Monday, 5 December 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Woman Dies After Falling From Newcastle University Building

Click here to read my article on the woman who sadly fell to her death from a Newcastle University building. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Above: The open window where the woman appears to have fallen from.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hero Is Remembered

Click here to read my article on James Graham, who was killed when LCT 427 collided with HMS Rodney on D-Day. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Vaccines In Full Swing Give The Crowd A Shot In The Arm

Click here to read my review of The Vaccines live at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. It was published in The Journal.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Getting Switched On For Christmas

Click here for my article on the big Christmas lights switch-on in Eldon Square, Newcastle. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Lights Go Up On Shopping Centre's Christmas Display

Click here for my article on the big Christmas lights switch-on in Eldon Square, Newcastle. It was published in the The Journal.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Staff Delight At Rock Sale To Virgin

Click here for my interview with Northern Rock worker, David Mason, who spoke of his delight at the sale of the company to Virgin Money. It was published in The Journal.

Sir Richard Will Turn The Rock Around, Workers Say

Click here to read my article on the sale of Northern Rock to Virgin Money. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mum Too Ashamed To Eat Out Sheds 7st

Click here to read my article on a Kenton mother who lost seven stone in under a year. It was published in the Sunday Sun.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto [Review]

Click here to read my review of Coldplay's latest album, Mylo Xyloto. It was published in The Journal.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

100 Years Young

Click here to read my article on Forest Hall Primary School's centenary celebrations. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Jim, 90, Proves He's Still A Real Live Wire

Click here to read my article on a 90-year-old man who zip-wired across the River Tyne yesterday. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

The Subways - Money & Celebrity [Review]

Click here to read my review of Money & Celebrity, the new Subways album. It was published in The Journal.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Girl, 17, Trapped Under Council Van

Click here to read my article on a Gosforth High School pupil being trapped under a van on her way to school. It was published in the Evening Chronicle.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Emotional Stories Prove Inspiration For So Many

Click here to read my second article on the 2011 Great North Run. It was published in The Journal.

Some Were Fast & Some Were Famous, But All Did Their Best

Click here to read my first article on the 2011 Great North Run. It was published in The Journal.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Terrace Travels 2011-12 #4

Click here or read below for my Terrace Travels report of the recent fixture between Raith Rovers and Greenock Morton. It was published on The Terrace

Raith Rovers 1 v 1 Greenock Morton

Raith Rovers found themselves embroiled in a bitter title challenge with neighbours Dunfermline Athletic last season, but after sizeable budget cuts in the summer little is expected of the Kirkcaldy side this campaign. However, Rovers have begun the season with a bang, collecting six points from two games placing them second in the table. As Greenock Morton came to town Will Lyon headed to Stark’s Park to see if Raith are the real McCoy.


Stark’s Park is an odd football ground. It has an old fashioned L-shaped main stand, complemented by a disused and “unsafe” coo shed on the other side, while two large modern stands sit behind the goals. It also lies on what some might say the aptly named, Pratt Street. However, for the usual sixteen hundred home fans, they could not imagine being anywhere else come three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon.

Once seated in the South Stand behind the goals, the first thing you notice is how far away the travelling support are situated. The three or four hundred Morton fans soak up the sun 120 yards away in the North Stand which makes it quite tricky to generate any sort of atmosphere.

Above the disused coo shed (otherwise known as the Railway Stand) is the Second Division flag still proudly fluttering in the breezy seaside air, two years on from its unfurling.

Stark’s Park has a different feel to it from last year and indeed that Second Division championship season. There is less of a buzz around the ground, despite the club's similarly lofty position to just four months ago. This is probably due to a sharp dose of realism amongst the Rovers faithful. Fifteen players left the club in the summer due to a lack of money spinning local derbies against Dunfermline and now, a drop in season ticket sales.

On Raith's bench today are five players with an average age of nineteen, none of which have SPL experience and manager John McGlynn unable to even find one striker to bring along. Go back in time twelve months and you would find a bench with an average age of twenty-four, three of which possessed a total of 135 SPL appearances between them. Therefore it is easy to see why there is a relative hush over Starks Park these days, Raith fans are lacking faith with a squad whose depth and experience has been completed mutilated.

The match itself starts of in a decent fashion. Despite the slightly long grass (probably due to the incessant rain the nation has had to suffer in recent weeks) both teams try to play the ball on the deck, although it must be said the pace of the game is frighteningly pedestrian compared to what was witnessed of Spurs at Tynecastle on Thursday.

Morton decide they are going to try and catch out Raith striker John Baird, a player who likes to play off the shoulder of defenders and as a result Rovers are caught offside an incredible five times in the first fifteen minutes.

Another fifteen minutes later, Baird keeps himself in an onside position and threads a lovely little ball through to St Johnstone loanee Stephen Reynolds who proceeds to round the lanky goalkeeper that is Colin Stewart and rolls the ball into the empty net.

Rovers begin to gain an extra air of confidence after the goal but somehow find themselves back all square eight minutes later when a Morton freekick is knocked on by the outstanding Michael Tidser, and Paul Di Giacomo, who could barely score for love nor money at Ross County, smashes home his sixth goal of the season.

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, sitting in the Rovers Directors Box, is obviously very upset that Morton have scored against his beloved team, so he scurries off for a pie with his bodyguard before the half time whistle.

