It comes as a shock to realise just how little
Scottish football is regarded beyond the Cheviots.
Its not just the well-documented ignorance of our game in
England. This writer has lived on the wrong side of Hadrian's
Wall for nearly 30 years yet still gets surprised when the
start of the Scottish season is ignored in the English press
while vast acres of press coverage is given to the likes of
It's even more galling to find out how inconsequential
we are considered on the continent. The German, French
and Scottish seasons started on the same day and your
correspondent happened to be in Spain at the time.
Full results from the two big Leagues appeared on Spanish
teletext straight away. The SPL not at all. The same was true
of the sports text services of France, Germany and
Italy. CNN eventually provided the Scottish results-
some four hours after the final whistle!
Interestingly enough, all the above services
had plenty of information on the English Premiership
which was three weeks away from starting up.
Of course the best way for the Scottish game
to get itself noticed internationally would be by excellent
performances on the pitch both from our European entrants
and the national side. In this regard Celtic's victory
over Ajax in Amsterdam and their subsequent
qualification for the Champions League is a welcome
boost. It would appear that Celtic have a reasonable chance
of making it to the second stage. But if they are to make
it then home victories over Rosenborg and Porto
are a must. They also need to take something from at least
one of the away games and draw at home with Juventus.
That would give them eight points and a fighting chance of
Prospects for our other European entrants are
mixed. Rangers should progress comfortably into the
second round of the UEFA Cup providing they get over their
elimination from the big one. The trip to Dagestan
holds more fears than their opponents. Hibernian have
a tough draw against AEK Athens. If they manage to
avoid defeat away that would be a tremendous result. On the
face of it Kilmarnock have a good chance to go through
at the expense of Viking Stavanger. No Norwegian team
has ever beaten a Scottish side in Europe (something Celtic
will draw comfort from as well). But it should be remembered
that it is Viking who are the seeded team here and they can
hardly be dreading a trip to Scotland.
Remember, until Bohemians visited Aberdeen last
season, no team from the Irish Republic had beaten a Scots
side either. The bottom line is this though. Defeat against
teams from Greece, Norway and/or a team from Russia no one
had heard of before the draw was made, and it will be further
confirmation of the miserable standing of Scotland in Europe.
Yeah sure, we've heard the jokes. The Foreign
Office are advising British nationals not to travel to
Dagestan. Great. If its only Brits then there's no
problem for Rangers. And we've heard the one about
it not being right to send a team into a city riven with tribal
conflict and less than 100 miles from a province that's been
almost at war for over 30 years. So the Russians are
refusing to travel to Glasgow.
But jokes apart, David Murray is absolutely
spot on in refusing to send his players to Dagestan. Hands
up anyone who thinks UEFA would insist on Barcelona,
Juventus or Man Utd going there. Thought so.
Resisting the temptation to ask Rangers supporters
what it feels like to be one of the little guys at the mercy
of powers beyond their control, we have to ask a simple question:
who is best placed to issue advice on travel to this part
of the world? The suits in Whitehall? Or the suits
Whitehall gets our vote. The Foreign Office
doesn't issue 'don't travel' warnings lightly. If it
isn't OK for a businessman or a backpacker then it isn't OK
for Rangers or any other team for that matter. Or,come to
think of it, the match officials.
Why don't UEFA send a couple of their executive
committee members on a 'fact-finding' visit if its so safe?
They're quick enough to close a ground or force a team to
play behind closed doors if there's any trouble inside a stadium,
so why can't they see sense here? If it isn't possible to
guarantee the safety of a visiting side then the match should
be played at another venue. Failing that, UEFA should not
allow teams from war zones to take part in its competitions.
And the SFA need to show more balls too.
It just isn't good enough to meekly accept this crazy decision.
If the numpties of Nyon insist on this tie being played and
Rangers are fined or expelled for refusing to risk their players
lives, then the SFA should organise support from other national
associations to force these clowns from office.
Could the SFA organise that sort of coup? Well,
remember, if Rangers are expelled then someone else will have
to go to Dagestan in the next round. And no country fancies
that right now. Of course if one of the big guns is drawn
to play there this website predicts here and now that the
game will be played at a neutral venue and UEFA will cite
a "deteriorating situation" as their excuse.
FIRM PAY THE PENALTY
Martin O'Neill and Dick Advocaat are both guilty
of sanctimonious humbug. O'Neill complains about Juventus
getting a last minute penalty in their Champions League
match in Turin. Perhaps he now appreciates how thousands
of non-Old Firm fans feel having seen dodgy decisions go the
way of the Big Two for generations.
O'Neill's Celtic currently have the lowest bookings count
of any side in the SPL. Is this because they are the cleanest
side? Certainly not, as anyone who has witnessed John Hartson
in action can testify. Maybe it's something to do with the
fact that 60,000 punters are screaming at referees and their
assistants week in week out.
When the same thing happens abroad, O'Neill shouldn't be
too mystified. Unsurprisingly, he has nothing to say about
the penalty awarded to Celtic five minutes before Juve's.
Nor does he complain when domestic whistlers see things his
Advocaat is now complaining because Rangers have to play
a one-off UEFA Cup tie in Warsaw. Why? Rangers
fought long, hard, and (in this website's view) correctly
to avoid having to play in Dagestan. Even to the extent
of threatening to withdraw from the competition altogether.
So why whinge now?
The follicly-challenged one says the game should be over
two legs. But UEFA, having belatedly taken the right
decision concerning travel to Makhachkala, have to
think about both teams. If a 'neutral' venue could have been
found for the first leg that wasn't too far from the trouble-torn
region, then Advocaat would have been right.
As it is he is demonstrating that streak of arrogance for
which he is renowned (and which might ultimately prove
to be his undoing). Warsaw is a fair venue. Neither team
will derive any advantage from the tie being played there.
And it would be silly to play two matches there. The whole
object of two-legged ties is to give each team a fair go.
Otherwise European competitions would be drawn on the same
basis as domestic cups. First out of the hat plays at home.
Given that Advocaat found the idea of playing in Makhachkala
objectionable, where does he propose the two legs be played?
Both at Ibrox perhaps?
The Guardian produces a 28-page tabloid
sports section every Saturday. Yet it devotes absolutely no
space whatsoever to Scottish football other than the fixture
list. Just one of the reasons why this website has binned
their free live feed in favour of Total Footballs.
UP BY KEVIN KEEGAN?
Believe it or not, the former bubble-permed
bampot has taken to the world of technology. The Help Desk
Institute (no I didn't know either) held its 14th annual
conference in London's Hilton Hotel and not-so-special K was
guest speaker at a seminar on motivational skills.
According to the PR fluff, Keegan's talk was
on "how to apply the motivational techniques and
team-building skills he used as England manager to the world
So, at best it's ten minutes of Dire Straits
while waiting for an answer from the friendly help desk people,
and at worst it's global recession.