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Scots' attitude is the height of nonsense

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Jim Spence | 18:02 UK time, Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Do some Scottish football coaches need to be more open-minded when it comes to height?

The World Cup in Africa would appear to suggest the answer is a resounding "yes".

Recently I heard it said that Lionel Messi wouldn't have graduated through the Scottish game because he was too small.

The same would apply to Xavi, Iniesta and a host of other talent at the World Cup.

xavi_messi_iniesta_595getty.jpgA lack of height hasn't hampered the careers of top players Xavi, Messi or Iniesta. Photo: Getty.

And the Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez at 5 foot 7 inches would have been laughed off the park in Scotland.

The Mexican may have spring in his legs like Zorro and reactions quicker than Speedy Gonzalez, but everyone knows that keepers have to be 6 foot-plus, don't they? (Sorry, Andy Goram....who was he?)

A generation of Scottish coaches continue to confuse athleticism with height and strength.

They have failed to grasp the notion that acceleration, pace, suppleness, flexibilty, speed of thought and dynamic power are crucial components for players.

Watch Messi use his 5 foot 6.5 inch frame to roll players two stone heavier off the ball, and his alacrity of movement and thought leave opponents in his wake.

Yet I hear of clubs who still want to know what height a boy's parents are before they'll sign him.

So if Messi ever has a son looking for a club, don't come to Scotland for a trial.

This is not a diatribe against the Peter Crouches of this world, but ability cannot be determined by height and strength alone, as many coaches seem to believe.

The evidence at this World Cup has shown the opposite to be true.

Marcelo the Brazilian full-back/wide player scrapes in at 5 foot 7.5 inches, while Italian centre back Fabio Cannavaro is 5 foot 9 inches, two positions widely regarded in Scottish football as requiring 6 foot-plus stature.

How many good young boys are lost to the game because of this closed-minded obsession with height?

And, more importantly, where did this parochial view come from?

After all, this is a nation which gave birth to the ball wizardry and genius of midget gems like Jimmy Johnstone and Billy Bremner, not to mention Denis Law, who at 5 foot 9 inches had a spring in his legs which left much taller defenders grounded.

At one time we produced pocket dynamos who had the strength, speed, agility and, above all else, the sheer raw talent to allow them to grace the world's greatest stages.

I suspect they're still out there, waiting for their chance if only some coaches could find it in themselves to put their measuring tapes away.


  • Comment number 1.

    I totally agree Jim. To take the point further, we need to stop kids playing 11-a-side games until they're 16; it's far too easy for coaches to win games at lower age groups by simply fielding a team of relative giants who "kick and rush" against a team of smaller lads who might have ambitions of keeping the ball on the deck but are simply too intimidated to be able to compete.

    The answer? Start splitting those big parks up into smaller pitches and ensure that all youth football comes under one bracket.

  • Comment number 2.

    I've been training kids for years, and I agree with "Colchie"

    Some kids here, in France, at 12, have never played eleven-a-side football.
    The emphasis has always been the ability to control and pass ball, no matter the size of the kid.
    But playing in France or Spain isn't the same game as is played in Scotland.

    For tackles that are applauded in Scotland - here in France you would get a yellow card.
    There is a need for protection by the referee.
    if you want players of all sizes playing attractive football - you'll have to start playing by the same rules as the rest of the world.

  • Comment number 3.

    The Scots have confused football with American football (and even the Americans aren't fielding hulking "soccer" teams). Bigger isn't necessarily better, and often is not in this case. Agility and speed mean much more than brutishness and thuggishness (which I had thought was stating the obvious). Perhaps if we were discussing the professional pub-fight circuit (which, I must say, would be quite entertaining if it were in existence), Scotland would be on to something, but football, needless to say, has much more to do with skill than size. I can somewhat understand the mentality behind it, as there is something to be said for fielding a physically intimidating team (just ask the Germans), but unless size is balanced by talent, you might better save it for the rugby pitch.

  • Comment number 4.


