I see that Rangers are really struggling this
season. They've won just two games and lie fourth from
bottom of the League. No, I haven't taken leave of my senses,
just gazing at the league table in Andorra.
While on the subject, regular readers will recall that this website
took itself to Rome for a fortnight last month. Strange to
say but while wandering through the Roma store and looking
at an impressive array of replica strips from all over Europe, I
couldn't help but notice there weren't any Rangers tops on
sale. Couldn't find any in all of Rome as a matter of fact. And
this in a city that sells Juventus t-shirts in the Vatican
souvenir shops. I wonder why?
The one place I didn't look was in the Lazio
shop. That's because I'd no intention of spending any of my money
on a club that is notorious for its links to far-right political
parties and whose supporters have an unenviable reputation for violence.
Absolutely no reason to suppose any Rangers items would be found
in such an unsavoury setting, is there?
Of course it wouldn't be right to take the piss out of Rangers too
much. After all, the Ibrox club is a revered institution in world
football. An inspiration to teams all over the globe. As you can
see from this Borussia Dortmund supporters club which has
clearly been influenced by the best team in Govan. It's been suggested
that the models for the badge were two of Rangers finest - Messrs
Gough and Advocaat, two of the biggest Dicks
in the game.
As for Celtic, we have conclusive proof that
John Hartson is on his way out. You see the official Celtic
website offers the usual drop-down menu of countries, including
the likes of Kiribati and the British Virgin Islands.
But being aware of the sensitivities of some of the citizens of
these islands, they also allow visitors to describe themselves as
being from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or the Republic
of Ireland. So far so PC. But, and here's the rub, there's no
sign of Wales anywhere in the list.
John, when they think that St Kitts and Tuvalu
are more important than the land of your fathers, it's time
to take the hint.
Far be it for us to pander to national sterotypes
but while doing our weekly global surf of football sites we couldn't
help but notice Irish side St Patrick's site. There's a marvellous
page on it entitled 'ACHIEVEMENTS.' Other than the title
the page is blank!
The BBC has been broadcasting 'live' SPL
matches on the web for over two years. But just how 'live'
are they? Your correspondent was listening in to events at Fir
Park last Saturday while keeping an eye on 'Soccer Saturday.'
The Beeb's commentators were telling me that Killie had been
awarded a free kick in the dying seconds while simultaneously Sky
flashed up the news that Kris Boyd had scored
Around twenty seconds later, Boyd scored again - this time on the
net broadcast. Intrigued, I made a note of when the final whistle
blew. Again, three points were on their way back to Rugby Park almost
twenty seconds faster via satellite than by web
Is there a reason for this delay? Or is it so that the Beeb can
edit out any swearie words that may find their way into the ether?
At any rate it's a long enough gap to be annoying but not long enough
to put a bet on!
A large section of the Amazon rain forest has already
been destroyed in the debate over the Old Firm and penalties,
sparked off by Bobby Williamson's claim that Hibs were denied
a spot-kick at Ibrox. So we don't particularly want to add to it.
Except to say that the same people who seriously believe that
it's ok for Rangers not to have conceded any penalties at Ibrox
to SPL sides other than Celtic since December 1998 are the sort
of people who lay out mince pies and a large whisky by the fireplace
before hanging a stocking up on their bedroom wall on the 25th of
that month each year.
Congratulations to the Sunday Herald. Just
eight months after we ran an item here comparing the current Old
Firm domination to the 1967-68 season, the lads on the Glasgow broadsheet
have caught up.
Last week's piece by Alan Campbell echoed our view superbly.
Still not as good as the Sunday Mail though. It took them
just a few days to parrot our opinion of Kevin Kyle back in September.
What a terrific performance and a superb result for
Celtic against Blackburn. More on that next week.
We're affected by Dr Who pressures this week (time and
space) so we'll also have to leave our assessment of Setanta's
live coverage of the SPL until next time as well.
For the Scottish Cup 1873-1939 click here
For the Scottish Cup Post-1945 click here
For the League Cup from 1946 click here
It's been a long time since we heard from Roger
Mitchell. Rumour has it he's hiding out with Lord Lucan,
Elvis and Osama in a place where no other human being
has set foot - the Somerset Park trophy room.
