Seed You Jimmy
Livingston will travel to Liechtenstein
for their UEFA Cup debut while Aberdeen face a trip
to Moldova. The West Lothian side have been given a gentle
introduction to European football. They faced potentially tricky
trips to Latvia or Georgia in their section of the Qualifying round
draw, but ended up paired with FC Vaduz, the Liechtenstein
cup winners. Vaduz are one of the lowest ranked sides in the tournament
and the draw couldn't have been kinder for Livvy.
By contrast Aberdeen will have to negotiate a trickier tie
against Moldovans Nistru Otaci who entered the competition
as domestic cup final runners-up. The lowest ranked team in the
Dons section was Irish club Dundalk but given what happened against
Bohemians of Dublin in Aberdeen's last European venture, they may
not be too unhappy at avoiding a trip across the water.
But the Dons will also be wary of their Moldovan foes as their recent
track record against "unknown" teams from Eastern
Europe is not good. It's not that many years ago since Latvians
Skonto Riga knocked them out of this competition. Having said that,
this is a favourable draw for both Scottish clubs and it would be
a major surprise if either failed to go through to the first round
Ties to be played on 15th and 29th August
The World Cup is still in full swing but already
season 2002-03 is rushing fast towards us. The SFL
have admitted a new club into membership, and the SPL have
released the fixture list.
The Scottish press has finally caught up with the news that Celtic
will be seeded in the draw for the final qualifying round in next
season's Champions League. Anyone who visits Liam McGurk's
excellent site on Scottish clubs in Europe (see our Links page)
could have told them weeks ago that the Celts have scraped into
16th and last seeded place.
And what a difference a couple of rankings points makes. Among the
clubs Celtic CANNOT be drawn against are: Man Utd, Barcelona,
Inter Milan, Bayern Munich, Feyenoord, Newcastle and Rosenborg.
It still won't be easy to secure that Champions League berth though.
Possible opposition for Celtic includes: Fenerbache, Brondby,
Sporting Lisbon and Auxerre. Lowest ranked potential
opponents are Rangers' old adversaries Maribor.
And here's the paradox. Celtic owe their seeding to Rangers'
extended run in the UEFA Cup last season. Will their supporters
show any gratitude towards the Ibrox club? Sure...around the
same time Satan has to call in the plumbers to deal with the burst
pipes caused by the big freeze-up.Had the situation been reversed,
Rangers attitude would be just the same.
Celtic will find out who they play on July 26th when the
draw is made. In the UEFA Cup, Rangers have a bye straight into
the First round and will be seeded up to and including the third
round and possibly the fourth as well.
No such joy for Aberdeen and European newcomers Livingston
who will find out their opponents on Friday June 21st when
the draw for the Qualifying round is made. Both Scottish clubs will
be seeded at this stage but it is highly unlikely that this will
be the case should they get through the qualifiers.
Highest ranked opponents would be a club from Cyprus, Slovenia,
Latvia (not a happy thought for the Dons) and
Finland. If the Scots duo get lucky they could be facing
a journey to San Marino, Andorra, Liechtenstein or Luxembourg.
One place they will want to avoid is Kazakhstan which, for
some ludicrous reason, has been accepted as a member of UEFA.
If you're a Dandy Don or a Livi Lion, watch out for
FK Atyrau and Kairat Almaty. They're the Kazakh clubs
in this competition.
Here's the opening month's SPL card
All 3.00 kick-off
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Celtic V Dunfermline
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Dundee V Hearts
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Hibernian V Aberdeen
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Kilmarnock V Rangers
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Livingston V Motherwell
Saturday 03-Aug-02 Partick Th V Dundee Utd
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Aberdeen V Celtic
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Dundee Utd V Kilmarnock
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Dunfermline V Livingston
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Hearts V Hibernian
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Motherwell V Partick Th
Saturday 10-Aug-02 Rangers V Dundee
Saturday 17-Aug-02 Celtic V Dundee Utd
Saturday 17-Aug-02 Dunfermline V Dundee
Saturday 17-Aug-02 Hibernian V Rangers
Saturday 17-Aug-02 Kilmarnock V Motherwell
Sunday 18-Aug-02 Aberdeen V Hearts
Sunday 18-Aug-02 Partick Th V Livingston
Saturday 24-Aug-02 Dundee V Hibernian
Saturday 24-Aug-02 Hearts V Dunfermline
Saturday 24-Aug-02 Livingston V Kilmarnock
Saturday 24-Aug-02 Partick Th V Celtic
Sunday 25-Aug-02 Dundee Utd V Motherwell
Sunday 25-Aug-02 Rangers V Aberdeen
Saturday 31-Aug-02 Dundee Utd V Dundee
Saturday 31-Aug-02 Dunfermline V Rangers
Saturday 31-Aug-02 Hearts V Kilmarnock
Saturday 31-Aug-02 Motherwell V Hibernian
Sunday 01-Sep-02 Aberdeen V Partick Th
Sunday 01-Sep-02 Celtic V Livingston
Highlights of the opening day of the Scottish
League programme on August 3rd include a clash of the
two Saints at Love Street and Gretna's first
ever League game. The newcomers take on Morton at home.
