SCOTTISH football has taken a proper kicking from the English media this summer.
Celtic crashing out of the Champions League, along with Hibs and Aberdeen’s defeats in the Europa League, gave the critics all the ammunition they needed.
The Premiership has been called a pub league, while our teams have been savaged by people who should know better.
Without naming any names, I’ll admit to knowing some of the clowns responsible only too well!
Maybe that’s why I chuckled in midweek when Burnley crashed out of the Europa League, while both Celtic and Rangers reached the group stages.
It’s got nothing to do with Burnley as a club.
I’ve got loads of time for them, their manager, and their fans.
I take no specific pleasure in them losing out – even if they did dump Aberdeen.
It’s purely because it opened the door for Scottish fans to get a few digs in against their game’s biggest knockers.
They deserve to dish a wee bit out after having to take so much on the chin – even if the situation still isn’t perfect.
There’s no use hiding from the fact that, for Celtic, the Europa League is hardly the promised land.
For Brendan Rodgers and the Bhoys, the Champions League is the place to be.
But now they’re into the lesser of the two contests, it’s all about making the best of it.
Never mind what Celtic have missed out on. The question now has to be: “What have we got?”
The answer is pretty clear – a real opportunity to reach the knock-out stages.
And by getting there, they can do themselves a big favour in terms of future Champions League qualification.
This year the Hoops needed to negotiate eight qualifying games in order to go the distance.
It proved too many.
But by mounting an assault on the knock-out stages of the Europa League, they can hopefully clear a path to the Champions League next time around.
There’s no use complaining about it – Celtic simply have to pull their socks up and get stuck in.
And if Rangers can do the same, all the better.
Steven Gerrard’s arrival at Ibrox has played a huge role in putting the Premiership back on the map.
Why shouldn’t they, like Celtic, aim to progress from their Europa League group? If both of the Glasgow giants can achieve that goal, it will justify all the pre-season hype.
It’s an exciting time for Scotland’s national team, too.
Friday’s friendly clash with Belgium gives Alex McLeish a great opportunity to measure his team against the World Cup semi-finalists.
Then there’s the first Nations League game against Albania the following Monday.
If the Dark Blues can get off to a winning start, hopes of reaching our first major tournament since 1998 will be stoked.
We’ve got a young, talented squad – and more talent emerging in a league that is looking better by the week.
After years in the shadows, our game is back in the spotlight.
Now it’s time to prove it is worth watching.
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