You cannot have followed the Scottish football sporting press since Brendan Rodgers took over the running of the Celtic dressing room without having spotted that the press hates it.
The last few weeks have been a dream come true for the hacks and for those who hover on the margins of the game hoping that Sevco will somehow rise to overcome us.
These are their happiest days since a club called Rangers swirled down the tubes. These are the greatest times they’ve known since Ronny Deila’s side was eliminated from the Scottish Cup in a penalty shoot-out that allowed them to dream of being more than they are.
The coverage of Scottish football is almost uniformly dreadful. When Celtic has struggled in years gone by we are told that this game is about survival of the fittest and if that isn’t us then that’s just tough. If we were in the same position as Sevco right now we’d told that the so-called “title challenge” was built on sand and that our club was fundamentally unstable.
But of course the media’s coverage of the game here isn’t limited to how grossly distorted is the coverage of everything at Ibrox; it’s about how other clubs are just written off, and written out of the equation. They don’t matter at all.
Today Graeme Souness – who got his Ibrox EBT whilst working for another club; I mention this because clearly there’s quite a story there if the media were ever minded to ask – has said that Sevco beating Celtic this weekend would be “good for Scottish football”; it wouldn’t be, at all. It will be good for Sevco.
The problem is these people don’t appear to realise that’s not the same thing.
Our media, in the main, believes it anyway. Some of them realise that the rest of Scottish football doesn’t care who wins, but are willing to push what they know to be a lie. The rest are too wedded to the idea of the duopoly that they’ve overlooked the fact that it’s toxic to the game here and one of the things that has continually held it back.
Why would fans of Aberdeen, who believe their club has a legitimate claim to being the second biggest in the country, want Sevco to win this game? Do you think they accept Souness’ bullshit argument that the game itself would benefit? Do the supporters at Hibs or Hearts or St Johnstone or Kilmarnock or any of the other SPL clubs?
They detest the idea that we might be heading towards a two club system. The battle for second place isn’t what any football fan wants to see his or her team involved in, but is the battle for third any sexier? Of course not. It’s less money. It’s another European qualifier to endure. It’s not as prestigious. It’s not what sells season tickets.
Crowds are up across the boards; where’s this evidence that fans of other clubs are concerned with whether Celtic has a challenger or not? They would only care if that challenger was them. If Aberdeen rises to pip Sevco to second in this campaign will the media still be singing its song of gratitude for the “challenge”? Of course not.
The media cares about a challenge only if it comes from Ibrox. The rest of the league, they do not give a damn about, they never have and they never will.
One report recently said that Sevco is the only club with the infrastructure to challenge us, so it’s only natural than when people talk about wanting to see us in a fight that Ibrox should be the place that it originates; cobblers. Utter cobblers.
Let me put it this way; if Scottish football passed financial fair play regulations and Sevco was limited to spending only what it earned their club, as it stands right now, would be lucky to have a team in the top four and that’s because they are abysmally run and too focussed on attaining what should be a long term goal in the shortest possible time.
The Sevco operation is notoriously expensive to run. They have a European club’s infrastructure without commensurate earnings and that means losses every year, the inability to invest in areas where they need to, and that will, in good time, lead to a full-scale meltdown of the club and the attendant consequences for the team.
If Aberdeen, Hibs or another Scottish club was able to get to the Europa League groups a couple of years on the bounce I genuinely believe they would have the ability to relegate Sevco to third place or lower for the foreseeable future. What prevents it is that, in the meantime, Sevco is allowed to spend money it hasn’t got, sourced in dubious ways, without any questions asked.
I blame the other clubs for allowing that, by the way. I wholeheartedly believe that they would all have benefited from FFP regulations being put in place … but they are content to leave things as they are whilst a club from Ibrox cheats them all.
If Celtic and Sevco end up fighting it out for league titles and cups year after year, as it was when a team called Rangers was scamming the rest of the sport by hiding contracts and paying players with the proceeds of their notorious scam, I believe the enthusiasm around other clubs will die. Since Rangers circled the drain and swirled down the tubes nine different teams – including ourselves and Sevco – have contested finals. There have been five different winners.
Starting with Hearts in 2011-12, that is a welcome statistic especially when balanced by what came before it. In the ten years prior to that campaign only two sides out-with Celtic and Rangers won a Scottish Cup; they were Dundee United and Hearts.
Five clubs, including us, have won League Cups since 2012, even with us winning three of the last four. The stats for the decade before that? Hibs and Livingston were the only teams outside Celtic and Rangers who managed it.
The game is clearly better off for the collapse of the two club system, and you have to be inside it, on the losing side, not to see that with total clarity. The two club system forces other club into ludicrous dog-fights for the remaining European places. Its collapse allowed Hibs to consolidate in the Championship – from where they won a Scottish Cup – and Aberdeen the time, space, and additional resources with which they are now building a new ground.
Some people cannot see past it. They equate the good of the Ibrox club with the good of our game, and we have seen, clearly, and horribly, what happens when this becomes the guiding narrative of our national sport. An Ibrox club which was spending money it didn’t have decided to fund its spending spree by highly suspect, even illegal, means and when the consequences of that came due the idea that Scottish football depended on them was used to blackmail clubs into accepting something that was absolutely unacceptable.
All the evidence suggests they’d have gone along with it too, but then the fans raised their voices and the integrity of the sport was saved. Now we’re being setup for the next Ibrox bail-out. It could not be clearer, or more disgusting.
Shame on those who lack the imagination or love of our game to want to see it move forward. Instead they would take it backwards, and not to any golden age. No, what they want is for more days of shame, scandal and disgrace founded on the cornerstone of hate. That’s what the duopoly was built on. It would be the end of our sport if the future was shaped the same way.
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