Author: Ian Morgan
Read Time: 9-10 minutes, 1,303 words
Archive: This author's other articles
'In Defence of...' is a series of articles that attempt to make an argument for issues that may on the surface appear indefensible, abhorrent, outlandish, or downright stupid.
I get it, you are thinking, 'Ok Ian, you have made an argument for subjects as ridiculous as abandoning democracy as we know it and defending the ludicrous notion of national pride, but how can you possibly make an argument for Scottish football?'. Well strap in you animals, because you are about to read why Scottish football is the best in the world.
Scottish football is relentlessly maligned and unashamedly bashed by people from within our own media, from inside the organisations who run the sport and from the public at large. Some up here believe that the English laugh at the state of our league, I'd suggest it is worse than that, they don't acknowledge it at all. Why should they? If we can't sell our own product, why would we expect others to take notice of it? We have been brainwashed by Murdoch's media empire to believe that a 0-0 draw between Stoke and West Brom is a "Super Sunday"; warriors versus gladiators. Yet our little back water league has to agree to 5.45pm kick-off times on a Monday between teams 300 miles apart. Increasingly the kids are having their heads turned, and wearing Liverpool tops instead of Aberdeen ones. You are following the wrong reds! We are turning the next generation of fans away, and it doesn't need to be that way. We need to sell ourselves, and let capitalism step in and sell us to the world.
It is suggested that our league is not interesting as it has a history of being a two horse race, which has subsequently become a one horse race with Rangers being sent to the knackers yard to be made into dog food and glue after some highly publicised financial issues. Whilst that is undeniably true with Celtic winning the last seven league titles in a row, and with them almost certainly going on to win the next seven, there are still reasons for optimism. If we look beyond the league to the cup competitions you can see a plethora of champions. In the last ten years, beyond Rangers and Celtic, the following teams have won one of the major competitions: Aberdeen, Dundee United, Heart of Midlothian, Hibernian, Inverness Caledonian Thistle, Kilmarnock , Ross County, St Johnstone, St Mirren. Can any other league boast that range of diversity? Six of those nine teams have been relegated to the first division in the years following those wins, with three making it back up so far. Think of the rollercoaster few years those teams have had. Can the leagues in England, or Spain, or beyond boast this level of competition? The true excitement of the Scottish league is just how easily teams can go from success to failure. From ecstasy to misery. From heroes to zeroes in the space of a season. No other leagues have this level of yo-yoing from teams.
Instead of focusing on Celtic strolling to another title with their ridiculous inflated budget, it is at the bottom of the Scottish league where the real competition resides. Every season, the league is incredibly tight with teams up in sixth place only two bad games away from being planted firmly in the relegation zone. We have seen massive clubs like Hibernian go on runs so bad that they dropped six places to fall into the play-off position ultimately to lose to Hamilton and be relegated. We have seen Dundee United go from finishing 4th and 5th, with a cup final appearance, to being relegated the following season. Hearts are another notable team that sunk to the second tier, which itself, is an incredibly exciting and hotly contested league. Sky will have you believe that the Championship in England is the hardest league to get out from, but I'd argue it is the Scottish Championship. Although this feat has been made slightly more achievable due to the aforementioned Play-Off games being reintroduced recently. This season we have seen the unlikely success story of Livingston who came up from the third tier 12 months ago and have subsequently gained successive promotions via the play-off game against Partick Thistle this season. An incredible feat for a club operating on a shoe-string budget. Still more reasons to love the Scottish game. Everybody loves underdog stories and they can be found in abundance up here.
The Scottish game is fast and furious. Brutal tackles fly in with shocking regularity, and a reckless abandon for the health or safety of the professionals. Diving is all but non-existent. The matches are not ruined by multiple pointless stoppages like the Spanish game is blighted with. Goals are plentiful and 0-0 draws are rare. On the last day of the season Rangers and Hibernian shared the spoils, scoring five goals each. In England this would be reported as amazing football, highlighting what a great product they have. Up here, of course, people pointed at the awful defending of both teams. Again, it is little wonder people aren't watching what I reiterate is, although not the most technically skilful, definitely, the most exiting football in the world. Results are extremely hard to predict with games between teams from 5th place down to 12th almost impossible to call. Ross County, who got relegated this season scored four goals against two of their opponents. The season Dundee United went down, they put five past Kilmarnock. All of the teams are entirely capable of beating each other, and it frequently happens. Couple this with the truly unique structuring where toward the end of the season the league splits in half, with the top six guaranteed safety and fighting for European spots, the bottom six being left to battle it out to cling on to their position in the league. Essentially, regardless of your position, you are always fighting for something. Unlike the EPL where teams managed by football bores like Sam Allardyce, hit 40 points then go on holiday.
Onto the weekly attendance of the matches. Routinely, Scotland has the highest per capita attendance for football games in the world. It was the highest in Europe last season. Sure, our figures may be laughable in comparison to those in England, Spain and Germany, but when put into perspective how relatively few people we have living in the country, the attendances are fantastic. Unlike the football tourists that attend the Emirates, or Old Trafford, the attendees at Dens, Easter Road, Station Park, Bayview and all the other stadia throughout the country are diehard fans. They bleed the colour of their team's shirts. The national team also attracts tens of thousands every time they play. The numbers eclipse those around Europe. Yet, we haven't qualified for a competition for 20 years. Scottish football fans are simply magnificent.
As I'm sure you have established by now, I think Scottish football is incredible, and I really hope that if you read this, you will give it a chance next season and try to take in a few games. You will be guaranteed, goals, fast plays, hard tackles and real entertainment. I believe the game is only being held back by a negative media presence, and the self indulgent fools who run it. It needs a Barry Hearn-esque rebranding to give it the audience it deserves. To propel it into the greater national consciousness. I firmly believe that we should move to playing summer football, meaning that when Sky and BT Sports are showing tractor pulling, they will have something else for their schedules. People would have football to watch year round, and fans around the world could pick a team and start watching the greatest league in the world.
Ian Morgan is on Twitter: @IanMorganFBC