The second half is a little more frustrating than the first, with both teams squandering chances in the final third of the pitch.

What is enjoyable however, is the performances of Baird and Tidser. Baird, frustrated by a lack of service in the Rovers midfield continually drops deep, receiving the ball, spraying it wide, running into the box and trying to get himself on the end of crosses. Tidser on the other hand is spraying balls all across the pitch to his Morton team mates, with his fair share of quick, short passes too, while cracking spectacular twenty-five yard shots at goal when given the appropriate space.

Although most attacks are going through both players it would be unfair to label both Raith and Morton as “one man teams” but there can be little doubt that the loss of these players would have fairly catastrophic consequences for both sides respectively. No doubt McGlynn and Morton boss Allan Moore would have loved to lock both players in a safe house straight after the game to keep any potential buyers away and continue to do so until the transfer window shuts later this month.

Back to the game, Morton striker Peter McDonald, who has been trying to con referee Charlie Richmond into giving him a free-kick all game, threw himself to the ground for what is now a third time but Richmond once again waves play on. Then McGlynn, with no other attacking options replaces striker Stephen Reynolds with left winger Scott McBride who looks completely lost up front.

Meanwhile at the other end of the park, six stewards make their way to the bottom of the North Stand to stop any mental Morton fans running onto the pitch to celebrate a winning goal. To be honest, they might as well have gone home early as a Darren McGeough powerdriver aside, a goal was never on the cards.

It is hard to tell whether either of these two sides are able to mount some sort of title challenge, as Baird and Tidser aside, there were no star performers aside from defenders. In truth, it could be a number of months before some teams begin to break away from the pack and show title credentials. Most teams in the First Division have solid defences and with a general lack of talent in attacking positions it would be sensible to predict a side with the least injuries and suspensions to have a chance of glory.

On another note, Gordon Brown never returned to his seat, the part time fan that he is. Boooo!

written by Will Lyon

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hearts 0 v 5 Spurs - The Breakdown

Click here or read below for my article on the five goal thrashing Tottenham Hotspur dished out on Heart of Midlothian last night. It was published on The Away End.

More Than Money To Blame For Hearts Big Loss To Tottenham

Jermain Defoe puts Spurs 2-0 up at Tynecastle
Tynecastle was the scene of a real eye opener for Scottish football on Thursday evening. The third force in the country were ripped to shreds by last season's 5th placed Premier League opposition. Tottenham were always expected to overcome Hearts, but the fixture was supposed to, at Tynecastle anyway, be a slightly closer contest.

Fans and pundits alike suggested that 15,000 roaring Hearts fans would intimidate the Spurs players and, if an early goal was scored by the Edinburgh side, anything was possible. These glorious dreams were shattered just five minutes into the match when World Cup runner-up Rafael van der Vaart opened the scoring for the visitors. Clearly, there was actually a complete lack of fear or intimidation amongst the Tottenham players as they began to carve open the static Hearts defence with ease.

To be frank, the notion that Spurs would be intimidated by the atmosphere at Tynecastle is quite ridiculous. After all, it was only ten months ago that Tottenham, with their goalkeeper sent off and 4 goals down after 35 minutes, almost staged the comeback of all comebacks against Inter Milan in front of 70,000 people at the San Siro. Spurs ultimately lost 4-3 that night, but they showed no fear.

Back to Thursday evening, the most obvious issue was the gigantic gap in quality between the two sides. This is due to the amount of money each club can afford to pay out. Tottenham's annual wages in 2010 came to £67 million, while the Hearts wage bill was roughly 7 times inferior, at just £9 million. Therefore, the Jambos were never likely to have the quality to match Tottenham for lengthy spells, but certainly, to be two goals down after just 13 minutes suggests that there were other issues for the Edinburgh side.

Paulo Sergio, managing just his 4th game in charge of Hearts admitted his side gave their English opponents “too much respect” in the first half. The “too much respect” line is a common one from managers, but it would be hard to disagree with the notion that Sergio did not set his team out correctly either. Tottenham's talisman, Van der Vaart, appeared to have acres of space on the pitch and it is almost beyond belief that Sergio did not have the audacity to have him man marked, or at least closed down more efficiently. Although Sergio may plead innocence regarding his player's awe and admiration for Spurs, thus resulting in a cumbersome first half performance, he must accept blame for his players trying to play his new “build from the back” philosophy, which is utter lunacy against a vastly superior side like Tottenham.

Sergio may have made some errors, but the fact of the matter is that this was one of the more sizeable mismatches the Europe League play-off draw could have plucked out. However, the quick capitulation of Hearts is without doubt, a disappointment and controversial owner Vladimir Romanov should not escape some blame either. The recently sacked Jim Jeffries knew this group of players far better than most, after all, he signed half of them. No matter how many DVDs, training sessions and matches Sergio had managed to watch of his Hearts side, the knowledge he would have had on each player and the team's strengths and weaknesses would not have been as complete as his predecessor. Romanov may have been correct when defining his dismissal of Jeffries as a consequence of a terrible run of form, but the timing of the decision was sheer madness. If Hearts were able to overcome Paks, which they did, Romanov should have been aware that whoever the Jambos were to play in the next round, they would be up against it. Therefore having a new manager just in through the door for such a difficult match was a big, big mistake. Now, the consequence is a new record of the biggest European defeat for Hearts in their history.

