Archive for July, 2011

The 2011 Celtic Quick News Open turned out to be a great day – the best of the seven events held so far, according to many regular attenders. Here is a flavour of the day as it unfolded. And there is a link to all 100 or so photographs is the series at the end of this article.

The day started, of course, at the first tee. It doesn’t look to difficult in the picture, but the green is a long way down and it slopes too.


It’s a fair old walk to get around the course, but there are some beautiful views along the way.

Still, two well known CQNers were waiting on the eleventh tee with some liquid refreshments.

There are quite a few bunkers around the Aberdour greens, and it takes a good shot to get the ball onto the putting surface.

Finally, the 18th green and the last putts of the day.

The clubhouse was the scene for the evening event, which started with the guest speakers. First was Paul Brennan:

Second up was Paul Miller:

And then former Celtic captain Tom Boyd:

The prize giving saw a new champion pick up the trophy.

And the Celticlover Cup, the team award, was presented for the first time.

The night ended with a fine set from Frank Hagan – with a bit of help from a guest vocalist.

I hope you enjoyed this quick trip through the day’s events. To get the full story, click on the links below, which will take you to many more pictures of a great day out.

I’ve split them into two sets:

Daytime: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordon_j/sets/72157627192394925/

Night time: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gordon_j/sets/72157627316675010/

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Sunshine On Aberdour

Driving through to Aberdour yesterday morning the weather was cloudy. Still, no rain was forecast, which was good. But by the time the Celtic Quick News Golf Open got underway at 12:30 it was becoming sunny, and it eventually turned into a glorious summer afternoon.

It was fitting that the weather played its part in making this seventh annual golf event a wonderful day’s entertainment. The organising committee pulled out all the stops and gave us another day to remember. It really was the CQN event of the year.

The golfers enjoyed playing on a course that was in excellent condition and looking absolutely beautiful. Hopefully my photographs, to which I’ll post a link tomorrow, will do the setting justice. I’m told the greens were very tricky though.

Once the opening groups got underway I spent much of the day around the 10th green and 11th tee, which was a refreshment point for the golfers, with a few cases of beer available to rehydrate them. And a few looked like they needed it after ten holes of golf in the sun.

By the late afternoon everyone had finished their rounds, leaving time for a drink and a catch up. Non golfers arrived for the evening festivities, giving a crowd of over 70 that included many of the best known CQN names. The meal was excellent. Aberdour Golf Club always does CQN proud and this year was no exception.

After the meal it was time for the speeches. First up was Paul Brennan, or Paul67 to CQNers, looking forward to the new season with cautious optimism. Former club captain Tom Boyd told us of the seven Celtic managers he had played under, from Brady to O’Neill, with both candour and humour. And former Carling exec Paul Miller spoke of his dealings with Rangers during the time they sponsored both Celtic and Rangers, and the difficulties he faced at Ibrox as a Celtic man.

All three speakers were excellent and they set the evening up nicely. Johnnybhoy read out the scores and awarded the special prizes before the cup was awarded to overall winner BlantyreKev, who beat a strong field that included at least two former champions.

There were many special prizes and it was interesting to note that the two golfers who finished bottom of the Stableford scores won a closest to the pin and a longest drive competition.

And the new team trophy was awarded to the best performing group. This special prize is named in memory of Celticlover (Martin Rigby), who was such a huge part of five golf days.

After the auctions, raffles and tidying up of the organisational issues, Frank Hagan played fine a set of Irish folk and Celtic songs that had everyone joining in. It was a fine way to end the night – and not a songs debate in sight.

This was the seventh CQN Open and quite possibly the best yet. The committee deserve the thanks of everyone who attended for their efforts. A good day was had by all, and I’m sure they will be announcing that a tidy sum was raised for some very good causes too.

Quite how they are going to top that for the eighth event I don’t know. But I plan to be there to find out.

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Tomorrow at 12:30, three golfers will stand on the tee of the fearsome first hole at Aberdour Golf Course. Looking down towards a green that edges into the sea, they will contemplate the opening tee shots of the 2011 Celtic Quick News Open.

