This is what a winning Scotland side looks like
EARLIER this month, Scotland WON Division Two of the European Nations Men's Hockey Championship. Thus, next year, our national side will be going head-to-head with the big boys at the highest level in Europe. And this is nothing new, Scotland last played at this level in 2005 – that, in case you have forgotten, is eight years closer to today than our football team's last outing at the highest tournament level.
We have players in our international squad who play for some of the top clubs in the United Kingdom and abroad, our national coach, Derek Forsyth is right up there in the hockey equivalent of Sir Alex Ferguson and other great managers.
But, unless you can be bothered reading the small-print round-ups towards the back of our newspaper sports pages – you would be unaware of this. Hockey is a minority sport see.
There are Scottish players in the Great Britain Olympic Games squad – the very-highest level of the game. Can we honestly say, if there was a combined United Kingdom or Great Britain football squad we would get any players into it?
Kieran Tierney - might get into a Great Britain side
We could, possibly, make a case for one of our goalkeepers, or for young Kieran Tierney, but, otherwise – forget it, and, in any case, would these guys get past the in-built English bias which kicks-in in any UK-wide team: you have to be better than your English counter claimant for the same position to be considered as good.
Scottish Hockey does not have the media profile of Scottish football, it does not have the numbers playing, or the same impact on the national sporting consciousness. Scottish Hockey does not have the financial muscle of Scottish football – but, it is certainly doing far better.
It really is way past time we sorted-out the SFA and the SPFL. There mismanagement of the game up here is now way past being a joke.
Of course, if we had a media in any way competent, the stumble-bums on Hampden's sixth floor would long ago have been humiliated and driven from office. But it better suits our media to concentrate on cataloguing the play ground spats and minor fall-outs of our managers and players, to breathlessly take down, on tablets of stone almost, the witterings of our leading managers and commentators, than to tell the public the truth – Scottish football is shite.
LET US now look at another sport – Rugby Union. Next week, Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend will run a two-day training camp, at St Andrew's, to which he has invited a 41-man squad, plus half a dozen or so “walking wounded”. Now, I must admit, I hae ma doots about the timing of this camp – just two weeks or so before the new season kicks off.
Gregor Townsend - can call his squad together for a training camp
But, can you see Wee Gordon Strachan being able to call a similar squad get-together for his best players? Nope, me neither. You see, in rugby, the whole ethos in Scotland, is geared to getting the best-possible SCOTLAND team on the park. I don't think they've quite got it right yet, indeed, compared to New Zealand, we are a long way off getting it right.
An option not available to Gordon Strachan
However, one thing Rugby Union does have right is – the national team comes first – in Scottish football, Scotland just maybe comes third, after you know who, and the outfit in second place there isn't even in second place in our club game.
Leaving aside the national side, the SRU, earlier this month, revealed plans to totally revamp the club game in Scotland. There plans, although not “sold” as such, call for a playing pyramid. The Scotland team is at the top, where it should be.
It is under-pinned by the two full-time professional sides: Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, while the next stage down will be six franchised clubs, who will be semi-professional.
Below that, the club game will be (hopefully) 100% amateur, with National Leagues, then regional leagues. Now, there are one or two points, as outlined by the SRU, which are up for debate. A lot of horse-trading will have to be got through, but, the SRU will get it to work.
The suggested changes are radical. This being Scotland, already we hear the Private Frasers forecasting doom, gloom and the end of civilisation as we know it. Some entrenched forces are gathering, emboldened by the knowledge, in Scottish rugby in some parts: “It's aye been and aye will be”.
But, at least rugby is trying. These changes are more than the mere redistribution of the deck chairs as the Titanic of Scottish Football heads straight for the iceberg.
Maybe Stuart Regan should give opposite number at Murrayfield Mark Dodson a call and ask to see the blueprint. There could be lessons there for Scottish football.
And, while he was at it, maybe calls too to the guys at Scottish Hockey, Scottish Athletics and the other Scottish governing bodies of sports where we definitely are punching above our weight – whereas, in football, the only Progres we are making seems to be in a backwards direction.