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Spiers on Sport: Regan admits to an Armageddon no-show

Like everyone else during Scottish football's shambolic summer of 2012, Stewart Regan found himself being caught out in terms of his "reading of the situation".

With Rangers FC in administration (and soon to face liquidation) Regan offered hints that he believed the fires of Hell were about to be unleashed on the game and consume everything in their path.

In Scottish football terms, Regan thought he saw the end of the world, an utter wasteland, in front of him.

With a reborn Rangers starting from scratch in the bottom tier, and going three years in the wilderness before a Premiership appearance, the SFA's chief executive believed all hope was lost.

Scottish football was kaput. Neil Doncaster, the SPL chief executive, used the word "Armageddon", and Regan tended to share his forebodings.

Well, 18 months on, many have recanted. It has not all been bad, Regan admitted this week. Notwithstanding the Rangers tragedy, some good things have happened to revive the Scottish game.

"We're in a different place now," said Regan. "We've seen some exciting games and there's an emerging pool of young talent. We're in a better place than we might have been 18 months ago."

I've learned you have to tread carefully in this context. There is a residual anger and bitterness among Rangers supporters - some of it justified - over events of the past two years. And one of the unfortunate upshots is this: if you are seen to enjoy Scottish football currently, it is interpreted as a slight, a barb aimed at the Ibrox club.

It is viewed as gloating, as "sticking the boot in" while the reborn Rangers clambers up from the lower reaches. So Regan, and the rest of us, sometimes find ourselves walking on eggshells.

It is intriguing to recall again Regan's position on the stricken Rangers. Frankly, if he'd had his way, the club's punishment for falling into administration and then liquidation would have been pretty watery.

Regan's first priority as the SFA's custodian was not in applying punishment or a reasonable sanction on the Ibrox club - rather, he fretted for Scottish football.

So his instinct was this: yes, Rangers have done wrong, but we need them in the top flight, or if not, then out of the top flight for as brief a period as possible. Finance, not justice, was Regan's Rangers game-plan.

On this, the rest of Scottish football duly kicked him and Doncaster into touch. But it is worth recalling that the two men, in public and even more vehemently in private, wanted Rangers kept at the top.

I have some sympathy for Regan over the Rangers saga, because I tended to call it likewise myself.

My gut told me the SPL - now the Premiership - would be a waste of time without Rangers. I also believed the financial black hole left would do terrible harm to the game. In truth, I actually believed it might be an Armageddon of a sort.

Instead, what has happened? Yes, there is no title race, and Celtic have been diminished without Rangers. The Celtic Park crowds are sorely down. But other aspects have proved to be highly enjoyable.

Jackie McNamara and Dundee United's season has been engrossing - a young manager with a flock of talented young players in tow. The Tannadice crowds are buoyant and, if you are an "Arab", this is all great fun.

Aberdeen are revived, too. The arrival of Derek McInnes has been quite a tonic in the north-east, and for the wider Scottish game. One Aberdeen fanzine editor told me last week: "Dons fan are enjoying this football season more than they have done in years."

Then you look to Edinburgh, and see Terry Butcher at Hibs. That, too, is a terrific story, with Easter Road's biggest crowd in years at 20,000-plus taking in the New Year Edinburgh derby.

Butcher left behind a high-flying Inverness Caledonian Thistle side in the hands of John Hughes, and many want to see how that story pans out as well.

I don't need to haver on. There is much that is still very enjoyable in Scottish football, not least in the rejuvenation among our other big clubs. There is a moral here for some of us: don't be so Old Firm-obsessed.

Yes, Rangers have been afflicted. Not unrelated to this (and to a lesser degree) so have Celtic. Elsewhere, though, Scottish football has preserved its fascination.

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