October is make or break month for Scottish football. By Halloween we
could be looking forward to a mouth-watering play-off for a place in
the World Cup Finals next summer, an exciting five-way tussle at the
top of the SPL, an equally entertaining battle at the bottom,
intensifying promotion and relegation struggles in the SFL and Rangers
and Hibs proudly flying the Scottish flag in Europe.
we could be dumped on our backsides for the third successive major
tournament, a resurgent Old Firm signalling business as usual in the
title race, one club detached at the bottom, runaway winners for the
sole promotion places on offer in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd divisions,
play-off races that fail to ignite, poor sides surrendering to
relegation just as the clocks go back and our remaining European hopes
either ignominiously dashed or playing out time at the bottom of their
Possibly - and much more
likely - we will see a combination of the above scenarios. While the
permutations on offer in the World Cup would drive Einstein to
distraction, Scotland's task is at least simple enough. Win both games
or forget all about it. But we are relying on others to slip up. Not
just Norway but Slovenia also. For if the Norwegians beat Moldova and
Slovenia can take a point from Italy then Slovenia too will go into
their match against Scotland with a chance of qualification. Remember,
the Italians need just a point to confirm their place in the finals.
Who is to say they won't settle for a draw against the Slovenes?
for Slovenia to be eliminated from the equation before Scotland travel
there on October 12th we need them to lose in Palermo AND the
Norwegians to beat Moldova. Head-to-head results would then make it
impossible for Slovenia to finish above Norway. Any other combination
of results leaves Slovenia in with a chance.
is also the remote possibility of Scotland, Norway and Slovenia all
finishing with 14 points producing a nightmare scenario in which the
Slovenes have a better head-to-head than Scotland, the Norwegians a
better record than the Slovenes and the Scots and the Norwegians level.
Goal difference, fair play, play-offs to reach the play-offs, all kinds
of weird and wonderful delights may yet be on offer. But basically we
have to win our matches and hope for the best. To be honest it's
remarkable we are still even talking about the possibility of
qualification with two games remaining. The qualification campaign may
yet claim some big names. Both Spain and France are at risk of missing
out despite both being unbeaten so far and England's defeat in Belfast
has thrown their future back into the melting pot.
must be running scared at the prospect of three of the biggest and best
supported countries missing out on the Finals in Germany. Especially
after manipulating the draw so that they (and Italy) weren't placed in
a group with seven teams.
Hearts' victory over Rangers would in most circumstances prove the
Tynecastle side to be the real deal when it comes to a title challenge.
But these are not normal circumstances. Rangers had already lost at
Aberdeen, drawn at Falkirk and been humiliated at home by Hibs before
losing at Tynecastle. Hearts have to travel to face Celtic in October.
If they win there then there is the very real possibility that we could
have a one-horse title race with the Old Firm scrapping it out with
Hibs and Killie for runners-up spot.
warnings should be in store. Twice before a side other than the OF has
made such a stunning start to the season and lost the title. It
happened to Hearts in 1914-15 after eight straight victories and to
Motherwell in 1933-34 after they won the first nine. Hearts though did
win the first eleven in 1894-95 and went on to win their very first
championship that season.
season taking shape in the three lower leagues and Champions League and
UEFA Cup fixtures wrapped around the World Cup qualifying finale
October 2005 promises to be one of the most crucial months in Scottish
football for many a year. Unfortunate therefore that for a large part
of it this website will be away from the action. This writer has to
take his breaks whenever he can though and this year that means that
instead of roaring on Scotland at Hampden it's a case of finding some
accommodating place with a satellite TV connection.
don't feel too sorry for me. There are some compensations, not least
the fact that on the same day as East Stirling and Albion Rovers battle
it out at Firs Park, I shall be basking in the relative luxury of
Barcelona v Saragossa at the Camp Nou. And of course the website forum
will remain open 24/7.
that come November we still have that sense of excitement and
anticipation that is building up now. And that plans are being made
again for foreign travel. This time for the World Cup play-offs.