5 Scottish Teams Seasons Perfect For A Fly On The Wall Documentary
Last night saw the debut of 'This Is Our Story: Inside Hearts', the latest fly on the wall documentary to infiltrate the background of a football club's tumultuous season. The 2019/20 season was quite the disaster for Hearts with plenty of drama to create entertaining viewing, a la 'Sunderland Till I Die' or 'All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur', with a depleted squad, managers departing and, of course, their relegation following the Coronavirus.
The first episode seemed to hold back a bit, not diving too far into the sacking of Craig Levein much to the disappointment of Scottish football fans. As people expected a bit of drama following the dismissal, the main talking point from the episode surrounded Gary Locke's accent - what on earth is that by the way?
Hopefully, episode 2 delivers some more of that content we truly desire, with the troubled relationship between Daniel Stendel and Christophe Berra something we're all closely anticipating. In recognition of the debut of the 3-part Hearts TV show, it was a good chance to look back on history and see what other club's seasons would have made for excellent viewing had the cameras been on behind the scenes. There's never a quiet week in Scottish football with teams making the headlines for a number of crazy reasons, some more humorous than others. With this in mind, here are 5 clubs seasons that would have been perfect for a fly on the wall documentary.
1. Rangers 2011/12
Best to get the most obvious example out of the way first, there is no bigger fall from grace in modern football than that of Rangers in the 2011/12 season. The main talking point, of course, in this series would be the dreadful reign of Craig Whyte whose shambolic "leadership" saw the club end up in a dreadful place financially, leading the club's demotion to the Third Division.
As we've seen already with Hearts' series, there's been attempts to make all parties look pleasant and commendable. This would be the complete opposite in a Rangers doc, with access to expose Whyte's shady dealings somehow making it possible for fans of the Glasgow side to despise the club's former owner even more. It would be aggravating viewing for Rangers fans but insightful and certainly dramatic for the rest of us. Rangers are a worldwide massive club and to see how such a juggernaut within the game went to the wall would attract eyes from not only Scotland but all over.
With the struggles with Whyte, this would surely lead to an abundance of commentary from club legends, supporters and even the current crop of players that would become iconic. The passion and outrage from the above would be a grand showcase of emotion which has already been encapsulated briefly in newsreel footage.
The off-field antics would be the main attraction but there was plenty of drama on the field that season. The second game of the season saw a fiery exit from the Champions League as Steven Whittaker and Madjid Bougherra were both sent off in the Gers unsuccessful effort. A 15 game unbeaten run in the league would gradually get worse as the impact of Whyte became more and more apparent, with notable cup exits at the hands of Falkirk and Dundee United bringing further disappointment. A behind the scenes look at that 3-2 victory over Celtic would have been an excellent piece of viewing due to the pandemonium such a result would cause, especially regarding the circumstances. And who could forget that we would have a full season of Ally McCoist's mischief, who wouldn't love that?
2. Livingston 2003/04
Another club faced with financial turmoil during the season, the 2003/04 Livingston season would be a bit more pleasant due to the plucky underdog story that would go along with it. This was an unusual season for fans of the club, with fears for the club's future going alongside the West Lothian side's greatest ever achievement.
The CIS Cup run in the 2003/04 would be the main focus point in this series, as the Lions defied all odds by triumphing in the secondary cup competition, only 9 seasons after their creation. The route to the cup was full of drama, with Livi squeezing past Dundee United before a 3-2 win away at Aberdeen in extra time booked Livi's spot in the semi-final.
The hypothetical episode featuring the semi-final may be the highlight of the viewing, with Livi placed into administration only hours before the game kicked off. It would be a strange mood to capture as the information trickled down, with the players unsure of their future's whilst preparing for a massive game. Then coming to the actual match, a close contest won by a last-minute penalty giving fans great hope as their team performed heroically regardless of what had transpired only hours before. There won't be many days in any club's history that can match the drama that Livi fans went through on the 3rd of February 2004.
