Saturday, November 19, 2011

Blogathon: Time for Old Firm goodbyes

Another welcome for a guest blogger in the mood for some debate. My good friend Scott Johnston of the thefootyblog.net

Always a pleasure. And massive thanks for the help he's provided in this whole blogathon enterprise. Follow him @thefootyblognet

Check out Scott's site to find out why he thinks Rangers and Celtic should stay in Scottish football.

Here's why I think they should go:

The Old Firm.

Wha's like them?

They hate each other. They hate everyone else. Sometimes it seems they even hate themselves.

Time to open the cage and let them taste the freedom of the big, wide world that they've so long craved.

"What about the money they bring to the game?"

Well, let's be honest, this blogathon could read like an extended - if oddly critical - eulogy for the Scottish game.

His club's knackered. My club's knackered. Your club's knackered.

Rangers and Celtic think riches lie elsewhere. Scottish football needs a revolution.

It's a perfect collision of circumstances.

Negotiate their secession from Scotland. And negotiate hard.

"You want away Pedro? You had enough Craigie-boy? Well, show us the colour of your money."

Share that cash out - we'll call it a going-away bonus - equally between every Scottish club.

And then start all over again.

League reconstruction. We need it and it will be easier to negotiate our way around it without the big two breathing fire and holding hands under the boardroom table.

A wage cap that allows our clubs to function in possibly reduced but far more manageable conditions? Sorted. And with it the premium placed on youth development that we need.

A competitive league? Certainly more competitive, you might expect certain clubs to rise to the top but none - and this would be a refreshing change to all that's gone before - would think they had a divine right to dominate.

If you take an axe to the two-headed dragon you can have the run of a footballing utopia.

It's a no-brainer. They are constrained by Scotland and they are big clubs. There's much to admire about both of them.

The choice they have is to live within their means - normally a step ahead of the chasing pack - or live above their means. And that has ramifications.

So we constrain them.

But they smother us with their size and their money and their whinging and their bullying.

So go. And go now.

The clubs left behind would be able to start again. It would be, I'm told, little more than a jumped up League of Ireland.

I'd disagree. There is an infrastructure in place in Scotland, there is a stronger footballing tradition.

And there is a constituency of the lost and disenfranchised, of supporters ground into submission by the dross of our footballing product and the endless trophy shoot out between the big two.

Why couldn't we entice those fans back. Why couldn't the clubs left behind - fitting nicely into their new league structure complete with it's own pyramid - reach out and say "join us on a new footballing adventure."

We've had too long submitting to the inevitable dominance of the Old Firm to imagine such things. They've cast their shadow over our footballing landscape for so long - with such fierce protection of their own well-being above the general health of the game - that we've lost the ability to dream, to think big, to open our imaginations and let the sunlight burst in.

Deliver Rangers and Celtic to the bigger stage they need. And deliver Hibs, Hearts, Aberdeen, the whole city of Dundee, Inverness and every other community that holds football dear from the darkness.

Even the way we frame this debate is wrong. I've done it in this article. "Set the Old Firm free."

No. Turn that upside down.

Set the rest of us free.

Me and you. And him from Paisley and her from Inverness and them from Dingwall and that chap from Falkirk.

Let's rise up and reinvent this game. Learn from the past, admit that the Old Firm experiment has been a 123 year mistake, ask not what we can gain from living in their shadow but what we can gain from jettisoning them.

They would still be among us. But we live with the EPL and the Champion's League being among us. Television companies have long broken down football's barriers.

A polite, respectful, merry co-existence is possible.

Thanks both of you, with all sincerity, for the memories. But a new day is beckoning us all.

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