Date: 28th May 2021
In a week where St Johnstone became our most successful ‘Diddy” team ever and our boys have flown to sunny Spain, with just two weeks and two friendlies to go, we are finally in touching- distance of the Euros.
It is a time to ask yourself if our first appearance in 22 years be our last till 2042?
Believe it or not you can make the difference to that predictable ‘Groundhog Day’ outcome and Scottish football needs you to do something.
A double Hat trick today
1 The Dancing in Perth
2 A New Song for Sheena?
3 Well Done K Hearts
4 European Super League Writ Small
5 Girls Heading for the Wire
6 Thinking Outside the Hampden Box
1. Magician of the Year
A long time ago in a galaxy far away Steven Gerrard was voted Manager of the Year by the Scottish Football Writer’s Association beating Callum Davidson, Steve Clarke and David Martindale to the annual, season-based, betting company sponsored award.
It was announced on May 12 after Steve took his side through an undefeated season amassing 102 points and lighting up in Europe.
At the time of the vote it seemed a fair enough decision but the season has now ended and since the award was made in good faith a rookie manager has delivered a second cup to a club with what could best be described as a modest budget and, until this year, fairly modest aspirations.
Callum Davidson has made a mockery of our journalists’ early call.
I can understand that the writers as a group wanted to tie up their knitting before the close season and have since heard some mea culpas, but guys, why has there not been a retrospective acknowledgement of Callum’s incredible attainment?
Why not elevate him to ‘Joint Manager of the Year’ or ‘Scottish Cups Manager of the Year’?
Or the “Stop Press Manager of the Year”.
Please acknowledge what he has achieved formally on behalf of all your readers and all fans or you devalue Steve’s award.
In the meantime Callum is our ‘Magician of the Year’ for his Roy of the Rovers season.
Well done Callum, ‘keep sliding’.
Our gaffer.. 💙 pic.twitter.com/HWeftdpvEL
— Stevie may (@Stevie__may) May 22, 2021
2. For One Year Only
Sounds like a follow up to the 1981 Bond movie.
The one where Roger and Melina have a parrot called Max who flirts with Margaret Thatcher on the phone while they are doing the business. There were sharks too and Scotland’s very own Sheena Easton sang the theme.
This column however is nothing to do with the Bond franchise or that particular piece of Bond hokum.
No this is a quote from the Lowland League.
The Lowland League AGM last night had a vote which confirms that Celtic and Rangers Colts will join their league ‘For 1 year only”.
I can now hear Sheena Easton singing it in my head and I hope you now have this earworm too.
Anyway the Lowland League season starts on July 17th just 7 weeks today and there are now 17 legitimate and two paying members.
George Fraser, the man both behind this move and the delivery, justified the decision saying “Whilst it wasn’t unanimous the majority of clubs are in favour of it and ultimately the members made the decision which is only right in a democracy”.
Each club will get at least £3K as their share of the ‘entry fee’ the Lowland League have finagled from each Colts clubs one-off payment of £25K.
It’s a done deal.
It’s also not the first bad decision made in Scottish Football and won’t be the last either.
Last year the 17 Lowland League clubs including George’s own BSC Glasgow, who play in Alloa, which is quite near Glasgow, were cynically disenfranchised along with their Highland League cousins when Neil Doncaster’s SPFL decided not to honour the contracted play off programme.
It was an equally wrong decision and worse like, the teams below them in the pyramid when they took this decision last night, there was nothing they could do about it.
Technically they could have fought it through the SFA but that didn’t happen.
We’ve never been told why and Covid got the blame instead of self interest.
This year they, the Lowland League, have learnt from the master and decided to unilaterally take the decision with no discussion or input from the lower leagues. The aspirant members that see the Lowland League as part of their pathway upwards have been ignored.
And they will also not share the arranged ransom that will amount to £3k per club.
Not game changing to any of them.
But maybe a game changing decision for the chairman.
The decision of how to develop elite talent is part of a broader discussion that is desperately needed.
However elite youth football is not confined to our two dominant Glasgow member clubs and needs a proper, thought through strategy and long term investment. That was what the McLeish 2 Report was about before it got dumped into the Hampden long grass.
“Not the Lowland League’s finest hour”.
3. Well Done Kelty
Barry Ferguson duly delivered his Kelty Hearts into the SPFL 2 before 24 hours later resigning, job done and becoming new Alloa gaffer. We wish him well.
Kelty have been a pleasure to watch since they joined ‘senior’ football from the junior ranks and as a club have real ambition to move further forward like both Cove and Edinburgh City before them.
Their elevation now means the pyramid has three ex SPFL clubs on the outside wanting back in, Brechin, East Stirling and Berwick.
