Long after the title had been secured no other team was mathematically safe from relegation. Such was the tight, tense battle being fought that any team scoring three victories in a row could, all of a sudden, find themselves in contention for a place in Europe, having only a month before been certainties for the drop. These are the dubious excitements of Scottish football; the 10-team league is the obvious result of the "How can we make football interesting?"conference at the SFA.
Falkirk really were to benefit from this artificially induced tension. Their season swung from relegation battles to glorious possibilities on the back of a couple of unlikely wins and an easy run of fixtures, so that by the time of my trip they really looked odds-on for second spot - Europe beckoned. The pendulum could just reach its zenith in time. They had a good team and were playing some attractive football. An admirable piece of negotiating in the latter months of the season had brought some seasoned pros like Mo Johnston and Stevie Kirk to Brockville. Jim Jeffries had got it right, it seemed. I felt I could leave them to it. They didn't need me. Depending on results from other games six or maybe seven points were required from our final three games: at home to Celtic, who we'd more or less been taking care of all season; away to Partick Thistle, no sweat; and finally, at home to Aberdeen, who were rapidly spinning wildly out of control towards the First Division.
Inevitably, by the time I returned we were lucky to have come fifth. Celtic and Aberdeen wiped the floor with us, but we did steady for a worthless draw at Firhill. One point out of nine. Desperate. But once I'd recovered, sobered up a little, and reflected upon proceedings I realised how well they'd done to even hint at such greatness. And now that the team who made it, Motherwell, have been humiliated by some unknown and unpronounceable Finnish side, it seems a lot better to simply sit back and dream of what might have been.
Hats off, then, to Jim Jeffries. Five years at Brockville and things were really starting to pay off. From First Division nobodies we were exerting ourselves upon the Premier Division. "Established" might even be a suitable adjective. Plans were afoot for a new stadium, a proper, all-seated effort. And there was a healthy squad of players. In fact, it probably isn't too much to say that a mood of optimism prevailed.
We all knew it couldn't last. The people suspected that somehow Falkirk just wasn't the place for all these good and successful things. And, sure enough, Jim took himself off to Tynecastle amid, it must be said, a great deal of controversy.
A number of fans took exception to his leaving Falkirk. I took exception to his leaving Falkirk for Hearts. I mean, Hearts. If he'd left for a better club then fine. If he'd left for a team with style, panache, flair, any of that romantic stuff, then fine. But Hearts? I felt emotionally empty.
Truth be told, Jim made no secret of his hopes to manage Hearts. But once he had gone our captain, John Hughes, headed for Paradise. I could handle that. Bigger club, European football, the chance of domestic honours. But we haven't seen the money for him yet, it's going to the tribunal. For a manager we now have John Lambie, ex-Partick Thistle, who has drafted in a few obscure free transfers, but has singularly failed to impress. The first game of the season was at home to Aberdeen which we lost 3-2, but were never in it. Next game was in the Coca-Cola Cup, at home to Aberdeen, which we lost 4-1.
Our season's collapsed before our eyes. Eyeing the fixture list, it's hard to see where our first point's going to come from. Away to Hearts next, then Rangers at home. Suddenly, from Euro contenders a few months ago, the season now looks very daunting.Reuse content