Friday, November 24, 2006

A New Era For Scottish Football?

Finally it’s happened. After 35 years of huffing and puffing Celtic and Rangers will both be in Europe after Christmas.

Obviously anyone who takes an interest in Scottish football but doesn’t follow Rangers or Celtic might feel that it is an achievement that means very little.

And they would be right. Kind of.

That two clubs of their size and stature should have failed to get beyond Christmas simultaneously since the 1971-72 season is embarrassing.

The lack of competition domestically is most commonly cited as the reason for their failings.

But the Dutch league – not universally famous for fierce competitiveness – has produced four European Cup winners as well as UEFA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup champions in those 35 years.

The bleating about a poor domestic league shouldn’t hide the failures of the Old Firm, as big, big clubs, to cut it in Europe.

Having said that, their progress this season should be applauded. Successful European runs by any Scottish club bring the game benefits – not just in UEFA ranking points but also by making other people take an interest in our game.

And, funnily enough, any outsiders might be quite surprised by how competitive our top league actually is at the moment.

The monotony of Celtic’s recent run and massive cushion at the top apart, every other club looks capable of taking points off everyone else.

And Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen will all fancy their chances of nicking second spot and consigning Rangers to third (or worse) for the second year in a row.

Added to Scotland’s continued improvement this should all mean that our fortunes are beginning to look up.

Let’s hope so!