“I see a propensity for obesity. Poverty. A yen for fairy tales. Folks puttin’ what few bucks they do have into a little wicker basket being passed around. I think it’s safe to say nobody here’s gonna be splitting the atom.” – Rust Cohle, True Detective.
There are times when I think Scottish football is like a dark, manic fairground, a forecourt for the mad and the bad.
Not always. Just at times.
Mostly I feel like that in relation to one club, of course, and we all know which one that is.
I always enjoy writing about whatever shambles is unfolding over there, and it’s usually right to because more often than not whatever they are engaged in has knock-on effects on the rest of the game.
This makes it news, and as we can’t rely on our media to accurately reflect that it’s important that the bloggers continue to be on hand to do it for them.
Their fans don’t see it that way, of course.
They have a word for us; obsessed.
They tell us (but mostly each other) that all this attention makes them important. Special. “It’s all about the Rangers”, as they often put it, as though anyone obsesses over the dead except those lost in mourning, mediums and exorcists.
The truth, as I never tire of reminding them, is that since time immemorial the freak show has drawn a crowd, as has the Circus Fat Man and those talking pets you sometimes see on the more bizarre “reality” television shows.
The car crash draws an audience, always, and there are funerals that have been better attended than some football matches in this country.
The fascination may be of the morbid variety, it is certainly of the gleeful one, but this does not impart greatness or special status on those being observed, like gibbering lunatics seen through the bars of a secure unit. This audience is motivated by a different human emotion.
The desire to mock. To gloat.
To whisper “there but for the grace of God …”
This is why I am so looking forward to the close season.
As everyone knows, Sevco won the first leg of their first playoff match at the weekend and the newspapers are falling over themselves in the aftermath of the match.
What I find odd is the nature of the coverage; they aren’t talking the club’s chances up. Indeed, over at The Daily Record they are doing their utmost to talk it down.
They are, as I said in my piece over on The Celtic Blog, preparing to fail.
To do so, they’ve had to argue that it would be in the club’s best interests for this failure to happen. It’s a little like the guy in command of The Titanic telling the passengers that the ship sinking is a good thing.
It is the rationale of the Damned, to give comfort to those facing an eternity of trying to eat at the dinner table with the world’s longest spoon.
I find this bizarre, because deep down they all know what a calamity it would be for the club to be stuck down there for another year.
If they are, one would imagine it means Hearts and Hibs will have gone up, unless Motherwell survive.
Regardless, no-one should reckon it will be a simple matter to escape from that league. It won’t be. If they don’t go up this year there’s a chance of them staying there, like Leeds, for years unless saved by league reconstruction or some other official fix.
(Don’t rule that out of course. If they are struggling mid-way through next season you will read editorials beyond counting saying that the good of Scottish football depends on it.)
You only have to look at the rebuilding job that’s required over there – on and off the pitch – to see the outlines of the next crisis looming out of the fog in front of them.
Their club has struggled in the second tier with a hugely expensive squad of players, and all but a few of them are out of contract in just a few weeks, leaving their board with a huge series of decisions to make.
Do they renew the contracts of the bulk of the squad that has blown it – in spectacular fashion – , or do they press ahead with a suicidal policy of letting a dozen elapse and go with starting again from scratch?
I wouldn’t fancy either scenario if I was in their shoes.
For a start, either will require money, and not a little bit of it either.
Dave King has been in power (if not in office, but Mike Ashley has proved numerous times than one does not necessarily depend on the other) for months now, and neither the fans nor the media (nor the rest of us, and some of us have been waiting patiently) has seen even the slightest evidence that there is a plan for the future.
That’s being blamed on the SFA, of course, who, if you believe the media, are suddenly blocking the smooth transition.
That they are pushing that line – which they know is a lie, which we know is a lie and which, furthermore, they know we know they know is a lie (confused? Me too) – insults the intelligence of not only Celtic fans but the Sevco supporters who very soon will be asked to put their hands in their pockets and find the money for season tickets.
