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Scotland must rediscover the joy of football

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Jim Spence | 22:03 UK time, Friday, 14 August 2009

It's pointless to berate the Scotland players for a lack of skill against Norway.

If they gave their best and were organised properly by the manager and still lost to a more skilful side, then we simply have to accept it.

The limitations of the squad are well-known and unless critics are suggesting they gave less than their all, were not sufficiently committed, or threw the towel in, then we should lay off them. They are what they are - hard working professionals.

Scotland were well beaten in NorwayTo my knowledge, none of them claim to be world-class so we cannot accuse them of immodesty.

While we may have to accept the limitations of the current squad though, what we do not have to accept is the continuing deterioration of our national game at international level.

As a country, we hugely underfund two minority sports in tennis and track cycling, yet in both, have two genuine world-class superstars in Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray.

Both had to leave behind dated Scottish facilities to train elsewhere but have become magnificent ambassadors for Scottish sport with the drive and ambition to beat the best in the world.

So why can we not produce even one player of world standing in football?

Well the good news is the Scottish Football Association, yes shock horror, the SFA, are trying to do something about it with director of football development Jim Fleeting driving changes in the way we operate at youth level.

Had the SFA board accepted some of his suggestions over the years then we may have been further down the road to curing some of the current ills of our football.

The bad news is we all need to look hard at ourselves in the mirror. Our football mirrors our society, and that is increasingly a society where a disproportionate number of us drink too much, eat too much, take little or no exercise and show little respect to those in authority such as referees, who in the amateur leagues regularly have to endure verbal and physical abuse.

That approach has a knock-on effect in our football. A lack of discipline, a lack of work ethic, a lack of drive and the mentality of chasing the money instead of enjoying the game proliferates.

Fundamentally though, we need to look at restoring the pure joy of the game to kids and to allow them to express themselves with their skills on the park.

We are a pretty unforgiving lot us Scots and our first reaction is to criticise and excoriate. We need to be gentler, less critical and more encouraging in order for young players to start to delight in their abilities again.

How many times have you heard a coach berate a player for taking a man on instead of passing? We need to ask whether on occasions we are coaching the joy out of the game for players. We should applaud not criticise when a bit of panache or style is shown by a youngster, even if it leads to a mistake.

The natural skills at a young level need to be re-taught. We need to stop banging on about the effect of the teachers' strike and the 'when I was a boy we put jackets down for goalposts' mentality. Those days are history.

Fans pay hard-earned money to watch players doing things they could only dream of doing themselves. We have to re-equip players with the skills to make going to the match a day of entertainment, comparable to going to watch a good film or a good band.

There is nothing in the Scottish water or gene pool that says our young players should be less gifted than those of any other country. Let the good coaches with new ideas loose. The creative coaches, the inventive coaches, the fun coaches.

It may be too late for the current generation of players but the next generation should be artists and entertainers as we rediscover the joys of the beautiful game.

On Wednesday 19 August on BBC Radio Scotland, 1900-2000, Jim Spence chairs a special debate with Craig Levein, Jim Fleeting and Bill Leckie on the future of our game in It's Broke, Let's Fix It.


  • Comment number 1.

    I think the best plan would be to withdraw from international football for 10 or 20 years and try and try again then. I'll be that much closer to death - less suffering.

  • Comment number 2.

    I don't think our players are particuarly bad, i think we've just got a poor manager of the national team and an outdated football association that is more concerned with stuffy regulations than supporting it's own players and clubs.

    Isn't amazing how our mood has changed so drastically from the periods of success enjoyed by walter Smith and Alex McLeish as national coach? All that good work has been undone by Burley and because we have no money, our game is suffering a dip on both international and club level.

    If we had an authority with the vision to bring some decent money into our game, instead of the current bunch begging for scraps at the table of our neighbours down south, maybe we could improve our grassroots game further and continue to improve in European club competition and (with a new manager) in the international arena too.

  • Comment number 3.

    Our problems are based at youth level,too many coaches will pick the bigger kids over the ones with skill as they are more focused on winning games regardless of the quality.

    I've seen it 1st hand myself,the smaller more skillful players are thrown aside as they are deemed too lightweight.Yet look at the Barcelona team,hardly a team of giants and yet proved to be by far the best team in Europe last season.

