Doug Stenhouse offers his predictions for the forthcoming season
Imagine a club in your league makes up a new rule to dissolve the competition as it stands and form a new league expelling five clubs. Imagine all the clubs are circulated with the proposal except the five to be expelled. Couldn’t happen? It has happened before: this is exactly what Glasgow Rangers tried to do in Scotland at the end of 1965-66. The five were Stranraer, Albion Rovers, Berwick Rangers, Stenhousemuir and Brechin. Only a last ditch court room battle and intense lobbying by Berwick chairman George Shiel won the day. A costly result for Rangers as two years later they lost to lowly Berwick in the Scottish Cup.
Thirty odd years later and once more the cry of ‘too many teams’ is heard from Ibrox. This time Rangers seem to think that if they say it loud enough and often enough, eventually it will be believed. They say that a smaller Scottish league would benefit their European challenge. Perhaps we need more Scandinavian part timers in our league?
Anyhow, down here in the lower reaches of Scottish football, the battle for success for the few and survival for the rest goes on. This season we welcome back East Fife and the West coast nomads of Clydebank. The latter are groundless as once more the lure of building supermarkets takes precedence over having a pitch to play on. However, they should still be strong enough to return to Division One. East Fife, though, have been in a steep decline since the departure of Steve Archibald. The other promotion slot could be a two-way fight between Highland League interlopers Inverness Caley Thistle and Livingston FC, formally Edinburgh’s third team. Oh for the days when “Meadowbank, wank, wank, wank!” echoed across the terraces of Shielfield Park. Relegation could come from any of the remaining six teams with all the clubs hoping it will be Stranraer. Not because of their long ball style of football, rather that travelling to their ground is akin to crossing the Gobi Desert on a Teletubby’s scooter.
The Third Division could once more provide the closest race for promotion with four or five teams capable of going up. Favourites with the bookies are Ross County, representatives of our Northern cousins, where men are men and sheep are nervous. Watch out for a challenge from Scotland’s answer to the Norwegian Eurovision song contest entry, Albion Rovers, who finished a respectable fifth last season. Berwick, Montrose and Dumbarton could also feature but the smart money is on Alloa led on the field by prison officer Willie Irvine, that’s if he isn’t taken hostage by some inmates again. Their only handicap could be trying to play football on pitches resembling this year’s Glastonbury festival.
Of course if the Ibrox marketing machine does try and carry out their very serious threat, then being at the bottom of the pile is not the place to be. Scrambling for points will be Arbroath, East Stirlingshire (Alex Ferguson’s first club as a manager), Cowdenbeath and Queen’s Park. There are no easy games in the Third Division, as you know.
From WSC 128 October 1997. What was happening this month