The Fortnight In Scotland – The Fitba’s Back Edition
Welcome back! Did you miss Scottish football? Of course you didn’t, it was never out of the news over the summer break! And what a summer break it was. Before we go into the last couple of week’s news stories, a look at the big news story of the summer.
Rangers Demoted To Division Three
As regular readers of last season’s column may remember, I got sick of talking about Rangers and their woes after going into administration and basically I just stopped mentioning it. However, I figure I should talk about it here. New season, new start and all that!
After HMRC rejected The Rangers Football Club PLC’s proposed Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA), the company that ran the football club entered the liquidation process, and although said company hasn’t technically been wound up yet, it’s believed it will take place any day now. After the CVA was rejected, the club’s assets and history were transferred to a new company (‘newco’) Sevco 5088 Ltd, who then immediately transferred them onto Sevco Scotland Ltd, a consortium led by businessman Charles Green which has since been renamed to The Rangers Football Club LTD.
Part of the assets were the player’s contracts, and under TUPE regulations 11 players refused to have their contracts switched to the newco and left Rangers as free agents. Some of the bigger names that left the club were:
- Steven Naismith – Moved to English Premier League team Everton
- Allan McGregor – Moved to Turkish SuperLig team Beşiktaş
- Steven Whittaker – Moved to EPL team Norwich
- Kyle Lafferty – Moved to Swiss Super League team FC Sion
- Steve Davis – Moved to EPL team Southampton
- Sone Aluko – Moved to English Championship team Hull
Players like Neil Alexander, Lee Wallace, Kirk Broadfoot, Dorin Goian, Carlos Bocanegra and Lee McCulloch let their contracts transfer over to the newco however, and gave Rangers a fighting chance to play some games in whatever league they were to end up in.
People came and went and bitched and moaned about the ownership of the club. Some people suggested Craig Whyte was still involved in the day-to-day running of the club in some way, although this has NOT been proven. Figureheads came along, made some noises about bidding for the club and saving its future, before seemingly slinking away into the shadows once more. Indeed, as Green himself stated:
“It’s not right that every two weeks a Mel Gibson appears, delivers a Braveheart statement, then doesn’t deliver anything.”
The newco made applications to the SFA and SPL to join the Premier League (replacing the oldco), requiring a 8-4 vote (all remaining 10 SPL teams, Dunfermline, and newco Rangers all had a vote) in favour to allow them to join the SPL. However a result of 10 no votes, 1 yes vote and 1 abstained vote saw Rangers applying for membership to the SFL First Division (also declined) then the Third Division, where they currently play.
If you require more information or you just want to learn more about what happened, there are far more detailed accounts out there on the land of the Internet, and I implore you to read them. After all, this could happen to your team.
Dundee, Airdrie and Stranraer Are Lucky B******s
All three teams have been the main beneficiaries of the Rangers situation. Dundee replaced Rangers in the SPL, which left a space in Division One. As Airdrie were runner-ups in last season’s Division One/Two play-off, they were promoted anyway to take the empty space.
Similarly, Stranraer took Airdrie’s place in Division Two even though they lost to Albion Rovers in the Division Two/Three play-off.
With only a couple of week’s notice of promotion, all three teams look under-prepared for the new season, particularly Dundee. I wish them all the best of luck…I fear they may need it.
Now, onto the new season!
Celtic and Motherwell both joined the Champions League at the Third Qualification Round, Celtic joining the Champions Route while Motherwell took Rangers’ place in the League Route.
Celtic were impressive in defeating HJK Helsinki 4-1 on aggregate. Celtic looked terrible in the first leg held at Celtic Park, and scraped a 2-1 victory against the run of play. With Celtic’s notorious away record in Europe, most observers expected a HJK win in the Sonera Stadium but Celtic impressively beat the Finns 2-0 and go on to play Swedish champions Helsingborg, where Celtic legend Henrik Larsson finished his career. Alejandro Bedoya has just moved there from Rangers, so the club is fairly well connected with Scottish football! Everyone in Scottish football hopes Celtic make it to the group stages. While no-one but the most delusional of fans expect Celtic to be Champions League winners, Scottish football needs the coefficient points from qualification if nothing else!
