Ross County’s Mullin excited by season so far – Podcast

 

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Flying high at the top of the Scottish Championship, Ross County have turned their fortunes around this season after last year’s relegation from the Premiership.

One of the team’s shining players this season, Josh Mullin speaks exclusively to EN4 News ahead of three matches in the next week for the title chasers.

Listen to the podcast below:

Scotland welcome Grand Slam chasers Wales to the capital – The Six Nations Preview Show

Greig Laidlaw

Scotland captain, Greig Laidlaw is dropped to the bench for home match against Wales. (Credit: David Ronney)

Following back to back defeats in this Six Nations Championship, Scotland prepare for their last home match of the tournament against Grand Slam chasers, Wales.

With Scotland at terms with themselves out of the running to win the competition, they’ll be looking to upset the Welsh party with a win against the visitors.

David Ronney is joined by Bryce Donaldson and Fraser Munro for The Six Nations Preview Show.

Watch it below:

Hibs will be different against returning Lennon says Heckingbottom

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Hibernian boss, Paul Heckingbottom said he’s looking forward to meet his predecessor. (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager, Paul Heckingbottom believes there will be enough differences tactically for a level playing field upon Neil Lennon’s return to Easter Road.

Celtic take on the Edinburgh club this Saturday in the quarter-finals of the Scottish Cup with new interim manager, Lennon.

The Northern Irishman left Hibs in January but made a surprise return to Scottish football earlier this week.

However, despite Lennon managing Hibs earlier this season, Heckingbottom said there won’t be a tactical advantage.

He said: “Well it is [his squad]. I’ve not signed a player.

“He is going to know the players but he’s not going to know what we ask them to do. For me it’s the same, for Neil [Lennon] is coming back somewhere he’s worked before which is always strange.

“It’ll different for Neil coming back to his old club which as I say is always a different sensation but for me nothing has changed.

“It’ll be nice to meet Neil [Lennon]. We’ve never met so it’ll be good to catch up after the game.”

It has been an eventful week for Celtic players and fans alike with the departure of Rodgers and his successor. But Heckingbottom insists it’ll be business as usual for the reigning Scottish Cup champions.

He added: “Obviously, Brendan [Rodgers] is gone. Big opportunity for Brendan and big opportunity for Neil now coming in as well. People just have to look forward.

 

“Celtic fans will be moving on now thinking about this trophy [Scottish Cup]. Football does that, everything is a big sensation one minute and then it just dies down and everyone gets on with it.”

The Hibees have won three out of three under new management with on-loan Reading player, Marc McNulty impressing the most. The Scotsman has scored six goals in four matches with his new club and his manager was impressed with his performances so far.

He said: “I’ve been really pleased with him.

“I can see him continually getting better because he’s not played much football and now he’s getting a run of games. He’s getting his fitness levels back up, his sharpness. We know he can score goals. I think he’ll be good for us between now and the end of the season.”

Thistle not to be taken lightly says Hearts’ Ikpeazu

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Hearts’ Uche Ikpeazu expects another tough Scottish Cup tie on Monday night (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian forward, Uche Ikpeazu believes Partick Thistle are not a side to be taken lightly as the Edinburgh club travel to Firhill on Monday night.

After suffering relegation to the Championship last season, Gary Caldwell‘s side are at risk of déjà vu as they currently sit bottom of Scotland’s second tier.

However, the experience the side have against Premiership clubs is a reason they shouldn’t written off Ikpeazu insisted ahead of the clubs Scottish Cup quarter-final tie.

He said: “There’s always upsets in these cup games and everyone is probably expecting us to win and sometimes that can also work against you because people think ‘they’ve got to win anyway’. I believe if we do what we do, we’ll win. We just got to focus on ourselves and not the opposition.”


The former Watford player put in a terrific performance against Celtic midweek and just a month on from his return from injury looks closer to getting back to his best.

However, his injury woes earlier in the season kept him out of Hearts’ Betfred Cup semi-final, but the opportunity to guide the club into this stage in the Scottish Cup is something the 24-year-old relishes.

He added: “Watching it [league cup semi-final] was crazy. Seeing how many fans [there were] in the stadium, I would have loved to be a part of it.

“I want to be a part of that this time.