    This is exactly what's been said in fans forums for years. It's the mentality of scottish coaches. How many times have we seen a player sign for a Scottish club, and the manager will tell you how 'He's a big strong boy, got a good engine, gets up and down the park etc. etc.' - no mention of actually having any football ability, you'll notice.

    And unfortunately, nothing will change. For funds to be made available for proper evolution of the Scottish game, you're asking football coaches to place the emphasis on development that won't produce results for many years. Most football coaches can't look beyond next saturday.

    We have to do what Spain did in the 90's, and to a lesser extent what Germany did after their abject failure at Euro 2000, but we just don't have the mental strength for it.

  • Comment number 5.

    This is sadly all to true. It has been mentioned in Aberdeen more than once that Shaun Maloney was rejected be Aberdeen because he was "too small" to make a footballer.
    totally agree with Disaster for Scotland also. Although Mowberys time turned out to be a disaster, he tried to turn Celtic into a footballing team but failed because too many and mainly Rangers, built their teams around height an hard challenges rather than keep the ball on teh ground an play a pass. Its sad to see since it wasnt that long ago both the old firm were doing great in Europe an the national team was something to shout about an when the going gets tough, theyve all reverted to square one again.

  • Comment number 6.

    As the recent England game showed the British kick and rush is a busted flush..the sooner we move away from our traditional style and move towards a European passing model where the emphasis is on technique the better..its not just about height is it?

  • Comment number 7.

    In response to Colchie, A sunday boys club manager recently waxed lyrical to me about the need for better skill levels and technique, and in the next breath cheerfully admitted that he only signs big strong boys who can run over the opposition.
    This mentality is so deeply ingrained in our football and coaching thinking at all levels that only a radical change of mindset can improve matters.
    A senior Scottish coach once told me that pro clubs youth systems were full of jersey fillers. But our coaching system also seems to be full of time fillers. They'll spend lots of hours on the pitch with kids, but the quality of the work they are producing leaves a lot to be desired.
    For coaches who might have a radical approach to the game there is no incentive to question or debate with the men who hand out the badges. Otherwise you don't get your badge.
    The system is deeply flawed.
    And as Rob04 writes, the kick and rush style is bust. Those kidding themselves on that England had a problem with their coach or system and that their team was full of world class players who didn't perform, need a reality check. They simply don't have the technique of the really top players.
    Witness the inability of many of them to master a ball in tight situations.
    Countries which traditionally have not been seen as football powers are now leaving us behind in terms of technique and application, because they concentrate on aspects other than height and strength in the early years.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article Jim, the concentration on "big laddies" is to our national detriment. I am taking a team over to the Gothia Cup in July which is the biggest youth football tournament in the world. The standard of football there is stunning and frequently played by teams with kids that are artists rather than giants.

    No matter the argument about big players, what we really need to get our head around is the quality of coaching and the structure of development football. As has been alluded to earlier, this needs to be centred around non competitive games on smaller pitches. This ensures that kids have more touches on the ball and that skill is developed.

    On that subject, is it too much to the powers to understand that the more touches that kids have in a traininig session, the better ball players that they will become. I have watched other teams train for 45 minutes before they touch the ball at training, all the boys were giants, but could they make the ball talk to them, no way!

    The mentality in Scotland does not allow us to let kids between the ages of 6 - 13 play non competitive games that concentrate on skill development. I've had opposition coaches and parents encouraging players to "bring him down" or to "break his legs".

    Jack McConnells report does not go anywhere near the solutions to our current problems unfortunately and we will still produce "big laddies" with a poor first touch who will never make it. This is a document that in 74 pages on develoing football at grassroots mentions the word "fun" 6 times.

    Fitba just doesn't seem fun anymore!

  • Comment number 9. sum it up well. I like your point about kids being artists wih the ball. Our kids need to fall in love with the ball again. To encourage that they need lots of ball work and to have fun. Not be expected to have the physique of heavyweight boxers before they're fully grown.

    The powers that be talk a good game but the evidence is that we're being left far behind in our development.

  • Comment number 10.

