Friday, October 09, 2009

You take the high road

And so it raises its ugly head again.

Desperate, lonely and just wanting to be held by somebody, Rangers and Celtic have once again slipped into their negligee, touched up the make up, set up the webcam and logged on to www.ageingtartswantenglishlovers.com.

First we had former male model Martin Bain saying Rangers would be upping sticks in ten years. Then Peter Lawwell marched Celtic down to the docks and forced them to start advertising their wares: "Hello boys, we're a massive club, want to see what's underneath?"

There are a couple of reasons for all this posturing. Both clubs want more money. Rangers because their finances are in a worse state than Gordon Brown's, Celtic because they're convinced that only the financial straitjacket that is life in Scotland holds them back from being genuine challengers in Europe.

Posturing is, of course, all it is at the moment. Of easy virtue they may be but they still need somebody to ask them to dance.

Is it any different this time? Yes, I think it is for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, there is more of a will in England. Phil Gartside might not be the supremo of English football but his continued support for a restructuring at the top of the English gives Glasgow's least contented residents an ally down south. Money talks and Gartside is convinced that the Old Firm can help protect Bolton's finances.

How long will it be before he starts convincing the chairmen of similar sized clubs of the benefits? If he can show them the cash then they will fall into line.

Secondly, came the admission from Celtic that they would be willing to fight their way through the English leagues. Not for one minute are they likely to be asked to do that. The show of humility will be more than symbolic though if it paves the way for compromise with the Football League teams. Celtic have put something on the table so a deal can be thrashed out.

The FA? Likely to do the bidding of the Premier clubs when any decision is made. The SFA? Likely to be against a move but equally likely to be completely ineffectual in trying to mount any meaningful opposition.

UEFA's reaction will be interesting although the experience of the Welsh clubs in England sets a precedent. I believe the European authorities will be keeping a keen eye on this. Not because they are totally against such a move but because of the repercussions it will have elsewhere. Portugal's big clubs going to Spain? Holland and Belgium losing their big sides to France or Germany? And, ultimately, the move towards some form of a European super league. Rangers and Celtic could be the test case.

Which leaves us with the SPL clubs. Some supporters say let them go. Others say it would be the death of Scottish football. This week Dundee United chairman Stephen Thompson has been plastered over the media as a vocal critic of the move. That, though, is not the extent of what he said:
"I wouldn't like to see them go. But if they are going to go, then there is a proper way to do it - let's talk and bring something constructive to the table."
Not totally anti. But wanting to make sure that mechanisms to, as they say, manage the change are in place.

I've written about this before and I'll no doubt write about it again. I think this ends with Rangers and Celtic leaving. That, of course, would only be the end of the beginning for the clubs that are left behind. The winds of change might bring the opportunity for revolutionary change. Or it could bring about a disaster.

I really don't know. That's for the future.

For now the flirting has begun in earnest. Divorce and a second marriage lie not too far up the road.