    We are seriously lacking the technique of other nations and my points i pointed out above are the main reason.

    We really need to adopt a different mentality at youth level and encourage the more skillful players rather than the more physical ones.

  • Comment number 4.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 5.

    Good blog again Jim!

    I think Craig Levein was spot on. It's the basic skills that are missing from our game. I know I've probably said this in virtually every reply I've written to a blog, but it's the standard of coaching that's the problem. We are a match for anyone in Europe up until the age of about 19-20, and then we stand still, or worse, regress. How many young players have we seen touted as the next big thing, only to see them disappear a couple of years later? (I'm thinking Simon Donnelly, Mark Burchill, David Hagen, Steve McLean, Ian Anderson etc. etc.)

    The reason for this is that raw, natural talent will only take you so far. Once you reach the ceiling, then you need to be properly coached to develop any further. It's happens in Europe, but not here, and I think that's down to the standard of coaching that comes out of the largs courses. The SFA will tell you it's the best in world, and the proof that's always wheeled out is Jose Mourinho. I would suggest that far from Largs honing his skills, it was the time he spent with Barcelona (first as an interpreter!) that brought him to his senses.

    Of course, there are other reasons that have already been touched upon, not least the short sightedness of boys football. Coaches at these teams are only concerned with short term results, hence the big lads getting preferred to small, skillful 'lightweight' players. It's been said before, but Messi would never have made it in Scotland.

    The other issue that comes from this is that the same mentality carries over into professional football managers - Think about all the signings there have been in the SPL season. How many times have you heard a new signing described as being 'skillful'? Not many, I'll bet. You'll have seen them described as 'Big', 'Athletic', 'has a good engine' etc. but 'skillful'? No chance. That's says it all.

    Lastly, you've got a point about lifestyle. At school, I was never quite good enough to make it as a footballer, but plenty of my mates were. However, it came down to this - they'd rather take drugs and drink cheap wine than train, which was frustrating for me, because I wasn't doing that but didn't quite have the talent. They did, and wasted it. I've no doubt that if you go round the swingparks of Scotland on Friday and Saturday nights, you'll see plenty of potential future Scotland internationals slumped on the ground in their own vomit.

    Basically, anything we can do to shoot ourselves in the foot, we are doing with relish.

  • Comment number 6.

    I moved to Vancouver 25 yrs ago, and I recall even then that their were flaws in the way the game was taught or coached in Scotland.
    I agree with Jim`s comments about letting the youth be encouraged to try out their skills, there is nothing more enjoyable than watching a kid take on another 1 v1 .
    We should`nt be too critical or cynical on how a player performs even at senior level.
    I did not see the game but watched a few snippets on youtube!, John Carew reminded me of Joe Jordan in his prime how Scotland would love to have another player like that.

    Yes may`be we should funnel more funds at developing players and coaches, plus get away from this negative stuff that continually haunts our scottish psyche.
    No matter what happens to George Burley it still does not solve the problem by firing him,

  • Comment number 7.

    I totally agree with many of the sentiments of the comments above but I think it is actually a mixture of every opinion presented. It is about grassroots not getting funded properly, it's about too many other distractions like video games etc, it's about poor management and worst of all I totally saw it coming.

    The answer lies in how we introduce kids from an early age into the game and nurture skill in the coming generations. It is unrealistic to ask the current generation to work miracles and start beating the likes of Norway, Macedonia, France and Italy when they can summon only a handful of players of Premiership quality but only one of whom has won a major european award.

    I don't blame George Burley or Gordon Smith directly, they have to work with the resources they have and are in no way responsible for the decline of Scottish football. At least not solely.

    It is up to every one of us to encourage the development of youth football and of activivty in general.
    That is the challenge; to get every child (male and female) back onto the pitch.

    For now it's everyman for Anyone But England!

  • Comment number 8.

    Scotland were unfortunate in the defeat to Norway. We were playing well and had good control of the game. After Caldwell was sent off and Riise scored albeit a deflection was a double blow. Norways confidence grew and Scotland lost their way just from a poor referee decision. Pedersen scored before half time and killed the game.

    I don't blame Burley or the players, I feel it was an unfortunate refereeing decision that cost us the game of which I feel we would have won.

