Wednesday, January 18, 2012

If the Swiss were going to reform their league football for the 1976-77 season, the Scots went into reorganizing in the summer of 1975 and the first results were present by the summer of 1976. No more two divisions, but three, although the number of the professional clubs remained the same – 38. No more classic First Division either – now the top flight was called ‘Scottish Premier Division’, as if the name change would elevate the quality… 10-club league, every team playing 4 times against any other opponent. Thus, there were more league games – 36 instead of the old 34. The new scheme aimed to remedy chronic ills: small gates, low quality of most games, financial troubles, aging stadiums, and inequality – in performance terms – between the best two and most of the rest. Form today’s standpoint, the reform was hardly a success… it is still duopoly, Celtic and Rangers. It is still quite boring championship. It is still financially unstable league. One thing the Scots had no way to change: their players generally moved to English clubs as soon as they could. The grand exodus of talent practically precluded any attempts to reform domestic football – and the reform could be seen more as an attempt to merely preserve the sport, to find a way to survive, not to really improve. And the first season of the new Premier Division hardly brought anything optimistic… the difference between the first and the last teams was 43 points! And those were still the years when a win gave 2 points, not three. Very likely this was the biggest gap between first and last finishers in Europe – so much for increasing quality and competitiveness. The usual suspects were still at the top – Celtic, who finished second, were good 5 points ahead of the third placed Hibernian. But that was just about everything Celtic managed to achieve, for their archrivals Glasgow Rangers won all trophies – championship and both cups. Hardly a surprise, since Rangers had the best squad by far – and pretty much the same as the year before. Their championship campaign was more than confident: they left Celtic 6 points behind.
By Scottish standards, impressive team, with Parlane, McCloy, Forsyth, Jardine, Greig… to name a few. However, the same guys from 1974-75 – and perhaps those, who English clubs were not very keen of… hardly a compliment.
The dubious ‘honor’ of finishing last in the first season of the Premier Division went to St. Johnstone, a miserable team, collecting only 11 points and truly hopeless, for the next lowest record was 32 points. St. Johnstone were relegated – an unfortunate occasion, for they had nice kit.
The first champions of the new First Division (the Second Scottish Division really) were Partick Thistle. The promotion actually returned them to top flight, where they have been administratively expulsed from the year before – because of the reduction of the new top league. Their names are hard to read… but let say that nothing is missed because of anonymity… except for Alan Hansen, but this would be the story of Liverpool, not Partick Thistle.
This would be just about everything for the Scots in 1976 – except one thing: with the exception of Ayr United, all of the ‘original’ clubs is still in the Premier Division today. There have been ups and down, but in general everybody still plays there: Motherwell, Heart of Midlothian, Aberdeen, Dundee United, Dundee… obviously the better layer of suffering Scottish football.