Then, of course, you have the victorious cup final! Livi, who were still in administration, were to face up against a favoured Hibs side that featured future Scotland players Scott Brown, Gary Caldwell, Derek Riordan and Gary O'Connor amongst their ranks. With the Hibees eliminating both Celtic and Rangers on their route to the final, nobody was favouring the Lions on that afternoon but David Hay's side defied all odds with a 2-0 victory. The 7k Livingston fans went mad as Jamie McAllister sprinted clear of the Hibs defence to seal a famous victory at Hampden Park.
Outside of the cup run and administration, Livingston also had the bizarre appointment of manager Marcio Maximo, the first Brazilian to manage a British club. The former Cayman Islands technical director wasn't able to make an impact at the club, leaving the door open for club legend David Hay to return to the club as manager. A Scottish Cup run to the semi-finals and a final day 4-1 victory over Hibs would be the perfect send-off as the Lions would go into the next season with an abundance of uncertainty, but with some hope for the future.
3. Partick Thistle 2018/19
The Partick Thistle 2018/19 season would be most akin to the first season of Netflix's 'Sunderland 'Till I Die', with a botched attempt of a club trying to gain promotion back to the top flight after being relegated. It wouldn't end with another relegation - at least for this season - but there was certainly a catastrophic drop off worthy of an entertaining watch in this campaign, mainly due to Gary Caldwell.
Alan Archibald would start the season off as manager but a poor run with only 9 points from a possible 27 saw Thistle sit only 5 points above the play-off spot before he was sacked by the board. Gary Caldwell would come in with the club sitting in 8th place and not exactly hit the ground running, only winning a single game from his appointment in mid-October to mid-January.
Partick were awful in the first few months of Caldwell's reign which instantly got the fans on his back. Caldwell didn't help himself in the eyes of supporters with his treatment of a couple of club legends. Chris Erskine was somehow unable to find his way into a team sitting at the bottom of the Championship and was forced to leave the club, ending up back in the top flight by joining Livingston. This transfer baffled supporters, with it seeming odd that a player deemed surplus to requirements at the tail end of the Championship was worthy of plying his trade once again in the Premiership.
Adding to this, the departure of Kris Doolan made things even worse, with Caldwell choosing not to renew the contract of the veteran striker. After 401 appearances over a 10 year period, Caldwell called time on Doolan's Thistle career despite the forward being the club's second top scorer in the league. What will sting most is how this departure was handled, with a social media message the only recognition of Doolan's achievements and a failure to give their former captain a chance to properly say goodbye to the supporters. Even with Partick 3-0 up on the last day of the season, Caldwell wouldn't give Doolan a final run out in what is very poor handling of a difficult situation. Although the season would be finished, this aspect of the season would go a long way into seeing how the club were being ran and the opinions of the supporters on the current board. With former players more than likely to speak out about their harsh treatment, it would be eye-opening in how ruthless the football business can be.
Thistle would stay up in the end but the mood around the club was tense due to the presence and handling of Caldwell. Like the Sunderland doc, a second season would definitely be warranted the following campaign as the drama would continue, with Caldwell's sacking and relegation to League 1 due to COVID making for a dramatic campaign.
4. Celtic 2009/10
You could choose one of the treble-winning campaigns to highlight Celtic's amazing recent successes but let's be honest, we're not watching these kinds of documentaries to see everything go smoothly are we? That is why for a TV series to produce some good drama and a bit of misery for a side who've won everything multiple times, we have to go back to the days of Tony Mowbray.
