As Celtic beat their fierce Glasgow rivals Rangers last weekend to secure their seventh consecutive league title, the hotly debated topic is now around the competitive edge in Scotland.
Improving Scottish Football’s Competitiveness
From the outside looking in at the Scottish game, it may seem a fair point to say that the competition has been somewhat lost. The recent demise of Rangers and the sheer dominance of Celtic would suggest this.
A look back to last season shows Brendan Rodgers securing an unbeaten domestic treble. Despite the incredible achievements from the players and coaches there will always be the critiques.
‘Pub League’. ‘No competition.’ – a regular cry from other football fans.
The money in the English game and other top leagues cannot be compared to the pittance north of the border. This leaves Scottish clubs with a very limited budget to challenge the quality of other leagues. However, one could also look at the difference in budgets between Celtic and their fellow Scottish teams.
Rodgers having the budget several times higher than many of their rivals is clearly a factor in the possible loss of competition in the premiership.
Solutions to Celtic’s Dominance
The obvious one will be the reignition of the Old Firm Derby. At the moment, the shambles at Rangers makes 10 titles in a row for their city neighbours look very likely. The 5-0 victory at Parkhead summed up the gulf in quality and class between the two teams. Whilst Steven Gerrard has taken over at Ibrox, it seems a full turnaround in players is needed as well as a new man at the helm.
Whether the Liverpool legend can make the difference remains to be seen. A financial backing from the Rangers board will be essential to any success despite the great footballing contacts Gerrard will bring.
Another issue may be his managerial experience. The Ibrox job is undoubtedly massive; a real challenge to any manager. It may be a rather dubious appointment to replace a youth coach with no managerial experience in Graeme Murty with Gerrard, who is a youth coach, again, with no managerial experience.
If Gerrard can pull off a successful turnaround, it will certainly lead to more of a fight at the top of the table in a risky but bold move by Rangers.
More Clubs in Europe
Celtic have seen success in Champions league qualification in the last two seasons, such that they have achieved a huge amount of income from UEFA to the tune of £30 million each season.
European football means more money and the ability to attract better quality players to Scotland.
What has been less successful is the Europa League qualification for the teams finishing second, third and fourth place.
For next season and going forward in the future, these teams must improve in European qualifying. Aberdeen have had their chances in recent times and whether it be a lack of quality or even luck they have struggled to make the grade. As for Rangers, last year’s European exploits ended, rather embarrassingly, at the first hurdle against Luxembourg’s Progrès Niederkorn.
This is certainly an area that if teams like Aberdeen, Rangers and Hibernian can improve, the overall quality at the top end of the Scottish Premiership will benefit.
The Overlooked Competitiveness
Despite Celtic being regarded by many as miles ahead of the rest, the league was only wrapped up with three games remaining.
Compare this to ‘bigger leagues’ across the continent and the results may surprise those who question Scottish Football.
Bayern Munich wrapped up their sixth consecutive Bundesliga title nearly a month before Celtic, however the German league is met with little scrutiny over itss competitiveness.
English champions Manchester City sit 16 points clear compared to Celtic’s 10 point gap over Aberdeen. Whilst there is absolutely no doubt that the better sides play in England, City’s dominance this year has been far more than that of Celtic in what is regarded a more competitive league.
Furthermore the dramatic and ongoing relegation battle in England is being matched in Scotland as well. Just six points separate the bottom four clubs in the fight to stay up.
The upcoming relegation play-offs between the second bottom Premiership team and a Championship outfit certainly adds even more end-of-season excitement in both these Scottish leagues.
Quality Managers Battling Against Each Other
The number of big name bosses also can’t be ignored. Brendan Rodgers, Steve Clarke and Neil Lennon could be joined by Steven Gerrard. Kilmarnock manager Lee Clarke has done a sensational job at the Ayrshire club. Since joining in October, his side are currently in 5th after they feared relegation at the start of the campaign. Neil Lennon’s Hibernian are still within a shot of finishing second in the league despite only winning promotion last season. Watching theses footballing brains going toe-to-toe in Scotland has been a joy this season, and will continue in the coming years.
PFA Manager of the Year Jack Ross will bring a St. Mirren side up from the Championship next term. A young manager with a quality squad of young, exciting players can only add to the top flight.
David Hopkin of Livingston brought his side up from League One to an astonishing second place in the Championship. This shows the excitement is still there as you go down the leagues in Scotland. Not to mention, Ayr United winning League One. Victory made them champions by just one point on the very last day of the season. Not quite the “AGUERO” moment but exciting none-the-less.
As Rodgers will hope to secure another treble for Celtic in the Cup Final, admittedly this may reveal the theme of no competition. However, in both domestic cup finals, Celtic have faced or will face Motherwell. Stephen Robinson’s side have negotiated the rounds in both competitions while they sit in 7th in the league. Bottom six and still reaching finals, now that’s what I call competitive. Every team can compete.
To conclude, the gap in Scotland between Celtic and the rest is clear. It would be a major surprise not to see them reach 10 league titles in a row. No matter what is said, a strong Rangers can be the only real challenge to Celtic’s dominance; however long that project may take.
However, across the majority of European leagues, there always seems to be one team ahead of the rest. This is no different in Scotland. As for the rest of the league, the race for positions is still very much on at both ends of the table, even at this late stage. The competitive nature has certainly not been lost and won’t be anytime soon.