    As to say our qualification hopes are in tatters as the media are stating is a load of rubbish. Our progression is in our own hands, we're not relying on other results. A win against Macedonia and a decent result against Holland maybe enough.

    One reason we don't qualify is negative thinking from fans and the media. When we should be support Scotland at this crucial time in qualification

  • Comment number 9.

    For me wholesale changes need to be made right across the board. From how we teach kiddies and youths the arts of the game, to the facilities and strutcure of the leagues things need to change. However the stark reality is that until the blazer brigade and clubs can put their own self preservation behind them then nothing will change.

    We can all see the league is uncompetitive and the structure doesn't work but until those at the top are brave enough come out from hiding behind generations of history, or is that neglect, then it'll be the same old same old.

    The raw talent is out there but we need to learn how harness it for the modern day game.

  • Comment number 10.


    You need to lose the blinkers. Caldwell's red card was thoroughly deserved as he was last man and had been yellow carded for a very agricultural through the back challenge on a Norwegian only moments earlier.

    The truth is that Norway showed why they are not going to the World Cup, therir front line is awful. Had they been any good they would have doubled their score against a woeful Scottish side made up of nothing more than very ordinary journeymen.
    Scotland can sack theeir manager if they like, but it won't deflect from the fact that the fault lies with the following.

    The Scottish FA - They seem to have abandoned any idea of true development of players.

    Celtic and Rangers - The gruesome twosome's naked greed, assisted by the weakness of the SFA, have destroyed the Scottish Leagues and as a result have left something like 34 out the 40 Scottish League clubs with no chance of developing any real talent as they are broke.

    The fans themselves - many who have stopped supporting their local sides, instead getting themselves bussed to celtic Park and Ibrox while their local clubs wither and die.

    Scottish football needs to start again. A strong SFA who will enforce rule over Celtic and Rangers. Who will restructure the league into two divisions one of 16 and one of 24, where clubs will play each other twice and have the chance to grow, especially once they've made it into the top flight Who will get rid of inept coaching at local level and who one day will run the game in Scotland's interest.

    Sadly, I don't ever see that time coming.

    BTW, for the info of the smart-mouths out there, I am not English.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great blog, but I think there are other issues here too. Scotland were pretty woeful against Norway - though the sending-off made things much worse than would otherwise have been the case. In fairness, too, Norway played well above themselves.

    In the past, Scotland has produced many world-class footballers - to name just a few, Peter Lorimer, Archie Gemmill, Gordon Strachan, Billy Bremner, Alan Hansen, Gary MacAllister, Dennis Law.....the list goes on. Leeds, Manchester United, Mnchester City, Nottingham Forest and Spurs are amongst teams which, in the past, regularly fielded Scots stars. Please don't say that Scotland cannot produce world-class players - the track-record is actually excellent for a small country.

    So, why not now? Youth development is part of it, but not all. First, few Scots players now play in the English top-flight (though Scots managers seem to do quite well). Lorimer and Bremner, for instance, were at the heart of a powerful Leeds team, whilst Gemmill was a key part of the Forest success story. With so many overseas players in the EPL, it's harder than it used to be; but encouraging EPL scouts to assess young Scots talent might help, I think.

    One factor, I think, is management and coaching. I usually watch English or European football, but have taken in a few old firm derbies. Exciting, enjoyable football each time, but - and I'll probably get lots of flack for this! - rather dated tactically, with too much long-ball play (told you I'd get flak for this....). This probably explains why Scots teams haven't done all that well in Europe in recent years - Celtic were the first UK team to win the European Cup, but I can't realistically see this being repeated any time soon.

    I'm not sure what the answer is - two or three Scots teams in the EPL, perhaps? Unlikely, I suppose. Better managers, with more flare - presumably from Europe - might make a big difference. If a Scots club had hired Roberto Martinez, for example, the results could have been interesting.

    Also, there's old firm domination - it would be nice to see at least three more regular title contenders, to make the SPL more competitive.

    Youth development and coaching are important, but are, presumably, at least as good now as when Lorimer, Bremner and the others were discovered. The best answer, it seems to me, is to attract young managers with flare, to put the Scots game onto something nearer to an EPL or European footing in terms of flare, style and tactics.

