|The SPL is predictable... but so is most of Europe|
|21-08-08 06:43 AM|
The season is now underway and the football pages in the press and on the internet have hosted numerous pundits making their forecasts as to who will win the SPL or suffer relegation.
Since no right minded pundit would choose a winner other than Celtic or Rangers, the predictions have taken on an air of….well, predictability.
That’s not anything new and SPL football has often been decried north and south of the border as a result. When Terry Butcher decided to join our old rivals across the city, a certain Paul Gascoigne asked him: "Why waste your time Butch? It's a crap league with no competition, dominated by two Glasgow clubs."
Perhaps Butch had heard there were a lot of doors in Scotland and was pulled by his love of kicking them? And as we all know, Gascoigne eventually came to Scotland himself, changing his tune in more ways than one as he learned to play the flute.
Gascoigne’s poor opinion of the SPL has been echoed many times, both far and wide. The BBC’s Mark Lawrenson, the man who put the pun into pundit with his awful sense of humour, is set in his ways when it comes to describing Scottish football. He constantly states the European success of Celtic and Rangers is “remarkable given the teams they have to play against each week.” At least he is consistent; maybe that’s why he still sports a mullet after all these years?
Recently, even Cardiff’s manager Dave Jones claimed to be taken aback when Glenn Loovens chose Celtic over staying with his squad: “I’m surprised he wants to play in the Scottish division where, in all honesty, there’s only really two teams.” It’s perhaps no surprise he shares his name with a Monkee.
Now they’re not necessarily wrong in their views of the SPL, many of you might even agree with them. But like the guy who comes to your house at New Year without a carry-out and then drinks everyone else’s stash, they have a cheek.
Let’s take a look at the leagues around Europe over the last ten years. The most competitive yet probably the most discredited due to corruption, bribes and cheating, is Italy’s Serie A.
Juventus have won 4 titles, AC Milan 2, Inter 2, Lazio 1 and Roma 1. However, the negative football and lack of ‘competition integrity’ leaves few people pointing at the Italian league as a positive football example.
La Liga in Spain has seen 7 of the last ten titles go to the big two of Barcelona and Real (3 and 4 respectively). Valencia picked up 2 and Deportivo have 1 to their name. And this is the league where many of the best players in the world now play.
The famous EPL is no different. No amount of ‘Grand Slam Sundays’ and proclamations that the English top division is the best in the world can gloss over such stunning fixtures as Wigan v Derby, Reading v Birmingham or this season, Hull v Stoke City.
The English champions over the last decade have come from only three teams; Man Utd, Chelsea and Arsenal. Considering their troughs of money, that might as well read Microsoft, Coca Cola and Apple.
Even then Arsenal are already financially detached from the big two and Liverpool, who have spent £71million net under Rafa Benitez, are only 8/1 to win the league this year. And that’s with Torres and Gerrard.
The fact is Man Utd have 6 titles whilst Chelsea and Arsenal have 2 each. Anyone wanting to bet a tenner on Spurs, Newcastle, Sunderland or West Brom, or anyone else for that matter outside of the top two, is due to be a tenner lighter come the end of the season.
Germany? Holland? Both countries have also seen a single team win 7 championships in the last 10; Bayern Munich and PSV respectively. Only Werder (1), Dortmund (1), Stuttgart (1), Feyenoord (1) and Ajax (2) have produced any variety.
Still it goes on. In France the last 7 titles have been won by Lyons with Nantes, Bordeaux and Monaco picking up 1 apiece. Belgium’s Jupiler league has been won 5 times by Anderlecht with 2 each going to Brugge and Genk, leaving 1 for Standard Liege.
And anyone who saw the pre-season match between Celtic and Porto was in all likelihood watching at least one team who will win their league again this season. Both have won 6 out of ten with Rangers (4) Sporting (2), Benfica (1) and Boavista (1) providing limited opposition.
This all means that in the past decade across 9 countries, 52 titles have been won by just 9 teams. In fact, all 90 championships have been shared by just 33 teams.
So when the pundits talk about two-horse leagues and lack of competition, they should remember it’s all relative. All of these European championships are dominated by the clubs with the most money in their own leagues. The quality of players and the level of the football improves as the money available rises. But the truth is it’s not just the SPL which is predictable. Don’t tell Mr Lawrenson though, his mullet might not recover.
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