Why it is time to embrace the Scottish football chaos with the 46-game October sprint

This Scottish Premiership season was always going to be unique due to the World Cup being played in Qatar across late November and December.

They are six weeks which are usually key in the Scottish football calendar. There is often the final international break of the year before everyone is required to move faster as league games come thick and fast, including the latter stages of the League Cup to finalise, prior to a short winter break in January.

This time around, there is nothing, not for the top-flight clubs anyway. Five weeks of in-action during a Scotland-less World Cup. But if you are going to be starved of domestic action in November and December then you are going to be treated to a feast of football in October.

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The scheduling of that tournament has resulted in a knock-on effect to the football calendar. The recent international break, which in itself was intense with three games, was the calm before the storm. It acted as a time to take a breath because if you want to keep up. We are about to sprint through a period which can only be viewed as hectic, frantic, captivating. A period which could be season defining. A period which will leave fans, players and managerial teams alike feeling as if they have been chased through an island off the coast of Costa Rica by cloned dinosaurs.

Saturday afternoon’s live offering on Sky Sports between Hearts and Rangers at Tynecastle Park will resemble that moment in Jurassic Park when Dennis Nedry deactivates the park's security system, allowing him to gain access to the dinosaur embryos, beginning a chain of events best described as chaotic.

Not for the faint-hearted

Across the month of October there will be 33 Premiership matches, four Premier Sports Cup quarter-final ties and nine European fixtures involving Scottish clubs. Of the 31 days in October, only ten days won’t have a game involving a top-flight side. Bring in the three live Championship fixtures for the month it brings it down to seven days.

Between now and the end of October, Hearts will play eight times. Rangers and Celtic will both play 9 times.

October in Scottish football is set to be full of fireworks. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

It is going to be non-stop, not for the faint-hearted, but would you have it any other way?

The international break was punctured by news around the SPFL TV deal with Sky Sports and the noise which surrounded it. Yes, its value is important and it is positive that so many stakeholders, to use business parlance, be it fans, pundits, managers and directors, are so passionate about it. Especially supporters who should be keeping an eye on the cost of their tickets, whether home or away, over the next couple of seasons. It may just be wishful thinking that this attractive deal which has been talked up by the likes of SPFL chief Neil Doncaster will have a positive impact on the cost of attending games.

However, TV deals and the likes are not the reason any of us became football fans or took an interest in the Scottish game. It’s about the action on the park. The moments which actually matter. Which toy with our emotions.

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There is often talk about the mental and physical strain on players when they are playing three times a week. But there is also the mental and financial strain on the long-suffering supporter. Juggling family and commitments, wishing there were more than 24 hours in a day, to allow time to get up and down the country and abroad. Sacrifices will have to be made. Promises likely broken. Brownie points spent and puppy dog eyes used.

Fans are set for an emotionally-sapping moth. (Photo by Ross MacDonald / SNS Group)

The big games coming up

There are few things more emotionally sapping than those big games, of which there are plenty that can’t be missed this month, some of which will be under the lights below the darkening October sky.

Hearts play a make-or-break double header with Fiorentina in their Conference League group. Similarly Celtic could put themselves in a position where, when they go to Madrid in November, they could be in the driving seat to join the Spanish giants in the Champions League knockout stages. It is hard to see Rangers doing that but they don't come much bigger than a Liverpool double-header. The club's commercial director James Bisgrove suggested they would have been able to sell 150,000 tickets for the home tie with the Anfield giants.

Domestically there are a raft of high profile matches. In the Premiership title race Celtic have, on paper, the harder assignments due to trips to Hearts and Livingston where they have come unstuck in the past.

It is also a month where the Premiership picture, already fascinating viewing, will become clearer. Aberdeen v Hearts is one for the calendar, as is the Dons’ trip to Dundee United. They will be backed by a huge away support for a 6pm kick-off on a Saturday. A raucous classic written all over it. A better idea of Jim Goodwin’s team will form, as it will with Lee Johnson and Hibs who, trip to Celtic Park aside, have an attractive fixture card on paper.

One of the most underrated fixtures of the month is Saturday afternoon when fourth place St Mirren host fifth place Livingston, both having started excellently and likely eyeing a top six spot.

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At the bottom of the league, despite Dundee United's awful start there is no standout team primed for the drop which adds to the October intrigue. The way the Premiership looks just now could alter drastically with so many games in such a short space of time.

Scottish football's version of a rocky ride through Isla Nublar is about to begin. Embrace the chaos.

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