NAY AND THRICE NAY
Can anyone think of one good reason why Terry Venables
should be Scotland boss? Let's examine the claims for
the job of this much-touted coach.
He's a winner. Aye, right. In 25 years in management,
with millions at his disposal, he's won one Spanish League
and one FA Cup. Brian Clough and Bob Paisley used
to win more trophies before breakfast. Incidentally, if either
of that pair happened to be in their prime and available,
this website would go down on bended knee and beg them to
take the job. There are many reasons not to pick Venables.
Being English isn't one of them.
He's superb at man-management and bringing the best out
of players. He man-managed Maradona - the greatest
footballer since Pele - out of Barcelona and replaced
him with Stevie Archibald. In the 1986 European Cup
Final played in Spain he man-managed Barcelona to a
0-0 draw with rank outsiders Steaua Bucharest, then
demonstrated his astonishing charisma by inspiring them to
thirty goalless minutes of extra time. Not one Barcelona
player was on target in the penalty shoot-out.
He's a proven success at international level. Come
on! As England coach Venables didn't have to qualify
for the 1996 Euro Championships and his side played
no competitive matches away. During the championships his
team played five matches at home, winning two and drawing
three. Hardly world-beating.
After the tournament Venables opted not to go through the
rigours of a qualifying tournament. Can anyone seriously imagine
Venables trailing off to Latvia or Belarus to
watch opponents in action. That would most likely be left
to his assistants such as Bryan Robson - another less than
wildly successful manager.
Interestingly enough, no European country tried to secure
his services for the 1998 World Cup campaign. But Australia
did. And Venables failed there. The Australian FA wasn't
best pleased by seeing their best players vanish to clubs
in England Venables had contacts with. And they blew a two
goal lead in their final qualifier against Iran at
In the past Scotland have shown themselves perfectly capable
of throwing away two goal leads and of drawing with Iran without
any outside assistance.
Venables then proceeded to make a lot of money out of his
involvement with both Portsmouth and Crystal Palace
with no discernible improvement on the pitch at either club.
Finally, whoever the next Scotland boss is he needs to be
full-time. Given his lucrative TV deals, there is no way Venables
could give the sort of commitment needed to do the job properly.
OK, if not El McTel, then who? First things first. Whoever
takes on the Scotland job has one helluva task on their hands.
We stand at an all-time low in world rankings and deservedly so.
We were played off the park by Latvia in our last match in
a stadium less than half-full. Our under-21 and youth sides aren't
exactly setting the heather on fire. Our top clubs have few Scottish
players in their ranks. We have fewer players in the English
Premiership than Norway. And those that do play there
either don't want to turn out for their country or play for clubs
fighting against relegation.
Given all that we shouldn't be surprised that big names like Ferguson,
Souness and Graham have all told the SFA not to
bother picking up the phone. Who can blame them? Ferguson is about
to embark on a lucrative new deal with Man Utd after retirement
as team boss at Old Trafford. Souness still has a lot to prove in
England after his comparative failure at Anfield. And Graham is
waiting for the call from Ibrox.
Who does that leave then? If push comes to shove at Everton
and Walter Smith becomes available, he will definitely have
his supporters. The same can be said of both Gordon Strachan
and Joe Jordan. Neither have been raging successes as
club bosses but neither can they be written off as failures. One
certainty is that the passion that has been missing from the
Roxburgh/Brown years would soon return under either Strachan
Of course the new boss need not be Scottish. But let's get one
thing straight. The reason Sven-Goran Eriksson is doing so
well at the moment with England is that he has a clutch of
excellent players to work with and he has been a top coach for two
decades. Being foreign in itself is no guarantee of success as we
should all know by now after watching so many alleged 'superstars'
in action at club level.
But there are two intriguing possibilities from overseas. Allan
Simonsen has thrown his hat into the ring and while the Faeroes
isn't the best name to have on your CV, he's caused Scotland enough
problems as boss of the islanders to warrant consideration at least.
Then there's Dino Zoff.It seems unlikely but Zoff took Italy
to the Euro 2000 Final and at 59, is hardly likely to
be poached away if he were to be successful.
