FEATURES

FEATURES

GPFOOTBALL.com are delighted to have top sports artist Paine Proffitt,best selling author Mike Smith & Carol Alison Smith ( Paella & Bovril ) highlight features of their work on GPFOOTBALL.com  :-

PAINE PROFFITT

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Aston Villa v Everton matchday programme cover

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Selection of more Paine Proffitt Football Programme Covers artwork

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Paine Proffitt Football Print

Paine Proffitt is an artist,living & working in England,specializing in football paintings and artwork. His work has appeared in Aberdeen FC,Port Vale FC & West Bromwich Albion FC matchday programmes,winning awards with all three clubs and has worked with a number of football clubs in other capacities. Paine's work tries to capture a sense of yesteryear and nostalgia,influenced by vintage programmes,posters and advertisements,as well as other artists,artwork,football history & memorabilia.To view more of Paine's work visit www.paineproffitt.com and Paine can be followed on Twitter at @PaineProffitt

GPFOOTBALL.com stock large selection of football programmes featuring Paine Proffitt artwork on front covers

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MIKE SMITH

HEARTS BEATING FAST AGAIN

 

Hearts highly impressive start to their return to top flight football – winning their first four Ladbrokes Premiership games to sit proudly at the top of the league – has evoked memories for some of the George Burley era (if three months can be classed an era) when Hearts won their opening eight Premier League fixtures of season 2005/06. With new recruits such as Edgaras Jankauskas, Takiss Fyssas and the ebullient Rudi Skacel, Hearts looked like they would offer a serious challenge to Celtic and Rangers for the league championship. But then manager Burley was sensationally dismissed by then owner Vladimir Romanov and the fall-out had a damaging effect on Hearts title hopes. The Maroons did finish second in the league and lifted the Scottish Cup at the end of the season but there will forever be a feeling of what might have been had Burley been allowed to finish the job he started in such spectacular fashion.

Hearts present Head Coach, Robbie Neilson, was an integral part of that 2005/06 squad. However, the former full back is quick to dismiss comparison between the present day table toppers and the side who so impressed the country a decade ago. As Neilson pointed out, Burley’s side contained a Uefa Champions League winner (Jankauskas) a European Championship winner (Fyssas) and Czech Republic stars Skacel and Michal Pospisil among a whole raft of foreign imports. At that time Hearts weren’t averse to spending the cash via UBIG the Lithuanian bank who bank-rolled Romanov’s over-grand designs for the team from Gorgie. When UBIG hit the financial buffers a couple of years ago, Hearts faced calamity and the club’s very existence was at stake.

Hearts have paid the price for such financial extravagance with administration, a ban on signing players and a 15 point deduction imposed on the club meaning Hearts had to spend a season in the second tier of Scottish football for the first time in over thirty years. Securing financial stability thanks to new owner Ann Budge, the football know-how of former player and manager Craig Levein and the hard-working and rapidly developing coaching skills of Robbie Neilson, Hearts coasted to the SPFL Championship last season, fending off what little resistance the likes of Rangers and city rivals Hibernian could throw at them.

Any promoted side will look at avoiding relegation back to whence they came as the immediate target and, to lapse into cliché mode, anything else is a bonus. Given they had two tricky away trips – to Dundee and Ross County, who both finished last season strongly, in their opening fixtures, few people outside Gorgie believed Hearts would be at the top of the Premiership. But sitting there they are, hence the comparisons with the side who made a similar start exactly ten years ago.

For those of us who recall the yo-yo years of the late 1970s/early 1980s, perhaps a more accurate comparison is with the last Hearts team who won promotion to the top-flight of Scottish football – Alex MacDonald and Sandy Jardine’s team of season 1983/84.

Hearts won promotion along with St. Johnstone in the spring of 1983 and then, like now, optimism had returned to Tynecastle. There are other similarities between 1983 and 2015. In 1981, Hearts had been saved from financial oblivion by an Edinburgh businessman, Wallace Mercer. Mercer restructured the club and appointed MacDonald and Jardine as his management team. To help develop the club’s promising youngsters such as John Robertson, Gary Mackay and David Bowman, MacDonald and Jardine brought in players with Premier Division experience such as Willie Johnston, Stewart McLaren and Jimmy Bone. They passed on their experience and know-how to the Tynecastle young guns and Hearts began their return to the Premier Division (as it was then) with five straight wins – including winning difficult fixtures at Dens Park and St. Mirren. Hearts sat joint top of the league with Celtic and Aberdeen before reality kicked in and points were inevitably dropped. Nonetheless, Hearts ended the season in fifth place in the Premier Division - enough to secure a place in the Uefa Cup the following season.

Thirty-two years later, Hearts have again returned to Scottish football’s top flight. Again, they have won their opening fixtures and, again sit top of the league in the early weeks of the season. Experienced players such as Neil Alexander, Morgaro Gomis and Prince Buaben have helped youngsters such as Sam Nicholson, Billy King and Callum Paterson not only secure promotion but ensure a brilliant start to life back in the top league. Talk of this team challenging Celtic for the championship are unrealistic but there’s no reason why Hearts can’t match or even better the fifth place finish of 1984. Fourth place should be sufficient to secure European football for next term and, on the early evidence at least, this is something not beyond Robbie Neilson’s side.

