THE heady days of June 2011 must seem like a lifetime ago for SFA chief executive Stewart Regan. It was then, in case you’d forgotten, that he emerged triumphantly from an annual general meeting at Hampden in which all 93 members of the organisation he heads backed his plans for reform.
Regan’s overhaul of the committee structure and disciplinary system, it was promised, would deliver “improved procedures and protocols” to the workings of the SFA when it came to the most crucial decisions and challenges facing the game in Scotland.
Clearly, those improvements did not include the mechanism by which the fate of a failing Scotland manager is determined. For the SFA’s mis-handling of Craig Levein’s situation over the past few days leaves their governance looking as archaic and unfit for purpose as ever before.
Regan may not be to blame, of course. It is perfectly possible, if not extremely likely, he shares the bewilderment and frustration of so many over the inability of the SFA to either back or sack the man who has guided Scotland to the bottom of their 2014 World Cup qualifying group with just two points from their first four matches.
Certainly, any sense that Regan’s modernising agenda had turned him into the most powerful chief executive in the SFA’s history has been well and truly swept aside by the omnishambles which has developed since Scotland returned from the 2-0 defeat by Belgium in Brussels almost three weeks ago.
When he spoke to reporters at the Glasgow Airport baggage carousel in the early hours of 17 October, Regan gave every indication that the review into Levein’s performance as Scotland manager would reach the conclusion that he had failed to meet expectations.
But, unlike the chief executive of most other major organisations, Regan is still hamstrung when it comes to taking the kind of decisive action that the vast majority of the Tartan Army and media pundits believed should be inevitable.
For he must receive the consensus of a seven-man SFA board which we now know are just as capable of dragging their heels as any of their predecessors in the organisation’s much-criticised and unwieldy committee structure which Regan went to such lengths to dismantle 18 months ago.
Perhaps today’s anticipated announcement on Levein, just 24 hours before the Scotland manager is scheduled to announce a squad for next week’s friendly in Luxembourg, will shed some light on why the board members felt the need to request more information from Regan to consider over the weekend.
But whoever is at fault, all seven men must ultimately share the responsibility of what is the footballing equivalent of fiddling while Rome burns. SFA president Campbell Ogilvie and his vice-presidents, Alan McRae and Rod Petrie, are entrusted with providing leadership and direction in their privileged roles as office bearers.
Instead, along with SPL chairman Ralph Topping, Scottish Junior FA secretary Tom Johnston and the thus far anonymous independent director Barrie Jackson, they have managed to fudge what for most other countries would be a clear-cut decision.
For, although the wagons have circled around Levein since the defeat in Brussels, with an endless stream of fellow managers and former players emerging to make a case for retaining his services, his dismal results simply speak for themselves.
As for the bizarre logic that changing the manager is not the solution, a view even astonishingly expressed by David Weir, who bore first-hand witness to the upturn in Scotland’s fortunes following the sacking of Berti Vogts a few years ago, it deserves to be treated with the utmost disdain. Try asking Ipswich Town supporters, who saw Mick McCarthy guide them to victory at Birmingham City on Saturday in his first game in charge, if changing the man in the dugout makes no difference.
The SFA board of directors was faced with a simple and obvious decision when it met last Thursday. That they failed to reach it within a matter of hours has left Regan’s vision of improved procedures and protocols as a laughing stock.
Ferguson deserves better than Fleetwood
NOT so long ago, the prospect of Barry Ferguson plying his trade in the fourth tier of English football would have been only
slightly more fanciful than the
notion of Rangers being relocated to the fourth tier in Scotland.
Yet there was the former Rangers and Scotland captain, one of the most decorated and talented Scottish players of his generation, making his debut for Fleetwood Town on Saturday in the first round of the FA Cup in front of just 1,696 spectators at the little Lancashire club’s grandly named Highbury ground. He left the field to a standing ovation, having played
81 minutes of their 3-0 win over Bromley.
At 34, Ferguson is certainly approaching the twilight phase of his career. But it seems remarkable and incongruous nonetheless to find him performing for a League Two club, albeit an ambitious and progressive one. He has only joined Fleetwood on a short-term loan, of course, having become frustrated by no longer being a first-team regular for Blackpool. It is anticipated he may return to a higher level in January, possibly at Birmingham City.
It was only two seasons ago that Ferguson inspired the Midlands club to a major trophy, hailed by many as the most accomplished player on the Wembley turf as they defeated Arsenal in the League Cup final. He displayed the kind of high-quality ball retention that day which was his trademark at Rangers in an Ibrox career which brought him 15 major honours. The kind of ball retention,
it may also be pointed out, which Scotland have lacked so wretchedly in recent times.
Ferguson cannot be said to have fallen on similarly hard times as his alma mater in Govan. But, with all due respect to Fleetwood Town, he deserves to finish his playing career at a more rarefied level than League Two.