It may be a few weeks later than usual, but the long wait for one of the highlights of the CQN year is almost over. A total of 39 golfers will battle with the picturesque course and with each other for the honour of becoming the champion.

But whether any will manage to equal Johnnybhoy’s feat of going out in 32 remains to be seen.

Once the final putt is holed on the 18th green, which probably won’t be until around 6pm, attention will turn to the club house. After what is bound to be a good meal, the golfers and many other evening guests will be entertained with the prize giving ceremony and the guest speakers.

We know the identity of two of them: CQN’s own Paul67 and former Celtic captain Tom Boyd. But the identity of the third speaker is being kept quiet by the Organising Committee, who all do such a great job in pulling the event together. We are only told that he will be hysterical.

There will, of course, be raffles, auctions and other fundraising activities taking place. The proud Celtic history demands that money is raised for those who need assistance. And there will be some late night live entertainment from Frank O’Hagan too.

I don’t play golf, but this event has been in my diary for a long time. I will be there before a ball is hit in anger, camera in hand, ready to record the action. The CQN Open is always a tremendous event, held in a lovely part of the country and it provides an opportunity to meet up with many friends, old and new.

I’ll post a report on the day’s events tomorrow – and also a link to my photographs.

It’s going to be another great day.

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Emily Barrass was jailed for two years after using her position as a call centre adviser at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) office in Dundee to make fraudulent claims.

Barrass, from Carnoustie in Angus, moved to Arbroath and bought a house from Susan Lindsay, who was emigrating to the USA. At the time she had a live claim for tax credits which were being paid into her bank account.

The enterprising Barrass kept the claim open, then amended Miss Lindsay’s file to qualify her for a higher rate of child tax credit. And then she changed the bank account details associated with the claim so that the money was paid into a different account, which she controlled. It was easy for her to update files to show that Lindsay had actually requested the changes.

And then she got greedy. Over the next three years, she updated the account to claim that Miss Lindsay had informed her of two more children being born, increasing the payment amounts.

And  Barrass also accessed the tax credit account of the former partner of a relative and amended the details to make payments into an account in the name of Susan Lindsay. Two more fictional children were also added to this claim.

An investigation was finally established when suspicions were raised by the fact that Barrass had made so many changes to Lindsay’s file.

Fiscal depute Vicki Bell told Dundee Sherriff Court that the total amount fraudulently claimed by Emily Barrass totalled £92,589.

Barrass pleaded guilty to two charges of repeatedly accessing and amending tax credit claims in the name of the two women between 2005 and 2009. Her defence lawyer, Joseph Myles, told the court that the fraud had started because Barrass was struggling with household bills.

Sheriff Alistair Duff was not impressed. “You obtained a total of more than £90,000 as a result of your participation in these crimes and that puts this case in a situation where only a custodial sentence is appropriate. There are not significant mitigating circumstances in my view,” he told her, issuing a sentence of two years in jail.

What is most alarming about this case is that Barrass was able to receive payments for five years before anyone in HMRC cottoned on to her fraud.


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Another big Cameron idea has been unveiled. Yes, the government wants to know how happy we all are. And they say that the impact on our happiness of future policies will be assessed before they are implemented.

Respondents to the Integrated Household survey have been asked “”how satisfied are you with your life nowadays, how happy did you feel yesterday, how anxious did you feel yesterday and to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?”

These questions are ranked on a 1 to 10 basis and when statisticians have 200,000 responses they will go away and analyse the answers, publishing their results next July. Well, that should make them happy anyway.

According to Jill Mathieson, Head of the Office for National Statistics (ONS), extensive consultation has been carried out. And after 10 months, she said that the ONS had “highlighted that the things that matter the most are our health, relationships, work and the environment.”

It took them ten months to find that out?

Gus O’Donnell, the cabinet secretary, said he would be publishing a discussion paper on how to revise the civil service “green book”, which issues guidance to mandarins on how ministerial proposals should be appraised, to add a “social cost/ benefit analysis”.