Given where Hearts were just fifteen months ago there has been spectacular progress made in Gorgie. Ann Budge said when she took over that there was a two year plan to get the club back to the Premiership. Not only are Hearts there a year ahead of schedule, they are setting the Premiership alight – just as they did in 1983/84. Like three decades ago, attendances are up (although, in truth, they never really dipped even with a season in the second tier) Nearly 14,000 season ticket holders is testament to the club’s resurgence and the supporter’s belief that the good times are back again. There will be setbacks in the weeks and months ahead but the club is so strong now that these setbacks will be overcome.

Hearts are back, beating vibrantly once more. And Scottish football is all the richer for it.

Mike Smith

Twitter @Mike1874

 

Mike Smith is a Hearts supporter who has followed the club since 1968. He is author of best selling books,Hearts Greatest Games (2012),Hearts,The Diary of an Incredible Season (2006) and Follow the Hearts (2004). Mike wrote a column in award winning official Hearts matchday programme from 2005 to 2015 and has contributed to the official club website. He writes a football blog www.ontheterracing.blogspot.com and a blog about life in general www.auldreekierants.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter at @Mike1874

Mike Smith's current best selling book Hearts Greatest Games can be purchased here

GPFOOTBALL.com stock large quanties of Heart of Midlothian matchday programmes featuring Mike Smith columns

 

CAROL ALISON SMITH

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PAELLA & BOVRIL 

 

Many a time I have tried to explain the 4 seasons in one day (plus some seasons you can't quiet name) style Scottish weather to the friends and students here. Recently Barcelona has decided to provide me with some fantastic visual aids, the weather here has been interesting to say the least. With the rain comes the loon-icy, pavements becomes greasy play grounds for the breaking of bones, umbrellas get put up to eye poking height at the slightest dribble from the sky, and the roads become a cacophony horns, screeching brakes and rush hour goes from 60 to 180 minutes. Some of the verbal exchanges wouldn't be out of place in a kiddie’s play park. All politeness goes out the window, flippen ‘Eck I sound like my Grandmother.

I am the first to admit that my knowledge of naughty words is a little extensive and most were probably picked up in a sporting environment. We have all done it, stubbed our toe on the edge of the bed, stood on a piece of Lego, jammed a finger in a door and let it out a mighty sshhhh….UGAR and ffff……UDGE! Pain and frustration are not famous for bringing out the best in you and nothing seems to show that better than a game of football. But is this something to beam at with pride or should tongues be held and tantrums controlled? Has football become over dramatic?

Recently I have found myself watching the “big” teams less and less. Instead of twice or three times a week tuning into a Barcelona FC game I have only been taking in a few midweek games when friends get together. This partly is due to the usual reason, time, work, and other activities coming up, but honestly the desire to watch “top class” is waning. Now don't get me wrong I still love watching the beautiful game and that is it, I wanna watch watch football not a demonstration of an amateur dramatics guide to pratfalls. The slightest whiff of a free kick and certain stars go down no questions asked, well maybe some on their “acting” abilities. They contort their faces into grimaces of pain, roll around like they have firecracker jammed in their belly button! This performance will continue until they get what they want,a free kick or the opposition player receives a card for a non existent foul or dissent. Just what small clubs need more players side lined for games that could prove essential to their club’s season. But should players stop the dramatics or curb the cussing? Understandably frustrations get to some and tempers flare. Maybe we would all go down a little easy in the box to get a match winning penalty. But am also pretty sure we would all struggle to bite our tongues if we thought we had been cheated. Footballers and fans ain't know for their Ps and Qs!

But would a change in etiquette help the game? Call me old fashioned but I think it would! However politeness and respect is a two way affair and authoritative bodies have to take on some responsibility. The rugby World Cup 2015 final was a spectacular event. Two incredible teams playing surrounded by fans, celebrities and plenty of Pyro technics, all smoothly run by the referee and his indispensable band of assistants.

Ok, ok, ok I hear the cries of “you can't compare rugby to football, they have TV refs, we need tv technology” etc and I agree football needs to move with the times to stop the pointless sendings off and the undeserved penalties. However how about a simple change in the manners with the game? (Now I really sound like my grand mother.)

The referees working with the teams to make the game run safe, smoothly and with a degree of entertainment could make a big difference. Less cards, more fluidity to the match and players available. Team captains taking responsibility on the pitch to work with players to prevent over acting and explosive responses. Having the man with the arm band being the main voice between players and refs. Maybe not a yellow as the only punishment for dissent but 10 minutes on the naughty step watching your team struggle without you, 3 trips to the step and your out! Referees learning from errors, being given a voice to explain decision, support when they make mistakes. If a player goes down a the slightest contact and rolls all over the place in apparent agony and the opposition is swearing in his ear about how he is being framed muck ups will occur, patience will be lost. Technology is an answer but shouldn't we try the more mature approach first?

 

Carol Alison Smith is a Raith Rovers supporter who left Kirkcaldy to live and work in Barcelona. For the past few years she has been writing a blog "Paella & Bovril" that has regularly featured in the Raith Rovers matchday programme www.paellaandbovril.blogspot.com.es/  Carol also participates in Triathlons and Open Water Swims to raise money and awareness for Raith Rovers Supporters Trust and can be followed on Twitter at @escocesacarol 

GPFOOTBALL.com stock large quantities of Raith Rovers matchday programmes featuring Paella & Bovril articles

 

 

 

 

 

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