Two solutions for Celtic and Rangers, Klopp > Shankly, and more mails…

Ian Watson
Mo Salah celebrates scoring for Liverpool against Rangers.

It’s a varied Friday morning Mailbox, with some suggestions on how to finally get Celtic and Rangers playing at a decent level. Also: staunch defences of Jurgen Klopp and Scott Parker.

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How to get Celtic and Rangers south
The Scottish teams thing is interesting, so let’s unpick.

Standard-wise, they are both probably mid-level Premier League. That would match with their performances in Europe. But as you say, it makes little to no sense them being in a competition where they are always the whipping boys. Being in a competitive league would improve the strength of their players and squads. It would also make them genuinely attractive to investment.

So, onto why they aren’t now. Well, see above, basically. Big-spending owners want prestige (or to wash their money, sometimes both). That isn’t going to be found playing championship-level teams every week. Why would you, as a player with CL and top-tier aspirations join either Celtic or Rangers? If somehow one of them was made City-level rich, and threw money at quality players and attracted some to join, would they realistically have a chance at winning the competition? Let me proffer PSG as evidence that money doesn’t necessarily buy you a team. Why do Bayern succeed in their two-team league? Because they already have heritage in the biggest club competition, they can afford to pay big wages, and they can suck players from a stronger league.

The only realistic solution is for them to join the English leagues as some Welsh teams have done. To achieve that, they’d either need to restart the clubs and join down the tree or you could have some extraordinary one-off play-off situation, as a mini-tournament where teams from the bottom end of PL (bottom 2/3 still relegated), top-end of Championship (with top 2/3 still promoted) and the two or three Scottish clubs (because why not Aberdeen too) see who gets to sit where.

I’d watch that. And it would unlock the potential of those Scottish clubs and their huge fan-bases.

In the meantime, it will be a struggle for anything to change there, or even for them to retain quality youth players who will prefer a club with bigger opportunities.


A north Atlantic alternative
Mark, MCFC , makes some valid points about the (poor) performance of Scottish teams in Europe. Essentially this comes down to the size of the country and its market – 5 million population – competing with big leagues like the Premier League (60 million), La Liga (47 million) and the Bundesliga (84 million). Here in Ireland back in the 1980’s we floated the idea of a “North Atlantic League” – bringing together Scotland, Ireland, Portugal and Scandinavia (and possibly Holland and Belgium). This gives you a combined market of 50 million (80 million if you include Holland and Belgium). This would give the likes of Celtic and Rangers some real competition (which they don’t have in Scotland) and see them regularly play teams like Porto, Benfica or even Ajax and PSV. That would be a really good league. The standards of those clubs would improve considerably and the big TV money that would flow into the league would enable Celtic and Rangers to buy bigger, better players thus over time performing far better in the Champions League. I thought it was a brilliant idea at the time but alas it never got off the ground. It would have enabled us here in Ireland to develop professional clubs in Dublin and Belfast (the League of Ireland is mostly amateur) and maybe Irish football fans would no longer just support Liverpool or Man United. Back in the 1980’s it was seen as an idea before its time but today when we were almost landed with the farcical “European Super League” surely it’s an idea worth reconsidering.
Raz, Dublin


Old Firm’s level
I thought I’d offer a response to Mark, MCFCs’s email on the underperformance of Scotland’s big two in the CL.

I’m a Rangers fan and will admit that while I didn’t fancy our chances of qualifying even in third place from our group, I didn’t expect such a chastening campaign. In the end Liverpool and Napoli only dropped points to each other and our nearest ‘competitors’ Ajax (who signed one of our best players in the summer) swept us aside with embarrassing ease.

A mix of lack of funds, poor transfer strategy and a horrific injury list left us playing most of the matches with a 40 year old goalkeeper, an 18 year old centre half, and a midfield composed of a 37 year old and 34 year old.

However, despite this we actually did manage some decent Euro performances in qualifying beating out USG (top of their Europa League group at time of writing) and Arsenal’s recent conquerors, PSV. Mark might also remember we were a spot kick away from winning last year’s Europa League (cheers for your contribution Aaron). Our opponents that night, Frankfurt just qualified as second behind Spurs in their group.

Essentially, both Rangers and Celtic can compete in Europe at a Europa League level. However, to do well in the CL we need a settled squad, a clever transfer strategy, a favourable draw and a healthy slice of luck.

Finally, if Mark wants to know why no one is investing big money in either Old Firm team then I’d compel to watch any random SPFL game. Johnny Nic may romanticise our league but the standard of player, stadium and crowd is fairly grim. It’s simply not worth it as any investor would be throwing good money after bad chasing the rest of the big leagues. Rangers already tried this in the 90s and it didn’t end well!
Duncan (we can’t all be owned by oil states), North Yorkshire


Sociedad summary
United v Sociedad was a frustrating game to watch even though United won. The referee had a terrible game and the Sociedad team were professional time wasters but still United have lots to improve on.