    I'm convinced - given the superb past track-record - that Scotland can produce as many great players, pro-rata, as anyone else. But changing the aspiration tactically might be an important issue to restore Scotland's previous standing as the home of world-class players.

  • Comment number 12.

    I must say that as an English man and England supporter, I derive no inconsiderable pleasure at the plight of the Scots!

  • Comment number 13.

    I agree with your sentiment in the article, berating the players or manager for the defeat by Norway is pointless.

    But I can't see how the ills of society - eating too much, drinking too much etc explains Scotland's malaise? Taking England out of the equation (because the population is just not comparable), even when compared to the Republic of Ireland, Scotland is generally producing players far below the quality of, say, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Stephen Ireland or Shay Given. Now is Scottish culture really dramatically less healthy than Ireland's?! Indeed, its arguable that even Wales has had more players closer to 'world class' status (Giggs, Bellamy) in the past few years than Scotland. Yet, neither Wales nor Ireland can boast the domestic fooball structure Scotland has, nor the historic track record of producing top players, managers, and competitive international sides.

    Could it be that the presence of the domestic structure is holding Scottish players back? If a young Scot, like his Irish or Welsh counterpart, was by necessity forced to seek a career at a young age in England, would this perhaps toughen him up mentally, make him mature more quickly, and provide him with better coaching at an early age? Rangers, Celtic, Hearts and particularly Hibs produce decent young players, but by the time they move to England in their early 20s, they frankly don't look like being anything better than average/decent despite the original hype they've received north of the border (think Barry Ferguson at Blackburn, Craig Gordon at Sunderland, Alan Hutton at Spurs, and soon Steven Fletcher at Burnley I fear).

    The best current Scottish player is Darren Fletcher, who was English trained from the very start. He's not world class himself, but capable of being a productive part of a world class team. I very much doubt however if he'd been reared at Rangers or Hearts (for example) he would have developed as far as he has. In effect, the scouting of Scottish players by Scottish teams is interfering with their youth development. I know Scots will disagree with me, but even they must agree something is wrong at present - and its not the same situation in Ireland is it?

  • Comment number 14.

    RE: Largs' coaching courses - the foreign coaches who have taken
    part in coaching courses seem to do alright. Not just Mourinho either!
    Praise has also been forthcoming about the place from Ferguson, Wenger, Capello,
    Lippi, Pellegrini......
    Unfortunately, it is ONLY the Scottish coaches who seem unable to stay "on message"
    after they leave the course!
    Mowbray, Hughes & Levein seem to be trying to change the habits of a generation, but it will
    still take a few years to undo the damage of the Jeffries'; Williamsons'; Scotts'; Tottens'; Smiths' etc.
    That is the coaching generation that has unleashed the player with "heart but nae heid!" upon us!

    More power to Gordon Smith, who has the ideas (despite the smarmy attitude); and more former players
    like Jim Duffy in positions to make decisions about football development - if you haven't played at the top, then no blazer!

  • Comment number 15.

    This is the problem i lived in dundee in a catchment area of about 200000 people and the two teams couldnt even manage twenty thousand fans between them on a saturday, but the train staion was full of the green and blue of of the old firm. unless the aberdeens hibs hearts dundees etc even inverness( a fast growing city) can start to attract serious crowds im talking 20000 plus every home game you will sruggle. these attendence are a cheivable and are acheived in cities of a similar size in england until local supporters follow their home town clubs they will have no mandate to force the pace of change at the SFA. The league has stagnated the old firm for all their support cant even get into the knock out satges of the champions league on a reguar basis. a sucessful scotland will be underpinned by a vibrant and competitive league putting teams and scottish players into regular contact with the best of europe.

  • Comment number 16.

    People go on about the SPL being rubbish because only two teams can win it... It's half the size of the English Premier League, and at best only three or four teams have a shot at that. So it's really the same... Smaller league, fewer teams can win; bigger league, more teams can win.

    Perhaps with two 16-team leagues the OF dominance could finally be challenged?

  • Comment number 17.

