When Joe Jordan assesses the apparent shallowness of up-and-coming Scottish talent it would seem to give him reason to fear more dreadful nights like the national side experienced in Kazakhstan on Thursday. The former Manchester United and Leeds United striker played in three World Cups during his storied 52-cap career. His goal against Czechoslovakia in 1973 famously brought to a close a 16-year exile from major finals. The 67-year-old “never” believed that Scotland could find themselves in a position where such a length of time between tournament appearances would end up appearing small fry, with 21 years now having passed since the country contested a major finals.
“What I look at – and get depressed about – isn’t [just] the present but the future,” he said. “I know we want to qualify for the Euros next year but what I want to know is where are we going? What is the future for Scotland? For a nation like ours… I look at the faces on the walls of the Hall of Fame at Hampden and think: ‘Christ! We had some players.’
“But now we’re worrying about when we’re ever going to get to a finals again, which brings us to youth development and the channelling of their ability to produce a group of players who can match the best. When I look at the era that came before mine, I would see genuinely great players like Dave Mackay and other phenomenal individuals.”
Jordan doesn’t see these players now because they do not exist. He cannot comprehend why that should be so when the penury of most Scottish clubs means they have to develop and play young home-grown players out of necessity.
“Look at the names up in the Hall of Fame. I came from Morton, Gordon McQueen came from St Mirren, Alan Hansen came from Partick Thistle. You could go on. There were numerous players who did that. I got games. I only had a few games, but in those games Bobby Collins saw something in me and said; ‘This lad warrants a chance.’ Straight away, I am down at Leeds United. If you go to Stenhousemuir, Morton, Thistle, aren’t there players there? You should have young Scottish players playing there. Surely the opportunities are there for lads who want to be footballers.”
Scotland captain Andrew Robertson is cited as the Scottish player who demonstrates what is possible in having gone from amateur status with Queen’s Park to a Champions League final with Liverpool in the space of five years. Jordan believes he should be an inspiration to every aspiring footballer in the country, but can’t believe the 25-year-old can be the exception.
“He can’t be the only one [Scot capable of doing what he has],” said Jordan. “He has taken his chance. You watch the lad play and he plays as though he is not going to let anybody else take his position. He has [Alberto] Moreno and one or two others there. He went there, they gave him a couple of games and then left him out. But when he got his chance he took it. There is no way, unless he is injured, he is not going to be in that team. Where are the other ones to grasp that chance and go from step to step to step? There must be players here.
“If you want to be a football player you want to be at a club like Liverpool, Man United, Celtic, Rangers, a top team. Because by being with that top team you have proved you are good enough to play there. Then you want to play for your country. Then you want to do what we haven’t done, play in major tournaments with your country. That is it. If you want to be a professional football player and make your mark that is the way to do it. I would be thinking ‘if he [Robertson] can do it I can do it’.
“The way Scottish football is just now, these players must be getting the chance. Because there ain’t the money here to go and get somebody from France for clubs like Morton, Partick Thistle, teams like that. So surely there are players here with that same sort of ability that is going to fit into the wage structure that these Scottish clubs have?”