Originally written for The Red Final. Four Years Ago. Re-hashed to Suit the Same Current Climate.
1985, MCMLXXXV, the 985th year of the second millennium and the year the top division last found its way to the Pittodrie trophy cabinet which in turn is the last time the trophy has found a home for itself out with Glasgow. Let’s face the facts as we are now into 2020, we are approaching the thirty-five-year mark of the last time the Scottish topflight trophy made its way out of Glasgow and it won’t again this season. The time elapsed is an excessively long period and embarrassing, there is no getting away from it, in fact it is pretty fucking soul destroying in all honesty. Your dear writer was only 6 months old when Willie Miller lifted the premier league for the last time. In this epoch the Scottish topflight football has had six different sponsors and periods of no sponsorship (I shake my head). The league has worked in four different formats and twenty-three different clubs have plied their trade (four of which have since drawn their last breath ) Unfortunately one thing that hasn’t changed is the fact the same two sets of slimy paws have had their evil grasp on the trophy 100% of the time meaning the trophy has been held hostage in Glasgow.
Yes, this disheartening statistic grips my proverbial waste matter, but it has also got me thinking. Surely in the same period of time no other top flight league has been dominated to such an extent by two clubs or even a city for that matter. Has there? Is there any league where there are so many other also rans like Aberdeen have to grudgingly accept year in year out before a ball is kicked? The dodos from Edmiston Drive have been extinct for seven and a half seasons now. Their hilarious, just and fair dissolution gave us a flicker of hope, as slight as it was it was possible that maybe just maybe Celtic could be caught? Maybe the big-name players would not fancy the one-horse race? Maybe their concentration over a season might lapse? Maybe the unwashed masses would stay away due to the obituary of the sons of darkness being written? Unfortunately, and completely predictably the challenge has not been there, and Celtic have scooshed the league by 16, 29, 17, 24, 13, 11 and 9 points. The Ronnie Deila days were a real opportunity, but Aberdeen’s hopes were dashed by poor goalkeeping at Parkhead. That result knocked the proverbial stuffing out of the Dons. This coupled with a lack of testicular fortitude by the manager leaving the Norwegian fister to net a league double in his time. But when all is said and done the vital and upsetting part is the trophy still hasn’t made it out of Glasgow. This season some ill-informed fantasists will tell you that the “status quo” has been recommenced with the league heading towards a two-horse race. Obviously, a lot of us know better. Yes, this season is a two-horse race that part is correct, but its Celtic with seventeen of the last thirty-four league championships and fifty in total against the newest team in Scottish fitba with no topflight titles to their name. But at the end of the day the issue is, the league trophy will end up in one of the same two trophy cabinets that it has for the last thirty-five years (unless the Ibrox trophy room was sold to raise money to pay the face painters). The fact of the matter is it will be heading back to Glasgow for another bloody year. Most likely the East End.
This raises the question, what about other leagues throughout the world? How have they faired. Is there a country where their domestic fitba is effectively as pointless as Scotland’s game has become? Let’s stay close to home to start, Northern Ireland, Linfield are the bastard cousins of Rangers 1872-2012. Despite their history off the pitch, on the pitch can’t be sniffed at as they have the second greatest collection of titles in world football and the most by a functioning club. They are one behind their now deceased Glaswegian family. Fifty-three engravings they have on the Northern Irelands topflight but “just” the seventeen times in the last thirty-four, the trophy has been shared between five clubs, thirty-one times it has stayed in Belfast with Glentoran, Crusaders, Cliftonville and the previously mentioned sixteen visits to Windsor Park. Portadown being the only team to remove the trophy from Belfast in the period. With the top three this season being made up of Linfield, Cliftonville and Crusaders it looks like it will be staying in the capital come May unless Coleraine pull a rabbit out of the hat. Keeping the British theme, what about the, ahem, “greatest league in the world” nine winners spread out geographically being the answer. How about their neighbours in Wales, well they don’t really count as they couldn’t be arsed starting up a league until 92-93 season? Even so they have racked up multiple winners in that time frame. Seven for the record. Since its just over the water the League of Ireland fits nicely in here too as it actually started the year in which the ugly double headed Scottish dominance monster raised its head. Nine clubs have been victorious in the previous thirty-four seasons with Dundalk the foremost the squad on eight and Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers in joint second with five a piece. Eighteen titles have made their way to Dublin since Shamrock Rovers won the inaugural competition.
