Scottish football’s deep-lying problems

After an embarrassing string of results, George Burley’s reign as Scotland manager has come to an end, costing the SFA an estimated £300,000 after he recently signed a contract extension.

The vast problems with Scottish football are not down to George Burley. Granted he hasn’t had the most fruitful of terms in charge, but give him some credit, he was better than Berti Vogts. The problems in Scotland are evident at all levels.

The SFA  should not just be doing more to improve the national side, but also the Scottish Premier League. With Rangers and Celtic looking for the nearest open window south of the border, it is down to the SFA to give them something worth staying for.

Football is taken very seriously in Scotland, and they have brought through some promising young players. The problems seem to emerge when these players start their professional careers. The U19 team came runners up to Spain in the 2006 European Championships. This was heralded as beginning of a new era for Scottish football.

However, Scottish football has been brought down to earth with a large thud, as only two players from the U19 squad have really made any sort of name for themselves. Hearts players Lee Miller and Calum Elliot have had good starts to their professional careers, and have flirted with the Scottish national side.

The ‘Scottish Wayne Rooney’ is currently stuck in the Rangers reserve squad, not worthy of a place in the SPL after a spat with Ally McCoist. John Fleck is a raw talent with an attitude problem, but he is still only 18. However, the Scottish youth system has let him and other promising stars down.

There is no investment in youth football. It of course costs money, but SPL clubs are in the perfect position to use youth football as an investment. By investing in talent, clubs bring through their own players, without needing to splash out on transfer fees and will produce players who are likely to remain loyal to their club. It works well in Germany and the Netherlands, and SPL clubs need to seriously look into it as there is definitely raw talent available. Falkirk and Hibs had and still have to an extent good youth systems, but that leads us on to the next problem.

Once clubs bring through their stars, if they perform well or get called up to the national team they immediately jump ship to sunny Glasgow.  But this is a one-way ticket. It must be a dream to sign for Rangers or Celtic, but if you are good enough, why not make the move a few years down the line when you have proved yourself good enough to start for your team of choice.

There is an endless list of players who made the jump too soon. They should be setting the league alight for smaller clubs while they sit on a bench in the rain, praying for the chance to prove themselves.

Proof of this is Steven Naismith who occasionally dons a Rangers shirt. He was prolific for Kilmarnock, and Rangers most likely signed him to stop Celtic getting their mitts on him. He was arguably the best player on the pitch when Scotland bravely crashed out of the World Cup to Holland.

His work ethic is extremely impressive and he creates his own scoring chances. However, he is overlooked for players such as Kris Boyd who sometime looks like he would prefer to be gnawing on a pelican than tracking back to help out in defence.

Hibs looked like they had finally put together a young talented Scottish team. Their team included Scott Brown, Kevin Thompson, Steven Whittaker, Gary Caldwell, Steven Fletcher and Gary O’Connor. Since they all left Hibs they have all taken a bit of a nose-dive.

Fletcher and O’Connor have ended up in the English Premier League, along with fellow Scots James McFadden, Darren Fletcher and Craig Gordon. As it is a much higher standard of league it pretty much guarantees them a spot in the Scotland team, but not a starting place for their club side. Darren Fletcher is the exception that proves the rule, as he is possibly Manchester United’s most underrated player.

The problems with Scottish football are certainly not going to go away overnight. And frustratingly for the unlucky guy who will take the blame for it going wrong, it isn’t down to the players. They are a decent side – on paper. But the infrastructure and mentality are huge barriers that neither John Collins, Craig Levein or Walter Smith can break down.

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