There is more to Scotland than Celtic and Rangers, says John McKie.
It is a question as old as Methuselah’s nan.
Can Scottish football do without Celtic and Rangers?
With Celtic punching well above their weight in the Champions League and Rangers pulling in crowds of 30,000-40,000 for SFL3 games – not forgetting 120 years of domination between the pair, the duo cast a fair shadow over the rest.
The general answer seems to be no.
In their slyly understated way, SFA chief Stewart Regan and SPL head Neil Doncaster famously argued that there would be “armageddon” without regular SPL Old Firm derbies, as if those derbies had been the way to preserve peace and harmony in Scotland. Armageddon may be a little late, like Justin Bieber, or not on its way at all, but either way, the Old Firm don’t appear that keen to prevent it by staying.
Peter Lawwell has made no secret of his interest in Celtic examining options outside of Scotland, be it England or a Euro League. The Celtic chief executive has made wistful comments, like a jealous boyfriend, about Swansea City and Cardiff City hitting the heights in English football. He omits the detail about the state of Welsh league football when those clubs entered English league football.
Rangers’ chief executive Charles Green, with a keen way to ingratiate himself with the entire nation, said last week, “I’m convinced that Rangers and Celtic will not be playing in Scotland in five years because I think Rangers and Celtic are too big to remain there.”
Roger Hannah in the Scottish Sun in November last year wrote “Quite simply, Celts and Gers ARE Scottish football”.
Let’s start giving the bits of Scottish football which aren’t Celtic and Rangers some credit.
For example, Hibernian, where Leigh Griffiths is banging in the goals – when he’s not dealing with myopic officials at the Edinburgh derby.
Terry Butcher has chosen to stay in Inverness and the SPL rather than Barnsley.
The financial shortfall has led to the blooding of some exciting young talent like Kevin McHattie at Hearts, Caley Thistle’s Aaron Doran or Dundee United’s Stuart Armstrong.
Aberdeen and Dundee United have delivered an impressive production line of young players, with the Dons already shipping talent like Ryan Fraser and Fraser Fyvie to England. With wiser agents, those players could have gained some invaluable game time in Scotland, and gone to England better prepared, as Steven Naismith and Shaun Maloney did.
Falkirk in the Scottish Cup semi-finals, whose manager Steven Pressley has just been poached by Coventry City, could be seen as another success story. And if the Bairns can be seen as a success story, Morton and Partick Thistle duking it out at the top of the same league, while Falkirk are in fifth, look even stronger.
Queen of the South, 20 points clear in SFL2, will be a welcome addition to whatever they call Division 1 in 2013/14.
If you follow the argument that Scottish football is nothing without Rangers and Celtic, Saturday’s results offered a chance to re-assess that argument.
In case you missed the breaking news, Celtic lost away to Ross County and Rangers lost at home to Annan Athletic.
That’s embarrassing. For both clubs, though, it’s unlikely to be armageddon.