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:

Jonny Gray set to make 50th cap for Scotland

Jonny Gray

Gray excited for Wales clash (Credit: David Ronney)

Glasgow Warriors lock, Jonny Gray will start against Wales on Saturday and will join an illustrious club of players who have racked up a half century of caps for Scotland rugby team.

The 24-year-old made his first full debut for the national side back in November 2013 and since then has impressed spectators with a number of solid performances. He is quickly catching up with older brother, Richie Gray, who has 62 national caps and one for the British and Irish Lions.

So far this tournament Jonny Gray has played 134 minutes making 15 carries and 37 tackles as part of the first line of defence against Ireland and France.

Jonny Gray is proud of his achievments but was quick to emphasise the weekends match will be a team effort. Wales are currently the only unbeaten team in this years Six Nations tournamnet.

“It’s not about me. This week is huge, last week was very tough to take.

“To be here is such a special feeling. It’s something I never thought that I would do when I was younger. To be here I’m very lucky.”

Even though Scotland can no longer challenge for the championship title, Gray insisted that playing for the country was an honour.

“When you are playing for Scotland there is always something to play for.”

 

“All about the football”: Taking a look at the women’s game in Scotland

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Edinburgh Caledonia celebrate scoring against Bonnyrigg Rose (Credit: SWF)

Women have long toiled to be recognised in the football world, but the tide is finally turning in their favour.

Women’s football has been around longer than you might expect. The first ever male international football match – Scotland versus England – was played in 1872. Only nine years later, the match was replicated, but only this time it was the women’s turn to play.

Between the two world wars, the Football Associations of Scotland and England banned the women’s game. The reasoning behind the ban is supposedly because the sport was considered ‘unfeminine.’ It’s enough to make your blood boil today, but such were the times. The tyrannical ban on the ladies’ sport forced teams underground as they sought out non-Scottish Football Association affiliated pitches to play on.

It wasn’t until between late 60s and early 70s that England and Scotland lifted their bans, reforming the inclusion of women into Football Associations.

Since then, ladies’ football has steadily grown in popularity and has started to gain more recognition in the mainstream media. The FA Women’s Super League (WSL) in England and The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US have garnered a great deal of recognition, attracting substantial financial backing from both advertising and endorsements as well as government funding.

In the WSL, many players are starting to rake in salaries reaching £60,000. The highest earner in women’s soccer, Alex Morgan, who plays for Portland Thorns in the NWSL, earns £1.9 million a year, including sponsorships and endorsements.

These figures are dwarfed, however, by the stratospheric incomes of male footballers even compared to the rates of standard workplace pay gaps, but it is still an enormous step in the right direction.

Scotland is still catching up with the rest of the world in fashioning a professional women’s football.

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(From left to right): Kim Dallas, Alba Losada, Sammy Hyett and Emma O’Sullivan ready for training (Credit: SWF)

Sammy Hyett is the founder, chairman and captain of Edinburgh Caledonia FC, a women’s football team in the South East Second Division of the Scottish Women’s Football League. She started practising when she was just four because there was no space left in gymnastics.

“It all started because there was available space,” Hyett says. “But, it became a bit of a novelty because there weren’t any other girls and when you were young nobody really minded if you were playing with the boys.”

The midfielder turned down a professional football scholarship in the US because she was expected to coach when she just wanted to play.

“I picked Heriot-Watt [University] because of the Hearts academy that’s there, I went along to the fresher’s football day and there were about 100 people there and I was the only girl.

“They obviously didn’t have a women’s football team then so they said I could come along and train, but I could be the best there and they still wouldn’t treat me the same. This was back in 2004, there weren’t options, I wasn’t going to get the same opportunities… so I started my own team.”

Hyett had a series of injuries after university, which stopped her from playing. She decided to build a women’s branch of the all-male Football Club of Edinburgh. Before long she took her team on a new path and formed Edinburgh Caledonia.

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Edinburgh Caledonia FC (Credit: SWF)

Edinburgh Caledonia FC

“The SWFA have always said they want to be defined as the women’s section separate to the men,” Hyett explains.

“They’ve always seen it as a hurdle to cross, that they have to prove themselves to the men and there seems to be this stigma and we felt that about being with the guys’ club, so we left”

She adds: “I would’ve given anything to play professionally and I had the chance, my twin and I were offered to play for Ross County professionally, but we were offered a minimal amount a week to live off and we couldn’t because I had to work. That was the only opportunity in Scotland at the time.”

People like Hyett have laid the foundation for the new generation of talented female footballers to realise their talents and be recognised on the world stage.

Hyett says: “It’s always been about the football, I genuinely don’t know what I would do without a football at my feet.”

