Earlier on, I presented an overview of what last night’s result means to Celtic, and our place in the Grand Scheme Of Things.
That article didn’t mention a single other Scottish club because it’s about the impact on the biggest team in this country in relation to our standing in the wide expanse of the global game.
Other clubs in Scotland barely register as blips on the radar there. Discussing them is pointless. That doesn’t stop a lot of their fans from wanting to gloat; if PSG did that to us, with such epic abandon, what in the Hell do you think a club like that would do to them?
They can be thankful they’ll never get to find out.
But just because they avoided the beating, it doesn’t mean they avoided the impact of it and what it means. The hurricane that hit us last night doesn’t stop at the doors of Celtic Park. It’s tearing a trail of destruction right through the sport, and eventually, after it’s gone through the two tiers of football where the PSG’s are, and where Celtic is, it’ll get to the scrabbling clubs of tier three, which includes everyone else on this island, including Sevco.
The future looks dark for every club in the second tier of the game.
Celtic is more fortunate than most of those clubs, because we do have a domestic football environment where we’re dominant and our fans are treated to routine success. Other clubs in the second tier don’t get that, because they play in Germany, Italy, Spain, France or England; their task is made doubly difficult in that they never quite make it domestically and have to peer up through the grating to see what life is like at the very, very top. Their frustration must at least equal ours.
But in terms of a future outside their own leagues, and a future that mostly consists of hoping to reach the occasional cup final and perhaps a wee European trip to a city whose name you can’t even spell, life in tier three is gloomier even than that.
In case the Sevconuts have completely missed the point, last night was an exercise in how the game has changed dramatically since a team from Ibrox last played in a European group game. Their own place in the Grand Scheme of Things is as immaterial as two flies arguing with one another over who owns the elephant’s arse they both live on.
It’s a delusion to even pretend it matters.
Last night we didn’t get an education, we got a reminder of some hard truths, but we didn’t need either. Their own education came when a team from mighty Luxembourg beat them over two legs in the second tier competition earlier in the season; truly a tier three team achievement. They may have airbrushed that from their memories but it remains a cold, uncontested fact nonetheless and it, not last night, is what real embarrassment looks like.
The simple truth is that Sevco is more likely to slide in the direction of Progres that they are to rise to somewhere in the second tier of European football, where we are. And as that’s true for them it’s true for every other club in Scotland, which is why Celtic got good wishes from a lot of the fans of those teams. They see the future, and they know it’s a cold place.
Through sheer hard work, and vision, Celtic has pulled itself free of the stifling environs of Scottish football; it is no surprise that having failed to keep up others would welcome any sequence of events which dragged us back to their level, but it’s not going to happen.
We have the infrastructure, the stadium the outlook, the profile of a massive club.
We are run by truly dedicated professionals, who are just as at home on scrabbling SFA boards as they are in the highest echelons of UEFA and the ECA. We are not, as someone suggested to me earlier, built on Champions League cash; we are built to challenge for that cash.
And there is a difference.
There is a crucial, pitiless difference, and one which Sevco’s gibbering fans had better start to acclimatise themselves to.
Celtic gets stronger with Champions League money, but the only way a club from Scotland can get Champions League money in the first place is to be strong enough already that they can go for it, and we are. Celtic will be a club that routinely plays in the Group Stages of European competitions because we have developed our club towards that goal.
The Sevconuts constantly bleat about how everything will be different when they, like us, are regularly playing in Europe’s group stages.
They talk as if that just happens, as if those places are handed out on some kind of rota system. “Oh it’s Sevco’s turn this year … Europa or Champions League? Let’s see what the random drawing of the balls does for them here …”
But of course, getting there requires you to be pretty good already; we had to jump through three different hoops to get to where we were even in a position to take the field against PSG last night; next season it’ll be four. Eight games.
And you’re either built for that or you’re not.
