What will be the future of Scottish football if/when
the Old Firm leave? Here at scottishleague.net weve conducted
an in-depth survey. In order to look into the future it is necessary
to understand the past. To give us a glimpse of that future
weve constructed an alternative history.
Weve analysed all the major competitions MINUS
the Old Firm. What weve done is to look at each
and every season and deducted Old Firm results from the totals.
This has allowed us to construct an honours list
bereft of the not so dynamic duo. Weve compiled results
for every season. In the League weve discounted all Old
Firm fixtures. In the cups weve assumed that the winners
are the sides that have lost to either of the Big Two in the
final. Where there has been an Old Firm final weve awarded
the prize to the semi-finalist beaten by the eventual winner.
This somewhat arbitrary exercise has produced
such oddities as Cowdenbeath, Montrose and Forfar
all winning the League Cup in the
1970s! But it has been fun to do and now we can share the findings.
Some of it might surprise you. If youre a fan of Aberdeen
or one of the Edinburgh or Dundee clubs, youll
like what follows. If you support anybody else, you might fear
that were about to exchange one form of domination for
First, the good news. As it would stand today, without the Old
Firm, the SPL would be heading for a dramatic finale.
Aberdeen would lead Livingston by a point but
the West Lothian side would have two games in hand. Hearts,
Dunfermline and Kilmarnock would all be three points
behind Livvy, outside bets for the title but all in contention
for Europe. The two Dundee sides would be close behind
and still in with a chance of Europe. But for Motherwell
and Hibs the season would be over. As for St Johnstone,
it would take a bigger miracle than for Ibrox and Parkhead to
vanish overnight to save them from the drop.
Attendances would be reasonable but not spectacular. Aberdeen
would lead the way with around 13,000 on average. St
Johnstone would lag behind the rest here as well with just
over 4,000. Hardest hit in percentage terms by the Old
Firms departure would be Motherwell. They average
9983 against the Glaswegians and 5011 against
all others. A drop of nearly 50%. Aberdeen would
actually lose the most punters. On average 5,294 more
fans watch Old Firm games at Pittodrie than other
fixtures. Close behind that are Kilmarnock who would
lose 5,264 a far more radical percentage fall.
Incidentally, claims by the otherwise admirable Keith Wyness
of Aberdeen about TV effects on crowds are wide of the mark.
Wyness reckons that the Dons lose up to 4,000 paying fans whenever
theyre live on TV. Hes telling the truth but omits
to mention that theyre only on the box against the Old
Firm and at least half of those 4,000 are Rangers/Celtic fans.
There arent 4,000 punters out there deciding to give the
game against Dunfermline a miss because Dons V Rangers is on
the box the following week. Thats where Wynesss
figures fall down
Now the not so good news. If the twisted sisters had never existed,
we would be living in a land where four teams Aberdeen,
Hearts, Hibs and Dundee United would usually
be far ahead of the others. In terms of trophies, Aberdeen
would have 43 (16 League, 15 Cup 12 League Cup),
Hearts 38 (22, 10, 6), Hibs 35 (20, 9, 6) and United
21 (6, 6, 9). Over half the trophies would have been
won by this foursome. Best of the rest, with 15 each
would be Kilmarnock (7, 6, 2) and Motherwell (9, 5,
In some ways we would be more like England in that teams would
have a period of dominance then decline. For instance eight
of Motherwells nine titles would have been in succession
in the 1920s and 30s. That would have been the single most dominant
period. Hibs would have won four in a row on two separate
occasions (1950s, 1970s) and Airdrie (1920s), Hearts
(1950s) and Kilmarnock (1960s) would all have won three
on the trot. But that would have been it. Even Aberdeen,
with 16 titles, would never have won three years running.
There would have been just two trebles. Dundee
United in 1981 and Aberdeen in 1993. The League and Cup
double would have been achieved 14 times. Four
times by Aberdeen, twice each by Hearts, Motherwell
and the dear departed Third Lanark, and once by Dundee
United, Airdrie, Clyde(!) and Kilmarnock.
We would have seen 11 Cup and League Cup doubles.
Five of them would have come from Aberdeen, two from
Dundee United with East Fife, Motherwell, Clyde
and St Johnstone being the others.
The Cups would have witnessed periods of one-club dominance
too. Dundee United would boast six in a row (1980-85)
in the League Cup and Aberdeen four (1988-91).
The Scottish Cups longest sequences would have
been the Dons three on the trot (1982-84) which actually
happened and three for Queens Park in 1892-94 which
Of course this exercise throws up some statistical quirks. Hearts
actually won the League in 1960 but without their
points gained from Rangers and Celtic would have
lost out to Kilmarnock. But whereas the Gorgie side have
failed to hoist the flag since then, in our old firm-free zone
they would have bagged another six titles since 1986.
