On the eve of my 40th season taking in matches - I hasten to add I am harking back here to very early childhood - I remain insanely in love with Scottish football. It is an incurable ailment.

So much damage has been done to the game - mainly by those charged with the very opposite, with protecting it - that Scottish football has faced a severe downturn in recent times. One of the biggest factors, obviously, has been the fate of Rangers.

No more "big" signings. Fewer bumper crowds. A deflated media. A chaotic political summer. Various fan-bases left to scramble around to try to protect their club. It has all become part and parcel of a Scottish game in decline.

That said, the feeling I have this week ahead of the regular season starting again is of excitement and relish for the looming campaign. Don't ask me to explain it - I can't. But it was always thus.

To my horror I have worked out that my first full season of regularly going to Scottish league matches was in season 1973-74…fully 40 years ago.

My Dad had taken me to games before then, when I was about three feet high, but season 1973-74 was my first real campaign, Saturday in, Saturday out.

This was at about the start of that football period, as someone put it memorably, when "flair players wore flares". (If I say Alfie Conn, you'll get my drift).

Ibrox became our regular venue, which was odd, because I never recall my father ever being a Rangers fan at all. He just loved football. He couldn't watch enough of it, and passed the bug on to me.

Like a lot of kids I grew mesmerised by the talent, colour and skill of the Scottish game. Back then - and maybe there is a moral in this - the 1960s were gone, and older men around me used to stand on the terraces and bemoan the decline of their football in recent times.

We are doing precisely that today, as has every football generation that I can remember. And in those days of "lament" I watched a Rangers team that had just recently won the European Cup Winners Cup, with Celtic across the city also regularly vying among the cream of Europe.

In those early, exhilarating times, my Ibrox gateway introduced me to Hearts, Hibs, Aberdeen, Dundee, Celtic (eventually) and myriad other teams who made up the Scottish football frieze. It was absolutely thrilling, it was intoxicating.

As the years have passed, that childhood instinct of early August, and the excitement of the Scottish football season restarting, has never really left me. For all its faults, Scottish football is a gem, it should be cherished. Scottish football clubs are magnificent institutions.

Here is but one example. Last season, in late autumn, I wandered out of McDiarmid Park, having taken in a very enjoyable match. The late afternoon sunshine was slanting through the trees, making a memorable scene, and three or four wee St Johnstone fans were dawdling by the main door for autographs.

I stopped and watched as, first, Murray Davidson and then Liam Craig appeared, pausing to carefully offer their signatures. For some reason I was transfixed by this image. I thought: that's it, that is Scottish football, that is what it is all about. These kids loved St Johnstone, and their heroes stopped to ruffle their hair.

Our attempted rebuilding of "the brand" seems to go on and on - at youth level, club level, international level. Someone I respect in football even said to me last week that "Scottish football is dying on its arse".

Well, I disagree. It might actually be finding its true level, after years of reckless spending and borrowing, which wrought their own destruction. A downsizing isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Scottish football remains vibrant for its characters, its opinions, and its occasional idiocies. Amid our "decline" it is no wonder that humour is easily gleaned in the game: in many ways Scottish football is far less serious about itself than it was 40 years ago.

I'm looking forward to the general hubbub: players, fans, managers and media tinpots all engaging and getting wired in. This is one of the best times of the year, the start-up.

Scottish football is magnificent.