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    Stinging critism  

    Friday, November 02, 2012 7:10:42 PM

    Mulraney gives stinging criticism of top flight amid hive of activity
    By Stewart Fisher, Sports Writer.

    THE Wasps are faring quite well this weather considering they were apparently fated for extinction not so long ago. The Wasps are faring quite well this weather considering they were apparently fated for extinction not so long ago.

    Mike Mulraney, left, has been deeply impressed by the work ethic of Paul Hartley.
    Mike Mulraney, chairman of last season's Irn-Bru Third Division champions Alloa Athletic, refused to buy into prophets of doom such as Stewart Regan, the SFA chief executive, and Neil Doncaster, his SPL counterpart, when the subject of Rangers' re-admittance as a newco into the first division arose in the summer, and he will continue to be rewarded for his stance this Saturday when his split of the gate receipts from the William Hill Scottish Cup first-round tie at Ibrox provides a further £100,000 to invest in his upwardly-mobile little football club. Or as Mulraney puts it, the down payment for their new 1500-seater stand.

    Mulraney – whose Mulraney Group has a portfolio which includes property and warehousing – has always taken a keen interest in the restructuring debates around Scottish football. But instead of the widely forecast apocalypse four months ago, he feels the presence of Rangers in the SFL has helped nourish the grassroots of the Scottish game, and has generally been one of the most exciting development for years. Ongoing debates around restructuring not withstanding – the SFA has set a November 30 deadline for agreement on the future shape of our game – the Ibrox club may well alight in next season's second division, but all going well Mulraney and promotion-chasing Alloa will remain a league above them.

    "The armageddon scenario that everyone discussed was always wide of the mark," Mulraney told Herald Sport. "People said that the economy of football would shrink, and in a way that has happened because I think the SPL are quite significantly affected by this. But what I don't think people anticipated so much was that the roots of football would be fertilised by the fact Rangers have come down and the money has been spread around.

    "The creation of the SPL goes hand in hand with the failure of our national game," he added. "The Scotland team have not qualified for anything since it was created, the standard of football has deteriorated and the excitement of Scottish football has deteriorated. One of the most exciting things which has happened in Scottish football for ages is Rangers going on the journey they are on now. Throughout this entire situation the SFL has conducted itself with integrity and balance at all times and in all things and it would be laughable for any of the other two organisations [the SFA and SPL] to be suggesting that they will be imposing anything on anybody."

    Mulraney's reward won't just be counted out in hard cash. Primarily, he is delighted that the town of Alloa can participate in such an occasion. With Queen of the South – who sit one place above them in the table – having already tasted victory in Govan in the Ramsdens Cup, success isn't exactly out of the question either, even if you can get a bet of something in the region of 16-1 in the sponsors' shop. They have a team which boasts the likes of Stephen Simmons, Darren Young and Jason Marr, all marshalled by manager Paul Hartley, who didn't so much inherit a squad as a list of phone numbers of unsigned players.

    "What Queen of the South did is great encouragement to ourselves, however they did get them at the right time on their journey," said Mulraney. "I would say Rangers are a more cohesive unit now. Rangers are a great team and I don't underestimate what we are up against. But Paul Hartley came to us last summer and put a squad of 22 together.

    "Anyone who thinks coming into a club and winning the third division with a new squad is easy just has to have a look at the early season difficulties that Rangers have had – and half of their squad were there last year. Likewise, people say they are a young team but their average age on the day will probably be higher than ours, because our manager has put together a very young team.

    "Paul must be the hardest working man in Scottish football," Mulraney added. "He is in at 9am in the morning, he works till 10pm at night. And to have a manager who is on board who understands that the greater good for the club is spent by investing in long-term projects which will return long-term rewards for the club, rather than just blowing all the money on wages in the short term, is quite unusual."

    Hartley is unlikely to be welcomed with open arms at Ibrox, but an away support of around 1000 is already guaranteed to make the journey. There may or may not be a sting in the tail, but the Wasps are buzzing.

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