‘Malky’s right, Gen­er­a­tion Next are soft’

Brown agrees with SFA per­for­mance di­rec­tor that kids need less dis­trac­tions from game

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FOOTBALL - GRAEME MACPHER­SON

NYONE ques­tion­ing the at­ti­tudes and com­mit­ment of younger play­ers in the modern era was al­ways likely to find an ally in Craig Brown. The for­mer Scot­land man­ager ab­sorbed the com­ments made by Malky Mackay, the Scot­tish Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion’s per­for­mance di­rec­tor, about a “cul­ture of need­i­ness” and fix­a­tion with ma­te­ri­al­is­tic trap­pings among the el­der play­ers in youth acad­e­mies up and down the land, and could only agree. It was cer­tainly not like that in his day.

They have iPads and lap­tops in Ar­gentina and Ger­many too, of course, but Brown be­lieves that the myr­iad other dis­trac­tions avail­able to teenagers nowa­days is only part of the prob­lem. Scot­land, he be­lieves, is also ham­strung by in­ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties and a climate not con­ducive to out­door play. Com­bine the three and it should prob­a­bly not come as a huge sur­prise that Scot­land teams from un­der-19 level and older are strug­gling to make any kind of progress.

“I would say there are more dis­trac­tions now for the younger play­ers than there used to be,” he said. “We used to go out and play foot­ball, we didn’t have lap­tops or com­put­ers.

“We mol­ly­cod­dle the kids a wee bit. Suc­cess­ful coun­tries like Ice­land have ter­rific in­door fa­cil­i­ties. I think they have seven full-side pitches and we only have four in the whole of Scot­land. At night I used to go home and play foot­ball un­til it was time for my tea. Now they are def­i­nitely not do­ing that.

“I’m not say­ing they are do­ing that in other coun­tries, but other coun­tries have a more favourable environment. The most suc­cess­ful coun­try in the world in each age group just now is Croa­tia, who have qual­i­fied for World Cups at un­der-16, un­der-20 and the main one. They have got a great in­fra­struc­ture and good weather.

“I thought when the lottery started this would be the start of money go­ing into half-size pitches in ev­ery town as they have in Nor­way. Kids in Nor­way go home, get their gear and play in a nice, com­fort­able in­door fa­cil­ity. Other coun­tries pri­ori­tise sport be­cause they see it helps the health of the na­tion.”

Brown re­calls a time when a young player’s ap­pren­tice­ship taught him life lessons as well as foot­ball ones. The days of mak­ing youth prospects work for the right to turn pro­fes­sional, how­ever, have long gone.

“It used to be the youth play­ers or un­der-21 play­ers had to sweep out the stand as a pun­ish­ment if they lost a game,” he added. “Or maybe they had to clean the man­ager’s car. But you couldn’t get away with that now. Jim McLean [the for­mer Dundee United man­ager] had the clean­est car in Bri­tain as he was the hard­est man­ager in the world.

“There’s the story from Fergie’s [Sir Alex Fer­gu­son’s] time at Aberdeen when the young boys in the re­serves – guys like John He­witt and Eric Black – lost a game at Cow­den­beath. And he told them they were mak­ing their own way back as the team bus was go­ing with­out them. They had no money and of course there were no mo­bile phones.

“Now if you asked kids to sweep a stand or clean a car, the union would be right on to you. They wouldn’t tol­er­ate that. They would say you were bul­ly­ing young boys. But Malky has a point that young play­ers are sit­ting on their iPads and lap­tops too much.

“When we had the un­der-16 squad to­gether be­fore the World Cup here [in 1989] we took them to the coach­ing course at Largs as run­ners. And that was com­pul­sory. When the guys were do­ing their coach­ing ses­sion the kids would do the drills for them.

“Clubs back then were told to send their un­der-16 boys, guys like Paul Dickov and Neil Mur­ray, to Largs. I would go into their room at night and tell them to get on the floor and give me 50 sit-ups. They just got into the habit of do­ing the hard work. Malky has this idea that fit­ness or ded­i­ca­tion should be bet­ter and he’s got a point.”

Brown was at Ham­p­den on Sun­day and was heart­ened by Scot­land’s vic­tory over Slove­nia. He hopes his name­sake Scott will now com­mit him­self to the na­tional team for the long haul. “I’d rather he made him­self avail­able,” he added. “He is fit, you can see that, he is up­beat and healthy look­ing, but you wouldn’t want a player to pick and choose when he plays in­ter­na­tion­als.”

GO HARD OR GO HOME: Craig Brown reck­ons Scot­tish prospects have it too easy and coaches should toughen up.

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