A Happy New Year to one and all, and all the best for 2022.
It’s that time when we all make resolutions (most of which are quickly broken!) and compile a wish list.
I have a few things I’d like to see happen in Scottish football in the months ahead.
First of all, I hope that our Premiership stadiums are open again right after the winter break, and that capacity crowds are permitted at every ground up and down the land.
Sure, I get that the health and welfare of every person is – and always will be – the priority. That is not up for question.
However, purely in a footballing context, fans are what makes this game of ours great. It is just not the same without them.
The great Jock Stein could never have envisaged what we’ve gone through over the last couple of years.
But his statue outside Celtic Park displays his quote: “Football without the fans is nothing.”
He was bang on.
It might be a bit of a long shot, but when the Premiership resumes on January 17, with Celtic hosting Hibs, it would be great to think there will be close to 60,000 inside Parkhead.
The same goes for Ibrox, Tannadice, Fir Park, McDiarmid Park, Tynecastle. Everywhere, in fact.
We want big crowds back in for the rest of the season.
The Boxing Day fixture list just wasn’t as good because of the restrictions. Having a maximum of 500 inside the grounds was soul-destroying.
Players and managers don’t like it. Football just isn’t football when there’s hardly anyone there to watch it.
Ange Postecoglou hammered home that point after Celtic’s 3-1 win at St Johnstone, and he was absolutely right.
There is so much good going on in football just now that it would be a shame if the fans weren’t there in person to share every kick of the ball.
We have a great fight going on for the title between Rangers and Celtic.
There is an interesting situation developing between Hearts, Motherwell and Hibs for that third and fourth-place finish, and with it European football next season.
At the other end of the table, there is a real scrap between five clubs to avoid relegation.
St Johnstone, St Mirren, Dundee, Ross County and Livingston are all in the mix. I can see that being the case right through until May.
So there are things going on in every area of the Premiership, and that’s what’s making our top flight so fascinating.
When it is so tight, that causes tension, which means every refereeing decision is put under the microscope.
That’s why I wish we already had VAR in place. We don’t, but we need to find a way to make sure it’s introduced for the start of the new season.
Our referees want it, and most people are in agreement that our game needs it.
As I’ve always said, VAR isn’t there to embarrass the officials or make them look incompetent.
It is there to provide help in the hope that the correct decision will be reached.
Even with VAR in operation, many decisions still come down to opinion. Very few are factual.
But having that evidence to work with can make the whole process so much better.
Nothing will ever totally eliminate human error, and wrong calls will still be made.
But we need to offer help to our whistlers where possible.
I know it will take the best part of six months to train all of our officials on the use of VAR, but let’s get the ball rolling.
Next month, all 42 SPFL clubs will vote on its implementation for the start of next season.
But if it’s possible, I’d bring it in for selected games this season to try to move things along.
It’s expensive to install, but Scottish football will find a way to finance it.
Put it this way, I don’t think it’s an option not to find the money for it.
My final wish for 2022. That in just three months time, we are all celebrating being at the World Cup Finals.
I’m already excited about the Play-off semi-final against Ukraine at Hampden, and with it the chance to play either Wales or Austria to reach the big stage for the first time since 1998.
I just hope that Steve Clarke has a full squad to choose from, and that we are not hampered by any injuries to key players – or dare I say it, Covid.
If we have all of our lads available, I believe we can get to Qatar.
See you there!
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