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Life President
Jun 16, 2008
Kaunas is a word that reminds Rangers of a bad time, a one time lacklustre performance in Europe against FBK Kaunas of Lithuania in the Second Qualifying round in the 2009/10 UEFA Cup season. Celtic also now have a word that instils disappointment and memories of what could've been. FC Utrecht, or, to be more precise. Ricky van Wolfswinkle. "Ricky" helped Utrecth over-turn a 2-0 defecit that Celtic had accrued at Celtic Park in the first leg with an impressive 4-0 thumping over Celtic at Stadion Galgienwaard. Their reward is glamour ties against Liverpool, Napoli and Steaua Bucharest. Aside from the playing reward, money is a huge helping hand to clubs such as Utrecht who can look to build a side and attempt to maintain consistent European challenges. Celtic's disappointment can be coupled with that of Motherwell and Dundee United who both followed Celtic out of the back-door after spirited performances against Odense and AEK Athens. Dundee's tie was shrouded in controversy after AEK's ground was deemed unsuitable to play on and the replacement, Panionios Stadium was broken into by fans who were keen to make sure that their rivals were not to be playing that night and so vandalised the ground by digging up the turf and breaking the cross-bars. Panathinaikos's stadium was also deemed unsuitable to play in so in the end Olympiakos stepped into the breach but no AEK fans were allowed into the stadium to prevent possible crowd trouble. The lack of home support didn't seem to stop AEK taking the lead through Diop and despite a late scare from Daly who popped up to give Dundee a hope of going through with a goal late on in the 78th minute. Motherwell were less impressive against Odense and lost 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-0 loss at home with Utaka winning it for Odense.

These results could be more than a blip as it leaves the league with the real possibility of losing it's second Champions League spot thanks to the efforts of Swiss and Turkish teams in competitions this season. Fenerbache and Galatasaray were knocked out in the Europa League the other night but Bursaspor will be looking to give a good account of themselves in the Champions League group which ironically sees them paired with Rangers. A game that has more significance than just three points. Switzerland however are more impressive with Young Boys and Lausanne Sport reaching the group stages which will only boost the Swiss co-efficent. Rangers will be able to save the Scottish league should they get to the second round, which isn't beyond them or if they should go far in the Europa League but if they don't then the Scottish league could become very one-sided unless other teams improve their performances. The loss of one of the Champions League spots would be hugely damaging for the league as a whole, the money lost by the team missing out would create a huge chasm between the Champions League qualifier and the rest of the league, which, unless addressed quickly would turn the league into a one horse race with only one team able to afford the best world players and rest of the league would see a decrease in the foreign "marquee" players that they are currently able to sign and would lower the quality of the league damaging it as a whole.

The effect of this all would be the result of the Scottish Leagues becoming a selling ground seeing the best talents shipped out for various amounts of money, some fairly big, others not so. An indication of this would be Danny Wilson's transfer to Liverpool for a poultry £2M upfront with another £3M over various add-ons. A small amount for what he could be sold for in the future but with Rangers in the money troubles that they are, they are in no option to reject such a bid. Over the year clubs around the world will be looking at players such as Islam Feruz of Celtic, David Goodwille of Dundee United and Gregg Wylde of Rangers and will possibly sold for big fees. However, Scottish clubs needing to rely on youth players could be a blessing in disguise and be the improvement that the National Team needs to reach the next level so that they can compete on the same level as the likes of Serbia, Russia and Portugal and qualify for another Championship. Rangers and Celtic's next level of youth players will be scrutinized heavily and will be expected to perform well, one club that those clubs can look at is Crewe Alexandre in League Two. Whilst they don't enjoy the money levels that the Old Firm do, they have a proud history of raising players up through their youth academy and a list of former players shows that it's working with the likes of Dean Ashton, Seth Johnson, Danny Murphy and Nicky Maynard. A club that can rely on it's youth academy can save money in the long term and also earn money through the increased sales of those players improving the value of the club and it's ambitions.

Should Scotland lose one of their Champions League spots then it will be interesting to see how it copes, but it could damage the countries ambitions as a whole. Scotland needs it's European representatives to improve on their performances for next season and excel to push the co-efficent back up into more comfortable territory. An even better sight would be a challenge from outside the usual top two to force them to play better and come out and play to keep their position and fight for what they may find guaranteed European spots, that would be the best outcome in my mind. It's sure to be an interesting season for Scottish Football as a whole.

Comments welcome. :)