Starting off with the Champions League qualifiers, Celtic suffered a blow early into the season with a tough draw against Arsenal leading Celtic to drop into the Europa League. Tony Mowbray's reign at the club wouldn't be the worst, picking up 24 points from their first 11 games with only one loss, coming against arch-rivals Rangers. However, as the second round of fixtures came around, the inconsistencies within Celtic started to become more common, with Tony Mowbray's side only winning consecutive games on 3 occasions from the 28th of November to the 24th of March, the last game of Mowbray's reign.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of this series would be the end of Mowbray's reign at the club following a shocking 4-0 loss away to St Mirren. This game was the final straw for the Celtic board as they were utterly embarrassed that night in Paisley and sat 10 points behind Rangers in the league. This performance is the last real instance of Celtic being in major trouble as a club in terms of competitiveness. This was a side that featured the likes of Robbie Keane, Ki Sung-Yeung, Aiden McGeady and Georgios Samaras and they had been tapped by a team who had not won in 11 league games. The mood in that changing room after such a display would be great to see, even more so considering Celtic's recent glories that we've had to get used to.
The door would be opened for Neil Lennon to return to the club as manager, a move that would look inspired as Celtic would win every single league game for the rest of the season. It wouldn't be enough for Celtic to win the tittle, losing out by six points, but Lennon did all that he could possibly do in the league, earning him the job on a full-time basis. There would be one last moment of misery for Celtic that season, with the Hoops falling victim to a Scottish Cup semi-final upset to Ross County in Lennon's third game in charge. It definitely seems as if Lennon gave his players a rollicking as the standards were truly raised from that point forward, building the foundations for a period of dominance that would dominate the 2010's.
5. Hibs 2015/16
The 2015/16 season saw Hibs compete in the Scottish Championship for the second straight season and it was a mad season for the Leith side. A shock third-place finish, League Cup woes, a play-off disaster and, of course, the famous Scottish Cup win made for an exciting, memorable and entertaining season.
The Scottish Cup run from Hibs could be a full series on its own, with an incredible amount of drama combining to create one of the best Scottish Cup runs in history. Hibs had gone into this season with hoodoo of it now being 114 years since they last won the tournament, with recent cup final losses to Hearts and Celtic making it seem like the day would never come for Hibees supporters. It looked to be going that way as they were 2-0 down against Hearts in the Scottish Cup fifth round, with only ten minutes of play remaining.
A dramatic late comeback would see Hibs claw a draw, leading to a replay where they dump their city rivals out of the competition, something many Hearts fans would not forgive Robbie Neilson for. Hibs had already survived a massive scare but the nerves wouldn't be eased in the next round, with Hibs having to take Inverness to a replay. An Anthony Stokes double would put Hibs into the semi-final, another game that wasn't lacking any sort of drama.
The semi-final produced the perfect villain to hero moment as Jason Cummings had a topsy turvy afternoon. A failed panenka penalty from Cummings went over the bar as the game finished 0-0 after 120 minutes of football, with the missed spot-kick potentially having drastic effects should Hibs lose the penalty shootout. Conrad Logan would bail his striker out though, with two heroic penalty saves, setting it up perfectly for Cummings to redeem himself, this time taking the penalty normally and sending Hibs into the final.
And if you don't know how the final ended up, you've been living under a rock for the past 5 years. A late double from Anthony Stokes and David Gray ended 114 years of turmoil as the Leith side had finally got the monkey off their back. The scenes following the final against Rangers weren't exactly savoury but presented car crash television content, later to be followed by a beautiful rendition of Sunshine on Leith by the Hibernian faithful. The celebrations that emerged from this triumphant victory would be some spectacle to capture, with great emotion being produced from supporters both young and old. The culmination of many years of pent up disappointment finally released in 90 minutes would be a great episode on its own, except if you're a Rangers or Hearts fan.
The Scottish Cup often overshadows everything else that happened to Hibs that season. The league campaign wasn't the best as Falkirk pipped Hibs to second place, meaning Hibs had to go through all stages of the playoffs should they get promotion back to the top flight. They wouldn't get to the final as they were beaten by Falkirk in the semi-final, consigning Hibs to a third year in the second tier of Scottish football. Hibs were also runners up in the League Cup, dramatically losing in the last minute to Ross County.
The 2015/16 season for a Hibs would have been a very conflicted season but the success within the Scottish Cup will have made it all worth it, with many memories born from that massive moment in the club's history.