Sunday’s selection of football on offer proved exactly why we pay our TV licence fee. After a feast of action on Saturday in the FA Cup and Scottish Cup, we were able to finish the weekend with the most mouth-watering glamour tie available in England and follow it up with the possibility of two giant-killings north of the border.
Second Division side Arbroath entertained Rangers while Peterhead of the Third Division welcomed league leaders Celtic to Balmoor. The matches epitomised the fairytale of the cup and everybody that is not a fan of either Glasgow side would have been hoping for an upset. It wasn’t to be as the Glasgow sides won 4-0 and 3-0 respectively but watching these sides compete was magnificent.
With both sides miles ahead in the Scottish Premier League like they are every season and progressing in the cup, it is almost guaranteed that the trophies will end up with one of these two teams. And it is this total domination that again brought up the debate of whether the Old Firm should be invited to play in the Premier League instead. Rather than pitting their wits against teams that are part-time or have inferior wealth and support they would be playing against the two Manchester sides and other major continental footballing forces.
It has been an idea that has been suggested on a number of occasions and gets batted around before it falls away again but I can’t help feeling that one day it will become a reality. If the Old Firm want to continue playing north of the border they will carry on winning trophies but if they want the challenge of playing against the best clubs week-in, week-out, then a move to the Premiership will happen sooner rather than later. And when that day comes, I can only see the Old Firm regretting their decision to join.
Between the two sides they have won 96 league titles and the trophy hasn’t been won by a team outside of Glasgow since the 1984-85 season. It is pretty much certain that they will be the top two in the SPL every year because their resources and their larger budgets which allow them to bring in much better players than the other clubs. With that they have a shot of European football each term and Rangers even reached the UEFA Cup final in 2008.
The fans are some of the most passionate in world football and it would be brilliant to include them in the Premier League for that. The opportunity to play at Ibrox and Parkhead every year would be great for the other teams in the league. They are formidable teams and have been so dominant in Scotland that a new challenge may be good for them.
However, English football will be far more competitive because the other clubs will be able to compete with them in the transfer market, whereas big money signings in Scotland only go to Rangers or Celtic. Competing with the likes of Manchester United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham for European places will be extremely difficult because the Old Firm do not have the funds or the players to compete at the top of the league. They will attract some of the biggest crowds each week but they cannot afford to spend £20 million on a player or offer £100,000 a week wages either. Because of that they would not be given the chance to play in Europe so there would be even less money available and they would be unable to attract players that would normally want to come to their club.
The clubs also have squads that would struggle in the Premier League, regardless of their obvious success in Scotland. Despite reaching the UEFA Cup final less than five years ago, they regularly struggle in Europe, with Celtic being knocked out in the group stages of the Europa League but only after being reinstated into the competition when FC Sion, who had knocked them out in the qualifying round, were expelled for fielding ineligible players. At the same time, Rangers were knocked out of both European competitions in the qualifying stages. Last season the Gers did make the last 16 in the Europa League but it doesn’t set the world alight.
Both sides have players that are capable of playing at the top of the Premier League. Celtic have Emilio Izaguirre, Beram Kayal and Joe Ledley while Rangers have Allan McGregor, Nikica Jelavic and Steven Naismith who are all magnificent players but there are also a number of first-team players at these clubs who would struggle to get a place in any Premiership team. Many of the players that move from England to the SPL come from the Championship such as Gary Hooper, David Healy and Kris Commons. They are still good players but it would not see them challenging high in the top-flight as they would hope. They would be found out very quickly so drastic changes would be needed to bring them up to speed in their new league.
Although the quality of Scottish football would fall dramatically without its two biggest and most successful teams it would be a great coup to bring the Old Firm to the Premier League. Despite teams facing long journeys to Glasgow twice a year they would be a great acquisition to the league but after constant success for the teams, a move would spell much tougher times for them and in their current situation I cannot see them succeeding. There is more fierce opposition here, there is more money at the other clubs and those at the top of the tree are much better equipped to challenge for trophies.
It would be good to regularly face up to the Old Firm in the league but I think the idea should be shelved for a while.
Would you want the Old Firm in England? And would they succeed? Comment below or tell me on Twitter @jrobbins1991.
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