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PRESSLEY SPELLS OUT WHY OLD FIRM ARE SO IMPORTANT

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FORMER Scotland international captain Steven Pressley insists a 14-team Premiership can only work for one season – and should then be SCRAPPED.

The ex-Rangers, Hearts and Celtic centre-back is adamant there will be too many meaningless games in the long term.

Pressley, who spent eight years at Tynecastle before he was snapped up for the Hoops by Gordon Strachan in 2006, has taken an in-depth look at the potential plans to alter the current set-up.

The 46-year-old much-travelled former manager, who left Carlisle during the season, has had spells in the dug-out at Falkirk, Coventry City, Fleetwood Town and Cypriot outfit Pafos.

Looking at the future for the top flight, Pressley, speaking to the Daily Record, said: “I think there is a big problem with trying to do it on a long-term basis.
“As far as reconstruction goes, the game in Scotland and the Sky TV deal is governed by the fact you need four Old Firm games.

“That will always be the starting point for any reconstruction if you want TV revenue to support the clubs. If you want that you have to have those four matches.

“So, if you start trying to find a system that allows that TV money to come into the game and for it to work the reality is that the 12-team league is the best format.

“You get the 33 games before the split and then, once you split, you only have five matches to go.

“So, for example, the team that is seventh at the split and really has nothing to play for, they only have five games to go until the season is over.

“But if you increase the league to 14 teams that can change to 14 meaningless matches.

“People may say there are benefits in terms of breeding young players and giving them a chance. I see that, but the supporters who go every week want to go for a reason and even as players we want to be fighting for something.

“The biggest problem for me is too many matches could count for nothing in a bottom eight.

“You can’t play three times each before the split because that is 39 games which is far too many so it needs to be split after two. That leaves you with 26 games before the split.

“Of course, it can’t be split seven and seven as you don’t have equal teams to play games so it’d need to be a bottom eight and that means those 14 matches remaining.

“You might have a team who finishes seventh when the league breaks apart has 14 matches with little to play for. That’s too many.”

Pressley reckons having three teams relegated from the Premiership next term and just one promoted from the Championship to restore the 12-team top flight would add extra spice to the bottom-half games post-split.

He added: “A top 14 can’t work long term. But for one season it could just to make sure no-one gets unfairly punished.

“Within that system, they could be talking about relegating three teams to get the league back to 12 and that would make the bottom area of the table competitive.

“In normal circumstances, relegating three from 14 is too many, but it can happen for one season just to accommodate an unprecedented situation around the world.

“It’s unfair Hearts would be relegated. Everyone is going to have to make a couple of sacrifices and accept for one year it’s not ideal.

“The 12-team league is the best way to go about it long term.

“You can only reconstruct Scottish football and go with a bigger top flight if you do not need the TV money and can do without the four Old Firm games – but that’s not feasible.”

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Editor

Acclaimed author Alex Gordon wrote the biography of Scotland international legend Denis Law, entitled 'King and Country'. He is a former columnist with World Soccer magazine and Scottish correspondent of respected European journal L'Equipe.

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