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Clubs feeling financial pinch

Chick Young | 09:10 UK time, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Third Lanark, bless, were the club that died of shame.

The departure of the Hi-Hi from this mortal coil was spectacularly swift, dragged to the grave in 1967, just six years after finishing third in what was the top division in the land in those days.

In fact, in 1961 they even scored 100 goals in a crazy, life-on-the-edge season which had their fans looking like they had just come off the Cresta Run on a luge.

They were finally killed off by some scandalous mismanagement, mischief and financial high jinks by the chairman Bill Hiddleston - among others.

They were even subject of a Board of Trade inquiry which discovered, among other shenanigans, that Hiddleston was ordering stone chips for his driveway and charging them to the club.

It was actually the road to ruin he was preparing.

Oh, what a shock it was. Football clubs in those days seemed to have a cloak of immortality but here was a proud Glasgow side evaporating before our very eyes.

It was an awful shame. We were well advised to brace ourselves for further grief.

Football clubs, as supporters of Clydebank and Airdrie and Gretna came to find out, had soft underbellies.

In the mid-nineties I filed a series of reports for BBC Scotland's Friday Sportscene programme called 'Football at the Crossroads' in which warned of the impending crisis for our game.

Crossroads? We may have driven up a cul-de-sac.

Listen to me. Scottish football is creaking at the seams.

The January Sale sign at Ibrox was a massive reality check - the final demand in red print that comes through your letterbox and makes you dive behind the couch.

Stranraer are in such a perilous state that every new dawn is a bonus. It's fairies they need at the bottom of their garden, not ferries.Stranraer's chairman admits the club might not survive until the end of the season

At least two Scottish Premier League clubs are seriously manning the ramparts and pulling up the drawbridge at the financial onslaught. Reserve teams abandoned, player employment slashed.

A caller to BBC Radio Scotland's Your Call programme suggested Inverness Caley Thistle should make a move for Owen Coyle of Burnley.

How distant from reality can you be?

Why would he hit reverse gear in his career because that, my friends, is exactly what he would be doing?

Coyle is on the escalator to the top and the Inverness board would be throwing themselves off the Kessock Bridge if they had to match his Burnley pay packet.

Celtic fans screaming for a big money signing from the Premiership had better explain to Gordon Strachan how he bridges the wages gap.

One target was already earning £40,000 a week MORE than the Parkhead club could offer him.

Many moons will come and go before a superstar of real note - a Larsson, a Gascoigne, or a Laudrup - graces our top league again.

The days of wine and roses are gone, replaced as one observer once remarked, with those of whine and neurosis.

There will still be days in the sun, of course - or nights under the floodlights to be more exact.

For example, Kilmarnock's 11,000-plus attendance for the Scottish Cup tie against Ayr United.

But three days later less than half that number of folk turned up to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns at Rugby Park as Killie played Hamilton.

Kilmarnock do everything in their power to oil the box office. They give tickets to schools and offer incentives for family season tickets.

But still the stands are as open and bleak as the Fenwick Moor itself.

This weekend St Mirren take the wrapping off their brand new stadium, and here is a club debt-free and perhaps in a healthier state than any in the land.

They did that by cutting their cloth accordingly...and getting lucky with the timing of their sale of the old place to a supermarket chain.

Others don't have that card to play.

These are treacherous times, and the storm is wilder than some seem to understand.

Remember Third Lanark...and keep praying.


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