But in the days when the bold Roger strutted his stuff, one of his
proud boasts was that the SPL was one of the best supported
Leagues in Europe. And it is. Surprising as it may seem, we're ranked
at number six with only the traditional super-powers of England,
Spain, Italy, Germany and France ahead of us.
But when you look at CLUB support you begin to realise just
how heavily we depend on the Gruesome Twosome for that ranking.
Celtic are currently the eighth best supported team
in Europe (Man Utd, Barcelona, Real Madrid, both Milan
clubs, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 before
any Celtic fans mail in asking). Four more clubs (Bayern,
Roma, Atletico Madrid and Newcastle) separate them
from Rangers in 13th.
Our next representatives are Aberdeen, down at 117,
followed by Hearts at 128 and Hibs at 147.
Of course its early days yet and these positions might change. But
both Old Firm clubs are occupying exactly the same positions as
last season while our other clubs are slipping - a drop of sixteen
places for Hibs.
Last season these teams and four others - Dundee Utd (166), Dundee
(168), Kilmarnock (172) and Livingston (177) - all figured
in the top 200 in Europe. That's pretty impressive for a country
the size of Scotland. It proves that, while we owe our top five
status to the Despicable Duo we would still be ranked around
10-12 in Europe without them.
So does that mean that all would be well in a post-Old Firm world?
Not really. Because those figures are probably as good as it gets.
In terms of spectators per head of population we're punching way
above our weight now. Only in Iceland and Cyprus do
a greater percentage of the population go to football matches than
Therefore, there's no great reservoir of spectators out there, waiting
only for the day the Old Firm leave before they come rushing back
through the turnstiles. Also, crowds are starting to drop this term.
Finally, that high ranking for the 'others' is to some extent dependent
on Old Firm fans turning up at away matches - something else that
is in decline this season.
Still, it's fun to look at some of the teams not as well supported
as our clubs. Aberdeen are ahead of Standard Liege
and Real Valladolid for example. You'll find more fans at
Tynecastle and Easter Road than you will at Spartak
Moscow, Panathinaikos, Malmo, Perugia, Gothenburg, AEK Athens
and Dynamo Kiev. Tannadice, Dens Park Rugby Park and whatever
stupid name Livingston are calling their ground this week
attract more punters than Sparta Rotterdam, Monaco, Grasshoppers,
Moscow Dynamo and Steaua Bucharest.
Now if only we could claim to have the beating of these sides
Looks like we owe Basle an apology. The Swiss
side have qualified for the last sixteen of the Champions
League. Along the way they withstood a furious barrage at Anfield
to claim a draw and rattled three goals past Premiership leaders
Liverpool inside half an hour in Switzerland.
But the real reason Basle are through and Liverpool are out is that
Christian Gross' team managed to draw at home with Valencia
while Gerard Houllier's side lost to the Spanish champions
at Anfield. A draw for Liverpool in that match would have seen them
The make-up of the sixteen survivors shows just how difficult it
is for any team not belonging to the elite leagues. There are four
each from Spain and Italy, three from England
and two from Germany. The three 'outsiders'
are Basle, Lokomotiv Moscow and Ajax.
These clubs - along with Newcastle - will be the lowest group in
the seedings. Their opponents in the next phase will all be from
European football's super-powers - making it even harder for them
to advance to the last eight.
It's a sobering thought that a club like Ajax - four times
Champions of Europe, most recently in 1995 - are regarded
as one of the minnows in this year's tourney. It also demonstrates
the sheer impossibility of a Scottish club ever again reaching the
summit of European football.
For either of our big two to reach the last sixteen would now be
a significant achievement. It won't be lost on Celtic that
it could have been them instead of Basle. Nor that the nine points
they gathered in last season's competition would have been enough
to qualify from any of the groups this time round.
A reminder for anyone going to see Scotland
in Portugal next week. The game isn't in Lisbon, it's
in Braga at the Estadio Primeiro de Maio. Tickets
are only available through the Scotland Travel Club. Let's
hope the deal is as good for our fans as it is for the home supporters.
Tickets for the match range in price from €9.50 to €22
- that's roughly between £6 - £14