Griffiths proves Scottish Premier League still lags behind

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To point out that the state of Scottish football lags behind that of their counterparts in the south would be like declaring Messi to be a decent talent or saying Jose Mourinho has a bit of an ego.

It is an understatement and we all know it to be the case.

Since the SPL was introduced in 1998 and the English Premier League in 1992; one has exponentially grown, developed and seen its nation’s football flourish beyond all fathomable expectations; while the success of the other can just about be measured by the ongoing shambolic attempts being made to have it restructured.

This summer Leigh Griffiths has signed an extension on his contract at Wolves after a successful loan spell at Hibernian. This move is just a signature example of how far behind the Scottish leagues have already fallen.

The Edinburgh born striker at times lit up the SPL last season, scoring 23 goals and helped Hibs into the Scottish Cup final; giving them the chance to win the trophy for the first time in 111 years.

He won the SPFA Young Player of the Year, SPL Player of the Year and Scottish Football Writer’s Player of the Year for his performances in 2012-13. His mercurial talent meant that Hibs, as well as other suitors in Scotland, were keen to keep him north of the border. But before the transfer window could even open, the door was shut in their face as Griffiths chose England’s third tier as his new stomping ground.

This comes as little or no surprise to those who have followed the Scottish game and its gradual demise in the last five to ten years. This latest example of Scotland’s wealthy neighbours ability to take Scotland’s talent is a further dent in the moral of those who have continued to keep faith in the Scottish game.

Wolves have just suffered their second successive relegation which has condemned them to life in England’s third tier. The club appears to be in turmoil; going through four managers in 18 months; with public protests and pitch invasions visible even before their relegation to League 1 was confirmed.

Their new home contains fixtures at teams such as Stevenage, Rotherham and Crawley Town. For Griffiths to decide that this better facilitates his ambitions and potential to develop than Scotland’s top flight speaks volumes.

He may have left Scotland with various awards, a national cup runners up medal and consequently gave Hibernian a chance to enter into a European competition for next year; two feats which are unlikely to be matched by Wolves in the foreseeable future.

Yet, these realities are not enough to keep Griffiths in Scotland. Even in England’s third tier it is financially more profitable and there is arguably a better standard of football available in a league which garners more respect than the SPL.

Griffiths’ decision will almost certainly have been influenced by the fact that scoring an incredibly impressive 20+ goals for a struggling side in the SPL curries little attention from England’s clubs in the top two flights.

Repeating this level of performance in League 1 will likely have him either playing Championship football next year with Wolves or interesting clubs in the leagues above. This is the sad reality for Scottish football fans. For players with high ambitions and burgeoning talent, the second and third divisions of England have become a superior option in the development of their careers.

Leigh Griffiths is not the first, nor will he be the last to take this course of action. In the past two competitive fixtures, the Scottish national team contained just one player starting who plies his trade in Scotland.

This is the result of a culture which is sweeping Scottish football in recent years. Any talent reared in Scotland is often snapped up down south before they are able to grace the SPL long enough to entertain. James McArthur and James McCarthy at Wigan are two painfully poignant examples of this.

Having both impressed at Hamilton, they were taken from the SPL to Wigan before either of them reached 23 - McCarthy was just 19.

Steven Naismith, Steven Whitaker, Charlie Adam, Danny Wilson, Reese McCabe, Jordan Rhodes and Chris Burke, to name but a few, are players who could be key players or superstars in the SPL but instead prefer to use their talents as bit-part Premier League players or carry out their careers further down the leagues.

This is not to say that they are foolish to do so or that Scottish football is being entirely exploited. Unfortunately, the depressing fact is that the Scottish game has been run so incompetently that these players have little choice in the development of their careers.

The demise of Glasgow Rangers has not helped the situation in Scotland and the constant squabbles over league reconstruction are no less than pathetic.

There is seemingly little light at the end of the tunnel.  The Scottish game has to realise the seriousness of this situation before its status becomes no more impressive than the English Conference.

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