Gordon Strachan today insisted extended runs in Europe are vital to the well-being of Scottish football as Celtic, Aberdeen, Hibs and Rangers all look to make progress this week.
Scotland’s “co-efficient” has plummeted in recent years as clubs have struggled to make much headway, a vicious downward spiral which makes it tougher season-on-season for those taking part in the Champions League and Europa League.
It has become so serious that Premiership champions Celtic face four qualifying rounds if they are to have any hope of making the group stages of the competition while both Hibs and Rangers had to enter the Europa League at the first qualifying round.
This week, Celtic take on Norwegian side Rosenborg, Hibs face Asteras Tripolis from Greece and Rangers meet Osijek from Croatia having all negotiated the first stage comfortably while Aberdeen, who were spared that round, now face a tough task in taking on English Premier League outfit Burnley.
But making progress is vital as far as the game is concerned, not only in Scotland but for the national team as well, insisted Strachan, who knows from experience the effect early exits from Europe can have on the country’s hopes of finally reaching the finals of a major tournament.
He said: “We have to get the co-efficient up because it’s the worst it’s ever been. Over the last 12 years, I think we were seventh, now we are away down below Latvia. It’s worrying, a real problem for Scottish football.
“It can be real hard work. Our clubs are meeting teams which are midway through their season and for us it’s our first competitive matches which is unfair.
“Then you have a club of Celtic’s stature having to go through so many qualifying games. Everyone has been dragged down by the co-efficient.”
As a former Scotland boss, Strachan knows only too well the effect it has at national level, citing the lack of truly top players being produced by our clubs.
“Where would Wales be without Bale; Uruguay without Suarez or Cavani? It’s about winning games of football. How do you do that, by producing top, top players.
“When I was first at Celtic they and Rangers were sending 12 players with top European experience away with Scotland every time. Now it’s only Celtic really sending anyone with real European experience – you don’t call the qualifying rounds real experience. That comes from those European nights seeing guys like Messi, Kompany, Ronaldo there.
“The likes of Brown, Armstrong, McGregor and Tierney know they can deal with it. You can’t unless you have been in that environment.”