Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Monday, 28 May 2018

Eeka Peeka Pukka Po - that's all we need to say

OK, I would not insult my reader's intelligence by suggesting Sunday's demonstration of Real Fitba, at the Scottish Junior Cup Final in any way matched the sheer technical level of the previous day's European Cup Final, in Kiev, but, when it came to raw passion and the big finish – CR7, Gareth Bale, Mo Sala and Co weren't at the races when compared to what the Mighty 'Bot conjured-up to snatch victory from the oesophagus, more than the jaws of defeat.


  That winning feeling for the Talbot players yesterday

I freely admit, when Fourth Official Chris Graham held up the board, indicating three minutes of added time, I still could not see Talbot even getting an equaliser. They had lang syne ran out of fresh ideas as to how to score against their obdurate opponents.

However, back in the 1980s, at the same Rugby Park, I had seen another Talbot side come from behind to pip Shotts Bon Accord, in the 119th minute and 52nd second of a West of Scotland Cup clash which had gone to extra time. So I knew, if any side could find a way to win from such an impossible position, it was Talbot.

Even when Graham Wilson headed them level towards the end of the 91st minute, I still thought, if Talbot were going to win, they would need to come out ahead in the nerve-shredding penalty-kick lottery which would follow the final whistle.

Then, closer to the 93rd than the 92nd minute, incredibly the team which never gives up, got their reward, with super-sub Chris McCracken heading home an unbelievable winner – cue mayhem, in the ground and later on the streets of Auchinleck.

  • A 12th Scottish Junior Cup win – extending their record number of victories
  • A 6th Scottish Cup win for manager Tucker Sloan – taking him past “God”, as Willie Knox is known in Auchinleck and meaning, Sloan has now, himself, won the Cup more often than any other junior CLUB.
  • A 25th trophy as Talbot boss for manager Sloan.
  • The League and Cup Double dream is still on – with just the minor matter of getting past Cumnock – at Townhead Park, standing between Talbot and destiny.
  • With, potentially another ten fixtures to play, Talbot could yet add: The League, the West of Scotland Cup, the Ayrshire Weekly Press Cup and the Evening Times Cup to the Ardagh and Scottish Cups they have already won this season.

But, this is a club which never tries of success, or trophy-gathering, winning is in their DNA.

And, let's not forget about Hurlford. Not that long ago it seemed possible this club would die. They went through an entire season without winning, then, they got new sponsorship, a new boss in local man Darren Henderson and the rest is history.

The 'Ford are now one of the clubs you immediately think of when assessing potential Junior Cup winners, Blair Park might still be a homely place, but, they are a seeriously-competitive club, worthy of their position in the West of Scotland Super League.

It cannot be easy running a junior club, when you have Kilmarnock just down the road, but, more power to the elbow of everyone at the club.

A special mention too to the Shankland brothers, Stephen and Mark. Stephen had his 15 minutes of fame when he helped Shortlees Amateurs win the Scottish Amateur Cup a couple of weeks ago, now brother Mark caught up, by providing the crosses for those two late Talbot goals. Well done guys, and, let's not forget the Wilson brothers, Graham and Stephen, who were in the winning Talbot side.

Junior Football gained a new convert on Sunday. The Herald's coverage was entrusted to former top badminton star Susan Eaglestaff, now forging as considerable a reputation as a wordsmith as she once had on the court.

Susan was overcome with the sheer raw emotion of it all at Rugby Park, welcome aboard Susan, I look forward to reading lots more of your copy.

MEANWHILE, for the Praetorian Guard of Scottish football-writing, it's all about Peru this week, and Scotland's end-of-season tour to there and Mexico. I think the guys who gave this wee jaunt a body-swerve will be the losers. You never know, somebody could come out of left field and, over the two games, make himself undropable by Big Eck.

