Last night was not great. Not terrible either.
It was just Scotland, Scotland as we’ve come to know them,
Scotland no matter, it seems, who the manager is.
Actually, that’s harsh on Steve Clarke. I dread to think what cricket score Russia would have run up under McLeish.
That would have been a night too awful to even contemplate soberly.
But what are we left with? A national team that isn’t there, that hasn’t got enough good players and which might, therefore, be beyond saving. Scottish football has made a real mess of this somewhere along the line. We badly need to go back to basics and start again.
In the meantime, there’s us. Celtic. And the game needs our players like never before. McGregor and Forrest played last night. Mikey will have his time. Ryan came on from the bench. Griffiths would have been there but for his lack of match sharpness.
Boy, did Scotland miss him upfront. I hope never again to hear how Sevco supporter Ollie McBurnie is a top class footballer. I’ve certainly never seen the slightest shred of evidence that he would get into our team. He’s another guy who realised that you can get good headlines and hype for yourself by pledging allegiance to Ibrox. Quite what managers in England have seen in him I really couldn’t say; he’s the evidence of how ridiculous the transfer market down there is.
Here’s a wee question to ponder; if clubs down there think he’s worth all that, how come none of them took a punt on the much cheaper Ryan Kent? Let’s not press down too hard on that one, for fear of media wailing and talk about “deep completions” again.
Clarke needs a fully fit Griffiths and soon. Those in the press – like Tom English, who thought McBurnie should start in front of him – have surely been slapped back into reality by that abject performance of his. Our striker is the best Scotland has, hands down.
And you know what? For all that, it’s still not going to be enough.
The chronic lack of grass roots investment, the total failure by the SFA to put in place a real plan – this Operation Brave stuff is a joke as many in football are all too aware, and wastes more time and more money that the game doesn’t have – has shown the predictable results.
Celtic’s academy continues to produce the goods. A few of our best kids have been farmed out during this window, and will be playing competitive football at other clubs for a while. Look down the divisions at Celt’s on loan, or players developed at Lennoxtown; there are dozens of them, all over the sport.
We might not graduate enough of these guys to the first team – we do alright though, as the last few years have ably demonstrated – but it’s a career factory.
The simple truth is, what we alone do isn’t enough.
There has to be more.
Clubs have to put more time and effort into youth development. You can forget it at some of them. Look at Ibrox; Gerrard has bought more than 20 players in two years. He has no interest in developing young talent. The managers before him were similarly allowed to spend, spend, spend.
Why don’t we have a rule saying at least two home-grown players – produced by the club – have to be in every team, either on the pitch or on the bench? How about we look at squad capping like they have in the EPL, and where eight of the 25-man squad has to be a player produced in Scotland? We’re heading for a no deal Brexit in case you haven’t noticed … we might have to do this sooner or later, so why not leap ahead of the curve and do it now?
We all know why. There are too many vested interests in this game, too many people who would be opposed to such a step. And so we let the game rot. We let clubs bring in foreign dreck, English reserve players, free transfers from the far flung corners of the world … and the game suffers.
The game will always suffer as long as it’s so badly run.
Scotland needs Celtic more than it ever has.
We’ll produce the core of the next international team as we’ve produced the heart of this one. But if that team is filled out by players who are absolutely hopeless and not cut out for the international game it doesn’t matter how well we do our bit. Nobody can get us across the line and make us an international force again.
The Chinese have a proverb for this; a fish rots from the head down. Everybody knows where the problem begins. Everybody knows how to solve it. Nobody wants to pick up the cleaver and do the deed. It’s pathetic. Are you watching, Rod Petrie? Are you getting it yet?
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