It's the first Third Division fixture for both teams. Raith
start life in the 2nd division at home to Stranraer and
Queen of the South mark their return to the 1st with a
home game against Clyde.
Perhaps the two luckiest clubs are Falkirk and Stenhousemuir.
Both were reprieved from relegation thanks to the demise of Airdrie.
The Bairns travel to Somerset Park while Stenny
take on newly-promoted Dumbarton at home.
Arbroath v Ross County
Ayr United v Falkirk
Inverness CT v Alloa
Queen of the South v Clyde
St Mirren v St Johnstone
Brechin City v Berwick Rangers
Clydebank v Forfar Athletic
Cowdenbeath v Hamilton Academical
Raith Rovers v Stranraer
Stenhousemuir v Dumbarton
East Stirlingshire v Montrose
Gretna v Morton
Peterhead v East Fife
Queens Park v Elgin City
Stirling Albion v Albion Rovers
All kick-offs 3.00
The incompetence of the Scottish football authorities
seems to know no bounds. In opting for Gretna to take
up the vacant spot in the League, they have made the worst choice
possible. The last additions to the League - the non-voting Elgin
and Peterhead - must have looked on in horror as their
colleagues foisted a twice-yearly nightmare trip on them.
But the Highland pair's travel problems are the least of the concerns
which surround this decision. There were seven applicants for
the vacancy but only three realistic contenders. Gretna,
perennial contenders Gala Fairydean and the newly-formed
Airdrie United. The worries clubs had that the admission
of the latter to replace the defunct Airdrieonians would
set a dangerous precedent for others facing financial hardship
were genuine. Even so, the embryonic Diamonds received
eleven votes in the final ballot - mostly, I imagine, from teams
rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of doubling their
average gates twice a year when Airdrie came calling.
But if it is understandable that they didn't want to offer a bolt-hole
to indebted clubs by electing Airdrie, why Gretna? True, Gretna
have been a great success in English non-league football. But
this is a team with no supporters. They might gain a few more
locals now that they are in the Scottish League and I dare say
that, initially, they will pick up fans from Queen of the South
and Carlisle. But once the novelty of playing East Stirling
and Albion Rovers wears off (and believe me that
can happen very quickly indeed), how many fans will Gretna
attract? 200? 300? Would they even be able to fill a supporters
bus for away games?
On the playing front, the decision could be even more embarrassing.
It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if they stormed to promotion
at the first attempt. Although they have declined from their early
1990s peak when they twice reached the first round proper of the
FA Cup, they have been playing in the Unibond First Division -
three levels below the Nationwide League and probably on a par
with the Scottish Third Division. Helped by the impetus their
new status will provide, Gretna will not be there just to make
up the numbers.
Now I've nothing against Gretna as such. They are a well-run club
from top to bottom with a steady income stream from their Sunday
market. Certainly, no other Third Division club is better managed.
But they chose a long time ago to play in England when options
such as the South of Scotland League were open to them. Some will
argue that they are merely coming home and that this decision
will have no impact on any proposed Old Firm move south. Rubbish!
The Old Firm are the real winners here. They are now able to
argue that cross-border moves are perfectly acceptable. The
only way to stymie the Old Firm's arguments would have been to
say that Gretna is in Scotland and that the club are returning
to their natural home. But that would have meant casting Berwick
Rangers into limbo by forcing them to head in the opposite
What about Gala? They've been trying to get into the Scottish
League since Third Lanark folded in 1967 and have been
rebuffed yet again. Of all the contenders they had the greatest
experience and the longest history. It is true that they would
not necessarily be greatly supported but the inclusion of a side
from the Rugby stronghold of the Borders would have brought League
football to the only significantly populated part of the Scottish
mainland without League status.
It would also have created a vacancy in the East of Scotland
League which Airdrie United could have applied for. I know
Airdrie isn't in the East of Scotland but neither are Annan,
Castle Douglas and Dalbeattie - all places with teams
in that League. And Airdrie is a damned sight handier for Edinburgh
than any of those towns.
This would have been what I termed earlier 'the Aldershot solution.'
When the Hampshire club folded a decade ago, the supporters
refused to let it die. They formed a new club called Aldershot
Town and have worked their way through the non-league pyramid
until they are now just two levels below the Nationwide.
So, a League club in the Borders for the first time and a football
club continuing the 124-years old tradition in Airdrie. An eminently
sensible solution. Too sensible for the SFL.
So, while wishing Gretna well, what is the future of football
in Airdrie? Even more supporters buses heading for the Old Firm
and a trivia question for the future. Name the team that never
played a game? Airdrie United.