By Ross Dunbar
Long-term vision is needed to save Scottish Football...
Did you know, Scotland was the first country to have four clubs reach the Quarter Finals of the European Cup?
Sadly, that was 60 years ago.
We are even famous for bringing the quick, flamboyant wide-players that we see nowadays. We also brought the art of dribbling to the world. You would not know that now would you?
Friday's debacle in Prague was the latest low for Scottish Football and to be honest, probably the final straw for me in terms of supporting the national team. Perhaps, I feel aggreived with the treatment from the SFA and SPL towards my club side, but I try to avoid looking through blue-tinted spectacles when involving Scottish Football as a whole.
But it is clear that from those days of producing quality players from Alan Morton to Jim Baxter, and from Jimmy Johnstone and Kenny Dalglish, that something has gone horribly wrong in the development of young footballers.
Football has changed since then and the modern game is highly-skilful and the line between winning and losing has never been so fine.
We have gone 12 years without reaching a major International competition and I predict that number will rise in the coming decade. We have not produced a genuine top-class footballer since Barry Ferguson and the overall quality of our domestic game has demised into mediocrity. Nowadays, our clubs are losing out in the early rounds of European competitions and their exits are getting earlier every year. It is worrying. But not to everyone, apparantley.
Scottish Football is decades behind the rest of Europe in the development of young players. Our problems start way down at grassroots level with major flaws in our coaching of young kids. It is a familiar site in Scotland to see children of 10, 11 and 12 years-old playing 11-a-side football with the 'kick-and-rush' style which prevents any proper development of technique.
It is a problem which can easily be solved, but the Scottish Football Association have to get round the table and sort out the pathway for grassroots football.
NOW - not in another 10 years time.
Former politician Henry McLeish has recommended that we need £500m of investment into facilities for youth players. I disagree with that recommendation and I believe money has to be invested in coaches and coach education. Our opponents on Tuesday night, Spain, have over 20,000 UEFA Qualified coaches and I think Scotland would struggle to claim 2,500. The education of coaches has to follow the modern ideas from Holland and other parts of Europe which emphasize touch and technique. The more small-sided games, better coaching drills and minor improvements in facilities would see a rapid change in the quality of talent coming through in Scotland.
Football dinosaurs like Craig Levein - who play 4-6-0 - have to be moved on from our game and it is positive to see some younger coaches adopting positive and modern formations and coaching in Scotland. However, we have left it so long that it makes the challenge of changing Scottish Football even more difficult.
For me, Levein has to go and a major upheavel is needed in Scottish Football.
The long-term vision of Wales, Austria and other nations has to be followed NOW so that in a few campaigns time we may actually get to a major international finals. For me, the new manager has to be from abroad and supported by a proper FA president who has a good understanding of football and can assist the manager and his ideas. Our average players needed to shoved aside and replaced by some of the young talent which came so close to qualifying to the U-21 European Championships last week.
I am writing this article, hoping that things will change. But I know, it will not until major changes sweep through Hampden Park.
One step backwards, two step forwards.