 

“It’s a massive game for the club. It’s come at the right time. I think that game [against Celtic] done me good and now I feel I’ve set the bar and need to perform at that level consistently now, and the team as well, because if we perform like that then we’ll do extremely well.”

 

Hibs captain, Gray says results haven’t been good enough

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Hibernian captain, David Gray is expected to start against St Mirren. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hibernian captain, David Gray says results haven’t been good enough this season but is focussed on making matters right this Sunday when they travel to face St Mirren.

The Edinburgh side enter this weekend coming off the back of a defeat to Motherwell at Fir Park midweek and suffered another injury blow, losing out to Ryan Porteous for the trip to Paisley.

With defensive options running slimmer by the week, Gray is expected to returned to Neil Lennon‘s starting lineup on Sunday afternoon.

The Hibs defender hasn’t started a league fixture since October due to injury and expressed his frustration. He said: “It’s been a long frustrating time since then and obviously it doesn’t help when the results aren’t going the way we want them to go as well which adds to the frustration.

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The Hibernian captain says results haven’t been good enough this season. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“I’m back training now, it’s not feeling as good as I would have had liked it to have felt which is why it’s been a slow process, slow burner.

“It’s getting there slowly now and I’m feeling better in training now which is good.

“I’m feeling better everyday, I think it’s getting better all the time.”

Gray could not only strengthen Lennon’s defensive but his leadership will be a welcome return to the Edinburgh side.

Gray believes this season’s wrongs can be put right by starting a winning run this weekend. He added: “Regardless of the team the manager picks at the weekend, I think we all know the results haven’t been good enough. We know consistency has been a problem. We started the season really well and it’s sort of petered away a wee bit. I think now we know first of all that we need to break into the top six. That’s the most important thing now and it starts on Sunday. It’s going to be a real difficult game. St Mirren will be fighting for their lives down at the bottom as well so we know what to expect there.

“It’s going to be a real difficult game, we’re under no illusion of that. I think we can’t look any further than the weekend. It’s nice to say oh ‘we can go put a run together’ but first and foremost we need to win a game of football which hopefully we can start on Sunday.”

Hearts boss sticks Vanecek on new fitness program following criticism

Craig Levein Hearts

Hearts boss took David Vanecek off after half an hour against Dundee and publicly criticised the striker post match. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

Hearts manager, Craig Levein has put striker, David Vanecek on a new fitness program following his withdraw just half an hour into Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat at home to Dundee.

Vanecek played the entirety of the Scottish Cup win against Livingston but was hung out to dry after his manager labelled his performance against Dundee as “rubbish”.

Levein defended his comments regarding the Czech player saying he felt speaking publicly about his fitness issues would mean his message would get across. He said: “Let’s say he finished in November and he obviously hasn’t done any work, between then and joining us which frustrates me. The best time to buy him out of any problems is soon as they arrive and I felt that it’s really important that he knows why he’s under performed on the night. And also didn’t do enough in the Livingston game either to do what we need him to do.

“I think the important thing is he knows that to play in Scottish football. People might think it’s easy but it’s not. They know the competitive nature of the matches means you have to be fit.

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Craig Levein was all smiles ahead of Hearts’ match against in-form St Johnstone this weekend. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“He apologised yesterday. He’s on a programme to improve his fitness and hopefully I don’t need to speak to him again.”

The defeat to relegation strugglers was the first in four matches but focus now turns to St Johnstone who have won their last four matches, failing to concede a goal along their win streak.

If Hearts are to beat their Perth opposition, they would move into fifth and arguably right back into the title race. Levein knows his side can’t afford to slip up two matches in a row. He added: “We will need to score again this weekend against St Johnstone who are in a very good run themselves.

“They’ve got a good record defensively. We for a spell struggled against St Johnstone. We’ve kinda swung things back in our favour in the last couple of years. Our recent results have been fairly good against them.

“It is really tight. We kinda slipped up a bit the other night. We’re sort of on the coattails of everybody and that’s the big disappointment. We could have hung in really close behind the top teams but there’s still a long way to go.”

Auchinleck boss ready for tough Scottish Cup challenge against Hearts

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Auchinleck Talbot become only the second Junior side to reach the fifth round of the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

Following one of the biggest upsets in Scottish Cup history, Auchinleck Talbot manager, Tommy Sloan says his side are ready for the next challenge as they face off against Premiership club, Hearts in the fifth round.

