ONE THING the SFA's handling of Gordon Strachan's departure has clearly demonstrated is, the breath-taking arrogance of the suits who stalk Hampden's sixth-floor corridor knows no bounds.
Stewart Regan, a useful idiot who covers for the suits
It was ever thus, as young journalists, in bars, winding-down after our paper had been put to bed, we would listen as our elders and betters, the legendary: “fans with typewriters” regaled us with tales of misbehaviour on foreign trips with Scotland – back in the days before the red-top Rottweilers were sent with the team – when: “what goes-on on-tour, stays on-tour.”
Sure, we knew of the night Hughie Gallacher tried to drink Paris dry, but we also knew of the SFA councillors being forced to dive through a hedge to safety, to escape a spray of machine-gun fire - after they decided a dictatorship's curfew did not refer to them, and they could saunter along to enjoy the delights of the best bordello in that Latin American capital city. Never forget, both combatants were “steamin'” the night wee Billy Bremner and big Hamish MacDonald had their exchange of opinions in what became known as 'The Copenhagen Affair'.
No normal rules of behaviour do not apply when it comes to the Hampden “suits”, it has “ayebeen” thus, and, until this changes, we are going nowhere fast.
Stewart Regan, the “useful idiot”, who makes the statements and acts as a firewall between the stenographers who cover football for the mainstream Scottish media and the “suits” who make the big, and not-so-big decisions affecting the game here, was wheeled-out yesterday to put a gloss on WGS's departure.
Now, I don't think he had to try too hard to get the stenographers to follow the Hampden party line. After all, it is no secret, WGS had few friends among the Lap Top Loyal, or even the Fans with Lap Tops. Therefore, selling the notion: “We needed new impetus, a fresh perspective and so on” was an easy sell for Mr Regan.
What did make me laugh was, the announcement that the absolute minimum expected of the next sap is – we qualify for the finals of Euro' 2020. I should fucking coco. The way the finals of these big events, the Euros and the World Cup are expanding, it seems to me it will soon be harder NOT to qualify than to get in, but, never mind, given our record, I still fancy us to do this. Not qualify I mean.
Scotland has had a long, admittedly turbulent, but mainly loving relationship with the World Cup. We embrace the idea of taking-on Brazil, Argentina and so on, far more than we do the notion of facing Iceland, Portugal or Greece. Perhaps this reflects the long-held view of the Scots: the world's our oyster and, anywhere is better than here.
The Euros began in 1960, but, Scotland was the last of the Home Nations to embrace this upstart, not deigning to enter until the 1968 tournament. That time, we beat reigning World Champions England, at Wembley, then allowed George Best to do a one-man demolition job on us in Belfast, failed to beat a poor England team at Hampden and failed to qualify – thus setting a pattern.
Wembley 1967 - a great start to the European Championships, since when it's been all down-hill
We bombed again – badly – in 1972, then came off half-decent World Cup qualifying performances in 1974, 1978, 1982 and 1986 with poor European Championship qualifying campaigns in 1976, 1980, 1984 and 1988.
Then, finally, in 1992, we qualified for the finals, in Sweden, finishing fifth – our highest-ever ranking in European or world football. Since then, we've been on the downward spiral - 12th in 1996, our second and to date last appearance in the final tournament; 19th, beaten by England in a qualifying play-off, in 2000; 20th, again beaten in a play-off – no, make that thrashed, by the Netherlands, in 2004.
In 2008, we didn't even make the play-offs, well, a new format meant they didn't have play-offs that tournament, we didn't get out of our qualifying group, but were 18th. Then came the slump, we were 29th in 2012 and managed to cling-on to that standing in 2016.
Reflect on that for a moment. That means Scotland, the nation which invented the passing game and taught it to the world, is now 29th of 55 member associations within UEFA. We are decidedly lower league. UEFA has introduced the Europa Nations League from next season, in that, we are in League C – a third tier team. We are the international equivalent of Albion Rovers, Forfar Athletic, or, perhaps most-fittingly Queen's Park, while the SFA suits think we should be somewhat better.
As I said further up this post, the Euros has been expanded, as all big tournaments appear to be, and this has not been for the benefit of football. It is now almost harder NOT to qualify for the European Championship finals than it is to actually get there. “You must qualify” isn't that great an objective to place before whoever replaces WGS.
That said, however: “You must qualify using Scottish-qualified players and working within the SFA system” - that's a challenge Ethan Hawke and the IMF would baulk at.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get Scotland to the Euro 2020 finals
Whoever gets the job, his mission might be possible, if the SFA would itself self-destruct within five seconds of him getting the job – then he could rebuild something which did work, as the SFA clearly has not for years.