Strange things happen on such tours. I remember the controversial South American tour of 1977, a reccy trip for the following year's World Cup Finals. This took the Scots, controversially to Chile, then under a military dictatorship under Maggie Thatcher's favourite soldier, General Pinochet.

 General and Mrs Pinochet with a really hard Right-Wing Dictator. His troops had the SFA blazers running for cover in Santiago in 1977, much to the merriment of the Scottish players

Apparently, the Scots' team hotel was one of several large former mansions, on the grandest boulevard in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Three mansions down was the grandest bordello in Santiago, and, the SFA hierarchy had been granted honorary membership for the duration of their stay.

One night, the SFA “blazers” decided to pop along and visit the ladies, forgetting, or perhaps thinking such inconveniences did not refer to them, the 9pm curfew which Pinochet's regime had put in place.

Any way, at around 10.30pm, those players enjoying a relaxing pre-bed beer on the open verandah of the hotel, were amused to witness the somewhat noisy and “happy” SFA delegation weaving their way homeward down the otherwise empty boulevard, when an open Chilean Army land rover, sporting a heavy machine gun in the load bay, turned the corner, and the soldier on the gun unleashed a warning burst of strafing fire at the SFA party.

According to my contact among the players: “We didn't know the SFA blazers could move that quickly,” as they hared down the street and dived over the front wall into the hotel gardens, before, all dignity gone, they managed to make the safety of the hotel building.

I played over 50 times for Scotland, that night was one of my highlights,” added my contact. Let's hope there are none of these sorts of little local difficulties on the current trip.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

Today - All Roads Lead To Rugby Park

IT'S that time again. The sun is out, the sky is blue, there's not a cloud to spoil the view – and the village of Auchinleck is about to decant up the A76 to Rugby Park, for yet another Scottish Junior Cup Final.


Will Tucker Sloan be clutching the Scottish Junior Cup again tonight?

At Liddell's Coaches, the local coach-hire company, the first job in the office each January, when the staff returns from the New Year excesses, is to telephone Tom Johnston at the SJFA offices at Hampden to ascertain the date of that year's Final. So that no holidays can be booked on that date.

I was asked in Auchinleck Tesco last week, what all the black and gold bunting was up for in the village – my response was, I am surprised they take it down from one year to the next, so predictable is a Talbot presence in Junior Football's big show-piece occasion. They are a football statistician's wet dream; John Motson could do half a match commentary on the 'Bot's association with the Junior Cup Final:

  • This is Talbot's 15th Junior Cup Final
  • It is their seventh in the last decade
  • They are aiming for their 12th win
  • Manager Tucker Sloan is aiming for a record sixth win as manager
  • He is tied with the legendary former Talbot boss Willie Knox, on five wins
  • No other Junior CLUB has won the trophy more often than either Knox or Sloan
  • Sloan is looking to win his 25th trophy as Talbot boss
  • Victory in the final will see the club lift their 105th trophy
  • Talbot is the only club to have won three successive finals
  • Sloan is managing in his eighth Junior Cup Final

Making use of my bus pass the other week, to travel to Kilmarnock, I used a bus whose route involved a circuit of Auchinleck's Back Rogerton housing scheme. On Back Rogerton Drive, one house among the many bedecked in the legendary black and gold colours stood out. Right across the frontage was a huge, beautifully sign-written wooden sign, which stated clearly: “We bleed black and gold.”

Then there is the first image you see, when you log onto the Talbot website. It is an atmospheric shot of a player, with the accompanying legend: “This is not a badge – this is my heart.” That sums up the village's mentality – Talbot is the heart-beat, the soul of Auchinleck. The pits are gone, the aforementioned Liddell's just might be the village's biggest employer but, for as long as football is played and their fans sing their iconic: “Eeeka Peeka Pukka Po” club anthem, the 'Bot will be the village's talisman.

So, why are Hurlford bothering to even turn up? Ah, there's the rub; this is an all-Ayrshire final, the second in succession, the third in five years, and the 11th final in succession to involve at least one club from God's County – the epicentre of the Junior game. You can chuck the form book out of the window when local rivals clash. In any case, the last time the sides met, in the league a few weeks ago – Hurlford won.