Hibs, with no Scottish Cup in 100 years, would have been
taking in extra supplies of silver polish for the eight additional
Scottish Cups they would have won. And Partick Thistle,
who finished 3rd in both 1954 and 1963 would have
been champions twice, edging out Hearts and Kilmarnock
who actually finished above them in those seasons. Perhaps the
ultimate, for this writer anyway, is the thought that it could
have been Kilmarnock in the European Cup Final in
Lisbon in 1967. Dont laugh too much. Killie
actually made the semi-finals of the old Fairs Cup the same
But the bad news (for some anyway) is that our two-club system
could be exchanged for three-city rule. Since the inception
of the Premier Division in 1975, until the end of last season,
there have been 78 domestic trophies up for grabs. The
Old Firm have won over two thirds of them (Rangers 37, Celtic
19) and the rest have 22 between them. By our calculations,
66 of these trophies would have found a home in Aberdeen,
Edinburgh or Dundee. Of the twelve others, four (St
Mirren, Motherwell and Killie in the Scottish
Cup, Raith Rovers in the League Cup) actually happened.
Worst of all would be the League the very area where
increased competition is most necessary. Outwith the new
Big Four Kilmarnock in 1999 would
have been the only other club to lift the title since 1969.
So outside the big cities there would have been a net increase
of eight trophies over more than a quarter of a century.
Sobering thoughts for those who think that the absence of the
Old Firm will lead to a sudden rush of extra work for Bill
Barr in the trophy room department. Brave New World?
Or, as an old Strawbs album once proclaimed, Grave
e-mail the webmaster if you want a free copy of the alternative
My apologies to anyone who took my advice to watch
Monday Night Live on STV and caught last Mondays
episode with Dominik Diamond and a plummy lady from the
world of horse racing. Its usually a lot better than that.
Diamond thinks gratuitous insults pass for humour. Phil Mickelson
is a choker. Steven Gerrard injury-prone. He comes
over as a Scottish version of Frank Skinner. On a
scale of things we can do without, thats way up the League.
But its not just the childish abuse that grates. Diamond
also hasnt a clue about what hes talking about.
He thinks the presenter of the Premiership TV programme is named
Gaby Roslin and called her ability into question, suggesting
she obtained her position solely for being easy on the male
Thats something that presenter Gabby Logan may
wish to quibble about. I would have thought that as the daughter
of former Welsh international Terry Yorath and the wife
of Scots rugby international Kenny Logan, Gabby will
have spent a lifetime steeped in sport. Certainly she is a lot
more knowledgeable than the buffoon Diamond.
Diamond also claimed that Partick Thistle have sold out
most of their home fixtures this season. Again, while the Jags
have undoubtedly pulled more fans through the turnstiles thanks
to their success on the pitch, averaging fewer than 4,500 in
a ground capable of holding twice that number is hardly selling
So what, you might say. We all make mistakes. Getting someones
surname wrong, claiming incorrect crowd figures and a general
smattering of sexist abuse isnt all that bad. And youd
be right. But Diamond can be dangerous as well as foolish.
Already this season hes endorsed throwing objects onto
the pitch. In his most recent appearance he made the astonishing
claim that the reason for Old Firm bigotry is the lack of competition
in the SPL.
According to Diamond if the Old Firm had to face more competitive
foes (and he cited the Nationwide League) this bigotry
would soon vanish, as a few defeats would concentrate thoughts
back on football. Funny, but Ive never noticed any reduction
in bigotry after a European humping at Ibrox or
The man is not only a fool but also a dangerous one at that.
To take the age-old cancer of hate which infests our game
and attempt to use it to further the commercial ambitions of
the Old Firm is a bit like Diamonds character itself,
deeply unpleasant. According to the Diamond view of football,
any sectarian chanting at his beloved Celtic Park or its mirror
image in Govan has nothing to do with the Old Firm. Its
all St Johnstones/Motherwells/Whoever you supports
fault for not giving them a harder game. The poor souls
cant concentrate because the footballs no good,
so theyve got to sing party songs instead.
He should stick to his Daily Star column. After all, that
is the natural home of great big tits.
As others see
Since the SPL farce briefly overshadowed the
saga of Beckhams foot on UK national TV, several English colleagues
have wanted to know more about the situation.
When asked what the standard of football was like I asked them to
imagine that there were only 12 clubs in the English Premiership.
To give them a flavour of life north of the border, I asked them
which clubs would win such a League if these were the teams involved:
Man Utd, Arsenal, Charlton, Millwall, Bolton, Wimbledon, Sheff
Wed, Sheff Utd, Burnley, Grimsby, Rotherham, Swindon.
Naturally, only the first two were quoted as title contenders. I
then asked my colleagues, on the assumption that they were not supporters
of any of the clubs concerned, which of the others they would pay
to watch on TV?
Im still waiting for anyone to get back to me.