The draw for the new UEFA Nations League is this week. Scotland go into the draw without a manager following Gordon Strachan’s departure in October. Michael O’Neill was the man the SFA wanted in charge, with reports now suggesting he may have turned the job down. The person that does take the top job will look to turn around twenty years of failure. No easy task.
Despite a few close calls Scotland have failed to qualify for a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France. Whoever does take charge of the side will have a tough job, he’ll also have plenty of reason to be optimistic about it.
There are a number of promising young Scottish players at the moment. With the right guidance and management there could well be a bright future for the national side.
Any new manager has to blood these young players now. Many of Scotland’s regulars, such as captains Scott Brown and Darren Fletcher, are in the twilight of their international careers. At Northern Ireland, Michael O’Neill appeared to form a club style bond within his group of players. The new Scottish boss could do well to adopt this approach. Giving as many of our youngsters games together at this stage would hopefully build a similar feeling in the Scotland camp. Letting them grow together as a team, hopefully the familiarity can breed success.
Despite this youthful optimism, there can be no doubt that the depth of the Scottish talent pool is far more shallow than some of their International counterparts. That would clearly be a challenging aspect for the new person in charge. As would the lack in numbers of real quality experience to guide the less experienced players through their early games.
Scotland need to find their identity again. Our place in world football has changed since the days when we qualified for five World Cups in a row. I think Scotland have forgotten some of the qualities that enabled us to progress to summer tournaments in the past. We need to find our place and be comfortable with it in order to move forward.
In the last few campaigns Scotland have led in many of their toughest games, only to drop crucial points by not holding on. Leads against Poland, Germany and England all thrown away. Perhaps this is down to ability but I believe it’s a mental stumbling block. Game management, belief and positivity may have seen us break our tournament exile.
Following Gordon Strachan’s last game in charge he bemoaned the fact that ‘genetics’ made it harder for Scotland to compete against certain countries. Many, including me, made light of the claim and ridiculed the out-going boss. In reflection, Strachan had a good point. As a nation Scotland’s diet, lifestyle and genetic make-up perhaps does give them a disadvantage in terms or reaching the levels of physicality and fitness required to be a top footballing nation. This is a wider issue which no Scotland manager would be able to address alone. The point Strachan made was badly timed though, made after the 2-2 draw with Slovenia which ended Scotland’s World Cup dreams. It was reported as an excuse for not winning the game, perhaps if had been made at a more appropriate time, people may have taken it more seriously.
‘Proud and Passionate’
Genetics aside, many believe that Scotland, or more specifically Scottish players, are simply not good enough. I don’t agree. I’m not saying Michael O’Neill was or wasn’t the right man for Scotland. I just hope the new boss gives us our identity back.
Scotland deserves a national team to match the nation, proud and passionate. The mix of youth, talent and potential is there. Here’s hoping the right man can take us back to where we all want to be, whoever he is.
What do you make of these points? Let us know in the comments below!
featured image credit The Scottish Sun