Or will it be deja vu for Darren Henderson?

Hurlford boss Darren Henderson used to lay-on goals for Sloan when the pair played together for Stranraer, they are genuine friends, as indeed are lots of the players on both sides – but, you will never imagine this from what are sure to be some fierce challenges once the whistle goes to kick-off the final at 4.10pm this afternoon.

Henderson has had to pass on his annual gig as a summariser for BBC Alba's live broadcast of today's game, but, you just know he is relishing locking horns with Sloan in the technical area. And, as he rightly points out – United have a chance.

Sure, they've got players who have won multiple Junior Cup winner's medals, but, we've got more than half a team who have survived from our only Junior Cup win, against Glenafton in 2014, so the occasion will not get to our boys, they've been here before,” says Henderson confidently.

And, they have one man for whom the occasion and setting is tailor-made – veteran striker Mark Roberts.

Mark Roberts - back where it all began a quarter of a century ago

Marko is 42, and came to Blair Park at the start of the season, after 25-years in senior football with nine different clubs. When he first got into the Kilmarnock first team as a 17-year old, he was “the Golden Child” - Manchester United looked at him, but didn't bite, but he has scored goals everywhere he has been. He had a spell as Manager of Ayr United, and joined Hurlford following a spell as player-coach with Clyde.

The game will not bother him, although a niggling injury which has cast doubts on his participation might. He won Hurlford's Player-of-the-Year prize this season and a last hurraah at the ground where it all began more than 500 games and 150 goals ago – well, that's the stuff of football legend.

These East teams, and their ranks include some big-hitters, might see the grass being greener in the East of Scotland, but, you will not find Talbot seeking to join the crush to become also-rans at Senior level. As long-serving Secretary Henry Dumigan explained:

Henry Dumigan: "We're proud to be a Junior club."

"We see ourselves as a junior football team, we've no ambition to play senior football. It's fine participating in the Scottish Cup, where we've done reasonably well and competed well with the senior clubs, (Talbot famously lost 1-0 to Hearts, at Tynecastle, in the fourth round in 2012) but we see ourselves as a junior club and that's it.
"We feel there's a strong possibility that it will damage, not the reputation, but the identity [of the club]. We're very proud to be a junior club."

"I wouldn't say it was a lack of ambition but Talbot has been a junior club since 1909 and has never had aspirations to go senior," Dumigan added.

"We play in the junior grade of football and I think that's a good grade. We compete very well with the lower leagues of senior football, but that's where we see ourselves and that's it.

"It's not a lack of ambition, that's where we are."

To be eligible to play senior football, clubs must meet the SFA's "entry level" licensing criteria, which includes requirements for health and safety regulations, the standard of stadia and facilities, and access for disabled supporters.

Dumigan believes the proposals are likely to be ratified, and if so, Talbot will look to excel in the new system despite their objections.

"We haven't got the entry level yet, but we're pretty confident we could get it because we have good facilities and we have the facilities that would help us achieve that level," he said.

"The likelihood is that junior football will move into the pyramid system, and we will move to achieve that entry level and possibly higher.

"Because if we're in there we want to do as well as we possibly can. Although we've no ambitions to do it, if we're going to be going in there we'll be doing as best as we can, and that means our facilities as well.

"There will be a cost implication. For clubs that don't have that level of facilities, there's going to be a big cost. If they have aspirations going higher, there's going to be a cost."

So, everyone in Auchinleck is determined that today's game will not be the last time Talbot are in the Junior Cup Final – let battle commence.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Socrates' Scheme - How To Improve Scottish Football

AS I wrote in my last blog post, my impetus for writing this series was to show how the total mess the SRU has managed to make of attempting to implement change, via its Super-6/Agenda-3 project, (I will refer to this hereafter as S6A3) might reflect onto football.

