Scottish football needs 'czar'
Two dire results for Scottish football this week should send an icy shiver down our spines.
As the dark nights draw in and the wild winter winds whistle round our ankles, two defeats in two big games should chill Scottish football fans to their very souls.
Forget Rangers' undoing by Unirea and Celtic's humbling at the hands of Hamburg, the two defeats which leave me with that icy feeling are our under-17 side's defeats by Cyprus and Georgia in the Uefa Under-17 Championship qualifiers.
Never mind false humility, as a nation with more than a century of professional footballing history, tradition and infrastructure, we should be able to beat both countries.
So, why are we losing to these teams and how do we stop being frozen in time as the football equivalent of the Day After Tomorrow looms for us?
Let's be clear on one thing: Scottish kids are not any less potentially gifted than their foreign counterparts so something is wrong and we need to fix it now.
Three things need to be addressed.
Firstly, winter is approaching. It's the wrong time play when you are trying to learn the basics. Ball control and passing will not be mastered in gales and torrential rain.
Kids need to play in the summer when surfaces are better and more conducive to getting good quality work done with the ball.
How can we expect our youngsters to develop dribbling and passing skills in such conditions?
Secondly, the quality and size of pitches needs to be addressed.
Younger kids, and particularly those stepping up from the seven-a-side game, are suddenly pitched into playing on full-size fields; the same ones which men's and women's amateur sides play on and churn up.
The poor quality pitches mean that kids, who have been used to a short game in sevens, where control and short passing in tight situations is required, are flung into an environment where the key skill is learning to boot the ball upfield as far as possible.
"Clear your lines" and "get us out of there" are phrases I regularly hear coaches yell.
We need intermediate-size pitches to allow the kids to step up gradually, at each level from seven to nine to 11-a-side games.
Thirdly, just what are we trying to coach?
After watching Ian Cathro's youth revolution taking shape at Tannadice, where the emphasis is on technique, two equally good feet and general all round skill, there was a shock admission by a more experienced coach.
The coach told me that he and others with 20 years experience behind them should be embarrassed by the difference in the quality of what Cathro is delivering and what has passed for coaching in much of the Scottish game.
The emphasis on physical strength and willingness to run all day has been to the detriment of developing the kind of skills which Messi and Iniesta at Barcelona have mastered to make football an art form.
Mind you, I can think of about a dozen coaches who would've turned those two down because they were too small in the first place.
So who is to blame?
No-one, appears to be the answer. There has been a lack of joined-up thinking which has led us to the stage where Cyprus and Georgia now beat us and we hardly raise an eyebrow.
But no-one appears to have direct control or responsibility for the game at grass-roots level.
We need someone with clout to grab the game at youth level by the scruff of the neck.
We need a football czar to tell those who are responsible for this mess to shape up or ship out.
If we don't act soon Scottish football will wither and die in the long-term.
So, we need the right man or woman to make the big decisions, unfazed by the opinions of committees and blazers. They've got us into this state, after all.
The government needs to make it clear there won't be a single penny of funding for football unless it gets its house in order.
Czars appointed in other fields haven't sufficient power to radically change things.
This time a football Czar must have the right qualifications for the job and must be given the power to lay down the law to force through the changes to restore the health of our game.
Never mind democracy and debate, the future of Scottish football is too important to leave to stuffy committees with their vested interests.
Let's make that appointment to start the revolution and save Scottish football.