Some of them will anyway.
Some of them will do it because they’ve done it so long it’s become a habit that they can’t break.
Others, those I was thinking of very specifically when I opened this piece with the quote at the top of the page, will do it because, frankly, they are either too psychologically invested in this “We are the Peepil” nonsense or they are too dumb to realise that the world around them has undergone a very radical re-alignment in recent years.
They bought into what King was selling enough to starve their own club. That ousted the previous board of directors, to allow King and his people in the door. They read transparent fiction about transfer war chests and accept it as fact.
When this season started they somehow convinced themselves that Kenny Miller and Kris Boyd had improved with age.
They filled themselves with confidence over Steven Smith and Ricky Forster, in contrast to what they already knew about those players.
They allowed themselves to be lulled by media nonsense about going through the season unbeaten and winning a domestic trophy.
More than anything, they’ve tried to convince us all of how Scottish football still needs that. Indeed, many of them will tell you it depends on them.
They have talked in awed tones about what a great experience The Journey has been for them, how it has opened their eyes to how much the rest of the game hates them, and is jealous of them, and kidded themselves they are still a top club.
The trophy haul suggests otherwise; two lower league titles in three years, with a third place finish the best they could manage in this one.
No cups, not even the one for lower league teams, where their record of failure is astounding and hilarious in equal measure.
Yet arrogance still burns in them, this notion the game owes them something. Their club lies in rubble around them, and their supporters representatives have spent the last few months trying (unsuccessfully) to have a prospective parliamentary candidate de-selected (he won too, in a landslide) and attempted to have a word banned.
They’ve also pressed ahead with embarrassing efforts to have Celtic re-investigated in the pitiful “state aid” case, making much of a government agency taking their dossier seriously, in ignorance of the fact that they’re legally obliged to do so.
The chances of it going anywhere? Absolutely zero.
These people are barking. It’s no wonder King thinks he can offer them nothing and still get them to dip into their pockets.
In a sense then the hacks are partly right; this is a club which is miles from being ready for Premier League football. There are problems at every level, from the shareholders organisations to the team on the park.
Everything about this is amateurish.
If, by some chance, they made it to the SPL the results would be abject humiliation on a weekly basis, and regular chances for their lunatic fringe to embarrass them on a bigger stage.
Who else truly believes that a club that finishes third in the second tier is ready to challenge anyone in the top flight?
Yet if they are to develop any kind of financial base (stop laughing) they need to give their fans more than just trips to Alloa next year. They can’t contemplate season ticket price rises far less share issues whilst they languish in such company.
King and his people will have bet their entire revolution on reaching the SPL, which is why McCall was brought in to get them there.
This close season, without a World Cup or a European Championship to entertain us, looked like being boring, but it is good to know that we will have something to look forward to, as Sevco lurches from drama to crisis, squandering what season ticket money they’ve brought in on un-scouted dreck.
Every agent who’s player can’t find a club will be on the phone to them saying, “I’ve got just the guy for you!”
But they can’t afford high salaries.
They can’t afford transfer fees.
Even if they bring in the kind of money they’ve talked about (a number that’s been going down as the list of stuff they need to spend it on goes up) they have a club to rebuild and that club is bigger than just the playing squad.
The season ticket forms are all ready to go out.
Their fans are being asked to buy into uncertainty. Their club that is little more than a shambling wreck. Doubt still surrounds their future, more doubt than ever before.
Crisis is never far away.
Imagine trying to sell this to those with little money?
It helps if you have a media trying to fill their heads with fantasy.
So out goes the message that everything will work out. Because it’s all about the Rangers. Because they are the Peepil. Because that’s how it’s always been,
So, how many people do I think will display this “yen for fairytales” and put their money in the wee wicker basket?
Oh, if I was a betting man I’d say thirty thousand or so.
Because you can fool some of the Peepil all of the time.
More misery lies ahead for them. For the rest of us?
A dream of spring, a summer of fun and a season of laughs.
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