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.