The worrying aspect, is that the Jambos have egg all over their face, yet it's only half time.

written by Will Lyon

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

You Me At Six - 'Loverboy' [Song Review]

Click here or read below to read my review of 'Loverboy', the latest single from You Me At Six. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 10/10

You Me At Six are one of those bands that just keep getting bigger and bigger as each new CD is released. Coming up on October 3, 2011 is Sinners Never Sleep and to keep the drooling fans at bay, 'Loverboy' will be released the week previous.

The band have warned that although there are a few ballads included on Sinners Never Sleep, the music in general has become increasingly heavier. This is more than apparent on 'Loverboy'. A thick guitar riff leads the song out of the speaker, before it is repeated in sinister fashion by Matt Barnes' bass guitar. The quietly spoken Josh Franeschi then brings the track into an explosion of noise for an unforgettable chorus. A quick verse follows before the band delve into the chorus again and keep up the momentum into the bridge. After a brief pause You Me At Six launch into one final hurrah with the infectious chorus.

It is hard to find a fault with the song. The lyrics, considering the bands youth, are actually quite mature and dripping with the right amount of angst, while the music is a near-perfect backdrop. On this type of form Sinners Never Sleep may just be an unprecedented success.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 3:17
Release Date: September 26th, 2011

Check out the song: 'Loverboy'

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers – 'The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie' [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of the latest Red Hot Chili Peppers single, 'The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie'. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 7/10
It may not seem like it, but it is now over five years since Red Hot Chili Peppers released their last album, Stadium Arcadium. Indeed, time flies when you're having fun and it would be hard to suggest that the lack of new material from the Chilis has been sorely missed. Stadium Arcadium was just too much at the time. There were plenty of quality songs, especially the enthralling 'Dani California', but there was over two hours of material to dissect the brilliance from the mediocrity.

Thankfully it looks like the Chilis are going back to the norm with a new album in I'm With You which will contain fourteen songs, half of the total on Stadium Arcadium. The lead single is the lengthily named 'The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie', a song which draws out the funky side of the Chilis once again and despite the sharp verses it is a fairly laid-back effort.

Flea guides the song in with his usual funky, loud, deep bass along with Chad Smith's rhythmic drumming, while former Warpaint guitarist Josh Klinghoffer steps into the departed shoes of John Frusciante by cutting some electric sounds into the mix. Anthony Kiedis brings an edgy vocal to the verse, but lightens up for what is sadly a little bit of a pedestrian chorus, albeit a catchy one. Another verse and chorus is followed by a neat bridge with Klinghoffer showing that he is a very decent replacement for Frusciante.

'The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie' is a good, if not unremarkable song. It lacks a spark or two and it speaks volumes that it is the outro which is the most interesting aspect of the track. It possesses some nice sounds, mostly held together by Flea and Chad's sense of rhythm (especially a cracking inclusion of the cowbell). Overall, the Chilis have made an enjoyable, radio-worthy single, but it is hardly edge-of-the-seat stuff.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 4:42
Release Date: July 18, 2011

Check out the song: 'The Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie'

Monday, 15 August 2011

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - 'Same Mistake' [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of 'Same Mistake' by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 6/10
As the strings slither in, the guitar gently plucks away and the next to non-existent bass hums in the background, it would be natural to wonder if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (CYHSY) have created the dullest song in their catalogue. 'Same Mistake', complete with Alec Ounsworth's whiny vocals, lacks any real character and drive.

However, once past the radio-friendly sound, there is a decent song to be found. The melodies are good, as we have come to expect from CYHSY and the pace is quick and quirky.

Sadly the sparkling production is just so hard to break through and one can only hope CYHSY's third album Hysterical, released on September 12, has a bit more 'cojones' about it.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 03:04
Release Date: August 8, 2011

Check out the song: 'Same Mistake'

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Bombay Bicycle Club – 'Shuffle' [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of 'Shuffle' by Bombay Bicycle Club. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 7/10
Bombay Bicycle Club release their third album A Different Kind Of Fix at the end of this month and have unleashed 'Shuffle' as their lead single. At first, the song tiptoes past without causing a stir, despite the best intentions of a pleasantly melodic piano riff. Jack Steadman's vocals match the catchy tune, but along with the quiet drums and soft bass there is no “wow” factor.

'Shuffle' is probably best described as a song which takes a listen or two to be fully appreciated. It is one-paced which is rarely a good thing in a single, but it works...eventually. There is also, thankfully, a nice breakdown two minutes into the track which perfectly sets up a very enjoyable final sixty seconds of happy-go-lucky music.

It is hard to comprehend why the band chose 'Shuffle' as a leading single, but despite initial reservations, the song is a grower and well worth a spin.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 3:45
Release Date: June 23, 2011

Check out the song: 'Shuffle'

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Third Lanark

Click here or read below for my interview with Simon Weir, who is trying to restore Cathkin Park, the home of Third Lanark Football Club. It was published in the official Raith Rovers matchday magazine.

Coppers & Cold Water - Cathkin Park

In last season's programme, readers may remember I visited Cathkin Park, the home of Third Lanark. The crumbling ruins have since been partially restored by Scottish actor, Simon Weir. Weeds have been ripped out of the terracing, the walls have been painted white and crush barriers sport the traditional red colour of 'The Hi Hi's' once again.

