I am sure you are all aware by now that Rangers Football Club has ceased to exist. It entered administration in February and was liquidated in June, following a tax dispute with HMRC. A newco Rangers has failed in its bid to be admitted to the Scottish Premier League and is now applying to the Scottish Football League for a place in the lower leagues.
This is a disaster for the SPL. It is already one of the least competitive leagues in the world, with no team other than Rangers and Celtic winning it since Aberdeen in 1984-1985. This latest development will further diminish its relevance in the footballing world, as it will now hand the league title to Celtic for the next decade at least and further damage Scotland’s UEFA coefficient.
I wonder how Celtic fans are feeling right now? Rangers virtually bought the league title for the three seasons prior to their administration, while Celtic FC was run along far more sensible business lines. Rangers’ approach resulted in short-term success, while Celtic have played second fiddle for longer than they would have liked, with little recent success on the pitch.
But Rangers’ financial extravagance has now cost them their existence. They won the league title three seasons running, but they have now been cast into the wilderness. OK, the Scottish professional leagues are so bloated with small, mediocre teams, that it might not take long for new Rangers to climb back through the divisions, but they won’t be competitive for a good few years to come. Celtic are sitting pretty, having won the league title at a canter and will dominate for years to come.
But will this year’s title feel hollow? I think it will, a bit. They will know that they have won the league by default, when they would far rather have won it legitimately, on the pitch.
And how will Celtic fans feel, long-term? The further devaluing of the SPL will result in an even more marked lowering in the standard of player the league can attract as it becomes a one-horse race.
But, more importantly, how will the loss of the Old Firm derby be taken? A large part of the identity of a club like Celtic is its rivalry with Rangers. It is in the DNA.
I hate Woolwich as much as the next Spurs fan, probably more than most. I despise them. They are a detestable, disgraceful club, with flaky fans and a very dubious history.
Even if the new Rangers make it back to the SPL, the Old Firm derby will be one-sided for many years and that will probably remove some of the bite from it. And that’s assuming that fans of the old Rangers will migrate to the new Rangers and that Celtic fans will regard them as the same club with the same history and the same rivalries.
I wonder how I would feel if the same happened to Woolwich? I can only imagine it, but it would probably go something like this:
BBC reports that Woolwich have been placed into administration, will be deducted 10 points and may go into liquidation. Cue delirium and me running around my house shouting ‘North London is ours!’
Then it starts to sink in. I hate Woolwich as much as the next Spurs fan, probably more than most. I despise them. They are a detestable, disgraceful club, with flaky fans and a very dubious history. Surely I will revel in their demise. Surely I will celebrate it every moment for the rest of my life.
But I don’t think I would. Part of being a Spurs fan is this rivalry. Part of our history is this long-standing hatred. It is what makes beating them so wholly satisfying. It is what provided us, as kids, with our best playground banter. It is why I am enjoying the fact that we are now competing on a similar level again.
Hand on heart, it just wouldn’t be the same without them. My football life centres on the North London derby. Those two matches per season provide the lifeblood of my support. Losing Woolwich would remove an intrinsic aspect of supporting the club I love. Competition and rivalry is what stokes the fire.
Would I pleased if they went under? For a fleeting moment, yes.
But let’s face it. Spurs just wouldn’t be Spurs without them.