Friday, 22 February 2008

Forgive Me If I Sound Bitter

"It's A Funny Old Game, Saint......."

It never surprises me the way things come full circle. It does others, for they're eternally credulous, but for me it's the natural order of things. What goes around, comes around, and usually gives you a swift kick in the nuts for good measure. Partick Thistle for instance, a club that has, in the space of 18 years risen and fallen through the Scottish leagues like the proverbial 'Hoors Knickers' (Copyright Dick Campbell). As fairy tales go (and that's all it was), coming from the verge of extinction and relegation to the Third Division, to the SPL in three seasons is pretty special. Two consecutive league titles and a Scottish Cup Semi Final. Not bad all told.
Then theres Livingston. A dream of big things in West Lothian, a dream that came slowly true, as the club worked it's way from the Third Division, to the First, then the Premier, new sides built with open chequebooks with each league victory. They went on to finish third in their first season in the SPL. Essentially, the best team in Scotland outwith the Old Firm. A quick foray into Europe, then a few seasons later, they won the League Cup. Where would it end.....................?

Then Gretna, the village team with the millionaire backer. Three, divisions, three years, a Scottish Cup Final, lost only on penalties, then into the SPL............

Then it comes, for all three, the hangover after the party. For Thistle it was relegation and humiliation, followed by relegation again, only to regain entry to the 1st Division, as if by accident. For Livi, it was Administration, followed by relegation and a chairman who won't turn on the Undersoil Heating in the winter. Gretna make the triumvirate now, as they languish at the bottom of the SPL, their owner in hospital, critically ill, the manager absconding to a team battling relegation in the division below and the realisation that once Brookes Mileson goes to his maker, Gretna may well go back from whence they came at a very rapid pace.

So, am I smug? Am I happy? Nah, not really. Y'see, it's almost happened to my club a few times, oblivion I mean. It's there, waiting in the shadows, ready to finish the job if enough people stop caring and let the dream slide out of sight. The dream hasn't been allowed to die at Firhill, due largely to the fans, but you get the impression it's in the process of being shown the door at Almondvale and it's on it's last legs at Gretna. Thing is, people say, 'Aye, but at least those clubs showed some ambition'. Fair point, but both clubs had owners willing to 'flash the cash' to reach their peaks. Give East Stirlingshire or Airdrie or Cowdenbeath an open cheque book, and they too will ascend until they stall. The point I'm getting at is this. If moderate success can bring about a situation whereby a team as well established as Partick Thistle can crash and burn in this day and age, then the new boys really are living on borrowed time when the bubble bursts and the dream turns to a nightmare, much like yesterdays pristine white snowfall will become todays ugly, muddy slush.

"So iLL Man, you're saying they need to invest in a gritter?"

You know what I mean............. No cheque book stays open forever, not even that of Roman Abramovich. It's not 'Living the Dream' really. It starts that way, but ultimately, it becomes like 'Living The Fairytale', which rapidly turns into a nightmare when reality starts to encroach on the shindig. Fairytales are different from dreams. Dreams are open ended concepts. Dreams can be as grand or as limited as you see fit. You fulfill a dream and then the hard work starts. Dreams are what people cling onto when theres nothing else to hold onto. Fairytales don't allow for failure as they have a finite scope and a limited shelf life, a narrative to conclude. Fairytales involve you getting to or winning cup finals, but preferring not to think about the realities of having no supporters, or travelling up the M74 every fortnight just to see a home game.


Malc said...

Every club has a natural level, buckets of cash or not.

I'm a Wolves man and it's taken us years (decades) to realise that we're tenth place in Division Two (or whatever they're calling it this month). Even Jack Hayward's gerzillions couldn't make the lads anything more than ordinary.

I saw Birmingham at Firhill in a pre-season friendly a few years ago and the swearing was championship-class. You should be proud.

iLL Man said...

Good point Malc. I think every club finds it's level, just looks like Gretnas might be somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd division eventually.

As for the swearing at Firhill......I think they went one better today. 0-0 against ten men and some of the worst football I've seen in months.

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