I caught up with Simon last week and amongst an incredible roller-coaster history lesson he outlined his plans for the club, before explaining just why he got himself involved in the project in the first place. “I've always fallen in love with Cathkin. I came across it by accident and I noticed it was falling apart. I was doing family history at the time and found out that my great grandfather played for Third Lanark. He was there for three seasons and scored a début hat-trick against Aberdeen! I bought the Third Lanark company and registered that. I'm the owner now, which I'm delighted with and we've now trademarked the badge.”

Cathkin was also the venue for numerous international football matches, but unknown to many, the ground was used for a variety of sports such as rugby and boxing. “There was rugby internationals there, Scotland and England played in a 1896 fixture and Benny Lynch fought there three times in the thirties as well! Everyone thinks of him at Shawfield.”

With such a rich and successful history I then asked what was the cause for Third Lanark's sudden downfall into liquidation and as is common with the collapse of football clubs, Simon revealed a villain. “The problem was, there was a guy called Bill Hiddleston who was the bad chairman and it's by him that I measure myself every day. He brought his cronies in and basically we just horsed all the money. We paid the players in coppers from the turnstiles, there was no hot water in the showers, even Henry McLeish talks about coming for an East Fife game and they would have to bring their own light bulbs for the dressing room! It's kind of what Clough used to do as Nottingham Forest, cold baths, no electricity, the same thing happened at Third Lanark, twenty years before that! It was getting drawn into the ground. A guy broke his arm and Hiddleston said “for f*ck sake, don't cut the jersey! Nowadays you would go into administration and you would get a chance, you'd get demoted twenty points and you'd be kicked out the league, back then it was straight to bust. There was no chance for reprieve.”

Whilst the history of Cathkin is fascinating, Simon is just as enthusiastic about the plans for the ground's future. “It's the fact that it's all still there, that's the amazing thing. My plan was for Cathkin never to be developed as a modern football stadium. It was always to keep the ground as a public park. People walk their dogs there, you couldn't ever stop that and I wouldn't want to because it's been a public park for fifty years. The place is only still there because it was decreed open space, so it could never be built on. We want to set it up as a Victorian football stadium, so we would rebuild a classic stand and have the little pavilion building, that was the most important thing. It would have modern facilities inside, a multi-sports venue that always preserved a lovely grass football pitch. That's still the big plan. We're going to do it through sensible fund raising. My big thing is Victorian sports in Glasgow.”

Back to the present day, progress has been kick-started. With both Third Lanark and Edinburgh side St. Bernards having been formed by rifle volunteers, the two sides met in Edinburgh last Saturday to fight for the 2011 Rifle Volunteers Cup. Third Lanark were the eventual winners, edging out their east coast rivals 3-2. Simon wants to keep up the hard work and now, 'The Hi Hi's' will face Queens Park next week. “We're playing Queens Park at Lesser Hampden on Wednesday 10th August, which will be an absolute cracker! We want to get a crowd down for that as well. We're going to have an annual Hampden Cup, so we're just trying to find an old trophy just now!”

The Third Lanark story rumbles on and Simon promises there is much more to follow. “Nobody was interested in the place for fifty years and now everyone wants it! Third Lanark have been trying to get this eight years, the amateur team played there for six years and then were forced off to play elsewhere. The Sunday league team that we're starting is just to get guys in thirties playing football again, under the Third Lanark name. We couldn't even get the park booked before. But just wait, there's going to be some big developments soon.”

written by Will Lyon

Friday, 12 August 2011

Fans In Focus...Will Lyon

Click here or read below for my 'Fans In Focus' piece I wrote for The Rover, the official Raith Rovers matchday magazine.

Fans In Focus

I'm Will Lyon and I live in Dalgety Bay. I have just finished a four year history degree at the University of Edinburgh and will be missing the first half of this season to train as a reporter at the Press Association in Newcastle. Away from Starks Park I keep myself involved with other sports, but due to my lack of sporting talent I tend to watch, read and write about it instead!

I was bought a Raith shirt shortly after they won the League Cup in 1994, but didn't take much notice of them at the time as I was only five years old. Although I was living in Jersey at the time, I started following Rovers in 2001 after I was brought to a pre-season friendly while on holiday. My first full season watching Raith was the 2007/8 campaign when they were knocked out of the playoffs by Airdrie United after a few goalkeeping errors in the first leg.

Laurie Ellis is my favourite Rovers player at the moment. He is always dependable, organises the defence well and has been a fine servant to the club in his three spells. The goal he scored against Dundee in the Scottish Cup semi final in 2010 was something special and the celebration, with his arms aloft, was just as brilliant.

Robert Sloan may not have been the fastest player in the world, but I like a player with a cultured left foot and Sloan's was probably the best in the Second Division. He was a calming influence on a team which had a tendency of thumping the ball up the pitch, but my overriding memory of him would be the fantastic set piece ability he had. The freekick he scored against Brechin City in the climax of the 2008/9 season will live long in the memory.

The 2-2 draw against Dunfermline last November was a classic, but the aforementioned 2-1 Scottish Cup semi final win over Dundee is the best game I've ever attended. The feeling of being two goals up after just ten minutes and then walking out of Dens Park, knowing you would be going to Hampden to watch Raith play for a place in a national final against a team other than Queens Park, was just incredible.

A very unoriginal choice, but it has to be Lionel Messi. His goal against Real Madrid in last season's Champions League semi final summed up the qualities he possesses. He has pace, balance, control, composure and a superb first touch.

