Media Suggestions That Scotland Play Celtic’s Attacking Maverick As A Wing Back Are Ludicrous.

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There are times when I look at the work being done by Scottish football pundits and wonder whether or not I’m watching the same game that they are.

There are times when I listen to the stuff that they are saying, or read the stuff that they are writing, that I come away genuinely baffled that these people are earning a living in that business.

Because their ignorance about tactics and their complete lack of comprehension as to what it is they are watching is truly incredible. This is one of those times.

In the aftermath of the German game, two narratives are slowly taking shape.

The first is that the defeat would have prevented, or lessened, had Billy Gilmour played. The second is that Tony Ralston was part of the problem. You may agree with that or you may disagree with it, but there is a bizarre solution being proposed to that which is what I want to discuss.

But before I get to that, let’s talk Billy Gilmour for a moment, and this almost universal view amongst our press corps that we’re talking here about some other-worldly footballer who would take Scotland to glory if only Steve Clarke saw what everyone else apparently does.

Billy Gilmour, at 23, has a grand total of 116 club games. He has zero goals. He does have 27 caps for Scotland, and one goal. To provide you with just a little context, Matt O’Riley is the same age, he has 184 club games under his belt and has scored 37 goals. O’Riley has two more games for Celtic than Gilmour has in his whole career, and has 26 more goals as a Celtic player than Gilmour has amassed in his time as a professional footballer, Scotland caps included.

So, I’m finding the idea that Gilmour is a wonderkid very, very difficult to accept. It seems to me that he’s become a classic example of that football phenomenon where a player gets better to some people the further they are away from watching him every week.

I don’t get it. I’ve never got it, but in the beginning, I at least understood it, and that the hype was partly about shining a light on him because it reflected onto Ibrox, as he was their former academy player.

I genuinely don’t know what the hype is about now, although it could just be that having blown this kid’s talents out of all proportion that some of them just don’t want to let go of the idealised image they have in their heads … it’s a pity, though, that the rest of us have to be forced to endure the near-hysteria every time he doesn’t make a starting eleven for the national team.

It seems clear to me that including Gilmour in the team would not have made the least bit of difference to the outcome. Even if he were twice the player he is, which would still only be a quarter of the player they appear to believe that he is.

Steve Clarke’s decision to sit back instead of getting in the German’s faces was what doomed us from the start, that and the fact we were playing against a rampant, and outstanding, side in the Germans … you would think we’d lost heavily to Finland or something.

Maybe it’s skipped the attention of the hacks, but we were playing the host nation and one of the favourites, and went a man down before the roof really fell in. Sure, some people allowed themselves to be swept up in all the “we’re getting Germany early and that might help us” schtick, but most of us were pretty realistic about what our chances were.

Two German sides got to the Champions League semi-finals this year, and it was almost an all-German final, with Dortmund making it and doing very well on the night before succumbing to the nearly supernatural force that is Real Madrid.

A German club reached the final of the Europa League as well, before losing to an Atalanta side who I think took advantage of a bit of over-confidence on the part of the Leverkusen team.

Theirs is not exactly a football nation in decline.

It was a bad night for the national team, that’s not in question, but it was not the garment-rending, epochal disaster that some people would have you believe. The same over-reaction follows every Celtic defeat in Europe, no matter the calibre of the opposition. Some people just cannot help but over-react and lose their minds.

What appals me is reading people like Jackson this morning seeking an easy scapegoat and opting for Tony Ralston, a guy who isn’t even Celtic’s first choice right back, playing with total strangers in a game where one of our central defenders got himself sent off. Ralston is the best right back in the squad. Blaming him for the defeat is outrageous.

As many of us have said already, it was a collective calamity and a collective responsibility.

And as if looking for the “easy scapegoat” is not enough in itself, the simplistic answer many of them, Jackson included and the whole of the Record “panel”, have proposed presents even more evidence that none of these people are playing with a full deck; they want Ralston dropped … for James Forrest. They want us to play one of our best attacking options as a full-back.

I don’t know which part of their understanding is flawed here, but these are, after all, the people who have spent the last couple of years telling us that Tavernier is the best right back in Scotland although he very obviously isn’t and hasn’t been since the day he made his debut for the Ibrox club. They put him in every single team of the year, based on his goals and his assists … but refuse to accept that he simply cannot defend.

So there’s obviously a bit of that in this suggestion, but that does not make it any less stupid.

In case they haven’t twigged, James Forrest is not a defender. Whoever plays at right wingback in that game will probably be going up against Bologna’s Dan Ndoye, who had a great game against Hungary the other night.

To offer some further context, he’s the same age as Gilmour and has 29 club goals in 217 club games. He will be a tough enough opponent for Ralston to handle if we play the high line; a non-defensive player will leave us massively exposed on that flank.

These people don’t have a clue what they are talking about, and that’s a problem for me as they are paid to offer opinions at some kind of expert level. But you can get smarter evaluations than this in the bar of your local boozer.

