These international breaks are a right pain in the bahookie. For starters,they’re a bit pointless if you are Scottish-literally so if the result goes against us tonight as expected against Belgium-and of course there are far too many of them at this stage of the season. Just when teams are trying to build a bit of momentum,they come thick and fast.
The good news is that this one is virtually over,with players reporting back to the club from tomorrow. The bad news is there’s another two of them to come over the next two months or so. About as welcome as a fart in a space suit as far as I’m concerned. It adds up to six weeks without football for me,and that’s longer than the close season these days.
The good news,if there is such a thing,is that many of our players wouldn’t have been on international duty this time,so hopefully they will have been in at Lennoxtown for light training and some rigorous drilling. For all of their excellence at Ibrox-was that really only eight days ago?-the defence are still strangers to each other. They will hopefully have been coached as a unit during this period as I don’t think any of them-with the exception of Kris Ajer-will have been away. It certainly wouldn’t do any harm,and hopefully we will see the benefit when football returns on Saturday.
Not much that anyone can do coaching-wise for our midfield and forward line though,as nearly all of them will have been absent. One obvious exception of course is Broonie,and I hope he’s been nowhere near the place,resting up for a rigorous phase of the season around the corner.
So who have we got to face between now and the next momentum wrecker? Competition on three fronts,with a League Cup quarter final against Partick Thistle,two ties in the Europa League-first away to Rennes and then at home to Cluj. In the league,we are at home to Kilmarnock,with three away days at Hamilton,Hibs and Livingston. Two of which are,of course,on the dreaded artificial surface. I hate them nearly as much as I hate international fortnights!!!
Only three weeks ago I stated on here that we had a momentous four games in eleven days,and that they were four games which could go a long way to defining our season. And fair play to the players-they turned up for each of them. Beating AIK Stockholm in each leg of the tie was a bonus,cementing our place in Europe until Christmas at least,but big displays against the twin threats of hunnery in successive weeks were vital. To win each of the four games by two goals or more put down a marker,as did the performances in each game.
We’ve probably got the Cluj debacle out of our system-even if it is hardly forgotten!-and there is good reason to view the next few weeks with perhaps a little less trepidation than previously envisaged. Big Fraser is back between the sticks,looking like he’s never been away. Of course,his return is a bit harsh on Craig Gordon and Scott Bain,but really Fraser is a better keeper than either of them. Let’s hope he proves that to be the case over the coming weeks and months.
At right back,Hatem Elhamed has probably impressed me the most of our summer signings. If he can continue as he has started,I think we can relax. Of course there is a worry about his fitness,but that’s a bridge we can cross as we come to it. Besides,Moritz Bauer appears to be a very capable back-up. And he can throw the ball further than most of us can kick it!
Speaking of injuries,we’ve already lost probably our first choice pairing in central defence. Kris Ajer,played in an unfamiliar role at right back because of injuries to Elhamed,and Jozo Simunovic,who seems to be out for a month every time he breaks a shoe lace. The latter’s injury record is really appalling and we should be planning our defence without him. Fortunately,in Christopher Jullien we saw another player come of age in our colours and that will have done his confidence a world of good. I know it helped mine! If he continues in that vein,it’ll be Dedryck Who in no time. Nir Bitton has been an absolute revelation alongside him,but that hamstring problem will see him lose his place. Unfortunate,but he’s a capable deputy to have on your bench.
At left back,I don’t think our problems are behind us,unfortunately. Boli played a blinder at Ibrox,especially when compared to his previous for us,and continued improvement will see him settle in to the role. But I think he needs to be told to concentrate more on his defensive duties. We have plenty of threat from others up front,stick to your own job,son. Last Sunday was encouraging,but to be honest it was from a low starting point. The jersey is currently yours,but you have to earn the right to keep it! The good news for you is that I wouldn’t have said that a couple of weeks ago,so continue to prove me wrong and there’ll be nobody happier than me!
The rest of the team? I’ll let the opposition worry about the rest of the team. They certainly don’t worry me much,not with eleven goals in our four tough matches before this break. Carry on as before,that’s all any of us can ask for.
Do it to them before they do it to us!!!
Above article by BMCUWP. As ever,we are always on the lookout for your views. That’s why we always print them as Article of the Day when we get them. Mail them to Mahe