He also said he had been surprised by research showing the beneficial effect of “altruism” on people giving their time to volunteer and was looking at releasing civil servants to help in charities on a pro bono basis.

That would be the charities that are facing spending cuts, with many reducing services or being closed down entirely? All of which has made many people unhappy, Mr O’Donnell.

In another case of stating the obvious, Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at the University of Warwick, said recent research from Californian academics had confirmed that when people found out they were being paid “below average” for their work, they “instantly registered a lower job satisfaction and look for jobs elsewhere.”

Is anyone surprised by that revelation?

So how happy do the government’s current policies make you? And what new policies should they bring in to improve your quality of life?

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Two composed finished from Stokes and Ki gave Celtic a deserved victory that also saw a Hooper penalty turned onto the post during a dominant second half performance.

It’s always interesting to see the team line up for opening match, and there was perhaps only one surprise in Neil Lennon’s first selection of the season.

Lukas Zaluska was expected to be in goal as moves to bring in another keeper continue. Full backs Mark Wilson and Emilio Izaguerre were first choice at the end of last season and new signing Kelvin Wilson made his debut. Glen Loovens got the nod beside him, instead of Daniel Majstorovic, which was probably more about fitness than form.

The rest of the side was as expected. Scott Brown’s suspension meant that Ledley, Kayal, Ki and Commons made up a strong midfield, while Hooper and Stokes were given the opportunity to recreate their partnership.

New signings Adam Matthews and Victor Wanyama had to settle for a seat on the bench, which also had plenty of attacking options, with Samaras, Maloney and Forrest all available. Keepr Cervi and Mulgrew made up the seven strong subs.

The early exchanges were scrappy, with neither side able to dominate a crowded midfield. Then on 13 minutes Commons was tripped in a wide position as he went past two defenders. The Hibs keeper failed to deal with the in swinging free kick and the ball fell to Anthony Stokes who had a tight angle at the back post. But he showed great composure to curl the ball into the roof of the net for the opening goal.

The pace dropped in the Easter Road heat (yes, really) and there was little goalmouth action in the remainder of the first half. Mark Wilson was put through on goal on 21 minutes but an incorrect offside flag stopped play before he put the ball into the net.

Neil Lennon will have been pleased to go in 1 – 0 up at half time, but would be asking for more from his players in the second half. More composure in midfield was needed to provide better service to the front two.

The second half saw more passing football and Celtic gradually upped the pace, dominating play and coming close several times. Then on 61 minutes the ball fell to Ki 22 years out and his precise low strike found the corner of the net to put Celtic two goals ahead.

Celtic continued to pour forward and Izaguirre burst into the box after a fine passing movement only to be brought down as he turned inside towards goal. It was a definite penalty, but Gary Hooper missed the resulting spot kick. His low strike was turned onto the post by a keeper who was at least two yards off his line.

James Forrest looked lively after replacing Kris Commons on the Celtic right after a hour and his pace caused a tiring Hibs defence trouble. Late substitutions saw the Celtic front two replaced by Samaras and Maloney and they played their part as Celtic controlled the last part of the game.

It was a decent second half performance from Celtic and a comfortable victory in the end. Neil Lennon will have been pleased by a clean sheet and three points from the opening game of the season, knowing that there is far more to come from his side.

Ki was my man of the match. His composure and passing allowed him to dominate in midfield, ably assisted by the always excellent Biram Kayal. Kelvin Wilson can be well pleased with his debut performance too.

So Celtic begin the league campaign with a good victory and a two point gain over their title rivals. Can’t ask for much more than that on the opening weekend of the season.

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The Season Ahead

July may not yet be out, but the Scottish Premier League is with us once again. So what can we expect from this new season?

Firstly we will see a rather chaotic opening month. With Celtic and Rangers committed to friendlies before the early start to the campaign was announced, both will postpone an early league match. Add in European qualifiers and an early Scotland friendly and you have a crowded schedule ahead.