Further afield? Let’s take Europe’s “bigger” leagues first. Serie A has had seven conquerors and one no award, Juventus lead the pack with fourteen and the title has also been housed in Milan, Genoa and Rome. From Italy to Germany to the Bundesliga with euro heavyweights Bayern Munich, twenty-one for the Bavarians. The second most in Europe since ’85. Another five clubs were named Deutchermeister in the other thirteen years. Over to the border, France is exceptionally competitive considering Lyon won seven in a row between 2002 and 2008 with four under the tutelage of the dead club’s greatest manager Paul Le Guen. The additional twenty-seven were shared between nine clubs and a no award for shenanigans on the south coast. This meaning due to the lack of two team cities the Ligue 1 trophy located itself in ten cities. Now for Spain which is often referred to as a two horse race and quite rightly so due to the fact it has been won twenty nine times by Real Madrid or Barcelona, but Deportivo la Coruna, Atletico Madrid (two) and Valencia (two) have been crowned “Campeones”, In my favourite fitba country the Netherlands similar stats to Spain apply with Ajax on twelve and PSV with an impressive seventeen and AZ Alkmaar, FC Twente and Feyenoord making up the best of the rest with the other five.
Many teams in Europe have been the central characters in their league and won half or round about half of the thirty-four available. In Greece Olympiakos of Piraeus (part of the Athens urban area) are miles in front with twenty with nearest contenders Panathanaikos on seven and AEK on five. This meaning the league trophy has escaped Athens only twice. In the land of chips, chocolate and beer (why have I never been there?) Anderlecht have amassed sixteen with the trophy being shared out between another six cities away from Brussels. Steaua Bucharest or FCSB as they are now known since the fall out between club and army have sixteen, but Bucharest has been home to the title on a further eight occasions between Rapid and Dinamo. The third most wins in Europe during these thirty-five long hard years has been Porto with the awesome haul of twenty. A special mention also goes out to Sparta Prague who racked up a respectable eighteen but also in ten of the sixteen where they were not crowned top dogs, they were runners up. But when all these teams were being dominant around half of the time, the league trophies were being passed around like joints visiting various trophy cabinets in various cities throughout their respective countries the rest of the time. With the exception of Portugal where it has visited four teams in two cities, Oporto and Lisbon. A praiseworthy club deserving of being highlighted for their tremendous achievements is Rosenberg. This for pissing all over Glasgow’s scum and scummers nine in a row runs. The “Troll Kids” racked up an outstanding thirteen in a row between 1992 and 2004 but more importantly a total of twenty-two celebrations have been had in Trondheim. I look forward to visiting the Lerkendaal for the visit of Odd in November. This being a birthday sojourn for myself and possibly a title party as it’s the last home game of the season. Unbelievably though that thirteen in a row tally up in Norway was trumped by a fourteen in a row. Coincidentally the runs ended in the same season. Step forward the architects of one of Aberdeen’s nights of shame, Skonto Riga. What adds to this impressive achievement is their maiden trophy was in their first season of existence. The now defunct Latvians amassed a tally of fifteen but their fourteen in a row is a world record to this day.
So that was Europe but how about South America which is home to some of the most successful clubs on earth. The mighty River Plate of Argentina another with an impressive trophy haul over the years haven’t really dominated in this period, neither have the other big hitters of Boca Juniors. The league in Argentina is in the “Apertura and Clasura” set up. Names on the league mostly come from Buenos Aires but Newells Old Boys and Rosario Central break the mould by coming from Rosario. Brazil has the same number of winners but are extended out more geographically across seven municipalities. Distributing the silverware around seems to be a generally common theme in South America. Chile has ten names from five cities but again used the split rubbish up until three seasons ago. Colo Colo and Universidad de Chile leading the way on the West Coast of the continent. Bolivia also have ten over multiple cities including the fantastically named The Strongest from La Paz. Peru, who do not use the two league a season split also have multi city, multi winners since ’85. Paraguay is very close to city dominance being two shy of a full Asuncion house of winners. The city of Villa Elisa has two notches as the following season to Aberdeen’s win, Sol Do America nabbed the championship and repeated the feat in 1991. These being their only two triumphs in the club’s history. Heading up a continent, North and Central America offer no input of relevance due to infancy of leagues and the previously mentioned ridiculous Apertura and Clasura set ups which pretty much all Central American leagues adhere to. This set up really is on par in daftness with Scotland’s top league spilt.
With several leagues in the area being under thirty-five years old, Asia/Australasia only have two leagues with any sort of domination although Guangzhou Evergrande are beginning to monopolise the Chinese Super League. Bahrain falls into a similar category as many European leagues with two outfits Al Muharraq and Riffa SC sharing twenty-six with six others making up the other eight years. But again, they trophy has travelled with the two big hitters themselves being from different conurbations. It is the footballing hotbed of Jordan that comes closest to equalling the Scottish dominance on both fronts. Thirty. of thirty-three have been dished out between the countries two biggest clubs Al-Faissaly and Al-Whedat with two heading to Shabab Al Orden and the 1998 season was abandoned with no victor or demotion. This meaning all three winners were Ammani. Meaning one hundred percent Amman supremacy, but only over thirty-three contests. Al-Whedat must be a top team given they have just beat Aberdeen a couple of weeks ago…….well then again.
