March 2002
Doing the splits

Guest writer Jim Hamill on Scot Gemmill's Scotland gripes. The SPL splits into two. Some advice for Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale.


Play the Gemm-ill?

By Jim Hamill

Embedded amongst the, by and large, morbid post mortems, in the press, following the exposure of the national team's frailties in Paris, was a minor and somewhat incidental piece which failed to provoke any of the righteous indignation that it presumably hoped to secure. This was the news that Scot Gemmill is thinking about retiring from the international scene because he has not been allowed to play for Scotland as often as he thinks he should have. Simultaneously, Rab Douglas is supposed to have had a shouting match with Berti Vogts about his non-selection

In Gemmill's case the gesture is about as empty as ITV Digital's bank account and is an exercise in self-deception not witnessed since an unnamed emperor of lore cavorted about in the buff, to the amusement of all concerned.

His argument goes that he bided his time when Collins and McAllister occupied the midfield berth in the team, only to find that the likes of Lambert, Cameron, and now Ferguson and Matteo have jumped ahead of him in the pecking order.

Apparently his father has been standing in the wings abetting this display of pique.

OK maybe it is not unusual for players to decide to announce their international retirement. Witness Collins or Shearer, but a Collins or a Shearer, he is not. He is not even a Gemmill, if comparison were permitted to be drawn with his father.

Somewhere here, and in the case of Douglas, a notion seems to have crept in that selection of the national team should be done on a democratic rather than meritocratic or even autocratic (i.e. on the managers say so) basis.

Given this situation, it is hard to see what Gemmill’s gripe is. I suspect that most people would think that the players he cites are better than him. While Cameron may have other qualities, the rest have all played at a higher level, on the European stage. This compares more favourably with Gemmill’s journey from struggling in a struggling Nottingham Forest side to struggling in a struggling Everton side. So who would really notice if he decided he was not available for selection.

There is a West of Scotland condition identified by either Hugh or Willie McIlvanney known as "I kent his faither" syndrome. This is characterised by a cynical disregard for the abilities, or denial of talent, of anyone to emerge from the midst of your community; "I kent his faither so he cannae be that guid"

In a perverse reversal of this logic, Gemmill seems to have gained from the maxim "his faither was guid, so he must be handy himself"

I wonder if his son will be any good.

No Six Appeal

The great moment has arrived – the SPL has split into two groups for the final five games of the season and the occasion was marked by tense, nail-biting climaxes at games all over the country. Actually there was a bit of interest at East End Park but everywhere else the top six/bottom six split was met with one almighty yawn – to no-one’s great surprise.

Just what is the point of this split? Let’s look at what the remainder of the season has in store for the two respective halves of the SPL: In the top half, we wait with somewhat less than bated breath to see if Celtic, having won 29 of the 33 games played thus far can manage to win one more time in five fixtures to claim the title. Elsewhere, you will get generous odds against either Hearts or Dunfermline being able to dislodge Aberdeen and Livingston from the UEFA Cup slots. In the bottom half, St Johnstone –with five wins all season – need to win all five remaining and hope that either Motherwell or Hibs lose all theirs to avoid the drop. Ludicrous doesn’t begin to sum it up. The season is over, just when it was supposed to be reaching its climax.

Contrast this with the English premiership. There, at least three clubs still harbour genuine championship ambitions. At the bottom things are so tight that Middlesbrough can travel to Old Trafford, knowing that likely defeat will leave them three points from relegation. Instead, they win and are catapulted into the top half of the table!

It’s the same all over Europe. In Italy, Spain and Germany for instance, both title and relegation contests are certainties to go down to the wire. In Scotland, it was all done and dusted last autumn.

So, I repeat, what is the point of the split? Some teams will play 18 home games and 20 away. Others the reverse. Some will have faced easier opposition three times at home, others more difficult foes three times away. Hardly fair, and reminiscent of the bad old days when teams in the lower divisions met three times a season. And while there is still a remote form of contest going on between clubs placed 3rd–6th, what incentives are there in the bottom six, with the spectre of relegation absent. No one is going to get enthused over the fight for 11th between Motherwell and Hibs.

The fact is our clubs have shown no courage. If they really wanted to add some spice to the split then it would have taken place after 22 games when each club had met the others twice. That would leave a further ten games in both sections. The split would come into play at the beginning of the year when there was still something to play for and every team in both sections would play the same opponents an equal number of times at home and away.

Of course that would reduce revenue from Old Firm fixtures even further for those clubs that missed out on the top six. So instead we get this craven cut-off with five games to play.

Scottish football has never been able to get the balance right – perhaps it never will. But that doesn’t mean that we have to put up with one the stupidest ideas ever to be inflicted on the game. The answer, as far as the split is concerned, is simple. Do it properly – at the half-way stage – or not at all.

Perhaps the whole exercise can be best summed up by the two hayseeds from ‘The Fast Show:’
“Wot you think ‘bout that there SPL split then?
S’all a load of old bollocks.”

Taking the Leed

Leeds United chairman Peter Ridsdale has reacted strongly to complaints by Leicester about racist elements following the Yorkshire club and has said he is determined to eradicate such behaviour from Elland Road. He wants help in identifying the culprits. This website supports Mr Ridsdale 100% in his efforts to rid the game of this evil. As proof of our backing we offer him this photo:




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