I met an old friend recently, a Liverpool lad and keen Everton supporter, with whom I played amateur football yonks ago.

Back in the day, he had a pretty jaundiced view of our football north of the border, and I noted that nothing much had changed in the years since.

"Scottish football is s***e, isn't it?" he said to me. "Come on, admit it. I see some of it on TV. It's s***e."

This was putting it tartly, and it wasn't the first time I'd heard such a comment. In fact, all of my life, both following Scottish football and then working in it as a journalist, the charge has perennially resurfaced.

It's not a calumny peculiar to Scotland. All across Europe the proud but smaller football nations - Belgium, Portugal, Hungary, Austria, the Czech Republic and others - face the same stigma.

I love Scottish football. I love its history and its incredible heritage. Football is one of the things this country has been greatest at as a nation. But the charge remains, that it is a pretty sorry spectacle.

A leading Scottish football manager, speaking in private over dinner recently, actually reinforced this dim view of our game, to my dismay.

"I'm convinced the standards of league football in Scotland have gone down in recent years," he said. "I definitely see less quality on the pitch. There is less skill, less ability."

Every so often, when I re-enter this debate about the standard of Scottish football, I start to fret. Is it really so bad? Have standards gone down? Is it really - to use the old contempt beloved of Scottish football fans - "s***e"?

It is worth answering the last of those questions resoundingly…no it is not.

First, you can't just wallow in history, but nor can history be ignored. I remain amazed and bulging with pride at the incredible feats of Scottish football down the decades.

Somehow we produced magnificent men, who were exquisite on the field, and who elevated Scottish football to a world renown. Yes, it is past, but that backdrop should always enforce a mark of respect when the words "Scotland" and "football" arrive in the same sentence.

Second, it is all relative. Of course we are not comparable to league football in England or Spain or Germany, given the size of Scotland as a country. And size does matter. Big populations, big crowds, bigger monies should, by mere reason, produce better football.

Whenever I measure this I endeavour not to go down the "compare and contrast" route. It is pointless. It is also flawed.

Within its own environment there has actually been something of a revival in parts of Scottish football in recent times - something I never thought possible, given the 2012 demise of Rangers, with all its collateral.

Aberdeen are thrillingly revived under Derek McInnes. So are Caley Thistle under John Hughes. In recent seasons both Dundee United and St Johnstone have had some memorable moments. Dundee look promising again under Paul Hartley and we have Hearts promoted, astute, and thriving once more.

There is so much about Scottish football to enjoy and savour, and the recent arrival of Mark Warburton at Rangers only adds to that fascination.

More than that, week-in and week-out last season I saw Scottish football matches that were to be enjoyed. It is a myth that the game is all blood-and-thunder here. There remains a culture of skill in this country that is a deposit from times past.

Fine young Scottish players like James Forrest, Ryan Christie, Lewis Macleod, Ryan Gauld, Scott Allan, Craig Wighton, Ryan Jack and scores of others are a testament to this legacy.

Scotland remains a decent breeding-ground - as it has been historically - for fresh football talent. Indeed, you could argue that, in recent seasons, the seedbed has grown more fertile, contrary to the doom-merchants.

There are obvious omissions in Scottish football today compared to 10 or 15 years ago - but I'm not convinced it is for the worse.

We no longer have a Paul Gascoigne, a Brian Laudrup, or a Henrik Larsson to feast upon - all of them great footballers of wider European repute.

But carnage ensued through those years of an overheating Scottish football economy and living beyond our means. A terrible price was paid, especially at Rangers.

Today, on an even financial keel, and with far less outrageous ambition, Scottish football is a much healthier place.

The supporters, too, still attend games in decent numbers, even if many of our stadiums are too big. Scotland still boasts one of the best pro-rata football attendance figures in Europe.

The new season is already just four weeks away. I can smell the freshly-mown grass from here. Bring it on, I say, let's be having it.

Yes, I do beg to differ. Scottish football is not s***e.