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Kim Dallas breezes past Dundee City player (Credit: SWF)

Edinburgh Caledonia has begun their season perfectly, currently sitting top of their division after two games, scoring 22 goals and conceding nil. Hyett and her squad are aiming for promotion to the SWFL 1 where they would be up against the likes of Celtic Academy and Rangers Development.

The Scottish Women’s National Football Team are also on a high. This season, they have been funded by the Scottish government for the first time which means the players have been able to train full-time as they prepare for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France this summer.

There, the women’s team of Scotland and England will face each other once again, 138 years after they first met on a pitch, but now in a very different world.

 

Levein’s “fingers crossed” over Naismith’s injury

Craig Levein

Craig Levein will be without Steven Naismith for the second time this season. (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hearts star striker Steven Naismith has been ruled out for 10 weeks after requiring surgery on his knee. He was substituted in a 2-1 defeat to Celtic last weekend in what would turn out to be his second major setback of this season.

He goes for his operation on Monday next week, however, his manager Craig Levein has not ruled out the possibility that he will return before the end of the season should Hearts make it to the Scottish Cup final.

He said: “I hope so, he came back from injury really quickly last time so fingers crossed it will be the same again. It is unfortunate for him and for us at the club too because we have a lot of big games ahead.”

Levein has voiced his empathy for Naismith, who will not only miss the majority of the club season, but potentially the European Championship play offs at the end of the season. The 32 year old would have most likely been a starter for Alex McLeish’s Scotland side who play Kazakstan and San Marino in the summer.

He said: “It is not only a shame for Hearts. He is also sitting on 49 caps and should be getting his 50th in a couple of months. He is a player whose generation has missed out on getting to major finals with Scotland and there is a chance that could happen this time. So I feel sorry for him as he has worked ever so hard to get back from his last injury.”

Steven Naismith was forced off in a 2-1 defeat to Celtic last week (Credit: SNS Group)

However, despite their form dipping the last time they were without Naismith, the Hearts boss is more confident in his squad at this stage of the season.

“When he was out previously we had a shortage of strikers. Craig Wighton is bak fully fit again after his ankle problem and we have also got David Vanecek back with us as well as Uche [Ikpeazu]. So it is a different situation altogether and I don’t feel nearly as anxious as earlier on in the season when we had to deal without Steven in the team.”

Hearts play Dundee away in the league on Saturday as their hunt for Europe continues as they currently sit in fifth place and three points off Kilmarnock. Craig Levein will be hopeful that his side can claim all three points against the team currently a point from bottom in the table.

 

Hearts sign former Leeds left back Aidy White

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Heart of Midlothian have bolstered their squad with the addition of former Leeds United and Barnsley left back Aidy White.

White, a free agent, had been on the radar of manager Craig Levein for over a year, and signed a contract this afternoon that will keep him at Tynecastle until 2021.

The news comes after the club also announced Uche Ikpeazu is extending his deal until 2022.

“We’ve been in dialogue with Aidy for a year and feel that now is the right time to bring him in,” Levein said.

“He’s got a lot of work to do to reach the level we think he’s capable of but I’m confident he can fulfil his potential and prove to be a vital cog in the wheel as we look towards the future.”

The 27-year-old defender came through the Leeds youth system and played over 100 games before joining Barnsley, winning the Football League Trophy and the League One Play-Off Final in 2016.

He has also captained Northern Ireland U21s but a groin injury forced him out in 2017.

 

Wighton hoping to benefit from Naismith absence

Craig Wighton

Wighton is looking for a fresh start after injury (Credit: Luke Barry)

Heart of Midlothian striker Craig Wighton is looking to break into the starting line-up ahead of tomorrow’s match against Dundee.

Team-mate Steven Naismith is set to be out for eight to 10 weeks with a recurring knee injury, and whilst Wighton knows that he’ll be a big miss for the club, he believes that the hole can be filled.

“[Naismith] has done a lot for us this season, with the amount of goals he’s got,” Wighton said.

“Obviously he’s already missed a few games this season, and we missed him a lot during that period, so it’s a big task for all the forwards to replace him.

 

“But we’ve got a lot of good players; Uche, Macca, Vanacek and Keena as well. There’s a lot of competition here, but I think for any team, they would miss a player like ‘Naisy’.

“But all the forwards have got to think that [we can take his place]. He’s a big player for us, but we’ve got some important games coming up, so it’s a big opportunity.

“We all need to start chipping in with goals.”

Injury and lack of form has meant that Wighton has been limited to only nine league appearances so far this season. He’s become almost a forgotten man at Tynecastle, something that he accepts, but he insists that he’s ready to make a new start at the club.

“It does a bit [feel like starting again],” he admitted.

