ur­gent than­ever, if it’s not­toolateal­ready

The Scotsman - - Sport -

faith, of course, be­cause ev­ery fol­lower of any Scot­tish team that has had suc­cess in Europe knows where and when it hap­pened, and no mat­ter their age, fans can usu­ally give you ex­act de­tails such as team lists and scor­ers.

Those folk mem­o­ries are in­dica­tive of the im­por­tance which Scot­tish clubs and their sup­port­ers place on par­tic­i­pa­tion in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion, a love af­fair started in the very first year of the Euro­pean Cup by Hibs, who reached the semi-fi­nal.

It’s in­struc­tive to look at this week’s biggest fail­ures, Celtic. From 1963-64 to 1973-74, Celtic reached the Euro­pean Cup fi­nal twice, made the semi-fi­nals twice more, and the quar­ter-fi­nals a fur­ther twice.

They also twice reached the Cup- Win­ners Cup semi-fi­nals. In other words, in 11 sea­sons of Euro­pean foot­ball, they reached the quar­ter-fi­nals or bet­ter eight times.

Now, af­ter the week of death, we are re­ly­ing on Rangers to carry the Saltire once again, and look what hap­pened to them last sea­son.

With a na­tional team that has not qual­i­fied for the ma­jor cham­pi­onships for 12 years, Scot­tish foot­ball is now surely not at, but way be­yond, the cross­roads.

Thank­fully, for­mer First Min­is­ter Henry McLeish will pub­lish his muchan­tic­i­pated re­view of Scot­tish foot­ball’s pro­fes­sional level in Novem­ber.

We are as­sured that McLeish will turn a gim­let eye on the short­com­ings of ev­ery­one in­volved in the game, and the SFA has promised to act on his rec­om­men­da­tions.

One con­clu­sion is un­avoid­able. Scot­land sim­ply no longer has the class of player or coach in this coun­try – our best man­agers work in Eng­land – that once made us a force to be reck­oned with. Why did that hap­pen and what can be done about it?

That is the is­sue which un­der­lies all the de­bate, and if he can an­swer that sin­gle ques­tion, McLeish will do Scot­tish foot­ball a huge ser­vice. All our clubs, leagues, ad­min­is­tra­tors, coaches, politi­cians, par­ents, busi­nesses and the me­dia must then lis­ten and act.

For the sake of the game, we have to do some­thing so that our young peo­ple can be­lieve in the fu­ture of Scot­tish foot­ball. Over to you, Mr McLeish.

a two-goal lead by go­ing down 4-0 in the sec­ond leg of their Europa League qual­i­fier in utrecht

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