Modern football fans know Scotland for Rangers and Celtics, two of Scotland’s strongest teams with a presence in European football. However, most international fans only know of the Scotland national team after they played in UEFA Euros.
This was Scotland’s first major tournament in 23 years. Scotland has a deep history in football. Despite not winning any major trophies, the team often qualified for major tournaments and rivalled the strongest teams in the world.
More than just history, the Scotland national football team is backed by millions of passionate fans. They are waiting for the resurrection of their beloved national team, but why exactly does Scotland not perform that well at football?
#1 Loss of momentum
Scotland ranked 45th on the latest FIFA men’s ranking. Combined with 23 years of absence in major tournaments, not many football fans know that Scotland used to be a formidable side in major tournaments.
From the 70s to the 90s, Scotland managed to qualify for 6 out of the 7 FIFA World Cup. While Scotland never made it past the group stage, playing against Scotland was never easy. In the best years of Scottish football, Scotland was able to go toe-to-toe with heavy favourites such as Brazil.
Scotland’s last World Cup was in 1998, but their downfall did not start until the early 2000s. Manager Craig Brown resigned after failing the World Cup qualification for 2 consecutive years.
As a World Cup-winning manager with West Germany, Berti Vogst was expected to bring Scotland back to the major tournaments.
Unfortunately, Scotland did not find any success under Berti Vogst. Instead, the team dropped into a record-low FIFA ranking of 77th after a poor start to the 2006 World Cup qualification.
Berti Vogst resigned in 2004. It erased any hope and momentum that Scotland had when Berti Vogst was appointed as manager.
What followed in the next decade was perhaps the darkest days in Scottish football.
#2 League and youth development
Just like its neighbouring country including England and Wales, Scotland is never short of promising talents. Some of the names that Scotland used to have includes Darren Fletcher, James Mcfadden, and Kenny Dalgish.
Scotland is now strengthened by top players such as Andrew Roberston, John McGinn, Billy Gilmour, Kieran Tierney, and Scott McTominay. Accordingly, this shows that Scotland does have the potential to develop better players.
A Domestic league is one of the best ways to develop players for the national team. As seen in some of the best footballing nations, strong nations usually have an excellent league, including France with Ligue 1, Italy with Serie A, Germany with Bundesliga, and England with Premier League.
As a much smaller nation than the nations above, it is hard for Scotland to compete in terms of the domestic league. Only 12 teams are competing in the Scottish Professional Football League.
You can find out why Scottish teams don’t play in the Premier League here.
For such a small league, Scottish teams have proven to be more than good enough to compete in Europe, especially Celtics and Rangers. Competing at Europe’s biggest stage requires top players. As a result, Scottish teams are signing foreign players, sacrificing Scottish young talent’s game time as an opportunity cost.
When players are given game time, the Scottish Professional Football League showed that it is the perfect ground to develop elite footballers. Some of the most notable names that made their break in the Scottish Professional Football League include Moussa Dembele, Victor Wanyama, and Virgil Van Dijk.
Scotland’s recent success to qualify for the Euros was a result of having good players developing from Scottish Youth Football. Now that Scotland has another taste of getting into a major tournament, it is time for the nation to start focusing more on developing youth talents.
#3 Managerial changes
Scotland has had 10 different managers in less than 2 decades, with Gordon Strachan as the longest serving manager with just 4 short years.
“We can’t keep changing managers, we were a failed generation, there was Gordon Strachan’s generation that was a failure as well, then there was Alex McLeish’s group of players… we can’t keep blaming the managers,”Former Scottish Forward Kris Boyd on Scotland managers
There are times when changes have to be made, but developing a national football team requires time and patience. With most managers receiving less than 3 years, it is hard to see a solid result regardless of the players.
Being in charge for less than 3 years, Steve Clark is the only manager to guide Scotland back into a major tournament. That being said, he failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing 3-1 to a determined Ukraine side in the play-off.
Another former Scottish Forward Andy Walker showed his support for Steve Clark, saying that Clark should be given more time to put Scottish football back on the map.
Scotland has always been a footballing country, it has a deep history rooted within the national team backed by passionate fans. Momentum was lost in the last 2 decades, with constant managerial changes and a lack of youth development, eventually shaping up the darkest days for Scottish football.
On the bright side, both the current manager and players are showing positive signs after qualifying for UEFA Euro 2020. Scotland was just 2 wins away from returning to the FIFA World Cup.
Now that there will be a long break from major tournament qualifiers, it is time for Scotland to prepare for their return to the international football stage!
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