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