Among many nails Ronny hit on the head at Friday’s press conference was the question he asked in relation to European football – “Where are the other Scottish teams?” The answer of course has been the same one for virtually 25 years – nowhere. Over that period there have been some utterly atrocious results and performances by Scottish teams. The problem is that clubs, fans and media alike accept this abysmal level of under performance.
When Dons were knocked out of Europe in August as per, I tweeted that Scottish clubs (other than former Rangers and us) had been underperforming in Europe for 20 years. Jim Spence retweeted, asking if fans agreed. Celtic fans did but the only responses I got from lesser club fans was that they did their best; that they could do no better. Mediocrity is not an achievement but I was stunned to find that for these fans it is. They do not expect any better but what I couldn’t comprehend is that they do not expect their clubs to aspire to a higher level. I was stunned by their poverty of aspiration.
These fans used the wage bill of their clubs as the simple illustrator of why they couldn’t achieve, but that is less relevant as the standard drops. At the upper level wage bills become relevant, a player on £100k a week will invariable be a match winner but when at the lower levels, when teams are principally populated with domestic talent, bills illustrate the economic domestic condition of the league. Which leads to the a review of the abilities of Scottish players. Why would a team with 60%+ Scottish players be so inferior to a team with (eg) 60% Kazakhstan players?
The obvious answer would be that their domestic players are better than ours…why? I have never understood why it’s a given that “of course they are more technically gifted than Scottish players” Why? Just what are we doing that young Scottish players are so technically inferior. Unless the fluoride added to our water also cleanses Scots babies in the womb of footballing ability the given that “of course…” these guys are better is a dreadfully defeatist attitude. There is no reason bar poor coaching or acceptance of mediocre standards that this is the case.
Related to the “technically superior” fallacy is that foreign players have a better tactical understanding of the game. As above the obvious question is why and again the answer comes down to the education of our young players. I have never understood why we wait until players are retiring before they train in the theory of football. This is their job. In what other industry would we wait until people are in a management position before providing training in the technical and theoretical aspects of the job? It should be a pre-requisite of these academies that the players graduate not only with football ability but with football knowledge. They should get their coaching badges then with continual CPD training through their career. The only courses they should be taking upon retirement should be people management courses.
Taking kids of 15-18 through coaching and theory tests would surely provide us with more “game aware” players on the park, able to grasp managers’ instructions quickly and (if given the license) adapt to the game themselves. Moreover for those who don’t make it in the game it would also provide Scotland with the raft of educated coaches that the game needs to continue the two strategies above.
Both of these would deal with the challenge that our game cannot afford Europe’s best talent, develop our own and you don’t need to buy in the talent. It would also help with the economics of our game as Scottish talent may once again be something sought after further afield however it will not happen until we resolve our poverty of ambition. Many countries with equal or inferior finances to Scotland are playing regularly in the Europa League. For example the average wage in the Norwegian top flight is £48,000. Excluding our wage bill I can’t imagine Scotland is any lower but we do not expect our European entrants with similar finances to play in European competition beyond August.
At the start of this season, pundits talked about Aberdeen and possibly also Hearts offering a title challenge to Celtic. I found it strange with this expectation that we were criticised for failing to make the Champions League yet Aberdeen suffered no criticism for failing to make the Europa League and when I questioned this on twitter I was stunned by the acceptance of mediocrity by supporters of lesser clubs. There are patently many structural issues with Scottish football, but our mindset following 25 years of failure seems to me to be the biggest. Scottish football will never succeed and develop until people stop putting up with failure. Ronny Deila should not be alone in getting criticised for European failure. Failure is attained when failure is expected.
For all those Scottish managers like McInnes over the last 25 years who’ve praised their players for doing their best in European defeats in July & August
Mediocrity is not an achievement!
(And maybe if they showed an ounce of ambition people like me would drop the lesser tag)