Last stop is Africa which has its standout single teams with respectable league tallies, Esperance Tunis of Tunisia are on an awesome twenty-one but again the rest was well shared. Al Ittihad of Libyan capital Tripoli are on thirteen away from that with the trophy has been clocking up the miles around the rest of the nation and included a visit to another gloriously names side, Al-Shat. The team from the capital could maybe have won more if it had not been for one abandoned championship and a further four seasons cancelled. The worlds most decorated team and one half of the most volatile derby in Africa if not the world, Al Ahly of Cairo and their arch nemesis Zamalek won twenty-nine between them with twenty-two and seven respectively. Due to the Arab spring two seasons were not competed in Egypt due to the political unrest. The season of 1989/90 was also left incomplete in preparation for Italy 90. This meaning its highly likely this “break” has stripped away titles from Al Ahly or Zamalek, most likely the former. This robbing the Egyptian Premier of a potential 94% two team Cairo dominance. The two non-Cairo wins were for the Mango Boys of Ismaily SC who snuck in 1990/91 and 2001/02.
So, going back to my original point, is there a topflight league as two sided in world football? The unfortunate obvious answer is no there’s not. But as we have seen there are some leagues not far behind and probably more than most folk would realise. So which nation has the worst two team domination out with Scotland? Let’s take a trip to Yugoslav….no Serbia and Monten……I mean Serbia (might have changed its moniker again by the time you read this). These political changes have meant the league changed formats a few times since 1985 but the Serbs have been trying their hardest to keep up with Scotland’s gruesome twosome and one thing that rarely changed was the two names being scratched on the top trophy pretty much all the time. Between Partizan and Red Star Belgrade (Crvena Zvezda), thirty-two titles were won, Red Star being the more successful team throughout history won fourteen but Partizan really found their form in this period and managed a an impressive eighteen. Obilic and Vojvodina being the only two non-Belgrade black marks imprinted into the trophy. This meaning pretty much 94% of league trophies in the same three and a half decades have been by Belgrade’s big two. If it was not for the Arab Spring, I am sure Egypt would be equal with Serbia. In fact, I would bet my house “Nadi El Qarn” the club of the century Al Ahly would have won them all.
City wise Glasgow is not the worst believe it or not. In the Uruguayan Primera division Montevideo is worse. Due to a change of playing times during the year in the mid-00s it is even more dominated. This because there have been more titles played for. Due to the change of playing months it has meant there have been thirty-five completed as opposed to Scotland’s thirty -four since Willie Millers one arm lift in ‘85. Penarol and Nacional have shared 13 a piece, Defensor Sporting, Danubio, Progresso and Bela Vista all have engravings too and all hailing from Uruguay’s capital. But more incredibly going off on a slight tangent since the leagues formation the trophy has never left Montevideo ever. The league was founded in 1900, the maiden championship was collected by CURCC (Central Uruguay Railway Cricket Club) the team who transformed into to Penarol. With the Aurinegros becoming the present third most successful league team ever on forty-one (second most still functioning team). Other champions out with the six to win since the mid-80s were the now defunct River Plate, Montevideo Wanderers, Rampla Juniors and Central Espanyol. Whom all hail from…you guessed it Montevideo. Ten winners in one hundred and nineteen years. All from the same city, at least the eleven to win the Scottish league in the first one hundred and twenty nine years have been spread between Aberdeen, Dumbarton, Kilmarnock, Edinburgh, Dundee, Motherwell and Glasgow.
So back to home turf, what does the future hold for our league? Can anyone else win it? Can my own beloved Dons win it? I used to have faith someone may win it out with Celtic but for now I think the ten in a row will be in the bag in two summers time. Phoenix r*****s may get their name on it, meaning a new team finally breaks this atrocious tradition. But the Glasgow hoodoo? I cannot see this letting up any time soon. As already stated there have been chances, especially for the Dons during the Ronnie Deila years. Hearts and their incredible sacking of George Burley season, the Dons changing a tried and tested formation in a title decider at Ibrox against the now obsolete r*****s are good examples. My optimism is now diminishing……. but and it’s a small but, while there are teams such Young Boys, Rijeka, Stromgodset, Huachipato, Borac Banja Luka, Delfin, Leicester City throwing curveballs throughout the world then there will always be a smidgeon of hope.