Lights Out in Ljubljana

‘Strachan Must Go!’ might seem like a shallow, knee-jerk and predictable response to the national teams failures, and it probably is, but he really must. He almost salvaged a campaign he’d wrecked, then didn’t. He should be fired for his daft comments about genetics as much as he should be sacked for serial failure or for his bizarre team selection.

That he won’t be fired tells you all you need to know about the SFA, an organisation mired in incompetence, managed decline and an appalling lack of vision or aspiration for our game. Instead we are left with the strange state of the manager ‘refusing to consider his position’. Can you imagine another workplace where you fail in your primary task and its up to you to decide whether you’re fired?

Strachan is the Johann Lamont of Scottish football, neatly misdirecting attention onto ‘genetics’ in a bizarre post-match statement: ““Genetically, we are behind,” explained the manager. “The last campaign we were the second smallest, apart from Spain, so that means we had to pick a team tonight to try and combat the height and strength. Even at that we couldn’t combat their height and strength at set plays. Genetically, we have to work at things. Don’t know if we can get big women and men together, and see what we can do.”

Except the goals we lost could have been saved by our goalkeeper coming for the ball or Berra or Fletcher marking better.

But his obsession with height might have explained his commitment to Chris Martin, little else does.

The tension about ‘Anglos’ goes back to Hansen, and probably beyond, but his selection of Matt Phillips, Barry Bannan, Martin and James McArthur looked fatal. It has been put down to his over-investment in Championship quality players over and above in-form players like John McGinn and Callum McGregor. It’s a reflection of sporting cultural cringe.

The backdrop to our latest failure is that its a cute ten years that we have not been able to broadcast our ow national games. The football goes to Sky and to the pub. There’s lots of young Scottish kids who just don’t get to see it. The national failure is compounded and reinforced by lack of status, lack of profile and eventually, with no real expectation that we’d qualify. Then the big tournaments come round again and this is reinforced again.

As broadcaster Stuart Cosgrove said talking about England games on STV “Scotland’s the only nation that has conceded our media rights to another nation.”

So here we are facing decades of structural failure with no apparent impetus or route to change.

In a world that gave you Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona our national manager says what we need is just to be ‘bigger’. That’s a pretty tragically awful analysis.

As Jim Spence has stated: “The mindset of Gordon Strachan now ensures he cannot continue in the job. If he truly believes his genetic theory stands, then he truly believes we are incapable of achieving very much at all. And that was just v Slovenia. His comment is more damaging than the actual failure to qualify.”

Replacing managers is never a complete answer, and we have improved. The answer is deeper structural change (aka a revolution) in Scottish football. While we work out how to make that happen we need to replace Strachan and build on the many strengths in our team and in our wider game, that seem to survive despite everything that the bodies that run it put in their way.

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  1. Josef Ó Luain says:

    Nothing to disagree with there, unfortunately.

  2. Mike Barile says:

    Hard to disagree with any of the interesting points made here especially about the SFA. Time to reclaim our national game

  3. IDL says:

    The problem is actually revealed by the ‘genetics’ comment. Stature is certainly related to inherited characteristics but is generally regressive. (It tends to a norm).

    The ‘genetics’ of Scotland are almost (or indeed are) indistinguishable from that of our European neighbours (and any differences are either cryptic or serendipitous, and almost certainly either irrelevant or inconsequential).
    The fact that the Dutch and German and other European nations may have bigger players is related to environmental factors.
    Stature is related to the environment, both pre-natal and post-natal. ‘Environment’ is largely defined by economic and political conditions, and it seems highly likely that the relative ‘failure’ of the national football team reflects some underlying deficit in these conditions, if we are to use football prowess as a yardstick (which seems a rather arbitrary choice).

    Of course it might also be worth considering the effect of the corrosive and corrupt commercial mentality that defines the world of Scottish football.

    I wonder why he cited stature and not (say) power /weight ratio, reflex speed, quality of muscle-sensory awareness/coordination, brain processing speed, among many other genetically influenced characteristics, which have an enormous bearing on athletic ability.

    The ‘material’ (or variables) that he as a manager needs to engage in, is the understanding of how the environment interacts with those characteristics that are key to success.
    In practical terms that means quality of food, education, opportunity, experience, training and psychological conditions.
    When Strachan cites ‘genetics’ it is a clear indicator, not of a ‘genetic’ problem, but of his intellectual deficit problem (which is admittedly- partly inherited).

    1. scrandoonyeah says:

      Brilliant……..or suffers himself from that awful affliction called ‘ small man syndrome’

      1. John Mooney says:

        I prefer to call it the SAS syndrome in other words “Short Arse Syndrome” which Strachan epitomises to the extreme! He should be sacked right now with regard to his asinine and pathetic “Genetic” comments,what a sad “Little”man.

