Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time to look forward

In countries across the world the pre season build up always has the feel of a phony war.

Sadly this year in Scotland has seen the phony war produce a number of high profile casualties.

Falkirk, Motherwell and Aberdeen out of Europe. Scotland all but out of the 2010 World Cup. That's the football side.

Off the pitch Setanta have disappeared into a financial quagmire. Sky and ESPN have come in and picked up the scraps but ensured the 12 SPL clubs are frantically rewriting budgets.

The Scottish Football League's handling of Livingston, combined with the internal wranglings over the SPL TV deal and growing disgruntlement over the governance of the SFA, has added to the impression that Scottish football is run by plonkers.

Oh, what a lovely summer.

But tomorrow the SPL finally kicks off. Will it offer a cure for our all our ills?

No. It won't. It will be grimly predictable as ever. Same top two. Probably same top six. Probably much the same in the basement.

But we need this year to at least provide some compelling drama within that repetitive narrative.

It would be nice if the title wasn't decided by one of the Old Firm being slightly less bad than the other.

It would be nice if a number of teams brought through and sustained talented and exciting youngsters.

It would be nice if the season's most enduring tale didn't involve the national team captain getting pissed and then pissed off.

It would be nice if the blazerati could knock their heads together and come up with a plan for a reorganisation of the game that offers real hope for moving forward.

It would be nice if clubs could reconnect with their fans and recognise that the supporters are what sustains the game.

It would be nice if we could get through a season without a bigotry controversy, real or manufactured.

It would be nice if things were different.

Will they be? Who knows? I don't. I don't hold out much hope. But my predictions are often crap.

Tony Mowbray's commitment to playing "proper" football remains admirable. Let's hope it can survive the pressures of Celtic.

Ranger's financial stagnation means their squad has stagnated. Let's hope that doesn't mean the SPL is a one horse race.

Craig Levein's dictatorship at Dundee United continues to gather pace. Let's hope this year's results are strong enough for him to keep the support of the powers that be. An example of a club finding success through stability would be a powerful message to other clubs.

St Johnstone and Hamilton both surviving this season would continue to breathe life into the SPL. With decent managers and honest squads they can give hope to others that ambition can bring its rewards without having to flirt with financial ruin.

Many reasons to be pessimistic. A few that bring some optimism. But after a long, hard summer we can only hope that the SPL kick off quickly delivers a few of those fabled green shoots of recovery.