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Premier League social media: Villa’s McGinn honored, Yedlin speaks out

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Aston Villa playmaker John McGinn is showing off some hardware after being named the International Player of the Year by the Scottish Football Writers’ Association.

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McGinn had a wonderful season for Villa and his absence was keenly felt in a 10-match stretch before the coronavirus pause where Villa lost six including four in-a-row.

The 25-year-old scored three times with two assists in the PL this season, and has seven goals in 21 caps for Scotland.

The former Hibs man takes the award after Celtic players claimed it in 2018 (Leigh Griffiths) and 2019 (James Forrest).

It’s a bit of a surprise, as Liverpool’s Andy Robertson is having a tremendous year on and off the field, but McGinn is certainly a difference maker in his own right.

Liverpool youngster Harry Wilson has had a decent season on loan at Bournemouth, and he’s pumped that his parent club is letting him see it out.

Wilson’s seven Premier League goals are second amongst Cherries (Callum Wilson) and he could be a key part to Bournemouth’s hopes of getting out of the bottom three.

Bournemouth is one of three teams on 27 points, goal differential leaving it the lowest of the bunch in 18th.

Newcastle and USMNT right back DeAndre Yedlin propped up friend and Columbus Crew midfielder Darlington Nagbe’s post regarding race in America.

Nagbe wrote about being treated differently in public when he’s with his wife, who is white, than when he’s on his own and Yedlin echoed the sentiment.

Scottish clubs will discuss expanding divisions due to coronavirus pause

Scottish Premiership
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Hearts owner Ann Budge has been given the green light to propose a new divisional alignment for Scotland next season.

The Edinburgh club had been relegated from the Scottish Premiership this shortened season and was one of a few clubs to argue that the ending was unfair to them.

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Hearts were six points back of safety and four points back of the relegation spot. Also relegated from the Championship and League One were Partick Thistle and Stranraer, respectively.

Budge is proposing that the 12-team Premiership is expanded to 14 teams for the next two seasons, with the Championship, League One, and League Two eliminating a tier and going to two additional 14-team divisions.

From the BBC:

“As these matters are ultimately decided by clubs via a democratic process, we will now facilitate a series of divisional meetings, starting with the Premiership on Monday, at which all 42 clubs will have the chance to discuss the proposals in detail.”

There’s actually nothing too terrible about reorganizing the divisions, but it’s about how we got here.

It took sour grapes and months of political complaining to get this discussion on the table, and it always felt like Hearts (and others) only accepted relegation figuring they’d be able to do enough to undermine it.

Plus, there may be better uses of time than reorganizing a pyramid and season structure!

That said, do you consider it a fair move for a few seasons, or even permanently?

Here’s how the Premiership would look for 2019-20 under Budge’s proposal.

Celtic (nine-time reigning champions)
Aberdeen
Hamilton Academical
Hibernian
Kilmarnock
Livingston
Motherwell
Rangers
Ross County
St Johnstone
St Mirren
Dundee United (Championship winners)
Hearts (relegated in 2019-20 but added back by expansion)
Caley Thistle (Championship runners-up)

Celtic declared Scottish champions as season canceled

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Celtic have been named the Scottish champions and Hearts have been relegated after the 2019-20 season was canceled.

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The Scottish Premiership had held a vote of its 12 clubs last month and amid plenty of infighting and appeals, led by second-placed Rangers, the decision to curtail the season and decide the table on a points-per-game basis stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week the Premiership clubs begrudgingly agreed there was no way they could play the final games of the season, with the Scottish government keeping strict lockdown orders in place and testing deemed unviable financially. The decision also allows $8.5 million to now be shared out among the 12 Premiership clubs.

Celtic have now won nine-straight Scottish titles (51 all-time) and Neil Lennon’s side have stayed pretty quiet throughout the very public voting process, although Celtic’s manager did previously share his view, along with captain Scott Brown, that the Hoops should be declared champs.

Was a Celtic title already a forgone conclusion? They were 13 points clear of Rangers (who had a game in hand) with eight games to go and unless they suffered an almighty collapse, they would have won the title. As for Hearts, they are said to be considering legal action after what they called an ‘unjust’ decision. Scotland’s other three professional leagues agreed to end last month.

After confirming the decision to cancel the season, SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan explained what it just wasn’t possible to play out the games.

