LACK OF ASSISTANCE IS PAR FOR THE COURSE
IT’S just so damningly, depressingly, dishearteningly predictable. Scottish football’s inability — or outright unwillingness, more like — to help itself is beyond infuriating. Consistently so. Nobody was surprised, of course, to discover the SPFL will be sadly unable to lend Steve Clarke’s national team a much-needed hand ahead of the most important ties in just the 16 years or so. A plea to postpone league fixtures ahead of the Euro 2020 play-offs next March was never going to be seriously considered. Oh, of course, the men in charge would love to be of assistance.
They’re absolutely insistent upon that. Especially as this is the first time our boys have come this close to qualification since that 2003 play-off against the Dutch (let’s never speak of this again). But, well, fixture congestion. TV schedules. Hands tied and all that. So Clarke will have to simply hope and pray that nobody picks up an injury in the full Premiership card scheduled for the weekend before that March 26 date with destiny at Hampden. Meanwhile, he’ll be getting tough with some of the richest clubs in the world, threatening to use FIFA rules to enforce the availability of key men like Andy Robertson and Scott McTominay. Here’s a thought, though. Should Clarke be forced into taking the nuclear option, he’s likely to face a couple of barbed questions from Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, Aston Villa et al. If Scotland’s leading clubs aren’t willing to endure some minor inconvenience for the good of the nation, why should English teams lift a finger to help out? If this country’s footballing authorities are not united and committed enough to move around a couple of domestic fixtures, why should our wealthy, powerful, influential neighbours — a nation who qualify as a matter of course these days — take even a passing interest in our qualification hopes? Once again, the self-interest, self-serving agendas, ‘computer says no’ inflexibility and ‘it’s always been done this way’ intransigence of those who run our game is exposed for all to see. And the men who preside over the entire shambles, the same club owners and chief executives who will bask in the reflective glory of players gracing the international stage, clearly couldn’t care less.