Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Scotland Round Up

There is a certain team in the SPL that makes it impossible for me to focus on that league, as they have fallen into an embarrassing 8th place. Nevermind that they pulled some midweek European heroics, losing 3-1 to Hibs is a disgrace. At least, thanks to Gretna, relegation is not a concern.

Instead, I will be using this fortnight's post to concentrate on the lower divisions, shaking out who is likely to go up or down. Also, as the mood strikes me, I'll add in some good trivia about the clubs in question.

Scotland's senior professional leagues are broken into four divisions, with the Scottish Premier league at the top of the ladder, followed by Divisions 1, 2 and 3. Like England's Premier League and Championship, the SPL is a different legal entity than the league structure below it. It was formed in 1998 to keep a greater proportion of revenues among the top flight clubs. Not so egalitarian, is it?

Looking to break into the money-spinning league are a couple of First Division squads. With 25 out of 36 rounds played, Hamilton Academical leads Dundee FC by 4 points. St. Johnstone are a further 6 points back and unlikely to push the other two. Hamilton and Dundee will meet two more times within league play, including what may be a deciding match on the last day of the season. Hamilton have only been in the top flight twice, both times relegating after one season back in the '80s. Dundee fans are much more used to being in the SPL, their team was most recently there in 2005, and they probably can't wait to renew that cross-street rivalry with Dundee United.

While there is only one promotion into the SPL, the rest of the leagues act a little differently. In Divisions 1 and 2, the 10th place team goes down automatically, replaced by the 1st place squad of the lower league. The 9th place team enters into a playoff with the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place teams from below. Stirling looks to be a strong bet to go down out of Division 1, but only have to make up 5 points on Morton or 6 on Clyde to ensure survival. Those two also have to worry about the playoff spot along with Livingston and Partick Thistle (nil).

Speaking of Livingston, the Daily Mail had an interesting article on a UK lottery winner who lost his fortune after investing heavily in the club. Should make all of you Ebbsfleet people wary. Unless that's what you think he deserves for supporting a club that changed cities like an American Professional team. Who do they think they are, MK Dons?

Set to move up from Division 2 is Ross County, the club with the largest catchment area in the UK. They hold a 6 point lead on Airdrie United with two games in hand. Joining Airdrie in the playoff spots are Raith Rovers and MJD's favorite club, Peterhead. It's a tight race for those playoff spots, though, as Brechin City and Alloa Athletic are just a point out. Alloa's most capped player of all time is Jock Hepburn, who earned one for Scotland a long time ago.

At the bottom end of Division 2 lie Berwick Rangers. Berwick are the lone foreign club in the Scottish league system, as they are located, for the time being, in England. I say it that way becuase it seems that the citizens of Berwick would like to relocate themselves into Scotland. This wouls be at least the 14th time the town has changed sides. Make up your mind already Berwickians, you're all like a teenage cocktease,

"Yes. No. Maybe. No. I'll let you go anal. Nevermind, I won't. How about we cuddle instead?".
Cowdenbeath hold the negative playoff spot, with Ayr and Queens Park in their sights. Now, since I've named every club in the division, you can surmise that this will be a good, and exciting, league to keep your eye on.

Finally, in the Third Division, East Fife has all but locked up their promotion. They hold a 20 point lead at this point and could conceivably promote by the Ides of March. Montrose, Stranraer and Stenhousemuir are in the playoff spots with Arbroath and Elgin City just outside. Last season Elgin City set a UK-wide record by starting off the season by losing to every other club, consecutively, in the league. They passed East Stirlingshire by the end of the season, though, so it wasn't completely devastating.

Stay tuned because on Thursday I will be (everything else permitting) liveblogging the heartbreak of being an Aberdeen fan watching the Bayern Munich return leg. At least until it gets too unbearable to watch anymore.

image from reese.angela's Picasa page. Her Scotland collection is pretty good.

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