Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Scottish Football: Big Clubs, by the numbers

Celtic just won their 100th major trophy by picking up this year's Scottish League Cup. I was surprised the number was so low. Let's ignore the European trophies for the rest of this post (only 1 of the 100 falls into that category). Every year, there are three major trophies in Scottish football -- the league, the Cup and the League Cup -- I figured Celtic would have averaged about one a year over their history, which stretches back well over a hundred years.

My primary error appears to have been forgetting that the Scottish League Cup only dates back to the 1940s. That got me thinking, how does my trophies/year guess look for Celtic in the post-war years? And what is the rate for other clubs?

One of the amazing things about Scottish football is the long history, and the fact that Rangers and Celtic have dominated it for pretty much the entire time. On the other hand, if you look at the full sweep of history, you see weird things like the fact that Queen's Park is tied for 5th on the list of major trophies, despite not having won anything since 1893. So let's call the post-war years the modern era.

There have been 71 League Cups, as well as 70 each of top-flight titles and Scottish Cups since the War. All together 211 trophies on offer. Rangers picked up 80, Celtic 65 and everyone else 66.

So a trophy per year is pretty close for Celtic, and only a bit low for Rangers. A trophy a year is also pretty close for the category of everyone else. Breaking down the "other" category further, Aberdeen has 17 trophies, Hearts 10, and Hibs 7. So the totals are 38% Rangers, 31% Celtic, 16% Next Three, 15% Small Clubs.

I'm going to use these stats to bolster my contention that the five biggest sides in Scotland are the ones with the resources to pull Scottish fortunes up in Europe. With Celtic not going any further in European play this year, I'm keeping my eye on who Scotland sends next year. The top four on the table look pretty good now, but a weird victor in the Scottish Cup could mean a lesser club competes. Of the big five, the two Edinburgh clubs are probably the least promising right now. Hibs is still second-tier, and though they look to pull themselves up, their experience this year with Europa League play doesn't bode well if they repeat as Cup champions. Hearts seems to be a solidly-run club, but part of that is that they are investing in their stadium rather than chasing players. Also, their manager may be lured away.

So I think we can say that in order to make a push, Scotland needs to send its big two clubs to Europe, and it would really help if one of the other was Aberdeen.

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