football regarding censorship of songs and banners, Celtic supporters club, ‘The Celtic Trust’ have responded with their opinion on how things stand at Celtic, why there’s no need for draconian law enforcement, and why Celtic always has, and always will be a club that opens it’s doors to all.


The Celtic Support
Let the people sing?

Before every home game at Celtic Park the Stadium announcer reminds us that “Celtic was founded in 1888 as a club for all”, and invites us to remember and celebrate that heritage. I imagine that all Celtic supporters are happy to do just that, but recent events have shown that there is sometimes a wide gulf between aspiration and realisation. The main problem with being a member of such a ‘broad church’ is that the legitimate opinions and views of each member have to be respected and accepted even by those who might hold contrary views and opinions. That does pose problems for some supporters and indeed for the Club officials, the very people who presumably sanction the match day announcement. It is no easy matter to embrace Voltaire’s maxim “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. It is challenging, and for some, a bridge too far.

Differing opinions are part of the very fabric of football. Put a dozen football supporters in a room and they will come up with a dozen different opinions. Growing up in a Celtic supporting family and living close to Celtic Park, I have abiding memories of uncles and other male relatives congregating in our house around tea-time on home match days (before the days when women at football was as widespread).  Discussion mainly centred around that afternoon’s match and  regularly one of those  present  would demand of another with whom he had walked to and from the ground and stood beside on the terracing “Wur you even at the gemme?” Ah yes, reasoned debate was alive and well!

Add to these historic tendencies the implications of the recently passed draconian “Offensive Behaviour at Football/Threatening Communications” legislation and we entering into uncharted waters.  The trouble with concepts like “offensive behaviour” is that like individual viewpoints it is very subjective and open to many interpretations.  For example UEFA, admittedly aided and abetted by one of Strathclyde’s finest (and perhaps a certain Chief Exec.) deemed as ‘illicit’, one phrase in a nonsense song, while the serried ranks of the Strathclyde force failed to find anything offensive or illicit, in 120 minutes of sustained sectarian/racist chanting and indeed had their Assistant Chief Constable and a government minister laud the wonderful atmosphere created. I don’t know why but the words “double standards” spring to mind!

Now something I personally  find offensive is the current assault on the English language and in particular the use and abuse of a word which was originally a verb but is now used as a noun, an adjective and indeed any other part of speech you care to name. You know the one I mean…starts with an ‘f’ ends with a ‘k’, has four letters..aye that one.  It is heard on every street, every bus, in shops, during most conversations, and even, I suspect within Lennoxtown and the hallowed corridors of Celtic Park. Yet when that word appeared on a banner in an Italian football stadium it unleashed a great wave of shock and hysteria.  Now I happen to think that the aforementioned banner was at best ill advised, and at worst, like the word itself, crass and inappropriate, but it did not merit the hysterical, hypocritical, and completely disproportionate reaction and from the same folk who seemed happy to accept, without challenge or sanction, unfounded accusations against their own fans made by our national broadcaster.

And of course the banner was blamed on the much maligned section of the Celtic support, The Green Brigade. I do not know to what extent this group were responsible, if at all. However one thing I am sure of is, that without the Green Brigade, the match day experience at Celtic Park would be much poorer, dire even. They bring colour and noise and support the team no matter what kind of football is being served up on the pitch. If the thunder has returned to Celtic Park it is largely due to them. And it is great to hear songs about individual players re-emerging, something which has been sadly missing since the days of the King of Kings and Big Bad John.  Oh there was the one about the Holy Goalie, I suppose, but didn’t it contain that dreaded word as well?

Much has been made of other songs sung by the Green Brigade and this has has given rise to debate on what songs may or may not be appropriate in a football setting.  My view is that we are often told that we are all members of the ‘Celtic Family’, and in my experience the best families sort out any problem and reach a consensus within the family. We do not want or need those from outside who have no concept of, nor any empathy with, our origins and heritage to impose their views on us. Nor do we need that imposition to come from Club officials who seem to think that by dancing to the tune of these outsiders they will gain their acceptance and favour. Poor deluded souls that they are! Don’t they know that sufferance is the best they can hope for and even that will be grudged?

I suggest that it is now time for all who love Celtic and have the well being of the Club at heart to engage in this debate. To ensure that this is successful we must respect and tolerate all shades of opinion and it may be that each of us will have to give a little to gain a lot.

Celtic was formed out of an impoverished marginalised community but those people had the vision and the humanity to include everyone. Surely we, inheritors of that vision have the capacity to find a consensus which recognises our origins and history while at the same time excludes no one from ‘Glasgow’s green and white’?

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