Mackay has no prob­lem get­ting tough on teens

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - MARK WALKER

MALKY MACKAY has re­vealed a dra­matic new get-tough ap­proach for Scot­land’s teenage star­lets, with the fo­cus on ded­i­ca­tion and sac­ri­fice – a trait he in­sists is al­ready catch­ing on with the younger age groups.

Scot­land have suf­fered from a baf­fling drop in qual­ity in the older teen years of the youth squads. While the Un­der-16s and Un­der-17s have achieved pos­i­tive re­cent re­sults, progress ends there.

Scot­land’s Un­der-19s have now ex­ited the Elite Group stage four years in a row – af­ter three de­feats this week in Czech Repub­lic – and have not qual­i­fied for the fi­nals in 11 years since they reached the fi­nal against Spain in Poland.

And the Un­der-21s had a mis­er­able last qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign where they fin­ished sec­ond to bot­tom of their group.

That’s in stark con­trast to the Un­der17s, who won six out of six qual­i­fy­ing games, in­clud­ing beat­ing Por­tu­gal, and the Un­der-16s, who re­cently won a UEFA De­vel­op­ment Tour­na­ment.

Mackay be­lieves this group of young­sters will be the first set of Scot­tish tal­ent who won’t start to stag­nate at older lev­els, as he blasted the “need­i­ness and so­cial me­dia-ob­sessed” older age group kids in Scot­land.

He said: “Our Un­der-16s won that tour­na­ment at Oriam a few weeks ago. Af­ter the game we spoke to the boys and asked them: ‘How are you go­ing to be­come a pro­fes­sional foot­baller?’ I said: ‘Tell me your thoughts, how are you go­ing to do it?’ Be­cause I want ev­ery one of them in a Scot­land jersey.

“Their diet has to be right. Their body fat must be right. Their ath­leti­cism – they have to be able to run and have shoul­ders like those Ice­landic boys. Their waists have to be as slim as the Ice­landers. They have to work on their bad foot.

“They have to work in the af­ter­noons on their own. They have to cut their own clips and watch them back. They can’t leave their clubs at 2pm and go home. What we’re look­ing for is sac­ri­fice from th­ese boys. That’s what it takes to be­come a foot­baller be­cause it’s so hard for that one per cent who make it.

“If you think it’s go­ing to come easy, it re­ally isn’t. If you look at the Andy Mur­rays and Laura Muirs, what do they do? They just work harder than ev­ery one else. I’m not sure we’ve got that yet.

“We have to get young play­ers re­al­is­ing that they must work harder than every­one they’re com­pet­ing against. Th­ese 16-year-olds are a dif­fer­ent group to the 21-year-olds we have. That cul­ture of need­i­ness and a sen­si­tive na­ture isn’t there. There’s no more not be­ing able to take con­struc­tive crit­i­cism and ex­pect­ing your dad to al­ways say ter­rific things. I’ve told th­ese boys to ask their dads what they could have done bet­ter, not what they did well. Be­cause work­ing on what you could have done bet­ter is go­ing to make you bet­ter.

“That’s the shift we have to get back to. We need to get back to the fun­da­men­tals with th­ese 15/16-year-olds. That’s when we’ll have a chance again. The boys have to work on mak­ing them­selves phys­i­cally bet­ter. I tell them: ‘Go and do a press-up con­test with your­self in the room ev­ery night’. That doesn’t take a fit­ness coach, a sports sci­en­tist or a spe­cial­ist. That takes you. You look­ing at your body in the mir­ror and de­cid­ing you need to look bet­ter – which means eat­ing prop­erly and be­ing dis­ci­plined.

“That’s the way I’m go­ing to be with our young groups, re­ally vo­cif­er­ous with those de­mands. It’s their ca­reer, no-one else’s. So it’s up to them to de­cide how they want to do it.

“The 16-year-olds were very re­cep­tive that day. They gave me the right an­swers. Be­cause the gen­er­a­tions are dif­fer­ent. They’re dif­fer­ent to our 21 and 22-year-olds now.

“We’ll see where they go. But it’s up to them, we have to put the onus on them. It’s not about: ‘I didn’t make it be­cause the coach didn’t like me’. We have to get away from that. It’s about them.”

And Mackay has im­pressed upon them the need to fol­low the ex­am­ple of the most pro­fes­sional se­nior pro at their club in­stead of drift­ing into the so­cial me­dia gen­er­a­tion beloved of plenty of Scot­tish young play­ers.

Pic­ture: SNS

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK: SFA per­for­mance di­rec­tor Malky Mackay with de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer James Grady.

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