Scottish Daily Mail - - Football -

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.

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