CELTIC manager Ronny Deila believes that a radical re-think is required among the Scottish coaching fraternity if the national sport is to pull out of the tailspin which is dragging it down towards irrelevance.
Scotland have now failed to emerge from a qualifying group for a major finals for the ninth consecutive time, extending our exile from the business end of those competitions to 20 years and counting.
If it’s been too tactical and if you’re too afraid to lose then you’ll never develop”Ronnie Deila
It is not much better at club level, with Celtic having failed for two successive seasons to reach the Champions League. They are currently toiling in their Europa League group, which is no ambitious club’s idea of a consolation prize.
However, with Aberdeen, Inverness Caledonian Thistle and St Johnstone failing to reach the group phase of the second-tier tournament (the Dons were the last provincial club to do so, back in 2007), Scottish football’s image – and European co-efficient – continues to plummet.
Deila was asked how that situation might be remedied and he was in no doubt as to the root of the problem.
“That’s a very big question,” he said. “It’s very hard to be concrete on things but you have to dare to lose [in order] to get good.
“There is a lot of pressure in Scotland [to deliver] results. When everyone is doing the safe things all the time you can win in the short-term but you’ll never win long-term.
“I see countries like Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland and they really give opportunities to young boys, they develop them and give them the chance to gain experience.
“The Norway under-21 side has done this for many years now. They were so bad for a period but, suddenly, now they are coming good because the generation – with Stefan Johansen – have been doing well in the European championship.
“We also changed our way of playing.
“We want to create much more now. If you lose you lose but you want to win in the way you want to play.
“That way, you develop more skills and the most important thing is to develop good, young players then give them a chance and let them play.”
Deila points out that there are few young Scots who possess the craft and vision Gordon Strachan needs for his national squad and blames that on ultra-cautious, self-serving coaches.
Norwegian prodigy Martin Odegaard, signed by Real Madrid from Stromgodset in January and, at 16, already in possession of seven full caps, is a shining example of what can happen when talent is nurtured rather than neutered.
“If it’s been too tactical and if you’re too afraid to lose then you’ll never develop the full potential of the player,” said Deila.
“That’s the way I did it in Stromsgodset. We lost a lot but I knew we would progress [at the same] time and, in the end, we had a lot of national team players and people moving abroad.
“If Martin Odegaard wasn’t given the opportunity to play free then we’d never have got this talent. That’s what they do in Spain and Portugal – it’s about the training, it’s about wanting to create and to help players to reach their full potential.”
Yet Deila realises that this policy cannot apply to his (or Strachan’s) side.
“The senior team is the one that has to be all about results. It’s a bit different for them,” he admits.
“But when you play under-15-21, it doesn’t matter if they lose. It’s the same here at Celtic. We want them to win but we want them to win our way. If you try to win tactically by closing down the opposition then they have no chance. It then becomes all about the system and the players are not using games to develop their skills.
“However, if you allow them to play then you will get results in the end.”