My article on Fortune's decision to join Celtic seems to have rattled a few tartan cages. The article was not actually about Celtic but the hornet's nest seems to have been stirred by the following:
"Fortune, it seems, prefers the idea of playing in the Scottish Prem. It doesn't seem to worry him that the quality of football is only marginally above what you would find with jumpers chucked down to indicate goal posts, cash strapped Celtic are preferable to West Ham."
Now jumpy Jocks have read that as a comparison between West Ham and Celtic, which of course it is not. Lots of irate comments have, quite rightly, pointed out that Celtic are a far bigger club than we are and have flaunted Champions League participation as proof that the Hoops are cocks of the estate. I am not denying that and never have. Celtic are a much bigger and much more successful club than West Ham, but that has nothing to do with whether Fortune made the right or wrong decision to opt for Scottish huff and puff over the Hammers. Celtic are a bigger club because if you allow two boys to have free run of a sweet shop, they will inevitably grow very fat. And they are in the Champions League (which qualifying round this year?) because they are in a two horse race every season, and both horses qualify for a shot at the Champions League. Celtic's big boast this year is, "We finished last in the two horse race!" Big deal!
However, some of the replies have made some valid and interesting points. How would English clubs of the stature of West Ham, Tottenham, Villa and Everton fare in other European leagues? The performance of English clubs in the UEFA Cup seem to suggest that our sides might struggle in the German, Spanish, Italian or Ukrainian leagues but that, I would argue, is down to two factors:
1) Unlike the representatives of the other leagues, our top 4 always progress in the Champions League and so our fifth, sixth and seventh best clubs are pitched against the second, third or fourth best clubs from other leagues in the UEFA Cup. That's why we find Portsmouth playing A C Milan! And
2) Our clubs treat the UEFA Cup with what borders on complete disdain - Tottenham, Villa, Bolton and Everton have fielded near reserve teams for key games in the last two seasons.
I do not know enough about European Club football to say how West Ham might cope in other leagues but when I watched Inter play Roma and Fiorentina play Brecia a few seasons back, I was none too impressed by what I saw. True Fiorentina and Brescia were at the wrong end of the table, but the ground was a shabby concrete bowl and the football was not much better. On the evidence of my own eyes, I would back West Ham to finish in the top ten in Italy and therefore in the top half in Spain and Germany too. As for the SPL, we would definitely qualify for Europe!
And what would happen if Celtic, Rangers and Hearts transferred to the Prem? Well, as Newcastle showed, a big fan base and a team packed with highly paid foreigners does not guarantee success in the Prem. Yes, Celtic and Rangers can raise their games for contests with each other and a few home games in the Champions League, but could that intensity be maintained for a whole season? I very much doubt it. They would be no threat to our big four, that's for sure, and I think they would struggle to head the group of clubs aspiring to finish in the Europa League qualifying places.
Over time, of course, that situation could change as the Glasgow giants fed upon the cash cow of the Prem, but would that offset the loss of Champions League revenue? Probably not - and that is why, I suspect, that they are happy being the bullies in the SPL playground. And that is why Fortune has opted for Celtic over the Premiership. Playing against SPL defences, he can't help but fill his boots can he?