I’ve known what the real problem in Scottish football is for a while now. And it’s not just Alex McLeish or the SFA. They’ve got their hands tied behind their backs.
They’ve got to take a bit of responsibility, of course, but it’s the clubs and academy managers giving the illusion that we are producing good players, and that’s how we end up with a squad which loses to Kazakhstan. A squad of English Championship and League One level players.
It’s too easy to throw this crisis at the manager and the SFA. They have limited power. It’s to do with the selfishness of clubs in Scotland.
What’s happening at the moment is the same denial and delusion that has afflicted us for decades – everyone is saying ‘it’s not my fault’. They’ll say they’ve got a keeper who isn’t bad, or a defender who’s no bad, but does that qualify for top class? We think ‘no bad’ is top class.
At the moment, there’s an outcry with the SFA around the leadership. I understand that. There’s a debate to be had, but not by me – I wasn’t offered another contract by them, after all.
But I will say that I thought Stewart Regan was a good businessman, an honest guy, and gave me every help he could. Whether you think he’s a football man or not, that’s up to you – but, as a person, he did his best.
Where are the success stories?
The other thing aimed at the SFA is they’re not producing players. But that’s not their job – football in Scotland is run by the clubs. I’ve been in so many meetings where the SFA were coming up with ideas and asking the clubs what they think.
All I heard from the clubs was ‘me and money’, even the smallest clubs who produce no players whatsoever.
Everyone involved in Scottish football – the people at the academies, the chairmen, the media – must realise they’ve got a problem and cannot be helped. They genuinely think everything’s alright in their life.
Most managers find it hard to tell the truth, they know the quality’s not there, but politically they can’t say it. Every club manager I know would like a better quality of homegrown player coming through.
For instance, if a young player gets through an academy and plays one game for the first team, it’s euphoria amongst the academy staff. ‘See what we’ve done’. But, that doesn’t count as a top player. A top player makes 100 appearances and helps the club be successful, or gets bought for big money by a top club.
John McGinn, coming through at St Mirren, is a success. It’s not success having a Hibs or Hearts player come through, playing two games, and then going to Edinburgh City.
Andy Robertson aside – and there’s a role model if we accept what it takes to get to top class – we don’t have anybody going to any top clubs in the world for decent money. Billy Gilmour went to Chelsea 18 months ago, and the rest are going to the English lower leagues.
I don’t see anybody knocking the door down for our Under-21 kids. Or people spending £15/20million on our top players. This is how daft it is, we’ve got supposedly top players going from the Scottish Premier League to Salford City or Northampton Town.
Adam Rooney and Ash Taylor were both highly rated in Scotland, but they’ve gone to that level of English football. And we’re putting them down as success stories, really?
It makes no sense at all, it’s crazy!
Have we dismissed the experienced players too quickly?
Brian McClair got sacked as National Performance Director because he wasn’t the best at presentations. Even though I thought he was brilliant.
He could think outside of the box and tried new things but, because he didn’t wear a suit and tie, they got rid of him.
Funnily enough, his ideas are still being put into place, such as summer football for academies and reducing squad numbers, so I’m hoping those will help.
But I do believe there are far more routes we have to go down to produce better players. Because there’s nobody exciting coming through for Scotland at the moment, especially the flair and imagination players. (If there is anyone, I’m sorry I’ve missed you!)
If the youngsters were there, they’d be picked. But the reality is that there are none on the horizon.
Have we dismissed the more experienced players too quickly, and been too quick to write certain players off. I’m fanatical about youth football, anyone who’s met me over the last 15 years will tell you that.
It’s something I’ve been looking into since I left the Scotland job, I’m trying to get it all down onto paper.
I’ve been speaking to all the top people involved in it. Coaches and players from Eastern Europe, Asia and South America. I’ve been from Dundee to Tottenham Hotspur and onto Athletic Bilbao. I’ve been to different sports, too.
What I’ve learned is, there’s not one way of doing it. It has to be a way that suits you as a nation and culture. We have to find something to suit the Scottish mentality and player.
McGregor wonder save blinded us
We live in a dream world in Scotland, we never tell people the truth.
This isn’t about the last two games. It’s been going on a lot longer than that. It’s time to get rid of the bile and take a sane look at it.
Where did all that euphoria come from last year after beating Israel and Albania? Allan McGregor made a wonderful save which spared us from disaster. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have qualified from that Nations League group, and we’d have had this latest crisis before Christmas.
As a nation, that save blinded us, we thought everything was wonderful, but we were just one great save away from absolute disaster, it could’ve been one of Scotland’s worst ever nights. Instead, that was just delayed a few months.
So we need to not be blinded by short term results. Instead, we need to concentrate on what we’re doing to produce top players. Else we’ll keep going on and on and on how we are.
I couldn’t live with myself if I just stayed silent.
I’ve been Scotland manager, and I didn’t get everything right. In case anyone thinks I’m saying it’s not my fault – no, no it was my fault. I picked the team.
I take responsibility for what happened when I was there. But it doesn’t matter now, what matters is how we make the next generation better. As somebody who would like to work in youth team football, we have to do something different.
I do look back on my time with Scotland and think ‘could I have done this differently or that differently?’
I have to live with that. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just stayed silent and didn’t let anyone know what I thought. We can do better than this, Scotland.