THE SPFL Premiership will be poorer next season as Hibernian have joined Hearts and Rangers in the Championship, according to Scotland assistant manager Mark McGhee.
Hibs' relegation has heightened the sense of expectation about the second tier next season with many claiming the inclusion of three of the country's best-supported clubs will make the Championship more compelling than the Premiership. McGhee did not buy into that theory, though, and instead insisted that Scottish football would be damaged as a result of the three big clubs falling out of the top flight.
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"A league without Hibs, Hearts, Rangers . . . certainly in my lifetime, I've never known it," said the former Aberdeen and Motherwell manager, in London where the Scotland squad are preparing for tomorrow night's friendly match against Nigeria at Craven Cottage. "They are among the bigger clubs in the country and they benefit the league by being in it. The league loses something by them not being it, for sure."
McGhee echoed a view previously expressed by national manager Gordon Strachan, namely that it was regrettable that television camera positions often did not show Scottish grounds at their best, or at their busiest. It was important that broadcasters attempt to create a sense of spectacle to promote a game, he said.
"I think it's huge. It's one of the things that frustrate me. We spoke about this when we used to go to these meetings at Hampden when I was at Motherwell and Aberdeen. We used to even ask 'why can't they place the camera at Inverness where you can see the crowd instead of the sea?' Try and give a backdrop to Scottish football.
"We used to talk about how teams like Caley Thistle could go to Celtic Park and play brilliantly but the games weren't shown because they were only shown playing at home. I think it's all important, for the sake of the game, to promote it in a positive way. It doesn't always come across that way."
Former Scotland manager Craig Levein was criticised for calling up Ian Black from Rangers when they were in the fourth tier, but his club-mate Lee Wallace has subsequently been involved too. McGhee acknowledged that Rangers, Hearts and Hibs all playing outwith the top flight would not affect the national squad's prospects.
"Those clubs being out of the top flight shouldn't impact on Scotland set-up in the sense that we've got a squad here that we think we can do well with," he said. "But there's absolutely no doubt about it: Hearts, Hibs and Rangers are clubs of a stature that should be able to produce players and have players that would be in the international squad. And they haven't at the moment. That is a shame.
"But when it came to the Premiership play-off you have to say congratulations to Hamilton. They deserve all the credit for getting promoted. They are there by merit."