Just because something works on EA Sports FC, it doesn’t mean that it works in the real world … in the real world we’ll get scalped if we try something like that, and the objective here is to win the game and get the three points.

Clarke has fallen into a familiar football trap, one that the really top tier managers do not fall into, and this is where he’s slightly limited in his outlook; he looks at the makeup of the Scotland squad, sees that we have a lot of good options at left back and even more in the central midfield and he has bent the entire squad to accommodate as many of them as possible.

So we have Tierney at centre back. We’d have Hickey at right back if he was fit. We have a rotating midfield five in the middle, of whom at least four need to be selected. It is madness. Sometimes you need to leave good players on the bench, because what matters is the cohesion of the team as a whole, and too often we sacrifice that so we can build the team around a handful of players, no matter how disjointed or incoherent that makes the shape.

None of the hacks confronts this.

None has suggested what appears blindingly obvious; that if we want a result against the Swiss it might be an idea not to go with three centre backs and a weird midfield diamond and to give us some proper width. Scrap this ludicrous defensive, fearful system.

Stop trying to get every central midfielder we can into the starting line-up.

Play a 4-3-3 with McGinn, McTominey and McGregor.

Play a front three of either Christie, Morgan or Conway on the left, with Adams or Shankland in the centre and Forrest on the right.

Let our attacking maverick focus on doing what he’s best at; beating defenders, creating chances, scoring goals.

Instead of, you know, asking him to defend …

Forrest at full back? Are you kidding me?

The Daily Record’s team of experts are all agreed on this mad idea.

How do these people have the balls to cash their pay cheques?

How does the company that issues those cheques think these people are worth the money?

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  • Captain Swing says:

    I agreed with all of that except “But you can get smarter evaluations than this in the bar of your local boozer.” as my local seems to be increasingly full of people whose knowledge of football (and politics for that matter) has ceased to be merely incoherent and is now firmly in the category of incontinent – doubly incontinent. Three guys were discussing the fitba the other night and had all the insight of Kenny ‘bet the nights out were great, eh?’ McIntyre which was bad enough but then it veered into discussion of the election and it became surreal, as a couple of these muppets contradicted themselves at every turn about. By the end of their “discussion” (which I managed the stay out of by pretending not to speak English), I was coming round to thinking that voting rights ought to be linked to IQ levels, and maybe the Great Reform Act of 1832 was a mistake after all…….

  • John Copeland says:

    Those cowboy scoops who never received a work’s freebie to Germany ,are looking for ways to use Celtic players as ‘Patsy’s ‘ for failure . They are like those snide drunks who cause trouble in a pub then sneek out the door when the fighting starts . There are hundreds of reasons why those hacks never made it to Germany for the Euro’s ….it’s not too difficult to figure them out .

  • Michael McCartney says:

    I usually try add a comment slightly different from your post James but in this instance I can’t, I agree with every point you’ve made here.
    Our tactics played right into the Germans hands inviting them onto us from the start was a disaster, Anyone saying that if we’d played Gilmour it would have changed the game are just fools, and trying to make any of the 11 players who started the game a scapegoat is a disgrace.
    It was a managerial and team failure against a very capable German side, who in my opinion are favourites to win the tournament, to me they look a well balanced team with a good mix of skill and physicality.
    Football journalism in Scotland is past a joke and why anybody would read the rubbish written is a mystery.

  • Gordon Raeburn says:

    The reason they suggest this isn’t just the fact that they’re Ibrox loving morons it’s to give them another Celtic scapegoat when the Swiss pump us.

  • Hugh says:

    Have to agree with everything you wrote, Clarke was the biggest problem, his selection and tactics allowed the Germans too much time to pick a pass and move forward. Sebia did similar early on and lasted two minutes longer than Scotland before conceding, at least they changed their approach and gave a good account of themselves. Scotland in the formation they played looked lost, as if they did not understand whatever instructions they were given. We need to go 433 and try to get forward, Forrest wide right at least has some understanding with Ralston behind him. None of this square pegs in round holes nonsense and play with a bit of passion.

  • Clara says:

    It’s not about winning the game but setting up the team to be beat, blame Ralston and bin him, bring on a forward as a wing back who can’t defend, when it all falls apart then it’s another Celtic player to blame.
    They already singled out McGgregor as the cause, add Ralston to that and ser up James, everything they write has a anti Celtic, pro Ibrox agenda so that’s why it constantly is pure guff they write, if they simply looked at football without this agenda you might get something that sounded half sensible occasionally.

  • Stephen Mcnally says:

    EA Sports and the Record, makes sense now Forest will ask to leave ! All they years to waste playing in the wrong position, EA Sevco (Jackson playing it) yesterday to scribble up a column that it would work lol

    • Eldraco says:

      Might as well as james to ref the game as he would just as effective as a RB !

