A lot has happened in the world over the last few months. We remain trapped in a global pandemic and are still many months, maybe years away from returning to any sort of normality. The constants we once had in our lives, the places we’d go and things we’d do are mostly still out of reach. The one thing that has stayed consistent though, has been Scottish Football’s commitment to patter.
Even in the middle of a health crisis, when clubs couldn’t play games and there was barely any transfer activity to speak of, the SPFL still managed to put itself at the centre of the national discussion. For all the wrong reasons yes, but did it keep us entertained during the bleakest period of our lives? Absolutely. For that you can have nothing but respect for our footballing overlords. Here’s a few of my favourite moments from the last few months.
SPFL LegalMania 2020
This has to have been the most mental period of Scottish Football ever eh? Even the Setanta crash and death of Rangers didn’t have as many subplots or twists and turns as this batshit crazy saga. Things seemed to get more confusing and out of hand every single day. Every club statement just added fuel to the flames as new alliances and enemies were made depending on which way they’d voted.
The closest thing I can compare it to is a wrestling storyline, probably WCW vs NWO. The Outsiders of Hearts, Rangers, Thistle, Falkirk & Stranraer were trying to take down the establishment, one club statement at a time. Nash, Hall and Hogan would be played by Ewan Murray, The Fourth Official (mind that guy?) and Ann Budge. Peter Lawwell would definitely be Sting, just chilling in the rafters watching the carnage unfold below him.
It all built to two separate court dates and the tediousness of the whole thing began to take over but it still gave us some tremendous moments. Rangers managing to appoint someone even more unhinged than Jim Traynor to do their media and comms was a particular highlight – giving us the “Rangers will not be bullied into silence” statement and completely made up corruption witnesses. Hearts gave it a good go, Falkirk too, but nobody will ever be able to touch Glasgow Rangers for heads-gone statements. They’re the kings of it and reminded us all why this past summer.
Being told by Ann Budge that she was working in the best interests of Scottish Football as a whole was fun. She had already gone on record to tell us the SPFL had too many clubs and that we should be working towards solutions for that, whilst trying to rush through a league reconstruction that benefited Hearts and a handful of those clubs she believes shouldn’t exist in the first place. I’d compare her heel turn to Hulk Hogan’s but he actually won a world title after doing it, Hearts were still relegated.
The discussion on how Rangers could stop Celtic from winning 10IAR has often gone to some strange places, especially after their collapse in the 2019/20 season. Bring back Walter Smith, ask Gerrard to register himself as a player or see if Messi’s interested in that loan deal again. The phrase from Celtic fans was often “Only Celtic can stop Celtic winning 10IAR” and that just might be the case! Boli Bolingoli’s decision to saunter off to Spain (apparently undetected which speaks volumes about how good he is) has put Rangers firmly in the driving seat of Scottish Football’s most important title race in decades.
The Aberdeen 8 were reckless – especially showing their faces in the city centre just hours after a pathetic defeat to Rangers. They have rightly been punished, but Bolingoli was another level of daft, putting his own team, Kilmarnock and the entire game in Scotland at risk. There were serious concerns that he’d knackered the full thing and the government were about to shut us down again. He’s put us on our final warning.
Bolingoli has escaped Glasgow via Turkish champions Istanbul Basaksehir. There was no rabid airport welcome from thousands of fans as is customary for new Super Lig arrivals, though there might have been in Glasgow Airport’s departures lounge as Celtic fans finally got rid of him.. If Celtic are unable to make up the points from their games in hand and Rangers don’t organise any trips to Dubai, he’ll have a statue outside the Louden by 2022.
I have not got a clue what’s happening at Airdrie these days but I’m very much here for it. Two of the most left field SPFL transfers…ever? It speaks volumes that Swiss midfielder Griffin Sabatini arriving on loan from Dinipro in Ukraine isn’t even the most surprising of the two. In an interview with the Daily Record he said he was looking forward to playing at Airdrie’s “gorgeous stadium” and that “I wanted to test myself at a high-quality side, and at Airdrie they are packed with high-quality young players…” I could try and come up with a witty wee remark here but literally nothing’s going to be funnier than those two quotes, so I’ll move on.
