Quote of the
( perhaps the year)
" As long as the manager keeps picking me,
I'll keep playing" - Teddy Sheringham - 36
years old and 51 caps - talking about his international career.
Collins, Ferguson, McAllister please take note.
Picture the scene: You are the sports editor
of Scottish Television. The crucial SPL meeting
which could change the face of Scottish football forever is less
than eighteen hours away. The air is thick with talk of breakaways
and resignations. The TV deal has not been settled. What should
be your lead item on 'Scotland Today?'
Of course! Alex McLeish saying that he hasn't
quite made his mind up about Saturday's Rangers team selection!
The Herald have a series
of pdf files previewing the new season available for download.
But best not to bother if you're a fan of Aberdeen, Partick
Thistle or Kilmarnock. They've airbrushed out Aberdeen's
1995-96 League Cup triumph and Thistle's Second Division title
of two years ago.
But they've really got it in for Killie. Not content with
removing the Ayrshire side's 2001 League Cup Final appearance
from the record, the paper proceeds to ignore their European semi-final
in 1967 while ensuring that every other last four appearance by
a Scottish side is given a mention. They also have Killie getting
knocked out of the European Cup by Everton rather
than Real Madrid.
But worst of all is their description of Bobby Williamson's
time as Rugby Park boss being spent in an annual battle against
relegation. In his four full seasons in charge of Killie, they
finished 4th, 4th, 9th and 4th!
Is it asking too much of a Scottish newspaper
to make a few, simple checks?
Or is reporter Kevin Colrain a closet Ayr United
Once again eBay punters have resisted the seductive
charms of the Henrik Larsson air freshener. Not a single
bid has been made in the past seven days. The seller reckons the
pic doesn't do the product justice. We'll let you judge for
On a more serious note: George Best was quite
simply the greatest British footballer I have ever seen in my
life. I join thousands of others in wishing him a speedy and full
recovery from his liver transplant.
For the Scottish Cup 1873-1939 click here
For the Scottish Cup Post-1945 click here
For the League Cup from 1946 click here
Dr Johnson may not have had football in mind
when he made his notorious comment that "the noblest prospect
a Scotchman ever sees, is the the high road into England,"
but for over 100 years, some of our best players have sought their
fortunes south of the border. Until the last few years that is.
For decades the trek south was lamented by those who felt that it
deprived the home game of some of its finest talents. That argument
no longer holds. For the flood of a century has dwindled to a trickle
over the past decade, with no discernible benefit to the domestic
If anything, the opposite has occurred. Our standing on the world
stage is at an all-time low. And the only way our teams can even
tread water in Europe is thanks to expensive foreign imports.
The days when there used to be debate over whether 'anglos',
as English-based players were derisively labelled, should be selected
for the national side are long gone. Today, if a Scot holds down
a regular place in the Premiership, he's in. In fact, if he's
a Premiership player and his granny ever displayed a fondness for
shortbread, then Berti Vogts will be on the phone. That
is how desperate we are.
It didn't used to be this way. 45 years ago, the maximum wage still
applied in England. This was a time when Scottish clubs, supposedly,
had a better chance of keeping top players at home. Yet at the start
of the 1957-58 season, no fewer than 106 Scots were
registered with English First Division clubs. There were thirteen
with Leicester City alone and eleven at Leeds.
Bolton was the sole top flight club without a Scot on their
It wasn't just good, honest pros either. Some of the finest players
of the time played in England - David Herd, Jackie Mudie, Bobby
Johnstone, Ronnie Simpson and Tommy Docherty for example.
Lisbon Lion Ronnie Simpson
The numbers have fluctuated over the years but a study
of the past 40 years makes for illuminating reading. Forty seasons
ago, in 1962-63, the number of top-flight Scots had dropped
to 82. But again, Bolton were the only one of the
22 clubs not to employ any at all. Liverpool - managed by
Bill Shankly - led the way with ten. Like Leicester
in 1957, Liverpool had just won the Second Division title. It seems
the tales of Scottish fighting spirit may be more than just legend
Again, the players included the biggest names of the day - and those
about to become top stars. In England that season were men like
George Graham, Bertie Auld, Willie Morgan, Frank McLintock, Ron
Yeats, Tommy Lawrence, Ian St John, Bill Brown, Dave Mackay
and the tragic John White.
Fast forward a decade to 1972-73 and the decline in numbers
had been reversed. There were 95 Scots registered with Division
One teams. This time, every single club had at least one Scot. Stoke,
West Ham and - surprisingly - Shankly's Liverpool all
had a solitary Scotsman on their books. At the other end of the
scale, Man Utd had ten and Leeds nine.
Imagine Herr Vogts could make his pick from this selection:
Graham and Morgan, kids in the sixties, were now at their peak and
they were joined by - amongst others - Eddie Kelly, Kenny Burns,
Eddie McCreadie, Charlie Cooke, Willie Carr, Archie Gemmill, Billy
Bremner, Peter Lorimer, Joe Jordan, Willie Donachie, Martin Buchan,
Pat Crerand, Denis Law, Willie Wallace Bobby Moncur, Tony Green,
Jimmy Smith, Alan Gilzean and Asa Hartford. Throw in
a couple of keepers and that would be some squad.
His Majesty the King: Denis Law
Ten years on from that and the numbers were down but
the quality wasn't. There were 67 Scots in 1982-83
but that figure is so low thanks to the loss of Leeds, Middlesbrough
and Wolves through relegation. Thirteen Scots went
with them and only five arrived with their replacements -
Luton, Watford and Norwich.
