SAYONARA

Scotland fail to qualify for the World Cup in Korea and Japan. Speculation starts as to who will succeed Craig Brown as boss of the national team.

 

VENABLES FOR SCOTLAND?

NAY, 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 home.

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.

WHO'S THE BOSS?

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 or Jordan.

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.

SCOTLAND -- 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 today.

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 clubs.

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.

Almost.

 

 

 

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