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SPFL reconstruction: Hearts, Partick Thistle & Stranraer relegations confirmed


Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer have had their relegations confirmed after only 16 clubs indicated that they would vote for league reconstruction.

The SPFL’s 42 sides were asked if they would support a permanent 14-10-10-10 setup but the backing fell short of the threshold required.

The league say their board has now “agreed to draw a line under reconstruction talks”.

It means that next season will begin with the existing 12-10-10-10 format.

Hearts are consigned to the Scottish Championship, Partick Thistle to the League One and Stranraer to League Two.

The trio were all relegated having been bottom of their respective divisions when the campaign was curtailed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It also means that Lowland League champions Kelty Hearts and Highland League counterparts Brora Rangers will not be invited to join the SPFL.

League chief executive Neil Doncaster said the clubs’ responses give “absolute clarity”.

“Whilst a number of clubs were in favour of a new divisional set-up, the support for it was insufficient and we will now move forward based on the current 12-10-10-10 structure,” he added.

“Now that we have a confirmed structure for next season, the SPFL’s fixturing team will begin work on the Premiership fixture list, which will start on the weekend of 1 August.”

The indicative vote was designed to establish whether an EGM should be called to hold a formal ballot.

However, the resolution would need the backing of 32 clubs – with 17 from the top two tiers combined and 11 from the top flight – to pass.

It had been understood an outcome just short of that would also force a vote, but it is believed less than 50% approval was reached in each categories.

Hearts and Thistle have both mentioned the prospect of mounting a legal challenge against their demotions should this process fail.

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Scotland: Stein, Narey, Brazil & being a cartoon character


The Scotland squad appears on BBC’s Top of the Pops in 1982 with their World Cup song.

The Scotland squad for the 1982 World Cup was the most internationally adept the nation had ever assembled.

Ten European Cup winners’ medals between them from the previous five years, three Uefa Cup winners and four European Super Cups. Within another two seasons, they’d have amassed another two European Cups, two more Uefa Cups, four Cup Winners’ Cup winners and five more Super Cups.

Throw in a collective 63 domestic honours and 503 caps and a legendary European Cup-winning manager in Jock Stein.

Even if this assembly of tartan talent only added up to the sum of its parts, then BA Robertson’s paean to hope ‘We have a Dream’ trumped the blind faith of Ally’s Army four years previous.

This was their time. Scotland at their third straight World Cup finals. Cracked it.

What could possibly go wrong in Spain?

The build-up

John Wark: “It must be the best squad we’ve ever taken to a finals – and the best manager.

“We had players who’d won everything in the game, they needed someone who commanded their respect and big Jock [Stein] did it just by walking into the room. To this day I believe that was our chance.”

Joe Jordan: “I had gone from Man United to Italy that year, and I spoke to Jock to make sure I would still be part of the Scotland scene at Milan.

“I’d had an injury towards the end the Serie A season but he involved me in the home internationals so I figured he was trying to get me fit to go to Spain. I didn’t get my chance until the third game, but I was ready.”

Gordon Strachan: “It wasn’t easy being away in those days. We got one phone call home a week from the SFA. There was no internet, no social media to keep up, the only telly was Spanish telly, and Willie Miller was the room-mate who just wanted to sleep 24/7.

“The room was the first I’d ever been in that had the harling [rough plaster] on the inside. And Jock used to berate me every time he saw me outside because he thought the sun would kill the wee ginger guy – never mind the fact I might have to acclimatise to play three games in it!”

Rod Stewart & the Tartan Army on the night Scotland’s World Cup 1982 dream ended

The Hope

15 June, Seville. (Dalglish 18, Wark 19, 32, Robertson 73, Archibald 79) Scotland 5 – 2 New Zealand (Sumner 54, Wooddin 64)

Wark: “When you score five, you come off the park thinking you’ve done pretty well. You know you have to beat the minnows, and we did.

“Personally I was a wee bit annoyed because I had a great chance to score a hat-trick, I had a header I should have put away.

