Scottish failures: A retort
November 6, 2009
Now then, my good friend Mr Mantle has recently posted a direct response to my latest blog about Scottish football on the European scene.
He makes some good points, it must be said. Scottish football is dying a death, and the squeeze the Old Firm have had on Scottish trophies does it no favours at all. However, arguably the decline of the Old Firm has breathed some life into the game north of the border.
After all, the league is now genuinely competitive for the first time in a generation. Both Celtic and Rangers have deteriorated to such an extent that a trip to Motherwell is now tricky, not to mention a visit to Tynecastle or Easter Road. Last season, both clubs dropped points no fewer than 26 times between them. This is more or less unheard of in seasons gone by.
There are, of course, pros and cons to this. The biggest pro of all is that the league has some excitement, and both Celtic and Rangers have lost that aura of invincibility that they had previously had over the rest of the league. However, this is not because the rest of the league has improved, but because the Old Firm have declined drastically even since Martin O’Neill’s time in the Parkhead hotseat.
The figures are there to prove this. In Martin O’Neill’s first year, Celtic spent £18m on Sutton, Lennon and Hartson, and another £3 million on Alan Thompson. This kind of investment is now unheard of, and Celtic even struggle to compete with English Championship sides in the transfer market. Indeed, the latest TV deal means that Celtic earn roughly £3 million a year through Sky and ESPN. Compare this to Hull City’s £15 million and you’ll see where the problem lies.
However, Ross does have a point. The lack of prestige in the Scottish league makes it monumentally difficult to attract quality continental and home based players, partly because they don’t fancy a trip to St Mirren on a cold Tuesday evening, especially when their wage packet is significantly smaller than it would be in England.
A few years ago, the Old Firm were able to punch above their weight and compete on the European scene. Indeed, since 2003 both clubs have made the UEFA Cup Final, and qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League 3 times between them. However, this is not enough. Both clubs need a change of ethos, concentrating on youngsters and bringing the best coaches available to Glasgow.
Without this, the Old Firm will swim in a sea of mediocrity, on a slow journey to their death. The catch 22 is the more the two clubs decline, the better the SPL will become. On the flip side, Scotland will lose the automatic Champions League spot it currently enjoys, and yet more clubs will be thrown to the wolves.
What is needed is further investment, into clubs individually and Scottish football in general. However, one area where Ross and I do agree is an emergency Old Firm move is inevitable.
The question over whether they’ll survive the ambulance journey is open to debate.