    2. Jack Collatin says:

      It’s all down to Eugenics is it?
      Christ on a bike!
      Is it a Masonic thing that this wee idiot is still in a job?
      The two Fletchers, Martin, Bannon, Morrison, Snodgrass, Phillips, the core of the team that failed so miserably on the outward nine, stubbornly picked, while young match fit Scots in their twenties are consigned to the bench watching their international futures thrown away by Yesterday’s Failures.
      Root out the cosy wee SFA Club Members. How many Hangers On accompanied the National Team to this latest farce? It is as though Strachan picked a team to fail; or am I being too neurotic?
      He should be sacked, and please, no more genetics theories.

  4. Gary says:

    It’s worth pointing out that this isn’t the first time Strachan’s mentioned this: back when we played Belgium, he suggested that their team’s success was down to the fact that a few of their players are of African descent and therefore bigger and stronger, and went on to state that a problem for us was not being able to pick from African players. There’s a number of unpleasant implications there, not least that he’s essentially lamenting the fact that Scotland didn’t colonise and enslave enough countries.

    1. Brochan says:

      “There’s a number of unpleasant implications there, not least that he’s essentially lamenting the fact that Scotland didn’t colonise and enslave enough countries.”

      You’re stretching it a bit now. He is just stating an accepted fact. Few people would argue that black people are generally more athletic than white. To accuse him of some sort of veiled racism for agreeing with this is … well it’s just ridiculous.

  5. Brochan says:

    Oh come on guys, I just cannot agree. Had Harry Kane’s shot against Scotland in stoppage time went past the post Scotland’s draw to qualify in Slovenia would have been seen as one of their greatest results. They were playing a team not that far behind them in the FIFA rankings and Scotland were the only team to score there during the campaign and they did so twice.

    As for “Except the goals we lost could have been saved by our goalkeeper coming for the ball or Berra or Fletcher marking better. That’s a classic, “If your granny had balls” statement.

    Strachan will do for me because he almost made a silk purse from a sow’s ear. We are heading in the right direction and we have to be realistic. There ain’t gonna be any revolution in Scottish football.

    1. Alf Baird says:

      I tend to agree, Scotland came very close to qualifying and did well in recent games. All may not be lost however as Spain could be disqualified after what might soon happen in Catalonia and that could open up opportunities by the back door. Unfortunate of course.

  6. Kenny Smith says:

    Don’t read too much into the genetics comment that’s Strachan being cute nothing else. He’d rather come away with smart remarks than tell the truth. I never fancied him and not because I’m a self confessed Rangers fan and he’s an ex Celtic manager, his record at some clubs is horrific, Southampton and Middlesbrough come to mind. His problem his he’s just too stubborn. That coupled with his smart arse comments are what rubbed Celtic fans up the wrong way when he was there not because he wasn’t a tic man. Liegh Griffiths should have been leading our attack ages ago and he knows it but because everyone wanted it he wouldn’t be told what to do it was the same with McGregor, a ready made sub for Armstrong. You know although I never fancied him he won me over at 1st but failure for the euros was unforgivable, not even getting 3rd in that group was a joke especially taking 4 out the 6 off the Irish. He doesn’t deserve the credit for the latter half of the campaign, all he did was dump the players the fans wanted shot of ages ago, the Fletcher’s, Martin, Hanley, Bannan and although Martin featured he didn’t start. I never ever felt at any stage we,d do it last night especially after basically camping in our half after we scored. Anyway 2-2 over there wasn’t the result that cost us. Strachan should walk and take McGee with him

  7. Dave Milne says:

    His refusal to select any of the Aberdeen team (and his justification for it) proves he has got some serious phsycological issues.
    His relationship with the media was appalling and he disrespected the fans on more than one occasion. Yep time to go Gordon!

  8. Tony Reekie says:

    I remember watching a top boys game – 15’s I think – with three players in it that have gone onto Hearts, Celtic and Man Utd and are all still the U20’s. But there was one boy playing who was like magic: fast and two footed, intelligent, dribbling, nutmegging and scoring. And being told by a Scout from one of the Edinburgh teams that yes he was good but ‘too wee’ and that the head scout wasn’t interested as they needed boys that were physically stronger that they could ‘train up’. Our game is broken from the bottom up. The galling thing is that even with these problems we still should have qualified. Giants from Iceland, Northern Ireland are ahead of us. The Icelandic, and Belgians, initiated systems that meant the best got through to the top. The current Belgian group didn’t happen by accident, but by a culture and system that encouraged dynamic, creative, thoughtful footballers. And yes Strachan is always quick with a ‘smart’ answer but this, ‘we’re not big/strong/athletic enough’ holds sway in our game, even though the teams on either side of us in the short arse stakes are Spain and Portugal. You can go through the list of great players of yesteryear and now and the wee ones are always there and always will be in cultures that support good football. We don’t support good football at any point and we get what we deserve. In the meantime we could start by getting shot of a manager who couldn’t get us out of an incredibly weak group.

