Vic­tory for con­sis­tency

ONLY A BHOYS’ GAME: THIS NEW DEAL SHOWS WHY HOOPS WILL DOM­I­NATE OLD FIRM RI­VALRY

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - SPORT -

Ar­broath man­ager Dick Campbell is hop­ing the lessons he and his play­ers have learned in the Cham­pi­onship so far this sea­son will help them against vis­i­tors Caley This­tle to­day.

The Red Lichties boss said: “We bounced back to win­ning ways last Satur­day against Al­loa.

“The Dun­fermline game was a les­son for me as I made changes to a team that had won two games in a row be­fore that.

“I should have left things as they were. That is the ap­proach I am tak­ing for this one.”

Campbell also reck­ons that los­ing 2-1 late on to Caley This­tle in their first meet­ing this sea­son helped ed­u­cate his play­ers.

He said: “That was a sore af­ter­noon as we had gone there and got our­selves into the lead.

“They equalised just be­fore the break but we looked good for a point un­til they scored four min­utes from time.

“We do not have a lot of play­ers who have played at this level be­fore but we have play­ers who are will­ing to learn. They have be­come bet­ter at clos­ing games out as we showed against Morton and then Al­loa.

“In­ver­ness are a good side who are com­ing here dis­ap­pointed at los­ing to the lead­ers Dundee United last week­end and not go­ing to within a point of top spot.”

Some weeks back I sug­gested it seemed im­prob­a­ble that Craig Levein and Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom would still have their jobs by the Oc­to­ber in­ter­na­tional break.

They did, but not for much longer. Just a few months into the sea­son both Hearts and Hibs are in search of new lead­er­ship. The de­ci­sions their boards will take in the near fu­ture could have a mas­sive bear­ing on the long-term prospects.

Get it wrong again and the pos­si­bil­ity of a dam­ag­ing rel­e­ga­tion will loom large.

They went down to­gether in 2014-15, Hearts’ fate sealed largely by the points penalty im­posed be­cause of their fi­nan­cial reck­less­ness.

Un­der Rob­bie Neil­son, and with a team full of ex­cit­ing young tal­ent, the Jam­bos bounced straight back up, but it took their city ri­vals three years to fi­nally re­cover and nei­ther can af­ford to con­tem­plate that sort of fate this sea­son.

Hearts blinked first, sack­ing Levein just days be­fore their Bet­fred League Cup semi-fi­nal. The tim­ing of the de­ci­sion was the only sur­prise. Levein had been on bor­rowed time for months.

Apart from the first quar­ter of the 2018-19 cam­paign, his reign had been a dis­ap­point­ing one. He was un­lucky with in­juries but, given his vast man­age­rial ex­pe­ri­ence, he should have been able to adapt and find an an­swer.

He failed to do so and his team this sea­son has, for the most part, been painful to watch.

That said, there is a de­cent squad there for the next in­cum­bent, al­beit one that will need some prun­ing.

Much more surgery will be re­quired at the east end of the city.

Some might con­sider Paul Heck­ing­bot­tom’s ax­ing as a lit­tle pre­ma­ture, given he had just nine months in the post and had drawn the last five Pre­mier­ship matches.

But the per­for­mances were also gen­er­ally poor and his sum­mer sign­ings just haven’t cut it.

Melker Hall­berg, Josh Vela, Adam Jack­son, Tom James and Josh Newell

Celtic con­ducted some sig­nif­i­cant busi­ness dur­ing the week – and it sends out the strong mes­sage that they in­tend stay­ing ex­actly where they’ve been for the past eight years – at the top of the Scot­tish foot­ball lad­der.

At­tack­ing mid­fielder Callum McGre­gor tied him­self to the cham­pi­ons un­til 2024, hard on the heels of winger James For­rest. have made lit­tle or no im­pact, while Chris­tian Doidge might have scored freely at For­est Green Rovers but looks in­ca­pable of do­ing so at Pre­mier­ship level.

Chris Maxwell looks a de­cent enough keeper and Scott Al­lan is ob­vi­ously a skilled player de­spite his ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to keep his bal­ance in the op­po­si­tion penalty area.

There is a core of tal­ent at Easter Road. The fit-again Martin Boyle, Ryan Por­te­ous, Ste­vie Mal­lan and, when

McGre­gor has been out­stand­ing for the past three years, by some dis­tance the best player in the coun­try.

His level of con­sis­tency is stag­ger­ing.

With him pulling the strings along­side Scott Brown in mid­field, Celtic will re­main ahead of their Ibrox ri­vals, de­spite Rangers’ im­prove­ment this sea­son. he’s in the right frame of mind, Flo­rian Kam­beri, all have some­thing to of­fer. But it is a squad which will need sig­nif­i­cantly over­hauled if Hibs are to move clear of trou­ble. The fans will also be des­per­ate to see their sides play­ing at­trac­tive foot­ball.

Hibs, in par­tic­u­lar, have been en­joy­able to watch but that might need to wait as the new man adopts the kind of prag­matic ap­proach teams threat­ened with rel­e­ga­tion need to adopt.

The may­hem and dis­con­tent in the cap­i­tal should act as a re­minder of how for­tu­nate the Dons have been to en­joy the sta­bil­ity we have had un­der Derek McInnes.

Of course, there have been ups and downs dur­ing his six-and-a-half years. This sea­son in par­tic­u­lar has been a tough one with plenty of grum­bling among fans.

But con­vinc­ing wins over Mother­well, Hamil­ton and Kil­marnock should have quelled that.

It was no sur­prise to hear of Stoke City’s in­ter­est in Derek and he will even­tu­ally leave. But I for one hope his exit is some way off.

Cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment: For Heck­ing­bot­tom and Levein

Callum McGre­gor

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