    Thanks for the reply Jim, now just don't get me started on the monumental waste of time, money and talent this is called "Pro Youth Football". We have a local "Academy" in Ayr that I have seen being given £25,000 in lottery grants to "develop excellence". These are the same academies that our Jack wants to have half a billion spent on in the next X number of years.

    Money spent on stupidity, reliant on a failed politicians view of the future of a sport that he had no more than modest success at. I can actually get very depressed when I think about it.

  • Comment number 11.

    I agree 100%

    Let's field a Scotland team full of talented midgets

    We'll rule the world

  • Comment number 12.

    can i just point that ''big laddies'' aren't always just there to run over the opposition, can you have a look at george weah's goal when he played for ac milan vs verona, a big guy, athletic and one with unbelievable ability, it doesn't matter what size the player is, it comes down to attitude and wanting it more .
    when will coaches actually hit the nail on the head and start pushing ''proper attitude'' in football.
    surely football coaches should be using englands dismal world cup as an example of everything bad in the sport and pushing team spirit, attitude and commitment to kids today.
    team spirit doesn't mean our players sit round a table to mid morning and get sozzled, loch lomand comes to mind, just like our ex scotland captain to show a shining example and one of our top managers saying that a team that drinks together wins together, no wonder we haven't qualified for major tounaments lately.
    did henry mcleish's review on football in this country cover the attitude factor of the modern footballer in scotland. i read an article from daley thompson '' double olmpic champion , world record holder and world champion'' he hit the nail on the head when he was asked a question about football in glasgow the other day..
    jim, football has nothing to do with size . the long and short of it is that some of our top players attitude stinks. we're really no different from england and all their woes.

  • Comment number 13.

    ally9,I am definitley not suggesting that all big laddies lack skill and I agree with you that attitude is crucial.
    My point though is that too many coaches still overlook smaller players and assume that height confers an automatic advantage, rather than ask and observe the obvious questions such as does a smaller player have good dynamic spring, can he time his jump etc.

    Oscar Perez at 5ft7in, dealt very competently with high balls V France punching several clear, while the taller Lloris in the French goal looked clumsy and showed poor judgement in coming off his line too often when there was no need and defenders should have dealt with balls.

    Howver, I cannot think of many Scottish coaches who would favour a keeper of Perez's stature against Lloris, despite the objective evidence that the smaller keeper was at least as competentas the taller one and appeared to have better all round reactions.

  • Comment number 14.

    Don't really agree with this article to be honest, look at the midfields of Dundee United, St. Johnstone, Hibs and Hamilton. United in particular have Gomis, Conway and Swanson, who would likely fail to get on most rides at Alton Towers and I'm sure Swanson even needs a booster seat for his car. The others have the like of Jody Morris, who needs a kid's strip, Liam Miller and James Wesolowski, all a fair bit below the average male height.

    I'd go as far to say that one of the Scotland team's problems is the lack of a decent, big striker (Kevin Kyle and Chris Iwelumo don't come under the bracket of "decent" and Garry O'Connor hasn't been fit in years).

  • Comment number 15.

    thank you for the reply jim
    you could have mentioned tim cahill of everton, a fantastic player who scores so many goals with his head even though he's 5 ft 9. what really stands out about the player though is the fact at 16years of age he left austrailia to try to become a pro in england, he has attitude and drive. a must for any modern day player.
    as for the coaches, the evidence is right in front of us, our coach and managers are driven by results and a particular style of play, it's killing the game. if we cant win just make sure we don't lose.
    there isn't much skill left in the game, i've watched football for years and played a bit to know that, i do lay some of the blame with the coaches but most of the blame with the players no matter what size they are, i wish you had mentioned the size of the players ego's jim , that seems to be a huge problem in football , managers and coaches have to be able to manage big players ego's, is managing ego's part of the sfa coaching manual, too many players are too big for their boots . just look at france and just about to make the news here is the ex captain of scotland who still can't decide if he wants to play for scotland. why do the media play to these guys jim. what an example he is to young kids starting out in football.
    as a player you should want to be the best, that takes hard work, too many players haven't a clue what that is.

  • Comment number 16.

