Foreigners in Scottish sport.

By Andrew Ross

At the highest level of all International team sports, countries are always scouring frantically for the upper hand over their rivals, desperate to find that “added something” to create the best team possible.

As a result of this obsession to achieve perfection, International teams, particularly small ones, frequently attempt to tap into other countries’ resources.

By utilising parentage and residency eligibility rules, smaller Countries are able to broaden their radar to a global market, offering foreign fringe players the chance to play at the highest level of sport possible.

In the modern era of sport these options have become increasingly popular for countries like Scotland, who largely because of their population size, are at a distinct disadvantage to larger nations.

But is this option sustainable for the future of Scottish sport, or is it just a quick fix for the short-term?

For years now Scotland has actively used these methods in order to compete against the larger nations, drawing on any resources they can.

There have and always will be doubters of the selection systems in place within Scottish international sport, with the main argument being “these players aren’t actually Scottish”.

Take Brendan Laney’s rugby international berth for example. The New Zealand native was flown in to Scotland just days before making his surprise international debut against his country of birth. It was certainly a hot topic, receiving criticism from several ex-players including Gavin Hastings, and not to mention creating bitterness amongst the squad.

Back then Hasting’s stated “It’s a sad day for Scottish Rugby…. He may be a good player but he is a New Zealander and knows nothing about the Scottish team.”

Laney proved to be an asset for the Scottish team earning twenty caps and scoring 141 points, however the fact remains his selection caused huge controversy because of his nationality.

Fast forward to the present day and an extraordinary example of how Scotland’s cricket team is making full use of recent changes to the eligibility laws.

On the 20th of February Cricket Scotland announced five debutants, all born outwith of Scotland, in a 15 man squad to tour Dubai as part of crucial fifth round of the ICC Intercontinental Cup against Afghanistan.

This meant that a staggering total of 7 out of the 15 players were born out with Scotland’s borders.

This influx of talent is a clear move by Cricket Scotland to draw on the experience and talent that the English county game has to offer and to ideally reach major international tournaments such as the 2015 World Cup.

However it is striking the balance between short term goals, and what could potentially hamper the progress of the sport in the long term.

By fast-tracking these county players into the team so suddenly, others (young Scottish-Born players) have to make way, with potentially detrimental consequences for the development of young players.

Figures published in 2012 show that there are currently 45,000 participants within Scottish cricket, a relatively low number compared to full-members of the ICC. This means cricket within Scotland is still a developing sport, and will be for a number of years to come.

 It could be argued that decisions like this could potentially prevent the growth of the all sports through preferring adopted Scots. Obviously in the present team’s want to have the best chance to win tournaments, and will pick the best team possible, but by using the eligibility laws too frequently it could cause a drop in the sport’s popularity.

Perhaps by showing faith in the raw talent of youngsters at an earlier stage could be one way of tackling this issue. By blooding them earlier on in their career to give them that experience at the highest level, the standards in ability will inevitably rise and prove that Scottish-born sportsmen are just as talented as overseas imports.


Drugs in Sport

By Andrew Ross

The use of performance enhancing drugs within sport has been well documented since the beginning of the 19th century when the first recorded athlete Abraham Wood admitted to taking Opium to keep him awake during an endurance walking race in 1807.

Since then cases of doping have become increasingly more common in recent history, with the introduction of anabolic steroids in the 1950’s contributing to a widespread use of various performance enhancing drugs up until the present day.

Yet amazingly over the years the number of athletes doping has increased steadily, and the control of drug use in sport has seemingly not improved over the years.

The Seoul Olympics of 1988 was arguably the year that drug use became widespread public knowledge, highlighting how serious the issue was within professional sport.

The men’s 100m sprint was the centre of huge controversy as it was discovered that the winner, Canada’s Ben Johnson, tested positive for banned drugs after the event.

 Later admitting to using growth hormone and testosterone drugs, he was stripped of his Olympic gold medal.

Runner-up Carl Lewis, who unbeknown to the public had previously failed drugs tests, was promoted to take the title – something that would take 15 years to be published.

This set of records published by the United States Olympic Committee revealed a total of 100 American athletes that failed drugs tests dating back to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and were still allowed to compete.

Athletes that were idolised and watched by millions across the globe were caught cheating. It also revealed how wrong previous misconceptions of drug use being rare were incorrect.

This made the United States Olympic Committee look extremely foolish by concealing the records, and allowing over 100 athletes to compete illegally.

You would imagine that the fact athletes were clearly taking advantage of the lax doping procedures would be a clear warning to all the governing bodies.

However it seems that the lessons learned in Seoul have still not been acted upon.

In October 2012 seven-time winner of the tour de France, Lance Armstrong, was stripped of all his titles after being found guilty of using banned substances throughout his career.