[I fear, however, the SRU left the detail to a bunch of front five “donkeys”, the big men who shift the pianos, rather than the smaller men who actually play them. (This is a reference to a French description of a rugby team – eight piano shifters (the forwards) and seven piano players (the backs).]

The whole S6A3 nonsense was kicked-off, allegedly, by Scotland's Australian Director of Rugby, Scott Johnson, declaring the BT Premiership, the top level of the club game, being: “Unfit for purpose.” The problem with this view was, he seemed to be saying the BT Premiership clubs ought to be preparing their players to step-up to the full-time ranks, with the two fully-professional teams: Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors; the Premiership clubs thought their job was to win their bloody league.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are rugby's equivalent of Celtic and Rangers – competitors, but, without the nasty, sectarianism. They play in the multi-national Guinness PRO14 League, against four Irish, four Welsh, two Italian and two South African clubs, and they play in the Champions Cup and the Challenge Cup – rugby's equivalent of the Champions and Europa Leagues.

But, enough about egg-chasing; what lessons are there for football?

If we take the PRO14 to be (football) Premiership standard, then the (rugby) Premiership is probably League One standard. The clubs are all part-time, and, in truth, only a very few of the players will make it to the higher level, having missed-out as younger players. However, if we look at the SRU's proposals as a means of raising standards, they are laudable.

The over-riding “buzzword” around S6A3 is Sustainability”. This does not mean, as it appears to with football's League One and Two clubs: “If we can draw one or other of the Old Firm in the Scottish or League Cup, we'll be fine for another season or so.” The clubs need to demonstrate they have a strategic plan, both in terms of the playing and financial aspects of the game and their continuing. When the top clubs applied for one of the six franchises, they had to submit their books to Murrayfield, they had to have a strategic plan as to how they would grow their franchise, and, they had to agree to certain facilities:

  • Good floodlighting
  • A 3G or 4G pitch
  • Proper support staff – administrative, medical and strength and conditioning, with good facilities
  • They have to demonstrate how they intend paying for this.

I wager, if the SFA was to put such a proposal to most of our 42 Senior clubs, Tom Johnston at the SJFA would suddenly have a surge in membership applications.

But, why shouldn't the SFA insist that the member clubs install decent pitches and upgrade their facilities?

To hark back to rugby, while the improved results under Gregor Townsend undoubtedly helped, Glasgow Warriors have succeeded in growing a genuine support, partially through offering terrific facilities and: “a great spectating experience” at Scotstoun. Nothing wrong with Firhill – their former home – but, Scotstoun is more-modern and better. Might football benefit from going down this route?

So, to drive forward my hypothesis:

  • The SFA restructures to have a set number of “Senior” clus, say a maximum of 20.
  • It sets-out the criteria for membership of this “Senior” status
  • It invites clubs to apply for these “Senior Football Franchises”
  • These applications, particularly the financial aspects, are scrutinised by an independent board, who recommend the clubs to be invited to participate.
  • If, initially, 20 clubs cannot meet the criteria, they go with those clubs which can, while unsuccessful bidders will be given notice of where they need to improve their applications, and are assured, if you meet the criteria, you will get in, up to a maximum of 20 clubs.

Suppose they succeed in getting 20 applications which meet all the criteria. How then do they operate the conferences? How about:

Jock Stein Conference                               Alex Ferguson Conferences

Celtic                                                            Rangers
Hearts                                                          Hibs
Dundee                                                        Dundee United
St Johnstone                                               Aberdeen
Inverness Caledonian Thistle                   Ross County
St Mirren                                                      Greenock Morton
Kilmarnock                                                  Partick Thistle
Dunfermline Athletic                                  Queen of the South
Hamilton Academical                                 Motherwell
Falkirk                                                           Livingston

Format of the Season – Part One, Regular Season:
  • Each team plays every other team in their conference, home and away – 18 games
  • Each team plays every team in the opposite conference at least once – 10 games
  • 28-game regular season programme to give conference positions

