Socrates MacSporran

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

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Let's Not Heap Undue Pressure On Scott McTominay

THE current excitement over Scott McTominay and his decision to throw-in his international lot with Scotland, rather than England, is to me yet another example of the Scottish footballing nation – from SFA High Heid Yins right down to the lowly Tartan Army foot soldier lacking a sense of perspective.

 Scott McTominay

Our highs – the Wembley Wizards of 1928 and 1967, Faddy's goal against France - make Everest look like a mole-hill. Our lows – 9-3, don't cry for us Argentina – are deeper than the Marenas Trench. Balance and Scottish fitba are strange bed fellows.

Now, I hope young McTominay can go on to have a Scotland career to match that of Darren Fletcher, or Kenny Dalglish, but, the kid has only played 18 first-team games for Manchester United – less than half a season, let's not burden him with expectation. The history of Scottish football is packed with young stars, hailed as: “the next big thing”, or rushed into the national team of a tsunami of press praise – who crashed and burned.

 Kris Commons - Scotland internationalist number 1100

Since international football started, on St Andrew's Day, 1872, just 1156 Scots have got to wear the rampant lion in full internationals. Kris Commons was cap number 1100 – of the 56 who have followed him, I can think of several who were going to be: “the next big thing”. OK, one or two of these might come back, but I would say for most of them, their Scotland careers are over, here is just a small number of promising boys who have failed to deliver: Derek Riordan, Danny Wilson, David Goodwillie, Mark Wilson, Chris Maguire, Craig Mackail-Smith, Stevie May, Tony Watt, Oliver Burke and Barrie McKay.

I doubt if we will see any of these names, when Alex McLeish names his first Scotland squad of his second spell in-charge, on Monday. So, let's not get carried away about McTominay.

ANOTHER point you have to consider when it comes to looking at the personnel in any Scotland squad, is consistency of selection.

 Gemma Fay winning the 200th of her 203 caps - tribute to her and the Scotland Women's team managements consistency in performance and selection

Having stuck his neck out as it were, to get McTominay tied to Scotland, McLeish now has to back that up by picking the kid. He will surely be given a handful of games in which to show he can cut it internationally, but, there are no guarantees.

Scottish football history is full of guys who were stick-outs at club level, but, could not bridge the gap into the international arena. Plus, you have perception, the great Gordon Smith's record at club level is outstanding, but, received wisdom apparently was, for all his genius for Hibs, he seldom matched that level of performance during his 20 Scotland appearances.

With the SFA you get a gold medal and your picture hung in a sort of Hall of Heroes, if you manage 50 caps or more. Of the 1156 full internationalists, only 31, or 2.7% are in that elite group. If you win between 25 and 49 caps, you win a silver medal – only 76, or 6.6% of our full internationalists have earned that distinction.

I accept, we have to count that long period when the Scotland team was chosen by committee, where: “You vote for my right-back and I will back your outside-left,” perhaps got a few guys caps they didn't deserve, but, with the Scotland men's team, there has always been a presumption that, in some way the national team got in the way of club football, and was not as-important.

Indeed, received wisdom is that two clubs, one perhaps more than the other, have, over the years made it clear they think themselves above the national team, with many well-documented examples of their players being unfit to play for Scotland on a Wednesday, but make recoveries of Lazarus proportions between Wednesday morning and Saturday at 3pm, when they are able to turn-out for their club side.

If you look at our list of 1156 full Scottish internationalists since 1872, one player stands alone – with 102 appearances, Kenny Dalglish is our solitary caps centurion.

Julie Fleeting warms up with one of her two daughters - Julie has 121 caps and has scored 116 goals for Scotland - whaur's yer Kenny Dalglish noo.

Our women's national side has only been official since 1998, but, in that time: Gemma Fay (203), Joanne Love (182), Leanne Ross (133), Ifeome Dieke (123), Julie Fleeting and Kim Little (121), Jane Ross (110) and Jenni Beattie (108) have all racked-up a century or more of caps, with several of these named still active, and Rachel Corsie and Frankie Brown both into their nineties in terms of caps won, and aiming to join the centurions.

Of course, manager Shelley Kerr, like her predecessors, is selecting from a smaller player pool, which leads to consistency of selection, but, these numbers demonstrate the merits of this.

PITTODRIE no more then, with the news the Scottish Government has decided Aberdeen's new stadium at Kingsford can be built. I welcome this development.

Mind you, I have one wee concern. The newspaper reports I have seen spoke of: “The 20,000-capacity stadium.” This might be a ball park figure, since, Pittodrie's capacity is 20,866, but, if they are cutting 866 seats, it says to me, lack of ambition.

Sure, a capacity of around 20,000 is perhaps adequate for the current market. But, what happens if, immediately the Dons relocate, either Derek McInnes, or a successor, suddenly turns into Fergie Mark 2, and the team starts to make waves in Europe, and win titles and trophies. The club might discover, they could fit-in 30,000 fans every week, but the ground is too-small.

What happened to: “If you build it – they will come.”

I WATCHED PSG v Real Madrid, on BT Sport 2 last night.

Good game, with some outstanding nuggets of individual skill. I also saw, for the first time in ages, a team – Real, use that most-telling of passes, between a wing back and a central defender, for a winger to run onto, take to the bye-line and cut back. We don't see this often enough.

Tommy Lawton scoring with a header for England - he would proudly have claimed CR7's opening goal for Real Madrid in Paris last night.

But, what an opening goal from CR7, old English-style centre forwards such as Tommy Lawton, Nat Lofthouse, Tony and Mark Hateley or Alan Sharer would proudly have claimed that one.

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