Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Football post - Bloody Old Firm!

Let’s be honest for a moment. Walter Smith will be the next manager of Rangers, Brown and Thompson deserve to be playing on a bigger stage and earning more money, and in all likelihood most of the talented youth in our country will graduate to the two biggest clubs in the country.
It pains me to say this but both Celtic and Rangers are perfectly within their rights to soak up the best talents in this country. It is not a recent thing; they have been doing so for years. From Colin Stein to Derek Riordan, from Duncan Ferguson to Stephen Pearson and Kris Boyd.

But what has increasingly annoyed me, and I believe many fans outwith the old firm, is the ever-expanding expectation that there is nothing anyone can do about it. Yogi’s recent comments about Alan Gow are a case in point. Gow is a talented young player and has been a good servant for Falkirk. His contract expires this summer and he is fully entitled to look for the best deal for himself and his family and to this end he has spoken to Aberdeen and Hibs. Yogi seems to believe that Gow undersells himself by speaking to these clubs but he (Yogi) would be happy if Gow went down south or to either of the Old Firm! John Hughes, an up-and-coming young manager, is, and is entitled to be, upset if his players go to any opposition but he is happy, he claims, if Gow goes to Celtic or Rangers! Has Yogi no ambition for Falkirk?

Ranger’s quest for a replacement for the lacklustre Le Guen meant the spotlight instantly fell on their most successful modern-day coach, the Scotland manager Walter Smith. Rangers’ board seemed to believe they could just get on the phone, offer him the job and it would be all over, leaving the SFA to look for a replacement. Only the SFA decided to play hardball and advised Rangers that they Smith is under contract, much to Rangers’ surprise!.

Both Hughes’ and Rangers’ attitudes are symptomatic of a deep malaise in Scottish football that seems to be growing. It is not just the division between the Old Firm and the rest, it is belief that what is good for Rangers and Celtic is good for Scottish football. Some years ago when the 10 non-OF clubs resigned the league en-mass I thought perhaps the worm had turned but if it did, it soon died.

I welcome Hibs’ stance with Brown and Thompson and the attitude of the SFA (though I expect the latter to capitulate very quickly) in refusing to countenance any move away. For too long the non-OF supporters in this country (who are in fact a majority) have been divided and torn between wanting the money and cap-doffing servitude. I say it is now time to say enough. The SFA should refuse to release Smith (even at the cost of a disaffected manager) and all non-OF clubs should refuse to release any players to the OF unless they gain full remuneration for not just the loss of the player but for the benefit gained by the OF in dominating the league.

If a player is worth say £1/2m to Wolves, then surely he is worth £1m to the OF. Not only do they gain a good player, they deprive a potential rival of that player too! Clubs in Scotland need to remember this point when negotiating with the OF and players should be aware that the grass is rarely greener (or bluer). I will be sorry to see Smith leave Scotland managership. He has engendered a pride into the national team once again and I am unsure if there is anyone else who could do a similar role. Gordon Strachan perhaps?

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