All famous Scottish League clubs.
All hopefully part of our future as well as our past.
All now well aware of the irony of a decision they collectively made some years ago.
The decision that ensures the pyramid system remains geared against change is now biting them in the bum.
It is time for the pyramid bottom end to be bought into line with the other leagues and bottom place, automatic relegation and second bottom place play offs to be de rigeur?
Also if leagues were bigger then there would be less pressure on individual clubs and less yo-yoing.
How can yo-yoing be good for any business?
I feel for Ken Ferguson the Brechin fan, Chairman and ex SPFL board director.
He and his club have had 5 roller coaster years.
Now they find themselves in the Highland League even though it might make more sense to play in the Lowland League but they are deemed ‘North of Tay’ in someone’s previous boundary decisions.
I would now ask Ken to use his connections to work to change the structure so that ‘ins and outs’ and ‘ups and downs’ are not so stressing in Scottish Football.
Upward mobility is a key tenet in football all over the world but it needs to be managed fairly and the stresses it places on our clubs and their businesses needs thought through and addressed
For every up there is a down.
4. European League ‘Writ Small’ Heading Our Way?
American owned Dundee has just returned to the top after a big aggregate win over Killie.
Their MD John Nelms, yes he of the missing Good Friday vote, has been quoted raising the possibility of clubs breaking away from the SPFL if the way the game is governed does not change.
Some of us have already seen the detailed proposal some time ago for a top league ‘franchise’ model where membership is based on criteria like full time, grass parks and other stuff and ‘invitations’ needed to join.
Clubs from other countries as part of the plan.
A kind of ‘American’ system that is more acceptable to some of the top end club owners who feel Scottish football has too many clubs at the bottom end and that they are stymieing them, the progressive clubs.
John said this week, “Scottish football does get left behind. Our TV deal doesn’t allow us to do much. We need more investment and need to be able to do things to make our product more saleable”.
I highlighted his word investment because in football terms it usually means spend not investment. Investment is a concept that is usually associated with getting a return in any arena but football.
John is basically saying the top teams are not getting what he sees as their fair share of the football money cake.
He continued “Things could get ugly should conflicting interests between full time and lower league clubs not be rectified”.
Again what he is saying again is the full time clubs need more.
Finally he says, “There could be tensions between leagues and there could be breakaway groups”.
Like many clubs John has identified that there are issues to be addressed but this line of justification sounds a lot like the same reasons being given by the Super League Clubs before the aggressive and near unanimous fan reaction sent them homeward ‘tae think again’.
This is one story however that will develop.
5. Girls League Heading for the Wire
Two games to go all round and Glasgow City lead Celtic by 3 points with a 9 goal difference and Rangers by 5 points but Rangers have a 7 goal better difference.
Rangers has to play Motherwell then finish the season at home against Glasgow City.
Celtic has Forfar at home then Motherwell away.
Glasgow City has a BBC Alba televised (4.10pm) tough fixture at Ainslie Park Vs Spartans on Sunday 6th June before the away trip also on BBC Alba at 4.10 pm against Rangers.
Well worth the watching.
Well done to the team at BBC Alba for their coverage this year and while I’m on that well done to the BBC Scotland channel for the coverage of this year’s men’s Championship too.
6. Thinking Outside the Hampden Box
The Scottish Football Supporters Association is holding its annual conference on Sunday at 2pm.
You are invited: 90 minutes to save Scottish Football Tickets, Sun 30 May 2021 at 14:30 | Eventbrite
Steve Clark is one of our guests of honour with an interview from Spain between him and Heather Dewar.
Please be assured this conference is not a highfalutin “look how good we are” type session.
It is more like a structured Q and A discussion in the bar and is by fans for fans.
It will all be available on line and we will summarise the points made and discussed.
On the day I’ll set the scene about where we are and where we are going if nothing changes.
That itself is a scary scenario.
Then we go public with a suggested alternative way forward and open up a Q and A discussion with some heavy hitters who will answer you honestly.
There are so many people in game who want to give something back and it’s all been humbling being part of this.
We just have to find a way to get them and you involved.
Sadly we live in the real world and there is no magic wand to wave or fairy dust to throw into the air to change everything overnight.
But we are realistic.
The way to improve our game and its performance is by identifying things that need done and addressing them logically, properly and out in the open.
We already have some ideas of the things needing done from our fan meetings but every fan has an important role in framing the agenda for our game.
It is not about ticking boxes.
We’ve had that for years.
You are not just invited.
You are not just welcome.
You are bloody essential.
“Our game needs thinking outside the Hampden box”.
Scottish Football is Everybody’s Business.
As always thanks for the feedback, and feel free to drop me a line about anything football related.
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