May 2002
The end is nigh

The season nears its end with a depressing aftermath to the Cup Final and redundancies looming for players and other staff. The Atlantic League concept is revived.


Atlantic Swell

The Atlantic League concept has been revived recently. And unlike the Old Firm attempts to escape to England, this is one idea it may be worthwhile exploring further.

Forget the ridiculous name – you’ll see Martin O’Neill in a bowler hat and sash before Belgium and Holland acquire an Atlantic coastline.

Why this idea merits consideration is that is more than just a bolthole for Scotland’s big two. Clubs like Ajax, PSV, Feyenoord, Benfica, Sporting Lisbon, Porto and Anderlecht find themselves with the same problems as Rangers and Celtic. Lack of domestic competition, restricted to small countries, falling ever further behind clubs from the big five western and southern European leagues – England, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The Ajax team that won the European Cup in 1995 had to be sold off within a year.

So instead of just our greedy pair, we have a cluster of famous clubs looking for a new league. Also, this League would be no simple cut-off from the old domestic tournaments. There would be room for around four Scottish clubs and promotion and relegation would apply. The SPL ten would all have the opportunity to play in this competition.

Yes, there are many problems facing such a League. The relationship with UEFA for one. How European qualification and promotion/relegation would work also presents problems. But this is a concept which sticks with the basic principles of football – that promotion is based on merit and that membership can be aspired to from within the countries taking part. Utrecht, Bruges and Boavista may not be as far behind domestically as Aberdeen, Hearts or Hibs but, like the Scots, they will never be giants in their own right. This is a League they could be comfortable in.

It meets the concerns of the Old Firm, offers hope to the rest, provides the ideal platform for TV and safeguards the autonomy of the SFA. None of this can be guaranteed by the Nationwide League. This is one idea which should be taken further.


How depressing. The only two teams in Britain that can’t celebrate winning a major trophy are in Glasgow. The FA Cup Final saw two London sides with a long history of rivalry travel to Cardiff to play their match and return home with no mention of any bother. Yet a scintillating Scottish Cup Final was once again ruined by what happened after the match was over. Fighting and stabbings in Glasgow. Riots in Belfast. Sickening.

The aftermath of an Old Firm final is never pleasant, even when there is no violence involved. The triumphalism of the winners is always nauseating. One correspondent tells me of the scenes in his local bowling club, some 30 miles from Glasgow. There was singing and dancing and all sorts of sectarian bile on show. Nothing too unusual in that. But my correspondent adds that he reckons none of those taking part in the “celebrations” have ever been to Ibrox in their lives.

Now why doesn’t that surprise me?


Appertaining to the above, there was a humorous moment on a recent BBC Radio Scotland phone-in. A Rangers fan from Larkhall complained about a Man Utd supporter from Edinburgh. He reckoned the Old Trafford aficionado should be supporting his local side. All said without any hint of tongue in cheek. The last time I looked at a map, Larkhall was a damn sight closer to Hamilton and Motherwell than it is to Govan!


Of course it is not just players who face redundancies at the end of this season. The knock-on effects of the TV debacle are taking their toll among admin and office workers too, most of whom are less well placed in terms of both finance and future prospects than the likes of the moaning-faced Greg Strong.

Instead of complaining about his treatment at Motherwell, Strong should consider that, like a lot of others, he has been the lucky recipient of inflated wages and will now have to earn a living at a more realistic level.
Another champion in the whingeing stakes is Derek Whyte who is reputed to have turned down a wage cut of £600 per week. What sort of salary must he have been on? For most people that £600 per week in itself would represent a highly acceptable wage.

On a personal level I was sorry to hear that Kevin Collins is leaving Kilmarnock. Regular readers will be aware that I have written two books on Killie and, particularly during the first of these, Kevin gave me the run of Rugby Park. It would have been a lot harder to write without his assistance and I hope he soon finds a position worthy of his considerable talents.

Similarly, there are also rumours that Jim McSherry is on his way out as Commercial and PR guru at Rugby Park. McSherry must work close to a 100-hour week on Killie’s behalf and is responsible for generating acres of publicity for the club.

Even in this time of cutbacks, clubs will always need someone who can deal with the media. I doubt if Kilmarnock will find anyone as good or as hard grafting as McSherry. I’m not just saying this because of the countless occasions he has been a help to me. I’m saying it because it is true.



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