GLF75: Ricky's is, as ever, optimistic about the season ahead.
Wouldn’t be the same without a Euro Jaunt, would it? Welcome back to a new season and another ride on the rollercoaster!
There are one or two folk who feel that because we qualified for the Europa League this season thanks to someone else it’s devalued. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s a magnificent achievement to qualify for Europe at any time but for a club of our size to have done so for a third consecutive year is something to make us immensely proud.
It’s tremendous, and something which clubs of bigger stature from cities throughout Scotland have failed to do in recent years. Although we’ve now gone out, it wasn’t meekly or in a humiliating fashion like a certain club from the east end of Glasgow managed. Should’ve beaten OB Odense, and I’m sure if they were being honest they’d admit it too. And yes, it doesn’t help you get through, but Motherwell and the fans should be proud of what they managed. So many times have Scottish clubs been knocked out of Europe before the season started to clubs from countries which should’ve been overcome. We were professional, saw off two clubs who were playing very well domestically at the time, and were only beaten by our own inability to score, not due to being outclassed in any way. Wasn’t able to join in the jaunts away, but by all accounts everyone had a fantastic time and did the name of Motherwell proud. If you consider that, in the 55 years or so of European competition we have qualified just six times, and half of them have been in the past three years, it underlines just how much of an achievement it really is.
It is a better way to prepare for a new season. Each game played has meant something, no meaningless matches (apart really from the Ayr game, and we still managed to win that one) which is infinitely better than playing half-a-dozen games where the excitement level is minimal. It’s a pity we didn’t make the league stage, worth upwards of 1-2 Million pounds that’s about half our yearly budget.
Disappointing not to get it, but there’s nothing lost as it won’t have been budgeted for. I think we have a lot to look forward to this season, and the signs are very encouraging. The Celtic game apart, when the two teams were clearly suffering a Euro hangover, there’s been plenty to enthuse about and there’s more to come. I’m confident that it won’t be a season of worry and torture, that the folk who are convinced we are in trouble are wrong. Messrs Brown and Knox are too long in the tooth to allow that to happen. Even accounting for the losses we’ve endured, like losing the stars of last year, I feel that they may have been replaced already. Randolph is a good keeper, and will perhaps make John Ruddy forgotten quickly. Jutkiewicz is a different proposition, and will be that bit harder to replace. However, the signing of Alan Gow could make all the difference if we can get him fit and keep it that way. When fit, Gow was a class act, and Craig wouldn’t have signed him if he felt he couldn’t add to the squad. Get him fit and we’ve won a watch.
A lot of talk went on about how Scottish football was once again a joke with the early departures of Hibs then ourselves, Dundee United and Celtic. Thing was, Celtic managed to humiliate themselves twice inside four weeks and Hibs completely underestimated their opponents, whereas we lost with plenty of credit. Dundee United I felt gained a very creditable away draw in Greece and were also unfortunate not to sneak through. I know it’s no consolation, but it proves that not all Scottish football is dreadful. Not enough is done to promote those outside the big two, and our recent involvement in the Europa league proved this. An outstanding away win in Iceland was followed up by an excellent draw in Norway then we were unlucky to lose in Denmark.
Where were the Scottish broadcasters? Camped outside Parkhead and Ibrox waiting with dribbling mouths at the next morsel of news to come their way. It’s that kind of attitude that annoys anyone not involved with the big two. They want to see more competition in Scottish football, but will not give the other clubs the exposure necessary for this to begin. Whilst I know that they are by far the biggest clubs in the country, as I’ve mentioned before, without the rest of Scottish football there would be no Old Firm either.
Once again the Celtic chairman has been bleating on about how they and their “great rival” will depart to the Premiership. He constantly forgets that they are not needed in the slightest down South, and the only thing they would add would be an unwelcome dose of bigotry. Without the likes of Motherwell during the Old Firm dark days of the Eighties when it was the New Firm of Aberdeen and Dundee United who ran the show, they simply wouldn’t be in business. The Premiership is a vast, multi-million pound show which is running fine without their unwelcome addition. And I’m pretty sure those in power in England don’t see any need to upset the applecart any more than it already has with the squabbles they’ve endured over the years. Celtic and Rangers will just have to settle for what they have, or is it possible they are becoming more and more worried that, with their mounting debts and lack of spending power, the gap between themselves and the rest is dwindling fast?
Like it or not Old Firm fans, the one mighty gap has narrowed quite a bit in recent years, and will continue to do so to such an extent that seeing those two split at the top of the table will become the norm rather than the exception. And that, I feel, will be a thing welcomed by almost all of Scottish Football. Perhaps by all bar a certain couple of Glasgow-based clubs….
As for the season ahead, I am, as I say, full of optimism for it. I usually am a bit more optimistic than most, but I’ve seen enough from the games I’ve witnessed to feel we can compete in the top half. We’ve got more in reserve than most, the way the Under 19s have started the season and also the fringe players have done well in bounce games, that all says to me that, should they need to step up to the mark, we’re more than covered.
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