Rangers Europe exile may signal co-efficient crash

SCOTLAND will revert to just one Champions League spot after this season – and it will take a serious turnaround in the fortunes of our clubs to bring back a second place.

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That's my Bhoys … Neil Lennon is flanked by James Forrest and Charlie Mulgrew after the trio came out tops in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League awards. Lennon was voted manager of the season, Mulgrew player of the season and Forrest picked up the young player prize

Rangers and Celtic have been by far the main contributors to the Euro co-efficient which has earned the SPL two places in the qualifying rounds for the majority of the last decade.

But, with the Ibrox club – whose own ranking helps in draws as they are regularly seeded – now dropping off the European radar due to their ongoing problems rendering them ineligible, Scotland needs the clubs aiming to take their place to finally step up to the plate like never before.

Next season, that onus will fall on Motherwell, who join Celtic in entering the Champions League at the third qualifying round, albeit in the very tough non-champions route.

Failure to reach the knockout round will see either or both drop down to the final elimination round for a place in the Europa Cup Group Stage.

With three other Europa League places also available – Dundee United have secured one, the winners of the Scottish Cup final will take another along with the team finishing fifth or sixth in the league, depending on how Hearts fare at Hampden a week on Saturday – any points gathered by our participants will be divided by five and added to our co-efficient for the past five seasons.

In recent years, that figure has plummeted at an alarming rate as our clubs have failed to make any real impact in Europe.

In 2003, Scotland was ranked ninth, with our league winners moving directly into the Group Stage.

Five years later we were still 10th. Now we are 15th, the final position qualifying for two Champions League spots.

And Scotland is set to fall another three places after this season's poor showing.

However, the biggest drop has yet to come as, after next year, the big number posted in 2007-08 – when Rangers reached the Uefa Cup Final and Celtic got to the last 16 of the Champions League – drops off Scotland's total.

It is projected that will eventually see Scotland tumble all the way to 26th spot in the table – unless our clubs can recover lost ground and put more co-efficient points on the board.

The season after next, Scotland are already on course to again have only four entrants, the SPL winners into the Champions League at the second qualifying round stage, and three clubs in the Europa League.

Given how little the smaller clubs have contributed to our co-efficient in recent years, that may prove to be helpful in the bid to turn the tide.

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