The State of the Scotland National Side.

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After the dreadful George Burley and Craig Levein eras Scotland had reached a low that had only been felt since the dark days of Berti Vogts (and God they were dark days), there was however a saviour and his name was Gordon Strachan.

Strachan walked into a mess; a squad ranked 78 in the world (awful), a squad that lacked quality players and a squad that relied on Kenny Miller for goals.  It was going to be a hard job, maybe even an impossible job to turn this once great nation around and take them back to the place where Scotland belongs.

Craig Levein was such a poor manager of Scotland that he managed to take Scotland out of contention faster than countries such as San Marino or Andorra, for a nation that has legitimate claims to the invention of the beautiful game it was just an unacceptable result.

Football is a religion in Scotland and religion is football, it is what makes the Old Firm (Celtic and Rangers [or what was Rangers]) rivalry so fierce.  The Old Firm is not about geography like many others (although both teams are from Glasgow), it isn’t about politics like El Classico but rather about religion (that’s a post for another day).

Strachan’s start was slow with defeats to Wales (or should I say Gareth Bale?) and Serbia officially knocking Scotland out of the 2014 World Cup and making the Tartan Army wait at least another two years for Scotland’s first appearance in a major competition since 1998 (24 teams in European Cup 2016 surely it is our time).

The future of Scotland looked bleak until one fateful night in Zagreb (Croatia for those not good at geography).  The unlikely result which saw the team ranked 4th in the world (I know incredible) defeated by the brave Scots 1-0 (I know more incredible).  Amazing ,just Amazing.  Is this the start of something special?  Is Strachan the man to bring Scotland back from the brink (up to 50 in world rankings)?  Will Scotland finally make a finals competition?

Time will tell if any of these things will come true or come to fruition but Scotland must work to improve their ranking so as to position themselves in a high enough seeding pot for Euro 2016 to finally end the drought that has haunted us so long.

Prior to the miracle in Zagreb, there was talk in the media and amongst fans about the concern of the upcoming friendly with England.  If Scotland were being outplayed and beaten by Wales (I mean Wales!) what would England do to them?  It was concerning and if there is one thing the Tartan Army do not want it is to lose to the auld enemy, those dirty bastards, the English (Scotland would rather lose to a team of grannie’s [as long as it wasn’t the English international grannie team]).

These fears were put to rest with the victory over Croatia, and after all if Scotland can beat the mighty Croatia (with their massive population of 4 ⅟4 million……why are they so much better than us?) then they can surely beat an average England team.

Well the hopes of the World were resting on the mighty shoulders of the wee man and the national team.  The excitement around the World built like a crescendo and a runaway train combined together in a massive mix of loud noise and fast trains (like Speed….no wait that was a bus.  Was there a sequel with a train?  Or was that a boat…..I don’t know, it doesn’t matter).  The hype was huge, however like many things involving Scotland it failed to deliver anything but disappointment.

Here is the squad evaluation based on 4 categories.  These are Goalkeepers, Defenders, Midfielders and Forwards (good categories I know).

 

Goalkeepers

If there is one area that Scotland actually has lots of depth and strength it is in nets.  I’m not saying we have anything amazing (I miss you Craig Gordon) but we have 3 solid keepers in Allan McGregor, David Marshall and Matt Gilks.

Personally I’d like to see Marshall start in nets but it will probably be McGregor (ugh), which is fine as well. The thing I don’t like about McGregor is that it is the common held belief that he is easily the best keeper Scotland but he plays for Hull and Marshall plays for Cardiff, I know who I think is a better team.

 

Defenders

If there is one area of major weakness in the Scotland squad it is in defence, it is a mess.  There are no quality established players in the squad whatsoever (with Gary Caldwell and Christophe Berra missing [oh wait I said quality players, my bad]).  I can’t personally comment on the fitness of certain players who did not get called up, so I won’t, but what I can do is criticise those players who got picked.