The first half was quite an odd watch. United looked good when countering but for most of the half, it felt like a Sociedad player was either on the ground or complaining about a foul. A positive from the first half is the defence look solid. Martinez continues his incredible form and to me is undroppable on his current form. His passing is such an underrated part of his game that it’s almost like another midfielder when he’s on the ball. De Gea made a world-class double save which continues to show why he is the number 1 in the team. Garnacho has looked like the real deal every time he was on the ball. The goal was taken brilliantly for someone whos only 18 and still a youth player and it was even nicer seeing Ronaldo was the one who played the pass as it shows Ronaldo is buying into the team and trusting a youngster like Garnacho with a chance in a game we need goals in.

The second half was a boring watch from both teams. United looked frustrated by Sociedad being defensive and all the players trying to win fouls with every challenge and Sociedad looked the same as the first half playing defensive but keeping the ball and just trying to bait United into picking up cards and making mistakes. The only real positive was the defence of United as Lindelof looked like a great backup for Varane for the 60 minutes he played.

Overall, Even with a good win against a frustrating Real Sociedad team it still feels like a loss in a way as now we have to play against a team dropping down from the Champions League and just the way the game was played really made it hard to enjoy. At least Garnacho looked really good and I feel his starting debut in the league is coming sooner rather than later.
Max Of Whitegate


Thursday night fun
The knockouts of the Europa are looking a lot more glamorous than they have for a while, no?

Ajax, Juventus, Barcelona, Sevilla, Sporting and Leverkusen all dropping down from the Champions League to join Arsenal, PSV, Sociedad, Man U, Roma, Lazio, Monaco and Bundesliga leaders Union Berlin.

Which of the above will really take it seriously remains to be seen, but some fruity looking Thursday nights in store.
Niallo, Gooner


Klopp > Shankly
I am a Liverpool fan. Have been for the past 20 years. I was not born in Liverpool or even England for that matter. I fell in love with Liverpool under Houllier and dare I say it, it was mostly because of a Michael Owen. What a player he was in his pomp.

But I have stuck with them through thick and thin. The many, many horrific years and the (sometimes) great ones under Benitez (who is still one of my favourites btw), to the Brendan years, to the glorious Klopp reign. I am undoubtedly in the Jurgen camp and will fight anyone opposed. He has been our best manager ever period, forget Shankly or whoever it was before my time. Klopp is the best in the world (pep) aside and any club would love to have him.

The point of this email was to say life is short and to enjoy it while it lasts. Diego Simeone is undergoing a similar period at Athleti and he is one of their greatest coaches of all time. Sh*t happens, life happens. Head down, continue to work and the world will be magic soon.

To the best in my lifetime.
Rohit, LFC, Abu Dhabi


Great Scott
Just reading your rankings of all 26 managers to date in the Premier League, and as per many articles that have come before it’s left me wondering why F365 have such an agenda against Scott Parker? I only assume it’s intellectual snobbery because his grammar isn’t up to scratch, or because he’s revered by the PFMs.

But honestly, do you think he’s had a shocker at Bournemouth? He won the opener vs Villa, a good result ahead of 3 very tough fixtures which led to his sacking – whether this was for football reasons or not. Even so, plenty of managers have tried the plea for more signings before him, it’s not an unreasonable request.

Looking at what O’Neil has done since, he’s had 2 wins vs Forest and Leicester – both bottom at the time of the results. Was this beyond what Parker would have achieved given he beat the only team he played where Bournemouth were expected to get a result? They’ve had an easy run all things considered since Parker’s dismissal with the exception of spurs against who they capitulated and Newcastle, who at the time of the game were in a miserable run of draws against average teams. He’s also had 2 promotions in 2 seasons in the Championship – a very good record. With hindsight he should have got Bournemouth up with the squad he had, but plenty of clubs of such expectations before have failed. Look where WBA are now as an example.

Would just like to see some less bias reporting, when F365 have it in for someone they are relentless.


Correcting the record
I’m sorry but the ill-informed pathetic rant supposedly comparing Liverpool and City, from ‘Dave’, requires correction.

THIS time, however, I’m not mentioning Liverpool (!)

However, here we go, elsewhere…

City don’t buy to develop? Huh? Dave, did you not see the sheer amount of youth players that we developed and sold, last summer? Southampton provided us with around £40m for the likes of Gavin Bazunu (from Shamrock Rovers), Romeo Lavia (Anderlecht), Sam Edozie (Millwall) and Juan Larios (Barcelona). City have an excellent Academy system containing local lads (80% of our youth hail from Greater Manchester) that joined from a young age and youngsters from around the world, as do most other Academies. I’m not saying we’re the only ones doing but we are pretty good at it. You say “Man City don’t go shopping at Leicester to get Iheanacho”, no, yer clown, we SOLD Inheacho to Leicester for £25m after he came through from Nigeria!

