The victory by Hamilton Academicals on penalties in the Scottish Premier League relegation playoff match may have gone relatively unnoticed in some quarters. Yet by overturning a 2-0 home defeat from the first leg and then winning 2-0 during 90 minutes in the return fixture, they condemned opponents Hibernian to Scottish Championship football for next season by virtue of their ensuing penalty shoot-out victory. Edinburgh is no longer home to any Scottish Premiership.
At a time when Glasgow Rangers are attempting a rapid promotion through the Scotland football pyramid following their demotion to the third tier, their city neighbours Celtic are experiencing a lack of real competition at the head of the Premier League. With Edinburgh enjoying its status as capital city of Scotland, it should have been expected that a challenge to the champions could have been mounted by the city’s two strongest teams, Hearts and Hibernian.
Unfortunately, in the case of Hearts, a 15 point deduction at the start of the season, arising mainly from a series of financial malpractices by their previous owner Vladimir Romanov, has not helped their cause. With a resulting transfer embargo and several players seeking employment elsewhere, it was no surprise that their relegation from the Premiership was confirmed in early April.
Hibernian could offer no similar excuses. Recent history on the playing hasn’t been kind to Hibs especially when losing successive Scottish Cup Finals by a 5-1 scoreline to Hearts and then a 3-0 defeat by Celtic. Even worse was a 10-0 aggregate defeat by Malmo in the Europa Cup, which included a 7-0 home loss. The mid-season departure of manager Pat Fenlon was inevitable.
Fenlon was replaced by Terry Butcher in November 2013 and the former England captain was expected to revive the fortunes of Hibernian by replicating his previously success stint at Inverness CT. By this stage, Hibs were a lower mid-table team with dreams of climbing the Premiership.
Instead of a revival at the Edinburgh club, Fortunes ebbed and Butcher presided over a sequence of 13 matches without victory at the culmination of the campaign to finish in 11th position and faced a two legged match to avoid the ignominy of relegation. Championship team Hamilton finished second in their league and duly defeated Hibernian.
So for next season, the two major teams of Edinburgh will be playing second tier football and they will be joined in that league by Rangers who have experienced two successive promotions. All of which gives the Scottish Championship a rather strange but very competitive appearance for next season.
Football in Scotland has experienced some unexpected developments in recent times although the recent success of St Johnstone in winning their first ever Scottish Cup is to be applauded. When now assessing the demise of the capital’s two primary clubs, not only does it demean a city the size of Edinburgh but it contrasts markedly with the experiences of the two main teams from the Spanish capital Madrid.
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