For too long doom and gloom surrounded the Scottish game.
Our men’s national team couldn’t get anywhere near a major international tournament, our clubs struggled to make any sort of impact in Europe, we couldn’t produce elite talent and our clubs just treated supporters like customers instead of stakeholders.
Yet things have started to change in recent years.
Scotland qualified for last year’s Euros and they have a great chance reaching next winter’s World Cup. In Steve Clarke, we’ve got a manager who gets the most from the players and one that they respect.
Having witnessed Scotland’s recent wins over Israel and Denmark, you can tell that there’s a new optimism that surrounds Hampden. The crowd pushes the players forward, while the players get the fans off their seats!
We don’t rely on individuals, as we’ve added much needed strength in depth. We work tirelessly as a unit and it’s paying off with positive results.
Rangers and Celtic have started to make more of an impact in Europe. They’ve both taken recent big scalps with the likes of Real Betis, Lille, Sparta Prague and Standard Liege all suffering defeats to the Glasgow sides.
For another year both sides have stayed in Europe beyond Christmas. It’s true that the next point should be qualifying and performing in the Champions League and hopefully that will happen next term.
We have also seen the other Scottish side’s produce better continental performances. Again hopefully that’s a trend that continues to improve in the not too distant future.
We have also seen others noticing that our players are improving.
Scotland has a rich history when it comes to polluting the top tier of English football. Yet during the 2000s the supply chain dried up. It’s hard to say but I can see why those top teams didn’t fancy many of our players during that dark era.
Fast forward to the current day and again that’s started to change too.
Not only are we seeing more Scotland stars performing in the English Premier League but we’re seeing them playing regularly at some of the top sides.
National team captain Andrew Robertson is a first team regular at Liverpool, helping the Anfield side in winning a Premier League title and the Champions League. He often provides vital assists for his side.
Scott McTominay continues to hold a place in Manchester United’s midfield despite numerous managerial changes.
Kieran Tierney often receives rave reviews at Arsenal with his passionate displays, with many believing that Tierney is a better all-round defender than Robertson.
Then there’s youngster Billy Gilmour. The talented footballer really impressed at Chelsea and even though his loan deal at Norwich City this season hasn’t gone swimmingly he still enjoys the best passing stats for The Canaries.
Aston Villa’s John McGinn might not be at a top four club but his battling midfield performances have certainly been eye catching. His boss Steven Gerrard recently stated how important the Scotland star is for his team: “John McGinn was fighting for everything. We missed him last week against United and, to have him today, showed how important he is for Villa. It was a really standout performance from John again.”
McGinn has since been heavily linked with a £40m move to Man United.
This month Everton parted with £12m to bring twenty year old full-back Nathan Patterson down from Rangers. That’s a big outlay for a player who is still in the developmental stage of his career.
Clubs down south and in Europe have noticed that they can purchase our best youth prospects too. Manchester City have a few youngsters starring for their youth sides as does Tottenham Hotspur and German giants Bayern Munich.
Speaking of Europe, it has been great to see the likes of Liam Henderson and Aaron Hickey playing their trade (successfully) in Italy. With more continental scouts coming over to our leagues looking at our talented kids it would be great to see more furthering their footballing education abroad as it will enhance our game in the long run.
I believe young Scots like Calvin Ramsey of Aberdeen, Josh Hoig of Hibs and Dylan Reid of St Mirren could easily be the next gifted youngsters to find themselves making big moves elsewhere.
It’s so exciting to see so many talented players playing within all of our international age groups and so many breaking early into their club’s first teams or securing huge transfers to top-notch sides.
It has also been so positive to see our teams doing such great jobs with reconnecting with their own fanbases.
The role of the Supporters Liaison Officer (SLO) has been vital in bridging gaps between a football club’s hierarchy and their support. St Johnstone’s SLO Bev Mayer is a fantastic example of being a superb communicator who keeps the Saints faithful in the loop.
Social Media has also been fantastic in bring a team closer to those on the terraces. Motherwell and Livingston have been champions when it comes to their social media game.
During the height of the Covid pandemic, Scottish football clubs stood up and helped their local communities. Stenhousemuir really stepped up to the plate to help those in need whether it be delivering shopping supplies to the vulnerable, deliver free school meals to kids or setting up a dedicated 24/7 helpline that was manned by a mix of club staff and volunteers.
I really believe our clubs and their relationships with their fans and their communities is something that we should be proud of. I think the rest of the footballing world can look at it and admire us. We should strive to do even more when it comes to tightening those links.
It’s a bonus that we’ve started to see more of our teams becoming fan owned. Three in The Premiership (Hearts, Motherwell and St Mirren) are all under fan ownership and they’ve all flourished. It’s yet another way of bringing clubs closer to their biggest stakeholders, the fans! They make business decisions that seem to put their faithful front and centre and that is a better long term strategy rather than just agreeing with the Old Firm and putting them first due to their financial muscle.
I’m not saying that this era could match the heady heights of the 1890s, the1960s or the 1980s. But it does feel like we could be on the verge of something special within Scottish football. It is absolutely wonderful to feel optimistic about our game; both on and off the park.
After so many years of what seemed to a constant decline in our fortunes, I plan to just sit back and enjoy this period… Whether it’s a true golden age or not.
Scott (Twitter @thefootyblognet)