Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Boring?

King Kev has spoken. The eternal optimist is worried that the FA Premier League is becoming boring. Indeed the messiah's second (third? fourth?) coming is not going to be like the last time around. Kev's playing for the best of the rest title. For everyone outside the 'Big Four' fifth is where it's at.

Blackburn Rovers were the last team to win the top flight outside of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea's Johnny Come Lately billionairres.

But the feeling goes that its not all that dull because the title, the UEFA Cup slot and relegation will all be decided on the last day. So a league within a league (or leagues within a league) is alright if they all provide some drama.

That is certainly the interpretation that suits the media. Sky have been able to bill every weekend for the last three months as the biggest since, well, since the last one. But what then is the point of being Wigan? Safe, sound and bereft of any real meaning except that not being relegated is an achievement. Is that enough?

And what does this say about the SPL? Not since Aberdeen in 1984-85 has the Old Firm hegemony been broken and only twice in that time (1994-95 and 2005-06) have they failed to make up the top two.

This year might be a special case because the fixture debacle has, perhaps, artificially prolonged the title race. The UEFA Cup race is still alive as Hibs, Motherwell and Dundee United scrap it out to see who can finish less badly. We now know that the failure of the grand Gretna experiment meant that relegation was a foregone conclusion before a ball was kicked.

So there is still something to play for but is it exciting? Rangers and Motherwell still have games in hand which is making it difficult to keep tabs on the runners and riders. But that's not really drama as much as a succession of unfortunate incidents wrapped up in a pitiful administrative system.

The main talking point of the weekend was the award of a corner kick that wasn't to Celtic. Sure, titles can turn on such incidents but when the referee becomes the story then the quality must be questioned.

At 1pm in Aberdeen on Saturday you wouldn't have known a game was on, even if you were driving past Pittodrie. The locals all said the same thing: for the Dons the season ended weeks ago. Last night Setanta were bigging up the battle for seventh(!) place as an important match. Clearly someone had forgotten to let the Hearts players see that bit of the script.

In essence, with relegation decided so early every team from Aberdeen down have been playing for nothing for a couple of months or more. No amount of real or imagined drama at the top can make up for the lack of quality or passion that so many nothing games delivers.

So if the English league is dull then it's hard not to see the Scottish game as duller. Should we be worried? What's the point in worrying? This is the way it is. We put up with it, we dust ourselves down and we get on with it. That's the SPL way.