    I am 43 years old & an ex youth player at Rangers. I was told to my face by Jock Wallace I was too small to sign a proffesional contract. That was 1986....I now help with my 12 year old son's football team. Pro youth coaches watch us week in & week out. We just lost a player to Motherwell, he is 13 & 6 foot 2. We have a boy at just under 5 feet with more ability & skill who could be developed by better coaches & coaching than we can provide but no-one is interested. When will we learn. I was at the discussion forum with Billy Stark when he admitted that Xavi, Iniesta & Messi would more than likely have been discarded by our system. Have we learned ? The Pro-Youth system is a joke. It needs to be taken out of the hands of the clubs who only want to win games at the age of 12 & 13 & put into the hands of coaches with no vested interest other than improving our youngsters talent & basic skills regardless of height.

  • Comment number 17.

    I was told this by coaches for years and never really got a chanice to shine in football until I was 16 and an amateur manager came to my house and asked me to come play with is team. I am only 5'5" but am very skilful on the ball. I am quick in all ways, including speed of thought. Im no Messi but have a similar style. Unfortunately I was never given the chance and was always told how small I was. I now live in Spain and enjoy playing 7 a sides competitively on a weekly basis. The style here suits me better as people actually try to play. I know of many others who were also told the same rubbish by managers in the youth set up in Scotland. People who were so good that I have no doubts they could have graced our National Team. How sad that we have went down this path when we always had such technically gifted players such as Baxter and Johnston amongst many others.

  • Comment number 18.

    to madscot125

    it's sad that coaches have such a negative influence on so many youth players, the one given in any sport is enjoyment, thats what it's all about.
    if you don't enjoy sport when you play it's a waste of time. i can't remember seeing a scottish player enjoy his sport, the enjoyment is coached out of them.
    lucky guy over there playing in spain, don't you miss the rain and the cold. lol
    football with a smile and in the sun.. absolutely no chance over here. closest you'll get to it is the beach at fir park, motherwell

  • Comment number 19.

    In the case of Professional teams youth coaches, it's their JOB to produce results - not players - and as such they can hardly be blamed for resorting to finding as many big lads as possible to try to overrun the opposition - the clubs need an attitude adjustment as well.

    And above them, the elusive 'powers-that-be' - I noted with interest the McLeish report into the state of Scottish football, and was far from suprised that the vast majority was almost word-for-word what had been suggested by Rinus Michel's 'Think Tank' 15 years ago. He was thanked for his time before that was quietly shelved, and we quickly descended into mediocrity as a result.

    So how to force change? If the government try to push it along, we could be banned from international and european football - just ask Nigeria.

    I always find it faintly amazing how quick we are to unite against whoever England are playing, when disunity is the prevailing feature of our game back home.

  • Comment number 20.


  • Comment number 21.


    I've not ever commented on your blogs before but have to say I agree with much of what you say. Size, to me, is not a factor in the game. Neither, for that matter, should age be. Too many managers / coaches look at a player and say "he's too young for the first team". Same statement is used regarding size. Sadly, I don't think I have the solution to that problem. Nobody could say that Pele at 17 was too young - though in 1958 a psychologist did apparently tell the Brazil coach he wasn't ready to play for the first team, just before he played in the World Cup finals. Neither could anybody say that Willie Henderson or Jimmy Johnstone were too small to be useful players. Coaches need to take the chance and allow ability to be the method of choosing players, not muscle.

    As regards Pragmale's comment re shirt pulling, why don't shirt manufacturers make shirts for players which have weaker seams - if they are pulled, the stitching would burst and it would be obvious to all that something untoward was going on. Replica kits could be made to a higher spec for the fans who want to thus support their team.

  • Comment number 22.

    Yet another article about the failings of our youth system. If we put stacked all these articles on a single large pile I wager they would reach out to the moon. Perhaps we should look ourselves in the mirror and admit we are not a nation of sporting enthusiast unless it's watching it on the box. Perhaps we should really be asking ourselves why our national culture isn’t conducive to bringing out any sporting talent. We believe ourselves a nation of football mad fans, perhaps we should question that assumption since as a country we haven't produced a truly talented team in decades. Is there something ingrained in our culture or psyche that seems to stop us winning or achieving things?

