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Preparing to face the Old Firm

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Chris Jardine | 14:40 UK time, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

I was really looking forward to sitting down and watching the Champions League on Tuesday night but what game would I be watching?

Inter Milan v Manchester United, Lyon v Barcelona and Arsenal v Roma were all mouth-watering fixtures.

As it turned out I spent the majority of the night watching for goalflashes from Shielfield Park, Berwick.

I was hoping to travel with the squad to watch the game but a 5.00pm appointment with the physio quickly put that to bed.

I sent a couple of good-luck messages to the manager and Kevin Neilson reminding them of the two defeats we had already suffered at the hands of Berwick this season.

We were hoping for the three points and confident of getting them after a good win on Saturday against Forfar.

I spoke with the chairman at half-time and after falling behind he was certainly happy to be level at that point.

Although I'm not too sure how the second-half went, I'm sure he will appreciate the point we gained from the first of what are three difficult away fixtures.

Up next comes the short trip to Albion Rovers on Saturday followed by the longer journey to play Forfar for the second time in 10 days.

I've got my fingers crossed that I'll make the bus for that one - hopefully as a player and not a fan.

I couldn't complete my column this week without mentioning the recent headlines in the press regarding the possibility of Celtic joining us in the Third Division.

Some tabloids have even reported that it could happen as early as next season.

I must admit to being delighted to see that David Longmuir, SFL chief executive, commented so quickly.

It's easy for people to automatically believe the news that they read in the press, and I'm sure the reports would have both worried and excited people in equal measure.

Although it appears that only Celtic have been mentioned so far, the Old Firm often do things together and I fully expect Rangers to be involved in any talks.

But would it stop there?

Who's to say that Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibernian and the rest of the SPL clubs wouldn't want a piece of this too?

I read comments from the chairmen of each Third Division club and like our very own, Henry McClelland; they all seemed to take to the idea.

I do think it would be great for the Third Division, no question.

The potential for bigger crowds and greater income would be there and it would be great for the players to come up against a higher standard of footballer a few times a season.

Maybe it's because I can't see myself playing for many more seasons and I won't be involved if this move happens, but I can't help thinking about the non-league clubs with ambitions to join the senior ranks.

We've already had Cove Rangers voicing their displeasure at the speculation.

In the current financial climate we all have to be very careful and it has been well documented that there are clubs, like Stranraer, who are in trouble.

I sincerely hope they survive, but if not, will Cove be allowed to try again or will Celtic be allowed to simply step in?

I'm sure there are a lot of thoughts and opinions out there on the subject so I'm looking forward to reading and replying to the comments I'll hopefully be getting over the coming days.


  • Comment number 1.

    What Happens If They Are Promoted Hence Celtic Having 2 Teams In The Spl ???

  • Comment number 2.


    I would imagine a similar understanding will take place that allows Barcelona, Real Madrid etc to have reserve teams playing in lower leagues in Spain. The teams are only allowed to get promoted to a certain level where they then remain in that league and the next best team gets promoted.

    With the SPL being a seperate entity from the Scottish football league I can't see there being any problem with Celtic Reserves playing in the league but there is no way they could be then allowed entry to the SPL.

    I would be all for it.

  • Comment number 3.

    The OF in the SFL thing could work, but it’d have to be managed very carefully.
    Firstly, no promotion to the SPL – that’d just be silly.
    Secondly, the “reserve” team can’t just be “the players who didn’t play at the weekend”. Otherwise the team would be much better than most in div 3, div 2, div 1 and a fair chunk of the SPL. It’d need to be a separate team, with players registered, meaning if they were registered for the reserve side they couldn’t play for the main side for that season (or maybe til the transfer window).

    This, I think, would be consistent with what happens in Spain. So there’d be no reason to stop it. It’d certainly add to the interest around the lower divisions. My only concern would be that if these reserve teams are still too good, it’d effectively end promotion up the divisions – which would be a disaster for the other lower division clubs.

  • Comment number 4.

    Too many??? in my last message??????
    How did that?? happen?????

  • Comment number 5.

    If this goes ahead, and the Old Firm do get 'promoted' maybe it could be in the best interests to simply keep them in that tier of Scottish football?

    Celtic v Celtics reserves - Celtic Park - Auguest 20th 2016 - sounds a tag ridiculous.

  • Comment number 6.

    Overall a good idea I think. The young SPL players would get competitive games as would their opponents and crowds would increase. The only losers would be clubs aspiring to get into the SFL (i.e. Cove) They could always create another division!

    It's nowt new though, Sunderland reserves were invited into the Scottish League in the late 60s as they couldn't get into the English Central Reserve League but it was blocked by the FA despite arguments that Berwick Rangers being in England had set a precedant.

  • Comment number 7.

    As a supporter of a lower league club the crowds that Celtic reserves will bring will benefit all teams and allow them to produce better players for themselves and the national team

  • Comment number 8.

    We do have this system in Norway, the reserve teams cannot be promoted to the division under the first team. If a reserve team finishes top of the table, the closest placed "normal team gets promoted.

    It works quite well, although it has its pros and cons.

    The positives are that younger players in the reserve teams get to play competetive matches against often better players, and alongside the more experienced players in their own team.
    As Chris points out it's also great for the smaller teams to get up against "bigger" teams a few times a season, even though the difference in quality doesen't need to be that big.

