'Exciting and cut-throat Scottish Championship needs to be expanded' - Raith Rovers boss Ian Murray wants more teams in league

Raith gaffer Ian Murray is pictured after his side beat leaders Ayr United 3-2 at Stark's Park on September 17 (Pic Fife Photo Agency)Raith gaffer Ian Murray is pictured after his side beat leaders Ayr United 3-2 at Stark's Park on September 17 (Pic Fife Photo Agency)
Raith gaffer Ian Murray is pictured after his side beat leaders Ayr United 3-2 at Stark's Park on September 17 (Pic Fife Photo Agency)
Raith Rovers manager Ian Murray is calling for the ‘exciting’ and ‘cut-throat’ 10-team Scottish Championship to be expanded.

With the top seven clubs separated by only five points – third-placed Raith are just points adrift of leaders Ayr United after Saturday’s 3-1 home win over Hamilton Accies – Murray thinks that there is severe pressure on managers in Scotland’s second tier.

"I'm not sure about seven teams being in a title race but we are certainly in that batch of clubs," Murray said. "It is an incredibly tight league, exciting and very competitive.

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"I think when I'm speaking as a manager and not as a neutral fan, something has to give every week because the league's so small.

"Every week you've got a team in the top four playing a side in the bottom four which doesn’t happen in a 20-team league.

"There's pros and cons within that. It makes it really exciting but it makes it really, really cut-throat and really, really high pressure as well.

"I would like to see the league extended. I think there's teams that deserve that and make it even more exciting to an extent.

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"But certainly with the 10-team league there's very little room for error and I think we have to acknowledge that we've always felt that we were good enough to beat anybody on our day.

"Our key ingredient or our real sort of challenge is: 'Can we be as consistent as other teams have shown so far?'

"And we're not that far away but we have to maintain our focus.”

One criticism aimed at the current SPFL set-up by some Scottish fans is that – unlike all the major European leagues – the 12-10-10-10 set-up of teams in this country’s top four pyramid tiers means that sides are playing each other four times a season in league games alone.

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The possibility of being drawn against these teams in cup competitions or the season-ending play-offs further increases the number of occasions that they do battle against each other.

And it is a situation which concerns Murray, although he doesn’t subscribe to the opinion that increasing the Scottish Premiership to 16 or 18 teams playing against each other twice would necessarily allow its other 10 teams to overhaul Celtic and Rangers in the top two positions.

"I think footballers, staff, managers and fans would like to see leagues expanded,” he said.

"At the moment, as things stand, I’ll use Airdrie – where I was last season – as an example.

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"We played Queen’s Park eight times last season. It gets a bit tedious for everybody. Two of them were in the play-off games.

"But Airdrie played 43 games last season and eight of them were against one team.

"That’s a huge percentage so it becomes really, really mundane. It takes away a little bit of excitement from the fixture and it could potentially happen to any club that is involved in the play-offs.

"They draw in the cup, they draw in the league cup, they draw in the SPFL trophy. It’s really strange and bizarre.”

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Murray thinks that top flight teams only visiting Ibrox and Parkhead once a season in an expanded Premiership set-up could make the trips even more special.

But he added: "I’m not sure anybody would manage to overhaul Rangers and Celtic on a consistent basis as that is very difficult, maybe in a one-off as it has been done before.

"I think the problem we’ve got in Scotland is that we’re a wee bit scared to take the gamble on it.

"Obviously I understand that the top league teams want to play Rangers and Celtic potentially four times, two times at home which generates a lot of money.

"You’ve also got Edinburgh derbies and Dundee derbies so there’s potentially a lot of derbies in Scotland.

"I just think it’s going to take a bit of a gamble.”

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