    1. Jim says:

      Totally agree. Jimmy Johnstone wasn’t described as wee Jinky for nothing. But what a player.

  9. SleepingDog says:

    Heightist remarks do seem a little odd considering that many of the world game’s greatest players (by common consent) appear to have been on the short side. Commentators here are prone to continue the theme with “big man in the box” comments. Heading is a skill. Big feet don’t make you a better footballer.

    Anyway, the women’s turn next week, and they did qualify for their last finals. And they’re even shorter! Good luck in Minsk.

  10. Ken Cairnduff says:

    Unfortunately, have to agree. But the comment on the SFA is the most relevant. The SRU has Scotland playing way above its natural level, they’re far from perfect but lessons can be learned.
    SFA and SRU will never talk to each other though, it’s symtomatic of a general Scottish malaise that only one thing can fix. We know what that is.
    Ken

  11. Iain MacEchern says:

    Aye he has to go. We failed to qualify because the quality of the players and the tactics of the manager were not of the standard required to play at the top level. It has nothing to do with genetics.

  12. Calum McKay says:

    Everyone used to criticise Ernie Walker, but we qualified for five world cups in a row under him.

    What did he do that we are not doing now?

    Strachan has done well with the players he had, McLeish is the only option to replace Strachan.

    Regardless of who is manager we must get rid of the dead wood in charge of both SFA and SPL. Those in charge gave no passion, vision and hide away from the fans.

    We could do worse than to take a leaf from Iceland’s success book!

    1. Jo says:

      Sorry Calum, McLeish walked away from the Scotland job and the squad. I can’t quite forget that. I wouldn’t give him another chance.

  13. Jo says:

    “tension over anglos” “Hansen”

    Oh for goodness sake! Do you actually realise how many Scots who played for English teams, including Hansen, served Scotland well? Dalglish, Souness, Gemmill, Robertson, Wallace, Burns, Jordan, McQueen, Holton, McMahon, Bremner…..? All of them were just as committed to Scotland as their counterparts north of the border. And there were many more than mentioned here Mike.

    1. Hi Jo – of course I do – and all were brilliant – as are many of the current team who play for English teams. I’m saying that that’s an issue for some people – not that it is for me. Its a separate question about whether Strachan has a bias towards Championship players over players playing in the SPL or competing in the Champions League. Sorry if i didn’t make that clear.

      1. Jo says:

        Thanks for clarifying Mike.

  14. Redguantlet says:

    Strachan out? Okay, fine by me, but the problem is much wider and deeper than wee Gordon Strachan…. there’s a problem with the Scottish psyche which manifests itself on the fitba park.

    If we HAD beaten England at Hampden, we would have lost 2-1 in Slovenia, we all know it, why pretend? It’s like Scotland don’t want to win. You can’t help but feel that Scottish players are burdened by our outstanding football tradition, the great legacy….

    I’d get on the phone to Judy Murray and Andy Murray. Because obviously Judy Murray understands how to make athletes believe in themselves. What Andy has done is an outstanding achievement and it shows that the Scots have no problem greater than themselves, and that the sky is the limit with the right management. Strachan is a mediocre manager.

    Those goals we lost in Slovenia were just shocking. Amateur goals to lose. Craig Gordon kind of reminds of Leighton: a good shot stopper, but no command of the box. He was culpable for both the England goals, and he should definitely have claimed the ball on the first and crucial we lost in Slovenia.

    On the bright side, Scotland haven’t produced a striker like Leigh Griffith for a generation… since Mo Johnstone, Ally McCoist et al….

    1. Agreed on Gordon.

      I do agree that the problem is far wider and far deeper.

  15. Alf Baird says:

    Perhaps the key issue here is less to do with the skills of the players, and rather more to do with cultural/national confidence, reflected in Scotland’s ‘place’ in the world. The Icelanders and Irish players are representing independent sovereign countries, which have Presidents and Prime Ministers, and real parliaments with real powers, and membership of supranational organisations like the UN, EU, EFTA etc. Conversely, Scotland’s players are playing for and representing what exactly? A 300-year political charade and con trick? A dissolved ‘incorporated’ devolved ‘sub-nation’, a region of another country, a colony even? Is it any wonder our people lack confidence when our ‘country’ has no recognised status in the world?

    1. Jo says:

      And Wales? Northern Ireland? They don’t appear to lack passion or confidence.

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