As far as centre backs go Strachan has called up Hanley (the rock in the middle and that is not a weight joke or a joke about his lack of movement…..), Gordon Greer (the uncapped 32 year old playing for Brighton), Charlie Mulgrew (is he a centre back? Probably but I doubt he will play there) and Russell Martin (who I know is a right back but after his display against Croatia at centre back I imagine he will play there again), oh wait and Andy Webster in the why the hell is this man still being called up for Scotland when he was never good enough in the first place?  Seriously Webster has received 28 caps (yes 28!), Stevie Nicol, Alan Hansen, Jimmy Johnstone, Charlie Nicholas, Andy Gray, Tommy Gemmel, Lee McCulloch (this one is a joke in case you are confused) incredibly all have less caps than Andy Webster.

At wing back Scotland have more depth with Alan Hutton (still playing? Who knew), Steven Whittaker (still playing? Who knew), Steven Hammell (some oldie from Motherwell) and of course Mulgrew and Martin.  The quality issue is less of a concern here, especially if you consider Martin and Mulgrew as wing backs rather than centre backs.

Andy Webster is the problem with Scotland’s current international state.  It isn’t his fault, but a man who is past his best (and well past it at that) is still being called up by Scotland (even though he doesn’t have a club) because quite simply they have nobody else.  The further problem is that in my opinion it is better giving these international experiences/caps to young players, who even if they aren’t ready for this level of football the experience could be invaluable.  It is surely better giving a potential star of the future his first chance rather than giving some old duffer another one.

I’d imagine the back four for the England game will line up Hutton, Hanley, Martin & Mulgrew.

 

Midfielders

The greatest area of strength in the Scotland squad, not only do Scotland have a wealth of solid central midfielders but they also have a lot of good nippy wingers who can keep opponents up at night.

Scotland are likely to line up with 4 in midfield with one playing off the front and rightly so because there a lot of good players and Strachan has recognised this by calling up 14 midfielders.

In central midfield there is Scott Brown (the stand in captain and pitbull terrier), James Morrison (possibly Scotland’s best player), Charlie Adam (set piece demon and slow as a week in the jail [not from my own experiences]), James McArthur (integral part of the relegated Wigan team, whom I thought may have gotten a transfer away but could become the star of that first team now), Barry Bannan (a player who continues to flatter to deceive), Graham Dorrans (central midfielder at West Brom, more of a squad player for both Scotland and West Brom though) and Liam Bridcutt (an Englishman [we have a few] who does the dirty work that no one else wants to do).

Out wide there is Steven Naismith (the blondey bandit), Robert Snodgrass (the conqueror of Croatia and star of Norwich), James Forrest (one of two of the bright young wingers in the squad), Gary Mackay-Steven (the other bright young winger in the squad), Chris Burke (the player that is very much out his depth with the rest of the midfield, but he’s ginger and Strachan likes that) and Craig Conway (a man who would not win a beauty contest but was an important cog in the Cardiff Championship winning side).

Scotland of course are missing their best player in Darren Fletcher which is a shame because with Fletcher comes a winning mentality and an experience of playing with and against the world’s best players and in the world’s best competitions.  I am also disappointed to not see Stuart Armstrong, Ryan Jack or Liam Kelly get a chance in the squad, but to be fair there is such strength and depth in midfield it is understandable.

In a perfect world I would love to see the line-up be Forrest, Brown, Morrison & Mackay-Steven because I think with the two young wingers we could really give England some trouble and the midfield would be solid with Brown and Morrison in there.

In reality I think the midfield will line-up like Naismith, Brown, Morrison & Snodgrass (a player who I really like and banged the drum for when he played for Leeds but left out because I think that Mackay-Steven and Forrest could become special).

The only player that I could really complain about starting out of the players who were called up is Burke, not because he is a bad player (he isn’t) but rather because there are better players than him in the squad.

Forwards

Previously the greatest area of weakness in the Scotland squad; however in recent years the quality of strikers has improved dramatically and there is the beginning of a healthy crop of youngsters coming through.

The forwards consist of George Boyd (who had a really good season with Hull and Peterborough last year), Shaun Maloney (who was he a standout for Wigan last year and instrumental in them winning the FA Cup), Jordan Rhodes (who had a solid year in a poor Blackburn side), Leigh Griffiths (the SPL player of the year) and oh my god I can’t believe this man still gets called up for Scotland Kenny Miller (a man who it is easier to list his bad traits than his good ones [never a good sign]).