I am not expecting another title challenge this season, but I would expect Rovers to steer clear of relegation and if I had to pick a position, I would say seventh. I think that Ayr United, Morton and Livingston all have a weaker starting eleven than Raith, but a lot could rest on injuries and suspensions picked up along the season.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Big Talk - Big Talk [Album Review]

Click here or read below for my album review of Big Talk's self-titled album. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 6/10
Big Talk (aka The Killers' Ronnie Vannucci Jr and his pal) released their self-titled debut album in July. Sadly, as expected, the twelve songs on the record fail to reach the heights of the multi-platinum selling Killers and there was not an anthem in sight.

After a positive opener in “Katzenjammer” it does not take long to realise that Big Talk have written a bunch of average songs. The band have tried to restrain the listener from pressing the 'stop' button by adding a few quirky electronic sounds here and there, but despite their best efforts, many a finger will eventually hit that square-symbol button.

Truth is, Big Talk should have just scrapped the filler and shortened the album into an EP. "No Whiskey" is a cracking effort, the sort that could be found on a Seasick Steve album (minus the gruffly voice) while the aforementioned "Katzenjammer" and "Living In Pictures", "A Fine Time To Need Me" and "Big Eye" could have made up the rest, forming a very listenable collection of songs.

Vannucci lacks the distinguished voice, lyrics and creativity to make a full length album on his own and will be welcomed back behind the drums for The Killers.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 43:39
Release Date: July 19, 2011

Track Listing:

01. Katzenjammer
02. Getaways
03. Under Water
04. The Next One Living
05. Replica
06. No Whiskey
07. Girl At Sunrise
08. White Dove
09. Living In Pictures
10. Hunting Season
11. A Fine Time To Need Me
12. Big Eye

Check out the song: 'No Whiskey'

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Raith Defender Is Up For Cups

Click here to read my interview with Raith Rovers defender, Laurie Ellis. It was published in the Fife Free Press.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Money's Too Tight To Mention

Click here or read below for my preview of the Scottish First Division for the 2011/12 season. It was published in the brand new Away End Magazine.

Money's Too Tight To Mention

If the First Division had a highlights package the opening credits would surely feature the song “Money's Too Tight To Mention”. The summer of 2011 has been a miserable period for many players in Scotland's second tier. Falkirk released eighteen players, Raith let fifteen go, twelve left Queen of the South, Morton saw off eleven and Dundee waved goodbye to nine.

However, there is one club bucking the trend. Highland outfit Ross County have been signing players like no tomorrow. Michael Fraser, Colin McMenamin, Grant Munro, Kurtis Byrne, Russell Duncan, Sam Morrow and Rocco Quinn have all made the journey to Dingwall forming what is expected to be a twenty-four man squad. It appears that Ross County are now finally prepared  to use the sizeable sum of money they gained when they reached the Scottish Cup final in 2010. Although it may take time for County's squad to gel they still have to be considered favourites for the title.

At the other end of the table it is expected that Ayr United will occupy tenth place for most, if not all of the season. United will remain a part-time club, despite Gareth Wardlaw joining from SPL side St. Mirren. In fact, they will be the only part-timers in the First Division and should find it harder to compete with the rest of the league.

Livingston are the other new arrivals from down below as they cruised to the Second Division title last season. Although they operate a full-time squad, the West Lothian side have yet to make a summer signing and may struggle to stay away from the dreaded relegation playoff spot.

Hamilton Academical are the other new side to join the First Division. They had a miserable campaign in the SPL last season, winning just one league game at home and scoring a measly twenty-four goals. Indeed, it looks like their goalscoring problems could continue for another season. The only striker Accies have on theirs books is Dougie Imrie. Therefore, it would be surprising if Hamilton were in a promotion battle come May 2012, especially considering the lack of experience they possess. A staggering nine of the twenty-one player squad are under the age of twenty.

The other six teams are much of a muchness. Having lost Gary Harkins, Craig Forsyth and Sean Higgins, Dundee are unlikely to be as strong as last season although they should be aiming for a top half finish.

As mentioned above, Raith Rovers made big summer cuts which included first team regulars Mark Campbell, Stephen Simmons and Gregory Tade. Therefore the Kirkcaldy side may struggle to go beyond mid-table this time around.

Greenock Morton have brought in a SPL strikeforce of Peter MacDonald and Andy Jackson along with four other players with similar experience and the Inverclyde club should be aiming for a promotion challenge. The loss of talisman Allan Jenkins however, will have been a significant blow for Allan Moore's men.

Falkirk's squad is still looking quite depleted despite the additions of Darren Dods and Bolton loanee Rhys Bennett. Important players such as Mark Stewart, Mark Twaddle and Robert Olejnik have left the Bairns recently and despite the departures, manager Steven Pressley is not sure if he can afford to bring in many more players to replace them.

Partick Thistle are in a transitional phase at the moment and should not be expected to be far above mid-table. They lost left back Paddy Boyle to SPL new boys Dunfermline Athletic, but have a decent squad who will be looking to make an impression on manager Jackie McNamara.

It is hard to predict how Queen of the South's season will transpire because the Doonhamers are still some way from having their squad completed. However, signings such as Simmons, Campbell and Kevin Smith are evidence of the club making a statement of intent to stay in the Division, despite their well known financial issues.

