CELTIC manager Neil Lennon last night launched an outspoken attack on Scotland’s World Cup qualifying flops, claiming that some of the current crop of underachieving players “need to leave their egos at the door” if the national team is to recover from its downward spiral.
Scotland suffered a fourth consecutive competitive defeat for the first time in history on Tuesday with a 2-0 reverse against Serbia. The loss, which came days after a morale-sapping 2-1 defeat by Wales at Hampden, leaves Gordon Strachan’s side bottom of Group A with two points from six games and confirmed their absence from the finals in Brazil in 2014.
Scotland were the first team in the whole of Europe to be officially eliminated from the race to reach the finals – and Brazil 2014 will be the eighth consecutive major tournament the country has missed out on.
Lennon joined in the inquest into the state of Scottish football after the latest failed campaign. Lennon, a former Northern Ireland international who played under Strachan at Parkhead, questioned both the desire of modern players and the validity of football academies.
“In terms of the national team, some of the players need to leave their egos at the door and sacrifice a little bit more for their country,” Lennon said. “I am not just talking about the hunger at young level, I am talking about the hunger at senior level.
“I think players are comfortable at their clubs and it looks like it becomes a bit of a chore rather than a privilege to play for their countries. You look at countries like Montenegro and Uruguay, who are smaller, but they have a real hunger and love for playing for their countries. Now I am not here to question any player but it just seems to me that there have been sagas over the years of ill-discipline and players walking out of squads and refusing to play for Scotland again. That, to me, is a worry.
“You can’t be (optimistic) at present, that’s the realism of it, although I think they (Scotland) have the right man in charge. I think we need to look deeper than the national team. Are we producing players? If not, why not? Because I do believe the talent is there. I question the hunger, when I look at other players who play for their countries.”
Lennon expanded his thoughts on the way youth players are produced. “Whether it be a Uefa initiative or clubs decided to bring in the academy system, I am not convinced that it is the right way to take the game forward,” Lennon said. “I am talking about Britain as a whole. I look at when I was coming through the ranks, it was a different system but it seemed to work. I was at Man City and I was cleaning boots and cleaning toilets, it was part of our remit during the day. I don’t see that as much now. Maybe we should bring that level of discipline back and they may appreciate the game a little bit more when they come through.”