Scottish football in need of a revolution, and it starts with sacking Burley

November 16, 2009

An embarrassment. A shambles. Simply unacceptable. All phrases I have heard to describe Scotland’s abysmal performance on Saturday (plus many others which I will not print in a family friendly blog.) The SFA are set to meet today to discuss the future of manager George Burley, a discussion which simply MUST bring his tenure as Scotland manager to an end.

Quite simply, Scotland are as bad now as they were under Berti Vogts. Yes, there hasn’t been the draw with the Faroes, but the way the side simply rolled over against a Wales side with an average age of 22 showed just how badly they have fallen under Burley. Only a couple of years ago, the nation was celebrating a James McFadden wonder strike which beat the French in Paris, so expecting a performance in Cardiff is surely not asking too much.

So the question we should be asking now is not does he stay or go, but simply who replaces him? However, I think we should open this up even further, and tackle Scottish football as a whole. I say this quite simply because these are dark times for football north of the border. Both Old Firm sides are in decline, the SPL is boring the pants off people, playing the same teams four times a year, and the lower leagues are cash strapped. That’s not even to mention the fact that ALL of Scottish football’s representatives will be knocked out of European competition before Christmas.

So I’ll start with the national team.

Under Smith and McLeish, the players clearly had a level of self belief. Indeed, if it wasn’t for a miss by McFadden and a last-minute header by Christian Pannuci, there’s a fair chance Scotland would have qualified for Euro 2008. There was a belief on-and-off the field that Scotland had it in them to get results against anybody in the world. Now, we’re in two minds as to whether a win against Macedonia is achievable.

What is needed then is the type of appointment who will galvanise the players. A manager who the players will all respect and want to play for (and that includes Kris Boyd, despite many fans’ distaste at his attitude) and there are a few out there. Many people in the press have called for Walter Smith to take the post again, especially as his future at Rangers looks in doubt. Right now, he’s the last person many of the Tartan Army want to see after his previous betrayal. I think it is fair to say many Scotland fans will never forgive him for walking out on his country when qualification was in sight.

However, there are other options. Graeme Souness appears to be another popular one, and he ticks many boxes. If I was on the board and had to name an experienced manager for the job I’d go for Kenny Dalglish. If the players can’t be motivated by these two then they shouldn’t be playing for Scotland.

Then there’s a younger man currently out of work who’d be perfect for the job. That man is John Collins, who although is inexperienced, he’d make an exciting appointment.

But there are other issues we should consider here. This should be the time we bang the heads of the SFA, the SPL and the SFL together. Why are there three governing bodies anyway? And why do they not work together? Indeed, the SPL did the SFA no favours with its fixture list, with a game coming just before an international qualifier earlier in the season. Surely the priority here should be Scotland qualifying for a major tournament, so every aid should be given to this end.

As a result, it is time to strip the three bodies down and ensure they are all pulling in the same direction.

Then there is the league structure. Quite simply, with a total of 42 teams, having 4 divisions makes no sense at all, and it is further compounded by the lack of a pyramid structure. I’ll start with the SPL.

It is now time to end the experiment of 12 teams, and that’s before I even start on the ‘split’. Instead, I think we should expand the league up to 16 teams, playing each other twice with two relegation spots. I think it is noticeable that the intensity of Scottish derby matches has slipped over the last few years. One of the reasons I’d suggest for this is that the games are now so regular that they are no longer special. Indeed, even the Old Firm derby has lost it’s edge. The same would happen in England if Liverpool and Manchester United had to play each other at least 4 times a year too.

This would once again make every match an event, and would also allow for a winter break as there would only be 30 matches a season. Not only this, but the debacle Rangers suffered when they were going for the UEFA Cup would never be repeated. On top of this, the new Scotland manager would be able to call more training sessions with his players as they’d have less matches to play.

I’d also suggest this would increase both attendances and TV interest as matches would be rarer. Indeed, a friend of mine doesn’t mind missing Old Firm matches quite simply because ‘there’s another one in a few weeks’, and there will be many others who feel the same way. At the other end of the scale, having two relegation spots will boost interest as clubs fight to survive. After all, now if the bottom club get marooned by Christmas, the bottom of the table becomes irrelevant. Having two clubs go down at least promotes interest.

That then leaves us with the football league, and the 26 other teams. Now I’m not going to pretend I have the perfect solution here, but at least one of the divisions needs to be clipped. I’d probably suggest another league of 16 and a third division of 10, but then also open a relegation spot in the third division to allow the Junior sides entry into the league.

Then of course there are the lack of youth academies in the country. I think it is time for the SFA to build regional football academies, much like the one currently being built in Burton by the English Football Association. Whether these are built without affiliation to clubs is open to debate, but without these academies there is little chance of further progression for the Scotland team.

I think we all want to see Scotland qualifying for tournaments again, but we need to demand action from the powers-that-be.

Following these changes at least provides Scotland with a fighting chance, and really that’s all we ask for.

Viva La Revolution!

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