By Rory West (@rorywest96)
With the relegation/promotion Playoffs kicking off around Scotland this week, I thought that I’d throw my worthless opinion into the hat about what has effectively changed the calendar for clubs around the country.
Prior to the playoffs being introduced as part of the new SPFL era, there were many a game across all 4 leagues that meant virtually nothing come the latter stages of the season.
Now, since the addition of the playoffs, there is all sorts of excitement at both ends of the stick. Whether its the battle to escape the relegation playoff spot, or the race to gain a promotion playoff spot. Since it’s introduction there hasn’t been a season were both have been sown up early on.
Take the first year for example, in the Championship it was taken right up until the last day of the season for even the title to be decided (albeit it was partly down to an incredible Hamilton scoreline). The race for 2nd however was crucial in the scheme of promotion as the less games played by Hamilton allowed their advantage over Falkirk who they would beat to face Hibs.
The Hibs side mentioned lost a crucial lose or bust game against Kilmarnock which saw the loser finish in the relegation playoff spot. Hibs would then go on to lose to Hamilton in the playoffs, resulting in relegation. Obviously catastrophic for Hibs and their supporters but the sense of excitement that the playoffs that year created was incredible.
The following year would see the Premiership side prevail and remain in the division but that wasn’t without creating one of the best feuds of the season. Motherwell defeating Rangers 6-1 on aggregate would create one of the moments of the season. Again the element of shock created such excitement and enjoyment from the playoff matches. Also worth mentioning the ties between Rangers and Hibs from that year, sending Rangers through to the final, where the overcame a Hibs side looking sure to return to the top flight at the first attempt versus Rangers looking to complete the clean sweep of consecutive promotions.
Granted the excitement of the playoffs can sometimes be dependent of the sides involved but fortunately there hasn’t been a case as of yet that none of the teams offered competition to the other.
This season offers up, yet again, incredible excitement. The first Championship tie being Morton vs Dundee United offers massive intrigue with the season’s overachievers in Morton versus the United side who many expected to challenge Hibs closer for the title. As I’m writing this United have just won the first leg at Cappielow 2-1, which is massive going into Friday’s tie at Tannadice, especially with United’s home record.
A win would set up a tie with Playoff veterans Falkirk who are always hanging around those positions and will feel that one year will eventually be theirs. Both Falkirk and Dundee United will look at Falkirk’s collapse at Kilmarnock last season were they let a 1-0 first leg lead slip to a 4-1 aggregate defeat, and learn from that with a view towards the final.
Talking of the final, that is another matter that is yet to be settled from the Premiership’s front. With Ross County steering themselves away from the dropzone, it looks as though it will be a battle between Hamilton and Motherwell for who will take up the playoff spot. Neither side have been overly impressive this season and both Championship sides will fancy their chances.
That being said, the number of games played from the Championship sides and the break that the Premiership sides get offer an advantage towards the Premiership side. However a week or so spent sitting on numerous defeats could also work against the Premiership side so it’s a double sided coin.
Either way, there will sure to be much more excitement to be had throughout the playoffs run, in what is the best addition (competition wise) to the Scottish game the governing body has ever made.