“I feel like I’m in better shape than when I first came here.

“I’ve had a few games back-to-back, which I haven’t had for a while. Even though it’s reserves football, it’s good to get these games under your belt to get up to speed.

“I’m feeling sharp now and if I do get called upon, then I’ll be ready.”

Tomorrow’s match will see Wighton return to Dundee, a club he knows very well. He came through the academy at the Tayside club, before leaving them to join Hearts last August.

The 21-year-old admits that he is shocked to see his old side battling relegation this season.

“I am [surprised at Dundee’s position in the league table],” he said.

“Obviously it’s almost a completely different squad to when I left – I don’t know many of the players that are there now – but I’ve seen them a couple of times this season and they’ve been decent.

“But it’s hard to get a good run of games when you’re in that position. It’s a big game on Saturday, so we’ll be looking to go there and get the three points.

“I appreciate everyone that Dundee did of me during my career but I’m at Hearts now. If I get an opportunity on Saturday, I’ll be looking to score.”

Gerrard calls for more severe punishments after Rodgers burglary

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Rangers manager Steven Gerrard says people who break into homes need to be given 15 year sentences in prison.

This is in response to Brendan Rodgers Glasgow house being burgled in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Gerrard was shocked at the news of his ex-Old Firm rival’s house and has calls for the sentences to increased from three years to 10 or 15.

The Liverpool legend is understandably passionate about the subject after he suffered a similarly horrific ordeal when his Merseyside home was burgled 12 years ago. The men responsible for this particular break in were jailed, but evidently in Gerrard’s opinion, not for long enough.

The Leicester manager’s wife Charlotte Searle and daughter were forced to barricade themselves into the bathroom as the intruders broke in and stole a number of Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic winners medals. He has said that despite this horrible experience, he will not let it spoil the good memories he has of living in Scotland.

Even when Rodgers was appointed as the Leicester manager and moved south, Mrs Searle had continued to live in East Dunbartonshire with her daughter while the school term finishes.

Rodgers has said that it is obviously unacceptable from those responsible, the main thing is that his family are unharmed.

 

Raith Rovers “have to believe” they can be promoted says manager

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Raith Rovers manager John McGlynn says the club “have to believe” they can be promoted into the Championship after missing out last season.

Raith slipped to third in Scottish League One last weekend after drawing 2-2 with Stranraer, but are safely within the promotion places with a 10 point gap to fifth-placed Montrose.

McGlynn says his side have “ambitions” to return to the Scottish Championship where they feel they belong.

Speaking exclusively to EN4 News, he said: “We obviously are a big club and we have ambitions to be in the Championship, we were very hopeful we were going to win promotion, win the league and go up directly through winning it.

“Unfortunately we find ourselves 15 points behind Arbroath with nine games to go and they would have to have a disaster which I’m not expecting to happen, so it means the play-offs is the next opportunity and avenue to get into the Championship.

“We’ve got to believe that we can still do that, that’s our aim. Raith Rovers unfortunately were in League 1 last year, didn’t manage to make it out  and get into the Championship where we feel we belong, so we’re trying to put that right this season.”

 

Raith host Airdrie tomorrow looking to get back to winning ways, after drawing the last two matches and failing to win more than one game in the last five.

McGlynn wants to see his team become more clinical in the final third.

“We’ve missed some opportunities in games where we should’ve killed opposition off, and we end up getting caught with the sucker-punch and dropping points in some games,  even although we’ve scored eight goals in the last three games,” he said.

“We’re the top scorers in the league so you know, everything is not doom and gloom, we score a lot of goals.  Last Saturday we had to come from behind, 2-0 down we had to come from behind so the boys showed great character and similarly on the Tuesday night against Dumbarton, we came back really well, Dumbarton have showed good form recently.

“You’re always concerned [about form], you want to win every game you go into. We’ve not been taking our chances which is a big thing in football, you’ve got to take your opportunities when they come along and we’ve not done that often.”

McGlynn is aware that tomorrow’s match will be difficult even though Airdrie have also been in patchy form lately.

“Airdrie got a good win last week, they were on the back of a difficult run, they weren’t going particularly well,” McGlynn said.

“Ian Murray has them really well organised, they’re always a really difficult opponent to play against. Again they’ve got a good blend of young players, some of which are on loan and some experience as well so there’s no easy game.

“It’s a tough league, there’s absolutely no easy games so everyone is kind of beating everyone, it’s only Arbroath that have been exceptional and got themselves quite a substantial lead.

“It’ll be a difficult game but obviously we’re looking to consolidate our play-off position, try and finish the season as high as we possibly can, get as many points as we possibly can, and go into the play-offs in good form, confident and looking to get promoted.”