Ross County and Ayr United should, on paper, occupy first and tenth place, but depending on luck, injuries and tactical ingenuity the rest could almost be scattered in any of the remaining eight positions. The First Division has just become an even tighter league, who would have thought?

written by Will Lyon

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Horrors - Skying [Album Review]

Click here or read below for my album review of Skying by The Horrors. It was published at Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 8/10
Skying is the third album from British band, The Horrors. The slightly obscure post punk fivesome have never endured success like they have with Skying as it rocketed to number five in the UK charts, twenty places higher than previous effort Primary Colours. Is their success justified? Definitely, yes.

The consistent quality possessed on Skying is quite remarkable. The opening two tracks, although a little slow, set the scene perfectly for the band to step up a gear and bash out four irresistible efforts, with 'I Can See Through You' a particular highlight.

The band are pretty much spot on when it comes to the music, although the synthesizers can be overbearing at times. However, it is lead singer Faris Badwan who steals the show with an emotionally charged deep voice and his lyrics paint some very scenic pictures in your mind, such as those sung on 'Dive In': “the wind combed through her hair like high notes, tinkling furrows across the sky, there would be tears, flowers, long shadows, she could see it now, the jets would dive.”

Sure, there are one or two weak tracks such as 'Wild Eyed' and 'Monica Gems' which were unstructured and frankly, a bit of a mess. However, looking at the overall picture Skying is a great record from a band who have now successfully emerged from the underground.

written by Will Lyon

Track Listing:

1.    Changing The Rain
2.    You Said
3.    I Can See Through You
4.    Endless Blue
5.    Dive In
6.    Still Life
7.    Wild Eyed
8.    Moving Further Away
9.    Monica Gems
10.  Oceans Burning

Time: 53:52
Release Date: July 11, 2011

Check out the song: 'Still Life'

Friday, 29 July 2011

SFL Division One 2011/12 fan preview: Raith Rovers

Click here or read below for my preview of the 2011/12 season for Raith Rovers. It was published on the STV website.

Raith Rovers

Describe last season in one word? 
Overachievement. A season long battle for promotion to the SPL was the last thing any Rovers fan expected before the start of last season. It was a truly remarkable campaign and one that will live long in the memory.

Who do you think will win your division? 
There is only one First Division side who have significantly strengthened over the summer and that is Ross County. Despite flirting with the relegation playoff spot last season, the Highlanders had a talented squad but suffered from a chronic lack of confidence. Over the last few months they have added the required experience and skill to form what is now an extremely competitive twenty-four man squad.

Who do you think will be relegated? 
The First Division will only contain one part-time team this season and that is Ayr United. The playoff winners may have signed Gareth Wardlaw after his release from SPL side St. Mirren, but on paper their squad is not good enough to stay up.

How do you rate your own manager?
John McGlynn has turned Raith Rovers around, the Kirkcaldy club was once a disorganised shambles. McGlynn has demanded that the players and staff be treated with the highest respect by doing simple tasks such as cleaning and repainting the decrepit dressing rooms. On the pitch, McGlynn has used the contacts he gained at Hearts when he was first team coach to bring in high quality signings, whether that be on free transfers or on loan. He has guided Rovers back to their natural position from the depths of despair and although he does appear a bit tactically naïve he has done a phenomenal job.

How do you rate the business he’s done this summer?
McGlynn's budget has been severed this summer so he was always going to struggle bringing in quality replacements for the fifteen that left at the end of last season. Joe Hamill arrives from Livingston and Brian Graham rejected a contract from Morton to come to Raith. They are decent, if not unspectacular signings and should do a job for Rovers. Signing on loan is Stephen Reynolds, a St. Johnstone youth striker who will offer competition up front for Graham and John Baird. Considering McGlynn's previous loan signings of David Goodwillie and Johnny Russell, there are high hopes that Reynolds will become a star too.

Who do you think will be the surprise package from your team this season?
After years of disputes with the fans over his captaincy, rash tackling and poor distribution this could be the year that Iain Davidson really steps up and drives the team forward. After the devastation of severe budget cuts and waving goodbye to teammates, local lad Davidson might just be the link in the chain to keep this group of players battling on.

Who is the cult hero at your club? 
With his tendency to trip over his own feet, clip the ball over the bar from just two yards out and occasionally score a wonder goal, Gregory Tade was the cult hero last season. However, with Tade's departure to Inverness the new cult hero should be David McGurn. The Rovers goalkeeper is labelled by many as 'The Witch' for his physics defying saves.

Who has been the best signing of the transfer window in your division? 
There has not been many stellar signings this summer due to the desperate lack of money at First Division clubs, but the signing of Colin McMenamin at Ross County should be one of the best. He may not be a twenty-goals-a-season striker, but his intelligent play will create just as many goals and he scores.

Which opposition player do your fans love to hate? 
Dundee goalkeeper Rab Douglas is always on the receiving end of incessant abuse, probably just because he is still a top, top goalkeeper despite his age and fitness issues. This season however, Stephen Simmons is likely to be the fans biggest target. He was a victim of Rovers budget cuts in the summer and has since signed for Queen of the South. Simmons was often criticised by the Starks Park faithful for being lazy and disinterested.

