Potato 25 (1998-05)
The introduction of the SPL in 1998 led to big changes in Scottish football, many of them not really for the better, so it was good to have the comforting familiarity of the potato race to help us adapt. Potato 25 hung around for seven seasons, helped of course by the removal of the relegation play-off spot and two seasons without any relegation at all. It would change hands 85 times and visit 14 clubs, including the first new club (Livingston) since Clydebank in 1977. Curiously, Inverness Caledonian Thistle were promoted in the final season of this potato's existence, but never held it - they played four potato matches and drew all of them. Hibs' lead at the top of the all-time table was extended to 51 matches, but notably Motherwell and Kilmarnock climbed to 2nd and 4th respectively.
The first ever Saturday of SPL football saw Dunfermline take a 5-0 pumping at Celtic Park to become the first recipients of potato 25. It would jump around quite liberally in the opening weeks of the season before finding its way to Hearts in December. The Jam Tarts had made a decent start and were sitting in 5th place at this point, but an 11 game winless run with nine defeats and two draws left them and the potato in a perilous position at the bottom of the league. Fortunately for both, a win over Dundee United in April kickstarted a strong finish to the campaign to leave them comfortably safe, while the potato kicked around midtable clubs, eventually spending the summer with Dundee.
The Dees quickly offloaded it at the start of the 1999/00, passing it to an Aberdeen side that had made an infamously bad start. The Dons held the potato for seven matches, a run which included a 7-0 defeat at home to Celtic, before a topsy turvy 6-5 win over Motherwell finally got rid of it. The potato would then have a series of short spells with clubs, changing hands 10 times in 17 games, before working its way back to Aberdeen in March. The Dons held the potato for another seven games, a run which all but doomed them to bottom spot in the division. The potato was never in danger, however, because the league was expanding to 12 teams and Falkirk's unsuitable ground meant that the potential relegation play-off was cancelled and Dons reprieved. As it happened, the Dons beat Motherwell again in April, before the potato would end up spending the summer with Hibernian.
Hibs would quickly get rid of the potato at the start of 2000/01, passing it to an abject Dundee United side who would go on to hold it for 15 matches (13 defeats and 2 draws) before beating Dunfermline 3-2 in November. Amazingly United stayed up despite having 7 points from their first 23 matches that season. The potato flitted around various different clubs for the rest of the season, never spending more than four with any club. Notably, this was the first season of the split, and the potato was sitting with 3rd placed Hibernian when the league split in half, thus giving it a relaxing climax to the season. It ultimately ended up spending the summer with champions Celtic after Killie beat them at Rugby Park on the final day. Celtic would open 2001/02 with a comfortable win over St Johnstone, and Saints would hold the potato for 13 matches in total. After a series of short spells with other clubs, it joined Hibs for six games in the New Year before they gave it to a by now all but doomed St Johnstone in March. Fortunately, Saints gave it to Hearts in the final game before the split, ensuring that it had another safe finish to the season. Livingston would get their first taste of the potato in the post split fixtures, losing to Aberdeen before immediately giving it to Dunfermline, who held it for the summer.
The Pars would return the potato to Livingston early in 2002/03, and the Lions would hold it for nine matches before finally getting rid of it by beating Dundee United. The potato would then have a series of short spells before ending up with Hibs for five games in the spring. The Hibees passed it to Partick Thistle, who held it for three games before giving it to Motherwell with five games remaining. Motherwell were in administration and looked set to finish bottom of the league, but again the potato was not under threat as a result of Falkirk's substandard ground. The Steelmen would go on to beat Livingston 6-2 on the final day of the season anyway, with James McFadden's hat-trick sending the potato to West Lothian for the summer. 2003/04 started with a series of 1-3 game spells before eventually spending the bulk of the winter in Kilmarnock as part of an eight-game run. Killie offloaded it to Partick Thistle who then held it for eight games of their own, a run which all but confirmed their relegation. Fortunately, Thistle passed the potato to 3rd placed Hearts just before the split, thus giving it a relaxing end to the season, eventually finding a summer home in Motherwell.
Motherwell passed the potato to Dundee early in the 2004/05 season, and the Dees had a six game spell, followed a month later by another five game spell. Dundee then passed it to Aberdeen for seven matches before brief spells at Livingston, Kilmarnock and Dundee United. United passed it to Rangers, who faced Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park in the penultimate game before the split. With Rangers facing Celtic the next week, any positive result from the Pars would have saved the potato for another season, but a 1-0 Rangers win sent the potato into the roulette wheel that was one of the most hotly contested relegation battles in the history of the top flight.
With five games to go, the bottom four were separated by just three points, with Dundee on 31, Dundee United on 29 and Dunfermline and Livingston on 28. A draw with Inverness and a defeat by Livi left the Pars three adrift at the bottom with three games to go, but out of nowhere they thumped Dundee 5-0 to send the Dees bottom on goal difference. Dundee held on to the potato thanks to a draw with Inverness in the penultimate fixture, meaning they held the potato heading into a four-way dogfight on the final day with Dunfermline and Livi on 34, Dundee United on 33 and Dundee on 32. Dundee were at Livingston, Dundee United were in Inverness and Dunfermline travelled to Kilmarnock. The only combination of results that could feasibly save the potato were a Dundee win and then Dundee United losing or Dunfermline by six or more goals. Even after 64 minutes, it looked like any of those results could still happen - the Pars had just gone 4-0 down, Dundee United were at 0-0 and Livi and Dundee were tied at 1-1. However, Dunfermline grimly held on to their 4-0 defeat and United ultimately snatched a late goal from the spot, which meant the only question was which side were taking the potato down with them. Ultimately, despite Tam McManus hitting the post in stoppage time, Livi held on to stay up, and Dundee tumbled to the First Division with their first ever permanent potato.
Potato 25's journey:
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Full set of results for Potato 25:
Final resting places of all potatoes:
Total number of matches with all potatoes:
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