An assessment of the likely winners and losers in Scotland in 1997/98 - no prizes for guessing the former

ABERDEEN

Keith Davidson


How will your team do this season?
With Celtic having a complete shake-up over the close season, perhaps second, although the general view from the Scottish press is fourth.

Who is going to be the most important figure at the club this season? Doric property magnate and alleged wig wearer Stewart Milne, new driving force on the board. Since he’s been pushing things along Keith Burkinshaw has arrived to offer a guiding hand to manager Roy Aitken and the money has been available to get, among others, Jim Leighton, Eoin Jess and Mike Newell (yes, that Mike Newell).

If you had to come up with a new piece of merchandise to sell at the club shop what would it be?
Get the students at the local art and design college to come up with a decent club calendar – they get work experience, the club gets a decent bit of merchandise and fans get something useful and non-naff to hang on the wall.

Which player at your club most divides the home support and why?
The manager, actually. Not everyone is convinced of the, er, tactical nous of Roy Aitken, but a substantial number of fans reckon ditching yet another ‘supremo’ who hasn’t had three years in the job (like the previous three managers) would be plain daft. Another season like the last one (record run of games without a win) and his Puma training top would be on a shaky peg, though.

Which element of the matchday environment would you most like to change?
Time they were thinking about cantilevering the Main Stand, I think – the supporting posts are a pain.

CELTIC

Graham McColl

How will your team do?
With luck, win the League and a cup. Rangers have spent a lot of money in the close season on continentals but it looks like a case of emperor’s new clothes, albeit with Italian designer labels.Celtic spent much of the past year being slapped about by two temperamental foreign stars, Di Canio and Cadete.Their new signings – specifically Henrik Larsson and Craig Burley – appear more willing to play for the team than themselves.

Most important figure?
Wim Jansen. Last March, Celtic lost 1-0 to Rangers in a match full of appalling, mindless football. Looking at that, it seemed obvious that if either side brought in a continental coach, preferably a Dutchman, who knew about tactical organization, they could clean up in Scotland.

New piece of merchandise?
A Celtic croquet set with green and white hooped targets. It’s about the only Celtic-emblazoned thing the club shops don’t sell.

Which player most divides the support?
For the past few years it’s been Peter Grant, now with Norwich, who would belt about the middle of the park like a seal that has flipped out of its pool. Roughly four out of five fans were solidly not in favour of him. It will be interesting to see who now takes up the baton.

Change to matchday environment?
One tradition the Celtic fans have adopted over the years is the singing of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ with scarves raised à la Kop. As there are many specifically Celtic songs it seems strange that Celtic fans should adopt this Liverpool-associated anthem. It looks like a second hand ritual.

DUNDEE UTD

George Duncan

How will your team do?
On last year’s form, there’s no reason why we can’t finish second or third in the league, and win one of the cups.

Most important figure?
Tommy McLean. Since taking over last year he has turned the club round, brought in some excellent players, re-established discipline and generally improved the whole atmosphere at Tannadice.

New piece of merchandise?
Annual videos at Christmas, the new strip in time for the Dundee holidays, and Sieb Dykstra ‘Filipino porn star’ moustaches.

Change to matchday environment?
Away teams mascots should accompany them to Tannadice where they’d have to take on Tangerine Terry, our lion mascot, in a half-time battle. It would make up for a previous attempt at a half-time boxing match when the ring took so long to be put up that the teams ran out for the second half just as it was finished...

DUNFERMLINE

Paul Bundy

How will your team do? We finished fifth last year so we’d hope to improve on that.

Most important figure? Tricky one. No one outstanding in the squad and even fewer on the board. Bert Paton (manager) definitely isn’t part of the Scottish media mafia and thrives on the opprobrium he attracts by beating their cronies.

New piece of merchandise?
Replicas of 1961 Scottish Cup winning strip. It had a badge on it and the club won’t let anyone use it, even though they’d earn copyright payments for every one sold. Presumably the margins on modern strips are that much higher and the fourth top in 12 months has just hit the shops at £40.

Which player most divides the support?
Ivo den Bieman, a gangling Dutchman whose gait resembles that of a baby giraffe. Brilliant overlapping down the right wing, but often played in defence where he’s cost us a game or two. Cult figure for many, but in some eyes being foreign means you have to be perfect.

Change to matchday environment?
Until this summer there was a supporters’ club (The Paragon) based inside the main stand where for over 20 years fans have met before and after games. There’s been some anorexically thin periods in that time where, on occasion, the Paragon paid the club’s wage bill and annually donated thousands to the cause. The Paragon has now been thrown out in the street because the space it occupied will generate more income from corporate hospitality. It should be brought back.

HEARTS


Stephen Stuart


How will your team do?
If we can finish above our main rivals, Aberdeen and Dundee Utd we’ll be happy enough with third and a Euro place. Another Cup Final appearance isn’t beyond our reach, and if we can just avoid having to play bloody Rangers again...