“We gave them two goals for nothing and you don’t think about it at the time but they come back to haunt you. Two balls over the top, the first one Danny McGrain and [goalkeeper Alan Rough] Roughie get mixed up, the second Allan Evans gets caught.”

Jordan: “It’s easy in hindsight but I felt it at the time on the bench as well, 100%. If you’re being professional, you just don’t give these goals away. That was a regret. I instantly felt it could come back and bite us. And that’s borne from experience.

“I go back to Zaire in ’74 and the fact we never scored enough goals. We settled, and it cost us. This was the same.”

John Wark nets his second to put Scotland into a 3-0 lead against New Zealand

The Reality Check

18 June, Seville. (Narey 18) Scotland 1-4 Brazil (Zico 33, Oscar 48, Eder 63, Falcao 87)

Wark: “It’s incredible to think that Brazil team didn’t win the World Cup.

“The heat didn’t help. During the anthems, the sweat was lashing off us, then I looked along their line. Not a single drop on a single forehead and I just though ‘uh-oh’.”

Strachan: “The other problem was the pitch – we never had a clue what studs to wear because the grass was so long, which was the way the Brazilians liked it. There was actually a lot of physical engagement to their play, it wasn’t as much about moving the ball quickly as it is now.

“In the end it didn’t matter too much – we never saw the ball when they got going anyway.”

Wark: “Our goal [Scotland took the lead through Dave Narey] just got them annoyed. I was playing on the right – we had so many good centre mids I never got to play in my best spot – and I headed it down for big Sash [handsome Narey’s nickname after singer Sacha Distel] to score that famous goal of his.

“He didn’t have a clue what to do. He obviously hardly ever scored so he ended up running around like a wee boy who didn’t know what day it was!”

“After that, though? It was an education.”

Strachan: “They were good, but what you don’t realise was their height and strength was incredible. Their midfield three, Socrates, Falcao and Cerezo, they were all 6ft 3in.

“I thought I was pretty strong, and I’m eyeing up wee Junior for a challenge, maybe knock him over when I’m taking the ball off him, and bang. I went down like a cartoon character, I just crumpled.

“They’re the best team never to have won a World Cup. Probably the best team I ever played, actually – except the big striker Serginho, to be fair, he wasn’t that great. I actually swapped strips with him, which means there’ll be a Scotland number seven shirt somewhere in a loft in Sao Paulo.”

David Narey celebrates after rocketing Scotland into an early lead against Brazil

Wark: “Their goals were class. I was the end man in the wall for Zico’s and Roughie was giving it ‘perfect, John’ with the big thumbs up. Two seconds later it’s round me and in the top corner. Two keepers couldn’t have stopped it.

“At the final whistle, Kenny [Dalglish], who’d come on as a sub, went to Zico and tried to get his shirt. Big Hansen sprinted over to try and get it too – it was probably the closest he got to him all night.

“But Zico fobbed them both off and came over to me instead. ‘Swap?’ he says. Turns out he just collected number 10s – so when I got back into the dressing room I was waving it in Hansen’s face. I actually ended up giving it away to a charity in Ipswich and it made a lot of money at an auction.”

(The Iron) Curtains

22 June, Malaga. (Jordan 15, Souness 86) Scotland 2-2 USSR (Chivadze 59, Shengelia 84)

Jordan: “It was my first start, and what turned out to be my last cap, but I got the goal we needed. Stevie Archibald got on to a mistake from their centre-half but I had a good 35 yards to go. I still had a decent turn of pace for a 30-year-old and although I didn’t like having that much time to think, the keeper left me just enough room at the near post.”

Wark: “I watched the game a few weeks ago on BBC Scotland and I’d forgotten how much we battered them. We just had to win, any win, and we were good enough to win three games against them, honestly.

“But the goals we lost? Man…

“The first one’s horrible, we’ve got about four defenders round it, but Chivadze sclaffs [mishits] it off the ground and it bounces up and over Roughie.

“And the second, the infamous mix-up between Miller and Hansen, even watching it again, even knowing exactly when it’s coming, you can’t stop yourself shouting ‘what the **** are they doing???’ at the telly.”

