by John Reid
The biggest team in the division draws to a newly promoted team and no one seems to care. Another team throw away a two goal lead against ten men. And the biggest crowd of the day is in division three. Just another week in Scottish fitba’!
This season has to be perhaps the most bizarre in Scottish football history, which is of course due to the liquidation of Rangers and the formation of a new club – also known as Rangers – which now plays in the bottom tier of Scottish football, division three, and had an attendance of over 49,000 for their match at the weekend with East Stirling.
The departure of Rangers from the SPL has had a big impact, as the tv deal signed with ESPN/SKY was significantly lower than the previous contract, which interestingly had written guarantees in it that there had to be 4 ‘old firm’ games a season. But now this has gone and clubs have to cut their cloths accordingly.
If we look to matters on the pitch, the biggest events facing Scottish football this week are the ties featuring our remaining clubs left in Europe. Celtic, after defeating HJK Heksinki in the last qualifying round, have a decent chance of progressing to the Champions League proper for the first time in four season as they travel to Swedish champions Helsingborgs.
The importance of the game – which could net Celtic up to £15 million if they qualify – was shown when Celtic drew 1-1 with newly promoted Ross County at the weekend. Celtic, who needed a last second equalizer from Kris Commons to get the draw, seemed to play with one eye on Europe, which was reflected in the team selection, with a raft of injured players not risked. Ross County can be delighted with their first season in the SPL so far, picking up three points from three games so far.
Hearts, who face Liverpool at Tynecastle on Thursday in a daunting looking Europe League tie, had a poor result on Saturday as they managed to throw away a 2 goal lead to 10 men Inverness, who in the end thoroughly merited the pointed gained in a 2-2 draw. Motherwell, who face Malaga in a very difficult looking tie on Thursday, started their good start to the season with a 2-1 victory over Kilmarnock. The fans at Fir Park have the added bonus of James McFadden’s return, as he is set to sign a short-term deal. Hibs and Aberdeen also got their first victories of the campaign with 2-1 wins at St. Mirren and St. Johnstone.
However, arguably the best performance of the weekend came from league leaders Dundee United, who beat Dundee 3-0 in the first Dundee derby in 7 years. Star of the show was in-demand front man Johnny Russell, who scored twice but was later harshly sent-off along with Dundee’s Stephen O’Donnell. Dundee United are tipped to be Celtic’s nearest challengers this season, and this performance underlined that.
As for Rangers, after drawing 2-2 with Peterhead last week, they had a comfortable 5-1 victory over East Stirling, despite going behind early on. The main story however was the crowd of 49,000, which was by far the biggest in Scotland this week, and showed that Rangers fans are willing to stick with their club as the begin the journey back to the SPL.
In the wake of all the off-field acrimony which has taken place thought the summer, it is vital for Scottish football to get back on an even keel, and good results from our European representatives this week in just what is needed.