The Junior Cup holders made history after becoming only the second side in the history of the competition to reach the fifth round.

It was confirmed yesterday that the fixture will take place 10 February with a 3:00pm kick off.

The Beechwood Park side are unbeaten in 14 matches, winning their last nine and while Sloan’s side will have a couple of games to play before they make the journey to Edinburgh, the Talbot manager says he’s delighted with how the season has gone so far. He said: “We’ve had great results. Great run in the Senior Cup. We’re still in the Junior Cup, touch wood.”

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Tommy Sloan and Andy Leishman embrace after historic win. (Photo credit: Auchinleck Talbot)

The Edinburgh side have hosted the Ayrshire Juniors before back in 2012 but were the visitors were narrowly beat 1-0 with the winning strike coming late in the game.

However, when Sloan’s side return to Tynecastle in two weeks time he’ll be bringing along three returning players with him from that previous Scottish Cup defeat against the Jambos.

One of which is goalkeeeper, Andy Leishman who himself saved a penalty during that match seven years ago. The Talbot boss said he’s hoping that his side could replicate the level of performance displayed on that day. He added: “Andy [Leishman] has survived from that team. Gordon Pope, who scored the goal that was disallowed that day. Steven White is another one.

“Andy had a great day that day, saved the penalty and made numerous saves if I can remember right. Hopefully that stands us in good stead and the confidence we take out the Ayr match will hopefully help us at Tynecastle that day.

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This will be the second time in seven years these sides have faced in the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Hayden Barry)

“I think we’ll carry a threat up there. I think we’ve got players who can score goals no matter where we go.

“If you can keep winning it’ll give you confidence going into any match. I think that was one of the keys to beating Ayr because they hadn’t won for four or five weeks.

“When we go to Tynecastle we’ll need every advantage we can get because they are one of the best sides in Scotland.

“It’s a huge task for us and we’ll need to take any advantage we can get at all but I think we have players that can cause them problems.”

All it took was a Craig McCracken header to separate Auchinleck from their fellow Ayrshire opposition. Sloan said he was very impressed in the manner his side conducted themselves on the day. He said: “The players handled it really well. It’s really important to play the way you always play. I was saying to them to ‘Don’t try anything different. What’s gained you success is the things you do week in, week out’ and it was important to stress that to the players.

“It was real impressive to me.”

Auchinleck are now the second Junior side in Scottish Cup history to reach the fifth round, following Irvine Meadow’s success reaching this stage of the competition back in 2010.

Sloan, who has spent almost 16 years at the club, said the win against Ayr was ‘sweeter’ due to the quality of the team but doesn’t believe that this is the biggest upset in the history of the Scottish Cup. He added: “We knew Ayr have got a really good strong support again. They’ve been doing really well under Ian McCall, which makes it all so much sweeter.

“I thought it was a wee bit unfortunate we drew them at that time. We could have played them in a different year and it wouldn’t have been as strong a side. It’s sweeter because it’s a really good Ayr United side we beat.”

“Personally I don’t see it as the biggest upset because I know the strength in the Junior league. There’s really good players in the Juniors and a lot of them go onto be senior players.”

Auchinleck’s victory last weekend has drawn attention from fans across the country onto not only the side he manages but onto the Scottish Junior scene as well. Something he says he’s glad has now been recognised.  He said: “What it does is it helps the profile of the club. It’s a huge thing winning the Junior Cup, it’s the main thing each Junior side will go for every year but now we’ve got the qualification for the Senior Cup, you’ve got to try and make the impression and help your club.

“We’ve shown that the Junior sides could go into the Scottish leagues and certainly hold their own.

“It certainly should help promote the Juniors and let’s hope it does.

“Whoever it may be, I’ll always support the Junior sides in the Senior Cup because it does promote our game and we need that. There’s an old fashioned belief that it’s kit and rush, there’s a lot of tackles and fouls, and it’s more like roller ball. It certainly isn’t nowadays. It’s a changed game since I played it.”

VAR in Scottish football? – Podcast

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SPFL managers have called for VAR technology to be added to the Scottish game. (Photo credit: SounderBruce via Wikipedia)

Following a meeting between the Scottish Premiership’s managers with the league’s match officials last week, there has been calls for Video Assistant Refereeing (VAR) to be added to the referee’s list of technology they have at their disposal.