    Good Blog Jim. I agree the players certainly did try their best, but I do dispute the common theme of their lack of skills. We may not be producing the outstanding players of the past but the current players are a reasonable squad who should have stood a pretty good chance of qualifying. I'm afraid we will never see players like that again, as long as the clubs continue to pay so much money for overrated under achieving foreign players. We currently have players from Cameroon, Slovakia, Macedonia, Guadelope and France in our lower leagues, that's without including the United Nations of Inverness and the SPL teams. Would any of those players get in the Scotland squad? In fact with a few notable exceptions, there's not a lot of foreign imports in the SPL who would

  • Comment number 18.

    you are touching on the root problems facing scottish football but you need to factor drugs into the equation, 40 years ago or before the onslaught of the drug age the poor areas produced most of the players, now those areas are ravaged by drug addiction,its the same in england, the real answer is a 15year plan,involving a highly organised combination of the best coaches for the kids who are standouts,as well as competions that generate the right kind of intensity, i feel football is one of the purest forms of socialism, it all happens because people want it to, and the rewards are incredible.

  • Comment number 19.

    Having been born in Scotland but raised in Australia since 9 years old, I have watched as Australia has surpassed Scotland as a football nation. Nevertheless I still have a soft spot for the Scottish team and like many others fail to understand why Scotland have not produced a truly international standard, let alone world class, player for more than 10 years. Lifestyle can't be the whole story, all European nations face the same fast food/binge drinking/computer game culture, yet teams which were far behind Scotland in the past have overtaken them .I also follow closely French football and aside from the fact they do get a lot of players of African origin, there are plenty of young players coming through who are not from external origins. They have an excellent youth system at club and national level, at least Celtic and Rangers should be producing a few players each, without even having to rely on the SFA.

  • Comment number 20.

    We have our young footballers playing 11-a-side on huge pitches (at 10 years old and before they've mastered the basics) yet we're continually surprised when we get found out at senior level.

  • Comment number 21.

    I always amazes me how many people continually blame youth football for the National teams ills but have very little knowledge or experience of it. There are problems in football at all levels and we seem to focus on those instead of building on the good work that goes on. If your not happy with it, then do something about it, instead of just sitting behind a desk venting your spleen on a keyboard, get out and coach! There are thousands of kids who want to play but can't because of the lack of volunteers at local clubs.

  • Comment number 22.

    QPR4me I think you are spot on with your blog, playing each other 4 times and then cup games as well when drawn together, dosnt cut it.
    Celtic and Rangers glory hunters yes, I live in Durham and still get back to see the Dee

  • Comment number 23.

    I grew up in Ayrshire and saw some absolutely brilliant players fall away to drink, girls, kids etc. One guy in particular could pass the ball better than anyone in the current scotland team, no exaggeration, but was an alcoholic by the time he was 17, FAIL. Aside from individual shortcomings, there is too much of the 'win at all costs' mentality in youth football which is absolutely no use.

    Arsene Wenger says a great player must have the skill level by the time he is 16 and the rest can come later. At 16, most scots can do a very effective job in their chosen position but probably cant do 15 keepy-uppies.

    This is a great article, "The Joy Of Football" Couldn't put it better myself

  • Comment number 24.

    Great blog Jim, and many great comments above (well ok, feeble wind-up attempt at #12 apart!). I remember similar arguments about 20 years ago. It's tragic that we've not moved forward at all in the meantime, indeed we may even have gone backwards.

    I'd add my voice to those advocating radical reform. After all, what exactly have we got to lose? Here's a few half-baked ideas, feel free to rip them to pieces or improve them as appropriate...

    1. Organise football around youth development, i.e. make that the prime purpose for the game. If we can develop and support world class players then everything else will follow: better standards, more interest, bigger crowds, better TV deals, bigger transfer fees, more players in the top leagues, better national team.

    2. Q: How many Scots play in Europe's top leagues? How many Dutch, Danes or Swedes do? No wonder our players are lagging behind. Why not organise a series of exchanges to clubs in some of the leading countries? Several coaches/young players from each club would go to see how the game is really coached and played. If nothing else it might open their eyes a bit and get some of our players keen to play in Serie A, la Liga, the Bundesliga, etc.

    3. Let's give some of the Premier League reserve teams a place in the lower divisions, albeit without the possibility of promotion to the top level (as happens in Spain). It's criminal that the top teams hoover up so many promising youngsters that then rot away in the reserves for a year or two before being moved on, rarely to be seen again. No wonder our promising U19/U21 teams don't translate to a promising national team. Better to give the young players good competitive games.

