Scottish Daily Mail

Re­gan re­jects any ideas of a revo­lu­tion

- By JOHN McGARRY

STE­WART RE­GAN has in­sisted that rip­ping up the cur­rent tem­plate for de­vel­op­ing Scot­tish play­ers is a non-starter.

Speak­ing at the end of a week in which Scot­land man­ager Gor­don Stra­chan promised to de­liver a blueprint for change, the SFA chief ex­ec­u­tive said that re­fin­ing the sys­tem rather than abol­ish­ing it was the way for­ward.

Stra­chan, to­gether with the SFA’s per­for­mance di­rec­tor Brian McClair, is putting the fin­ish­ing touches to a plan they hope can re-es­tab­lish Scot­land as a hot­bed of youth tal­ent.

Since the na­tional-team boss sig­nalled his in­tent, the acad­emy sys­tem which has ex­isted in var­i­ous guises for 20 years has come un­der heavy scru­tiny.

Peter­head man­ager Jim McI­nally was es­pe­cially crit­i­cal and it is be­lieved Stra­chan will can­vass his views af­ter the for­mer Celtic youth coach claimed the process was leav­ing some kids feel­ing ‘sui­ci­dal’.

But Re­gan, whose or­gan­i­sa­tion launched ‘Scot­land United: a 20-20 Vi­sion’ four years ago, says the cen­tral planks of the cur­rent sys­tem — in­clud­ing Per­for­mance Schools — are here to stay.

He said: ‘Peo­ple are ask­ing ques­tions about where it has all gone wrong, but I would ask them: “Has it ac­tu­ally gone wrong?”.

‘Do we really ex­pect that in 2016 we’re go­ing to be win­ning ev­ery­thing and qual­i­fy­ing?

‘Go be­low the sur­face and look at the youth teams. The Un­der-17s have achieved back-to-back Euro qual­i­fi­ca­tions, they’ve just qual­i­fied for the Elite Round this year and the Un­der-19s are in the mid­dle of the Elite Round.

‘I don’t think we should tear it up and start over again. We’re on a jour­ney. We have seven Per­for­mance Schools which are de­signed to de­velop tech­ni­cally bet­ter play­ers, which doesn’t hap­pen overnight.

‘We’re not go­ing to sud­denly scrap all the Per­for­mance Schools. We’re go­ing to re­view how to make them bet­ter.’

Al­though it is hoped that the Schools will start to pro­duce play­ers ca­pa­ble of cut­ting it at the high­est level, sta­tis­ti­cally, it’s never been harder for youth play­ers to make the tran­si­tion into top teams in Scot­land’s top two leagues.

And Re­gan be­lieves the onus is on the clubs to give such play­ers an op­por­tu­nity, rather than buy­ing ready-made pro­fes­sion­als.

‘We can’t do this on our own,’ he added. ‘We take the play­ers up to Club Acad­emy Scot­land, but it’s then the clubs’ re­spon­si­bil­ity to de­velop them fur­ther.

‘We know that the big black hole is the gap be­tween Un­der-17s and the first-team.

‘There are now fewer and fewer play­ers break­ing through. Year af­ter year it’s down by 16 per cent in terms of the num­ber of Un­der-21 play­ers in Scot­land.

‘That’s a piece of work our per­for­mance depart­ment have done — to an­a­lyse the fig­ures across the top two di­vi­sions — and there’s a clear de­cline.

‘It’s about find­ing com­mon ground in the club-ver­sus-coun­try agenda.

‘Ul­ti­mately, part of our role is to de­velop a strong na­tional team.

‘That re­quires Scot­land play­ers to be play­ing ev­ery week and to be as good as they can be — whether it’s in Scot­land or else­where.

‘But we understand man­agers are un­der huge pres­sure.

‘The minute a club falls to­wards the bot­tom of the league, there’s pres­sure to opt for play­ers they feel have ex­pe­ri­ence of dog­fights.

‘Some­times, it’s easy to bring in a player from League One or League Two, rather than give a young player a chance.’

Scot­land’s fail­ure to qual­ify for France 2016 brought the na­tional team’s pe­riod in ex­ile from ma­jor fi­nals to 18 years.

And Re­gan feels that only by en­sur­ing the clubs and the SFA are work­ing to­wards a com­mon goal will mat­ters fi­nally move on.

‘Look at how they do things in Ger­many,’ he added. ‘The work and re­la­tion­ship be­tween the DFB and the Bun­desliga is a really fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of a league and na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion com­ing to­gether to cre­ate a pos­i­tive over­all change for the coun­try.

‘You only have to look now at the sus­tained suc­cess of Ger­many and the Bun­desliga as a whole and how many young Ger­man play­ers are in it to see the ef­fect it’s hav­ing on their na­tional team, who are the cur­rent world cham­pi­ons.

‘Ger­many ac­tu­ally has quite a dis­pro­por­tion­ate num­ber of home­grown play­ers. It’s al­most 60 per cent, com­pared to 30 per cent here in Scot­land.’

 ??  ?? Sta­tus quo: SFA chief Re­gan says cur­rent youth pol­icy is work­ing
Sta­tus quo: SFA chief Re­gan says cur­rent youth pol­icy is work­ing
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