Thursday, August 2, 2012

Scottish Premier League philosophy

On today's Guardian website, their football page is headed by the redoubtable Ewan Murray's preview of the Scottish Premier League. In it, the Guardian's main football guy north of Hadrian's Wall suggests that Celtic are a shoo-in for their 8th SPL title in 15 years. With Rangers out of sight – and lucky to be alive – the SPL looks like being the most boring league in Europe.

Barring an ebola breakout in Glasgow, Celtic will run the table this year. In fact, given the lack of overall talent available to the SPL, the most interesting storylines are likely to be whether the Hoops can play the year through undefeated (unlikely) or if manager Neil Lennon receives more death threats (more probable).

To anyone without a vested interest, the other teams, always also-rans, are now barely relevant. The league simply doesn't have the finances – or European pulling power – to lure imports of quality. With some of the religious element minimised (temporarily?), Scottish football will struggle to gain much press outside the British isles.  The whole has become far less than the sum of its component parts.

It's been a long, gloomy autumn since Roy Keane finished his career at Celtic. Despite Rangers NewCo securing some SPL-level players probably able to earn rapid promotion(s), the entire Scottish football system stares at losing its relevance. Despite being eligible, no Scots feature for the abominably-named Team GB while the Scotland national team continues to slump in the world rankings. Now, their top division looks more like a wasteland than a garden.

Lennon. Courtesy:
With Rangers' best now filling out Premier League squads, Celtic are the only team capable of fielding even a middling outfit. That said, the Parkhead giants have accumulated a barnful of mediocre talents rather than any players of absolute quality. Yet even with a severely flawed squad and fallible gameplan, the Hoops would probably defeat a “best of the rest” team seven times in ten.

With only a modicum of competition, the league only stands to lose popularity and even Celtic's vitality will dissipate. For so long Celtic and Rangers have been Scottish football's Ying and Yang – each depending on the other to give their existence meaning. Now shorn of their Yang, Celtic surveys the remnants of the SPL and must begin to doubt their own global importance.

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