The holes in Kris Boyd’s ‘Scotland missed Rangers’ argument

Kris Boyd believes the Scotland national team is paying the price for Rangers' absence from the top flight. Picture: John Devlin

Kris Boyd believes the Scotland national team is paying the price for Rangers' absence from the top flight. Picture: John Devlin

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A rebuttal to Kris Boyd’s insistence that Scotland are paying the price for the decision to, in the striker’s words, send Rangers down to the bottom tier in 2012, by Craig Fowler

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These days, the worst thing about Scotland losing an international game is the inevitable overreaction and botched dissection from each and every corner of the nation.

We need a new manager; we need stability; it’s the fault of the bigger clubs; it’s the fault of the smaller clubs; it’s the fault of the government; it’s the fault of the SFA; we need more academies; we need fewer academies; we need more qualified coaches; we need better dietary regimes for youngsters; everything must change; nothing will change, and so forth.

However, the most blistering hot take came via former Scottish international striker, and current Kilmarnock hitman, Kris Boyd. The 33-year-old insisted the current national team is paying the price for the decision to “send down” Rangers in 2012 following the club’s liquidation.

Without getting into the whole new club/same club argument, there are several holes to pick in Boyd’s argument, which was penned for The Scottish Sun.

“Kris Boyd: SFA sent Rangers down...” (Headline)

They didn’t. At least, not directly, anyway. In 2012, Morton chairman Douglas Rae claimed Stewart Regan stated an intention to block Rangers’ entry into the SPL in the event our top flight clubs decided to vote in favour of reinstatement. But they didn’t. SPL sides voted overwhelming against the proposal. After which, Regan tried to have them admitted directly into the First Division by lobbying lower league teams to vote in favour of the new proposal. This is when he talked of “armageddon” - an ill-advised soundbite which is often wrongly attributed to SPL (now SPFL) chief executive Neil Doncaster.

Doncaster wanted Rangers to be a top flight side from 2012 onwards; Regan wanted to have his cake and eat it too. If we’re to believe Rae’s version of events, Regan tried to be seen as doing something to protect sporting integrity, while also ensuring the top of Scottish football wasn’t without one half of its biggest draw for three (ultimately, four) years. The clubs saw right through it, and the SFL voted to allow newco Rangers into the bottom tier, rather than the top.

Rangers fans will say the SFA were still complicit, but to solely blame them for the Ibrox club’s absence from the top flight for four years is just plain wrong. It was a decision of the SPL clubs.

“There is no getting away from the fact that the national team has suffered as a direct result”

Scotland were 41st in the Fifa world rankings in 2012. We’re now 44th. Instead of a slide backwards, it’s a continued malaise which has seen the nation underachieve since 1998. There is no explanation from Boyd for why Scotland were so poor for 14 years between France ‘98 and the vote on Rangers.

“Scotland needed to have players at Rangers playing at the highest level.”

Three Rangers players were included in the last competitive match before the summer of 2012. These were Steven Naismith, Steven Whittaker and Allan McGregor. Scotland were beaten 3-1 in Spain at the end of another failed campaign. For the final friendly game, a 5-1 loss in the United States, Naismith dropped out, but Lee Wallace came into the squad instead.

There were six Rangers players involved at the tail end of the famed 2008 qualification campaign, when Scotland defeated France twice before suffering heartache in the final game against Italy. However, there were also five Hearts players involved in that campaign. Are we to believe a strong Hearts is equally as important? Though it obviously wouldn’t hurt, it’s hard to imagine many making that argument, including Boyd. There’s a difference between causation and correlation.

“Players playing in the English Championship or wrong end of the English Premier League don’t play with the pressure of a Rangers or Celtic player.”

This, in a vacuum, isn’t a bad point. There is little doubt there’s greater media intensity around Celtic and Rangers players than there is those playing for the likes of Norwich City, Hull City, Burnley etc. The Old Firm are never more than three bad results away from a “crisis” and players have to adapt a win-or-else mentality.

But what about the Republic of Ireland national team? They are the epitome of a team playing above itself thanks to a winning mentality, as evidenced by the four points they took off Germany and away victory in Georgia in the last campaign. Just like Scotland, the majority of their players play at the top end of the Championship or bottom end of the English Premier League. None of the current squad call Glasgow home, and the player at the biggest club is arguably Seamus Coleman of Everton.

“You could point the finger at him [Hanley] for all three goals, he was that bad...Wallace was the man I wanted at left-back and I thought he had a good game, in fact he was my Scotland man of the match.”

Grant Hanley blocked Raheem Sterling’s effort for the first goal, which caused him to go to ground. He was scrambling to get back up and into position when Kyle Walker’s cross found Daniel Sturridge to head home. It wasn’t really Hanley’s fault. He was just unfortunate that his block spun right to Walker.

For the second goal, Hanley’s decision to back off, rather than engage the ball, was a mistake, while his positioning in the penalty area is a little strange. However, there’s little doubt it’s Wallace’s man, Adam Lallana, who scores the header after the Rangers left-back failed to get close enough. Wallace did have a good game overall, but to criticise Hanley and completely absolve Wallace of blame smacks of favouritism from his ex-team-mate.

In conclusion...

Rangers going into the Third Division/League Two didn’t help the Scottish national team. At their best, Rangers consistently qualify for European competition. This would have provided valuable experience for the Scotland stars within the Ibrox squad. It would have improved them as footballers and granted exposure to differing styles of play. It robbed Scotland of a potential pool of players, while weakening the overall standard as money fell from the game. But in the list of reasons for why the national team is continuing to struggle, including a lack of investment, infrastructure and the ability to pick the right manager, it is far, far down the list. Boyd’s insistence otherwise appears to be borne out of a feeling of resentment for what he feels was an injustice perpetrated on his old club.

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