The inquest and resulting confession from Armstrong regarding his cycling career revealed a career full of constant drug use, admitting explicitly that the use of growth hormones and performance enhancing drugs helped win each of his seven titles.

Yet Armstrong’s career long relationship with drugs was only proved in 2012.

The fact that Armstrong was able to bluff his way through his career and not get caught cheating is a mystery.

The International Cycling Union had not learned from past experiences of drugs cheats, and they did not have a stringent enough doping process in place.

Drugs use within sport has become a hot topic within the British media within the last year with recent examples like women’s shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk being stripped of her gold medal and banned for a year after testing positive for banned substances after the London Olympics.

However, for athletes to change their behaviour, stricter bans have to be applied to all cases so that sport sends out the correct message. Drug use for personal advantage is an ethically wrong decision and should have life bans from all competitive sport upon them.

However for this to happen sporting institutions have to create more effective anti-doping processes.

This has led to a many calling for sporting institutions to improve drugs testing.

Following the death of cricketer Tom Maynard in early 2012, a recent inquest published provided evidence of drug use during the time of his death.

Although the drugs were used recreationally, the urge to clamp down on drugs use and educate sports men and women more effectively has increased even more.

Greater onus has been placed on the governing bodies of all sports to lead by example and put in place more regular drugs-testing, which will hopefully cut down on drugs use.

Being a professional athlete is a privileged position within society. By taking drugs within or outwith of sport is an abuse of this privilege. Sports-stars are role-models to younger generations all over the world and should be setting an example and promoting ideas such as fair play.

Drug taking has no place in sport and ruins not only the reputation of high profile sport but also the competitive aspect of all sport. All ideas of good sportsmanship and achievement are thrown out the proverbial window when drugs become a factor at any level of sport, and the cheats should be punished accordingly for their actions.


Arsene Wenger – Should he stay or should he go?

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has come under increased scrutiny from the British Media during recent weeks, with claims the squad are underperforming and his position as manager is near an end. Does Wenger have a future at Arsenal? Or does the club need to move on to achieve greater things?

Joining Josiah Whitworth in the Radio Napier studio are Gerry Anderson and Andrew Ross.


Glendelvine v Corstorphine Match Report.

A bright but bitterly cold day welcomed the Royal High Corstorphine team to Spittalfield for the first of two one day pre-season friendlies, with both teams looking to build some momentum going in to the first league games of the season –and more importantly shake off any cobwebs from the largely inactive winter period.
A variety of professional warm-up drills greeted the sparse Glendelvine arrivals, as an eager Corstorphine squad settled in to the conditions. Skippers Michael Yellowlees (swapping his usual Glendelvine colours for Corstorphine) and recently appointed Roosters captain Neil Wimberley agreed that Corstorphine would bat first and play was underway by half twelve.
The wicket was relatively soft following some midweek showers and looked like it would offer the bowlers plenty early on, favouring the evergreen Sandy Baird, and his young protégé and recent graduate of the Sandy Baird Pace Academy, Ross Tait. Both were unrewarded early on as the openers played some elegant shots and played the new ball well.
After getting the prize wicket of Mike Yellowlees, who finds it hard not to score runs at Glendelvine, The Roosters slowly came back in to the match and gave Corstorphine a tougher time. Some excellent bowling by Greg, Ghandi and Tait Senior during the middle overs, backed up by lively fielding prevented a flow of runs and eventually led to a succession of wickets. During a spell of 12 overs the run rate had slowed to less than 4 an over and Glendelvine had the upper hand.
This period was unfortunately not to last as Corstorphine’s middle order managed to up the run-rate and take the attack to the spin bowlers later on in the innings as Ragu, Wimberley, Bowler and Ross went largely unrewarded. The assault continued in the later overs as skipper Wimberley varied the bowling attack to keep things fresh, and share the overs evenly.
Corstorphine eventually finished on 204, a little more than expected, with some strong contributions later on as the bowlers became increasingly tired.
The Glendelvine innings commenced shortly after another first-class tea, and Corstorphine didn’t have to wait long before they made a breakthrough, and witnessed the glorious rise and fall of Ross Tait – within the space of 2 deliveries! Tait Junior had the Corstorphine fielders cowering only an over in, when he used his long, but some may call “gangly” reach to tuck into a good lengthed delivery, caressing the ball through the covers for 4 like Sir Garfield Sobers in his heyday. Something Michael Bluett wouldn’t even be able to criticise. The applause was, however, short-lived as the Glendelvine players were left thinking what might have been, as next ball he was sent packing –being clean bowled by a straight delivery.
A succession of frequent wickets meant the Glendelvine innings never really gathered momentum, as no batsman was really set. A youthful Corstorphine bowling attack bowled with discipline and restricted scoring shots well. Their enthusiasm and support for their bowlers created great pressure on the Glendelvine batsmen, as Corstorphine showed their class – meaning the Roosters faltered at a crucial stage in the game.
Some lusty blows and late resistance from Tait Senior and the lower order prevented an embarrassing result, however, Corstorphine eventually ran out winners.
Although Glendelvine lost, many positives should be taken out of the game with the start of the season fast approaching. Everyone contributed well in the field and performed the basics well to create pressure. The bowlers were relatively economical considering the long break, something that will only get better as the season progresses.
Along with the positives, some areas have been outlined that needed to be improved. The batting line-up has great potential but needs some strengthening with some focused training sessions to ensure every game remains competitive, and some added encouragement in the field could go a long way to helping the bowlers.
As a whole the day’s play was played with great enthusiasm, and played in the right spirit like any proper friendly should be – with credit going to the Glendelvine players for making the Corstorphine players very welcome throughout the day, and staying after the game for some drinks at the Clubby.


