Monday, May 25, 2009

Get real

At around 4.30 this afternoon Owen Coyle stood on the brink of taking Burnley into the top flight for the first time in over 30 years.

In Glasgow Jim Traynor was predicting that Owen Coyle would be a front runner to replace Gordon Strachan as Celtic manager.

Even in the insular world of Scottish football Jim's timing seemed a little off. Quite a way to puncture the Burnley bubble, the immediate speculation seemed about as appropriate as discussing who the widow's next boyfriend would be at a wake.

But there is another issue raised. It took Frank McAvennie, that well known Glaswegian intellectual, to point out what the essential arrogance that surrounds our attitudes to the Old Firm prevents Jim from seeing. Right now, claimed Frank, Coyle might well see Burnley as the more attractive proposition.

It is the best league in the world, with riches that Burnley could only have dreamed about. Or it is the SPL and a protracted battle with Rangers. It is the chance to work with players that have never heard of Burnley but fancy the Premier League or it is whoever will take the step down to the SPL.

Coyle might well follow his emotional ties. But it's not a foregone conclusion. Whisper it in Glasgow but the Old Firm have never been further from football's top table.

The story of Newcastle should be a timely reminder. The story had everything, of course, even the Bible makes do with just the one Messiah but there is a lesson well worth learning.

Throughout the travails the supporters clung grimly to the belief that they were a "massive" club. Too big to go down and big enough to withstand the grubby machinations of their owners and the failings of their managers. They weren't too big and the fans reality check couldn't be more painful.

Gordon Strachan realised the realities of the football world order and built a pragmatic Celtic team to survive in it. His reward was a complete lack of enthusiasm from his own fans. How many more falls will Celtic endure before the fans realise that wee Gordon wasn't a million miles away from be as successful as their new reality will allow.

Likewise Aberdeen fans seem to have found the lack of silverware delivered by Jimmy Calderwood to be beyond the pale. But history tells us that as the Old Firm march on to 100 league title between them, their SPL competitors are moving no closer to notching up 20 between them.

Aberdeen will win trophies only occasionally. The regular European place Calderwood delivered was Aberdeen's level. No, he wasn't a former player but former players haven't always delivered for the Dons. The idea being put around that Steve Coppell might be tempted to Pittodrie is proof of the wake up call the fans need.

At the moment the SPL gets more unattractive with every passing year and Scottish football falls further and further behind. Supporters have dreams and expectations and that is only right. But if the wild fantasies of the terrace begin to damage the club then the supporters need to get real.