Unlike Bill Murray, I didn’t wake up to “I Got You Babe” this morning but it does feel as if Scottish Football is having its own Groundhog Day with the elimination of both half’s of the Old Firm and Hearts at the preliminary stage, that’s the preliminary stage ladies and gentlemen, of the UEFA Cup… sorry Europa League.
If you heard the so called pundits though, you would have thought that we had hit rock bottom. The problem is that we hit rock bottom a while ago, we are just bumping along the bottom. I remember the week Rangers were eliminated by AEK Athens and Aberdeen were knocked out by the giants of European Football, Skonto Riga, while since 2004, this is the fourth season that every Scottish team has been eliminated before the end of August. These results will keep happening until things change.
If we take the synopsis of no money, no talent, no infrastructure, tactically naïve, game riddled with self interest with them (the OF) and everyone else at loggerheads as being an accurate description, then what do we do? In terms of money, a serious rethink needs to be made about how to market Scottish Football, both in terms of how it is broadcast as well as admission prices. Average SPL prices are about £20, which is among the highest in Europe. A ticket to see the current Bundersliga champions Borrusia Dortmund will set you back £10.
The galling thing is that there is talent here in Scotland, which unfortunately is overlooked for cheap experienced foreign players. Celtic had three Scottish players in their team, while Rangers fielded four with another two on the bench. If you think back to the teams that have fielded young talent, it is because they have been forced to. Motherwell when they went into administration in 2002 were forced to blood young players, including James McFadden & Stephen Pearson. Yet throwing young players into the white heat of Scottish Football is something that we should be doing and yet we are not.
We have talent in spite of the wretched infrastructure we have and in spite of the fact that our football is essentially a part time pursuit. One of the most astute observations Craig Brown has ever made is that every town in Norway has an indoor sports centre, we only have on equivalent (in the south side of Glasgow). Tactically naivety, well what do you expect with essentially two rookie managers in charge of Scotland’s two biggest teams.
This brings us to the self interest. You can write a book about the rank self interest at the heart of Scottish Football, the smugness eminating from the Old Firm at the demise of Setanta, the campaign by the Chief Executive of the SPL for a ten team league, down to the SFL’s ramrod refusal to discuss a pyramid system with the Juniors and non league teams. The biggest symbol of self interest is the fact that we have three governing bodies, why? There are bigger things at stake here.
I would like to think that the only way now is up, unfortunately the current precedent is that the powers that be will continue to stick their heads in the sand, while the sack McCoist/Lennon/The Board chants grow louder.