Last updated : 31 May 2002 By Little Boy Blue

The big will-they?/won't-they? debate about the Old Firm heading for England is set to run and run. No sooner does one mouthpiece from Scotland, England or further afield kick the idea into touch than another proclaims that the big flitting could still be on. This story just won't lie down and look out for it being revived by every 'in-the-know' Scribe who might be struggling to fill his column inches on a quiet day.

But anyone with the common sense to step back from this emotive issue for just a few minutes will see that, in terms of being practical, the move is still on, although not I suspect until a required term of notice (two years?) has been fulfilled. Furthermore, the harsh financial facts of life will ensure that it WILL happen...and those small-minded enough to stand in the way purely to protect their own little power bases had better make sure they have a good lawyer.

Some of the recent words of wisdom which claim to have killed off the possibility of the switch don't even require to be looked at too closely to be dismissed as mere hot air. But c'mon, this is the silly season so lets put them under the microscope.

SFA chief David Taylor got the Hack Pack together on their wee jaunt to the Far East and rattled out that tired old story about FIFA using our move to England as a golden opportunity to force the four home associations to merge into one body. And old Sepp Blatter joined in to point out that FIFA insisted that clubs play within their own national borders.

Taylor's whine was clearly the response of a man who had visions of his cushy wee number being somewhat diluted by any move towards a British Association. I write this on the eve of the World Cup and, depending on how England do, I have more than a little suspicion that some may come to recognise that a Great Britain team might be more inclined to score success on the big stage than that currently being enjoyed, or should I say endured. And if the FA in England see the entry of the Old Firm to their set-up as a way of strengthening their hand, it will be 'come on down' time.

The nonsense from Blatter about clubs playing within their own borders is just laughable. Berwick Rangers have played in Scotland since way back when without the slightest complaint from anyone and, more significantly, the presence of Wrexham, Swansea and Cardiff City in English football has sparked a zero response. Nor do I hear anyone talking about scrapping the Welsh national team. Similarly, Northern Ireland's Derry City have been allowed (encouraged even!!!) to ply their trade among the bogtrotters in the South. No outcry from either side of the border and both associations continue to operate separately without any enforced amalgamation, Sinn Fein's influence carrying no weight in FIFA circles.

Not so very long ago, the FA Premiership clubs were reported to have voted 20-0 against any move to accept the Old Firm. While the margin of the vote was something of a surprise - I would have thought the top clubs would be able to recognise our ambition and see spin-off benefits for themselves - the outcome caused no lack of sleep in Little Boy Blueville. With the exception of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Man U, Leeds and Newcastle, every other club would see the arrival of Rangers and the Other Mob as a threat to their future in the top league so there was never the slightest chance they would vote for such a prospect.

However, with so many ambitious set-ups in the Nationwide First Division, I believe Premiership 2 is not too far away and the collapse of ITV Digital and the damage to the finances of a host of clubs can only turn the possibility into probability and, hopefully sooner rather than later, into reality. By all accounts, the most likely scenario has been Old Firm entry to the Nationwide League but clubs in the Second and Third Divisions are sure to react indignantly to what they see as queue-jumping and could stall the process for several years.

So the Old Firm must look at the big picture pragmatically and, assuming they agree that Premiership 2 is very much on, clubs in this area must be lobbied constantly, reminded of their current financial plight and enlightened about how much better things could be. Mapping out a time schedule is difficult but, depending on how the money men respond to the struggles of clubs like Bradford City, I would not be surprised if a degree of urgency entered the tone of the debate. We could serve notice of our intention to quit the SPL now and, while working two years notice at home, embark upon a massive behind-the-scenes campaign to win over any resisting voices South of the border.

Make no mistake about it, the outcome of this entire debate will be decided by hard-nosed finance. The bigger English clubs have already grown apart from so many others and, with the possible exception of Man City, Everton, maybe Sunderland, Middlesbrough and one or two Midlands outfits, the gap will not be closed. The big boys don't enjoy subsidising the rest and in the cold light of day they will see so much more to be earned with the injection of fresh blood in the shape of the Old Firm.

And the same clubs who voted 20-0 against accepting us seem to forget that back in 1986, when David Holmes and Graeme Souness made Ibrox the only place to be, the English clubs were crying out for a piece of the action. Remember, the post-Heysel ban from European competition was still in operation and seldom did a day pass with one England star or another being linked with a move to Rangers. As the pain of seeing men like Woods, Butcher, Roberts, Francis, Wilkins, Walters, Stevens, Steven and Hateley heading for The Brox began to bite, there were several English moves to get a British Cup competition off the ground.

Unfortunately, Scottish football was then the domain of the Farrymeister and he was quick to put down such proposals, spouting out all sorts of nonsense about Scottish football having now wish to be associated with the problems of another country. But any fool could see that it was only a matter of time before England would get its house in order. Margaret Thatcher's threat of imposing a membership scheme on football was a wake-up call and, with new young men making their presence felt in the boardrooms at the top clubs, change was inevitable.

I excuse David Holmes and David Murray of any blame for not projecting Rangers' cause more forcibly as, initially, they were in new surroundings and would be reluctant to rock the boat. But in Campbell Ogilvie our club has a very capable and experienced admininstrator and I believe he could have made a case for a more receptive response to the British Cup proposals, even taking Farry to task if necessary.

The subsequent emergence of the Champions League bypassed any interest in a British competition but the strength of the English clubs in Europe today, compared to where they stood when we saw off Leeds ten years ago, only underlines the mistake we made. We turned away in their hour of need when they asked for our help so their reluctance to welcome us with open arms when we want to move on to bigger and better things can hardly be called unreasonable. But change is in the wind, finance will be the driving force and the ITV Digital collapse could hasten the day. Neither Rangers nor the Mhankies can afford to let the opportunity slip again.

Of course, there will be an outcry when the inevitability of it all comes home to roost and there will be countless threats of legal action from all sorts of sources. But they too will only emphasise the futility of resistance to change. Any attempt to prevent the Old Firm from moving into a more lucrative environment would be a blatant restriction of trade, limiting the clubs' ability to fulfill their obligations to their shareholders and, as we all know now, European lawtakes a rather dim view of that sort of nonsense. Thank you Monsieur Bosman!!!

All the arguments against playing in England are based on silly little regulations which were drawn up by self-serving pen-pushers with their own insignificant wee turfs to protect. Top level football in the modern world does not operate in such small-minded circles. There is a lot of dosh moving around in the game and the ability of Rangers and Septic to add to the generation of further revenue, and to benefit from their contribution, will prevail.

It won't happen overnight but IT WILL HAPPEN...and sooner than a lot of short-sighted 'experts' may think.