There are a lot of Peepul out there who have a very nasty opinion of me. They seem to think that I’m some kind of sadist, that I take pleasure in the suffering of others. Not “others” I tell them; the club at Ibrox and all who follow it. That’s the extent of it.
When I’m writing about their calamitous Champions League performance, it might be tempting for people to think that I’m doing so because it’s all about the funny. But in fact, it’s not. There are practical consequences, both long and short term, and which make this important enough to keep an eye on. Let’s start with the morale element.
Their club’s summer of bravado was all tied up in their European run. It is very obviously good for us if that illusion is shattered in as brutal a manner as possible. It is obviously to our advantage if their club is seen to have been humiliated on that stage.
For a lot of our supporters, none of that stuff really matters. But it has an impact not only their team but on the way their fans engage and interact with their team. If they are angry and on edge and intolerant of the least mistake, that’s how we want them.
Morale matters. But not as much as the money does.
If they exit the tournament at this stage the immediate impact is the loss of nearly £5 million which they otherwise would have gotten just by going through in this round. That’s the prize for getting to the play-off. They are guaranteed Europa Group Stage football either way, but there’s a £5 million UEFA bonus for getting through this round.
So if they go out in this round, that’s gone. They also lose the extra home fixture, which shaves more money off of them. We know about the loss of the Champions League pot of gold; what’s sometimes forgotten is that we make more money if they aren’t in the tournament. We make an extra £3 million from the national TV pool share just by virtue of their not being there.
And the consequences don’t stop there. I’ll discuss some of the others in an article later on today, but do not let anyone over there kid you that we should not have a very active interest in what comes to pass here. There are numerous reasons – numerous good reasons – why we should be watching it all very closely indeed.
Their trouble is our opportunity. But it runs deeper than that. If we can win this title and get ourselves another Champions League jackpot that will enable us to grow like never before. It’s taken them a decade and £100 million in overspending to get to a point where they feel like they can make a sustained challenge to us.
We can render all of it wasted if we can win this title and the next one. We can put them if not back to square one then at the very least in a place from which they cannot easily escape; our shadow. Believe me, these qualifiers are more important than they look.