Scotland has 4 solid forward players right there, each could probably start and you couldn’t complain and yet Strachan goes out his way to piss the Tartan Army off by picking Kenny ‘cannae hit a barn door’ Miller.

I have never been a fan of Miller, he is wasteful in front of goal, has no passing ability and takes a squad place from younger more deserving talent, oh and his face is orange.  What makes the fact that Miller got called up even worse is that he is done; he has been done for about 3 years.  It is further compounded by the fact that Miller has to travel from Vancouver (for those bad at geography the west coast of Canada), almost as far away from Scotland as you can possibly get.  The problem with that is, Vancouver is 8 time zones over and to travel that amount and then have to recover and play within 2 or 3 days is not possible.  Look at any game Miller has played since his move to Vancouver he hasn’t lasted more than 30 minutes because he does a lot of headless chicken running.  As soon as he moved to the MLS (a lower level than the SPL) he should have been dropped from the team never to be called up again, yet whenever a squad is announced there is that little orange faced ned once again.  I very much doubt he will start or even play for that matter but in getting called up Miller is taking away the experience of being in a squad from a younger player like Tony Watt or Johnny Russell who could potentially be the future of Scotland.

Anyway I am rambling back to the point.  I’m pretty sure that the line-up will be Maloney & Griffiths, with Maloney playing off the front.

 

Conclusion

There is nothing quite like international football to stir the passion in your heart and increase the love of your country, it is made even greater when you are playing your biggest rivals for the first time in 13 years.

Scotland doesn’t look like a bad side on paper and the world ranking of 50 resembles poor second rate management more than it does the actual squad.  In nets, midfield and up front Scotland are stacked with good players and have nice depth to go on top of that.  However with good there comes bad and the defensive frailties are very concerning for now and looking in to the future.

As far as the England game goes I imagine it will be close.  Scotland will play a stuffy game and look to hit England on the break, which will not suit England because they aren’t very good with the ball and are lacking quality midfield talent that can open up a defence.  Scotland couldn’t get England at a better time, they are seriously lacking in quality (for England’s standards still a better team than Scotland) and although I doubt that any Scottish player would get into the England squad (Morrison or Snodgrass maybe, but at a stretch) there is nothing that these players would like better than to stick it to the auld enemy.

I am looking forward to the game win or lose (as long as we don’t get gubbed) I’ll be happy with a good performance and even happier with a win.  Although it is a friendly don’t forget there is not such a thing as a friendly between Scotland and England, the English may have forgotten that but the Scots certainly have not.

 

 

Feel the Tartan Army roar by leaving a comment or if you are English feel free to leave a comment about how Scotland will be humiliated as if it was a cricket match against Australia that you seem to go on about a lot even though you haven’t actually won.  All comments are welcome.

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10 thoughts on “The State of the Scotland National Side.

  1. So…are you a Kenny Miller fan or what?

    Scotland needs some work. It doesn’t help that we’re missing the 2 Fletchers but we do have some young exciting talent in there. I prefer McGregor to Marshall in nets though. I think he’s shown his capabilities for us countless times.

    I would love to see Forrest and MacKay-Steven start the match too but I don’t think it will happen and I totally agree about our defensive vulnerability. Besides Mulgrew and Martin I don’t think there is much else to be excited about.

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    • Yeah the 2 Fletcher’s are a big loss, although Steven doesn’t actually have a great record for Scotland it is mainly because he came off the bench a lot for his early caps.

      I don’t know if this came over but we have an ok back 4, Hutton (who I’m not a fan of), Hanley, Martin and Mulgrew is a decent back 4. The problem is when you look beyond that there really is nothing, I mean if there was someone below average we’d be lucky to have them because all we have is shit.

      And no I don’t like Kenny Miller, but you already knew that.

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  2. If you think the MLS is of a lower standard than the SPL you are sadly deluded. I’ve been living in the US for years now, and every single MLS team is better than every SPL team with the possible exception of Celtic … and I’m not sure Celtic would be any more successful than the big two or three over the last few years (LA, Columbus & Houston) in the US if they were dropped in to the league. It is more comparable to the Portuguese, Dutch, or even French league (prior to investment in PSG and now Monaco).

