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Stephen Halliday: SFA should beware of Matthaus bid

Lothar Matthaus was a flop as manager of Bulgaria. Picture: Getty

Lothar Matthaus was a flop as manager of Bulgaria. Picture: Getty

  • by STEPHEN HALLIDAY
 

TALK of German legend Lothar Matthaus registering his interest in becoming the new Scotland manager may just have induced a 
collective cold sweat among the ranks of the Tartan Army.

For, while it may be welcome that the Scotland job still carries enough appeal to attract an application from a former European and World Footballer of the Year, one cursory look at Matthaus’ coaching career should be enough to ensure he gets nowhere close to the SFA’s short list.

Out of work since being sacked by Bulgaria two years ago, the 51-year-old was also a flop at the helm of Hungary. Club jobs in Brazil and Israel were short-lived and calamitous, while his sole successes in charge of Partizan 
Belgrade in Serbia and Red Bull Salzburg in Austria were both undermined by clashes with club directors.

Perhaps the only thing in Matthaus’ favour as far as Scotland supporters 
are concerned would be his judgement of Berti Vogts’ managerial 
ability. During his playing career, 
Matthaus fell out with Vogts and missed out on Germany’s Euro 1996 success in England.

With their previous employment of a German boasting an illustrious past having proved such a disaster during Vogts’ ill-fated tenure as Scotland manager, it will hopefully be a case of once bitten, twice shy as far as the SFA are concerned.

Regardless of how many foreign coaches are touted, or tout themselves, to succeed Craig Levein, there is sufficient quality of home-grown candidates for Stewart Regan and his colleagues to ensure they compile an all-Scottish short-list for the job.

Domestic politics driving Celtic’s league of nations

WHEN Peter Lawwell chooses to publicly disclose the possibility of Celtic’s participation in a new cross-border league competition, it is safe to assume he believes it is both a significant and credible proposition.

The Celtic chief executive, after all, is not a man renowned for wasting his time on anything which he does not believe could be to the long-term commercial benefit of his club.

There may, of course, have been just the slightest hint of an ulterior motive in Lawwell’s revelations to Celtic’s agm last Friday that Uefa are now “opening their minds” to sanctioning league tournaments containing clubs from multiple nations.

By bringing the issue into the public domain, Lawwell perhaps intended to send a warning shot across the bows of those in Scotland who are hatching domestic league reconstruction proposals which would in any way diminish Celtic’s share of the commercial income it delivers.

With Scottish Premier League clubs expected to give short shrift to the Scottish Football League’s unanimously supported plans for a three division set-up of 16-10-18, consensus over the future shape of the domestic game

appears as far away as ever before.

Lawwell is duty-bound to Celtic’s shareholders to keep tabs on any developments in European football which could help make up the currently massive financial shortfall between the major clubs in the most powerful nations and the big clubs based in smaller countries.

As a member of the European Club Association’s Institutional Relations working group, whose mission is to strengthen the ECA’s position in relation to both Uefa and Fifa, Lawwell is ideally placed to ensure Celtic are key players in any reform of club football.

But the problem remains as to exactly how any cross-border leagues would be structured. As Lawwell admitted last week, it is still unclear which other nation or nations would join Scotland to create a new level of competition involving Celtic.

The key issue is to come up with a tournament which can stand alone, outwith the firmly established Champions League and Europa League

operated by Uefa, and attract the necessary level of sponsorship and broadcasting revenue to make it profitable and sustainable.

The idea of merged league competitions is nothing new, after all, but all previous models have failed to capture the imagination of the public or, more crucially, the investment of the TV companies.

The North Atlantic League, with which both Celtic and Rangers were linked more than a decade ago, never got off the ground despite extensive talks among clubs from Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden and Denmark.

In 2004, the Scandinavian Royal League was formed as a close-season competition with the top four

clubs from Sweden, Denmark and Norway, but, after just three low-key seasons, it was disbanded for financial reasons after failing to secure a

television contract.

A similar tournament was created

by clubs from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 2007. The Baltic League, however, fared no better than its Scandinavian counterpart and is currently in abeyance.

An alternative to such competitions, which ran separately to the existing domestic set-ups of the countries involved, is the merging of neighbouring national league

championships.

Uefa president Michel Platini

suggested such a move for the Dutch and Belgian leagues three years ago, receiving a lukewarm response at the time. He also mooted the possibility of a merged Balkan League among countries from the former Yugoslavia. As Lawwell noted on Friday, the Dutch-Belgian merger is currently being

trialled in the women’s game with the BeNe League and may yet have some mileage.

But, with no appetite in English football to share their commercial wealth with their neighbours, it is still difficult to see where Celtic or any other leading Scottish club would fit into a new European landscape.

The suspicion remains that talk

of Celtic taking themselves off to

pastures new may simply be their

biggest bargaining chip to ensure that the Scottish league set-up is to their liking.

 

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