You will of course be aware that last weekend saw the semi finals of the Scottish Cup take place. Both ties went to penalties with Sunday’s first meeting of the Old Firm since the liquidation of Rangers being the most promoted.
Before I go on, a point needs to be made. Rangers were not just ‘relegated’ as every news outlet (that should know better) mentioned. They got into financial difficulties, thanks to David Murray’s deployment of a tax avoidance scheme and HMRC’s. The thing that tipped Rangers into administration and then liquidation though was Craig Whyte’s many misdemeanour's. Readers of Private Eye will have been well aware of Whyte’s unsuitability long before anyone in the Scottish football press. Rangers were liquidated and were forced, quite rightly, to start again at the bottom. But I digress
Watching the game on Sunday (or at least the 90 minutes), there were two thoughts that came to mind. The first being that for all the hype and puffery from all asundry – you could say the Scottish Football punditeriat were ‘proper moist’ given the lavish praise heaped on the occasion - the game itself was only reasonable. There was very little skill and technique on show, you would be able to set your watch by the amount of bad or misplaced passes on show.
Something that completely bypassed the more ‘professional’ football commentator was that far from being the best teams in Scottish Football, both sides had issues with their teams. Rangers issues are borne from a calculated assessment on how to set up the team. Their game is based on a high pressing game designed to push teams into their own box. The drawback to this is that Rangers are very susceptible to the quick counter attack. If Rangers are to successfully challenge for the Scottish Championship next season, then this is an area that needs to be rectified as a lot more Premier League sides will be equipped to exploit this weakness.
Celtic’s issues are deeper, perhaps more serious, and relates to the quality and the ability of their players. Maybe the departure of their manager Deila, will enable Celtic to start to rebuild again, but that Celtic team needs to have serious time and money invested in their recruitment. Arguably this current Celtic is the worst Celtic team in 20 odd years, while I am unable to recollect a worse Scottish Championship winning side. This brings me to my second point.
Whether it was through bad management or an inability to perform under pressure, Aberdeen have – and lets not beat about the bush here – bottled their championship challenge. This year was their chance, their best chance in 25 years. And due to poor defending and a lack of fortitude, they will miss out again. It’s unlikely that Celtic will be so poor again next season, while the other half of Scottish Football’s ugly sisters returns to the top flight. I would think that Hearts will be building on their strong foundations too.
Of course, the championship isn’t technically over, but an 8 point gap going into the post split fixtures is a big hurdle for Aberdeen to overcome. They would need Celtic to have as big a collapse as Rangers did 25 years ago, they led by 8 points going into the last quarter of the season but saw their advantage whittle away over the course of those 9 games. Interestingly, the league have scheduled Aberdeen’s post split match with Celtic for the third post split match. The match that Celtic could win the championship.
If you were expecting a cheerleading ‘thank goodness we’ve got the Old Firm back’ article, sorry, you’ve come to the wrong place. The same issues with Scottish football are still there four years on, with no agreement on how to tackle those issues. At least we have seen different teams winning trophies, that at least shows that there is life in Scottish Football. If only the media would refrain from their arslikan act with Scottish Football’s ugly sisters.