Scottish Premiership

Matt Polster Rangers
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Report: Rangers sell one-time USMNT player Polster to New England

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An American abroad is coming home after an uneven time in Scotland.

Former Southern Illinois and Chicago Fire mainstay Matt Polster will return to Major League Soccer this summer with the New England Revolution.

Bruce Arena’s Revs will reportedly pony up about $375,000 to buy Polster from Rangers, where he signed on a free transfer in January 2019 following three-plus MLS seasons that saw him earn a USMNT cap.

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He was called up to two January camps for the U.S., going 90 minutes at right back against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2018. Polster was also a contributor to the U.S. Olympic qualification push in 2015.

Polster, 27, finishes his time with 10 appearances and an assist Steven Gerrard’s Glaswegian set, getting Scottish Premiership and Europa League experience this season.

A defensive midfielder and right back in MLS, Polster played only the latter with Rangers thanks to Scott Arfield, Ryan Jack, Steven Davis, and Glen Kamara chewing up minutes in the middle of the park.

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)
Hamilton Academical
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.

Rangers bid to investigate end of Scottish season rejected

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GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) Scottish clubs on Tuesday voted to reject a resolution calling for an independent investigation into the decision to end the season for leagues below the top-tier Premiership because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The resolution, initially proposed by Rangers and backed by two other teams, was supported by 13 of the 40 clubs who voted. It required at least 75% of votes from each of the Premiership, the second-tier Championship, and the third and fourth tiers combined.

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The Scottish Professional Football League brought the season to a halt in the lower leagues in controversial manner last month following a much-criticized vote that plunged the Scottish game into acrimony. Final placings were determined by the average points per game of each club.

What proved to be the decisive vote, by second-tier Dundee, apparently did not reach the SPFL by an agreed deadline. Dundee was given extra time to make its decision and changed its vote, resulting in the cancellation of the leagues and ensuring end-of-season payments could be sent to clubs in the three lower divisions.

Rangers was among the clubs to strongly oppose the SPFL proposal. As was Hearts, which stands to be relegated from the Premiership if it is curtailed.

“It is clear that many members have lost confidence in the SPFL leadership and the need for change will not diminish,” Rangers said in a statement.

“The status quo cannot hold.”

Rangers said it appreciated the support of clubs who backed the resolution “and recognize your desire for increased accountability at the top of our national sport.”

SPFL chairman Murdoch MacLennan urged unhappy clubs to move on, while promising to address their concerns at a later date.

“The last few weeks have been bruising ones for many people in our game,” he said. “Far too many words have been spoken and written which have sown anger and division amongst clubs. That is a matter of the deepest regret to very many people in our game, myself included.

“I know those who proposed this resolution will be disappointed, but I trust that everyone involved, on both sides of this argument, will now respect the clear, democratic and decisive result we have seen today and allow our game to move forward together.”

Celtic, which leads the Premiership by 13 points, welcomed the result of the vote and declared the club was satisfied there was “no evidence of any wrongdoing by the board or executive.”

“All of our energies,” Celtic said, “should be applied to planning for the return of the game in season 2020-21 and to the financial survival of all our clubs.”

Transfer rumor roundup: Chelsea eyes Freiburg forward; Eduoard in demand

Transfer rumor roundup
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A pair of young forwards highlight Sunday morning’s transfer gossip, including a Bundesliga striker who’s found his shooting boots over the past two seasons.

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Luca Waldschmidt is the name, and he turns 24 next month. He’s made 95 career Bundesliga appearances, scoring 16 times with nine assists.

He earned three Germany caps at the end of 2019, but has to fight for minutes with Nils Petersen and Lucas Holer.

Every team needs depth, but this one’s a bit odd given Chelsea’s hold on homegrown center forward Tammy Abraham. Waldschmidt is a better passer, but Abraham’s finishing and aerial game are better. Still, depth will be needed and Waldschmidt can operate as a second striker, too.

Freiburg is in a host of teams that could qualify for the Europa League, while Chelsea is positioned for the Champions League and certainly has more reasonable chances to play under a brighter spotlight.

A forward getting much more fun is Odsonne Eduoard, as the “French Eddy” era at Celtic seems destined to come to a close.

The 22-year-old Frenchman has lit the Scottish Premiership on fire, and has 27 goals and 19 assists in 45 matches across all competitions this season.

He has 60 total goals since arriving from Toulouse as a teenager, and is expected to rise to a new challenge sooner rather than later.

Everton is being linked. Arsenal and Newcastle, too, and there’s plenty to suggest many others would love a player who just turned 22 in January and has fared well in European play as well.

What is the ceiling for Eduoard? It’s difficult to say. There will be some question as to whether he can immediately leap into the fray at a higher level than the Scottish Premiership, but he’s an absolute dynamo with the physical skill set to overcome any hurdles.