A weekend of massive games. Oh and a cup final.

Well, there’s some BIG games in Scotland this week. It all starts with Motherwell Vs. Hibs tonight in the SPL. Considering the form of Well’s Michael Higdon (Boo! His goal got us relegated.), Hibs’ Leigh Griffiths and the fact the last ten games between these two sides has resulted in 45 goals, an entertaining game is in order. Mind you, now that I’ve said that, it’ll be 0-0. I’m wanting anything but a Motherwell win tonight, only because we’re competing with them!

Then tomorrow we have possibly the biggest Highland derby (“El Kessocko” still doesn’t sound right to me and I shudder at “Cold Firm”) of ALL TIME with both teams fighting to cement a top 6 place and make a charge for European football! If you’d told me that at the start of the season I wouldn’t have believed you but both teams have been absolutely fantastic. Being a loyal ICT fan of course, I’ll be there, cheering on Terry and the boys. I’ll be doing a post on the atmosphere and game tomorrow, so watch this space. Especially if you’ve never experienced it. It promises to be an absolute belter.

In fact if you are able to go, GO! Scottish football needs your support!

Celtic host Aberdeen on Saturday in the other SPL game. There are some rumours going about that this could possibly be Craig Brown’s final game in charge, if Aberdeen are able to find a new manager soon, since he decided that he will be retiring at the end of the season. I personally can’t see that being the case and I reckon Brown will stay on for the remaining games of the season, due to the fact there’s not that many left.

Then on Sunday there’s a Dundee Derby at Tannadice. I’d imagine United to be the strong favourites, but some are saying that Dundee are having a mini revival.
It seems that the Dark Blues will be replacing Rab Douglas in goals with new signing Steve Simonsen, the former Stoke goalkeeper. There’s stories going around that new Dundee manager John Brown told Douglas to pack up and get out. If this is the case, it’s a pretty disgraceful way to treat a loyal servant of the club, regardless of his sub-par performances this season. The official line is that Douglas is carrying an injury and is being given time off to recover. Only time will tell as to what the truth is.

There is another game on Sunday. Just the small matter of the League Cup final. St. Mirren take on Hearts for the first trophy of the season at Hampden. St. Mirren will be attempting to win this trophy for the first time in their history, whilst Hearts are after their 5th. Given both teams form, I’d say the men from Paisley might be slight favourites, but the Caley Jags were favourites to beat Hearts in the semi-final and we were knocked out. I’d have to say I’d prefer a Saints win, if only because the Jambos knocked us out and the fact my great grandfather played for St. Mirren in the 1940’s.

It promises to be a good weekend of football in Scotland, so if you can GET TO A GAME!

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The latest flight of fancy

So what was it I was saying yesterday? Oh yes, I left on league reconstruction. After the news yesterday (http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/21763900) it seems that yet again Scottish Football is being led down the road of pandering to the Old Firm.

It seems the SFL are entertaining the idea of allowing two extra spaces in the league structure to accommodate a Celtic B and a Rangers B team. I’m sorry but in my opinion this is quite possibly one of the more insane ideas I’ve ever heard on how to fix our game. The Old Firm can start collecting two gates some weeks, and of course they need the money! Nevermind the fact that this proposal has been dreamt up because David Longmuir is scared that the Old Firm are going to leave us.
Here’s what he had to say –
“If both clubs were to leave without the legacy of a colt team and an annual financial settlement, then Scottish football as an industry would face significant drops in commercial, marketing and media investment.
“Our games may be more competitive with more clubs evenly matched, but that would come with a potential reduction in quality and resources.
“The legacy of a colt team would allow Scottish football to profit from the global success of the parent club or team, but also provide a level of domestic football which would be competitive, interesting and attractive to fans, sponsors and media alike.
“It would operate more along the lines of a community club.
“Only when the parent clubs moved out of Scotland, would the colt team then have the freedom to progress through the leagues unhindered, and based on their sporting success.”

From that statement, I’d like to highlight this sentence –
“Our games may be more competitive with more clubs evenly matched, but that would come with a potential reduction in quality and resources.”
So Mr Longmuir, rather than creating a competitive league, which would be entertaining and therefore more marketable (over time), you would rather we continue making sure that our league is one of the most uncompetitive in the world, whilst also allowing the Old Firm to have teams in another league, keeping their pockets lined, while Scottish football is left with the “reserves”?
The arrogance and utter contempt for our game by the men at the top seems to know no bounds. Non Old Firm clubs are regularly informed that we are holding the Old Firm back, as if our clubs mean nothing. This attitude is what’s holding our game back. Do they forget that Aberdeen once beat Real Madrid to a European trophy? That Dundee United reached a UEFA cup final? These are clubs with a proud history, but now seem to be treated simply as “Diddy clubs”. I understand that back then, our game was stronger, but as we found out recently, Rangers were so dominant because they weren’t playing on the same financial playfield as everyone else. The “Holier than thou” (HAH!) attitude of the Old Firm and the protection afforded to them has allowed our game to get to this state. Every non Old Firm fans know that both Celtic and Rangers ideal league is not in England, but a league in which they play each other 18 times a season.
That’s all they want.

