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Bampots with keyboards

When I was a lad I did a bit of football reporting for the local paper on which I worked. There were some characters around then, the likes of Bob ‘Rex’ Kingsley, Gair ‘Budgie’ Henderson, Jim ‘Scoop’ Rodger, James ‘Solly’ Sanderson, Malky Munro, whose nickname rhymed with his forename, George ‘Corky’ Young, and even for a time Willie ‘Deedle’ Waddell, who went from the Daily Express into the Rangers manager’s office. Most of these guys didn’t know a lot of big words, but they did know their football, and they were realists.

Today’s generation seems to be different. They’re too dull to have nicknames and they do seem to know lots of big words, (although not always how to use them) but **** all else. Currently they have decided collectively that Craig Levein, the beleaguered Scotland national coach, team manager, call him what you will, must be sacked. This is on the basis of a lousy result in sweltering summer conditions in  the US, a game that should never have been played, two home draws against very competent sides, one of whom went on to hump Wales 6 — 1 a few days later, and a defeat by our island neighbours on Friday which was entirely down to the linesman who disregarded the laws of geometry (if geometry has laws) in chalking off a perfectly good second Scotland goal, and a referee who must be a big ballet fan, since he gave Gareth Bale top marks for a Swan Lake dive late in the day, as Wales faced defeat. He also gave him a penalty kick which turned the game. Hardly Craig’s fault, either of those decisions, but their consequence was that his side were robbed of a good away win.

The jackals of the Scottish football press have decided that this is unacceptable. They disregard the fact that for the last year the manager has been without his inspirational captain, that another top midfielder has a chronic injury that is limiting his availability, and that our best striker has been in the huff. They overlook the sad truth that at this time we do not have a back four capable of keeping hens out of a dustbin, far less holding off international class forwards. They report, then deride, the fact that the players are behind the coach. They want his head, and they are determined to have it.

But there’s one relevant question that is not being asked. If not Craig, then who? Who is available, of those, who would be better, and who in his right mind would want the job? The list of candidates is not extensive. Owen Coyle’s name is mentioned, but he is actually Irish by football nationality and is much more likely to wind up in charge of the Republic. Graeme Souness says he is finished with management. Gordon Strachan does not inspire and also seems very comfortable in the media. The likes of Mark McGhee and Steve Kean have one thing alone going for them, their nationality, and God preserve us from such foolish choices. Stuart McCall is doing an excellent job at Motherwell, but he doesn’t seem the type who would cope with seeing his players six times a year as opposed to every week.

The fact is there is only one logical choice for the Scotland hot seat, and that is the man who is currently being pilloried. It’s being said now that defeat in Belgium tomorrow night will be the final nail in his coffin. If that becomes the case, then the people running Scottish football will have been proven as blinkered and moronic as the people writing about it. There are only two sides in Europe, Spain and Germany, who might be backed to win in Belgium, and even they would be happy to come away with a draw.

The Tartan Army may not be happy with recent results, but they are realists. They know that while we are not good enough at this moment to come through a very tough World Cup qualifying group, we do have some very good young players on the way up. If the present coach is allowed to see out his contract, there is every chance that he will build a side worthy of the jerseys. If the clattering classes have their way, as I fear they will, they’ll get what they deserve.

Categories: Sport
  1. October 15, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Sorry Quintin this time I can’t agree with you. Right from the start, from the debacle of the 4-6-0 formation to the “we are not here to entertain” negativity he seems to exude Craig is not an inspiring manager. Much as he comes across as an articulate well meaning bloke, I’d be surprised if he has the private as opposed to public support of the players.
    He may well be right (he obviously knows more than me about tactics, formations etc but like Roy Hodgson at England, just doesn’t exude the enthusiasm needed to inspire the players.
    I honestly think we wouldd be better employing a psychologist rather than a manager. Someone to get rid off this ‘Glorious Failure’ mindset.
    Can just see the World Cup in the future where we’re drawn against Outer Mongolia, Papua New Guinea and Brazil.
    We’d get humped by Outer Mongolia, scrape a draw against Papua, have to beat Brazil by 2 goals to qualify, be 2-0 up in the 97th minute and you’re guaranteed some numpty of a referee will award a dodgy penalty..It’s part of our National Psyche – written in the stars.

  2. October 16, 2012 at 10:14 am

    I understand that view, but I hold to the core points of my argument, those being that we have to be realistic in terms of our current situation and take a longer view than 90 minutes of a tough away game, and also that there is no worthy replacement for Craig. I note that Darren Fletcher agreed with both those points in his press conference yesterday.

    As for our national psyche, you are spot on. I believe that we have never really left the Ally MacLeod era. Argentina is seen as a debacle, but we did beat the eventual finalists, Holland, and would have gone though to the play-off stages at their expense had Johnny Repp not stuck an arse-winder past Roughie late in the game. Kismet. I still remember the last home game before that great crusade, against England at Hampden, when we annihilated them, 0 — 1.

  3. October 17, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Enjoyed the piece Quintin, but disagree that anyone calling for Levein’s head is a moron. Levein himself said there would be no excuses in this campaign, that he was more experienced in the job and the players available were capable of qualifying.

    At the very least, we expect the side to be competitive. They haven’t. We have created under ten clear cut chances in all four qualifiers so far – that’s not ten per game, that’s ten in all four games. It is easy to blame the referee and his assistant for the Wales result, but on the balance of play Scotland were outplayed over the 90 minutes and it is easily forgotten the amount of chances Wales missed.

