PERHAPS the only person in Scotland looking forward to next Sunday evening’s game at Hampden against San Marino is Lawrence Shankland. The Dundee United forward has been handed a chance to impress Steve Clarke with a call-up, and it makes sense to have a look at him at close quarters despite the fact that his red-hot scoring form has to be placed into the context of the competition his team are currently in.

As for everyone else? The SFA probably will be struggling to give away tickets, never mind sell them for £27 a skull.

The well-documented apathy around the national side, of course, comes from the years of failure to qualify for major tournaments, and I think that Clarke could probably have tackled that somewhat in the fixtures against Russia and the Sammarinese by being a little more adventurous with his selections. Getting to see the likes of Billy Gilmour may have whetted the Tartan Army’s appetite, and without piling pressure on the kid to be our next big saviour, it would surely have been of benefit to have him pull on the dark blue at senior level in a competitive fixture. If not now, then when?

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But that aside, is the apathy around the national side misplaced, and is it a symptom of the unrealistic expectations we place on all teams from these lands when they compete against our European counterparts?

Celtic manager Neil Lennon touched upon this subject earlier this week when he referenced the 7-2 thumping that Tottenham Hotspur were on the end of at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Had that been a Scottish team, talkSport would have had a former Spurs player on - who likely hasn’t watched a minute of Scottish football in his life - to say how tinpot we were before the Gazprom advert had finished.

Lennon’s point was that not only are the snipers down south all too eager to stick the boot into the standard of our game, but that there are far too many people north of the border who actively put the boot in themselves.

The great trick of the English Premier League is that no matter the evidence in front of your eyes on the field, they relentlessly hammer home the message that it is the greatest league in the world. Boris Johnson or Donald Trump would be proud of the playbook that the EPL have peddled over the last 20 years or more. It was disinformation spread through Sky before Facebook was even thought of, and the masses lapped it up.

The Scottish game suffers from exactly the opposite sentiment, but the brainwashing is no less potent. It’s Scottish football, so it must be bad.

The ‘my nan could score in the Scottish Premiership’ brigade have us all drinking their Kool Aid, when in fact, the standard of the game here is improving, as pointed out by Lennon.

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Yes, we are forced to watch some pretty poor stuff at times, and over the years we have had some pretty poor results in European competition, but our game is unique and isn’t half as bad as some would have you believe.

The striking contradiction is that a large percentage of Scottish football fans seem to believe that any team from outside these borders who isn’t from one of Europe’s ‘big five’ countries is automatically inferior to the Scottish team they are facing, and anything but a win over such opposition is treated like a national disaster. Therefore, any success at our relative level is shrugged off as expected, while any defeat is a catastrophe and further proof that we are hopeless.

Take Celtic’s loss to Cluj in Champions League qualifying. It was a disappointing outcome, sure, but it said nothing more about the level of Scottish football in comparison to Romanian football than Cluj’s subsequent win over Lazio said about the Italian game.

Similarly, to go back to the national side, defeats to Russia and Belgium shouldn’t be held up as examples of why there is nothing to be optimistic about regarding Scotland.

Celtic and Rangers are the teams that the others love to hate, and they aren’t exactly crazy about one another either, but together over the last 15 months or so they have lifted the Scottish co-efficient to within touching distance of its highest-ever level, which was achieved back in 2008.

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We live in a country of absolutes, where everything is black and white. We are either brilliant or terrible, when the truth lies somewhere in-between. But while we mustn’t celebrate failure, we should also give guys like Lennon, Clarke, Steven Gerrard and many others - who are working desperately hard to improve our standing - the support they need to do so, rather than stringing them up every time they stumble.


AMONG the many worrisome and eye-popping details of the story behind Inverness’s financial woes, reported by the Daily Mail this week, was the fact that Championship clubs get just 12 percent of the £350,000 that the BBC pay to screen their matches on Friday nights at five past seven.

The rest goes to the Premiership clubs, who will point to the fact that their Championship counterparts take a percentage of the Sky TV deal while contributing nothing towards it as a counter counterargument to any accusations of greed on their part.

That BBC deal though works out at just £4200 per Championship club, a pitifully small sum when placed against the context of the disruption that moving kick-off times has on supporters. The likelihood is that just one of these matches being moved would cost a club around that sum in lost ticket or hospitality revenue anyway.

Television money is important to clubs, but I have long argued that in Scotland, the TV companies hold far greater influence than the money they are putting in should entitle them to. Clubs bend over backward to accommodate TV schedules which has the unfortunate side-effect of inconveniencing the paying punter, and clubs in Scotland cannot afford to take their loyalty for granted.

Matchday revenue is an even bigger percentage of Scottish clubs’ revenue than in most other countries across Europe, and clubs have to be careful that they don’t bite the hand that actually feeds them.