“Firstly, I would like to take this opportunity to officially congratulate Celtic on their achievement of winning the Ladbrokes Premiership this season, and also to sincerely commiserate with Hearts on their relegation,” MacLennan said. “We would all have rather seen the league season played out on pitches, in stadiums and in front of supporters. This is not the way anybody involved with Scottish football would have wanted to conclude the league season but, given the grave and unprecedented circumstances that we are facing, the board has agreed that it is the only practical way forward.

“Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on sporting competitions around the world and the repercussions will be felt for a long time. Scottish Government restrictions and deep concerns for both player and spectator safety left the SPFL with no realistic option but to call the Ladbrokes Premiership now and we thank the Premiership clubs for their support on this decision.”

Celtic’s title win also means they will enter the 2020-21 UEFA Champions League at the first qualifying round.

Rangers finished in second place and will enter the Europa League in the second qualifying round, while Motherwell finished third and will enter in the first qualifying round and so too will fourth-place Aberdeen.

Liverpool’s Robertson, NWSL star Corsie announce Scotland donations (video)

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Liverpool fullback Andy Robertson joined his fellow Scottish national team captain Rachel Corsie in announcing that the men’s and women’s teams will be making a “substantial” donation to NHS Charities Together.

Using “personal contributions and commercial appearance fees that were due to the respective squads,” the teams made the announcement on the same day the England men announced a similar move.

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Premier League players launched the #PlayersTogether initiative in early April.

Here’s Robertson, from the Scottish FA’s official site:

“Throughout the squad we have players with friends and family members involved in the NHS, so when the idea was floated around the WhatsApp group chat, it was a no-brainer and unanimously the right thing to do. Rachel and the women’s national team were having similar conversations and I am proud that we can demonstrate our solidarity with the wonderful NHS staff in Scotland and across the UK. On behalf of the men’s national team, I say ‘thank you’ to you all.”

Robertson was reportedly behind a massive food bank donation in March, and joined Corsie and several other Scotland stars in releasing a thank you video to front line workers.

Corsie plays for the Utah Royals of the National Women’s Soccer League and has 116 caps.

Partick Thistle accepts cruel relegation despite match-in-hand

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Scottish Championship side Partick Thistle entered the coronavirus suspension with reason to believe it would escape the drop zone when the season reached its conclusion.

The Glaswegian side sat 10th in the Championship, which is the second-tier’s only automatic relegation spot. They were two points back of the ninth-place playoff spot and five back of safe footing with a match-in-hand on both Queen of the South and Alloa, respectively.

Both teams were left on Thistle’s fixture list, and they went a combined 1W-1L-4D in their previous six matches against Queens and Alloa.

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So Thistle is understandably enraged with the cancelation of the rest of their season and resulting relegation to the League 1. The decision sends their 144-year-old club into the third division for the first time since 2006, but has made a move that’s bound to engender support across the world.

If Thistle were to take legal action they’d have a really strong case, but in doing so the club would sink a lot of money away from its staff while also temporarily stopping the release of awards money to clubs who need it. A number of clubs in Scotland have made embarrassing arguments and/or actions, so it’s refreshing and even shocking to see Thistle react with some grace.

From the club’s official site:

Thistle has always lived in the real world so we also looked at the bigger picture of the life-changing pandemic we find ourselves in. The resulting lockdown is challenging the very existence of some clubs. If we were to take this action to court, there is a risk that might stop the release of much-needed monies to those clubs on Friday.

That’s a step too far for us. Regardless of what’s been inflicted on Thistle, we can’t be responsible for pushing even one club to the brink. It would be hypocritical of us to have espoused “do no harm” as a reason why we shouldn’t be relegated and then do exactly that.

We aren’t looking for sympathy, we don’t need it. We are a well-run, debt-free club with a proud history of rolling with the punches. We may be down but we are not out. When football returns, we will be here, ready to play, regardless of the league we are in.”

They may not be looking for sympathy, but they’ve added an admirer over here. Professional sports are full of fierce competitors and we’re not sure we’d swallow the understandable grief and vow to pick ourselves up by the proverbial bootstraps.

There’s silver lining, too: The club may yet be added back to the Championship as Dundee and others have argued for an enlarged Premiership which would also require more teams for the second tier. Maybe Thistle has assurances of this, but we won’t assume that.