Gordon Strachan: We are a nation of ‘scared footballers’

Scotland head coach Gordon Strachan laments our failings against the best teams in the world. Picture: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images
Scotland head coach Gordon Strachan laments our failings against the best teams in the world. Picture: Matthew Mirabelli/AFP/Getty Images
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Scotland has become a nation of “scared footballers”, according to Gordon Strachan, who yesterday lamented the failings of our players when pitted against the world’s best.

These failings were in evidence during the 1-0 defeat by Italy in Malta last Sunday and could be further exposed by Euro 2016 hosts France who take on Scotland in Metz tomorrow.

Strachan’s reflection on the Italian defeat has strengthened his desire to see the proposals set out by SFA performance director Brian McClair be voted through by the clubs. There is resistance to the McClair blueprint which has at its core streamlining to reduce the number of youth academies from 31 to ten, and so cut the number of elite players within these from 3,000 to 1,000.

“If you look at most top players, they can pass the ball and beat you,” Strachan said. “We as a nation, all I hear – especially at youth level – is ‘pass, pass, pass’. That’s fine. But there are points in a passing system when people will come up to you and you have to be able to protect the ball or beat them.

“What we do is play ‘scared football’ when we come up against big teams. We’ll play four or five passes, but we’re not sure if they’re going to get there. We just flick it away, hope for the best and then go ‘oh, unlucky’. But if you watch David Silva and all those types, they don’t pass with hope – they are 90 per cent sure what they’re doing is going to work. We’re a nation of what I’d call unlucky passers. You’ll watch our players, hear it from the stands, ‘oh, unlucky’. But we’re not unlucky. It will be the fourth time someone’s made a poor pass.

“It’s the difficult part now. Brian [McClair] has to have the patience to wait and see things through that most football people don’t want.

“Listen, I’m 59 now. I’ve had children, grandchildren, coached youth teams, watched youth teams, it’s something I like doing – watching kids play football. And I know what makes a good footballer. I know where the best footballers come from. We had some of the best footballers in Europe, years ago. How did we do that? It’s quite simple really. It’s like Turkeys voting for Christmas it’s not about teams. We have to produce players. It’s producing two top players from the system every year, and we’ll be fine. Two top players. Not just 20 ordinary ones.

“If you streamline it you’ll lose 50 per cent of coaches as well. But like any other business, you streamline to get the best. I’ve done my bit for 
Brian ages ago and I’ll speak every now and then to back up what he’s doing. It’s not my be all and end all but it’s been my bugbear for 20-odd years since Scotland lost 5-0 in Portugal [in 1993].”