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Football’s back so strap in for the mother of bumpy rides

Expect more drama on and off the park as the new season gets under way.

Football’s back so strap in for the mother of bumpy rides SNS Group

Yes, Scottish football is back and the new term looks set to scale unmatched heights in hysteria, irrationality and stock-in-trade conspiracy theories.

I was about to say I have missed it all but the manner of last season’s conclusion was just so soap operatic that it boomed in a voice that made Pavarotti sound wimpish.

Conspiracies flew about the probity of the SPFL leadership. Clubs split on how best to call the season as self-interest ruled and ultimately drove the end game.

Those who asserted their actions only had the interest of the broader game at heart managed to climb onto the moral high ground without blushing.

Rangers promised to go for the jugular on the issue of the SPFL’s hierarchy and governance procedures, only to retreat in a manner that had them going to war while suing for peace when their guns didn’t quite smoke.

The last word on the fallout from season 2019-20 went to Ann Budge of Hearts. If statements could spit, Monday’s offering was delivered with the force of a hydraulic hose as she monstered the governing body over the enforced relegation of her club.

When it comes to football in Scotland the quest for conspiracies, the desire to impugn motive and the general proclivity to search for chaos is a series of journeys without end.

My own tuppence worth is that the SPFL made a mess of bringing last season to a close at a cost to the reputation of the organisation and its key personnel.

The tortured process involving a club changing its vote was ham-fisted but not illegal.

It was not driven by conspiracy or guided by unseen hands but was born out of an attempt at the impossible: to conclude the season in a way that all could sign up to.

A fall-out rooted in recrimination and fury turbo-charged by the paranoia on fans’ forums was inevitable.

Nothing would have prevented that since football is ultimately about winners and losers, only the losers in this saga were condemned by a pandemic off the park and not wholly by their shortcomings on it.

That this was unfair on Hearts, Partick Thistle and Stranraer is beyond debate. It is a simple fact that process not points undid their survival.

Had the season been declared null and void, the identity of the aggrieved clubs would have changed, but a sense of unfairness would still have prevailed and the conspiracies proffered would have been recast.

Against this backdrop there is palpable anger, but of course it will not be vented in the form of angry chants or misspelt slogans on bed sheets for there will be no spectators in grounds this weekend.

The one key issue (whisper it) that is bigger than who wins and loses in the next ten months is whether the game can survive in its current form or whether enforced ground closures and the chaos brought by any second spike in the virus sends clubs to the football equivalent of the wailing wall.

For as long as I have watched the game there have been predictions of clubs going under. Resilience brought on by devotion to teams that mean so much and help galvanise communities always manages to transcend the death sentence of financial reality. Long may that trend continue.

Celtic are trying to mop up the unfinished business of a quadruple treble whilst seeking their tenth consecutive league title. At all costs it has to be stopped if you are not of a green and white persuasion.

That dynamic will be the only real backdrop for most of the comment and analysis in the mainstream media, or ‘MSM’ as it is disparagingly referred to in the angry world of social media.

Perspective, that oxymoron when it comes to football, will be in even shorter supply. The tortuous puns of the tabloids and their general desire to see everything as a war will lead to more lowest common denominator analysis as some writers try to outdo one another in the ambition to be most hated.

But it’s only a game after all and by that I mean the national argument played out in phone-ins were tribalism and an occasional nod to rationality will demote you since these programmes are the preserve, in the main, of warriors and the wholly irrational.

I have heard many a person say, if there was no such thing as football this country would be a better place. When the game becomes a conduit for disorder, bitterness and much worse, then that is true.

Thankfully, it’s not all about the bad stuff. It brings highs and lows, good times and bad and helps shape weekends and catalyses great nights out.

I am tempted to say, remember everyone, it IS only a game. As I write it I realise that the view will fall on deaf ears since it invites a temperate response to a sport governed by the primacy of emotion.

So, forget that view and enjoy the ride, but strap yourselves in for it could be a season like no other.

As Sir Alex once said, ‘squeeky bum time’.