Until recently, Scottish clubs were some of the tougher tests on the European scene, with even the likes of Barcelona struggling to get results against determined teams like Rangers and Celtic. Of late though, there’s been a significant decline in the sides competing there. Jamie Currie talks about the issue.
Scottish football is on a serious decline – and has been for around 10 years. There have been many factors that contributed to the demise of the game, most notably Rangers’ expulsion from the top flight in 2012 due to the well-documented financial problems that have plagued the Ibrox club.
But it looks like the decision to send the club to the bottom tier of the Scottish football pyramid may just be finally hitting home that it has been a hindrance for the overall domestic picture in a country that is worlds away from its big-spending British neighbours.
If you look at the game in Scotland logically and sensibly, there is very little quality throughout the four divisions, especially in the top-flight, where it is essentially a race to finish second best behind the worst Celtic side in a long, long time.
This has been brought into the spotlight with Celtic and their failure to reach the Champions League group stages in the past two seasons. And, with all due respect to the likes of Legia Warsaw – who they were well beaten by – and only qualified because of an administrative error, Maribor and now Malmo, Celtic teams of the past would have easily dispatched of these sides and taken their place amongst the elite in the group stages. There has been a massive change of the times, not only at Celtic but in Scottish football as a whole. There is no more spending £6 million a piece on the likes of John Hartson, Chris Sutton and Neil Lennon, no more throwing £2 million at Real Madrid for Danish flop Thomas Graveson – those days are long gone. Instead, they now have to shop in more modest markets, mostly in Dundee at Dundee United, where it looks like any player who does semi-well for the Dundee club gets snapped up by Celtic for a relative pittance.
And that is proving to be true in Celtic’s case, especially when it comes to European football. Ronny Delia has won the league comfortably in his first season, but his deals in the transfer market – the likes of Stefan Scepovic, Dedrick Boyata and others have to come under question.
But on the flipside they have done well in some transfers, selling the likes of Ki to Swansea, Fraser Forster and Victor Wanyama to Southampton and Dutch centre-back Virgil Van Dijk will probably be sold to England, in order to balance the failure to reach the group stages with their participation in the Europa League.
As is always the case, Celtic will sweep aside the other 11 sides in the Scottish Premiership, but when they come up against a team with a little bit of experience and technical ability, this time in the form of Malmo, they will fail spectacularly.
That comes down to not having any sort of challenge whatsoever domestically. Again, it goes back to demoting Rangers in 2012. Yes, they have won titles but have they really improved under Delia and continually moved forward? All the evidence points to a resounding no. And with their downsizing of the playing squad this season and with no realistic challenge for the title beyond Christmas, where does it stop?
No group of fans were happier than Celtic’s to see Rangers demoted for the last three years – a year more than expected. But, if you look at the bigger picture, in terms of testing themselves in Europe, the fans and club who wanted Rangers gone – will be now hoping that Rangers get promoted to provide some edge to their club that has been lacking for the past three years.
It was also proved earlier this season when John Collins, Celtic’s assistant manager came out into the media and said that the teams in Scotland were not “smart enough” to deal with Celtic. Yes, you can see his point, but by the same token, does that mean Celtic are not ‘smart enough’ to beat the likes of Malmo, Maribor or Legia Warsaw?
It’s the feeling of self-importance and arrogance that has probably been Celtic’s downfall, the truth is, results in Europe show they are not as good as they think they are. And without a challenge in the Premiership this season that level of complacency will only reach levels of delusion – if it hasn’t got to that stage already.
Scott Brown, the Celtic captain said he felt “ashamed” by the performance against Malmo, and that Celtic hadn’t learned from last year. But it was their club who put them in that position along with others in 2012, by guaranteeing themselves league titles. They have inadvertently harmed themselves in the long run.
In Celtic’s case, it’s very much a lesson of being careful what you wish for.
Written by Jamie Currie
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