So, an assertion that so wide of the mark, it’s unbelievable that any contributor to the esteemed Mailbox, wouldn’t know the truth.

You carry on with the deceit stating we just buy and buy players. We sold 11 players in the summer and another 5 were allowed to leave on a full time basis, we bought 5 players to replace them. So, 16 leave (not including those on loan) and 5 join. If you can do the maths, that means that City are actually 11 players down on the full squad. As a result of the sales, we pulled in £180m, we spent £119.2m. Again, do the maths, if you can. It’s common knowledge that City actually have one of the smallest first team squads in the Premier League.

As for players you don’t recognise, now, you’re actually making me wonder if you’re actively trying to stir the pot because all the recent bickering between City fans and Liverpool fans (in the main) has subsided, recently, and you want to kick it all off again.

Etihad do not spend £300m a year on sponsoring City, it is £67.5m a year.

City do NOT have a half empty stadium, our capacity is currently 53,500 and the average matchday attendance is 52,739 a difference of 761 which is often explained by the gaps in the away support. City have planning permission to increase the ground capacity to over 60,000 and are currently formulating the plans to get started. Would they do this if the permanent gaps you say existed, actually did? No, of course not. I’m not saying that there isn’t an empty occasional seat but why don’t you watch MOTD and count all the empty seats I see, EVERY WEEK, at the other featured grounds? Fake news, ‘Dave’.

Now, I’m not saying all this to provoke another round of tedious bickering but to put right, the Trumpian statements that some Mailbox contributors like to pretend are truths. City are not perfect, no Club is. Every fan of other clubs could point to where their own club has dropped needless bollocks but this endless rehashing of falsehoods and downright lies always requires addressing.

Just trying to help (as ever)
Levenshulme Blue, Manchester 19
PS, I’m really not trying to provoke arguments, I just don’t like bullsh*tters.

Kieran Tierney celebrates after scoring for Arsenal against FC Zurich in the Europa League

Hold on there, Icarus
Tom (definitely not Hardy), has claimed Arsenal shouldn’t be afraid to “dream a little bigger”.

I fully agree, I think Arsenal have a very good setup right now, a clear priority on sensible signings *which includes* not overspending on wages. Buuuuut

He mentions how Auba and Ozil were both on 350K wages in the Europa as a sign of how Arsenal *should* spend, and not for what it is. A clear example of how Arsenal, and other clubs, shouldn’t offer players these massive, bumper wages. Taking a look at both, one is currently at their London Rivals after being axed as both a captain, and a player for being a general nuisance, the other is now in Turkey with a grand total of 66 minutes per season.

Interestingly, he also mentions *another* great counterpoint, mentioning Barcelona as another club to overtake. They also, alike Icarus, did not fail to “dream a little bigger”, offering similar egregious wages. A quick check of Barcelona’s 2019 wages, before begging every player to take wage cuts, Frankie De Jong was on 360K/w, Suarez 400K/w, Messi 1.2M/w, Griezmann 340K etc etc etc. And look at em now. They sold their best long term assets for a short term financial gain which got them into the, uh, Europa League.

Arsenal have a great thing going on, they have a sensible transfer plan which includes not overspending on wages. Let them not imitate Icarus, Barcelona, and many teams before them, and fly too close to the sun


To dare is to do
I wrote in last week saying how we (Spurs) fans can be right about two relatively opposing thoughts; yes, we’re doing far better under Conte than previously, but the football is dull and luck is heavily required to maintain the form. It’s fair to question some decisions made (Emerson playing, Sanchez playing, lack of subs, making changes late in the game) but also appreciate that, largely, the results are positive.

That isn’t really what Graham is asking though; so in theory yes, I would love to see us play the way we did under Harry and to an extent, and certainly for one incredible season, under Pochettino but we simply don’t have the required standard of player to do that. Our wing backs are average, we have no Eriksen and no Dembele like players. Our centre half’s are nothing like the standard of Vertonghen and Alderweireld. Until there are significant upgrades, especially as wing back, we’re not going to flourish aesthetically.

Spence and Udogie might well change all that next season mind you.


No love for Lucas Moura
He’s quite inept as a player, one rather famous game notwithstanding, constantly running down blind alleys and ignoring passing options. His footballing IQ is in the single digits. He’s also a f*cking vile homophobic bigot with views that belong on the Mayflower, and a vocal supporter of a hate-filled fascist. But yeah, he tracks back and has a good leap, and he says coys a lot. It really depends what you’re looking for in a player. Personally, I prefer mine to not be c*nts.

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