Back in 2011-12 when we were being told the SPL “needed a strong Rangers” a few of us insisted what it really needed was a strong Aberdeen, Dundee United, Hibs and Hearts. When the city clubs get their act together, they are more than capable of creating drama and competition. Unfortunately, despite regular reboots, each of these clubs have underachieved for decades.
Aberdeen, Hibs and Hearts have been inconsistent this season, but at least occupy slots in the top six. After three successive wins, Dundee United looked to have secured their place in the Premiership, but defeat to St Johnstone and Ross County leaves them two points adrift in the automatic relegation spot with three to play. A season that started with a promising first leg win over AZ Alkmaar, could end seeing United pass Dundee on the way up.
This week Aberdeen declined an invitation to enter a B team into the proposed new fifth tier in the pyramid – the Conference League. They cite the cost of supporting what would be 55 players across both A and B teams, which I can see. Whatever the problems that inhibit our city clubs from dominating the likes of Ross County and Motherwell, diluting money on a wider pool of players doesn’t seem a likely fix.
Solutions exist. Alkmaar face West Ham tomorrow night in a European Conference League semi-final. They exist on an average attendance of 10,000, miles below what inconsistent Hibs, Hearts and Aberdeen are achieving right now, and within the reach of a competent Dundee United. Like Aberdeen and United did 40 years ago, AZ understand scouting and player development on an elite level.
Competition that permits elite youth development to take place is lacking in our game, the Conference League is an attempt to fix this. But at first team level, our (other) city clubs are caught in short-termism, without learning or stability. 40 years on from Aberdeen in Gothenburg and United’s title win, too many of the clubs that should be competitive with Celtic have lost the knowledge of how to develop elite players and teams. So much comes down to ownership and the executive function. Football boardrooms are so hardy to learning and self-analysis, flooding the game with inefficiencies. Learn from Alkmaar, or as Celtic did, Manchester City.
The Road to Seville cyclists are (at time or writing) just a few hundred pounds short of raising £67k for the Foundation. Money has poured in from thousands of Celtic fans who have participated in the adventure. You can help push them over the £76k and beyond here and follow here on Twitter. Thank you.