GB asks the bi question.
Recently I read an article in the general Scottish fanzine The Absolute Game (No. 27) about average league positions for all clubs in the last 15 seasons. This showed that we finished 7th with an average league position of 7.7. Bearing in mind that we spent 4 of these years in the First division I believe this to be an achievement.
The clubs above us were: Rangers,Celtic,Aberdeen, Dundee Utd Hibs and Hearts. As you can see from this list that they are all city clubs, therefore we are the top performing provincial club. This also got me thinking is this the level we should aspire to or should we be aiming higher. I believe this is probably our true niche in Scottish football and I would try to explain why.
We have to remember that we appear unable to attract any more than 4,000 - 5,000 home fans in to Fir Park on a regular basis. Therefore is it realistic to believe that we could compete with the other 6 clubs mentioned (or in fact some others not mentioned) when it comes to transfer fees and salaries. This means that we have to rear our own youngsters but this is a very competitive area with all clubs having to share a smaller pool of players, as kids are attracted by other sports.
We then have to rely on a constant supply of youngsters as once again due to our small crowds we have to sell them within or 5 years!!! To balance this we also do not have reserves of cash to splash out 0.5millLon pounds on one player (as showed by our record fee of only £175000). So again we have to rely on a very smart scouting system to pick up the gems missed by others.
Unfortunately it would appear that we do not have a Murray, Mercer or Farmer with great personal wealth to pump into the company. This is not meant as any criticism of our existing board who have done a marvellous job of balancing the books from the perilous position we were once in.
If you look at the crowd potential of some of the other clubs around using the league (and others in the first division) we are competing unfairly as we are probably only 9th/10th in crowd potential. Therefore I believe that we are in fact therefore playing in a position which we should be proud of.
While a cup win was a great experience this is not a reflection of a clubs overall strength, therefore in conclusion I can't ever see us winnLng the league and should be looking for anythLng in the region of 7th and above. I do not believe that we should be considered as a first division type of club. I believe we are of genuine premier material and would be only too delighted to be proved wrong and see us win the league one day.
I hope no one takes this the wrong way and sees this as criticism as this is only my opinion based on crowd size/potential and financial backing (cash raising potential). I realise that Dundee Utd won the league from a similar crowd and financial situation. There were many freak situations which came together to allow them to do this, they used only about 14 players (no injuries, suspensions) and they had sold one or two good players to allow them to hold these 14 exceptional players. but even they couldn't hold this together for very long.
I believe the reason we have held a reasonable position in the league is due to the prudent financial management of the board and the smart player manipulatLon of the manager.
Another measure of the status of a club is the amount of media coverage it receives and I think we are small fry as far as this measure is concerned. We rarely feature on television unless it is against the old firm. This was best illustrated by STV who finally found the road to Fir Park in February this season.
Also in the major Scottish papers we rarely merit a mention unless we are being told at the end of a two page article that we are playing Rangers or Celtic the only other type of coverage we seem to get in the Scottish press is that some player or other is about to leave to a major English (or foreign club). Look at the recent example of Phil O'Donnell who has been transferred to every English First division club. But try to find an artLcle about any of our injuries and this will not exist.
On the radio we are usually the last or second last match featured in the premier league, and only by any reporter available. No famous ex-piayer for us as per Celtic and Rangers. And any caller who gets through to derek johnstone will find a very patronising answer waiting for him. All his answers will be based upon Davie Cooper and Bobby Russell.
Therefore I can only ask you to make up your own mind based on how you see it as this is only one man's view and I am sure there some who believe we should be top 4, others who believe we should be winning the league, you pays your money and takes your choice.
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