PERHAPS the only thing fans of Scottish football clubs like more than seeing their own team win in Europe is watching their greatest rivals fail miserably.

Celtic performed admirably on their return to the Champions League group stages last season and competed well in their matches against holders Real Madrid, RB Leipzig and Shakhtar Donetsk.

However, they were unable to win any of their six games, finished bottom of their section and missed out on a spot in the Europa League knockout round play-off.

No matter.  Rangers lost all of their meetings with Ajax, Liverpool and Napoli, suffering some heavy and embarrassing reverses in the process, and finished a traumatic campaign with the worst record in the history of the competition. Oh, how they rejoiced in the East End of Glasgow.

Glasgow Times:

The fact that only two other teams – their age-old city rivals and Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic – out of 32 fared worse than Celtic did in the continent’s elite club competition was a mere bagatelle. 

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It was very much the same story down Gorgie way when Hibernian went down 2-1 away to Andorran minnows Inter Club d’Escaldes in the first leg of their Conference League second qualifying round last month. Altogether now! Hibs, Hibs are falling apart again . . .

Anyone who genuinely cares about the wellbeing of the game in this country, though, should be wishing Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs and Rangers well in their forthcoming Champions League, Conference League and Europa League play-off matches regardless of their allegiances.

If they prevail, and it is a very big if given the quality of the teams they will be facing, against Hacken, PAOK, Aston Villa and PSV Eindhoven respectively in the next fortnight the long-term benefits for them and others will be considerable.

Hearts overcoming Rosenborg, Hibs swatting aside Luzern and Rangers knocking out Servette has already reaped some rich rewards.

Switzerland were just 1.4 points behind Scotland in the coefficient table going into this week’s second leg outings, but they now look, despite Young Boys, Lugano and Basel all still being involved in Europe, unlikely to catch them in the coming months.

Scotland are now firmly on course to finish the 2023/24 season in ninth place – meaning that the champions will go into the Champions League group stages automatically next term and another four teams will go in to Europe.

Those chief executives and club owners who are responsible for balancing the books amid a challenging financial climate were certainly applauding the results loudly this week.

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There is, however, still cause for concern. The 2019/20 campaign, which was our clubs’ most successful ever when it comes to the accumulation of coefficient points, will drop out of the five year rolling coefficient next season. That could result in this nation slipping down to 14th behind Austria, Israel, Switzerland and Norway.

That would mean the league winners would miss out on that lucrative Champions League berth and the Scottish Cup winners would no longer be assured of group stage European football in the 2025/26 season.

Glasgow Times:

It is, therefore, imperative that Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Rangers rack up wins and gather coefficient points in the months ahead. 

Celtic could theoretically help out Rangers down the line by defeating Belgian, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese or Spanish opposition in the months ahead and advancing to the latter rounds of either the Champions League or Europa League. And vice versa.

Football supporters, especially those in Scotland, are not exactly renowned for their magnanimity. The ferocity of the rivalries which exist here help to create intense and intimidating atmospheres in big top flight matches which are the envy of many other richer and larger leagues.

But only the most embittered and blinkered onlooker could have failed to have been touched by the scenes as Rangers ground out a gutsy draw against Servette and progressed, as Hearts gallantly came from behind to beat Rosenborg and go through or as Hibs held their nerve to get the job done against Luzern and advance.

Isn’t it better seeing our leading clubs savour some joy against foreign foes to watching them suffer abject humiliations?

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The results in recent days have made a little bit of football history – Scotland have got five teams in the play-off stage of European tournaments or further for the first time ever.

And another noteworthy achievement is tantalisingly within grasp - if Hearts or Hibs go further this nation will have four representatives in the group stages for the first time as well.

The Scotland side is, having won all four of their Euro 2024 qualifiers to date, on a real high heading into their fifth fixture against Cyprus in Larnaca next month. A place in the finals in Germany next summer is by no means guaranteed even though Andy Robertson and his team mates are on top of Group A. But so far so great.

If Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Rangers can match their giant-killing feats in Europe it will bring in much-needed funds, enhance the international reputation of the much-maligned Scottish game and increase the feelgood factor around the sport here hugely.