Celtic Has Three Clear Routes To England. The Most Viable Are The Two We’ll Never Take.

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The press tonight is having one of those brain melt-downs I enjoy so much. The issue at play is this story about how English clubs have, again, “rejected” ourselves and a certain other team. I always get a kick out of this one.

To the best of my knowledge, the issue has been raised precisely once, years ago, when the EPL clubs of that time voted on a very specific proposal. Since then, the matter arises every now and again, mostly as a result of someone taking a punt.

There’s no evidence to suggest that the issue has ever been formally put to a vote, and nor is there any suggestion that it was this time. There was most certainly a discussion of whether EPL “colt sides” should play in the proposed Fourth Tier, but other than that the changes were simply practical and internal ones about the game down south.

This story seems to get a lot of ink, but I’m not convinced it’s anything other than hot air, and I never have been. There are only three ways into England, and I don’t rate any of them as likely. Two are, frankly, undesirable.

The one that would enable us to play there, and with something approaching honour, is to be offered an invite to play in either the EPL itself or else the Championship. It is also the least likely. Another is a proposal such as the one this article says was just tossed out; it would mean us starting from the bottom, a prospect I cannot believe has any appeal for anyone who values our club, its reputation and its history.

The third is the least palatable of all, both for ourselves and others, although, curiously, it’s the one with the best chance of bearing some fruit; it’s the “franchise route”, which would involve us buying a club down there and subsuming their identity.

In that scenario we’d be murderers, and we’d get little gain from it in terms of our own history, none of which we’d be able to keep. It would be messy, it would probably involve the courts (the FA has geographic regulations which would need to be overcome) and it would split our support and cause untold animosity, and make us pretty reviled.

It would work. Of that there is no doubt at all.

Celtic insiders have war-gamed the scenario and our legal people agree with that assessment, or so I’ve been told. But to what end? We’d no longer be Celtic, no longer have the mythos that has made us a global name. We’d be stuck with the grubby deal which had been done for no other purpose to get us close to riches. We’d have sold out for the Sky equivalent of 30 pieces of silver. I would want nothing to do with such a thing.

Those scenarios aside, this is a pipe dream and nothing more. Even tied to the hated, despised, Old Firm tag we really don’t have anything they want or need. How many more millions would be on the table to secure our involvement? Very little, I’d think, if anything at all. Their brand is getting on quite nicely, although clubs like Bournemouth, Hull, West Brom and Burnley are all in the competition this year who, with all the respect in the world to them, aren’t close to being the size we are. For all that, they don‘t need us.

So when you conclude that, the only route left to us is one of the two that would reduce us in some way; one to the status of beggars and the other to making all of us a grinning Wallace Mercer or worse. One would leave us with a history, which would be of little comfort in the five years minimum it would take us to claw our way up and the other would strip us of any moral rights or reputation we had, not to mention erasing our past as if it had never been.

Our future might lie in Europe; in fact, it almost certainly does.

England is the shimmering city across the sands, the one that we could walk towards for years without ever actually getting there. Because in many ways it’s not real anyway; it’s a mirage of sorts, and if it’s really there then it rests on a foundation that simply can’t sustain it.

You can’t have looked at their £1 billion window and doubt that this will all come crashing down, and then what? After we’d hitched our wagon to that star, we’d be dealing with the wreckage and the rubble for years to come.

For what?

To come crawling home, to a league we’d abandoned, a country we’d ignored and sneered at?

Better to lead the changes that will make what we have better and to see what the future of European football might eventually be.

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