      Christ almighty


    Apart from the sheer lunacy of the suggestion there is also the not quite
    insignificant point that Jamesie, with the best will in the world, at his age does not
    have the stamina to cover the fullback role for 90 mins.

    His best games this season have been as an impact player coming off the bench
    where he can give his all for the last 30 mins or so. Even when he’s played from the start
    he’s able to play in bursts because of the role he naturally plays as a winger.
    It’s inconceivable to expect him to play 90 mins pressing, tackling or backtracking.

    The SMSM has the collective wisdom of an amoeba or maybe less to be fair to amoebas.

  • Clachnacuddin and the Hoops says:

    The Daily Record want him as a defender…

    Yep – And we all know exactly why of course –

    Their natural prayer that he’d fail and it’s another Celtic player for them to drill into the ground…

    Scum of the earth rag for sure –

    Surely to goodness not one Celtic supporter is still paying to read that in this day and age !

  • harold shand says:

    Play him as a right back , hope he has a shocker , get pumped 4-0

    And then we take great glee in scapegoating the Celtic player

    F*cking hun hacks

  • Fergal says:

    Maybe these people are informing/shaping and or conditioning the gullible, bigoted and or ignorant?

  • Henriksgoldenboot says:

    James, you were bang on the money with your opening paragraph “There are times when I look at the work being done by Scottish football pundits and wonder whether or not I’m watching the same game that they are”, which says it all really!!!!

    It comes down to footballing knowledge and having an understanding of the game which many (if any) of them don’t! The glaring most obvious issue and the true reason we were beaten in the manner we were (apart from Germany being a dam good side) was because Clarke had set us up all wrong and, in my own opinion picked the wrong lineup. The players looked like rabbits caught in headlights and look unsure of what their exact instructions were, Tony (Ralston) looked as though he didn’t know if he was to push on or sit in or man mark. Jack Hendry should never have been near the starting 11 and that goes for porteus also. How can you play a man who is, with no disrespect, bang average as a pro and playing in a third rate league in the middle east against a team full of players who have just won their top leagues or appeared in European finals?Another point of concern regarding Clarke is that we have only won one game in the last 11. Surely that’s another issue the “hacks” need to consider and question also?

    Listen, I like Clarke, and he’s done very well with what he has at his disposal and I feel blessed that we’re even at the tournament but I think he’s pretty limited and I think for the fact that he got us to the finals and the victory against Spain last year has given him some sort of special one status among our hacks where they dare not question his record (recent) or abilities so instead the pick the low hanging fruit and attack our players within the Scotland squad. I mean to even suggest Forrest play where they have indicated just says everything about them.

    What they so dearly want is a hero in the national team also and they would so love it it if this were to be wee brilliant Billy (who’s stats as you’ve pointed out already ain’t all that brilliant) as he’s their chosen poster boy because they find it so unpalatable that it could possibly be one of our own, which is ironic because any one of those boys wearing the lion rampant and pulling on the national shirt are ALL our own and we should be backing each and everyone of them and not looking for scapegoats (even the ones that shouldn’t be there!! Lol).

    I also agree with your point regarding the trap that Clarke has found himself in regarding players and trying to fit them in. But again I feel this is the media’s doing as they always made the point of dramatising the situation when any one of these top players are left out of the team for someone else. Which none of the top nations never do.

    Let’s get behind the Boys and spur them on for the next two games. They can and will do it, being led by our own captain fantastic and our wee Jamesy!!

  • JimBhoy says:

    As much as I love Jamesy, he has lost the pace needed at International level, I cannot see him make a difference unless he is given some niche role but not one where he is made out to be a box to box player, not these days.

    The manager needs to keep it simple and Shankland should definitely play some part.

    • Henriksgoldenboot says:

      I agree totally Jim. I’d play him as a 10 now. He still has a burst in him and he has it in him to change a game. This is his last ever international tournament and I’d love to see him go out in style

  • Woodyiom says:

    James – I feel you’re slightly “playing the man and not the ball” regarding Gilmours stats. His entire senior career has been in the EPL with three different teams so he must be doing something right!! Furthermore just because he hasn’t scored any goals, so far, doesn’t make him a poor midfielder – scoring goals is not his job – it wasn’t Neil Lennon’s job (think he scored 3 for us in total !!) but every one of us would say he was a fantastic player without whom we would have not have achieved half of what we achieved during his playing time with us. Comparing Gilmour to MOR is pointless – they are totally different players. O’Reilly is a cultured attacking midfielder not a ball-winner who’s job is to get it and then pass it on to someone else. Personally (and I know I’m in the minority here) I think Matt is going to struggle at the EPL/La Liga level where he won’t be afforded the same time and space that he does in the SPFL.

    Yes the hacks are over-egging Gilmour and the difference he would have made (we would have still easily lost) but it was a clear mistake to pick Christie over him.

    As for wee Jamesy playing as some sort of wing-back – well that’s simply some of the biggest pile of tripe I’ve ever heard and just confirms how rank-rotten some of our so-called football journalists are.

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