Southampton were the only club with none. And while the days
of double figures had gone, Man Utd, Nottingham Forest, Stoke
and Sunderland could all boast five Scots while Villa,
Ipswich, Liverpool, Man City, Notts County and West Ham
all had four.
In the case of Liverpool, what a quartet it was - Stevie Nicol,
Graeme Souness, Alan Hansen and a certain Kenneth Matheson
Dalglish! Add in George Burley, John Wark, Alan Brazil, Gordon
McQueen, Lou Macari, John Robertson, Ally McCoist and Steve
Archibald and you can see that things weren't too bad.
Kenny Dalglish in action for Scotland
Even ten years ago, Scots in England could hold their
own with the best of the foreign imports. For the first season of
the Premiership in 1992-93, numbers had fallen to
just 43. Three clubs - Villa, Palace and Sheffield
Wednesday had none at all. But just like in the 50s and 60s,
promoted teams relied on Scottish spirit. Middlesbrough and
Blackburn had five apiece.
Perhaps there had been a drop in quality of those going south too.
But it could be argued back then that this was a good thing. The
Old Firm were flexing their financial muscles and could match
the English in wages. In the decade gone by, Aberdeen had
won a European trophy and Dundee United had reached the Final
of another. This season, Rangers came within 90 minutes of
the European Cup Final with a largely Scottish squad. The national
team had just played in the European Championship finals
for the first time, after five successive World Cup qualifications.
There were still some handy names plying their trade in England:
Colin Hendry, Craig Burley, Kevin Gallacher, Mo Johnston, Pat
Nevin, Gary McAllister, Gordon Strachan, and Gordon Durie.
The future looked bright.
Last of the bravehearts? Colin Hendry
Travel a further ten years ahead and you arrive at
today - the dawn of season 2002-03. In the intervening decade
our teams have failed miserably in Europe. The national side has
qualified for just one out of the last three World
Cups - and failed miserably in that. And never in our history have
we had so few players at the top level in England.
When the English season kicks off, just 23 Scots will be
employed by Premiership clubs. Five - Arsenal, Villa, Birmingham,
Charlton and - unbelievably - Liverpool have no Scots
whatsoever. Another TEN - Blackburn, Chelsea, Fulham, Leeds,
Man City, Southampton, Sunderland, Spurs, West Brom and West
Ham - have just one each. Bolton (for a change),
Man Utd and Middlesbrough all have two. There are
three at Newcastle and four at Everton.
The biggest names - Duncan Ferguson and John Collins
- are past 30 and not interested in turning out for their country.
Other international regulars - Scot Gemmill, Gary Naysmith, David
Weir - play in constant fear of relegation. Only two Scots-born
players - Dominic Matteo and Christian Dailly - are
regular performers for teams that finished in the top half of the
table last season.
Dailly in his Derby days
Of our band of 23, several have yet to play first
team football for their clubs but have already done so for their
country! Such is the paucity of talent that there are more Norwegians
in the Premiership than there are Scots! Truly, the cupboard
has never been so bare.
Now, if players of the equivalent talent of the eighty missing from
the 1957 number were all back home in the SPL, this would be no
bad thing in itself. Even if the gap of twenty between 1992 and
2002 could be explained by stay-at-homes, we could breathe more
easily. But we all know this is not the case. When our clubs can't
afford to keep players, they lose them to clubs in the lower divisions
of the Nationwide League, not the Premiership.
Yet, perversely, the stock of our managers has never been higher
in England. Over the same period, the number of Scottish managers
has also fluctuated. Five in 1957 and 1962.
Bill Shankly on his own in 1972 until Tommy Docherty
arrived at Old Trafford , and Jimmy Sirrel likewise in 1982.
Back to five in 1992 and four - Alex Ferguson,
Graeme Souness, Gordon Strachan and David Moyes - today.
With George Graham, Kenny Dalglish, Jim Jefferies and Walter
Smith all with recent Premiership experience too, being Scottish
is a positive advantage for a boss.
They have had amazing success too. Since 1985 there has only
been one season - 1997-98 - when a Scottish manager didn't
lift at least one of the three major domestic trophies in England.
Which makes the current depths our players have plunged to all the
To explain WHY we have reached this low would
take up all the webspace available to this site. Suffice to say
that there are many factors at work and there have been for decades.
What is important is that we ask ourselves whether we simply accept
the decline as inevitable or whether we begin to do something about
Our view here is clear. We realise that we are unlikely to return
to the halcyon days when just about every English team could field
three, four or more Scots in their line-up. But we do not accept
that the present situation is good enough.
If things continue the way they have gone for at least the past
two decades then the decline in domestic standards will continue
as well. Like it or not, the more Scots there are in England,
then the better it is for our game as a whole.
For we can no longer rely on the Old Firm to produce the international
stars of the future. Bob Crampsey, writing in The Herald
this week, said that, in the past non-Old Firm fans used to
comfort themselves with the thought that at least a strong Rangers
and Celtic meant a strong Scotland.
Perceptive as ever, Crampsey goes on to say that "today,
a strong Rangers and Celtic means only a strong Rangers and Celtic."
But just as the decline did not take place overnight, so it will
not be easily reversed. We have a long, hard road ahead just to
regain a position of competence. Berti Vogts does not have
an easy job on his hands. We wish him every success - and luck too.
He's certainly going to need it.