JULY 2001

It was welcome aboard the SPL for LIVINGSTON and DUNDEE's return to Europe after 27 years was an unhappy one.




OK. What have these two lists got in common? On the one hand…

Fulham, Luton Town, Ipswich Town, Leyton Orient, Northampton Town, Southampton, Coventry City, Queen’s Park Rangers, Crystal Palace, Norwich City, Carlisle United, Brighton, Swansea City, Watford, Oxford United, Wimbledon, Millwall, Swindon Town and Barnsley?

And on the other… Stirling Albion?

The first list represents all those teams that have played in the top flight of English football since 1945 FOR THE FIRST TIME. Needless to say the Scottish list, as you can see, is just a tad smaller.

So, welcome aboard Livingston. Whether you regard them as a completely new club, Meadowbank revisited, or even the third incarnation of Ferranti Thistle, one thing is abundantly clear; for the first time since Stirling reached the ‘A’ Division in 1949, Scotland’s top league has a new member.

Let’s hope the locals turn out to watch them too. Although far and away the best supported side outside the Premier, Livingston’ s crowds have actually fallen by around 300 per game this season. Their total for the season is only slightly more than Celtic get for one game.

So if that’s what the ‘best of the rest’ can do, what hope for the others?

Note for anoraks: The present Clydebank club has no connection with the club of that name which played in the old First Division, so you could argue that they too have been a new team in the top flight since 1945. In which case, drop the six London clubs from the list above and we'll talk about TOWNS/CITIES with top League status since the war. The Scottish list still looks miserly.


Cooking utensils describing water-boiling applications asbeing of an ebony hue is a polite way of summarising the complaints made by Dundee manager Ivano Bonetti about Intertoto opponents Sartid after his side lost 5-2 in Yugoslavia.

Instead of decrying the fact that their continentals are better play actors than his continentals, Bonetti would be better off asking why he allowed his team to take part in this competition in the first place.

Sure,we know there's a place in the UEFA Cup at stake but Jim McLean has more chance of winning a lifetime achievement award from the Dens Park support than their team had of making it into Europe this way. For just like the UEFA Cup and the Champions League the Intertoto is biased towards the big boys. Aston Villa and Newcastle can have another month on the beach before they're asked to play. The same goes for entrants from France, Germany and the rest of the elite.

Want proof? Well, the Intertoto started before the Spanish and Italian Leagues had even finished. There is one relief for Dundee in the whole sorry affair. At least this was a one-round tourney, over in a week. Scotland's only other entrants, Partick Thistle in 1995, had to play in a mini-league lasting several weeks. Their season stretched from June to May when an exhausted Thistle lost their Premier place in extra time in the play-offs. Dundee will hope to avoid that fate.

The Dens Park side finished 6th last season. At one time that would have guaranteed an automatic European spot. And that is the true measure of Scottish football's decline.




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