Since I have lost my voice this week to the Armageddon virus, we decided to do a mini, written version of TWM for your pleasure….
In Armageddon Lala Land (© S. Regan), it’s all falling apart in a major borefest.
The explosive first thirteen minutes of the match involving the two top teams in the country were just a dream from which we all sadly awoke – although in my experience one usually gets roused from a dream just as the good bit begins!
Meanwhile nobody in Airdrie, Alloa, Annan, Brechin, Cowdenbeath, Dundee, Forfar, Greenock, Kirkcaldy, Montrose, Peterhead, or East Kilbride noticed anything exciting about the playoffs – and to make matters worse, folk in Cowdenbeath & EK, Forfar & Peterhead, Brechin & Alloa and Dundee & Falkirk have more of this trouser-removal process to endure later this week.
The facts, despite the SFA, SPFL and MSM trying to undersell our game here in Scotland, tell a different story. The playoff system – after close finishes in all the leagues, top and bottom, is pure drama.
There will be tears and laughter in unequal measure of course. Already, Raith Rovers, the great love of our old friend the late Turnbull Hutton have joined Ayr United and Stenhousemuir in relegation. The same fate may yet befall two from Inverness, Motherwell and Hamilton in the top league. The Blue Brazil themselves, Cowdenbeath could face banishment from the SPFL altogether if they cannot beat the upwardly East Kilbride next week.
The truth is, that keeping expectations in a realistic check, the game in Scotland is in better shape than it has been for decades. The delusional, acquisitional David Murray-led charge to financial oblivion has ended. Clubs, well most of them anyway, are living within their means. Thankfully the banks, enablers of the financial doping of the last thirty years, are now playing the role of limiting the excesses of overspending that clubs previously enjoyed.
Doubts over the distribution of the available income streams aside, there is level playing field on which Scottish clubs play, and over the last few years, a host of clubs, including Inverness, Ross County, St Mirren, Kilmarnock and St Johnstone have achieved historic successes. Aberdeen have re-emerged as the second most consistent side in the country after several years of consistency that only Champions Celtic have bettered.
In fact the quality of attacking play – if not defending- on show at Pittodrie on Friday evening would have graced any top flight game in England. It is now to Celtic and Aberdeen as well as our other clubs in European competition, Rangers and St Johnstone, to demonstrate that Scottish football may well be the poor relations in the UK, but is no backwater hangout for hillbillies and banjo players
Celtic’s dominance of course is the elephant in the room. It’s a big cuddly green and white elephant of course if you are a Celtic fan, but phase two of post Armageddon Scotland will hopefully involve a meaningful challenge at the very top over the next few years.
The Craig Whyte trial continued in Glasgow last week. The former Rangers chairman faces charges including one of ‘pretending’ to have funds to facilitate the ‘purchase’ of ‘Rangers’.
Things the court has heard from testimony up to now include;
- the claim that Ex-Rangers chief executive Martin Bain got a £360k bonus for the sale of the club,
- that Gary Withey, Craig Whyte’s lawyer through the acquisition of Rangers, thought that Whyte was a member of the Whyte & McKay Whisky company!
- that Ally McCoist had a contract with a substantial payoff clause if he was not chosen to succeed Walter Smith.
- Rangers already owed £6m to Ticketus at the time Whyte took over
- that David Murray had a deal with Lloyds: If he sold Rangers by a certain date, he would be able to regain ownership of MIM
Gary Withey, told the court that he thought Murray was desperate to get the deal over the line, that Murray’s team didn’t care where Whyte’s money had come from, and that in his opinion they knew that the deal was financed via Ticketus – this after the court had heard from other witnesses that Lloyd’s bank had threatened to withdraw Rangers’ credit and finance facilities if the board blocked the sale.
Significantly for matters outwith the confines of the case – and this has been incredibly under-reported by the main stream media – David Murray also told the court earlier that he had used EBT’s in order to get better players for Rangers than they could otherwise afford, re-igniting social media exchanges over the validity of William Nimmo-Smith’s report into Rangers use of EBT’s.
You may remember that Nimmo-Smith himself considered that Rangers had gained no sporting advantage by their use of the scheme – a conclusion diametrically at variance with Murray’s – the man who operated the scheme to achieve exactly that end.
If Murray is telling the truth, then it puts Nimmo-Smith’s conclusions in doubt. And even if you leave aside for the moment the amended and extremely creative terms of reference set by Neil Doncaster which effectively excluded the already known to be unlawful DoS EBTs from Nimmo-Smith’s team, the SPL has been shown up as a bit a joke.
Another sensational piece of info the court heard, which again has gone almost completely unreported, was that in an email from Mike McGill of Murray Group, dated 17 March 2011, he says “the (wee tax) case only recently went from a potential liability and had not “crystallised” until recently” – this long before a Euro licence was awarded to Rangers on the basis, according to Stewart Regan, that the bill had “not crystallised” when the licence was awarded.
It may be that that the laws of unintended consequences will prove to be more significant to football than the matter of Craig Whyte’s guilt or innocence.
All of the information on the case is what was said in court. None of it is to be taken as fact. That will be for the courts to decide. What is being reported is what witnesses have said in court. Also, there is a lot of hysteria, a lot of speculation going on in social media and the mainstream media over court proceedings.
Speculating on the innocence or guilt of a defendant, or the honesty of a witness is most definitely contempt of court territory. For obvious legal reasons, SFM wishes to stay on the right side of the law and avoid unnecessary problems with the courts.
But we also want to ensure that we are not party to contaminating people with speculation that may lead a defendant to be being mistakenly convicted or acquitted.
The purpose of a trial is establishing the facts of a case, not to merely validate so-called information or inferences that have been drawn before any legal process has begun. So we are asking everyone at SFM therefore to refrain from posting anything that implies guilt or innocence, truthfulness or untruthfulness, or anything which repeats unsubstantiated rumour.
We may think we know a lot, but it may well be the case as the trial progresses that we discover we knew less than we thought – so please keep that in mind when you post.
The news that it seems likely Clint Hill will not be offered a new contract at Rangers saddens me a little. Hill has been a consistent performer this year, playing with an energy, honesty and assuredness that was way in excess of many of his teammates and opponents alike. Hill is clearly not ready to retire, and I hope that he gets another year of football.
It will be interesting to see how many of the players who have been in the headlines this year will be leaving Scottish football. Hill looks to be gone, as does Emerson Hyndman. Will the likes of Moussa Dembele, Kieran Tierney, Scott Sinclair, Barrie McKay, Niall McGinn. A fair chance that some of them will. The challenge for our game is to keep a flow of that kind of talent ongoing. The more successful we are at that, the less resigned we will have to be about losing them.
As the season draws to a close, we still have promotion and relegation playoff battles to enjoy. There is the unresolved matter of ‘Invincible’ status for Celtic in their as yet unbeaten league campaign. We also have a proper showpiece finale to the season in two weeks as Aberdeen and Celtic go head to head in pursuit of the Scottish Cup.
In a few weeks, the transfer window will pique our interest as the off-field wars will be waged – with the added fun of the phantom journos in the MSM bringing us phantom stories of phantom Messis and Ronaldos headed for a hover-pitch near you – and the new season will immediately bring European drama to the door.
Who knows? Maybe the close season will see some proper football administrators brought in to replace the architects of Armageddon, tartan style. Sadly that sounds awfully like a Moonbeam.