Strachan: “That’s a footballer’s life sometimes though, all the great things you do and you get talked about for the one mistake. If Steven Gerrard hadn’t single-handedly won Liverpool a European Cup in Istanbul, he’d only be remembered for that slip against Chelsea.

Jordan: “The goals we lost were hard to take. When you get to that level, and you’re playing the best, you should still make them work for it, to score with quality the way Brazil did, say.

“But these were cheap.

“The thing is, the goal Graeme scores to pull us level again is a cracker as well, but it almost made it feel worse – touching distance again.”

Strachan: “Scottish football was in a seriously good place at the time as well. There have been better teams, but the overall quality in our own top division was the best ever, when there were four teams properly going at it.

“And the fact the Anglos [English-based players] were the best as well. Six of them played every week for the two best teams in England.”

Wark: “Yes we had the talent – but the bottom line is we still didn’t qualify for the next stage, which we should have done. End of story.”

Scotland squad
Goalkeepers: Rough (Partick Thistle), Wood (Arsenal), Leighton (Aberdeen); Defenders: McGrain (Celtic), Gray (Leeds United), Burley (Ipswich), Hansen (Liverpool), Narey (Dundee United), Miller (Aberdeen), McLeish (Aberdeen), Evans (Aston Villa); Midfielders: Souness (Liverpool), Strachan (Aberdeen), Wark (Ipswich), Hartford (Man City), Robertson (Nottingham Forest), Provan (Celtic); Forwards: Dalglish (Liverpool), Brazil (Ipswich), Jordan (AC Milan), Archibald (Tottenham), Sturrock (Dundee United).

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Rabbi Matondo: Schalke & Wales winger


Marcus Thuram took a knee after scoring for Borussia Monchengladbach

Schalke and Wales winger Rabbi Matondo says he is “proud” of how young players have used their profiles to take a stand against racism.

Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, 20, is among Bundesliga stars to have highlighted the case of George Floyd, who died in police custody in the USA.

Another England player, Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings, 27, took part in a Black Lives Matter protest in Birmingham.

“I feel proud that people are standing up for their rights,” said Matondo, 19.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he added: “It’s obviously tough times for a lot of people and I’m glad that a lot of players have addressed it and shown how they feel about it.

“This is the perfect time to address things now, and with our profiles we can do that in a positive way.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old unarmed black man, died while being restrained by a white Minneapolis police officer on 25 May.

Players in the Bundesliga – Germany’s top flight – were the first footballers to make their feelings known after Floyd’s death, which sparked global protests.

Sancho and Dortmund team-mate Achraf Hakimi wore “Justice for George Floyd” T-shirts, while Schalke’s American captain Weston McKennie wore a similar armband.

Marcus Thuram of Borussia Monchengladbach kneeled in tribute to Floyd after scoring, replicating the actions of NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who has protested about oppression towards black people in the United States.

Since then, Premier League teams, such as Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal, have taken a knee in training. Schalke were among Bundesliga sides to repeat that gesture before Sunday’s game against Union Berlin.

“What Weston McKennie, Sancho and Marcus Thuram did, plus other players in the Bundesliga, was perfect,” added Matondo.

“It’s a good thing to show that black lives do matter. Of course every life matters, but in the situation we’re in, black lives matter now. So we have to show that in every aspect we can in football.”

He also admitted the Black Lives Matter movement has changed his mindset and affected how he might tackle racism if he encountered it again.

“You get an idea when you are playing foreign teams as an international that people are saying something,” said Matondo, who has four caps for Wales.

“I’m not a guy to make a big deal about it, even if it is a big deal. Sometimes I feel like that’s just the way people are; that’s the way they have been brought up.

“I feel like I would go about it differently than I would have when I was younger.”

Bundesliga as safe as it can be – Matondo

Matondo, who joined Schalke for £9.6m from Manchester City in 2019, said he was happy at the club despite their recent poor form and being linked with moves to Manchester United