David Hopkin: It’s time for Scotland to go for youth

Livingston boss David Hopkin receives the Ladbrokes Championship Manager of the Month Award for September. Picture: SNS
Livingston boss David Hopkin receives the Ladbrokes Championship Manager of the Month Award for September. Picture: SNS
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David Hopkin insists it’s time to flood the national team with younger players and allow them to develop regardless of results in order to finally end the continuous failure to qualify for a major 
tournament.

Livingston manager Hopkin, who played a role in Scotland’s last qualification but was overlooked for France 98, is not averse to Gordon Strachan overseeing this radical overhaul despite his failure to make it to Russia 2018.

However, he would be more inclined to recruit a younger, hungry coach to create a ‘Club Scotland’ atmosphere in the same way that Wales operate.

Hopkin, who has been voted Ladbrokes Championship manager of the month for September, said: “I’d love to see Scotland start from kids all the way through.

“We could maybe have a spine of four or five 
experienced players and then just let’s go and put kids in.

“We’ve got a lot of good players in Scotland and I think we do ourselves an injustice at times.

“I look at England and I played both there and here and coached and have been down and watched them and our players are just as good.

“So you just need to say to somebody: ‘Here’s four or five years, go and build 
something’.

“Whether that’s Gordon or someone else, we have got to get the McGinns and the McGregors in and let them go and play.

“We need to get a club 
mentality. I look at Northern Ireland, I look at Wales, I played with Chris Coleman at Crystal Palace and I look at his backroom staff and it is all his mates who are there.

“They’re all mid-40s, 50s and there’s good experience and continuity there. It’s like a club feeling and I am sure Northern Ireland is the same.

“I’m not saying Gordon doesn’t have that but if he decides to leave we maybe need to go down the route of a younger Scottish manager who can get everyone together, that’s what I would like to see.

“Playing for your country is the pinnacle of any young player’s career.

“And if we can manage to get that and a club feeling back and leave the manager alone for four or five years and see if they can build something, that’s the only way it is going to progress.

“We all want Scotland to do well but it needs to be a long-term plan, not short term.”

The SFA Board will discuss the national team manager’s job today and it is unclear whether they will be willing to stick with Strachan, who also failed to qualify for Euro 2016, or look elsewhere.

Hopkin added: “I have seen improvements over 2017 but it’s now time for everybody to take stock.

“It’s important whether 
Gordon wants to stay on – and if he moves on then it has to be a young refreshing coach who comes in not just somebody who wants to use the job to get another job and then leave.

“When I go into a job I give it my all. I was with Morton’s Under 20s for three years, I’ve been at Livingston for nearly three years.

“I don’t go in looking to leave as soon as I can. I do the best that I can so that when I eventually leave a club I am leaving something good behind. I think that’s what Scotland needs now –we need somebody who’s going to say I’m going to stay for four or five years and have a right good go at this.

“And it needs somebody who is going to get a good coaching staff ready to work from scratch with their squad and work steadily to get the whole nation behind them again.”

Hopkin, meanwhile, has hailed the influence of former Celtic striker John Hartson, who coaches Livingston’s strikers once a week, for contributing to their impressive rise to fourth in the Championship.

He said: “He’s a calming influence and a great personality to have about the club.”