Format of the Season – Part Two, Post-Season Play-Offs:
  • The top three sides in each conference qualify automatically for the play-offs
  • The sides in fourth and fifth in each conference play cross-conference “wild card” games to decide the final two teams for the play-offs. Fourth in one conference plays fifth in the other.
  • These final eight clubs then play two-legged (home and home) knock-out games down to a Grand Final, at Hampden. In the play-downs, the lower-ranked team has home advantage in the first leg of each tie.
  • The losing teams at each level play each other in a one-off game for final league position. The 12 teams not involved in the final eight also play off across the conferences for final league positions.
  • Thus, the top eight finish-up: Finalists – winner and runner-up; losing semi-finalists play off for 3rd and 4th; losing quarter-finalists play-off for 5th to 8th; losing wild-card teams play for 9th and 10th.
  • Those teams which did not even qualify for the wild-card games - 6th to 10th in each conference, play- off against their equivalent in the other conference to decide positions 11th to 20th in the overall league
  • Prize money and European competition places are decided on these final 1-20 placings.

Levelling the playing field
  • Each club would only be able to register 25 players
  • An agreed, high percentage of these players, perhaps 70% would have to be Scottish-qualified
  • Consideration to be given to a salary cap – to assist sustainability of the league

Part Three to follow.

Monday, 21 May 2018

How I Would Change Scottish Football - Part One

I HAVE mentioned before, my old sparring partner Aristotle Armstrong, Scottish Rugby Philosopher, is much mentally-exercised by events within Scottish Rugby, where a head-to-toe new look is being proposed for the club game – and the natives aint happy.

Every now and again, the same scenario is played out in Scottish Football, and I wonder how long it will take new broom Ian Maxwell to start sweeping out some of the dustier corners in the Sixth-floor corridor at Hampden. I suppose, in the evenings, Ian might just be turning over in his mind, some of the bullet points in his to-do list, such as:

  • Hampden: how cheaply can we get it off Queen's Park?
  • Once we've got it – how much will it cost to make it fit for purpose?
  • How the fuck do we pay for all the things that need to be done to it?
  • Rangers: Oh shite! Do I really need, or want to go near that one?

For me, however, I reckon he has other more-pressing concerns, which he ought to be contemplating. For instance, the SRU had introduced a new format to the club game, whereby there will be just six “semi-professional” clubs, operating SRU-sanctioned franchises, playing at a level below the two fully SRU-owned “professional” sides, but above the other ordinary rugby clubs, which will be required to operate on a “strictly-amateur” basis. I.E. no players below the so-called “Super-6” can be paid.

Imagine this system in Scottish Football. The SFA would own the top two clubs – Celtic and Aberdeen; the next six: Rangers, Hibs, Kilmarnock, Hearts, Motherwell and St Johnstone would have to purchase an SFA franchise to be able to play, while every other club below that would be unable to pay their players more than expenses.

You know, it just might work, although the howls of anguish and the opposition to it would make Independence Referendums 1 and 2 and Brexit look like croquet parties on an English vicarage lawn in comparison. So, it is never even going to be suggested, far less discussed.


Who Is Afraid of Change? 


But, we really SHOULD (again) be discussing change in Scottish Football, but, maybe this time round, we should be actually implementing change, real change, rather than a shuffling of the deck-chairs. Or, how much further down the European pecking order than our current 26th place out of 55 does the SFA have to slide, before something is done?

Of course, one of the problems, perhaps the principal problem with Scottish Football is – the SFA is responsible from everything, from the National Team down to Dukla Pumpherston, but, the SPFL, and in particular its top 12 clubs appear to have too-much influence; while received wisdom is, they take their cue from the Big Two – everything is run to suit them.