    4. Alternatively we could have maximum senior squad sizes (say 20-25 players?), like in the NFL. Youth players (U19) to fill in when injuries demand it.

    5. Give summer football a chance. Surely that would mean better weather, better pitches and games more suited to skillful players than bog-snorkelling behemoths. Our players would also be in full stride when those tricky July/August qualifiers come round, rather than still midway through pre-season training.

    Again, what exactly have we got to lose? Tradition maybe? Aye, a tradition of glorious failure, that's recently morphed into glorious failure in qualifiers and is now in danger of simply becoming failure minus any sort of glory.

    I'll finish my rant with a wee story. 20 years ago we squeezed France out to qualify for Italia 90. The French decided that something was badly wrong with their game and set about fixing it. 8 years later they won the World Cup. It's high time we fixed our game too.

  • Comment number 25.

    I went to play fives (indoor) on Friday night at a local sports centre here in Dundee. Unfortunately, we were turned away from our usual booking as the hall was waterlogged. It seems the roof of the hall can't cope with heavy rain.

    If that is symbolic of the facilities we have in Scotland, why should we be surprised at a lack of progress? The new facility at Toryglen is very impressive, but was meant to be one of several regional facilities. I do not see a rush to build more.

    One of my former pupils is a cycling protege but he has had to spend hours on the road in order to use the velodrome in Manchester to develop his talent - so even in cycling, as you suggest, the facilities are disappointing.

    The reality is, we will have to spend significantly more money on providing the correct environment to encourage our youngsters to develop their talents. Great blog.


  • Comment number 26.

    Until last year my team were in division one and are now in division two. A direct result of lack of money and employing a coach who values heart and fitness above skill. I go to every home game and a good number of away games so I see a lot of matches (I was going to say football, but often that is scarce).
    In the last ten years in particular I have noticed that there are fewer and fewer young players coming through with the basic skills to control, pass, head and shoot. Maybe the skills were there and the coaches have coached it out of them or they are there and they are not encouraged to practice them. Either way there are precious few on display. The games that I see these days are more a pure physical contest and the biggest and strongest teams are usually victorious. Strength and athletesism seem to be valued higher than skill. Few of the players even look as if they are enjoying the game and the spectators certainly don't.
    So what does that say about our coaching? I live beside an all weather facility on the south side of Glasgow. Teams all of ages play on the pitches from early until late in the evening. From what I can see players are encouraged to pick up, work harder, maintain the coaches' chosen shape for the team and to play the ball early, usually forward and into target areas for players to attack.
    You very rarely see a player try to beat another player by dribbling with the ball, nor indeed are they encouraged to try to do so. No one appears to be encouraged to take their time and look for a pass, or to find space so they can receive a ball with time to consider what to do with it. Trying to support the player on the ball by making an angle for him and using spacial awareness to outwit opponents is almost non existent. It all seems to be about players making runs for long balls that the players making the passes do not seem to have the vision or technique to deliver and then they have to make runs back into position to cover again. So long as you can manage that non stop you seem to get a game.
    They say you can't teach skills in our climate unless you have indoor facilities because the weather is too bad and the players get cold and disheartened so you have to keep them moving. So they play matches all the time and work on improving fitness to keep the players constantly moving and warm. Our weather must have deteriorated alarmingly since the sixties and seventies. The idea of an Italian fantasista type player (a creative influence on the team who can create from nothing in a split second and change a match) is as meaningful to these coaches as nuclear physics. If they actually found one they probably wouldn't know how to use him/her anyway. They would probably get chucked out for not working hard enough. Having said that, there tends to be more basic skills shown in the ladies matches although the pace of those games are slower.
    At the moment we have more people per head of population attending matches than England in fact we are about fourth in the league table in that respect. With the current standard of football that we are producing I cannot see that continuing much longer and in the current economic climate that would be the death knell for many teams. A radical rethink of our entire structure is needed and we must get away from the way of thinking that we are just unlucky and that but for bad decisions or a bad break we would have a great national team. We had enough luck and breaks in our two matches against France a year or so back to do us for about two decades!

  • Comment number 27.

    Good blog Jim, however I feel the national team flopped due to the inept tactics of the manager.

