In the pub last Sunday, an English friend told the tale of his teenage journey to the Edinburgh Festival, hitchhiking up from the Midlands to sleep rough in Princes Street Gardens. He was woken from his newspaper-wrapped slumber not by a rapist, a mugger, or the Lothian police, but by a friendly Scotsman handing him a cup of hot tea for breakfast.
Spurs came to Scotland’s capital last week and the hospitality proved every bit as warm today as it was back in the 80’s. In the time it would have taken to brew that breakfast cuppa, the Londoners were two goals to the good. This time there was jam and scones, too, coming in the form of three more Gorgie Road goals for the visitors.
By all accounts, Hearts were obliterated, though Harry Redknapp was generous in victory. “It is difficult for Scottish teams because resources are so much different,’’ he said. “When you look at wages and transfer fees, there has to be a gulf. The big gulf is plain for everyone to see.” Never more so than last Thursday.
On the west coast, the Old Firm haven’t done so badly against English opposition in recent years: a single penalty was all that separated Rangers and Man U in the Champions League group last season, while the Red Devils needed a late Giggs goal to rescue a draw at Parkhead in 2008. So maybe this result is just a bad day for a new manager with the wrong tactics against a talented team? After all, Spurs scored seven in two games against European champions Internazionale less than a year ago.
But this can’t be ignored as a one-off. The structural differences that Redknapp alludes to are enormous.
Spurs are one of the tighter-fisted big clubs in England, and Hearts have run up enormous losses in recent years. Yet the White Hart Lane wage bill of £67m is more than seven times what Hearts spend, and the Jambo payroll is unsustainable. Again looking to Glasgow, the combined wage outlay at Parkhead and Ibrox is less than what Spurs pay their squad – and a mere quarter of what’s spent by the Manchester clubs.
The cash available to the EPL through gigantic TV deals has destroyed the ability of Scottish clubs to compete. Scotland’s club teams will forever be also-rans. Results like this – pumpings of Scottish teams by our southern neighbours – are going to become more frequent, even for the Old Firm. The evidence is already there in pre-season friendlies: in recent years Rangers have lost 4-0, 3-0, and 3-1 to Liverpool, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Celtic have done a little better, falling 3-1 to Man U and 3-2 to Arsenal (after being 3-0 down).
What are our options? Well, “Wattenacio” is one – play 4-5-1, defend desperately, hope for a lucky break. The other, more optimistic, scenario is that Scotland can once again start turning out quality young players to make an impact before they are stolen south.
The Spurs manager had some thoughts here too. “When I played, every great club had great players from Scotland in it, but it has changed an awful lot. There are not so many great Scottish players around.”
There aren’t many great English players around either, Harry, but at least you’ve got the cash to buy some foreign ones.
Hearts vs Tottenham (0-5)