  • Comment number 23.


    We have the numbers participating, but would you deny that the whole 'big man' attitude is harming our game?
    We can all think of examples. In my year at school, we had a guy who was an unbelievable footballer with all the skill in the world, but his crime was to be small. We also had Greg Denham, who was ok, but not any better than the rest, and he was lucky enough to be over 6ft. Guess who got the professional contract? The small guy was left playing amateur football, and then ended up being 6ft anyway! But by then it was too late.

    As for our culture, I'll accept that. For all the players that I can say didn't make it because they were too small, I could equally give you examples of players that should have made it, but didn't through their own fault. You can walk past a swing park any friday or saturday night, and you'll see a whole host of potential future Scotland internationals, face down in their own vomit. It's almost as if they somehow believe it has more kudos if you can make it despite yourself, rather than because of yourself.

  • Comment number 24.

    Jim, wasn't Craig Gordon told as a young teenager he was too small to make it as a goalkeeper?

    I think any coach that tells a player this before they are 19 is deserves to be kicked out of football. It also is a stomach-churning reminder of how far stuck in the dark-ages Scotland is in terms of football development and coaches (and maybe even coach education).

    It won't matter how small you are, if a small young athlete (say around 15/16 depending on body maturation) is given proper core-strength training, he won't be knocked off a ball. A low, strong centre of gravity?... forget it. It's called conditioning. Besides that, I thought football was meant to be played on the ground about the feet, rather than some 6 footer's nappper??

    A failure of a small players ability to handle himself about a football pitch, is down to the failure of the coaches that had trained him. It's lazy dismissing a player for being too small.

    Oh, and a quick search on the net regarding Craig Gordon being vertically challenged showed that at 15 (FIFTEEN!!) he was considered for being chopped for only being 5'9"... figure that one out.

    Jim, go and run for the SFA Chief Exuctive position would you? Please??

  • Comment number 25.

    I think the whole ‘big man’ obsession is just a part of a wider problem and over stated. I know of kids that are chosen to play because they have pace, and others because they have a powerful shot. However, I believe if a kid has any talent that it would shine through as in the case of players such as Aiden McGeady, Shaun Maloney, Kenny Miller etc. Although they are nowhere near the same level of player such as Xavi and Messi my point is that our problem is not as simple as stupidly putting physical characteristic above all else. The problem is that between 5 and 14 years old most potential footballers are lost because the environment they are brought up in does not equip them with the necessary traits that are needed to become a world class athlete. Players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta had good coaching and family support even before that got into the Barcelona youth system at the grand old age of eleven. It’s no accident that they became world class players.

  • Comment number 26.

    And just to make it topical, here's John Hughes, thought to be the manager in our game with the footballing philosophy most in tune with the modern game, describing his new signing David Stephens from Norwich:

    'Easter Road manager John Hughes said: "David is a player with tremendous potential. He already has a good physical presence and appears much more mature than his age would suggest'

    And his football ability, John?........

  • Comment number 27.

    I think there is a balance to be struck here, look at the 3 European sides left in the world cup. All of them have the balance between skill pace and power. While Snijder, Xavi, Ozil and the like may look small they are athletes, big strong guys who can hold their own in midfields in some tough leagues and on the world stage.

    Kids football should be about technique first and foremost, but as these kids develop the physical aspect should start to kick in. Then they need to learn about the mental strength required to perform at the top level.

    I'm sure even in Holland, Spain, Germany etc there are thousands of talented kids who don't make the grade.

    Its about volume more kids in Europe want to play football than in Scotland, most likely because its more enjoyable - they're not scared some 6 Foot meat head is going to stick them in row Z, then get applauded from the touchline for doing so.

    Put the fun back into the game at grass roots - pick out the cream of the crop and develop them in the correct way.

    I do also agree with the post earlier about the physical nature of the SPL, this is created through the very thin line between success and failure in this out of touch/date league - but I'm guessing thats a different debate.

  • Comment number 28.

