YOU would think that after 18 years that it’d get easier watching a major international tournament would be easier for Scotland fans, having grown so used to the idea of us not qualifying since the France ’98 World Cup.
Over the years, however, the frustration of not seeing our country represented at the World Cup or European Championships every second year seems to get worse as the National team continuously fail to qualify.
Arguably, this summers Euro Finals, ironically held again in France, has been the most infuriating for Scotland fans to take in.
Not only did we fail to qualify for a 24 team event, almost half of the European nations, but we were the only home nation not to make it as England, Wales and Northern Ireland breezed through their sections.
To make matters worse, all three have made it to the last sixteen, making Scotland fans the butt of jokes such as “staying another week, put the bins out” (to be fair, that’s pretty funny, though you think “you b*$+*/£$” at the time).
As the tournament has went on, football forums have debated about our failure and the future of our manager.
It’s those debates that apologists keep coming out with the tedious defence of “we’re just a wee nation doing its best.”
Personally, I’m sick to the back teeth of that excuse for failure.
This summer alone, there are six nations with a smaller population than ourselves and five of them – Wales, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Ireland and, the biggest shock, Iceland – have advanced to the last 16.
Iceland in particular, a nation of under half a million in population, make a mockery of the wee nation argument.
They built a team that came through the ranks together at Under 21 level, topped their qualifying section including TWO victories against Holland and have now achieved something in their first ever finals that Scotland failed to do in their ten tournament appearances – qualify for the knockout stages!
What Iceland and the others have proven is that it’s about QUALITY not quantity if you want to be successful.
Yes, being a bigger nation does give you an advantage with the likelihood of finding quality footballers much greater than in a smaller nation, but not every country has the footballing heritage of a Germany, Spain or Italy.
If size meant everything, China would be World Cup winners!
What Scotland fans, managers, players etc have to realise is that there is only fundamental reason why we’ve failed to reach the last nine major tournaments on offer – we’ve not been good enough!
Every campaign, the excuses of bad luck, refereeing decisions and the feeble wee nation guff gets rolled out time and time again, papering over the most obvious of cracks in our game.
Since 1998, only 19 other European nations have failed to reach a major finals – and those largely make up of the minnows like San Marino and Faroe Islands, the biggest nations in that section are Finland and Macedonia!
You don’t need to be a rocket science to know that Scotland’s problems start with player development. For generations, we’ve slipped way behind other nations and haven’t produced a group of players good enough to qualify for major finals.
The varying reasons for not producing players good enough to play at the top level in football (such as Bale, Hamsik, Ibrahimovic etc do even though they don’t come from the so called elite footballing nations) stem from coaching techniques right through to the top flight where clubs are too scared to blood young players.
A case example being Inverness Caledonian Thistle only playing FIVE Scots throughout the whole of last season, preferring to plump England’s League Two and non-leagues for players rather than bringing through their own.
Our clubs, led by the Scottish Football Association, should be working together to help bring through young players for the good of our game but, in truth, they all couldn’t be further apart and their self-interest overrides the bigger picture.
That still doesn’t excuse the fact we didn’t qualify for this years Euros.
Northern Ireland, a team largely made up of English Championship, League One and SPFL players, have no star names playing at the highest level yet managed to get through to the last 16.
Gordon Strachan, after a positive start to our campaign, has fallen into the same trap as his predecessors by picking players off form (ie Alan Hutton and Steven Fletcher), not getting games for their clubs (ie Steven Whittaker and Charlie Mulgrew) and adopting the “a draw will do” mentality.
Our failure to reach a 24 team European Championships, and the progress of smaller nations, has got to be the wake up call Scottish Football needs to realise that what we’re doing in producing a good National team isn’t working and that changes from top to bottom are required to improve our fortunes.
Failure to recognise that, and continuing to hide behind the “wee nation” and “bad luck” excuses, and Scotland will continue to miss out on World Cups and European Championships for decades to come!