    If we’re also talking about unfair refereeing, then it should be pointed out that Scotland were lucky to finish with 11 men against Serbia after Steven Naismith’s blatant elbow in that match.

    Levein has been missing some important players – both Fletchers and Scott Brown. However, he has also had good players available that he hasn’t even called up. Kris Commons joined the squad at the last minute and then started both games – if he’s good enough to start in a squad of 22 then why did it take one or two injuries for him to make the squad in the first place?

    Add in the likes of Mackay-Steven, Bannan, McCormack etc who don’t get called up despite being form players, whereas Alan Hutton is playing despite not getting a game for his club side.

    The defence – do we really have no-one better? Charlie Mulgrew was Scotland’s player of the year last year yet can’t get in the side. Andrew Considine was Aberdeen’s player of the year yet he would appear to have no hope of getting close to the squad. And this despite the fact Craig Levein in the past saw fit to give Gary Kenneth a cap. We’re picking players on reputation and rather than form – “Gary Caldwell must be better than Andrew Considine because his CV is better”, however Levein’s job is to watch these players closely over a few months, experiment in friendies and in training, and work out who is the better player. Likewise Jordan Rhodes chould have been starting ahead of Kenny Miller, Paul Dixon ahead of Danny Fox, Gary Mackay-Steven ahead of Shaun Maloney.

    I find it astonishing that we lined up against Wales and Belgium wtih essentially the same system and line-up, save for one player. It didn’t work against Wales – we were outplayed, so what made Levein think it should suddenly come together against a far better outfit?

    You said Levein is the man for the job, but where’s your evidence? What do you see that we’re all missing? Where is the progress?

    • October 17, 2012 at 4:16 pm

      Okay, Andy, Andrew. All these arguments and facts are well presented, but they’re all views, and not proposals. Incidentally, I see that fat twat Graham Speirs is on the attack in today’s Herald, but he doesn’t round it off either.

      What I’m saying is that Craig Levein is the man in the job, that he takes a long view, and that he should not be hounded out when there is no obvious better alternative. (Unless they do what the Welsh did with Sparky Hughes and make Darren Fletcher player-manager, a step that would have Fergie whooping with rage!)

      The easy thing to do will be to throw the mob his head, and that’s what I believe the SFA will do, as it has a long history of doing what it’s told by the press. However I cannot see anyone out there who is likely to do the job any better. Scotland deserves more than a trawl of currently unemployed coaches, but that’s what’s likely to happen. You don’t want Craig, then who do you want? If you push me to fill any vacancy, I’d probably go for Walter again. He’s younger than Roy Hodgson. Only problem is, he ran out on the job for Rangers when David Murray beckoned. Would he do it again if Charles Green called him?

      I want us to be good. I remember when we were, as witness, Ian St John and John White’s debut match in 1959, a 3 — 2 win over West Germany. I was there, and I stood in the sun at Hampden in 1962 and watched us beat England 2 — 0. I was in the same place four years later, when we lost 3 — 4, but gave them a far tougher game than anyone did in the World Cup, and I was up in the press box in the same summer when we drew 1 — 1 with Brazil, Pele and all, in another warm-up. Jim Baxter was the best player on the park that night. Fact is, those teams were massive under-achievers also. We had all the talent and none of the application, under a series of short-term inadequate managers, while England had Ramsey.

      If we had half a dozen like Baxter today we’d still be a top side, but we don’t, partly because the SFA has totally failed the game over the last 30 years in finding and nurturing talent at an early age. Even if we had, we’d still under-achieve, because we’re cursed with the short-term mentality of those guys with keyboards that I’m on about. Until our media stop getting the cross and the nails out after every defeat and instead start demanding a root and branch restructuring of the game, it will always be thus.

      Croatia has a population of similar size to Scotland; so has Uruguay. We should study their set-ups inside out and take what’s best from them, but we don’t and we won’t.

      • October 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

        Well you’re right in that there is no perfect man for the job, there never is. However, I think Levein (and he admitted it himself before the Serbia game) has been inexperienced at this level. He said he had learned a lot over the past two years and was now a better manager, but it is evident in the first four qualifiers he is still out of his depth.

        He was never a great manager before he got the job anyway. He was doing a decent job at Dundee United, and got two third place finishes at Hearts, but he has a record comparable with Jimmy Calderwood and he’s actually less successful than Jim Jefferies. These aren’t men to take on the job of Scotland manager.

        Therefore, the men who stand out are Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan. Neither without their faults, but experienced at the top level, able to get the best out of mediocre players, are experienced at going forward against teams who want to sit in and equally experienced when a backs to the wall performance is needed against better teams.

        You also have to take into account, even if you convinced me now that Levein should stay, we’re in a minority. When most of the country wants a man out, then doubts in the players’ minds start to form, the manager takes less risks, keeps picking his “safe” options rather than experimenting. You rarely see a manager who has lost the fans turn it around, it’s perhaps the ultimate test of a manager. I don’t think Craig Levein has it in his locker to turn it around.

  4. October 17, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    Wee Gordon has a distinguished record of failure almost everywhere he’s managed. He had some success at Celtic, yet managed to alienate his best player, Aidan McGeady, and banish him from the side when it needed him most.

    However my original post wasn’t really about individuals. I was addressing the inadequacy of the current crop of Scottish football writers, their knee-jerk, short-term mentality, and their pernicious habit of offering only blame and never solutions.

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