SPL reality - part 2
The latest public comments on the state of our game has come from Aberdeen manager Mark McGhee, when he suggested that the SPL could soon sink to the level of the League of Ireland in terms of popularity and entertainment.
Strangely, he claimed that prior to Barclays coming on board, the English Premier League was no better than the SPL. Really ? Sounds to me like Mr McGhee is slightly blinded by the memory of Messrs Gascoigne, Laudrup, Butcher, Viduka, and Larsson in Scotland, while the rest of us had to make do with incomers of more modest abilities - but at inflated wages.
McGhee made these comments - 'I'm not sure that I would, in my day, have got a game in the English Premier League as it is today. I think we really have to compare ourselves with Championship clubs. As long as we keep eroding the financial side and they keep getting away from us, that is going to change again, and very soon we're going to be comparing it to the First Division (League One). And if it keeps going the way it is, we could eventually be comparing it to - no disrespect - the Irish league.'
Fair enough, Mark. But what could you suggest to make it better ?
'I think that involves a bit of change,' he said. 'Whether that involves summer football, I don't know. But I'd like someone to go and explore it scientifically. Then we can maybe make some decisions that would improve our lot and improve our chances of maintaining us at that sort of level, Championship level.'
Hmmm… a "bit of change" and summer football. So you haven`t a clue then, Mark ?
I do wonder what SPL managers REALLY think could improve the quality of entertainment - some changes that would excite fans and get them turning up in big numbers again. At Tynecastle, fans are still attending in decent numbers - but the atmosphere is very muted at run-of-the-mill games because exciting play is almost non-existent. How much longer can this go on before many fans start to drift away, deciding to spend their £400 per year on something else ?
I`ve yet to hear any worthwhile public suggestions from managers about how to improve the game as a spectacle. Maybe they don`t want to rock the boat, given that many of them are probably mediocre football coaches who still manage to earn a pretty good living from organising dour midfield battles in our wee country.
In my view, its quite simple. Fans want to see their club live within their means, produce an exciting "flair" player every few years, and score more goals. Maybe the administrators would cry "foul" at some of my suggestions, but here goes -
a) scrap offside in all domestic Cup competitions, and in leagues below the SPL. Who cares if someone is 2 yards offside when the ball was passed ? Defenders would have to learn to stay close to opposing forwards who would stretch the game by staying further upfield, making for a more open match. In essence, a new equilibrium would probably evolve, resulting in more open play and a few more goals - with no infuriating marginal offside decisions !! Instead of 0-0 or 1-0 results, you`d probably get 2-2 or 3-2. Surely that`s a good thing ….
b) introduce a rule that all domestic Cup games must consist entirely of own-academy players. That should provide an incentive for most clubs to reduce the number of purchased players, and give experience to their own youngsters at an earlier age.
c) seriously invest in the game`s future by paying to bring in some top youth coaches from Germany, Hollland, Brazil etc - the countries where technical ability is highest - to teach U-17 professionals at SFA coaching schools for a year.
What suggestions do you have that would get you excited about Scottish football again ?