A New Era For Perthshire Cricket

By Andrew Ross

Eleven or so years ago Australian cricket was celebrating condemning the Pomms to a 4-1 Ashes slaughtering on British soil, and cementing their place in history as one of the greatest teams ever.

It’s fair to say Australian and international cricket would never have been the same if it were not for the city of Perth.

Perth, Scotland, that is.

A little over 20 years ago Perthshire County Cricket Club was helping nurture the future careers of international superstars Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist in to two of the finest players in history.

How times rapidly change.

After being relegated from the National league and suffering from a severe lack of players, Perthshire Cricket Club went into abeyance and as a result folded in late 2009.

One of Scotland’s most historic cricket clubs ceased to exist, without even a whimper of resistance.

However, after lengthy discussions during the winter, four of Perth’s largest cricket teams are set to amalgamate together under one banner, Perth Doo’cot CC, in an attempt to bring national league cricket back to Perthshire.

The decision came at an annual general meeting between the respective clubs on the eve of a ground-breaking new season.

Representatives of the individual cricket clubs met last week to finalise plans and look forward to a promising new era of cricket within the county.

The plans got the go-ahead by the governing body for Scottish cricket in a bid to bring back National league cricket to the area.

The region, well-known historically for cricket, has been without a top national team since Perthshire Cricket Club ceased to exist.

Eager to change the current situation the clubs agreed to hold early discussions at the end of the 2011 season.

Graeme Ferguson, former Perthshire Cricket Club Captain, first suggested the plans to each individual team.

He stated; “I was frustrated to see an absence of a – club in the area when Perthshire has such a rich cricketing history.”

“We feel we still have some unfinished business at the highest level of Scottish Cricket, and want to embark on a new journey to the top.”

The new club, which has a partnership with the local Gannochy Trust, will receive substantial funding for the promotion of cricket in the region, to ultimately achieve their goal of national league cricket.

The Trust, set up by A.K. Bell, has provided backing for Perthshire clubs for many years now, and has been a key factor for recent success in the surrounding area with the funding provided.

Gavin Davey, chief executive of the Gannochy trust stated: ‘We are delighted that the Doo’cot Clubs have adopted a ‘whole club’ approach and have agreed to come together to form a single club which will have Doo’cot Park as their home.  It will help to sustain the legacy of A. K. Bell by encouraging young cricketers to get involved and develop their skills’.”

As a necessary requirement for national league teams, the TopClub initiative is specifically designed to create a comprehensive youth system within teams, and a sound club infrastructure.

Davey continued: “The TopClub initiative will ensure that kids from the age of eight upwards get quality coaching and learn the required skills to play cricket at the highest possible level.”

So far for the newly formed team, however, it has not been plain sailing.

There have been members of the respective clubs that have voiced concerns over the gamble that has been taken.

Players have argued that it will in fact reduce significantly the number of opportunities to play the sport.

Under the terms of the merger, and in agreement with the league committee, the club will only be allowed to field 3 adult teams – one less than if they were to remain separate.

One such player, Douglas Gourlay, said: “A minority of us have issues with the scheme in place.”

“With fewer team places available, we feel it could deter players from joining the club, along with current players leaving.”

However Andrew Lawson – Former Perth and Kinross Cricket Development Officer and Perthshire CC professional reiterated that a united team was in the long run the ideal option: “It’s an extremely bold move by the four major teams in Perth. It was a great shame to witness what happened with Perthshire (cricket club).”

“However I do feel that this move is an essential stepping stone towards top-level cricket.”

“As a collective force the teams can combine together to have a much stronger team.”

With the first of the pre-season training sessions completed, focus has shifted towards the start of a historic season as a new era of cricket in Perth has begun.

Doo’cot park hosted youth international fixtures for the very first time last season, it appears that reputation for cricket in the highland region is gradually on the up – and will perhaps in years to come be graced by international stars once more.


Time for change?

