Brendan Rodgers believes Scottish football supporters should lower their expectations of an international team which he says is both tactically and technically deficient.
The Celtic manager was a spectator at Wembley last Friday night for Scotland’s 3-0 World Cup qualifying defeat by England which prompted the latest round of angst-ridden inquests into the state of the game in this country.
Rodgers insists some of the reaction to the match was disproportionate and feels Scotland boss Gordon Strachan, pictured, still has a potentially effective side under his command. He also believes comparisons with his own nation Northern Ireland, who continue to make impressive progress under Michael O’Neill, are not valid as the demands placed upon them are not as severe as those faced by Scotland.
“I think Scotland need to revise their expectancy levels,” said Rodgers. “Scotland lost to England and England had better quality. But I didn’t see it as humiliating. I didn’t see it as shameful. I saw it as a group of guys who actually started the game very, very well. Then they lost the goal and when you give England that confidence they can play a little bit.
“Scotland got together and could have been 2-1 up when they started the second half really well. Then the key moment kills you and a set-piece follows and from nowhere you are 3-0 down. The game is dead. But there is still enough there to show there are some good players with tempo and speed and pace and hopefully they can do better. I watched it and thought ‘there is the basis here of a good team’. There is some speed in the team, there are some good technical players and my experience up here is that the boys will give their all. If, tactically, you can put them out in a way that they can press and run, you can get a lot from them. Also, what you have missing in a few areas of the midfield is a tactical and technical deficiency.
“I know Michael O’Neill a lot better than I know Gordon Strachan. I know that when Michael walked into the Northern Ireland job, he didn’t even have an office. They brought him into a dark room with a table and a phone and said ‘that’s your office’. He has had to create something there. But they also have good players with experience. In key areas of the field they have real good bases. They have two good Premier League central defenders, while Steven Davis is a top class player. He is so underrated.
“Then they’ve got a spirit around that and there is not an expectancy in Northern Ireland – that’s the reality of it.
“It’s harder for Scotland because of where they were for many years in the past. But so many other countries have evolved and developed over the last 15 to 20 years. You have cycles and I just think it’s something where you have to try to find a solution. There are clearly issues here with the game. But there are wider issues, social issues. Are there enough kids playing football? Is there that hunger now for kids? Is there investment? People talk about Iceland’s success. Iceland, as a country, invested in what they wanted to do. They were prepared also to take time. They took a bad result, they took a hit. They put time into it. The government put money into it. The schools, the federation, everything was geared towards them doing well. So can they do that here? It’s not going to happen overnight.
“It’s a decade for me. The problem here is that it was started five years ago. Now we are five years in and there is more change. So there is a wee vicious circle here.”