London Hearts Supporters Club

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Tommy McLean <-auth Ken Gallacher auth-> JDK Smith
[P O'Donnell 52]
3 of 003 Willie Jamieson 89 L Premier H

McLean calls for a radical change to set-up.

It's time to dismantle the defensive barrier


27 Feb 1995

IT goes without saying that Hearts manager Tommy McLean savoured the Scottish Cup victory over Rangers last week.

But, as you would expect from a member of the McLean clan, it was not only the result which mattered to the Tynecastle supremo.

It was as much the way the game was played which appealed to McLean and underlined his view that the latest league set-up has to be altered.

Not at the end of the five-year spell as the clubs have agreed, but as soon as possible.

"The present set-up is wrong and everyone is looking on and doing nothing because the pen-pushers have stuck the clubs with this five-year agreement.

That has to be changed," said McLean.

"We cannot allow the system we have to continue because the game is being ruined and some clubs -- good, ambitious clubs -- are being ruined.

"The premier division has to be extended.

We have to go to 18 clubs and I'd even think about two divisions of 20.

If we wait five years, some of the clubs will go to the wall."

McLean believes that the perils of relegation is causing the defensive play in the top 10 which is destroying the game.

He reckons the stakes are now too high: "Almost every chairman in the premier division will tell you to a penny what relegation would cost their club.

"And, so, you get what I always call the fear factor dominating the game.

Chairmen tell managers what is at stake.

Managers relay that to the players and, suddenly, you have the scenario which brings caution and the kind of tactics which are devised to save a game rather than win it.

"Instead of taking a bolder attitude, the way you would if the worries of relegation were eased, you see games being ruined.

"You can't blame players, managers, or chairmen being apprehensive about the dangers of going down into the first division.

The problems which can follow are there for everyone to see.

"Look at St Mirren.

They were in the premier division a couple of years back.

Now, they are heading into oblivion and no-one is doing anything about it.

No-one is helping them.

They tried to be ambitious and now they are in serious trouble.

That kind of situation is lying in wait for every club.

The price being paid is too high.

"We have enough clubs who are full-time, and who want to remain full-time, and all of them should be in the top flight.

It should be a condition of entry for clubs to be full-time and to have the proper ground facilities.

"Look at it this way.

Clubs presently in the first division -- Dunfermline, Dundee, Raith Rovers, Airdrie and some others -- have stuck by a full-time policy.

They are giving full employment to players but how long can they do that if they don't get into the top 10?

"They will continue to lose money and, eventually, will release players and the game will be the poorer for that."

McLean is not a recent convert to the notion of bigger leagues.

He has been pursuing this idea for several years, arguing the point with his brother, Jim, who backed the current set-up.

Now, he says the Tannadice chairman is being won round to the need for change.

The Hearts' chief, though, wants change now.

He does not think we have time to wait another year, far less the five years the league have demanded.

His message is to the point -- if change does not come quickly then there will be club casualties.

"It does not matter to me now how we got into this mess," he said, "it matters more how we get out of it.

If we don't act now then some clubs could go to the wall and a lot of footballers will go on the dole.

"Apart from the problems I have mentioned which stem from the league set-up I don't see a lot wrong with our game.

The state of football in this country has been lambasted but when two teams go out to play each other -- to have a real go at each other -- as Rangers and ourselves did in the cup, then no-one can have many complaints.

"Ridding the game of the fear factor would give us more games like that.

I honestly believe that and that's why I want to see changes being made to the structure of the leagues this summer.

"We have enough ambitious clubs around who would qualify for a full-time league.

Let's give them the chance to be a part of it.

"The sponsorship money, the television money would help them make ends meet and, surely, they should be rewarded for standing by their policies of full-time football for so long and at such a cost."

Taken from the Herald

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