April 2002
Fantasy Football

What Scottish football would have looked like without the Old Firm. Dominik Diamond - Scotland's Frank Skinner. The SPL - English-style


Fantasy League

What will be the future of Scottish football if/when the Old Firm leave? Here at scottishleague.net we’ve 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 we’ve constructed an “alternative” history. We’ve analysed all the major competitions MINUS the Old Firm. What we’ve 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. We’ve compiled results for every season. In the League we’ve discounted all Old Firm fixtures. In the cups we’ve 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 we’ve 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 you’re a fan of Aberdeen or one of the Edinburgh or Dundee clubs, you’ll like what follows. If you support anybody else, you might fear that we’re about to exchange one form of domination for another.

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 Firm’s 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 they’re live on TV. He’s telling the truth but omits to mention that they’re only on the box against the Old Firm and at least half of those 4,000 are Rangers/Celtic fans. There aren’t 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. That’s where Wyness’s 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, 1).

In some ways we would be more like England in that teams would have a period of dominance then decline. For instance eight of Motherwell’s 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 Cup’s longest sequences would have been the Dons three on the trot (1982-84) which actually happened and three for Queen’s Park in 1892-94 which certainly didn’t.

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. Don’t laugh too much. Killie actually made the semi-finals of the old Fairs Cup the same year.

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 New World?

e-mail the webmaster if you want a free copy of the alternative honours list.

Rough Diamond

My apologies to anyone who took my advice to watch Monday Night Live on STV and caught last Monday’s episode with Dominik Diamond and a plummy lady from the world of horse racing. It’s 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, that’s way up the League.

But it’s not just the childish abuse that grates. Diamond also hasn’t a clue about what he’s 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 eye.
That’s 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 out.”

So what, you might say. We all make mistakes. Getting someone’s surname wrong, claiming incorrect crowd figures and a general smattering of sexist abuse isn’t all that bad. And you’d be right. But Diamond can be dangerous as well as foolish.

Already this season he’s 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 I’ve never noticed any reduction in bigotry after a European humping at Ibrox or Parkhead.

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 Diamond’s 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. It’s all St Johnstone’s/Motherwell’s/Whoever you support’s fault for not giving them a harder game. The poor souls can’t concentrate because the football’s no good, so they’ve 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 us

Since the SPL farce briefly overshadowed the saga of Beckham’s 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?

I’m still waiting for anyone to get back to me.



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