By Andrew Ross

A 13-6 defeat to Italy in Rome condemned the Scottish rugby team to its first wooden spoon in 5 years, and leaves head coach Andy Robinson’s future in some serious doubt.

Public opinion has turned against the former Edinburgh coach as a string of successive defeats has led to Scotland’s latest ranking slipping to 11th and failing to reach the knock-out phase of the World Cup for the very first time.

Robinson’s inconsistency in selection has played a large part to this change, after heavy scrutiny over his period in charge.

This stubborn quality is Robinson’s outstanding fault.

Declaring Chris Cusiter his number one scrum half  and subsequently dropping him after a string of poor performances is a perfect example.

Cusiter was dropped after the shoddy performance in Cardiff, in favour for the more attacking Mike Blair who had more success.

Blair has always been regarded as the more attacking scrum half, and emphasised this in the France game with his fast, direct play.

This is one example of many poor selections from Robinson this championship.

Greg Laidlaw, a natural scrum half, was played at Stand-Off in the championship and clearly lacked the ability at international level.

Laidlaw looked like nothing more than a solid club player, who lacked the strength in defence and flair in attack – whilst younger, more promising talents such as Scotland “A” Fly Half Duncan Weir have been underplayed.

Weir, the same age as England’s number one Fly Half Owen Farrell,  architected the 35-0 hammering of the English Saxons on the eve of the Calcutta Cup and looks like the best all round number ten in the squad.

However, even Ruaridh Jackson was preferred to Weir on the bench for the last 2 championship games.

Perhaps it is now time to prefer youth over experience.

Stuart Hogg was the first teenager to gain a full international cap since Jim Renwick in 1972 in the France game and was by a large margin the liveliest player on the pitch.

Hogg marked his first start with a well worked finish in to the corner, and was at all times threatening to the French defence.

Robinson’s unwillingness to replace some of the more experienced players in the squad has stunted progress.

Players such as Euan Murray, Alan Jacobsen and Graeme Morrison have evidently shown in this year’s Six Nations that they are no longer the players they once were, and Robinson should take the gamble to blood more inexperienced players.

The team that trounced the Saxons that night in Galashiels played with absolutely no fear combined with the great enthusiasm that comes with youth, displaying very direct attacking and aggressive defensive performances.

There is no doubt if Robinson is to continue in his job he needs to embrace the fact that to progress as a Test nation.

Scotland need to build a team around their younger starlets like Hogg, Denton, Rennie and Gray, and with the Summer tour of Australia fast approaching, it would seem like the ideal time.


By Andrew RossP…

By Andrew Ross

PLANS for a controversial restaurant in a rural Perthshire village have been given the go-ahead, it has been revealed.

Perth and Kinross council granted permission for the building, which has been opposed by large numbers of local residents.

Home owners in Murthly had previously gathered support against the project after plans were released.

Locals feared the building would not fit in with the idyllic local surroundings and scenery.

Mary Dalziel, a local home owner, initially voiced concerns regarding the imposing nature of the building upon her home.

Within a few weeks of the plans being released Mrs Dalziel had already collected a healthy amount of names from local support.

She said: “After finding out about the proposed plans to build a restaurant right next to my house and garden I was immediately had concerns.”

“Not many people within the village were aware of the plans, and I felt responsible to spread the word.”

“I felt the restaurant did not belong in the area, and would ruin the surroundings.”

After a few weeks work had already begun, to the surprise of many home owners in the highland village.

She added; “After the work had started so quickly, I was eager to voice my concerns to others in the area and drum up local support.”

“Many residents were of a similar opinion and equally opposed the plans.”

“In what seemed like no time I had managed to gather local support of around 25 people.”

There are, however, locals that felt the new-build would be of a significant benefit to the surrounding area.

Some felt the restaurant would be a major boost in economic terms to the village.

Owner of the successful local corner shop, Alistair Johnston, felt the restaurant would attract a lot of business from the nearby area.

“There certainly is a market for this sort of thing in the area.

“The venture would attract a lot of business from not only here, but also the surrounding areas, which can only be a good thing.”

Local housing sales could also increase with the addition of the restaurant.

The rural location of the village also isolates it somewhat from the amenities on offer in Perth, and can be off-putting to potential home owners.

J.C Milne have been building homes in Murthly and redeveloping the area for over 10 years and would welcome the addition of a restaurant to the village.

John Milne, the owner of the building contractors, said;

“The addition of a restaurant to the area would be a massive boost to sales of our homes.

“The fact Murthly is 10 miles away from the centre of Perth discourages buyers from the area, due to the lack of amenities.

“A restaurant in the village would undoubtedly increase housing sales within the village.”

However, with an unsuccessful attempt to stall the build of the restaurant, Mrs. Dalziel’s concerns may have fallen on deft ears.

The main building operation is set to take place in the coming weeks, with the hope of it being completed before the beginning of summer.


Rangers end co-operation with The Herald.

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