Socrates MacSporran

Socrates MacSporran
No I am not Chick Young, but I can remember when Scottish football was good

Monday, 28 August 2017

Scottish Football - Own Goals A Speciality

IN RUGBY, in the northern hemisphere, the professional club game virtually shuts down during the main international windows – the Autumn Tests and the Six Nations. There will still, however be club fixtures during these windows, if only to justify the existence of the non-international players.

This system is not perfect, but, it is better than football's. For a start, the rugby fixtures come in blocks and there is an acceptance in that game that full international rugby is the absolute top-flight. In football, the big-money clubs appear to believe they are the most-important people in the game, and, well perhaps because they are drawn from the club ranks – the guys at FIFA and UEFA play along with this.

Christophe Berra - could Hearts not manage without him?

We are now going into the first “International window” of the new season, with Scotland facing Lithuania and Malta over an extended weekend. So, the top-flight in Scottish football will close down for the duration. WHY? The only Scottish clubs with players involved in these games are Celtic, Hearts and Hibs, so, why must the other nine clubs be idle?

OK, you might be able to make a case for Celtic calling-off a scheduled game, because they have six players on international duty, but Hibs, can surely manage without John McGinn and Steven Whittaker and Hearts without Christophe Berra.

But, then you look at the case of Glasgow Warriors, who still have to play a PRO14 game on a weekend in which they will probably have an entire team of players on Scotland duty.

Not all the fans are Tartan Army fanatics, determined to be in Lithuania, or to go to Hampden – these are Scottish football's core customers and they are being short-changed by the total shut-down.

Go onto the Celtic website. There you will find a 23-man squad listed, plus three other players, out on loan. They also list a 29-player Development Squad. Do you honestly mean to tell me, they cannot release six players to Scotland and still not field a side good enough for the Scottish League.

And don't give me the argument that some of their players will be needed by their own different nations. I am not interested in other nations, I am interested in Scotland. Scottish clubs SHOULD be positively-discriminating on behalf of Scottish players. If it was up to me, the SFA would be insisting on a three foreigners rule for first team squads, to develop Scottish talent.

The timing of these internationals does not help. Football is just resuming after the summer break. This season, between European qualifiers, the poorly-organised Betfred Cup and the general stupidity of the SFA officials, it is staggering into life even more slowly than usual.

We need to really sell football, and, playing four league games, then having a week off, well it is not to me, selling the game too well. The fact the SFA is not managing Scottish football at all well is, by the way, a given.

THE TIMING of the weekend's internationals is a gift to the churnalists and stenographers of the SFWA. Left-field, off-the-wall thinking about what to write has never been that organisation's strong point. So, we will have the usual guff this week – puff pieces on various members of WGS's international squad, who are not even household names in their own household. Look-out for some inane questioning Jordan Archer. Plus nostalgic backward glances at past trips to Lithuania.

John McGinn - He's going, sooner or later

Meanwhile, just off-stage left, there will be (and this has already happened), wee Neil Lennon insisting: “John McGinn will not be sold cheaply”.

This means, if McGinn is not a Nottingham Forest player by the close of the international window at the end of this month, he will be gone by the end of the January window.

Lennon will still be insisting he was sold too-cheaply, but, sold he will be. Because, Hibs are now, and always have been, a selling club.

Since the end of World War II, 33 players have received their first Scotland cap while playing with Hibs, they are: Gordon Smith, Davie Shaw, Jock Govan, Bobby Combe, Eddie Turnbull, Hugh Howie and Lawrie Reilly in the 1940s.

In the 1950s – Bobby Johnstone, Willie Ormond, Tommy Younger and John Grant were capped.

The 1960s saw – Johnny McLeod, Neil Martin, Willie Hamilton, Pat Stanton, Jim Scott and Pat Cormack capped out of Easter Road.

In the 1970s era of Turnbull's Tornadoes – John Brownlie, Alex Cropley, John Blackley, Erich Schaedler and Arthur Duncan were capped.

Into the 1980s, and John Collins was capped. Then, in the 1990s, Keith Wright and Darren Jackson had their names added to the roll of honour.

Since 2000 – John O'Neil, Garry O'Connor, Ian Murray, Scott Brown, Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths and John McGinn have been capped out of the club.

Of the ten players capped before European football kicked-off in 1955, with Hibs as the first British club involved remember, only two, Bobby Johnstone to Manchester City and Tommy Younger to Liverpool were sold to English clubs, and only after both had given the club sterling and lengthy service.

Then, in the early 1960s, the maximum wage in England was dropped, and, suddenly, Hibs could not so-easily hang on to their players. Of the 23 Hibs players capped in the last nearly 60-years, only eight gave the club more than a couple of seasons of service after joining the capped ranks – these were: John Grant (first capped 1958), Pat Stanton (1966), John Brownlie (1971), John Blackley and Erich Schaedler (1974), Des Bremner (1975), Keith Wright (1992) and John O'Neil (2001).

The other 14 were moved-on rapidly, so, I confidently predict, John McGinn will depart Easter Road, sooner rather than later, leaving Neil Lennon to sob into his tea, before deciding what to do with any of the money which accrues to team-building.

It is a sad fact of life for Scottish football, there is so-much money swirling around in English football these days, the economic imbalance is so great, we simply cannot afford to hang onto our best talent.

FEEL pity for the poor production journalists on the Hun and Daily Ranger sports desks this morning – those carefully-crafted cracked Rangers badges graphics will have to go back into the system for a wee while, after Pedro's posse dodged a bullet by winning at Ross County.

 A "howler" - Scott Fox screams in anguish on Sunday

And, by the way, speaking as an ex-goalkeeper, that was one fantastic brain fart from Scott Fox to gift Rangers that second goal. OK, we goalies are all daft, but, that boob was taking daftness to extremes.

Well done too to the bold Pedro, for standing-up to Chris Sutton post-match. Sutton was right, but, Pedro didn't let him away with anything. Ra Peepul will have loved it.

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