There will be considerable attention on matters off the field this year. The SFA’s new disciplinary procedures will be in place and we hope for a fairer and more transparent application of the sometimes byzantine rules.

A new law may well come into force during the season outlawing certain types of songs. The behaviour of fans will be something that will receive considerable media attention and even at friendly matches there have already been reports of sectarian behaviour from Rangers fans in Stirling and Blackpool.

On the field, referees will be under scrutiny too. After events that included their supervisor’s dismissal, the admission that one ref lied to a club manager and an ill judged strike, they will be hoping to avoid so much bad publicity this year. Referees somehow won themselves a pay rise on the back of this chaos!

The fight for the championship will surely be a two horse race once again. Both Celtic and Rangers are still in the process of conducting transfer business which makes it difficult to compare the two squads.

But perhaps the biggest factor will be the two managers. Neil Lennon is back at the helm at Celtic, despite the disgusting sectarian attempts to drive him from Scottish football. He will have learned a great deal from his first season in charge and has shown he can play good football with a young and talented squad that will also have benefited from a year together.

Ally McCoist on the other hand is a complete managerial novice, unless you count his time as a captain on Question of Sport, which one newspaper managed to cite this week. The loss of Walter Smith, who got more than he really should have been able to from a threadbare squad last season, will be huge. Even in cup games where McCoist was nominally in charge, Smith appeared beside him in the dug out when tactical changes were needed. He won’t have that assistance any more.

It won’t surprise too many people to know that I’m going with the favourites Celtic to win back the title this season. Celtic are the better footballing side, there’s no argument there. But they need to show that they can win when not playing to their best, which is often cited as the mark of champions.

Last season Celtic took more points from Glasgow derbies than their bitter rivals. The league was lost on dropped points to lesser teams. That is what Celtic must avoid.

For those who like a bet, the SPL top scorer is a favourite. Gary Hooper and Nikica Jelavic will both hope to win the crown after scoring goals in injury hit first seasons with their clubs. But if you like a gamble, Kris Commons may be worth an investment at 14/1 or so – not bad odds for a man who bagged 11 in 14 games last season after joining Celtic in January.

What can the rest of the SPL sides expect from the new season?

Hearts look likely to be the best of the rest once more. They should have enough quality to beat their rivals more often than not and should pip Dundee United to third spot. My tips for the others in the top six come the ridiculous split are Motherwell and Inverness, who have improved considerably under Terry Butcher.

In the bottom half, Aberdeen, Hibs, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone should be strong enough to stay clear of the relegation battle. That leaves St Mirren and new boys Dunfermline to fight it out for the right to remain in the top league, and I think that St Mirren will be the ones to prevail.

So, here’s the order I expect the teams to finish in. Come back in May and see how I did!

Celtic, Rangers, Hearts, Dundee United, Motherwell, Inverness, Aberdeen, Hibs, Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, St Mirren, Dunfermline.

It’s going to be a long season. But at least the football is back.

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Cameron Under Pressure

The phone hacking scandal refuses to go away, much as the Prime Minister would like it to. But there are unresolved issues that mean David Cameron hasn’t yet managed to move the political agenda on.

Cameron has been at pains to portray his government as the first one to deal with the issue, and to put great stock in the Leveson Inquiry. But it should be remembered that a judicial inquiry was only set up after pressure from the opposition, most notably Ed Miliband, whose stock has risen over the past month.

The Prime Minister has also claimed that the public was bored with the whole subject and wanted politicians to concentrate on other important issues. It was a nice try, but had the tone of a typical politician’s response to a difficult question, which is to change the subject and answer a different question.

On Wednesday in the House of Commons, Cameron came as close as he ever has to admitting an error of judgement in his appointment of Andy Coulson as his Communications Director. Now it’s one thing to say that in hindsight his appointment looks a bad one. But what Cameron has not yet explained is why he ignored the advice he was given from several sources, all of whom told him not to go ahead.

