Rough & Tough: Scottish 5 a Side to SPL

Let’s be honest, Scotland currently has a reputation for, shall we say, ‘agricultural’ football.

Tactics like playing nobody up front against the Czech Republic in a Euro 2012 qualifying match don’t help the ‘rough and tough’ defensive image, even if Spain subsequently showed 4-6-0 can be an effective attacking formation. But in truth Scotland simply don’t have the class of players that Spain currently benefit from, and despite Craig Levein’s protests it was clearly a defensive formation for a workmanlike team.

Of course it didn’t always used to be like this. Scottish players were the original purveyors of the passing game, and were a real commodity in the English leagues even late into the 20th century. However since then it all seems to have gone a bit…downhill.

Small side aggression

The small-sided game so often seems to act as a barometer of the wider football culture of a culture or country. Brazil and Spain are incredibly successful at the small-pitch game of futsal, a high-skill game played with a heavier, low-bounce ball to encourage more technical play. High skill, technique…sound familiar when talking about Brazil and Spain? The Netherlands have a fairly strong futsal game too, with the added culture of the “panna” – nutmegging an opponent to claim victory in a personal duel.

Of course in Scotland, as with much of the UK, five a side football is where it’s at. Centres across the country are packed of an evening, but here the physical aspect of the contest is more valued. While you’re likely to see the odd ‘fancy dan’ showing off a Ronaldo-style trick of flip-flap skill, they are the show-ponies of the small game and sometimes flanked by a team of bruisers to do the dirty work.

The emphasis seems to be on winning and a least “putting up a fight”, with the emphasis sometimes on the latter! There is certainly a line of thought that the further north you go in the UK the rougher the game can get, reaching a pinnacle in Scotland. It’s impossible to say whether this is true in real life, and while occasional centres have issues this can happen anywhere nationwide. There’s no evidence of a roughness in Scottish five a side, but it’s certainly be mentioned more than once.

Up the ladder

Does this aggressive streak character the Scottish game as a whole, and are our young players being affected with an undue need for graft, strength and aggro? There may be a suspicion of skilful players, and the current crop of Scotland internationals are hardly proving us wrong by lighting up the world with their skills.

Is there a pride to be found in not getting outworked or outmuscled? There certainly seems to be, however with the current state of the Scottish game this perhaps doesn’t extend to being outpassed, out-thought, and generally outplayed.

Joel writes for Powerleague, the UK’s leading 5 a side football centres.

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A guest writer on SFF