Hibs showing great “intensity and drive” says Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom suffered his first defeat as Hibernian manager against Celtic last weekend (Credit: Luke Barry)

Hibernian manager Paul Heckingbottom has praised his side’s “intensity and drive” as they look to seal a sixth place spot in the Scottish Premiership.

Heckingbottom has won three of his first four games in charge at Easter Road, but lost to Celtic last weekend 2-0 in the quarter-final of the Scottish Cup.

Hibs face Rangers tonight in the league, and the manager admitted that Steven Gerrard’s side could have an advantage as they have a larger squad to work with.

“They’ve been good, hit a lot of form now [and] scoring goals,” Heckingbottom said.

“I can’t imagine Steven changing too much, but he does have the capabilities to do that if he wants with the squad he’s got and the players he’s got competing for each position but I don’t think there’ll be too much different in the set-up and how he approaches the game.

“We’re struggling with injuries and suspensions where we don’t have the personnel to rotate the squad without significantly weakening the team.”

Hibs are currently sixth in the league, three points behind neighbours Hearts but three points clear of St Johnstone.

Heckingbottom revealed that remaining in the top six is now the aim for the rest of the season.

He added: “That’s our focus [and]that’s what our focus has been.

“We’ve been chasing, and we said that before the last away game that all of a sudden we are now in the top six with teams chasing us, we earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, get the sixth spot.

“The players fought and fought and fought and managed to pull away and get another three points, so it’s that sort of intensity and drive we want to have between now and the end of the season.

“You’ve got to fight for it, whoever does get in that top six will deserve it and we want to make sure that it’s us.”

Heckingbottom also praised the efforts his squad has made to adapt to his tactics, with everyone at the club “on the same page” and “searching for the same answers.”

He said: “The players have responded really well [to my way of working].

“We earned the right to be in the driving seat if you like, [to] get the sixth spot.”

“I spoke to them again in training and whatever ideas I have they’ll do it and when they’re trying and giving everything I back them 100%.

“We know we are in progress, we know where we are in the league in terms of standings, size of clubs, but we have to use that to our advantage and be a team that enjoys playing against the so-called bigger clubs, and also enjoying having the status of a big club ourselves when other teams come to town.

“So we know where we are, we’ve really enjoyed the start but we know we’ve got to keep improving.”

It all gets underway at Easter Road from 7:45pm and the match is live on BT Sport.

Stevenson reveals “excitement” at working under 10th Hibs boss

Lewis Stevenson

Lewis Stevenson has spent 14 years at the club (Credit: David Ronney)

Hibernian left-back Lewis Stevenson says it’s a clean slate for himself as he works under his 10th boss, Paul Heckingbottom, as he looks to impress his new manager.

The 31-year-old made his debut for the Edinburgh club in 2005 and is currently the longest serving player at the club.

However, he admitted he feels there is still the same nerves when a new boss is appointed.

He said: “Every time a new manager is appointed there is the same nerves and apprehension, and perhaps the same excitement as well. I have learnt something new from everyone who’s managed at Hibs, I don’t think it matters how old you are at all.

“With Paul coming all the way from England, of course the lads feel like they have a point to prove. But as soon as he came in it was clear he knew all about us so that helped put our minds at ease.”

The clubs perfect record under Heckingbottom came to an end in their quarter-final clash with Celtic at Easter Road on Saturday.

Stevenson spoke of the positives and negatives the side took from their defeat against the reigning champions.

He added: “There are things we did very well on Saturday and things we didn’t do so well, but we know what we need to focus on. If we can get rid of the negatives then that will stand us in good stead for the future.”

However, things are not about to get any easier for Easter Road side as they host Steven Gerrard’s Rangers on Friday night.

Lewis Stevenson

Hibernian were knocked out the Scottish Cup last weekend in a 2-0 home defeat to Celtic (Credit: David Ronney)

According to the veteran full back, the games against the bigger teams in Scotland are the ones he relishes most.

He said: “These are the games you really want to play in, when it’s a full house. Big crowds usually mean a higher tempo and a higher intensity of game. We’re a more physical side now and we’ll need all our stamina on Friday night.

“We’re looking at them as a team and we’re well aware how good a side they are from playing them at Ibrox earlier on in the season. But if we implement our game plan then we know we’ve got a very good chance to come away with all the points.”

Hibs are currently in sixth place, and only three points off rivals Hearts. With a European spot not yet out of sight, Stevenson spoke of the sides desire to push on and finish as high in the table as possible.

“We’re trying not to focus too much on how the table looks and just take each game that comes to us. We’ve got five games before the split and we’ll try to get three or four wins and see where that leaves us.”

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