Wednesday night saw Scotland win what was essentially a glorified practice match over British rivals Northern Ireland. Having not watched the game, I shouldn’t really pass judgement, but looking at the two sides on paper, reading the match reports and taking into account that it’s Scotland vs. N.Ireland, everything suggests it was a shite game.
I actually downloaded and watched The Lego Movie instead (highly recommended).
Granted, this was a friendly match – something that I personally feel are a complete waste of time. If you’re going to play attack versus defence and effectively play two different teams in the match, you’re as well doing it behind closed doors and saving us our time and money.
Anyway, that’s another discussion for another day.
The real reason that I never tuned into this almighty snoozefest was that the most expensive player in the two squads was Sunderland’s £12m man, Steven Fletcher, whose one goal in 19 international outings suggested that the quality on show would be akin to me doing keepy-up’s with a brick.
Neither of these teams have a ‘star’.
The closest thing us Scots have had to a top quality player over the last ten years has been West Brom’s (but of Man United fame) no-frills utility man, Darren Fletcher. Don’t get me wrong, Fletcher is an decent player; a good servant for the national team with over 50 caps, but he isn’t exactly the superstar that the Scottish game is so desperately in need of.
I mean, his Wikipedia page describes him as “industrious.” Need we say more?
So why is it that Scotland have found it impossible to produce even one world class player in the last 30 years?
Obviously, these talents don’t just grow on trees. People don’t grow on trees, full stop.
But we have watched almost three generations of Scottish football pass without one truly great player even threatening to help Scotland make a splash into the international football pond.
While we are not a footballing powerhouse like Brazil, Germany, Italy or Spain, we have been able to boast some great players in the past such as Graeme Souness, Kenny Dalglish, Dennis Law and current manager Gordon Strachan, so where are they now?
There are so many examples of small countries across the world who, despite having a pretty average football team, have been able to produce at least one real top quality player, elevating them to the next level.
Look no further than Wales. A team that, let’s face it, are pretty poor. However, they’ve managed to produce the world’s most expensive player in the shape of Gareth Bale, who has put them within striking distance of their first major international tournament since the 1958 World Cup.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have Edin Dzeko, Iceland had Eidur Gudjohnsen, Robert Lewandowski has people taking the Poles seriously once again, Samuel Eto’o led Cameroon for years, Goran Pandev turned lowly Macedonia into a threat and even Belarus are able to call upon former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder Alexander Hleb (remember him?).
While none of the nations above can be considered a real threat to winning anything, the addition of that one top quality player has, in some cases, transformed them from whipping boys into qualification contenders and banana skins for those they play against.
The nucleus of the Scottish national team is a sound one; a lot of good, technical players, who seem to have bought into the manager’s way of playing and have put themselves into a good position for qualification for Euro 2016 in a group that includes the World Champions, Germany, as well as emerging Lewandowski’s Poland.
However, I can’t help but feel that it could all be another glorious failure for the Scots. With the exception of Greece in 2004, – I still can’t wrap my head around that one – I can’t remember any other teams that won or caused any great commotion in international competitions without a real star.
When we’re a goal away from qualification on October 11th, away to Gibraltar, with only five minutes left to go, who are we all going to look towards? Who is going to elevate us to the next step?
All I’m saying is that if the ball drops to Steven Fletcher, six yards from goal, I wouldn’t be putting my house on qualification.