Most important figure?
Star striker John Robertson, who’s getting no younger. Should his legs finally fail to get in on the end of half chances we may struggle for goals.

New piece of merchandise?
Videos. Not too much to ask for really. All the English clubs seem to be able to produce a match by match account of their games. Apparently it’s not cost effective enough?!

Which player most divides the support?
Steve Fulton. One half think he’s a fat useless Celtic reject. The other half think he’s just fat.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d put aside a section of a stand for the sole purpose of providing a decent atmosphere which has been lost since Taylor. Arsenal half heartedly tried something which all ended up a bit sad, but I would imagine it could be done with a little thought.

HIBERNIAN

John Campbell


How will your team do?
With the changes to the playing staff and, hopefully, more new faces to come, I have a feeling we’ll do better than most might predict. Things have started pretty well.

Most important figure?
It is a toss up. The manager, Jim Duffy, has the chance to impose his style of management whereas last season he inherited a dispirited bunch struggling in the League. But the Chief Executive, Rod Petrie, whilst respected by his peers, has started badly with fans by assuming an almost arrogant air when dealing them.

New piece of merchandise?
A life size fully working model of Eric Cantona that we could sneak into the home dressing room every Saturday.

Which player most divides the support?
Hibs fans seem to have to have a player to turn against. The three most recent candidates have left and this season’s victim is yet to be identified. Likely names will include the forwards Davie Elliot and Paul Tosh.

Change to matchday environment?
I’d like to bring back the singing element in home games. All seater stadia have ruined that atmosphere with fans spread over various areas of the ground.

KILMARNOCK

Richard Cairns


How will your team do?
Third. It’ll be almost impossible to finish above the Old Firm but there isn’t much to choose between the rest.

Most important figure? Goalscorer Paul Wright. If he avoids injury he’ll score enough goals to keep the team up. If not we’ll be struggling.

New piece of merchandise?
The crappy ‘Sports Division’ T-shirts that the players put on during the Cup Final celebrations. A fine souvenir – I don’t think...

Which player most divides the support?
Eccentric Yugoslav goalkeeper Dragoje Lekovic. On his day he’s calmness personified but he’s always likely to drop one in.

Change to matchday environment?
We think the announcer’s a closet Rangers fan. He likes nothing better than to tell the crowd that McCoist has broken another goalscoring record.

RANGERS

Craig McDougall


How will your team do?
Domestically, ten in a row. More importantly, however, is how well we do in Europe. If we don’t look to be on the right tracks for the future this will be considered a failure – and losing to Gothenburg and missing out on the Champions League was not the best of starts.

Most important figure?
Tommy Møller-Neilson, the son of the former Danish manager has been brought in as first team coach, with a remit for fitness training. In the last few years Rangers have had unbelievable injury problems, and we’re led to believe that Tommy will resolve this problem with “European style training methods”.

New piece of merchandise?
An Italian/Glaswegian phrase book.

Which player most divides the support?
Brian Laudrup – is he a divine being or merely an immortal? Seriously, Paul Gascoigne – is his on the field brilliance enough to excuse unacceptable behaviour off the park?

Change to matchday environment?
More competitive opposition in order that more than 25% of home matches are in any way exciting.

ST JOHNSTONE


Archie McGregor


How will your team do?
Probably just missing out on Europe and narrowly avoiding relegation. In other words, anywhere between 3rd and 9th.

Most important figure?
Aggie Moffat, the tea lady. A figure of national pre-eminence since a dressing room contretemps with Graeme Souness several years ago, Aggie will be expected to oversee enforcement of the club’s disciplinary code with her customary ruthless efficiency.

New piece of merchandise?
Teapots and matching cosies, on the basis that Aggie is by far the club’s most marketable commodity.

Which player most divides the support?
Austrian midfielder Attila Sekerlioglu, who in turns delights and infuriates with his repertoire of superlative free-kick, rank laziness, dodgy fashion sense (yellow boots) and disastrous PR (gobbing on Airdrie’s John Davies and then boasting about it to the press afterwards).

Change to matchday environment? The half-time scoreboard – it would be nice to have one that worked.

From WSC 128 October 1997. What was happening this month

Related articles

Scotland in the Seventies: The definitive account of the Scotland football team 1970-79
By Ronnie McDevittPitch Publishing, £12.99Reviewed by Archie MacGregorFrom WSC 389, August 2019Buy the book...
Lifted Over The Turnstiles: Scotland’s football grounds in the black & white era
by Steve FinanDC Thomson, £15.99Reviewed by Kevin DonnellyFrom WSC 380, November 2018Buy the book...
Adventures In The Golden Age by Archie Macpherson
Scotland in the World Cup finals 1974-1998Black and White, £11.99Reviewed by Alan PatulloFrom WSC 379, September 2018Buy the book...

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday