DAVID PYE: Wales clubs must be envy of Old Firm
1:26pm Thursday 28th February 2013 in Sport
THE state of English football has been up for debate in recent weeks with the 12-point gap at the top of the Premier League between the two Manchester clubs leading many onlookers to criticise a so-called drop in standards.
But across the border in Wales, football, at club level at least, is in rude health – and that is thanks to the English leagues.
Swansea won their first major trophy with their 5-0 thumping of Bradford at Wembley on Sunday and are now considered an established top-flight team, while down the road at Cardiff, they have wiped away the disappointment of their own League Cup final experience last season to be Championship frontrunners with an eight-point advantage over their nearest rivals.
Even further down the pyramid, Wrexham top the Blue Square Bet Premier and reached Wembley themselves at the weekend with victory in the FA Trophy semi-finals.
The national team may be stuttering after the shock death of manager Gary Speed in 2011 but there is also an optimistic mood that they are also heading in the right direction, spearheaded by a player in Gareth Bale now regarded as one of the World’s best.
The way things are looking at present, Wrexham will again be a league club next season, we will have a South Walian derby in the Premier League and Swansea, bizarrely, will be flying the flag for the English league in Europe.
It’s interesting when you think of the frequent talk of Celtic and Rangers coming down from Scotland to join the English ranks.
The argument has long been that a lack of competition aside from the Old Firm matches, which have been put on hold themselves, is a reason why Celtic and Rangers don’t push on at European level.
And if this season is anything to by domestically, that competition is not improving. Celtic are 21 points clear at the top of the SPL and need just four more wins to claim the title, while Rangers down in the basement division are 22 points ahead of second-placed Queen’s Park.
It may go against the grain with traditionalists north and south of Hadrian’s Wall, but it is clear the pair need the more sustained challenges that the English league would bring.
Welsh sides have played alongside their English counterparts for decades now and are reaping the rewards.
How much must Celtic and Rangers wish they could benefit too?