We have the benefit, too, of being Champions. Of being seeded. Of having a coefficient sufficiently high on its own that it’s not dragged below the level of the average Sevco IQ just because we play here in Scotland.
Without those things, without seeding, without a spot in the Champions section of the draws, we’d probably be a lot less comfortable.
Sevco has none of that.
If the quality of their team was three times as good they’d still be in an awful lot of bother without those critical advantages … and the current squad they have, as low on genuine talent as it is, might be as good as it gets in the lifetimes of their current crop of fans.
The steady erosion of footballing norms, the skewing of the playing field to where it’s at right now, disenfranchises us when it comes to last night and other games against teams from the top leagues, but the consequences for the teams in tier 3 of European football’s ranking system is truly dark and truly horrendous, and it doesn’t just affect them in Europe.
Sevco fans might be peeing their pants over a win at home to a Dundee side run by an ex-player of theirs who tossed in the towel before the game even kicked off, but that squad of theirs consists mainly of second rate junk, and it’s the most expensive they’ve had there in five years and I suspect when the accounts come out we’ll see it’s unsustainable.
It may well be good enough to beat SPL teams on a semi-regular basis – that still remains to be seen – but you will never see that team board a plane to a top European city to play a tier one team.
As time creeps on and the game gets more and more expensive, the quality of player available to their club will deteriorate to the point where what little money they do have buys them less and less and less. It’s happening already, as we saw in the last window, where a Hearts winger and a Motherwell striker seemed like top drawer options.
There are only two ways out of that downward spiral; scout better, and earlier, for your signings or spend more money. They are already skint, so count that option out. But that scouting system is expensive too, and if you can’t afford that you’re essentially boned.
Celtic can certainly spend more money. Olivier Ntcham, our young midfield signing, cost more than the combined transfer budgets of every other club in the land, and was the product of a lot of hard work behind the scenes.
Because our scouting system is first rate, I will not give up hope of seeing another Henrik Larsson arrive at Celtic, or another Lubo.
The combined cost of those two was a cool £1 million.
Signing them required that the man in the manager’s office know, instinctively, what those players could do and thus we stole a march on other clubs.
But Sevco fans will never see what Rangers fans did; they will never see the purchase of a Laudrup or a Gascoigne or a Hateley.
That’s why, for all their so-called glorious “nine in a row” years they never had a genuine icon like the King of Kings.
They had favourites, but those guys came to Scotland with big reputations and accomplished little more than was expected of them. Rangers were buying “the finished article” and no club in Scotland will ever do that again.
But we will build strong teams, strong enough to dominate here. We will build teams good enough to play at the Group Stage levels of the Champions and Europa League competitions. The money we have as a club, and the structures which enable us to challenge for the pot of gold will keep us in a place where we can still add one or two players of quality to the team every single year, and so the wheel will keep on turning.
For those clubs beneath us, and Sevco foremost amongst them, and stupidest amongst them because they do have delusions of grandeur and will chase dreams with ill-gotten gains or funny money until the next crash comes, the first rung of mediocrity is really as good as it’s going to get. Quality will be in marked decline except for those teams which try to develop youth along continental lines rather than the lunatic British model.
We are getting it right there too … which must be terrifying for all Scotland’s more intelligent observers. Ralston is the latest proof of that.
Market forces and hard financial reality are moving football in a direction, and at a speed, that makes it impossible for other clubs here to contemplate it far less keep up.
Even we can’t keep up, but we’ll be there, in the room, at the top table and as long as we are the financial gulf that separates the rest in Scotland from ourselves will grow the way PSG and others are growing away from us.
You see, nights like last night are in Sevco’s future … and in their past, but only in the context of this league.
That stage we were on, they can forget that.
But losing five at home to a vastly superior team in every department … yeah I can see that. Because we did that to them, at Ibrox, not that long ago.
And at the end of this month, we’re back there, with something to prove.
Be afraid, fools. Be very afraid.