However, with the cost of the equipment casting judgement to when we are likely to see it implemented in Scotland, can the top flight afford to wait any longer?

David Ronney, Luke Barry and Graham Miller sit down and discuss.

Ryan Gauld excited to play on home soil once more

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Ryan Gauld returns to Scotland after spending four years playing club football in Portugal. (Photo credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian new signing, Ryan Gauld said he’s excited to play in front of Scottish support once more after spending four years playing in Portugal.

The former Dundee United player moved to Sporting Lisbon in 2014 and is making his first return on home soil since his move.

Gauld believes this is now the right time to return to Scottish football and showcase his talent. He said: “I think after spending the last six months in the second division of Portugal, I thought this was the first time since I moved to Portugal that it was the right time to come back to Scotland and get back to enjoying playing in front of big crowds and that’s what Hibs have. I was aware of their interest for a couple of months before Janurary.

“I would say I’ve developed my game in every sense. Tactically, physically and technically as well I would say. Everything has kind of took the next step that it was needing and now I think Hibs is the right platform to hopefully go show how I’ve developed.”

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Ryan Gauld is set to make his debut this weekend against Elgin City in the Scottish Cup. (Photo credit: Graham Miller)

Gauld joins the Edinburgh side on a six month loan deal but says he would be interested in staying beyond the end of the season should both clubs agree to the deal. He added: “That’s being spoke about but at the moment I’m just concentrating on my short loan spell here and then if all goes well and both parties are happy then why not.

“A discussion will take place in the summer and I’m just focussing on my next few months here.”

The Scottish crowds was one of the key aspects that enticed Gauld to return back to his home nation. He said: “There’s a big difference between the atmosphere here to over in Portugal. The fans are a lot more passionate, a lot more involved. I suppose I miss playing in front of the full stadiums and that’s something I’m looking forward to at Easter Road.”

The 23-year-old attacking midfielder could make his debut this weekend’s fifth round Scottish Cup tie with Elgin City. Gauld spoke of what his manager, Neil Lennon has asked from him from now till the end of the season. He said: “I spoke briefly with him. He’s just wants me to come in and hopefully provide a little bit of creativity like from my time at [Dundee] United. Hopefully more of the same to come and to help push Hibs up the league.”

 

Two Scottish sides in Champions Cup knockout would be ‘impressive’ says Cockerill

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Richard Cockerill wouldn’t mind assisting ‘our little brother’ Glasgow Warriors’ qualification. (Photo credit: Fraser Munro)

Edinburgh Rugby Head Coach, Richard Cockerill claimed it would be a win for Scottish rugby to have two sides from Scotland in the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup.

The side from the capital take on Montpellier tonight at Murrayfield in a deciding match to see who will finish top of Pool 5.

If Cockerill’s side beat Montpellier then it would ensure Glasgow Warriors’ qualification for the last eight as one of three best group runners up.

The Edinburgh coach felt having both sides in the knockout phase would be an important step for Scottish rugby.

Cockerill said: “It’s important for Scottish rugby. We’re a small nation and we’ve got a small playing pool. For us to be even contemplating getting two sides, a quarter of the European knockouts to be Scottish is pretty impressive.”

Cockerill added that the main focus was still on ensuring victory over Montpellier and subsequently a home fixture for the quarter finals.

He said: “We’re only interested in Edinburgh but the by-product is getting Glasgow [Warriors] through. It’s about time that we start doing them some favours, our little brother down at the end of the motorway. We’ll try get them qualified.”

Edinburgh have won their last six matches and remain undefeated at home. They’re coming off the back of a historic away victory against Toulon, the first ever Scottish side to win at the Stade Mayol.

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Edinburgh host Montpellier at Murrayfield tonight. Kick off is at 7:45pm. (Photo Credit: Vclaw via Wikipedia)

However, focus now turns to another French side, Montpellier. Vern Cotter’s side beat Edinburgh 21-15 back in October 2018 and Cockerill said he’s expecting another close encounter this time round.

He said: “I’m sure Vern will have a well motivated team that will be well coached. They’ve got some exceptionally good players. I don’t expect them to be taking us lightly.

“We’re not playing teams anymore that rest their best players when they play Edinburgh, they’re picking their best players because they have to to get past us. I have every confidence that if we play as well as we can we’ll beat them.”

It all gets underway at Murrayfield with a 7:45pm kick off.

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