Saturday, 22 March 2008

Renaissance men?

The overall health of Scottish football is a difficult thing to judge. It depends where you (and your team) sit. It depends what your comparators are. National team, SPL, League, non-league and the huge gaps within and between them all defy easy summary. The obvious bad news story at the moment is Gretna, a salutary reminder about putting all your eggs in someone else's financial basket. They'll survive this season now, thanks to help from those who have an interest in their preservation (if not from friends). But the future is bleak and there are harsh lessons to be learned. Elsewhere, teams struggle against the daily realities of dosh, dole and doldrums. There are positive signs as well though, without a doubt.

It will be interesting to see how Scotland fare against Croatia at Hampden on Wednesday, after the visitors are given a heroes' welcome (for about five minutes) for having dumped England out of the 2008 European Championships. If Fabio Capello's men fail to make a dent at the Stade de France on the same evening, the rejoicing north of the border will be even louder. We beat Les bleus twice, remember? But the real cheer, for me, came with domestic results that saw the Old Firm rocked. The success of Aberdeen against Celtic in the Scottish Cup, and the even more remarkable draw - so nearly a win - that First Division Partick Thistle pulled off against Rangers in the same competition are well worth celebrating. If only Dundee United could have taken the League Cup. So near but so far.

Of course the gulfs remain. Some 20 points between the third placed SPL side and the Glasgow giants, even more in money terms. The odds are so unevenly stacked, it's laughable. FIFA's boss has said that the Bhoys and the Gers should not cross the border to take on the English. He's right. For the time being. We're damned with them, damned without them. But how long national borders will survive the onslaught of the wheelers and dealers is yet to be seen.

Incidentally, the priest at St Augustine's in Dumbarton is a Thistle fan. I'll have a word with him about that after cheering on the Sons next Saturday...


No comments: