JOHN Collins has ruled himself out of contention to replace Mark Wotte as the Scottish Football Association performance director.
Wotte left the role last month, just over three years after his appointment was hailed as a key part of the SFA’s long-term performance strategy tasked with bringing significant improvement to Scottish football by 2020.
Collins, a passionate advocate of radical change to coaching and youth development methods in Scotland, spent some time working as part of Wotte’s backroom team before he joined Celtic as assistant manager at the start of this season.
Wotte has claimed Collins would be an ideal candidate for the performance director position at the SFA but the former Scotland midfielder insists he could not be tempted to leave Celtic.
“It’s nice of Mark Wotte to say that but I’m the Celtic assistant manager,” said Collins. “I’m very, very happy here and it wouldn’t interest me at this stage.”
Collins is a supporter of the work carried out by Wotte, especially the seven performance schools implemented across Scotland as part of the SFA’s £15 million commitment to elite player development. He believes it is vital the right person is found to carry on the job Wotte began.
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“The performance schools were a terrific idea, getting the best against the best on the training pitch every day from a young age,” added Collins.
“That’s the way forward. It’s important the kids get the right coaching for the next four years and they’re pushed. It’s all about tempo, doing the right things, keeping the ball under control, left foot, right foot. They’ve got a chance of developing into top-level players then.
“I don’t think the next performance director needs to be a Scot. I don’t think nationality matters at all. It’s about whoever is best for the job. It’s about quality, not nationality.
“It’s an important role, a very important role. You need to have someone overseeing it and pushing things on. It keeps everyone on their toes if they know they are being assessed. When someone knows they aren’t being assessed then people can get complacent.
“There’s no-one who springs to mind for me, but I’m sure the SFA will be scouring the country and Europe. It has to be a football person, not an administrator, that’s 100 per cent without a doubt.”
Collins’ own priority is achieving progress at Celtic alongside manager Ronny Deila. The Scottish champions have an opportunity to reach the knockout phase of the Europa League this week if they can defeat Red Bull Salzburg at Celtic Park tomorrow night.
The teams drew 2-2 in Austria at the start of the Group D campaign in September and Collins believes Celtic will have to produce their best display yet of Deila’s tenure if they are to secure all three points this time.
“Without a doubt, it will have to be our best performance of the season,” said Collins. “If we don’t play well, we won’t get a result.
“It won’t be like the SPFL where we can be average and still win. That’s the reality, with no disrespect meant to the other teams in the SPFL. But against this calibre of opposition, everybody in our team will have to be at it on Thursday.
“Salzburg are a very good team. They’re probably the best pressing team in Europe. They don’t give you a minute on the ball, so it’s going to be completely different to what we’re used to in the Scottish Premiership, where teams sit off us. They just keep pressing you so our players will have to be on their toes and move the ball quickly.
“They play with a real intensity and lots of energy and pace. They’re a really fit team who obviously do a lot of good work on the training pitch. That’s where performances come from. They’ve a new coach this season, but it’s the same principles. They’ve got the potential to be in the latter stages of the Europa League.
“They don’t have ‘great’ names as individual players but they are a team. Everyone knows their jobs and they work hard together from the first minute to the last. They hunt in packs.
“If you dwell on the ball against teams like Salzburg, they’ll take it off you in dangerous positions. The home game against them might be even harder than the away game because of their pressing qualities. They’ll come here flying high. They’ve won every game fairly convincingly since the 2-2 against us. People said we ‘only’ got a draw over there but we knew they were a good team.
“It should be a great game for us and that’s what we want, to learn and develop and keep stretching ourselves. We know we’re going to have to have a top performance to get a result. An average performance won’t get a result.”
If Celtic fail to get the job done tomorrow, they could face a nervy 90 minutes in Croatia on 11 December in the final round of group fixtures with a place in the last 32 still on the line.
“It would be the ideal scenario to qualify with a game to spare and that’s the objective on Thursday night,” added Collins. “Then we could look forward to the last game in the group with no pressure.”
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