Now the World Cup is out the way, I thought it would be a good month or so before I posted about international football again. Both England and Scotland were depressing propositions, what with the Capello saga and the disgraceful performances in South Africa for the Three Lions, and a European Championship group including Spain and the Czechs for Craig Levein’s boys. A sobering prospect indeed.

Then a week or so ago I had a message on my Facebook wall from a friend asking me if I was planning to write anything about Middlesbrough’s Scottish invasion, and how I thought the players would perform in the Championship. Whilst this was a very good idea (I’ll be posting my thoughts on promotions and relegations in the next few weeks) I thought it better to look at the re-emergence of Scottish players within the English game as a whole.

Now for the last 10 years or so, there has been a real dearth of Scottish talent plying their trade to the south of Hadrian’s Wall, and Scotland have been an atrocity on the park. But this last couple of seasons, a few rough diamonds are beginning to show themselves, and in the more competitive English game too.

As a fan of an SPL club it gives me no pleasure to say this, but the quality of the SPL at this moment is worse than ever before. The game is really struggling as a result of the stranglehold that Sky has on British football, with even the English Championship having more cash than the clubs north of the border, let alone the Premier League. And if Celtic and Rangers can be outspent by Championship teams, what chance do the likes of St Mirren, St Johnstone and Hamilton have in the transfer market? Indeed, I’d argue that Notts County’s current squad would finish above at least six of the teams in the SPL right now (and no, I’m not being facetious.)

However, all is not lost for Scottish fans, and the SPL’s loss is the national team’s gain. The Championship is beginning to bulge at the weight of Scottish players, especially on Teeside, and some are now finding themselves in the Premier League (including Gary Caldwell, to my amazement!) I’m certain to miss a few out, but off the top of my head there is Craig Gordon, James McFadden, Graham Dorrans, Steven Fletcher, Christophe Berra, Alan Hutton and now Charlie Adam joining Fletcher and ‘Heid’ in the top flight. Not far behind are Barry Robson, Kevin Thomson, Kris Boyd, Steven McManus, Ross McCormack, Chris Burke and David Marshall in the Championship.

That’s the vast majority of any Scotland squad, and the experience gained playing against better sides down south can only help Scotland’s chances. Of course, I’m not suggesting that there are no players for Levein to pick from inside Scotland (I’m expecting to see a few of the Dundee United boys get a chance, as will Driver and a couple of others) but being able to mix his squad fills me with more hope that a play off spot in the Euro qualifiers is not out the question.

Some of you will ask ‘why’ I feel like this, and I guess the best answer I have is tradition. In the days when Scotland were a decent side, there was always a core of players who played in the English league. Be it Kenny Dalglish, Billy Bremner, Archie Gemmil or Denis Law, there were good players at English clubs. Now whilst I wouldn’t suggest any of the current bunch deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Dalglish or Law, my point still stands.

In Craig Levein there is a good young manager who most of the supporters are behind, and a widening pool of players to pick from. The exact opposite of England’s current position, although only part of that is Capello’s fault. But now it is down to Levein to mould the side together, and he can learn a few lessons from the Auld Enemy’s failure.

Namely abandon all thoughts of a 4-4-2 system and give the youngsters a chance, whilst trying to maintain an element of experience in the team. So who does he pick for the opening Euro qualifier? Very tough question, but I guess it’s time to don my management hat again. Here goes nothing:





—————————–S Fletcher————————–

It wouldn’t be football if some of you didn’t disagree with both my post and the team I’ve picked, but I’m genuinely optimistic that Scotland can qualify for Euro 2012. And after the misery of the last World Cup, that can’t help but get me just a little bit excited…