    The problems arise when the big teams start to field very uneven reserve squads. An example of this is from team I play for- Kjapp IL in the Norwegian third division.
    The last times we have played the reserves of Notodden FK (first division) they have fielded everything from pure U19 squads who tend to get beaten throrougly to almost a normal starting XI for the first team.

    This unserious attitude by some of the bigger teams make the team performances wary greatly, and does not make the league very stable.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think the only way this would be fair is if the two old firm clubs were to announce their A and B team squads and treat them like two different entities. As Monty mentioned above, first team players could be given a run around on 3rd division teams on international weekends.
    I think that it could be encouraged but care would need to be taken to ensure that non-league teams are able to grow. As a dagenham fan i've seen first hand how well non-league teams can grow and survive so i'd like to see something done to encourage their growth too. Maybe expanding the SFL by a couple more teams?

  • Comment number 10.

    I want to stray away from the OF fielding second teams as no details have been announced. What I found curious this week was that Berwick-Annan was the only SFL fixture played. Forfar have only notched up 19 games, five fewer now than Berwick. Why didn't Forfar have a match? Is it the responsibility of the SFL or the clubs to re-arrange postponed fixtures?

  • Comment number 11.

    As a Celtic fan, I'm all for it. I had a season ticket for years but gave it up due to the steep prices and often flat atmosphere, outside of Old-Firm matches and Europe. I thought about following a local team like Pollock but my heart was never really in it. I'm sure a lot of fans who feel the same would turn out at 5 pounds a head to see the reserves in a decent competitive match (and still follow the big team on the telly).

    I think I'm right in saying that Barcelona B can draw crowds of up to 5, 000. Even a fraction of that would be a huge boost to the finances of lower league teams.

    Of course, there's bound to be drawbacks (eg. perhaps no team in their division would be promoted by actually finishing first and the competition would lose respect) but with finances so poor it must be worth a try?

  • Comment number 12.

    Good article, great comments.

  • Comment number 13.

    If this was to happen, no reserve team could play in the same division as their first team counterpart, as there would be a clear conflict of interest. For example, if Celtic A played Celtic B and needed 3 points to secure the league title, I'm fairly sure Celtic A would win without too many problems!

  • Comment number 14.

    Another concern might be if the reserve teams were stuck in the thrid division. Then wouldn't there be more incentive for teams in division 2 to get relegated in order to get that big game 4 times a year?

  • Comment number 15.

    As far as Scottish lower division football is concerned this would be potentially great news. If several teams express an interest in putting reserve sides in to the SFL then it could pave the way for a handful of ambitious clubs (Cove etc.) to gain entry also.

    By extending each of Divisions 1,2 & 3 to 12 teams 6 spots would be created. For arguments sake if the Old Firm and the two Edinburgh clubs enter their B sides then that still leaves two spots for the sides who were pipped by Annan Athletic at the last time of asking.

    On a personal level I would hope that certain English clubs don't try and cite this as precedent though. The English lower leagues are vibrant enough and the poopulation large enough to support a much deeper league system than Scotland. What is good for the gooses is not neccessarily good for the gander.

  • Comment number 16.

    How will this affect the cup competitions?

    Could we end up with the scenario of Celtic v Celtic B in the Scottish Cup or League Cup semi-final?

  • Comment number 17.

    i believe the idea is to follow the model set by barcelona and real madrid. Where the reserve or B team plays in the spannish equivilant of division 3, they may not enter domestic cup competitions, and are not eligible for promotion or relagation. I am all for this as it means the old firm clubs can never meet there respective reserve teams in direct competition. The attendance figures would take a boost from the excitement generated. However, the stumbling point may be on how often the OF can call upon their reserve players. For example, Lee Mculloch, currently out injured at rangers, and always seems to be involved in Walters first team plans (in whatever capacity), upon his return from injury he would surely spend some time in divison 3 with the b team before being recalled into the premier

  • Comment number 18.

    Let's say it happens, the third division is expanded to 12 teams, let's say Cove, for arguments sake, join them. the third division now has the same crazy set up as the SPL where you could only be playing Celtic B at home once in a season ... you are also playing 3 games less in total (happy to take 3 weeks pay less Chris?) so you need almost 2000 fans at your Celtic B game just to bring in the same gate receipts as you would have without them. You maybe get that the first year, due to the novelty factor, but year in year out, no chance

  • Comment number 19.

    Imagine Mancheter United come out and say there going to place their reserves in the SPL, Celtic will make more money because of the appeal of Uniteds 2nd string, plus, even if Man U win the league, you don’t have to worry, you'll still get the European place ... but you'll never win another league again!!

  • Comment number 20.

    14- I don't think that would be a problem. No club would want to get relegated just to play the reserves of one of the big clubs. Not only would they play in a poorer league, they would also loose quite an amount of money. My team would for sure want to get promoted rather than play the reserves of Notodden FK, as I've mentioned above.

  • Comment number 21.

    Thanks to everyone for commenting - I was hoping the topic would attract a bit of interest!

    It's clear to see that this idea needs a lot of thought as there are so many questions that need to be answered if this was ever to get off the ground.

    A couple of things to answer, firstly regarding cup cometitions - I believe that any reserve or "B" side wouldn't be granted entry into any cup competitions therefore Celtic's first team couldn't come up against the reserve side.

    I also believe that the reserve side wouldn't be allowed into the top division so the highest they could go would be the first division.

    As for the question from ApacheArmy - I'm not on that much money for 3 games less per season to make that much of a difference!!!


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