Gordon Strachan has laid the blame for Scottish football’s ills firmly at the door of the country’s clubs in a blistering attack.
The former Scotland manager accused clubs of being selfish, delusional and greedy and failing to produce good players. While he did not exonerate current manager Alex McLeish and the Scottish Football Association in his analysis of where the game in the country has gone wrong, he slammed clubs and academy managers for creating the illusion they are producing good players.
Strachan said he “couldn’t live with myself if I just stayed silent” and urged Scots to believe things can be better than they are present.
“It is easy to throw this crisis at the manager and the SFA,” he wrote in a regular column for Paddy Power bookmaker. “They have limited power. It is to do with the selfishness of clubs in Scotland. We think ‘no’ bad’ is top class.”
Strachan went on to claim that Allan McGregor’s save in the dying minutes against Israel in November to secure a 3-2 win and also top spot in the Nations League group “blinded us”. He added: “It could’ve been one of Scotland’s worst-ever nights. Instead, that was just delayed a few months”.
Strachan was moved to hit out following Scotland’s 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier a week ago today. The under-fire McLeish’s side followed that up with an underwhelming 2-0 victory over San Marino.
Strachan stressed it was the fault of the clubs that Scotland ended up losing to Kazakhstan with “a squad of English Championship and League One level players”.
He praised former SFA chief executive Stewart Regan even though he was involved in the decision to dispense with Strachan’s services as manager at the end of 2017 after another qualifying failure.
“At the moment, there’s an outcry with the SFA around the leadership,” wrote Strachan. “I understand that. There’s a debate to be had, but not by me – I wasn’t offered another contract by them, after all.
“But I will say that I thought Stewart Regan was a good businessman, an honest guy, and gave me every help he could. Whether you think he’s a football man or not, as a person, he did his best.
“The other thing aimed at the SFA is they’re not producing players,” he added. “But that’s not their job – football in Scotland is run by the clubs. I’ve been in so many meetings where the SFA were coming up with ideas and asking the clubs what they think. All I heard from the clubs was ‘me and money’, even the smallest clubs, who produce no players whatsoever.”
Strachan dismissed those who claim Scottish football is thriving and said those involved in the game - “people at academies, chairmen, the media” - were “like alcoholics” happy to exist in a state of self-delusion.
“Until they realise they’ve got a problem, (they) cannot be helped,” he said. “They genuinely think everything’s alright in their life.”
Strachan hit out at clubs who enjoy telling everyone how many talented youngsters they have on their books but who sign mediocre players from abroad to block these youngsters’ path to the first-team. “And it’s not like the foreign players of 15 or 20 years ago, like Larsson, Di Canio, Laudrup and Gascoigne, where the kids could look up to them and learn from them,” he said. “They’re nowhere near ordinary European standards.”
The extent of Strachan’s rage seemed sometimes to come at the expense of his fact-checking. He claimed no teams have qualified from European qualifiers over the last few years when both Celtic and Rangers did so this season – in the Champions League and Europa League respectively. However, he was rigorous in driving home his main point – Scottish clubs have failed in their duty to the game.
He also defended former Manchester United and Scotland teammate Brian McClair, who was “sacked as National Performance Director because he wasn’t the best at presentations...even though I thought he was brilliant” Strachan added: “He could think outside of the box and tried new things but, because he didn’t wear a suit and tie, they got rid of him.
“Funnily enough, his ideas are still being put into place, such as summer football for academies and reducing squad numbers, so I’m hoping those will help.
But I do believe there are far more routes we have to go down to produce better players. Because there’s nobody exciting coming through for Scotland at the moment, especially the flair and imagination players. (If there is anyone, I’m sorry I’ve missed you!)
“I’ve been Scotland manager, and I didn’t get everything right,” he admitted. “In case anyone thinks I’m saying it’s not my fault – no, no it was my fault. I picked the team.
I take responsibility for what happened when I was there.”
Gordon Strachan is a Paddy Power ambassador. His columns appear at news.paddypower.com