Another astonishing fact about Coulson’s appointment that has come to light is that he was not given a full “developed vetting”, an enhanced security clearance, for the post, only receiving a reduced security clearance. This is highly unusual for a man working closely with the Prime Minister every day. Was Coulson really excluded from meetings on sensitive subjects because he was not cleared to see sensitive materials? How could he do his job in that case?

And on Wednesday we were told by the Assistant Commissioner of the Met, John Yates, that he had met Coulson to discuss, among other issues, counter-terrorism. How could this happen if Coulson was not cleared to the highest level?

Craig Oliver, a former BBC executive who replaced Coulson when he finally resigned, is currently undergoing developed vetting and Gabby Bertin, Cameron’s deputy press secretary, is also undergoing the full checks.

So why did Coulson escape the rigorous security vetting process that was clearly the norm for his post? Was there a fear of what might have been discovered?

You can be sure that Miliband will continue to raise questions about the Prime Minister’s poor judgement, which is the key to the Coulson issue. And the same issue is at the heart of questions about discussions Cameron had with Murdoch employees over the BskyB takeover.

Legally, the issue was a matter for a single Government Minister acting in a quasi-judicial role. Initially it was the remit of Business Secretary Vince Cable, but after he was reported making anti Murdoch remarks the matter was passed to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Cameron told MPs that he had no “inappropriate” conversations with News Corp employees. That was a carefully worded answer, and can only be interpreted to mean that conversations he feels were appropriate did take place. Yet he has not explained what the nature of those discussions might have been.

Hunt meanwhile has said that, “the discussions the prime minister had on the BSkyB deal were irrelevant”. But again that simply confirms that conversations took place. And it also raises the question of how Hunt can know details of the Prime Minister’s discussions when Cameron says he has never discussed the bid with Hunt.

Will the Prime Minister ever explain exactly what was said about the takeover bid during his many meetings with Murdoch employees? Perhaps we will never know – which means the suspicion of inappropriateness will remain.

David Cameron will continue to try to move the debate on. But questions about the judgement of a Prime Minister are serous ones and he has to be pushed give full and frank answers on these issues. And Ed Miliband and his team must carry on pressing him to do so.


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There was a big build up to the appearances of the two Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks before a committee of MPs, but it was ultimately an unsatisfying experience for those seeking the truth about their knowledge of phone hacking.

The Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Committee first questioned Rupert and James Murdoch together. The day started with the Murdochs asking to make a statement but being told they had to answer questions instead. That was perhaps the high point.

They made some of the right noises about humility and apology. But crucially there was no acceptance of any responsibility at all.

Rupert said clearly that he had been let down by those he trusted. The fact that he appointed them, paid them and relied on their advice seemed to have escaped the senior Murdoch. He also blamed other media outlets for whipping up hysteria – surely the ultimate pot and kettle moment.

He answered many questions slowly, giving the impression of an aging mind having trouble remembering names and dates, but throughout it you got the feeling that there was great calculation behind his responses.

Anyone who has worked for Rupert Murdoch has talked about his grasp of detail, his interest in every part of his global business empire, however small. So the notion of a remote Chief Executive who was happy to delegate and leave his trusted lieutenants to their own devices with little or no scrutiny strained credibility.

James seemed more confident, but just as evasive. He had answers for everything. Not direct answers, of course, not revelations or acceptance of responsibility. But he seemed to be able to deal with the generally feeble and ineffective questioning from the MPs without too much trouble.

Only Tom Watson and Paul Farrelly seemed to have the ability to ask probing questions, while others seemed cowed in the presence of the Murdochs and made stumbling speeches or got side tracked into issues such as the approval of petty cash expenditure. It may have been a question and answer session, but this was no interrogation.

Two hours into the hearing there was a moment of high farce as a man from the audience threw a foam pie at Rupert Murdoch and proceedings were briefly suspended. It was perhaps the only direct hit of the meeting.

