Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Get the games played

David Weir denied the season had aged him
Scottish football is determined to scupper Rangers' European ambitions. That's the message pouring out of Ibrox after the refusal to extend the existing extension to the season. According to David Murray (funny how success can drive Mr Murray out of his hiding place) we will be the laughing stock of world football after the Russian FA happily cancelled four Zenit games to allow them to prepare for the UEFA Cup final.

The SPL have, however, stuck to their guns and the games have to be played. The SFA have also insisted that the Scottish Cup Final will go ahead on Saturday 24th May as planned.

These are the right decisions. The postponement caused by Phil O'Donnell's death were unforeseen. The postponements caused by the weather were unfortunate, although they were compounded by the poor decision to let Gretna groundshare.

The cancellation of Rangers game against Gretna to allow them to prepare for a European fixture was misguided. But the subsequent refusal to cancel Aberdeen's league game before they played Copenhagen means that the SPL would have difficulty justifying more cancellations.

Motherwell, Hibs and Dundee United are all still very much involved in the race for third spot and European qualification: they cannot be expected to further disrupt training schedules to help Rangers cause.

Celtic are, against all the odds, still in the title race. It would be difficult to ask them to agree an extension that will strengthen Rangers' hand.

And Queen of the South will already have been kicking their heels for a month so moving the Scottish Cup, still in name the blue riband event of the season, was always a no go.

The Russian authorities, only a few weeks into the league, did not have these factors to consider because time is on their side. An extension would have further damaged the SPL's credibility. This season's fixture congestion has been laughable enough without turning the last few weeks into a pantomime.

The fact that Rangers still have to play St Mirren makes a mockery of the already creaky premise of the SPL split.

And there are a few other points to consider: Rangers should have been able to beat Partick Thistle in the Scottish Cup in one game, there has already been an extension that would appear to inconvenience everyone except Rangers and, finally, the crux of the matter is that a team with Ranger's European ambitions and resources should have a squad to cope with the pile up.

Are we really to believe that this group of players will be unable to find the energy that will sustain them through the biggest night of their careers? That their failure to wrap up the title is solely due to the fixture list? Or that they will somehow be forced to struggle against a team that were part time only one year ago?

The bleating from Ibrox needs to stop before it sounds like excuses are being prepared early. They should be above the moans as they reflect on a season that has confounded expectations. And they should realise that the SPL is not around to suit the whims of a big club.

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