As the new Scottish Premier League has kicked off again it is appropriate for us to look at the current state of affairs for Scottish football and the soap opera than accompanies it, the more we look at it the more we may realise that some things seemingly never change.
Last season the SPL was won by Rangers in Walter Smith’s final year as manager, leading the club to 3 in a row despite crippling debts, but at times the league was inflicted with a ridiculous media sideshow. The sideshow revolved around two of Scotland’s clubs and their fans, Rangers and Celtic, hating each other. This of course must have come as a massive shock to all of us.
For any new students to St Andrews, you can allow yourself a small pat on the back for choosing one of the few areas that affords more time to golf and rugby than it does football. This may however mean that you will not be fully hit with just how much football infiltrates everyday life in just about every other part of Scotland. This obsession often revolves around the utter contempt that both Rangers and Celtic hold for each other. You may not fail to notice that this hatred is rapidly morphing into a political tool for our Parliament. Indeed if you utter your disapproval for certain teams you may find yourself in jail this year. But that is another matter and let us focus on the football ahead of us this year!
The season started in disastrous fashion for Scottish clubs with every one of them being dumped out of Europe at the first hurdle by fairly weak teams. Rangers managed to get knocked out of two European competitions in quick succession as incoming manager Ally McCoist quickly realised that he had a huge job on his hands. Celtic and Dundee United were also knocked out of the Europa Cup but were reinstated after their victors, Sion of Switzerland, were embroiled in a legal dispute with UEFA which is still on-going. Tied into Scotland failing to qualify for Euro 2012 it has not been a great time for Scottish Football.
In the league natural order of Rangers and Celtic topping the table (in that order) was resumed. Depressingly the utter shame of both clubs being swept aside by ‘European minnows’ was forgotten come the first Glasgow derby, which Rangers won 4-2. The more astute followers of the game in Scotland will hopefully not get caught up in the belief that the world starts and ends with a victory or defeat in Rangers-Celtic games but instead reflect on the fact that both clubs are rapidly turning into ‘European minnows’ themselves despite Rangers’ appearance in the UEFA Cup Final only 3 years ago.
As established: some things never change. These European disgraces were forgotten upon the first meeting of the two clubs as is standard. Celtic will be able to continue in the Europa Cup this season until they are unfairly knocked out by corrupt referees, again as standard.
This brings up another one of those some things never change reflections. Last season Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, assured his support as well as the nation in general, that the sole reason his team were not champions was because the whole refereeing profession, as well as every other team in Scotland, were out to get him. This remarkable act of discrimination was carried out expertly as those pesky referees managed to award Celtic a British record amount of penalties in the league, including a hugely important one in the final Glasgow derby of the season, which Rangers keeper Allan McGregor saved. Alas this conspiracy against Celtic was not confined to Scotland as Lennon told us all that the referees in the European stage were also ‘disgraceful’ and the main reason Celtic were knocked out in each round with ease by such European giants as Utrecht. This season, we are sad to report that nothing has changed as Celtic’s European run so far has been plagued by conspiring officials in their defeat in Madrid and draw at home to Udinese reserves. When, we have to ask will this poor club will ever get a fair crack of the whip in Scotland or abroad?
Across the city of Glasgow, Rangers have managed to end up top of the pile despite some poor showings in the league. Off the field things appear to be completely desperate for the club with a very public series of court cases against former CEO Martin Bain, HRMC regarding a tax case as well as various layers over unpaid bills. New owner of the club Craig Whyte appears not to have the funds that some Rangers fans fantasised of and instead is simply hoping to keep the club afloat in what is turning out to be a huge financial mess of a season off the field.
But as we said some things never change in Scottish Football! The Scottish Premier League offers us the chance to not so much make predictions like every normal league but instead make assurances. As the season goes on we can expect Rangers to continue to see the financial disaster that their previous owner led them to be played out in front of our eyes. We can expect Celtic to stand firm in their belief that the world is out to get them, perhaps as they go one better than last season and break the world record for penalties awarded in a season. And we can also expect that despite the huge failings of both clubs their own supporters will happily forget it all if they can only defeat each other when they meet. This fantastic short sightedness will of course ensure each of them, and Scottish football in general, continues on its plummet in European standing.
They hate each other, but by goodness how would these clubs manage to cover their failings without each other?