THE WAY I SEE IT #19 : By Darren Murphy

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SCOTTISH football isn’t exactly setting the word alight at the moment. In fact even the most patriotic fans among us are finding it hard to show any kind of enthusiasm towards the Scottish game. Celtic’s win against Barcelona last week was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air, beating arguably one of the world’s greatest ever teams is a tremendous achievement. However, there is no denying Scottish football is in an era of deep despair.

The national team are currently 70th in FIFA’s world rankings, with some of the teams above us including Panama, Sierra Leone and the Cape Verde Islands. With all due respect to these nations, it shows just how bad Scotland have become. Craig Brown could be elevated to god-like status in Alba soon, I mean let’s face the facts: he was the last man to guide Scotland to a major finals in 1998. A while ago now, I know!

It was bonfire night recently and on the same day our most recent national manager was fired from his post, like a rocket into the sky above Hampden, giving Guy Fawkes a reprieve for this year at least!

Scotland now sit bottom of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group, managerless and without any realistic chance of making it to the finals in Brazil. And in terms of appointing a new manager, the search may not yield the right man as the Scotland job is seen as a last resort by many in the game. You’ve got to agree, though, who the hell would want the job? Apart from Bertie Vogts, maybe, remember him?

It’s not only our national team that are facing up to harsh times, though. A large number of Scottish clubs are living in constant fear of crippling financial problems. But it’s hardly surprising, given that the majority of clubs are struggling to even half fill their stadia. That’s not the only financial problem, though, as clubs have committed financial suicide on several occasions by purchasing players for ridiculous fees and paying large wage bills they simply couldn’t sustain. The demise of Rangers, the joint biggest club in Scotland, proved no club is safe in the current climate. Now Hearts are faced with a tax bill which threatens their survival. Make no mistake, this is a sign of things to come. If the SPL and SFL don’t work together to restore Scottish football, the problem will become terminal and we will all witness our national game’s slow, painful death.

With these problems in mind it makes it even worse to think that the game in Scotland is losing its fun, as it seems it’s not just the serious aspects of the game that need rectified. No, even the fun and humour of the Scottish game is evaporating. It emerged this week that Hibernian have sacked their stadium announcer for playing the Beatles track, Taxman, at the half-time interval of last weekend’s match against Dundee United. It was a mocking gesture directed at arch rivals Hearts and their unpaid tax bill. Essentially, it was a bit of banter. But the Hibs hierarchy obviously didn’t see it that way. Football and banter go hand in hand, it’s part of the fun which surrounds the game. Surely adding a little humour at half-time to liven up the fans that are still attending the games is not an offence worthy of losing your job over?

Even Hearts players and supporters have defended former Real Radio DJ Willie Docherty, who is said to be gutted at losing his dream job, having been a lifetime Hibs supporter and Leith born and bred. The beautiful game seems to be turning ugly. Had Willie played this song during the Edinburgh derby, then maybe there would have been a case for having him hauled over the coals. But the thing is it was a joke, a bit of banter, mickey-taking, leg-pulling or whatever you want to call it. The Scots are famous for their friendliness and humour, but it appears that banter is now banned in Scottish football circles. There shall be no jokes about football. And that’s that. The irony is, though, that it’s Scottish football that’s fast becoming the joke.