For instance, England and Wales, with a population of just over 58 million, supports 92 Football League and Premiership clubs. Scotland, with a population of just over 5 million, supports 42 SPFL clubs. On a pro-rata basis, we ought to have just eight clubs in “Senior Football”.

BUT, received wisdom has it that Scotland has, per head of population, the highest attendances in Europe – despite the shite we have been having served up to us over recent years, we love the Beautiful Game – even when, as with yesterday's Partick Thistle v Livingston game, beauty was in the eyes of the beholder.

Do We Have Too-Many Senior Clubs?
So, the question is, how many “Senior” teams can we support and should we have? I honestly do not know for sure, but, one thing I do know, we have to have a cull of the current 42 clubs, and, we have to find a meaningful role for those we cull. But, what to do?

As I understand it, only half, 21 of the 42 SPFL clubs are full-time clubs, therefore fully “professional”. If we are thinking of any change to the format, the commitment of these clubs to being fully-professional, must be safe-guarded. But, in safe-guarding this top level of clubs, we must be certain they are sustainable.

Old Aristotle Armstrong is very much against the SRU's implementation of what he calls: “Stupid-6”. He is not against it in theory, in fact, he thinks it is a good idea to set-up a sustainable top flight of the club game, while he sees benefits from their suggestions for change further down Rugby's food chain; but he feels the SRU as made a right pig's ear of what they have done so far.

So, why doesn't the SFA take a leaf from the Murrayfield play book? Don't be afraid of change, or trying new ideas. Why not try:

  • Two, ten-club Conferences, similar to Rugby's PRO14. *
  • Home and away inter-conference games, with single cross-conference games, giving a 28-game regular season. **
  • Cross-conference play-offs, two-legged affairs, similar to European games, leading to a full end of season “league table” 1-20, sorting-out the European places for the following season. ***
  • Conferences under-pinned by regional “semi-professional” leagues, under-pinned again by regional leagues in which no payments other than strictly-regulated expenses are allowed. ****
  • Standards for club facilities at each level agreed and strictly enforced.
  • Implement and strictly enforce the “Eight-diddies rule” - i.e. either 8 of the 11 players on the park at any one time have to be “Scotland-qualified”, or 70% of a match-day squad have to be “Scotland-qualified.”
  • For competitions which do not carry European qualification for winning them (e.g. the League Cup), only “Scotland-qualified” players can play.
  • Strictly cap squad numbers in the Conferences, but, allow dual-registration with lower league clubs and feeder club arrangements for development purposes.*****
  • At senior conference level - “strict liability” over supporters' behaviour will apply.
  • Look to implement a membership scheme for clubs at the earliest opportunity.
These are my initial cogitations on this thorny matter. The items marked with an asterisk *, will be expanded on further in part two of this series.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Well Done Celtic - There's Nothing Else To Say

CONGRATULATIONS to Celtic on securing back-to-back domestic “Trebles”, a feat which was beyond even the squad against which every subsequent Celtic and indeed Scottish team has been judged – the Lisbon Lions.

This win yesterday took the 2018 Celtic squad past

There is, however, a huge gap between the football world in which the Lions operated, and that in which Brendan Rodgers' current squad does. Back then, Jock Stein was not sated by Celtic being the top team in Scotland – he wanted them to be the top team in Europe. The way football's financial world is skewed towards the bigger nations, with bigger television audiences has mitigated against even huge clubs like Celtic, who happen to play in “small” television markets.

Even these immortals, who didn't do back-to-back Trebles

Also, back in 1967, that football market had not had a trickle-down effect on Scotland. Just as finances have hampered Celtic and other Scottish clubs in the overall European picture, the fact Celtic are in the Champions League, with its riches, while no other Scottish club is, hands them a massive financial advantage over the other Scottish clubs.

The Lions, in that annus mirabilis of 1967, won the League by three points from Rangers. The League, back then, was an 18-club affair, each team playing the other 17 twice. That was in the days of two points for a win, one for a draw; at today's three points for a win, their winning margin would have been four points – this season their winning margin was nine points.

