Socrates MacSporran

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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Thanks, But No Thanks Alex, And, While They Are At It - Sort Out The Job Description

NOTHING against big Alex McLeish, who I have always found a charming chap, great to be around, even in a professional capacity – but, I hope Stewart Regan, on behalf of the SFA sends him a: “Dear Alex, thanks but no thanks”, letter in response to his very public canvassing to be given a second crack at the Scotland job.

Alex McLeish, for me he blew a second chance by his speedy departure first time round as Scotland boss

I accept, the big man made a more than decent fist of his last go at being Scotland boss. But for one bad night in Georgia, he might well have taken us to the finals of a major championship, but, the fact is – he was Scotland boss, the Main Man, the custodian of the Holy Grail, and, when a mid-ranking, in truth not particularly good English club, dangled a lucrative salary in his direction, we didn't see him for stoor.

OK, he was a younger manager then, he still had ambition. Maybe he was not readyfor the Elder Statesman status of being an international boss. But, now he has been out of the front-line for a wee while, and while admitting, yes, he is now of an age where he could wear the Elder Statesman cloak easily, why should Scotland offer him a second chance?

MAYBE the job description is wrong. Perhaps, instead of seeking an International Team Manager (or Head Coach), we ought to be seeking a Director (or Head of) of International Football – charged with overseeing all of our teams, the A squad, the age group teams and so on.

The holder of this post ought to be able to say: “We are Scotland, we will play this formation, in each of our teams; we will establish an international performance pathway whereby players can move smoothly through the age group teams to the A team, and where we no longer suddenly cap guys with Scottish grannies who we discover playing in the second tier in England.”

We need to positively discriminate on behalf of native Scottish talent. I would establish a “bridging” team between the Under-21 side and the A side – call it what you will: an Under-23 side, a B side, a Futures side, but, we need to get more Scottish players used to playing outwith Scotland, against the more technically-gifted Europeans.

Why not at least try to re-establish the old “League Internationals” against the Irish, League of Ireland, Welsh Leagues and even the (English) Football League – who look after the teams in the Championship, and Leagues One and Two.

Even if England does not want to get involved, surely a British Isles Championship, but with the teams selected to be “development” ones, would have traction.

History Lesson: Scotland's first B team played against France, in Toulouse, on 11 November, 1952. That team was: Tommy Ledgerwood (Partick Thistle); Bobby Parker (Hearts, capt), Willie Cunningham, Tommy Docherty (Preston North End), Jimmy Davidson (Partick Thistle), Hugh Kelly (Blackpool); Jimmy Buchanan (Clyde), Willie Moir (Bolton Wanderers), Ian Gardiner (East Fife), Tommy Gemmell (St Mirren) and Willie Ormond (Hibernian).

Tommy Docherty, left, was already a full cap when he won his first B cap

Of that team, Docherty, Kelly and Moir had already won full caps – one each. Of the other eight players, only Ledgerwood, Parker and Buchanan would fail to go on and win full caps.

Later that season, they played England at Easter Road – the first of four games between the nations in the next five years. Docherty, Kelly and Moir were chosen again, along with the already capped Ian McMillan. Five of the remaining seven players – Ronnie Simpson, Jock Aird, John Hewie, Doug Cowie and Jackie Henderson would win full caps – although Ronnie had to wait 14-years for his.

Henderson, by then capped, and Aird, were the only survivors for the third B international, a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Of the other nine players, six – goalkeeper Jock Anderson of Leicester City, right-back Mike Haughney of Celtic, Left-half John Cumming of Hearts, Celtic's Willie Fernie and Neil Mochan and West Ham's John Dick would all later win full caps.

The third game in the series, at Dens Park, in February, 1956 was another 2-2 draw. Scotland fielded four players who had already been capped: Andy Kerr of Partick Thistle, skipper Archie Glen of Aberdeen, his Dons team mate Harry Yorston and Hibs' Eddie Turnbull. Only two others from that team, goalkeeper Bill Brown, then of Dundee, and Mike Cullen of Luton Town would go on to win full caps.

Ronnie Simpson, an Olympian in 1948, a B cap in 1953,  but had to wait till 1967 for his full cap

The fourth and final B game against the English was played, at Villa Park, on February, 1957, with England winning 4-1. This game was televised nationwide, and made unhappy viewing for the Scots. Cumming, Rangers' Alex Scott and Hearts' Jimmy Wardhaugh were the three capped men; Ian Gardiner, by now with Motherwell was back for a second B cap, but, of the then uncapped players on display, only he and Ronnie Simpson would take the final step to a full cap.

By then, the emphasis had switched to Under-23 games and the B team went into cold storage, for over 30-years, before another spell out of favour, being briefly restored at the start of the 21st century. Maybe it would be worth trying this level out again.

Forty-six players were used in those five B internationals in the 1950s, of these, 11 had previously been capped, leaving 35 new players being given a chance. Of these, 17, just under 50% went on to win full caps – and that is a higher percentage of graduates than either the Under-23 or Under-21 teams have managed.

AND FINALLY – there was, naturally, much comment in the papers yesterday about the Lisbon Lions being inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame.

As is inevitable where issues surrounding either one of the Bigot Brothers is concerned, the btl (below the line) readers' comments included more than a degree of “whitabootery”. I did, however, have to laugh at the many Celtic fans who commented: “this was 50-years too-late in coming”.

This overlooks the fact, we didn't have a Scottish Football Hall of Fame 50-years ago. The SFHoF was not established until 2004 – so quite how they could have inducted a team 37-years before the thing was set-up is beyond me.

The 1928 Wembley Wizards - if the Lisbon Lions are in the Hall of Fame, why not them?

I have been suggesting to the SFoH staff for years – they ought to have inducted the Lisbon Lions, the Barcelona Bears, the Gothenburg Giants, the Wembley Wizards (1928) and the Wembley Wizards (1967) before now. However, I was told, the general idea was to recognize individuals rather than teams, although, the induction of McCrae's Batallion in 2014, to mark the centenary of World War I gave them the precedent to induct the Lions as a team, as well as individually.

My argument remains – football is a team game, so, if you are recognising someone and part of that recognition stems from a particular team performance, then the whole team should go in.

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