Last week The Times released an article claiming that, this season, the Scottish Premiership is “the worst title race in Europe since 1932”. The article makes the point that champions Celtic have only dropped two points all season and claims that, as a result, fans are no longer interested in the Scottish game. The Times have asked “what is the point in Scottish football?”
Following Celtic’s 4-0 away win over Inverness in their last league match, they pulled 27 points clear of second place Aberdeen and 33 points clear of Old Firm rivals Rangers in third. The gap between first and second place in Scotland is greater than that in England, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy combined. Celtic have won their previous 22 league matches, scoring 58 goals and only conceding nine in the process. They have not lost a league match in over 300 days since their 2-1 defeat away to St Johnstone on 11 May 2016.
Celtic are only four points from equaling the record winning margin of 31 points in a top-tier league in history, achieved by only PSG last season and Egyptian side Al Ahly in 2005.
Whilst it’s true that Celtic virtually had the title wrapped up by the end of October, this is due to several factors. Obviously, finances have played a huge role in Celtic’s success. These are finances that Celtic have obtained relatively easily because of no domestic competition. Their unchallenged entry into the Champions League qualifiers has given them the chance of the £15 million jackpot for simply reaching the group stages for four consecutive seasons in Rangers’ absence.
The Champions League has also acted as a shop window for Celtic to advertise their best players, as players such as Fraser Forster, Victor Wanyama and Virgil van Dijk have fetched a combined £35 million for Celtic.
This leads to the second point: Celtic reinvested this money in their side for this season, expecting a challenge from Rangers that never came. Many fans – though very few would like to admit it – were pleased to see the biggest game in Scottish football, Rangers v Celtic, return, bringing the financial and media attention that the Scottish game so desperately needs. However, Rangers were severely underprepared following their promotion and are still being hindered by their off-the-field problems. Thus, Celtic will stroll to a fifth consecutive title with the real prospect of going the whole season unbeaten.
However, The Times’ article does omit the positive side of the Scottish game. Scottish fans rank fourth in the list of the countries with the “highest percent of population that go to football games” in the world. Almost four per cent of Scotland’s population attend football games weekly, higher than England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.
Scottish football has played a huge part in the game, providing some of the greatest managers in history, with Sir Alex Ferguson winning two Champions League titles and 13 Premier League titles during his unprecedented 26 years at Manchester United. Jock Stein led his Celtic side to become the first British Club to win the European Cup.
Jim Baxter, Jimmy Johnstone, Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish are some of the finest players to ever grace the game, and coincidentally, are all Scottish. Aberdeen have won more European trophies than Arsenal and Manchester City, and Dundee United are the only European side to hold a 100% record against Barcelona: played four won four.
So, when you ask ‘what is the point in Scottish football?’, you disrespect the players who have dedicated their lives to their sport – just like a player in any other league. You disrespect the fans who pay to go and watch their team – just like in any other league. You disrespect the pioneers of the game, whom the world should be thanking for giving them the ‘beautiful game’ that we all follow and love.
Image courtesy of Brian Hardagon.