Motherwell were drawn against Greek stars Panathinaikos and played as well as could be expected in a 5-0 aggregate loss. I hoped they wouldn’t be embarrassed at this level of football and while Motherwell’s deficiencies were largely exploited, they were not embarrassed and played particularly well at Fir Park. The Steelmen now drop into the Play-Off Round of the Europa League where they take on Spaniards Levante. Motherwell are expected to lose again, but at least the players and fans are getting some cracking weather on their adventure!
Speaking of the Europa League, St Johnstone were in the Second Qualification Round against Turkish team Eskişehirspor. The Perth outfit were unlucky to go out 3-1 on aggregate as they gave the SuperLig outfit a real tough time, and got a creditable draw at home.
Dundee Utd joined the tournament at the Third Qualification Round and also had a tough draw, The Arabs up against Dynamo Moscow. They got a fantastic result at home with a 2-2 draw, taking the lead twice and only an injury time equaliser from Alexsandr Kokorin stopped a well deserved victory. The game in the Arena Khimki was a different story however, as Utd were thumped 5-0.
Hearts join Motherwell in the Play-Off Round, although they also received a tough draw against Liverpool. I can only see this ending well…
Mike Ashley Ready To Invest In Rangers
Yeah, you read that correctly. Rangers will be able to borrow anything from eight to 12 Newcastle players (depending on who you believe) in a deal that will see Magpies owner Mike Ashley buy a share in the Ibrox club. The SFA will ratify the move on the condition Ashley owns no more than 10% of Rangers and is not personally involved in the running of the club. Ashley’s Sports Direct firm will then take over Rangers’ replica kit merchandising operation, taking over from JJB Sports.
I’m not sure about this one. It’s a blow to Scottish football if one of our biggest clubs basically becomes a feeder team to a mid-table EPL side (no offence Newcastle fans) to ensure that Mike Ashley basically makes more money. At the same time, Rangers need the cash and if the plan coms to fruition, maybe it’ll be a trend-setter. Celtic might sign a deal with JD Sports. Hearts previously did something similar with all:sports before they went bust. Cowdenbeath might get their kit sold in Primark, god knows!
It’ll be interesting to see what happens next.
Ross County Go Unbeaten For 12 Months
SPL new boys Ross County haven’t lost a league game for a year, a period stretching over 36 games. A fantastic achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree. They’ve drawn their first two SPL games against Aberdeen and Motherwell and look like a welcome addition to the top table.
Their 37th league game is against Celtic, so it’s probable the run will come to an end. Paddy Power currently have Celtic at 5/2 to go undefeated in the SPL this season and I don’t see The Staggies being the team to stop the bet being successful, but it is still a fantastic achievement and manager Derek Adams must be extremely proud of his team.
After complaining he didn’t like Russian football the last time he played there, Garry O’Connor thought it was wise to move to Second Division outfit Tom Tomsk. Although, he also can’t spell and is…easily confused, shall we say? It’s fair to say Garry is a few knives short of a cutlery set. He ‘endeared’ himself to the Tom Tomsk fans in his début by being sent off 65 minutes into the game. Well done Garry, well done.
Scotland take on Australia in a friendly on Wednesday night, but rather than play the game at the half-empty soul destroying Hampden Park, Scotland are going on tour and playing the game at Hibs’ Easter Road. I’ve been crying out for a long time for friendly matches to be played all over the country. It’s a lot fairer on the fans who consistently travel for hours to come to Glasgow, so it’s only fair the team go visit them once in a while. Hampden tends to draw about 15000-20000 fans to friendlies, and Easter Road has a capacity of just over 20000. I guarantee the 20000 fans in Easter Road will sound better than they do in Mount Florida. Maybe the players will be inspired at a full house too.
If you fancy hearing more about Scottish football, follow theSPLpodcast on Twitter. I’ve joined their podcast for the new season and we’re already offending people up and down the country! If you’d like to hear me swear even more, then that’s the place to go!
***Did I miss anything? Got something for me to add in next week? Any comments to either please me or destroy my soul? Post below or find me on Twitter @Manky365***