Scottish football is in transition.
For the first time in a long time, some of clubs are now run by people who do not think it is good enough to meekly accept that 24 points are simply written off before a ball is kicked at the start of a campaign.
For too long, everyone at these clubs has kicked their campaigns off accepting that third place is what they are shooting for. The worst culprits, in my view, have been Aberdeen. They had second place for a couple of seasons after the Ibrox club got to the top flight. But ever since, they have allowed themselves to drift.
Their chairman has to get the next decision absolutely spot-on. So does the chairman at Hearts. Hibs will need to snap out of their Lee Johnson holding pattern; eventually, they too will require a better answer and somebody who can take them forward.
The talk out of Tynecastle is most encouraging.
They seem to get it. Their club has spent a lot of time talking big; now it has to act as if it is a serious player. A good managerial appointment will help, but it has to go further than that and find a way to back him.
European Group Stage football has to be a must for these teams.
It should be a requirement, not something that’s treated the way a draw at Celtic Park would be; as a happy chance, a bonus on top of otherwise indifferent league form. Regular participation in the groups is what will give these clubs a chance to develop and grow. The changes in the structure of the European game will afford more opportunities for that than ever before.
Celtic will be watching all of this with great interest. We need more than one challenger, and especially if that challenger is built on sand. We need to know that the rest of the game is more robust than it has been in a while.
I believe that these clubs have listened to the words our manager said about infusing the right mentality in the institution. He and Ronny Deila both took over unfancied teams which were outgunned by bigger and better resourced rivals and one of the first things they did at those clubs was convinced the people in them that they could be winners.
I think those words and that idea has gotten through. I think it has finally hit home. I believe that people inside those clubs were paying attention and have gotten the message. I think that it was Neilson’s view that “every club outside Glasgow would want to be where we are”, as much as the results themselves, which forced the hands of the Hearts board.
These clubs have to start with setting proper standards and proper demands on their managers. There should be minimum points requirements, and there should be a year three objective either to win a major trophy or to be considered regular finalists.
Celtic would welcome the chase. Otherwise our own club gets stale and complacent, fat and slovenly, even with the best will in the world.
I hope – and I’m sure that Celtic hopes – that we are seeing the start of something here and affecting more than just Tynecastle. Aberdeen, Hibs and others should be aiming high because it’s only then that you stand a chance of achieving things.