Football roundup - Hearts and beyond
In an effort to justify his reasoning for Rangers playing the way they did at Old Trafford in September, manager Walter Smith`s recent interview throws up such bizarre logic that I can only conclude the inside talk at Ibrox is all about getting out of Scottish football as soon as possible. Walter seems to think the onus is on UEFA to change something so that poor wee Scottish teams (i.e. Celtic and Rangers) can compete more realistically with the European big boys in the CL. It`s not clear what the "something" is that he wants. A cap on incoming transfers ? Handing out more TV money to the minnows ? Or allowing Scottish referees to officiate in matches involving Celtic and Rangers perhaps?
The interview came after Kilmarnock chairman Michael Johnson was quoted as saying that Celtic and Rangers had more chance of winning the Champions League than a non-OF team had of winning the SPL. Personally, I agree wholeheartedly with that simple statement. A bit of a no-brainer, actually. Smith however responded -
'Clubs like Rangers and Celtic, we take the onus in terms of trying to fly the flag for Scotland, if you like, in a European sense. It's only right that we do that. We are the biggest clubs and we take that responsibility. I don't see any hypocrisy.
'He can say whatever he likes and he says quite a lot actually. At the end of the day, the situation has developed and we've got to try to do something about it. If he's happy with the way Scottish football is at the present moment, then he's in the wrong job.
'Was the Kilmarnock chairman one of the people who agreed to the Setanta deal instead of the Sky deal in 2008 ? I don't know whether he was or whether he wasn't. But if he was, why is he still in a decision-making position in Scotland? He had the chance to get money from Sky TV and didn't take it. He took Setanta and it was the wrong move and it cost him a fortune.'
Talk about putting a slant on things !! I can`t remember the ins-and-outs of the deals… but even if non-OF teams might have gained more from Sky compared to Setanta, you can bet the OF would have gained even more - after all, it was Sky that the OF wanted.
It`s so very nice of the OF to take the responsibility on behalf of all of us to fly the flag for Scotland in Europe - it really is. We owe them so much. No mention of the in-built reasons which prop up their ability to always be miles ahead of the rest of us, of course - but that bad old UEFA must do something to stop the same advantage enjoyed by Real Madrid and Chelsea and Man Utd. Does Walter really think that Johnson, by making his comments, must be content with the state of the SPL game ? Surely, Johnson`s comments make it clear to everyone - except Walter obviously- that he is alarmed at the state of the SPL.
Ironically, the 3 wins achieved by Rangers last week (Aberdeen and Hearts away, plus Borsipor at home) rather nullify Smith`s argument that UEFA need to help teams like Rangers, since they showed they can cope with (and win) 3 hard games in the space of 7 days, which is more than Man Utd were able to do. There`s no doubt Walter is a good tactician and man-manager when it comes to football teams, but it seems he is now mastering the art of verbal deception pretty well too.
A couple of days later, he even suggested that Rangers and Celtic might not get it all their own way in the SPL this year !! While it`s tempting to think Walter is being complimentary to Hearts and others, this was surely nothing less that an attempt to play down the massive gap which has already opened up between the OF and us. With only 7 games played, they are already 8 points ahead of 3rd place Motherwell - basically none of the other SPL teams can come close to them for consistency and goal-scoring, regardless of how may "assists" they get from referees. However, the reasons WHY that gap continues to widen must be acknowledged and addressed by everyone involved in Scottish football management before the whole concept of the SPL become pointless.