Which opposition player would you love to have in your team? 
Although the Raith defence is fairly sturdy at the moment, Rhys Weston would be a magnificent capture for any First Division and most SPL clubs. The former Welsh international reads the game better than anyone else at this level and not only can he win the ball in the air, but he is also good at sweeping up on the ground.

Finally, where do you think you will finish this season? 
It is very hard to put a specific position on where Rovers will end up this season because it is expected to be one of the most, if not the most, competitive First Division ever. However, I would hope for Raith to finish above Ayr, Livingston and Morton, so if the team can stay injury free, seventh place should not be beyond Rovers. 

written by Will Lyon 

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Wolf Gang – 'The King And All Of His Men' [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of the song 'The King And All Of His Men' by Wolf Gang. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 7/10
Everyone, look! It's another electro/indie band! The genre is absolutely jam-packed but no matter how hard we try to push it away, another quality new addition arises. This time, we must welcome Wolf Gang, a band with unreal levels of pop sensibility.

'The King And All Of His Men' was the first single released by Wolf Gang off their debut album Suego Faults but presumably, the band are gaining popularity so quick, the song has been re-released.

The track itself is very catchy but if you took the guitars, drums and ridiculously overloaded synthesizers out of the mix you are left with a standard boyband song. However, it is these N*Sync-esq melodies which are key to Wolf Gang's success and they must not be lambasted too much because despite the heavily applied gloss, they have produced a highly enjoyable song.

Run Time: 03:50
Release Date: July 18, 2011

Check out the song: 'The King And All Of His Men'

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tennis - Take Me Somewhere [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of the song "Take Me Somewhere" by Tennis. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 8/10
If you can picture in yourself on a beach, surrounded by clear blue skies, accompanied with a cocktail at your side and then seek the perfect soundtrack, look no further than 'Take Me Somewhere' by Tennis. Alaina Moore's calm, melodic voice takes you through a relaxing cruise of surf rock. Do not be surprised if the chirping guitar, tapping ride cymbal and light background organ transports you and your headphones to The Bahamas, and one thing is for sure; you will not want to leave.

However, although 'Take Me Somewhere' possesses many fine qualities, it lets itself down by being over before it begins. After a lengthy intro and first verse the song barely kicks into life before it ends, just short of three minutes in total. Still, you cannot turn your nose up at quality and if this track is anything to go by, then the band's début album Cape Dory must be well worth a listen.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 2:48
Release Date: July 18, 2011

Check out the song: "Take Me Somewhere"

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Spank Rock - 'Energy' [Song Review]

Click here or read below for my review of the song 'Energy' by Spank Rock. It was published on Pure Grain Audio.

Rating: 7/10
Spank Rock are an American hip-hop group with a bit of electro and rock stirred with a straw. The result is a bit of a confused, but at the same time, addictive sound. 'Energy', the leading single from the group's second album Everything Is Boring And Everyone Is A Fucking Liar is a prime example of the band's unorthodox sound, but there is something within the song that keeps the listener hooked.

'Energy' possesses a slightly lacklustre verse but the highlight is the chorus which begins with an intensely repeated “I need new energy” followed by a very weak “Oh La Ah e-i-e-i-e-i-e-i Oh” before the group sharpen up and demand some more new energy.

At first 'Energy' comes across as a bit of a mess, but with each listen the song slowly but surely leeches onto the skin and does not let go.

written by Will Lyon

Run Time: 03:26
Release Date: July 18, 2011

Check out the song: 'Energy'

Monday, 25 July 2011

Menai Bridge RFC

Please read below for my article on Menai Bridge RFC which was published here in Rugby Club.

Menai Bridge RFC

Menai Bridge may have discovered the perfect way to intimidate or distract their opposition when they arrive at their ground Llyn-Y-Felin. As the visiting players are introduced to their changing room, they find themselves greeted by four walls doused in pink paint. While it is not conclusively known if the colour affects the players, it certainly does no harm to the home side as Menai Bridge went on to win the Division Three North title last season. Team manager Gareth Lloyd Jones is also not sure if the traditionally feminine colour helped his side to pole position, but admits it often causes a stir. “The away teams changing rooms always raise a smile!”

With the success gained while the away dressing room is pink it is unlikely that Menai Bridge will paint it a different colour any time soon as they would like to repeat their league success in the next campaign, but Gareth has higher aspirations. “We want to win Division Three again as it's an automatic promotion next season, but we want to win a cup competition as well. We have been unlucky this season, we got to the semi final of the Gwynedd Cup and to the final of the North Wales Intermediate Cup which we lost to Division Two side Llanidloes.”

However Gareth - who also captained the side last season - has his work cut out for him. “We have a good set of players down at Menai Bridge, but some have been asked to go and play for the so called bigger clubs who play in Division One. We of course want them to go and play at a higher standard, but we have a small squad and would struggle to replace players of that calibre.”

To make matters worse, Menai Bridge are soon to be fighting increasing levels of fatigue as Gareth reveals the next campaign will involve more long distance travelling. “With Welshpool coming into our league next season, we will be having to travel a two hundred mile round trip to certain games which can be hard going for the players with full time jobs and young families.”

Despite the new found problems, Menai Bridge continue to be a club on the rise, especially in their development of youngsters. “We have a children's tag team and about thirty turn up every Friday evening. We actually had a youth side back in the late nineties in which ten current members
of the squad used to play for. We are always looking to develop players from any age to come to play at the club.”