    Why is a country where the people are generally not the tallest so aadamant that you need to be the Incredible Hulk to play football?? And what happened to 'do the basics, but do them well'? So many footballers today (not just Scottish ones) have a dreadful first touch. And an equally bad second one!

  • Comment number 29.

    I've heard this so often. Too many big guys, who can't play football, are spoiling it for everyone else. Don't agree. There are issues, and pro youth does prefer bigger kids given a choice, but that's not the problem.
    If you watch boys club games you'll not see a lost generation of wee guys with loads of skill. Sure you'll see some good wee players, but you'll see some big athletes who haven't been picked up by PY as well.
    The good wee players are just that - good. If they're better than good, quick enough, robust enough then they'll get their chance. There are so many PY set ups and so many scouts that I genuinely believe every kid will get spotted - but you have to be good enough, not just good.

    We get told Messi etc wouldn't have made it in Scotland. No-one really
    believes that, do they? Youtube Messi and you'll see him running through teams when he was 6 or 7 - he was exceptional. Exceptional kids make it. His team won loads of trophies, but most of the other good wee players in his team didn't make it. That's life - and exceptional talents like his would make it here every day of the week, despite what the doom-mongers tell you.

    The game itself is getting bigger - check the average heights for teams in the English Premier. Some field an average of over 6 feet. We're a small nation with relatively small average height and build - how can picking big boys be a problem under those circumstances - our national average height is well below the height of many EPL teams!

    The old days - wee Jinky, wee Willie running riot. They did, but there were then, and always have been, big aggressive players in Scottish football. And we've always loved them, some more than others. So wee Jinky grew up getting leathered all over the park by big guys who wouldn't get a game now as they weren't athletic enough. Our best players grew up when there was less protection then there is now, but the best, the most exceptional, made it. Just like now.

    The problems, imho, are twofold.
    Too much coaching too early - let the kids play at BC until u12/13 before any senior involvement. PY stops kids playing schools football - our best players, in terms of skill, grew up playing more (with players frequently playing for 2 or more teams + the school) and getting coached less. Let's go back to that and see if it helps. More coaching currently appears to be producing diminishing returns in terms of quality

    It's not height that causes the problem, it's athleticism. By that, I mean it's easier to make kids strong, quick and powerful - more easy than it is to teach them to be great ballplayers. And at some ages, particularly in pro youth and particularly at u14/u15, the "nice" football of the younger age groups gets squeezed out as the athletic ability of the boys starts to exceed the skill levels. If you watch those boys play, they play like men in terms of the physical side of the game. But very few can yet create space or time, so it gets massively physical and the overall quality of football, it's frequently agreed, drops. We need to find a way of matching the levels of skill development to physical development as it gets very difficult to develop your touch when there's a tackle every few seconds in the midfield. In the past, due the fact that physique and fitness levels were lower, skillful players by definition got more time to develop their skills on the ball -that's the problem we need to solve. Physique and pace are overpowering skill at critical age groups.

    IMHO, obviously.

  • Comment number 30.

    Although I agree with a lot of what has been said I am more optomistic about the future of our game and I will explain why;

    Performance (pro youth) 11's and 12's: I have been extensively involved within this for some time now and I an very optomistic about what it will achieve. The standard is magnificent, the games are non-competitive, age appropriate (7 a-side) with the vast majority of coaches very well educated, well qualified (minimum level 4) and encouraging teams to play out from the back and be creative/innovative.

    Coach Education: The childrens pathway (5-12 years) has a massive emphasis on technique and skill development. Coaches are assessed (at level 4 & 5) on developing technique and EVERY TUTOR demands EVERY SESSION to involve a ball. Also by creating a childrens pathway good coaches are now specialising within the younger age groups instead of all the best coaches moving to older age groups as has happenened before.

    Player pathway: As you may be aware the SFA have introduced a new player pathway that becomes mandatory next year. Whereas before associations could do as they pleased and play whatever form a football they choose at which ever age group there is now a defined/mandatory pathway. ALL Associations must now play fun fours up to U8's then 7's from U9-U12 before developmental 11's at 13's/14's. By introducing things such as a retreating line this also encourages the ball to be played from defence so in terms of recreational football we are moving in the right direction also. I would personally like to delay 11 a-side further but this is without doubt a step in the right direction.

