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Spiers on Sport: Rangers, Hibs and Hearts live in quiet dread of next season

I was deep in the gorges of the Scottish Highlands last Sunday evening when my phone signal, having been Awol all day, suddenly crackled into life.

What news abruptly emerged was enough to bowl me over. The tagline read simply: "Terry Butcher - my darkest day in football."

Incredulous, I shouted over to my companions: "My God. Hibs have gone down! Hamilton Accies are up!"

In recent years, Scottish football has hardly failed to amaze, and here was one more episode. It is scarcely believable what has unfolded: a Scottish Premiership next season minus Rangers, Hibs and Hearts.

The pitiful fate of Rangers FC is well chronicled. In recent times the relegation of Hearts also became a foregone conclusion.

But this Hibs calamity, and its utter agony for Terry Butcher, is the absolute cherry on Scottish football's clootie dumpling.

Some of the football writers up here are already staking out their territory for season 2014-15. The SPFL Championship is the place to be, with dramas and some booming crowds guaranteed. In a perverse kind of way, it is tremendously exciting.

Who will win the coveted Premiership? Everyone knows that. But who will emerge from the Championship's title-race and play-offs? No-one has a clue, except to assert that it could be nerve-shredding stuff.

It is duly noted: there is already unease, a quiet anxiety, among Rangers and Hibs fans especially. And with good reason.

Rangers are paying for the sins of their past, but a three-year exile from the top tier of Scottish football, with its potential Champions League ticket, was deemed the maximum duration of the re-launched club's punishment.

Now comes the dreaded thought among the Ibrox faithful: might it be four years out of the top tier, or more? Might the Ibrox club actually fail to elbow its way out of the bar-room brawl of next season's Championship?

Quite a few Rangers fans either don't trust or don't rate Ally McCoist as their manager. Some say it openly, others desist, but that anxiety is there. And it has just increased tenfold.

As for Butcher and Hibs, first things first: Butcher has to hang on to his job. And there is an argument as clear as day in football that this 55-year-old icon of the British game has earned his sacking in Edinburgh, pure and simple.

No-one but Butcher took Hibs down. It is his responsibility. Hibs should have been in no danger of such a fate, no matter the toils of the team under previous manager, Pat Fenlon.

Big Terry bears a heavy burden for what has happened at Easter Road, far above the constant bleating about Rod Petrie, the moustachioed gauleiter of the Hibernian boardroom.

If Butcher hangs on to his position - and right now he is - then the key question of trust is next up. Is he the man to restructure Hibs, as Butcher believes he is? He has had six months in which to build up that trust among the Hibs faithful, and failed miserably in the task.

This is a fraught judgement for Petrie and his fellow directors to make. Put simply, at most other clubs, such a scenario as Hibs' relegation this season would see the manager out on his ear.

Some people try to bring interpretation to current events in Scottish football - to the fall of "establishments" in our game - but this is a hard task. More truthfully, a random chaos has set in, which has been eye-popping, and which has brought its own excitement.

Rangers, Hibs and Hearts have been failed by key decision-makers over these years. The pain and the punishment for it all are now being played out. Beyond that, I'm not sure any other paradigm or cultural context stands up.

It's little wonder, though, that the broadcasters are salivating over next season's SPFL Championship coverage. This will be football with a desperate edge: probably not the prettiest, but maybe the most compelling.

Fans of Rangers, Hibs and Hearts won't thank me for saying it…but it is fantastic. This is a hapless drama that keeps on giving.

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