Competitive domestic action got underway in Scotland again on Friday night with the kickoff of the newly branded Betfred Cup.
I had previously written about the positives of the new format for our League Cup, so it was with a fair degree of optimism that I attended the first televised game in the competition at Arbroath on Friday night.
This was a clash between Arbroath, aiming high in the league this season and Dundee United, desperate to bounce back from a horrendous season which saw them relegated from the top flight.
Having had time to reflect on that game, as well as the full set of fixtures that followed yesterday, I have thought about what we have learned about the new format already.
1. A boost for lower league clubs
Part time football still at the thumping heart of Scottish football in all communities. Really enjoyed Friday at the home of @LichtiesNews.
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) July 17, 2016
In previous seasons, a club would have to navigate two rounds of knockout fixtures before having the chance to play a top flight team in the Cup.
These occasions were always welcomed, both by fans and by the money men at various clubs, however for some clubs they were rare or non-existent.
Over the course of two days of fixtures we had ties such as Cove Rangers v Raith Rovers, Arbroath v Dundee United and East Fife v Dundee.
There will of course be potential for trips that fans would never have made previously as well. For example, Cowdenbeath will travel to Tannadice on Tuesday night.
This won’t only please those fans desperately trying to visit the 42 grounds, but also those charged with ensuring the financial health of our clubs. 45% of the gate receipts of a crowd of several thousand would boost the balance sheet of most clubs in Scotland.
One need only look at the attendance at Gayfield on Friday night to see the interest that such a fixture can create. There were around 2000 Dundee United fans and a sizeable home support.
This can only be good in the long run for a team like Arbroath, and an exciting game as we saw on Friday may just be enough to tempt back some of the extra locals to future games.
2. The penalty shootout
What is this cup in Scotland. How can you get an extra point for winning a penalty shootout. 🙈🙈🙈🙈
— Charlie Adam (@Charlie26Adam) July 15, 2016
Friday night also saw a bit of history being made.
Following the 1-1 draw, Arbroath and Dundee United took part in a bonus point penalty shootout.
As far as penalty shootouts go, this was surely one of the more enjoyable ones.
There didn’t seem to be too much pressure, as both clubs knew that even failing to win the shootout wouldn’t be fatal to their ambitions, with three more group stage games providing ample opportunity to make amends.
However, as the group stage progresses, one can only imagine that the pressure on these kicks will increase greatly, creating extra drama in our stadia.
BT Sport also gave us a different perspective on these kicks, filming from behind the penalty spot. This gave an extra insight in to the psychological battle between penalty taker and goalkeeper.
This camera angle may not be universally popular, but it was different.
Perhaps the only problem with these penalties, as with the shootouts at East Fife v Dundee and Albion Rovers v Morton on Saturday is that not everybody was aware they were happening.
More than one person started to leave Gayfield at the full time whistle, only to rush back to catch the kicks.
As the competition progresses people will become more aware of the rules, which can’t be a bad thing.
3. It has the fans talking
We have been talking about restructuring and reform of our game for years in Scotland. Indeed, probably for as long as I can remember.
This is a big change, and it had the fans round me at Gayfield talking.
Some felt it was a great idea, others felt it wasn’t.
Looking ahead, discussions about the direction that our game should be taking are no bad thing.
Arguments which were once reserved for pubs have spilled on to the terraces, quite literally. Fans would chime in with their opinions at the pie stall and in the queue for the portaloos.
As is always the case, it had people talking on twitter too.
The Scottish League Cup group stage has penalty competitions if draw after 90 minutes. 1 point each plus a bonus point for winner. Brilliant
— Matt Jeziorski (@MattJeziorski) July 15, 2016
This 'fifa' camera angle is cracking for the pens #scottishleaguecup
— Stephen Smith (@Stephen1402) July 15, 2016
No sure aboot this pen shootout malarkey #ScottishLeagueCup
— DerekJambo #indy2 (@derekandrewlaw1) July 15, 2016
New Scottish league cup format is brilliant – mon the wee teams! #ScottishLeagueCup
— Raymondo (@raymondwhatlike) July 16, 2016
I for one, am looking forward to the next round of fixtures on Tuesday.