Also, why is Mr. Longmuir scared that the Old Firm will be off anyway? England doesn’t want them. Even if they did, they would have to begin at the bottom. Which isn’t League 2. It also isn’t the Conference North. It’s about 5 levels below that.
I can’t see them accepting that, because then they really would be playing against pub teams.
To be honest, I think there’s a growing feeling that we don’t even want them in Scotland. Rather than trying to improve our game as a whole, they’d rather improve themselves, which by their reckoning is improving our game as a whole. It can’t continue like this.

I’m going to be blunt, but I think the Old Firm are the cancer of Scottish Football. We need to cut them out before we lose the whole thing. Sure, our league would be weaker financially for a while, many clubs would struggle and we wouldn’t be as competitive in Europe (seeing that’s only really ever the Old Firm anyway) but over time, competition will allow our game to blossom once more, and fans will start to come back, when they realise the game is no longer rigged against them and their clubs. I would rather see this, than the continuation of the status quo.

Which is why I wanted to highlight that sentence. Mr Longmuir and his pals are so out of touch with the game and the fans that they are willing to risk the long term survival of our game for the short term financial benefits for a couple of select clubs.

It’s good to see that a few SFL clubs, like Raith Rovers and Falkirk have said that these proposals are irresponsible. It’s just going to distract from the bigger picture of our whole game.
St. Mirren’s Stewart Gilmour has said “If there’s to be colt teams, fine, but for everybody and there’s a colt league, it’s as simple as that. We’ve no desire for some clubs to have colt teams and others not.”. Which is a fair point. It also reminds me that we have no reserve league in Scotland. I understand it was stopped for financial reasons, but we NEED a reserve league. It’s one of those things which is fundamental for developing our game I believe.

We need to make sure that when the inevitable league reconstruction happens, it’s for the benefit of all clubs in the long term, not just the few to protect their privileges.

OK, on a more lighthearted note I absolutely loved this video

C’mon boys! Listen to Terry! Let’s get out there and beat them!

The difficult second post

Football. It’s our national game. We turn out in droves to watch our national team play the finest teams Europe and the world has to offer. We sometimes win, we sometimes lose, but we remain loyal to following Scotland, wherever it takes us. We love our game.

So why is it in the shambolic state it’s in now?

Just yesterday, Dunfermline Athletic held a meeting to discuss how to save their club from crippling debts of around £8.5 million pounds. How does an SFL club get to having debts of that magnitude? Now I’m not a financial expert but that’s just screams “poorly run”. Dunfermline haven’t been the only club either who haven’t been able to balance the books.
We all know about Rangers’ problems (so much so that that’s all I’m saying about it. The details are on the net for you to find, if so inclined), Dundee have been in administration twice in my living memory and Motherwell have also struggled badly in the past. That’s not even mentioning the case of Clyde, who are rumoured to be moving to East Kilbride and renaming themselves to EK Clyde, for financial reasons. I haven’t even mentioned Hearts.

So can it be said that money is the root of all of our problems?

I’d say no. Financial mismanagement is. Most fans in Scotland are understanding of the situation we’re in. We’ve got the worlds biggest spending league on our doorstep in the English Premiership, and for a few years in the 90’s some of our clubs tried to compete on that level. It couldn’t last. To remain competitive against a VERY strong Rangers team at that time most clubs started to spend outwith their means a bit. Instead of strengthening our infrastructure, there were a lot of foreign imports. I don’t think our game has fully recovered from this time. How many international tournaments have we qualified for since then? I believe that’s part of the reason why.

However, I still think the future can be bright for our game, but I find it hard to believe we will ever be as strong as we were pre 1990’s. There are some clubs that in my opinion are going about the game in the right way. St. Johnstone, Saint Mirren, Ross County, and my beloved Inverness CT for instance make a point of living within their means. I also think it’s interesting to note that the two Highland clubs haven’t yet been in the league structure for 20 years but are both challenging for Europe now, with players from both clubs pasts having made names for themselves in Scotland or within the English Leagues.

(I find it interesting how Neil Lennon was grumbling about being a “feeder” team to bigger clubs. OK, he wasn’t really grumbling but he wasn’t happy he had to accept the reality. That’s how other Scottish clubs have felt for years.)

So what does the future hold for our game? At the moment anyway, it seems that league reconstruction is going to play a part. Reconstruction is inevitable, but we really need to make sure we do it right. The current proposal of 12-12-18 doesn’t sound like the way forward to me. It just doesn’t sound like there’s enough for fans to shout about there. Meaningless seasons become a possibility, which will lower gates and interest, which is the last thing we want. I personally would like to see something akin to the Portuguese league. Not the largest league, and also not the smallest, in recent years the standard of football there among the “lower” teams has risen. And they don’t play each other 4 times a season.

I hope common sense takes hold and the right solution for the future of our game is reached. However, this is Scottish Football, I wouldn’t be surprised if the league structure facilitates the ascension of Rangers so that the old status quo can resume and in another 20 years we’ll still be having the same conversation about how to change our game for the better.