Indeed, Menai Bridge have had numerous cases of successfully bringing through players who go onto great things. “We have a number of players that have represented North Wales throughout the years. Jack Owens played through all age groups along side a certain George North and three players represented Wales districts back in 2004. The club has also produced two Welsh Internationals, Stuart Roy who represented Wales in the 1995 World Cup and Robin McBryde, who went onto captain Llanelli, Wales and played for the Lions.”

Clearly Menai Bridge have been, and continue to be, an advancing club. Just one of the latest improvements is a new bar in the club house, so locals can now enjoy a refreshing beverage while watching the team. Gareth explains, “we were granted a license to sell alcohol last year and hold social evenings down at the club ranging from curry nights to poker nights every month. We also serve the best hot food around, which is just what you require after a hard game of rugby!” These latest developments appear to be helping to bring in additional funds for the club and now in the works is a new training pitch and the installation of new, brighter training lights later this year.

Although making a club successful on and around the pitch is essential, what is immediately clear about Menai Bridge is their commitment to being a truly community-based institution. Gareth is very proud of the work they do for their local town. “We recently competed in the Menai Raft Race raising money for local charities and last year we did a 'Keep Wales Tidy' afternoon where a large group of the players went around Menai Bridge collecting rubbish off the streets.”

When talking with Gareth it was obvious that Menai Bridge are well run and heading in the right direction. Just one example of their fantastic organisation is the fact that they have even started organising their end of season tour for next year, where they are hoping to treat themselves to a visit of southern France.

written by Will Lyon

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Raith Rovers Preview, Season 2011-12

Click here or read below for my prediction of how Raith Rovers will compete during the 2011/12 season. It was published in Scotzine. The 64 page magazine can be purchased here for just £1.

1. Who do you think will win the league this season?
Once again, the First Division is likely to be a tightly contested league. Ross County however, have added a number of different options in the summer which should propel their underachieving team into the title race this season. Colin McMenamin will be a welcome addition up front, Rocco Quinn should add some increased trickery in midfield, while Russell Duncan and Grant Munro will bring an abundance of experience required for maintaining a promotion push late in the season.

2. Other than your side, what club will you be watching closely?
It shall be interesting to observe how Dundee perform this season. Despite their twenty-five point deduction last term, the Dens Park side finished sixth and although they have lost Gary Harkins, Craig Forsyth and Leigh Griffiths they could well be an outside bet for the title.

3. Who do you think will be bottom of the league/destined for the drop?
Ayr United will most probably have the tightest budget next season and will be the only part-time club in the First Division, so you would expect the Somerset Park side to prop up the table. The ninth placed play-off position could be held by a number of teams, but whoever occupies it should be able to come out of the play-offs victorious due to their full time status.

4. Where do you think your club will finish in the league?
It is hard to predict where Raith Rovers will finish this season, due to the similar quality of all teams in the league. However, fifteen players left the Kirkcaldy club in the summer and with a limited number of players replacing the departed, I would expect Rovers to finish around mid-table this time around.

5. Who is the club's key player?
There are no stand out players in the Raith squad although experienced defenders Grant Murray and Laurie Ellis will be an important component of Rovers backbone. However, as the phrase goes, goals win games and therefore top striker John Baird will be the go-to guy when the team is struggling.

6. Hopes for the coming season?
This may come across as very defeatist, but staying in business is my main hope for the season. The fairly significant recent budget cuts were an unwelcome surprise and financial stability is paramount if Raith are to be around for the long run. On the pitch, I would hope Raith can be competitive all season and keep away from the bottom half of the table.

7. Fears for the coming season?
As above, I do worry about the finances of the club, but in more pressing terms I do have a slight fear that Raith could find themselves in a relegation battle this season. Losing experienced campaigners such as Mark Campbell, Stephen Simmons and Craig Wilson may just prove a little too much upheaval.

8. Whose player was the biggest waste of money from last season? And where is he now?
Former Kilmarnock striker Gary Wales was brought to Starks Park in November 2010, but would only go on to make seven appearances all season with a measly sum of just sixty-four minutes on the pitch. Wales was never able to get into a rhythm due to persistent injuries and ended up being a burden on the club's tight budget. As far as I know, Wales has been on trial at Queen of the South recently, but it appears unlikely he will be offered a contract by manager Gus McPherson.

9. Other fans think our club is....
Most fans appeared to praise Raith for overachieving last season after finishing second in the First Division, but the unsavoury style of football on show (labelled “hoofball” or “punt it down the channels”) is widely criticised.

10. What opposition player would you want to play for your club?
Dundee centre half Rhys Weston always impresses me when I see him. He is a superb defender for First Division level and it surprises me that he did not move elsewhere in the summer.

11. What opposition player would you love to see fail miserably?
I have no qualms with any player in the First Division although I am sure a few Rovers fans who disliked Simmons would like to see him fail at his new club Queen of the South.

12. Your manager's popularity out of 10 with the fans?
Despite leading Raith within touching distance of the SPL – an unbelievable feat- a minority of Rovers fans still find themselves bewildered by John McGlynn's supposed favouritism towards certain players and stubborn tactics. Therefore his popularity would be somewhere around 9/10.

13. What team would you select for the opening season for your club?
A home game against Dundee or Falkirk would bring a big crowd to Starks Park and thankfully Falkirk will indeed be visiting Kirkcaldy on the opening day of the season.

written by Will Lyon