    To play 433 away from home was stupid, we should have gone for a more defensive line up to start with. But we really lost htis group by drawing 0-0 in Glasgow against Norway. If we had tried the same attacking philosophy at home well maybe, but not away.

    Also to start with McFadden and Hartley on the bench was unbelievable. To take Stephen Caldwell in for such an important game was just plain stupid. Why not try him in a friendly?

    This squad of players was perfectly capable of 2nd place. The reason is purely Burley. The blame must lie with the SFA for a bad appointment.

    Re Martinez, he was definitely above Mowbray in the list at Parkhead, but wouldn't come to Scotland.

    I agre the focus needs to be on development, but the present system where there are 3 or 4 bodies running youth football is ridiculous.

    Hope Fleeting makes some real changes but I doubt it.

  • Comment number 28.

    Oldshawfieldboy - great comment btw

    Our U19 teams are usually very promising, I think most people will agree with this, but no-one in here has so far looked at why. Arsenal and co rarely come calling to easter road looking for our 18yr olds despite the fact that the Scotland youth teams play well....

    The reason for this is that our Teams play well, not our Players. At 19yrs old our boys can play a very astute tactical game that will get them a result against more skillful opposition. However, 3 years later, that more skillful opposition has developed its mental and physical side of the game and will usually wipe the floor with our boys (who have barely improved at all in the crucial 18-21 period).

    I think in Scotland we train players to 'do a job' and the players that can, get taken on by the clubs with a view to improving their skills after that. This approach does not work, if the player doesnt have the evidence of world beating skills by 19, it is very likely he never will. Countless next big thing failures will testament to this.

    Bremner and co were brought up playing on the streets, developing skills, the modern youth do not get the same daily exposure to skills development and as oldshawfieldboy said, arnt showing evidence of the basic skills by the time they make the first teams, instead they are expected to pick up the skills after they are in the team.

    This cant go on
    Training players in this way is like teaching kids to write a novel before you teach them how to read

  • Comment number 29.

    I think that saying youth football needs to be less competitive and focus more on skill development and playing for the joy of the game ignores some salient truths about human nature, whatever country you happen to be living in. And one of those truths is, competition is a necessary element for development of skill. Not, I hasten to add, competition alone. But it is in competition that the skills developed on the training ground in drills are honed, focused, and (perhaps most importantly) tested. Removing competition from youth football wholesale is not the answer. Incorporating it as an integral element in skill development is.

  • Comment number 30.

    Yes there's still work to be done on our youth system, but we've certainly got better players than we had 8-10 years ago when our team was made of naturalised Scots (Matt Elliot, Don Hutchison, etc) who hadn't come through the Scottish system, talented but very much aging players like Hendry, Durie, Boyd etc and decent journeymen like McCann, Johnston, Cameron etc. Our current team has a couple of players at top English teams (Fletcher, Hutton), several playing CL football with the Old Firm and a load more with decent lower league English teams. Compared to what we had this is really not a bad group of players. They're probably not yet good enough to qualify but if a few more come through and we get the right manager we could have a decent team. Have people forgotten how rank rotten we were at the end of the Brown era (losing to possibly the worst England team I've ever seen) and under Vogts. We've made real progress since then, our average team age is way down and we had some great results under Smith & McLeish. I don't normally have a go at our managers but Burley is struggling.

  • Comment number 31.

    I pass by the old Paisley racecource - site of many football fields -regularly, and guess what, hardly ever anyone out there kicking a ball around, unless in an actual fully organised game.

    It is pretty much the same everywhere you go - empty playing fields.
    You see kids all over the place with the latest tops on but hardly
    ever out there kicking a ball around.

    Compare that to Latin America where kids are in the streets everywhere,
    and on any vacant lots, playing, playing, playing.

    It does not take much money or all weather fields to play and practice football as all we auld geezers know from our 'deprived' boyhoods.
    So come on parents, get your kids away from their TV's, PC's, mobile phone texting and get them out playing football or some other sport.