But, in 1967, they won the European Cup, albeit back then a short, sharp, straight knock-out tournament, none of today's lengthy group sections, followed by knock-out final stages. Except, back in 1967, with each tie being a two-legged affair, in winning the whole shooting match, Celtic actually played nine games:

Played 9 : won 7 : drew : 1 : lost 1 : scored 18 goals : conceded 5 : matches won % - 78%

This season, between their group games in the Champions League and losing to Zenit St Petersborg in the Europa League's knock-out round of 32, their record was:

Played 8 : won 2 : drew 0 : lost 6 : scored 6 goals : conceded 21 : matches won % - 25%

If we include the three qualifying round games played this season, their record reads:

Played 14 : won 6 : drew 1 : lost 7 : scored 21 goals : conceded 25 – matches won % - 43%

So, has Scottish Football stood still or gone backwards in the last 50-years? Or has the rest of Europe moved on?

I fear, a bit of both. After all, in 1967, our overall club record in Europe was:

  • Celtic – won European Cup

  • Rangers – runners-up European Cup-Winners Cup
  • Kilmarnock – semi-finalists Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
  • Dundee United – last 16 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup
  • Dunfermline Athletic – last 32 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup.

This season, in as near a direct comparison as I can manage:
  • Celtic – eliminated in Last 32 of European Cup, the in last 32 of Europa League
  • Aberdeen – eliminated in Third Qualifying Round of the Europa League
  • Rangers – eliminated in First Qualifying Round of the Europa League
  • St Johnstone – eliminated in First Qualifying Round of the Europa League
In all, 186 clubs participate in the Europa League; where they enter varies according to their national co-efficient and where they are eliminated from the Champions League, but, basically, we do know, Rangers and St Johnstone can be ranked somewhere between 137th and 186th in the pecking order. Aberdeen, somewhere between 71st and 98th. Celtic somewhere between 17th and 32nd.

If we look at UEFA's official clubs and associations co-efficients, Scotland is ranked 26th of the 55 member associations, while our clubs' rankings among the 442 clubs ranked as having an official UEFA club co-efficient are:
  • Celtic ranked 49
  • Aberdeen ranked 236
  • St Johnstone ranked 264
  • Rangers ranked 265
  • Hibernian ranked 267
  • Heart of Midlothian ranked 268
  • Inverness Caledonian Thistle ranked 269
  • Motherwell ranked 270
The next question has to be: What is the SFA and new Chief Executive Ian Maxwell going to do about this sorry situation? Are we going to moger along as we have for the past half century, falling further and further off the pace? Or are we going to stop re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic and start bringing-in real change – which makes a difference, and making real progress to getting back to where we want to be, and where a lot of people in Scotland think we should be – back among the top nations and with clubs who are seen as top European clubs?

BUT – top-level football today is a money-driven game, and, as we all know, there is not a lot of money in Scotland. For instance, Rangers are ranked as the 13th best-attended club in Europe, with an average home attendance in season 2016-17 of 49,156; Celtic are ranked 8th in the same league table, with an average home attendance of 54, 726, yet neither club is anywhere near the top 20 listing of Europe's richest clubs.

Ian Maxwell - faces huge challenges

There is your conundrum for new Honcho Maxwell, the “suits” along Hampden's sixth-floor corridor and in the boardrooms of our top clubs – how do we improve things, without the sort of cash available to our potential rivals in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain?
Well, if we cannot work with as much money as the nations and clubs we aspire to compete with, surely we can work smarter, or, to paraphrase that legendary Avis Car Rental of the 1960s - “We could try harder.”

Doing nothing isn't an option. Neither is simply hoping things will improve. You can bet, Brendan Rodgers will not be resting on his laurels after back-to-back Trebles – let's hope the rest can put in the effort to stop him winning a third in a row.
Scottish football – and Celtic, need a genuine domestic challenge.