    Having said all that there are still many problems including;

    1. The height issue does still exist
    2. Children do not play enough unstructured football away from training and games
    3. Scottish lifestyle/diet
    4. A win at all cost mentality still exists in certain boys clubs/associations
    5. There is a lack of a relationship between recreational football (boys clubs) and the senrior teams (pro youth) and this results in conflicts and a lack of joined up thinking at times

    Overall though by implementing what I have mentioned above I do believe we are moving in the right direction but this will take time as we are not just changing football we are trying to change Scottish football culture. this is a slow process and it may be a long time before we see the benefits but there are positives

  • Comment number 31.

    We need to change "passion" to "passing" within the Scottish game.
    Some issues are
    1. Too early going to 11 player game.
    2. We go from having 20 - 24 kids playing 2 off 7 aside teams to a 11 aside game. This means in most cases kids being asked to leave as they are "surplus to requirement" or drifting away as they never get a game.
    This generally happens at the age of 11.
    4. Kids feel that if they have not been picked up by the bigger clubs by the age of 9 that they are "passed it"
    The point about size is, The game has never ever been so aimed at skill and non contact so why do the players need to be big and physical.

  • Comment number 32.

    I am heavily involved in youth football and despair at those who believe the measure of success at that level is the number of trophies in the cabinet at the end of the season as opposed to the development of the skills and capabilities of their young players for the longer term good of the game. I sometimes wonder if the game is run to satisfy the ambitions of managers or for the betterment of the kids involved. This I think leads us to the position where in pursuit of 'success' size and athleticism is prized over skill and technique. Little wonder our youth teams regularly win tournaments on the continent at younger ages but by the time they reach late teens have been hopelessly overtaken by those who show more patience and versatility in their thinking.

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree with a number of points in the article and comments. The height issue is of course the central point but one problem I'd like to mention is the lack of personality we have within the game, this is highlighted by the poor standard of our current leagues. Poor coaching, lack of football education and passion for development. You can hear so much by the sterile interviews of players after matches which borders on listless.

    I'd like to see kids being coached on the history of our game, as well as our country as a whole, build in a love for team you are playing for and the importance of a collective spirit whilst being allowed to express yourself. There can be an art to football, a fundamental enjoyment and this combined with the Scottish passion can help develelop intelligent young players.

    We don't have to just copy the blue print for ticky-tacky Spanish style football (which incidently Cruyff identified as a blueprint) but I feel we need to have more personality instilled into our coaching from an early age. That includes ball at feet 24 hours a day and working on technique and a fundamental tutoring of ball control & pass and move as core early requirements.

    In terms of height, I'm glad this issue is being discussed in this article, maybe some Scottish coaches will read this and somehow be enlightened. Every little helps at this time in the pursuit of a cultural overhaul of our game.

  • Comment number 34.

    i did some working out on my SPL team, the scottish players of the squad at the end of last season 66% of them were born between the months of Jan - April. 16% between may - Aug and 16% Sept - Dec.
    Of all players its - Jan-Apr 60%, May-Aug 26%, Sept -Dec 13%

    So going by the age cut off is it 1st Aug? Would these players when growing up be up against younger kids. Sometimes 6 months is a big difference at that age.
    So the usual big boys stand out, they get picked for more / better coaching and of course get better, while the younger players get left.

  • Comment number 35.

    It all boils down to the fact that football in Scotland has never been a game of intellect. Its always been about physique. I always felt intimidated when playing football against players that would be better suited to playing rugby. Instead of having different age categories for kids football, why not base it on physique instead? this would allow players of all sizes the opportunity to play instead of s**t it every time a player twice their size thunders over with their studs up

  • Comment number 36.

    Great article Jim and some excellent contributions. What I'd like to see though is some action for this kind of backward culture to become a thing of the past and for the stuff we are seeing at times to be deemed unacceptable, rather than just par for the course.