    I’m no fan of Kenny Miller either, and have been cursing his selection for years, but in fairness to him he has scored plenty of goals in the SPL and now the MLS … this, of course, does not translate to international level, and he should no longer be selected.

    Final thought: Liam Kelly should be a fixture in the squad and has extraordinary potential if he is stretched at club level.

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    • I have watched several MLS games and I don’t think the quality is that high. The SPL is on a level with the Greek or Turkish leagues and the MLS is probably on a similar level (although without them playing these teams in competitive game you can’t tell). The MLS should be a better league with all the money but we both know that the MLS is a place where European’s footballers go to end their careers.

      I am a fan of the Seattle Sounders they look like a great crowd and always seem to have an incredible atmosphere.

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      • Well, my advice is revisit it. It is far less a “retirement home” than before with major players now arriving well before they are in their last days (think Cahill, Henry etc … at the Red Bulls – an average team, currently sitting third in the Eastern Conference, but only 5 pts above 6th). It is also, increasingly, a “transit league” for those from Central and South America (and to a lesser degree Africa) looking for a way to get to the major European leagues – much like the Dutch or Portuguese leagues, as I suggested earlier.

        The SPL, I’m sad to say, is very far from the level of the Turkish or Greek leagues – and frankly, wishes that those players “retiring” to the MLS, and those transferring through on there way to major European leagues, would grace their stadia. “Stars” of the SPL last season, even including the likes of Hooper and Wanyama – now Celtic appear to be in full fire-sale mode – would simply disappear in the MLS … much as previous SPL-hits such as Kris Boyd, Barry Robson and others have in the past.

        The MLS has leading talents “graduating” to the Spanish, Italian (very recently: Bradley to Roma), German, and English top tier on a regular basis. Would that we could say the same of – particularly Scottish – talent in the SPL!

        Look at the list above, it is packed full of people “doing well” in the English second-tier! Before Scottish football can truly recover, including the national team, it has to recognize just how far down it has slipped in the global system. With the MLS improving all the time, I’m afraid the SPL is now well below leagues such as it, and the Turkish Super League. It hurts me almost as much to say that, as a Scot living in America, as enduring the beating the US National side handed out in May of last year.

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      • Don’t get me wrong there is no doubt in my mind that Scotland is a broken system (it clearly is) and the clubs and those in power can’t get out of each others way to solve the problem (it is improving though).

        I do think that the MLS is a vast improvement on where it was 7 years ago, and if it continues to grow could become a well respected league. However they have to come into line with the ownership of players and transfers (instead of using the American sports system). I also think it would help if they played in the Copa Libertadores.

        Maybe the SPL isn’t on par with Greece (although they’re in a bigger mess than Scotland), Turkey (also in a big mess) and the MLS but I don’t think the gap is as large as you make it out to be. After all there is only 1 team in both Turkey and Greece (currently) that is capable of doing anything (much like Scotland).

        I think you are incredibly harsh on Wanyama and Hooper, Wanyama especially bossed the midfield against Barca twice and against Benfica. Most of Celtic’s squad could walk into an MLS team.

        Barry Robson was done by the time he made it to the MLS, as was Boyd (too many pies).

        I agree that Scottish talent isn’t being bought by top English clubs currently but I believe it has as much to do with the poor name that the Scottish system has received over the past number of years as much as anything. There have been so many flops in England who have looked good in the SPL (Boumsong, Hutton, Cuellar, Maloney at Villa).

        Guys like Keane and Miller were SPL rejects don’t forget and now are both starting for good MLS teams. Also don’t forget that these guys are partially playing in America because they are getting wages that they couldn’t get in places like Scotland, plus America is much more glamorous than dreach Scotland. I’m sure that everyone would love to think that one day a Didier Drogba for instance could play for Celtic but unlike Shanghai Shenhua they can’t afford £250k a week (struggle to afford £250k a year). So financially we aren’t really comparing like for like.

        Although it maybe didn’t come across as this but I do think there is a lot of potential in the MLS and I don’t think it is the joke league it once was. I do however still disagree that it is much better than the SPL. For me they are much of a muchness, and I do understand that I have a bias towards it because I see more SPL than MLS.