  • Comment number 32.

    sorry guys cant see us going anywhere soon because i think we cant even do anything right in the first place this rangers and celtic thing and every thing regarding that is sad(no dont help them way of thinking) the case of rangers doing well to get to the final of the uefa cup when they needed support from the sfa and other teams in scotland regarding the number of games, the sfa should of told not asked the other teams that the name of scottish football goes before club .no help at all and the same thing would of happened if celtic had done well.We are so far behind other places, please can someone tell me what came from the think tank remember that waste of money (the guy walker and all those suit gang)and please dont think that anyone cares about us outside scotland they dont in aussie thay never even mention can Norway a place which has worse weather than us and less fan base hump us manager yes we all know the guy hasnt got manager not to sure would it matter and who would want it lol

  • Comment number 33.

    I've always wondered why New Zealand consistently produces a top quality Rugby team from a population of 4 million, which down the years has consistently been one of the best Rugby teams in the world.

    Having lived here now for nearly 3 years I'm beginning to see why..

    It's not all about throwing money at the game as some people suggest.. what it seems to be about, it teaching the kids, from the age of about 4 or 5 upwards.. that Rugby is fun..

    they start off with a cut down version of Rugby called Rippa Rugby, where the kids concentrate on running with the ball.. and having fun.. there are bands of material velcroed to belts around thier middles and the kids are supposed to rip these off.. thereby getting them used to getting there hands on the opponent whilst he or she is running with the ball..

    they do this for a couple of years.. the coaches introduce the threory of passing the ball instead of waiting to be "tackled".. then they move onto tackle rugby, non contesting scrums and lineouts, no coversions and the like.. and they then concentrate on the basics of tackling and passing the ball.. and using this method the kids are introduced to the various basic skills required. then when they progress up to about under 11 stage, they move to full size pitch..

    its very granular and the theme is always about having fun..

    My daughter played footy when we lived in Scotland and we'd go along on Saturday mornings and hear dads living their footballing failures through their kids.. swearing and shouting at 6 year olds for failing to nail a pass, or for being tackled by a girl.. its was pathetic really...

    Here in NZ, Saturday mornings are all about family fun, I've never heard a parent swear at their kids, i often see parents go up to players form the other team and tell them well done or whatever..

    I think Jim Spence , and others , hit the nail on the head, As a nation we seem to happy to shoot ourselves in the foot and lie around in pools of our own vomit..

    It's sad.. but true.

  • Comment number 34.

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    We are a sick nation. Back to basics is required.

    The real reason why we failed in Norway is for the following reasons-

    No Boys Brigade or Primary school competive football. Even at Sconday education if a lad or a lass has been signed for a club then they cannot compete for the school. A joke.

    What ever happened to playing for your local school, playing football at night with your pals(all day in the school hols), playing for the Boys Brigade or Cubs etc, playing with schools and also club teams. In fact life was football.

    Now we have organised non competitive games if you are lucky with clubs. Schools do not have teams and no one ever goes to a club anymore. Everyone wonders why the youth of today hang about street corners.

    In Norway last week every village and town i visited had great football facilities for both males and females. What do we have. Yobs and social fis fits who wonder why they are overweight and sick.

    Urgent action is required now.

    One last thing. Two great young players that we as a nation have produced include McGeady and McCarthy. They should be wearing the dark blue of Scotland. If they have the GB passport tough. Scotland it is. If they wany to play for another nation then apply for citizenship. Similar to Almunia with Arsenal.

    In 1998 i saw Scotland get turned over by the Morrocans in St Etienne. That was the signal. Eleven years later we are finished.

    Could the last Scotsman leaving the country please turn off the light.

  • Comment number 37.

    I was at St Johnstone v Motherwell on Saturday and as a life long Motherwell fan I am delighted with all the managers points so far, The game was one of the finest pieces of entertainment I have sen in a while. To play atractractive football and to give youth a key role in the club is exactly what I want as a football fan. This type of commitment is a breath of fresh air for the game in Scotland. I think Hibs have been the main club so far to develop talent wth the likes of Brown Thomson and Reardon and I think with Yogi in charge that will continue. We need fresh talent coming out of Scotland and feeding to the larger clubs in England. If we can have the best talent we can produce playing in the best leagues then the International team will not just survive it will, with patience, eventually flourish.
    As a football fan and a realist if Motherwell do not get relegated, play attacking football and keep the conveyor belt of talent coming through I will be delighted. Well Done to Our Chairman Mr Boyle he is putting together a business model that can entertain his fans and through the sale of this talent make a profit for the club.


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