Yesterday I watched an entertaining game of football. There was aggression, banter, some nice football, and entertainment from start to finish. I was in Irvine to watch Irvine Meadow v Pollok in the West Junior Super League. It finished 2-2. Beside me were two Englishmen working in the Ayrshire area who described the experience as the best fiver they’ve ever spent. I tend to agree with that view regarding junior football. An early kick off meant the second half of the Scotland game was available to me, imagine the collective horror then as those gathered see the score line Wales 3 Scotland 0 and it was only half time!! When I got home I put myself through the horror of the first half and wondered what on earth is going on. Naturally I looked to the manager for an insight, what an error on my part.
Listening to George Burley’s post match analysis of yet another drubbing in Cardiff was like trying to understand his methods of on field management. It was full of muddled clichés and meandering points that gave no definitive answer to what was going on with our national team. When your manager states ‘I can’t explain it’ and your national captain then summarises what happened with ‘I don’t know’ then something is alarmingly wrong with the Scottish set up.
The 3-0 defeat to Wales confirmed one thing, the win against Macedonia and the improved performance against The Netherlands did nothing more than paper over the cracks that we all knew were there. Who is to blame? Well unfortunately the man who was slowly winning people round at the end of our failed World Cup Qualifying campaign has to provide the answers. From what we saw on the pitch and his manner after the match, Burley does not have those answers.
Being brutally honest this defeat is far worse than the one experienced in 2004 where a Robert Earnshaw hat trick helped blitz Berti’s boys. This was not even close to a full strength Wales team; players such as Craig Bellamy, James Collins, Simon Davies and Jack Collinson were ‘injured’ or rested. Scotland on the other hand were nearly at full strength with Craig Gordon and Scott Brown being the only two absentees that would be considered national regulars. There are just so many things wrong just now.
What on earth possessed George Burley to put Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus together at the back? Two players that are woefully out of form. Caldwell has fallen victim to believing his own hype as ever since plaudits started coming his way his form has deteriorated rapidly and McManus’ shortcomings were for all to see again, he is slow, cumbersome and has terrible decision making, and if it had been a competitive game his slackness would of seen David Marshall sent off.
Poor Lee Wallace, one of the few shining lights from the debacle that was Scotland in Japan must have been wondering what he did wrong. If a player is in possession of the jersey they should keep it as long as they maintain their performance levels. What Danny Fox has done to deserve an immediate jump to the front of the left back queue baffles? An England reject in for one of the brightest prospects in our game, what a way to build the morale of a young player George. Couple those decisions with some below par performances from Darren Fletcher and Alan Hutton amongst others and the team against Wales was destined for failure.
George Burley and his cohorts may face the brunt of the Tartan Army’s wrath and rightly so but the attitude of some Scottish football players in recent times has only heightened the state of our game. From beer belly Boyd and his tantrum about not getting a game, to the two who do not deserve a name and their subs bench antics. As soon as David Edwards opened the scoring the heads went down and were never picked up again, Scotland were flat and lifeless and as much as it is important for the boss to give his players a gee up, if the players don’t give themselves a shake then this dreadful form will continue.
A lot has been made of a lack of leadership on the park against the Welsh but where was the leadership from the touchline? More often than not George Burley looks like a wee boy who has broke his favourite toy and doesn’t know how to fix it. In those circumstances he would ask his friends to help him, or to be accurate his management team, however he must turn round and put his head in his hands shaking in disbelief when he realises he has Terry Butcher and Paul Hegarty looking gormlessly back at him.
Butcher is still dining out on being a former Rangers captain and finding himself at Motherwell at the right time. Look at his record before and after his Fir Park tenure and you will see a manger that has failed at such glamorous clubs as Coventry City, Sydney FC and Brentford. At Inverness CT he has masterminded a team that looks set for mid table mediocrity in a first division they should be pushing to win. What purpose does he serve in the Scotland dressing room? It’s worrying if it’s for his tactical nous. Normally I’d advise him to stick to the summarising but he is truly awful at that as well.
Then we come to Paul Hegarty. Do you remember the hype surrounding who the new Scotland No. 3 was going to be? A fictional position to begin with. We were told it was a manager with a proven track record who was currently out of work. It could have been Gary McAllister, John Collins and to a lesser extent Coin Hendry. All of those people are icons of Scotland’s modest glory days of recent times, played at the highest level and have that all important winning mentality.
Instead we got Paul Hegarty.
No offence to the man he seems nice enough and has gone through his fair share of difficult situations at Dundee United and Livingston in recent times, but is he going to go into that Scotland dressing room and ooze respect. If the Wales game is anything to go by, it doesn’t look like it. As for his managerial record, he makes Terry Butcher look like Jose Mourinho, a record of relegation battles and sackings. People could argue that he is there to coach, not manage, but name a set up which he has been a part of that has been a success. Most of his appointments have come through the sacking of the manager he was working with at the time. You never know maybe that is the SFA master plan. Hegarty for Scotland anyone?
In these three men Burley, Butcher and Hegarty we lay the problems of the Scottish national team. They are coaches of moderate or no success trying to convince players, some of whom ply their trade in the Premiership under the tutelage of Sir Alex, Steve Bruce and Harry Redknapp, that their way is the right way. Those three men demand respect from their players and tend to get it. With our trio you feel they want respect but aren’t doing enough to earn it.
The SFA have said that George Burleys position isn’t under threat, well I’m sorry but it should be. Gordon Smith seems to have taken the David Murray approach to leadership pop up when something good is happening whilst disappearing in times of trouble. We also find ourselves lumbered with George Peat a man that probably makes love in his blazer whilst on an SFA funded jaunt schmoozing with fellows of questionable morals and intentions. It’s also paramount not to glaze over the fact that Mr. Peat was one of the men responsible for the demise of Airdrieonians and somehow we find ourselves with him as one of the figureheads of our game. The old boys club has blighted Scottish football for too long and we will be forever stuck in this footballing hell while it is maintained. Smith made grand statements of change and innovation, all he has done is conform and take his pay cheque.
George Burley said that Scotland “fell apart like a pack of cards” against Wales. Just another confused simile from our esteemed leader but at present it’s his job to pick the cards up and start rebuilding again. There is no master conjurer with slight of hand to do it for him, there is no one waiting in the wings to save him or us. Scotland are stuck with Burley for the foreseeable future so the only thing to do is get behind him and cross every part of our body into knots in the hope of a favourable draw and a change of fortunes. Hope is, and always will be, the watchword for the Tartan Army, so on a wing and a prayer bring on January and the Euro 2012 draw.