Socrates MacSporran

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

Friday, 30 March 2018

Time We Put A Proper System In Place For Picking The National Team

WHEN I was growing-up and beginning to discover my football heroes – Bert Trautman and Jimmy Brown if you must know – there seemed, with hindsight, to be a selection system in Scottish football.

Ian Black of Fulham - perhaps the ultimate Scottish One Cap Wonder

Sure, the selectors, who picked the Scotland side back in the 1950s and for most of the 1960s, would occasionally justify their all-expenses-paid scouting trips to England by throwing a “One Cap Wonder” into the international team: Fulham goalkeeper Ian Black and West Ham inside forward John Dick, against England in 1948 and 1959 respectively being perhaps the best examples of guys being capped before they were household names in their own households. But, generally the path to a full cap back in those black and white TV days was well laid-out.

Players who were getting consistently good write-ups in the run-of-the-mill league games, and who didn't freeze at Ibrox or Celtic Park, would be introduced into the Scottish League XI, and, if they fitted-in there, in time, they would be tried-out in the full team, perhaps in one of the regular end-of-season friendlies.

Guys who caught the selectorial eye in England might get their chance in the Scotland B team, which was formed after the debacle of non-appearance at the 1950 World Cup and lasted through until 1957, by which time the Under-23 team was up and running and seen as a more-logical replacement.

 Campbell Forsyth - had to wait seven years for a full cap

Unless you were a goalkeeper, a successful B team or Under-23 “audition” generally brought swift promotion to the big team. Campbell Forsyth, however, had to wait seven years between his Under-23 debut and his full debut, while Ronnie Simpson's wait was even longer. An Olympian with Queen's Park in 1948, the future Celtic Lisbon Lion received his B team call-up in 1953, when with Newcastle United; then had to wait until his Indian Summer debut in that unforgettable 1967 Wembley match, before winning a long-overdue full cap.

Ronnie Simpson - played at Wembley with Team GB in the 1948 Olympic Games, but, had to wait until 1967, 19-years later, to appear there for Scotland

These days, to quote a belter of an aside from Brian McClair: “You can get a Scotland Under-21 cap for knowing the ball is round.” And, while necessity, being the mother of invention, has forced SPFL sides to blood more young Scots, with a consequential knock-on effect on the team, there was a time, not so long ago, when the Under-21 team was drawn from guys who mainly played in their club's reserve teams.

In that respect, the Under-23 team was, I submit, a more-accurate barometer of a young player's readiness for the international arena than the Under-21 team is. Which is why, I would like to see the SFA bring it back.

One of the huge current problems with Scottish football is, while it remains exciting and hard-fought, our domestic players, and sadly more and more of the Scottish-qualified players plying their trade in the lower reaches of the English Premiership and in their Championship and League One, is, while they have continental and South American team mates around them on a daily basis, they have little experience of facing foreign teams in matches.

I would reinstate the Under-23 team, as a purely development side, playing wherever possible against foreign opponents, perhaps by bringing back the old end-of-season continental tour, or, maybe by bringing back the Home Internationals, as an Under-23 tournament.

On this last suggestion. Why not run it as a mini-tournament taking it round the four nations (or, if as they perhaps would say, England declined to face lesser countries, in which case, I am sure the Republic of Ireland would be delighted to come in)? Take the games around Scotland, keeping them, initially anyway, away from Glasgow. I am sure Sky or BT Sport would be pleased to cover this event.

There might even be grounds, should England deign to favour such an event with their presence, to use it as a pre-Olympics qualifier, winning team to go as “Team GB” to the games. Now, I accept politics is in-play here, but, I don't see this as an impediment to Scottish participation – the old “threat to our international football position argument - I reckon we will again be, if not already a fully-fledged independent nation by the time my hypothetical tournament is up and running, well down the road to FREEDOM!!!

Berti Vogts - couldn't get the Hampden High Heid Yins to fully endorse the Futures Team

By bringing back Under-23 games, Big Eck would have more young players with international experience at a lower level to choose from. Berti Vogts sought to do something similar with his Futures team, but, the stumblebums inside and outside Hampden's sixth-floor Corridor of Power, never bought into the wee German's vision – a scheme which, it goes without saying, has been part of the German plan for world football domination since Berti was a player.

It has worked for the Germans, why not also for us?

IN MY last post, I mentioned the historic decision of the SJFA member clubs, which has of course, still to be ratified at their AGM later this year, to participate in the Scottish Football Pyramid.

I mentioned, at the time, how Auchinleck Talbot were against the move, and I speculated that they might be joined in this stance by several other of the bigger names. Well, one of my friends posted, on Facebook, a list of how the clubs voted and, an awful lot more of the major clubs were against it, than were for it. This I suspected, might be the case.

This one will run and run.

Speaking of the SJFA, I think Tom Johnston and Iain McQueen must have found the square and oval balls for the Scottish Junior Cup semi-final draw, which was made on Thursday.

The ties, which are two-legged affairs, to be played on 14 and 21 April, are:

Auchinleck Talbot v Lochee United
Wishaw Juniors v Hurlford United

Cynic that I am, I think the Juniors' High Heid Yins are hoping for a Talbot v Hurlford clash at Rugby Park in the final. So am I, but, that's another story.

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