Thursday, 28 October 2010

Not much chance of another New Firm

Tonight I got my first opportunity, since moving up to Scotland, of getting to see a full 90 minutes of SPL level football - albeit on television, and a Co-operative Insurance Cup tie. Inevitably it involved an Old Firm side. Frankly, I'd rather have watched Dundee United versus Motherwell or Aberdeen versus Falkirk yesterday, but that would have been as likely as the emergence of another New Firm to challenge the green and blue duopoly.

As it happens, St Johnstone versus Celtic at McDiarmid Park turned out to be pretty absorbing in the second half, with a noble fightback from the Perth club almost taking us into extra time. They came back from 3-0 down, before eventually losing 3-2. It didn't start that way, though. Some feeble defending had the Bhoys three up inside 13 minutes. Thankfully, a very sweetly struck response from St Johnstone's Sam Parkin, albeit from another defensive lapse, recaptured some interest and possibility in the game. The BBC studio must have been mightily relieved to have a talking point (they tried bravely to portray the match as an uncertain contest)... other than pundit and Dons captain Paul Hartley's strange inability to find a shirt that fitted him for his latest TV appearance.

Murray Davidson's header also gave Saints cheer, but they missed vital scoring opportunities late on. Credit also goes to incredibly hard-working Collin Samuel, incidentally. Overall, though, this was too often like watching a League One or lower level Championship match in England - which given the absurd gulf in resources and population is not surprising, but is nevertheless sad. Up here the SPL is the big bad wolf for lower league supporters. Down south, I would have very much liked some coverage - especially as English football is compulsory on Scottish television, while our own game goes neglected because of the self-fulfilling prophecy of "lack of interest". That and the Old Firm resource-sucking machine.  Yes, I know, they generate considerable revenue too, but the distortion of the market is palpably negative overall. Thus the scrabbling around for some semblance of a credible SPL restructuring idea.

My instincts in Scotland are to support anyone playing Rangers and Celtic, and not really to care when they play each other. In European competition, everything is suddenly reversed, and the Old Firm are the plucky minnows - complaining, with no sense of irony, about the imbalance created by the Euro billionaires. Anyway, I was strangely pleased that the 'Gers defied Manchester United in the Champions League.

As a BBC message board poster succinctly put it at the time: "Possibly the best example of the chasm between both teams lies in the fact that Manchester United played a player in defence for whom they paid a sum which is almost as much as Rangers all-time record signing and worth more than all of Rangers's signings in the past four years. Sadly, the player in question was Chris Smalling, not Rio Ferdinand, which sort of underlines how impressive the result was from a Rangers perspective." Indeed.

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