Where do I even begin this one, well let me explain myself, Scottish Football as a whole is not terrible. These are still professional footballers at the absolute top of their game so of course calling them all terrible is wrong. That being said, Scottish Football is pretty terrible. This is to say that it is currently suffering a slump that seems to only be getting worse and I honestly do not see a route out for them.
So, why you ask then is it terrible? Read on and join the discussion, because let’s be honest, this is probably going to ruffle some feathers. The problems have become starker than ever in the past few years and I am here to unpack them.
An Improbable Points Gap
Rangers are 19 points clear at the time of writing, having already taken Celtic down twice. This is not a drill; Rangers are back it would seem. If Rangers are back and finally a challenge for Celtic, then why the Scottish Football hate? It’s easy, Rangers returning to their former glory shows how weak a league the Scottish Premier League is. The whole league system is lacking in depth see Gretna FC who entered the Scottish leagues in 2002, got to the SPL by 2007 and then dissolved out of existence the following year.
Rangers fell apart in 2012, entering administration and dropping down the leagues. Within 4 years following 3 league promotions they were back in the SPL, finishing no lower than 3rd in the following 4 seasons. For a team to completely capitulate and nearly go out of business for them then to return to the top flight within 4 years is unheard of. Is this not Rangers being good enough to do this? Well, no, no it is not.
Celtic have 3 games in hand at the moment in the league and can close the gap to 10 points in they win all three games. They have the points gap to deal with, plus a -22-goal difference gap to the league leaders, Rangers are doing a Celtic to Celtic. Now some people link this to the managers at the helm, however I am here to immediately dispel that notion and convince you further.
High flying Rangers have Steven Gerrard in their dugout, one of the greatest midfielder to ever take to a football pitch. He was a truly excellent player; however, his managerial credentials are somewhat lacking. He has only managed Rangers and has had great success… in the manager of the month competition, winning this award 6 times. Neil Lennon on the other hand at the controls of a somewhat struggling Celtic has won 5 Scottish titles, including the last 2 in a row. He has also completed the double with the Scottish Cup in 2 of those seasons and treble with the Scottish League Cup last year.
The Midweek Nightmare
Turn the television onto European football any time between Tuesday and Thursday during October, November and December and you are highly likely to see a Scottish team losing. This is currently the trend and although I am very clearly overexaggerating the actual does not make for good reading. This statement is somewhat untrue, but for two different reasons. Sometimes the Scottish teams do qualify through their groups and therefore must have won some games, however sometimes the Scottish teams do not even make the group stages. If this is the case it would also be wrong to say you would see them lose because they would not be on T.V to lose.
Let’s take the last 10 years for me to show you why midweek football has been a nightmare for Scottish clubs in Europe. In the last 10 years in the Champions league Scottish teams have had 13 opportunities in this competition. Up until the 2014 season, Scottish football had had 2 teams qualify for the competition. The Co-officiants of world football to decide how many teams qualify for what competition lowered the SPL in their rankings therefore they lost this place, more on that later.
Of these 13 opportunities only Celtic in 2013 managed to qualify through the group stage, losing in the Round of 16, the first set of games after the group. The other opportunities saw Celtic, Rangers and Motherwell all fail to get out of the groups with them entering the Europa League 10 times. Out of 13 opportunities entering the secondary competition 10 times does not seem too bad, however when you factor in that 8 of those times the team did not even make the group stage, well then it is a very different statistic.
Into the Europa league then, and of course as it is the secondary competition that means it is easier right? Does someone want to inform the SPL of this. They have had some more success in the Europa League with 42 attempts for the league to get into the competition. Of those 42 attempts only 6 yielded anything that could be considered a success with Celtic managing to make the Round of 32 four times, which is still only the first knockout round. Rangers were slightly better off reaching the Round of 16 twice, however this is furthest that the SPL as a whole has gone in European competition in at least the last 10 years.
Remember I said they have 42 attempts, well if we take off those 6, we are left with 36 further attempts at the Europa League. What then happened to the other teams? During the last 10 years 11 different teams from the SPL have tried their hand at the Europa League with only Celtic and Rangers ever making the group stages. With Celtics elimination in the 2021 group stage, the total number of group stage exits climbs to 4 which leaves us with a startling 32 times that teams from Scotland have not even made the group stage of the secondary competition in Europe.
The English Football Argument
Still not convinced. Then let us return to the age-old question, nay the age-old argument that is uttered every time Scottish footballs legitimacy is questioned. “Celtic and Rangers could easily compete in the Premier League”. In years gone by, this may have been something people could lean on, as recently as 2008, Rangers managed to make the Final of the Europa League. In the 2008 season they managed to progress further than the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Bolton Wanderers, giving the previous statement legitimacy.
Using the argument of European football then, in the past 10 years, Scottish Football has been an adject failure in Europe. English football clubs however have managed to win the Champions League twice, been runner up and two further occasions and only managed to exit in the group stages 8 times. In this time, they have not missed qualification for the group stages in 40 attempts.
Using only the qualification into the Champions League, already we can see a massive gulf in class of these two footballing nations. Back to the argument regarding Celtic and Rangers and the idea of them entering the English Football League. The UEFA member association co-officiant rankings have England in 2nd with Scotland in 11th. This does not seem too bad, however if the actual leagues from top to bottom are ranked this is a very different situation. Using the Global Football League Rankings based on best to worst club, England comes in 1st, whereas Scotland can only manage 26th. This is below all the major leagues in the world, including 4 second leagues.
The argument therefore is a moot point, Scottish Football is not even close to the level of English football, especially the Premier League. Celtic and Rangers should move across to the EFL as they would be in a bigger more competitive environment. The reason they do not move across is because if they did, they would realise what has always been the case. They would struggle to maintain a footing in the Premier League and the trophies would dry up.
Although it may seem this way, I have no problem with Scottish Football at all, as I said in the beginning of this article, the league has some truly excellent players. Some of the games, especially the derbies are incredibly exciting. The problem here is that there is just no real competition in the game. It is easy to go unbeaten if you have no rivals which makes you complacent. The complete failure in Europe has shown this. Does this mean the game in Scotland needs a revamp? I think so, and the teams need to take a page from the books of Swansea, Cardiff and other Welsh teams. Get yourself into the English leagues and get some real competition, because Let’s be honest… Scottish Football is Terrible.