Smith urges game’s lead­ers to act on foot­ball re­port find­ings

The Scotsman - - Sport - StEPHEN HaL­L­I­day

WAL­TER SMITH be­lieves Scot­tish foot­ball is pay­ing the price for decades of neg­li­gence at youth devel­op­ment level and has warned that Henry McLeish’s cur­rent re­view of the game will be a waste of time un­less it is backed by de­ci­sive ac­tion.

Rangers man­ager Smith was among those con­sulted by for­mer First Min­is­ter McLeish in com­pil­ing his re­view, the first part of which was pub­lished in April, out­lin­ing “se­ri­ous weak­nesses” in the struc­ture of youth foot­ball and la­belling fa­cil­i­ties in Scot­land as “an em­bar­rass­ment”.

McLeish’s find­ings came as no sur­prise to Smith who has seen sim­i­lar ob­ser­va­tions in the past largely ig­nored be­cause of a lack of will or fi­nance to make the changes be­ing called for. As the Scot­tish game re­flects on an­other mis­er­able week for our clubs in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion, the 62-year-old fears McLeish’s re­view faces the same fate.

“It’s the same all the time,” said Smith. “We have had nu­mer­ous think tanks and re­ports down the years. We are cur­rently in the midst of one of them. I don’t think any of them have ever achieved any­thing.

“That’s what our ba­sic prob­lem is. We have a prob­lem, which ev­ery­one knows about and ac­cepts is there, but we haven’t ad­justed to it. That’s been the case for the last 15 to 20 years or more. I first read a re­port from Andy Roxburgh more than 20 years ago stat­ing our foot- ball would de­te­ri­o­rate un­less we did some­thing to as­sist the devel­op­ment of youth. But we haven’t done that.

“We have done bits and pieces, but not enough. That means we are not get­ting a good enough level of player com­ing to the pro­fes­sional end of the game. We are not get­ting enough of them. So we suf­fer.

“When clubs have been able to in­vest in play­ers from else­where, we have been able to cover that up a wee bit. But now that we are not able to in­vest as much, it is be­ing shown up.

“They com­pile these re­ports then do noth­ing about it. They come up with plenty of ideas and rec­om­men­da­tions but no-one does any­thing. The most re­cent part of the lat­est re­port spoke about the great set-up there is in Ger­many. The dif­fer­ence is the Ger­mans de­cided to do some­thing about it. They fol­lowed up their own re­ports by tak­ing ac­tion.”

In the short term, re­claim­ing some cred­i­bil­ity in Europe now lies solely with Rangers this sea­son as they go into a Cham­pi­ons League group against

Manch­ester United, Va­len­cia and Bur­sas­por. Smith, how­ever, feels un­der no ad­di­tional strain in his fi­nal sea­son in charge.

“I don’t think there is added pres­sure,” he said. “There is al­ready pres­sure on us to do bet­ter than we did last sea­son. It wasn’t en­joy­able. We have to show we can do bet­ter, es­pe­cially at home. We need to make sure we have a more suc­cess­ful cam­paign in Europe.”

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