    I would also like to hear the likes of sportsound being tougher on some of the substandard stuff which we are subjected to in this country. I'm fed up of hearing the words, "...well in terms of quality it wasn't the best..", followed by something like, "...but there was plenty of incident". As if that makes it okay and acceptable! Can't we just go down the park on a Sunday and see "incident"? We want to see technical quality so that our country isn't ritually embarrassed between August and December when the domestic teams get a footballing lesson by nearly every continental side. Even Celtic and Rangers look as if they are schoolboys in Europe because we simply don't believe in keeping the ball.

    What I'd like from the pundits is for them to stop talking up rubbish to try and make the product more palatable. If a game is rank id like them to say, "The standard was simply awful and it's not good enough.". Managers will argue that they are there to win games above all else, but as long as this entertainment industry (yes, that's what it is fundamentally) fails to entertain we are never going to progress, people will avoid the terraces and TV companies wont invest.

  • Comment number 37.

    I coached a youth team for 8 years from under 6's in Ayrshire. Eventually gave up after seeing the same 3 or 4 teams poaching the biggest strongest players from all the other league teams. It's common to see an under 12 team sheet including players from all over Ayrshire. At 12 years of age, the range of physical development is huge. Not surprisingly, these teams consistently win the league and the others get disillusioned. I know that I saw really talented young players who perhaps had some growing to do, being discarded or walking away from the game, to tennis, for example. Then our senior teams, compounded the problem by creaming off the strongest boys into their youth system and tournaments.

  • Comment number 38.

    G_Dounreay. I think the response to this blog shows the raw nerve this subject has touched. Zand3r's reply immediately after yours is right. at 12 years of age and even older the range of physical development is huge and kids are being unfairly judged on sheer physical attributes and becoming disillusioned with football. It needs braver coaches to stick with boys on the basis of abilty and potential not size and strength.

    Your entertainment argument is also spot on, there are too many other ways for fans to spend their money these days, and if the football on show isn't entertaining they'll find something else to do.

    The economics of the game mean that money will be tighter than ever this season, so teams have a duty to play good football. You can as you say see incident and effort at the local park. you want to see the pros doing what you were never able to do yourself. But if we discard skilful kids because they're not big enough then we'll end up watching poorer fare and lesser technical ability and in the long run that will be deadly for football in Scotland.

  • Comment number 39.

    Thanks for the reply Jim.

    It gets even more frustrating when you think about the options available to enforce change. I say "enforce" because it has got to the stage where it's looking impossible to change the way football managers at youth level think about the development beyond their win win win mentality. So what can be done? Think about how much ridicule a rule like this might face: teams at youth level can't have more than 50% of their squad over the national average height and weight for the age group!?! Yes, it sounds silly, and it probably is, but I'm struggling to think of alternatives which would work. If you force drastic rules upon the game, albeit with positive motives for long-term developmentnt, it would inevitably be met with contention, loophole exploitation and cases of players being left out by what is deemed "crazy game legislation".

    We can't simply look at systems overseas because most have the advantages of better facilities, milder climate and, most critically, a deep-rooted culture of pure football. Our culture and mentality seeps through even at top senior level. The likes of Rangers, Celtic and Aberdeen fans would rather play a backward, draconian style and get results cyclically than address the way the game is played fundamentally.

  • Comment number 40.


    I coach youth team. Try the SYFA registration process. It is completely rubbish, takes ages and the staff are absolutely horrible. They don't realise that Kids football is run by hard pressed volunteers.

    These simple issues could be easily addressed, we need to make it easier for volunteers. Organisations like the SYFA need to change their attitude, they need to see volunteers as customers, not treat us like dirt.

    The problems Zand3r highlights are widespread, Dad's don't always make good coaches, the win at all costs mentality needs challenged. Good kids at U9 are not always good kids at u17. We need to keep as many involved at all abilities as we can for as long as we can.

    Far too much effort is put on pathways for the most able, we lose far too many talented lads because they become demoralised, Rugby and Golf for example are much better organised and offer far better youth structures.

    Simply football is living in the past and is run by people who spend their life managing ever decreasing circles.


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