Great news! The new football season isn’t very far away!
The draws for the early qualifying rounds of the Champions and Europa Leagues have been made.
There are no ‘glamour’ ties for the Scottish ‘clubs‘ (yet), but there are some exotic locations to visit, and some banana skins to avoid.
And for ICT fans, the genuine thrill of playing in Europe for the first time.
The Clumpany will be hoping that Celtic can avoid the slip-ups of last season and get to the group stages of the Champions League.
Given the desolate wasteland that is domestic football without a ‘strong Rangers*’ in the top flight, Europe offers the only point of interest in an otherwise endless series of humdrum fixtures.
Ronny Deila has now settled into the job, the squad has been strengthened (but needs further strengthening Mr Lawwell…), and there seems to be quiet optimism that the club will do better this season.
If Aberdeen can reproduce the best of their form from last season, and avoid apocalyptically tough draws, they are certainly in with a shout of reaching the Europa League group stages.
This (like progress for ICT and St Johnstone) would be great to see. Both as a spectacle in its own right, and as a means of boosting Scotland’s UEFA coefficient in future years.
On which note….
A big “oh dear” goes out to Aidan Smith of The Scotsman for a ridiculously snide piece about John Collins’ comments on the difficulties facing Celtic when playing in Europe.
Collins was making a point about the way the UEFA co-efficient system works.
Celtic have done reasonably well (occasionally very well) in Europe in recent years and enjoy a pretty decent European ranking.
However, because the system is primarily based upon the national coefficient (a reflection of the performance of all clubs that participate from a particular country) Celtic find themselves starting off in earlier rounds than they might otherwise have to.
Keith Jackson managed to ‘get’ what John Collins was saying. Indeed, his column in the Record today expressed some sympathy:
Yes of course Celtic’s life would be easier if the other (less well-resourced) Scottish clubs performed better in Europe, and yes Collins has to accept that UEFA’s system isn’t going to be changed by him having a grumble.
But he makes an interesting point.
It is certainly not a point worthy of the scorn which Aidan Smith pours on it – despite confessing that Collins is “technically right”!
“Collins comes across as arrogant with a misplaced sense of entitlement”
“Collins sounds irritated, as if he doesn’t think Scotland’s other Euro candidates are pulling their weight and doing enough. The sub-text is they’re not doing enough to help Celtic get into the groups and look glamorous”
“reaching the dizzy heights of a sneaked victory over Barcelona on a rare off-night for the best team in the world”
“Maybe it would be Dundee United “compiling dossiers” on Euro opposition…if Celtic hadn’t dented the Tannadice challenge by luring Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong across to Parkhead”
“Celtic have no right to Collins’ ‘special nights’”
“If an 11-month season is too gruelling for modestly-financed clubs when it comes to scrambling out of the Euro qualifiers…. who do you think is to blame for the domestic element of the campaign being so long-drawn-out? The kind of top flight we have…is what Celtic and Rangers before their demise wanted.”
“who do you think is to blame for the domestic element of the campaign being so long-drawn-out? The kind of top flight we have – nine-and-a-half months, 38 games each – is what Celtic and Rangers before their demise wanted
“Let’s hope they get favourable draws and unlike last time don’t cock up. After all, it would be good for the co-efficient and help the other Scottish teams”
There is a month’s worth of Clumping to be done in dismantling this litany of snideness.
Thankfully, Twitter is already on the case.
By all means highlight the fact that Celtic have resources that others in Scotland can only dream of.
By all means tell Collins that he has to ‘lump’ the system that UEFA has put in place.
But please Mr Smith, don’t sneer just to try and fill column inches.
Don’t mock the achievements of a club to which you wished good luck at the start of your piece.
And don’t try to systematically pin the blame for others’ difficulties on Celtic.
Mr Smith might like to consider why Dundee Utd sold Armstrong and Mackay-Steven to Celtic.
Celtic didn’t exactly break in to Tannadice and kidnap them!
He might also reflect that there was a recent merger of the SPL and SFL, and the new structure (and thereby volume of fixtures) was voted through by member clubs.
Celtic and Sevco didn’t hold them to ransom.
And prior to the merger, the SPL had no ‘Rangers’ entity in it during 2012-13, so Celtic couldn’t exactly join forces with them to block any changes through the use of the 11-1 majority voting requirements.
When they did join forces with another ‘club’ to block a change to the voting system which could have unlocked further reforms, it was with current European hopefuls Aberdeen!
Presumably Mr Smith now feels better for having got something off his chest.
Hopefully he will end up watching Celtic in the group stages of the Champions League, and Aberdeen, ICT and St Johnstone in the group stages of the Europa League.
The Clumpany is sure that he will comment upon it with the utmost good grace!