Having watched a number of matches in the SPL this season, it would be fair to say the entertainment on show hasn’t been particularly forthcoming.
There has been very little to catch the imagination from a lot of sides this year and this has been most disappointing. In general, the standard of play needs to be improved dramatically before any resurgence of Scottish football can begin. Row upon row of empty seats at televised matches also does nothing to help promote our product.
The Edinburgh derby will always possess that extra dimension that separates our fixtures from other clubs around Scotland, and is a match we all look forward to with so much at stake for both sides and their supporters. However, even these matches this season have so far failed to live up to the hype. Many national football governing bodies have had to implement change to counteract the demise of the professional leagues. German football is now reaping the rewards as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund clinically disposed of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively to secure their places in this year’s Champions League final.
It wasn’t until a couple of weeks ago that we witnessed some real drama with two cracking Scottish Cup semi-final ties producing a whopping 14 goals. With all the talk about what the future holds for the professional game in this country, surely the answer was staring at us in the face when the remaining four took to the Hampden turf that weekend.
When there is an opportunity for glory, the majority of players will do their utmost to achieve some success in their careers. For example, I believe the return of a group-like format to the cup competitions could generate a greater interest among clubs’ fan-bases. There has been a realisation for several years now that the current format of playing one another up to four times has become unsustainable and the set-up utilised does nothing more than bring a monotonous feel at this stage of the season. Erasing a proportion of league matches and reinstating these fixtures with more cup ties is an option I feel is worth pursuing.
There is no immediate panacea, however. What I would say is we must look at quality and not quantity when it comes to determining the fixture list.
Yesterday’s fixture at Kilmarnock was brought to a halt just ten minutes into the second half when a supporter was taken ill and required instant medical treatment. It was tragic to learn that he passed away later in hospital and we can only offer our condolences to his family. On the field, it was good to see young Alex Harris get on the scoresheet at the end of a well-worked move involving Ryan McGivern before the defender had to be substituted with a knee problem. Let’s hope it is nothing too serious and he was withdrawn just as a precaution.
I have mentioned in previous columns that some footballers appear to rediscover their form as the season draws to a close and fixtures carry less of an importance. This must be hugely frustrating for managers, but this is where the true class separates themselves from the ordinary and can produce when the pressure is on. The salaries being paid to footballers, particularly in the English Premier League, are hugely inflated and some serious repercussions lie on the horizon for the likes of relegated Queens Park Rangers who could sink into oblivion if not careful.
With our day out at Hampden edging nearer, cup final tickets went on sale last week, with some fans reportedly queuing for up to six hours to get their hands on briefs. This just epitomises the demand and expectation that this may finally be our year to bring the trophy back to Easter Road. With over 13,000 sold in the first few days of sale, tickets will be like gold dust in the coming weeks as supporters try to buy a ticket for the big day and cheer us on to glory.