        Like I said before I think that it would be incredibly beneficial for the MLS to play with the South American teams and it would bring great credibility. I’d also like to see Scotland merge with the Netherlands and Belgium to make a super league but they’re both probably wishful thinking.

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    • You’re not seriously comparing the standard of MLS to the French league of maybe a couple of years ago. Are you? Holy shit, I think you are. Adam Moffat plays for Houston Dynamo. He couldn’t get a game for Ross County. The Portuguese league? The one Benfica play in? You know, Benfica who deserved to beat Chelsea to win the Uefa cup last year?

      By the way, it’s a piss-poor blog with lots of grammatical errors and the odd spelling mistake. Why do so many people think they’re journalists these days?

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      • In what way is it a piss poor blog? Grammatical and spelling errors happen, after all I’m not writing for the Times. You make absolutely no comment on content, which makes me think you’re a fud who is unable to do analysis to make his points.

        I would also add that at no point did I say or think “Gosh darn it maw I gonna make me a blog and become one o’ they paper folks”. I write a blog, I’ll say it again because you seem a bit slow A BLOG. Get over yourself.

        The next time you comment on something try and avoid the trolling, and make some constructive comments which will make you seem something other than a 50 year old virgin.

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  3. While I agree on your assessment of Miller, I’ve got to echo the sentiment of poster PMK re: the comparison between the MLS & SPL. In no way would I posit that the MLS has all of a sudden “arrived” in terms of being a highly international competitive league on par with La Liga, EPL, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, et al., but I would argue that the league in totality comprises a bit more quality than that of the SPL.

    Outside of Celtic, I can’t say that any one SPL club stands out to me in terms of quality. The likes of Partick Thistle, St. Mirren & Inverness CT (Terry Butcher, bless him), aren’t exactly making waves these days. OTOH, I would say that MLS has been a significant “feeder” league in terms of talent moving on to Europe, Mexico & S. American leagues. Unfortunately, the US has had its share of horror stories in terms of players moving abroad & having failed stints, like Adu, Eddie Johnson (prior to his resurrection @ Seattle), Maurice Edu, Onyewu & Shea (most likely looking @ a loan or reserve matches under Sparky @ Stoke).

    The problem that continues to plague the MLS (and US Soccer as a whole) lies in its development system from youth up to adult. The set up in the states is completely different to that of its contemporaries. US players are unfortunately still bred in the domestic capacity, that is, recreational soccer->club soccer (if you can afford it)->high school->university->domestic professional league (MLS). Garber chooses to maintain an isolationist/domestic approach game that continues to hamper progress, especially where technical skill is concerned. Hopefully, Klinsmann’s approach will trickle down from the USMNT to the youth levels in terms of US Soccer development. That way, the MLS won’t continue to send a majority of players overseas that lack technical ability on the ball.

    MLS clubs can open youth academies all they like, but they’re still passing on an inferior product in terms of domestic-style football that relies primarily on strength, size, pace & endurance, all good qualities but lacking the final ingredient of technique. This is where the SPL academies have a leg up & differ from the US academies in their approach to the game. From my view, it’s hard to fathom why Scotland hasn’t really produced top tier quality clubs, but it is what it is at the mo’.

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    • I seem to be about the only person to have this opinion of the MLS. I obviously haven’t watched enough MLS to garner a proper opinion (I thought i had).

      To be fair to Scotland, St. Mirren are about the worst team in the SPL and Partick just got promoted.

      I agree that the MLS need to move away from the American system used by other American sports and move more towards the traditional football system. It should help them produce better talents and help them maximise their full potential.

      Don’t get me started on Scottish youth production. In the 80′s we were producing players like nobodies business and they were playing for big teams (Liverpool, Leeds, Man Utd), since the 90′s the production line has slowed and that has been shown by our lack of appearances in major competitions. It was partially down to a lack of investment, a lack of potential talents never taking that next step and mainly the influx of rubbish foreigners who for some reason were considered better because they weren’t Scottish. Things are getting better and we seem to have a lot of good young talent coming through (especially from Celtic, Dundee Utd and Aberdeen) but they need to be given that opportunity to reach their maximum potential. Hopefully they will get that chance and we will stop calling up guys who are well past their best.

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