Gary McAllister: Draft plan can freshen up Scottish football

Colin Hendry, right, and Gary McAllister look on as staff demo Hampden sports clinic's state of the art anti-gravity treadmill. Picture: SNS
Colin Hendry, right, and Gary McAllister look on as staff demo Hampden sports clinic's state of the art anti-gravity treadmill. Picture: SNS
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Details of a draft system proposed for the upper tiers of Scottish football remain sketchy. Gary McAllister believes that what has been suggested could make for a wind of change that blows in some much-needed freshness.

National coach Gordon Strachan has assisted SFA performance director Brian McClair to come up with a blueprint to enhance the playing time for developing youngsters. One idea floated is that each Premiership club would have to make five youngsters available for loan – while paying their wages – to Championship sides.

Former Scotland captain McAllister is intrigued at such innovative thinking by 
Strachan – his team-mate and then manager at his adopted city Leeds – and sees more merit in the approach than the “sterile and safe” under-20s league in Scotland and its under-21 English equivalent. Playing competitive football against senior professionals at an early stage never did McAllister harm. Well, it did, but instructively.

“If you are 18/19 and aren’t in your first team, rather than hanging on and saying you are an Aberdeen player – 18th man – you’ve got to go out and play,” he said. “There must be more push and encouragement for these young guys to do that.

“I still, to this day, remember my first reserve game for Motherwell and Jim McSherry stamping on me as I tried to take the p*** out and nick the ball around him. He was an Ayr United player in the reserve team after injury and he didn’t want a wee 16-year-old boy playing one-twos around him. You soon get to move the ball quicker when there’s a very experienced old player stamping on you.

“Under-20s and under-21 leagues are not for me. I played in the reserves at 15. That toughens you up. You would play against Celtic or Rangers, and if Motherwell were at Ibrox the reserve teams would meet at Fir Park. If Bobby Russell or Davie Cooper were coming back from injury they would be in the reserves. You would be growing up, playing against them. That alone inspires you to be toe-to-toe against these people, and when that happens you pick things up.

“I speak to Gordon regularly. Not on this particular subject but he’s spoken about young players and young players getting out to play football. I think his main concern is that their minutes on a pitch can be negligible. Some of these players can be playing only 20 minutes in a month. They want to be playing in a competitive game where it means something, in front of fans.”