Socrates MacSporran

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

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Let's Not Put Pressure On Kieran Tierney - He's Still Just A Boy

I NEVER made it to the A-Team of Scottish football writers, that band of gilded youth who still get expenses, business-class air travel, first-class rail travel, and only have to report on the Bigot Brothers and Scotland.

I should have called him mister

They get a free finger buffet at half-time, a bottomless coffee cup and a wee hauf in the media room, post-match – and, so-long as they remember their place, they even get to speak with the Glib and Shameless Liar and the Tax-Dodger, provided they address these gentlemen as: “Mr”.

I remember, a couple of decades ago, the sharp intake of breath, when, at a Rangers press event, I addressed the then Mr Murray, Owner of Rangers, as: “David”. I thought the Chief Football Writer of a scurrilous and now deid Sunday red top was going to have a seizure at my lack of respect. My explanation: “I kent his faither and I've been calling him 'David' for years,” cut little ice – I had committed the sin of over-familiarity.

Any way, while the stringers are out covering what little real senior football there will be in Scotland, I dare say one or two of the A-Team, those who have convinced their Sports Editors they are 'Sports Writers' rather than 'Football Writers', will be getting tore into the lavish hospitality which the SRU provides for those verm, sorry, gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, who have not cast aspersions on Mr Dodson's thought processes, or maligned the SRU's Director of Rugby - “The Lesser-Spotted Johnson” in philosophical blogs we do not mention in polite company.

They are in holiday mode – having covered Scotland v Netherlands, at Pittodrie on Thursday, before looking up: 'Football-Writing By Numbers' for ideas for their pieces for today.

Come on guys, there are better, more-worthy subjects to discuss than the likelihood of Kieran Tierney reaching 100 caps. Of course, Craig Gordon is targetting Alan Rough's caps haul – two more games and he is past the great “Scruffy”, but, is that news. And as for the Record's storm in a Bovril cup about Celtic allegedly cropping a picture of Kieran Tierney to remove the poppy – PLLEEAASSEE!!! Even in the land of Old Firm Whitabootery, that's a non story.

Kieran's poppy arm band - first you see it

Then you don't - talk about a non-story

Scotland has, since the modern routine of a World Cup or European Championships every two years – with the time between finals spent in qualifying, averaged eight internationals per season. Thus, if young Kieran can maintain his form and fitness, and become an ever-present for Scotland, between now and the end of the 2029-2030 season, he will win his 100th cap around that time. Of course, if we suddenly re-discover our tournament mojo, he will get there sooner.

Kenny Dalglish - it took him 131 games to reach his century of caps

Kenny Dalglish, the only Scot to have played over 100 games for his country, won his first cap, off the bench, against Belgium, at Pittodrie, on 10 November, 1971. He won his 100th cap, against Romania, at Hampden, on 26 March, 1986 – 14 years, 4 months and 16 days later. Kenny missed a few caps, because Liverpool were in European finals, but, he had a remarkable tolerance for the abuse he took at the feet of 1970s and 1980s defenders, didn't miss many games, but, it still took him a total of 131 international to reach his century.

Jim Leighton, who with 91 caps lies second to Kenny in the most-capped list, made his debut against East Germany, at Hampden, on 13 October, 1982, and made his final appearance, against Estonia, at Pittodrie, on 10 November, 1998 – 16 years and 28 days later. Leighton's Scotland career therefore spanned 142 internationals, and included a three years and five months spell in the international wilderness, between June 1990 and November, 1993, during which he missed 30 internationals.

 Jim Leighton - over 16 years in the international arena, but fell short of 100 caps

To win 100 caps, you have to be – very good, very consistent, and very lucky. Dalglish was picked by six Scotland managers – Tommy Docherty, Willie Ormond, Ally MacLeod, Jock Stein, Alex Ferguson and Andy Roxburgh. Leighton had the confidence of Stein, Ferguson (well, up until 1990), Roxburgh and Craig Brown – who brought him back from the wilderness. He also, unlike Dalglish, had to fight-off the challenge of another two very good exponents of the goalkeeping arts, Roughie as a young player, then Andy Goram later in his career.

Kieran Tierney, we all know is good, he has performed consistently since breaking into the Celtic and Scotland teams, and, to a degree he has been lucky. Will these factors hold for the decade and more they will need to, if he is to become a cap centurion. Now, there's the rub.

Our most-capped current internationalist, Darren Fletcher, won his 80th cap against Slovenia, earlier this season. He has taken 14 years, one month and 18 days to get to that stage, and, at 34, and with a new national team manager due to be installed, you have to feel, time is running-out on his Scotland career and he is unlikely to reach a century of caps.

Darren Fletcher - after 14 yars and 80 caps, time is against him reaching his caps century

And these men I have mentioned had it comparatively easy. Given we now average eight internationals per season, think how difficult it was to accumulate caps back in the day. Denis Law, Scotland's most-capped player before Dalglish won his first cap, in Cardiff, on 18 October, 1958. He celebrated, aged 18, by scoring against Wales. He made his final Scotland appearance, indeed, his final appearance as a player, in the opening World Cup match, against Zaire, in Dortmund, on 14 June, 1974 – 15 years, 7 months and 27 days after his debut. In that period, Scotland played 120 internationals, and Denis featured in 55 of them.

Denis Law scored 30 goals for Scotland, but injury, selectorial whims and club calls restricted him to 55 caps, spread over 15 years and 120 Scotland games

He was, throughout that spell, by a mile our top striker, yet, he had spells when the selectors, who picked the team for most of his Scotland career, didn't fancy him. There were occasions when his clubs would not release him to Scotland. I even remember, although, to their credit, the selectors ignored the call, one of the leading football writers of the time demanding he be dropped, after we lost 4-3 to Norway in Bergen – Denis had scored all three Scotland goals.

As I said, winning 100 caps for Scotland is not easy, so, let's not burden Kieran Tierney with expectations.

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