Next up, Thomas Robert. The son of Newcastle legend Laurent, who allegedly turned down a 4 year contract from Ligue 1 side Montpellier to sign for The Diamonds. He’d been linked with the Old Firm, Bundesliga and Premier League and now he’ll be playing at Dumbarton and Bayview. He’s attached to a Scottish agent so that would go some way to explaining how the move even came about, but I have to imagine the conversation went something like;
“We’ve got an offer from Scotland; I think you should take it”
“Okay, Rangers or Celtic?”
I’ve often been an advocate of Scottish clubs broadening their horizons when it comes to transfers and recruiting from anywhere other than the English lower league’s bins. I did envisage more second-tier Slovakian centre backs than wonderkid French wingers, particularly in League 1, but I am genuinely really interested to see how they both get on.
There were rumors earlier in the summer of a Harry Redknapp-led consortium investing in Airdrie which sadly never came to be. Ally McCoist is the newest name to be linked with some investment which would be pretty great as well. I’m unsure how Airdrie are attracting these players and investors and I will refrain from suggesting anything that lands me and the PureFitbaw team in court, but I’d strongly suggest to Amazon Prime they get a camera crew down to Airdrie’s gorgeous stadium ASAP.
Hungary Hungary Humiliation
The 2019/20 season was Scotland’s best season in Europe (points-wise) since Rangers run to the 2008 UEFA Cup Final. Excellent results from Celtic & Rangers against the likes of Lazio, Porto, Braga and Rennes saw us jump up to 14th in the UEFA rankings and claim an extra Champions League place as a result. How do you follow that success up? A loss, at home, to the champions of Hungary of course.
It’s funny at the time. I have nothing particularly against Celtic but the sheer number of their supporters and their propensity to lose the nut after losses results in some great Twitter meltdowns. Of course, the realisation soon sets in that the likes of Talksport will use the result to further attack the SPFL, but you enjoy it while you can.
Even I’m still annoyed at the way Celtic were set up and how they performed. They’ve done it so many times under Lennon where they’ve been given opportunities to seize control of games against inferior sides and just don’t – and Lennon lacks the tactical acumen to fix it when it goes tits up.
I did have to laugh at him using the exact same setup against Motherwell a few days later to prove some sort of point to the supporters. As if they were gonna go “Aw well, you can see what he was trying to do the other night now” after putting 3 goals past a knackered, bottom of the league Motherwell. If Celtic remain behind in the title race and Lennon’s anything like he was when the wheels came off at Hibs then we’re in for a fun few months of post-match interviews.
Wins that don’t really feel like wins aren’t new to the Scottish National team. In fact, we’ve had two fairly recently. The win over Gibraltar in which we (obviously) let them score their first ever senior goal, and the shambolic 2-0 win away in San Marino just last year. Last Monday’s game was a different kettle of fish though.
The utter relief of not having to watch Scotland again for a while brought on by news of the initial cancellation of the Czech Republic game was in stark contrast to the dread the next announcement delivered. We didn’t know if we’d be facing a bunch of children, a load of part-timers, or Pavel Nedvěd & Jan Koller leading a Central European Football version of The Expendables. Either way, we knew the chances for shenanigans from Scotland were absolutely off the scale.
In the end, the team the Czechs put out wasn’t the worst and most of the players (whilst uncapped) still operated at a reasonably high level. The issue was they’d only met the day before, and Scotland still contrived to look less organised and more lethargic than them. Dykes and Marshall playing well were positives, but that was it.
We’re somehow top of our group and have won what was (at one time anyway) our most difficult game, but it feels like we’ve basically lost both of them. The joy that would inevitably come with sneaking past Israel in the playoffs next month would soon take a swift scheme-booting from the realisation we’d then need to watch Scott McKenna try and deal with Erling Haaland.
We’ve not lost many games recently, have a manager that (most) people like and our most talented group of players in quite a while, with a playoff to “look forward to.” It is still pretty hard to muster much enthusiasm though. As this article will probably demonstrate, I love the chaos that comes with following Scottish Football. I do wonder sometimes though, wistfully, what it’d be like to support Wales or something. An absolute patter vacuum but without the many headaches that come with following Scotland.
I’m sure I’d miss our game a bit, but I might actually live longer as well. Dod ar Gymru!