Plenty for the SFA to mull over. But they should beware the siren
voices, Craig Brown's included, who suggest it might be best
to forget about qualifying for the next tournament and aim long-term.
That's just not practical. Failures in qualifying lose ranking
points. We've lost enough already. We can do without sinking
to the levels of Wales or Northern Ireland and find
ourselves in a qualifying group with three or four teams seeded
above us. As the Welsh and Northern Irish experience proves that
is a blow it is almost impossible to recover from.
-- THE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO?
That's what we wrote here last month when it looked like
Scotland could go through their qualifying section
unbeaten and miss out on World Cup qualification on goal difference.
Today, the nightmare scenario would be a dream prospect.
The performances in the games against Croatia and Belgium
were so mind-numbingly awful that a visit to www.watchpaintdry.com
would be a far more attractive prospect.
Neither the Croats nor the Belgians are going to make any
waves in the Far East next year. This was as kind a draw as
Scotland could have had and we messed it up. So what does
the future hold? More of the same? Or a slow decline in the
rankings until we reach the same level as Wales?
Whatever it is, the future can't be faced with Craig Brown
at the helm. Craig's had eight years in the job, far more
than most managers at this level - think of Dino Zoff
packing it in because Italy only came second at Euro
2000. Brown is fond of pointing to statistics to show what
a good job he's done. But here's one he might not like: This
is the first Scotland team to fail to qualify for two major
championships in succession for 30 years. And qualification
was a lot harder then with only sixteen teams in the World
Cup and four in the Euro finals as opposed to 32 and 16 respectively
That's the nub of the matter. We Scots gave up long ago dreaming
of winning the World Cup. The ludicrous Ally McLeod saw
to that. His replacement, Jock Stein - a man who knew
all about winning at the highest level - injected some healthy
realism into the support. But I don't think it's unrealistic
to ask that we should feature among the top 32 on the planet
or the top 16 on the continent.
This website doesn't subscribe to the 'hoof it up the
park and gerrintaethem' mentality, but for once it would
be good to watch a Scotland side that had SOME passion.
Something like what was provided by the SPL players brought
in against Poland when the so-called superstars developed
those annoying 48-hour groin strains which prevent them from
playing for their country but allow them to turn out for their
And speaking of stars, am I the only one to get annoyed at
the sight of Gary McAllister in the Sky studio at the
Croatia game when he could and should have been on the pitch.
OK he took dogs abuse from a lot of fans and that's totally
unacceptable coming from your own side. But he wasn't the
first (think Brian McClair) and he won't be the last
(Dominic Matteo, come on down). For God's sake, guys
like Dalglish and Souness used to get slaughtered
by the Scotland support.
But to take the petted lip and 'retire' from international
football while still able to travel the globe with your club
really takes the biscuit. These guys no longer understand
what wearing a Scotland jersey means. Playing for your country
(or your Granny's country for some) used to be the
greatest ambition a footballer had. Now it is simply a means
to an improved club contract.
McAllister isn't the only one. John Collins is still
a Premiership player but no longer available for Scotland.
Paul Lambert has just joined them. Admittedly these
guys gave sterling service for their country, unlike the Birdman
of Goodison Park, Duncan Ferguson, another who
turned his back on Scotland.
It's not only Scotland this is happening to. It's worldwide
and a consequence of the salaries paid by clubs who want to
wrap star performers in cotton wool. Witness the ultimate
in hypocrisy - Newcastle boss Bobby Robson coming down
like a ton of bricks on Nolberto Solano who keeps flying
to South America to play for Peru just because he's
Peruvian. Didn't Newcastle know this when they signed him?
More to the point, Robson was England boss for eight
years. What would he have said if Barcelona decided
it was too risky for Gary Lineker to play for England
or if Marseille wanted to keep Chris Waddle
in France? Do us all a favour Bobby. Retire. And take
that moaning-faced git Shearer with you. Its almost
worth Michael Owen scoring a hat-trick for England
against Germany in the knowledge that everything
Owen does must be really pissing off Shearer.