Wednesday, February 28, 2024

From titles to tinpottery – rank Scotland’s top 10 clubs

Must read

Ah, the “my club is bigger than your club” debate. Forever football’s equivalent of “my dad is bigger than your dad”.

Tedious, boring and no way judge it properly – or is there?

BBC Scotland has been busy creating its own criteria on what we feel defines a big club, including attendances, major silverware and tinpot moments to knock your team down a peg or two.

But if you think we are getting involved in putting the teams in any kind of order, think again.

That will instead be up to you at the bottom of this page, where you can rank Scotland’s top 10 clubs while we light the fuse and run for cover.

No fighting, please. It’s all a bit of fun…

Average attendances

Falkirk & Dunfermline attendances stat graphic

So what makes a big club? A big stadium to fit a big fanbase certainly helps, so don’t be surprised to see who occupies the top two spots – a common theme for a lot of our criteria – when it comes to average attendances.

Celtic boast the biggest football ground in the country and, as a result, post the largest crowds. They come in at just under 60,000, while Rangers are about 10,000 fewer.

Technically, Championship Queen’s Park play at the nation’s second-biggest football stadium, Hampden. Does that mean they are Scotland’s second-biggest club? That’s a no, especially with an average attendance of under 2,000.

But it’s certainly not easy to generate a large fanbase while being based in Glasgow. Partick Thistle will vouch for that, as will the likes of Motherwell, St Mirren, Airdrieonians and Hamilton, who are all within close proximity.

That’s less of an issue for Scotland’s other city clubs, such as Aberdeen, Hibernian and Hearts, who all boast stadiums of about 20,000-capacity and attract average crowds of over 15,000, while Dundee and Dundee United hit around 7,000.

But top-flight attendances can often be skewed by large Old Firm away supports, making the averages of Championship sides Dunfermline Athletic (5,900) and Raith Rovers (4,000), plus third-tier Falkirk (4,400), more eye-catching.

Major silverware

St Johnstone lift the Scottish Cup

Again, no prizes for guessing who charts at the top of Scotland’s all-time honours list.

Celtic and Rangers make up over 67% of the major trophies won by Scottish clubs, with the Ibrox side (118) still two ahead of their Glasgow rivals (116).

Beneath them sit Aberdeen on 19, over half of which came under iconic manager Sir Alex Ferguson between 1978 and 1986.

Two of the 10 won by Ferguson included a Cup Winners’ Cup and Uefa Super Cup – that’s one more European trophy than any other Scottish team as Rangers (1971-72 Cup Winners’ Cup) and Celtic (1966-67 European Cup) have one each.

Celtic fans will argue theirs holds the most prestige, given it’s the big one and they were the first British club to win it, but we’ll leave that to you to decide.

Rightly or wrongly, recency bias will play a big part in some decision-making – and that’s where St Johnstone fly right into the debate. In the last decade, the Perth side are Scotland’s most successful non-Old Firm club, winning two Scottish Cups and a League Cup.

Those three honours are still a long way off the overall hauls of Hearts (16) and Hibs (10), while Queen’s Park’s 10 Scottish Cups – won in the 1800s – has them level with the Leith club.

Next in line, all on five, are Kilmarnock, Dundee and Dundee United, who, like Aberdeen, enjoyed huge success in the 1980s and even reached a European Cup semi-final and Uefa Cup final – with the trio of Motherwell, St Mirren and even League 2 East Fife all on four.

Top-flight prestige

All-time Scottish top-flight table
All-time standings provided by worldfootball.net

Fans of Celtic and Aberdeen can use this one to their advantage, given both clubs have never suffered relegation, as can supporters of Motherwell, who haven’t dropped out of the top flight since 1985.

In that time, perceived bigger clubs, such as Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United and Dundee, have all suffered multiple relegations, while Rangers have also spent time in the lower leagues following all that business in 2012.

Motherwell’s current 39-year Premiership status is largely responsible for them amassing the sixth-most points in Scottish top-flight history.

That’s according to worldfootball.netexternal-link, who have Celtic top, with Rangers, Hearts, Aberdeen and Hibs in the following four spots.

But fingers will be pointed at the 1999-00 and 2002-03 seasons as far as Aberdeen and Motherwell are concerned.

The Dons finished bottom of the league in 2000, as did the Fir Park club three years later, but they were spared the prospect of relegation as Falkirk’s Brockville Stadium failed to meet the SPL’s criteria on both occasions.

Tinpottery

Falkirk hot tub competition
A raffle to watch a Falkirk game from a pitch-side hot tub epitomises Scottish football’s elite level of tinpottery

Right, this is where it gets fun. But, before we go any further, we assume some of you will be wondering what the act of tinpottery actually is.

In football terms, let’s just say it’s when your team has acted a bit small time – or even just made themselves look daft. Aye, we could be here a while.

The aforementioned Brockville Stadium situation from the early 2000s is a great example, but that’s not where it ends for Falkirk.

In 2016, they ran a competition for fans to watch a game from a pitch-side hot tub, plus the very fact they have been knocking about Scotland’s third tier for the past four seasons must also tar them with tinpottery.

The same could be said about Dunfermline and Partick Thistle, who have both jumped between the Championship and League 1 since suffering top-flight relegation.

While we’re at it, chuck in Thistle dishing out pizzas as man-of-the match awards.

Hamilton, who had their savings wiped out in 2017 after a £1m vishing fraud, find themselves in the third tier at present. They are also yet to win a major trophy, while one of their stands is essentially the goods entrance of a supermarket.

That will have prompted a chuckle from neighbouring Motherwell fans, but don’t forget your team had the begging the bowl out for Taylor Swift earlier this month.

It doesn’t top there for the top-flight sides. St Mirren rebranding their club store to a temporary Celtic shop comes to mind, while Kilmarnock and Livingston having no real grass at their grounds is surely a double red flag.

From losing to Stirling Albion, who were managerless for the day as Greig McDonald was off getting married, to Bilel Mohsni throwing haymakers at Fir Park, Rangers’ journey through the divisions was littered with tinpottery.

The same applies to the recent relegations of Hibs, Dundee United and Hearts, who don’t escape there – don’t forget the Tynecastle club had to delay the opening of their new stand because they forgot to order seats.

Celtic fans, your team isn’t immune from small-time behaviour either. Building up nine years of consecutive league titles, only to watch a historic 10-in-a-row bid fail in spectacular fashion is undoubtedly your club’s crowning tinpot moment.

Rank Scotland’s 10 biggest clubs

Latest article