Rebekah Brooks followed her former bosses and was keen to concentrate on how swiftly the Murdoch empire had responded when made aware of the various nefarious actions taken in its name, none of which she sanctioned or was even aware of, you understand. Again we had a key executive claiming to be in the dark about the actions of her staff.

Brooks is currently on bail as she was arrested on Sunday after allegations of conspiring to intercept communications and corruption, which she denies. This gave her a get out for several questions, as of course she wouldn’t want to compromise a police inquiry, would she?

So at the end of the sessions we know little new. There is still a great deal about the dark side of the News International newspapers that is not yet in the public domain, and we may need to wait for the public and police inquiries to find out more. And that might take years rather than months.

Attention turns to the floor of the House of Commons today as the Prime Minister will be put under pressure to explain his relationship with Andy Coulson, among other things, in a full scale debate. Ed Miliband has been on top form in recent times and will hope to land a few blows this afternoon.

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With the first competitive game of the new season now just five days away, it’s time for a look at the squad of players Neil Lennon will have at his disposal.

The transfer window is still open, and there may be another couple of ins and perhaps several outs before business is over. So this isn’t a final assessment, but rather a snapshot as the league season begins.

The official club website lists over 30 first team players, with our three latest signings still to be added. But only two of the squad are goalkeepers. Lukasz Zaluska is the senior man, but is no more than a good back up in my view. Dominic Cervi is untried and really needs to go out on loan to get some first team football.

It may be that Croatian Stipe Pletikosa is signed following his trial/ fitness assessment and he would fit the bill nicely. A vastly experienced international player, he has had fitness worries but if he can get back to anything like his best he would be a fine addition. Last year’s loan ‘keeper Fraser Forster remains another possibility.

But whatever else might happen, a new number one is a necessity.

We look well covered in the full back areas. Player of the year Emilio Izaguirre will return on the left, backed up by Charlie Mulgrew. At right back Cha Du Ri has returned from injury and will face a challenge from both Mark Wilson and new bhoy Adam Matthews for a first team spot.

Centre back has been an area of weakness for a while now, and long time Lennon target Kelvin Wilson has been brought in to strengthen the team. He is short of match fitness but will be expected to bring pace to the back line. Daniel Majstorovic will probably be his partner in the first choice line up.

With cover coming from Glen Loovens, Thomas Rogne and Charlie Mulgrew, as well as returning loanees O’Dea, Hooiveld and Thomson, it is likely that a couple of centre backs will be moved out, possibly on further loan deals. And there is talk of turning newly signed 20 year old Kenyan defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama into a centre half too.

In central midfield, Beram Kayal, Joe Ledley and Ki Sung Yueng are the potential starters. Club captain Scoot Brown seems to be looked on more as a right sided midfielder, and this is where his strongest performances have come, but he can play centrally too.

There are plenty of other options in the wide areas with Kris Commons offering a consistent goalscoring threat. James Forrest, Paddy McCourt and fit again (for how long?) Shaun Maloney are the other possibilities.

The Czech twins Filip and Patrik Twardzik along with Richie Towell have all been added to the first team squad and may see some action from the bench. Naill McGinn is out on loan for the season while the future of Efrain Juarez is unclear.

Up front, Gary Hooper is the main man. He will be expected to improve on a return of 22 goals from a debut season curtailed by injury. Anthony Stokes and Georgios Samaras will fight it out for the other place in the team with Daryl Murphy as back up. Morten Rasmussen is something of a forgotten man and may not be around much longer.

I would like to see a striker of quality added to the squad, and various players have been looked at over the summer, but without a signing to date. The way this Celtic side plays, chances are created and another front man could make all the difference.

So a goalkeeper and a striker remain the priorities, while a trimming of the squad players is also required.
With a manager who will have learned a great deal from his rookie season and a group of players with a good spirit after the trails and tribulations of last year, there is reason for optimism. And without the major overhaul of the squad that took place in the last close season there is some consistency too.

This squad is now very much Neil Lennon’s. With a couple more signings it will provide optimism among fans as another season and another championship campaign kick off.

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