Date: 18th June 2021
One week on and our 57% ‘likelihood’ of qualifying forecast by some bookie’s super-computer now looks generous.
That can all change and as I write we can still come anywhere between first and last in our group.
Having sneaked in through the back door the simple fact that our natural tendency to go from zero to euphoria seems to ignore is that our Fifa ranking at 44 makes us 3rd lowest ranked country out of 24 at the Euros.
Only Finland at 54 and North Macedonia at 62 are below us.
In our group England at 4, Croatia at 14 and the Czechs at 40 offer no easy games and while we are improving under Steve Clarke it was always going to be a long turnaround road for us.
It is no surprise that all things Euros dominate this week’s Sting and I wish our team well not just for the next two games but looking ahead into the World Cup qualifying matches next year where Austria Denmark and Israel will not be easy opponents.
And speaking of Denmark.
What can any of us say about Christian Eriksen?
Cardiomyopathy is an almost silent killer that when you find out more affects i.e. kills circa 15 young adults (15 – 30) in the UK every week.
They are still learning about how to diagnose and how to manage it.
It has touched my life through a friend.
There needs to be more research.
There needs to be more funding.
Uefa could use this tragic incident and do something positive because this is a genetic issue that affects all countries.
CRY, Cardiac Risk in the Young is a UK charity working on this problem and they are worthy of your support.
The other night the Uefa call to ‘restart the game two hours later or play tomorrow at 12 noon’ was both crass and pragmatic.
There was no right answer and no easy option.
I feel for the Danes and hope they progress.
1. Scottish Football Needs Eddie Hutches
2. £140,000,000 (and Other Numbers)
3. Ronaldo Scares the Money Men?
4. Sandy’s Way or the Highway
5. Good Enough for the Etihad but Not Love Street
6. Cinch Playing the Field
7. Elias Scores Scotland’s First
8. A Message for Steve
1. The Secret is Child’s Play
France deserved their 1-0 victory over Germany in Munich.
The game was special to me for two reasons.
The first is it kicked off the 13th consecutive Euro’s tournament for Germany since they debuted in 1972 when I was still playing School’s football for Eddie Hutcheon’s senior side.
The second was the pleasure of watching two teams where every player on the park was comfortable on the ball, playing 1 and 2 touch football and showing us just how far we need to progress, not to win but just to compete.
Our Scotland team has many innate strengths that we can capitalise on, but our players generally need an extra touch or two and look awkward because our feet are never quite in the right place when the ball arrives, often at the wrong speed.
It got me thinking – how do France and Germany to name but two produce crop after crop of youngsters with better ball skills than Scotland?
And is this part of us avoiding another 23 year wait to compete in a major finals?
Urgent action on ball skills from the grass roots up is needed and the hard fact is it needs leadership, strategy and investment.
And by investment I mean real investment because there will be payback in the long term.
For once Scottish Football has to spend real pound notes knowing what they are spending won’t bring short term benefits.
We need a lifestyle change rather than the mythical silver bullet that football always craves when there are problems.
What We Need is Eddie Hutcheons, Loads of Them
And we need to support them too.
You’ve never heard of Eddie Hutch and why should you.
But you know or knew someone just like him or your dad did.
Eddie was the principal teacher of English at a northern school.
The school was rugby and hockey biased and the PE staff looked after those core sports with hours of unpaid after school and weekend work and were supportive but literally had no time for football.
Eddie and other non-PE Staff including Alan Dougherty and Gordon Harvey looked after 5 teams playing weekly from August to April.
It was a smooth machine and amazingly replicated in most secondary schools across the country where a mix of PE and non-PE staff committed hours and hours freely to football.
Eddie and all the others were committed and many of the kids they helped along the way went on to higher levels.
In those days schools were respected by clubs and school’s football was welcomed as part of every young elite player’s development.
(All 11 of Celtic’s 1967 European Cup, Rangers 1972 Cup Winners and Aberdeen’s 1983 Team too, played for their schools.)
That doesn’t happen today.
It couldn’t happen.
Very few schools play football, the old local and regional leagues have mostly collapsed and football clubs have hundreds of kids on their books and a different approach.
It is even now ‘normal ‘for a kid to be told he or she can no longer play for his school team, if there still is one, after he or she has signed for a club.
What Made Football’s Eddie Hutches Turn Their Backs on Kid’s Football?
It was because over many years teachers felt they were being taken for granted by their employers and successive governments.
The era of Thatcherism brought it all to a head and led to various clashes that exacerbated the teachers’ frustrations.
In the early 80s Scottish teachers wanted an independent pay review to address the historic decline in their real incomes.
The Tory Thatcherite government didn’t want to agree to that.
They didn’t want to look weak to the miners and the car unions.
Teachers united as a group and agreed to play a long game. That meant staying at work to protect the kids and pay their mortgages but ‘work to rule’.
Extracurricular activities, sports and other stuff too were reluctantly dropped.
Schools football became a victim of the nasty part of the prolonged fight that lasted between 1983 and 1986 when a compromise was finally offered and accepted reluctantly in early 1987.
The real damage had been done to the bruised teachers and seeds of a long term decline for our game well and truly sown.
Scottish Football had lost its most important yet totally undervalued ambassadors and structure.
And in 1987 the SFA didn’t suss out the situation, grasp the nettle and re-establish schools’ football.
Why Did Scottish Football Turn its Backs on the Eddie Hutches?
A great question that I can’t answer.
I guess it was beyond the pay grade of those running the SFA at the time.
It still must be.
I further guess the clubs thought they could do the job back then and people were too busy dealing with stuff that doesn’t matter.
With hindsight I can see it was probably the biggest mistake in Scottish football in the last 50 years.
It is still a huge mistake.
But also still an opportunity to be addressed with real investment and support.
An opportunity to grow new talent and a new generation of football lovers, aka fans for life.
Schools’ football is the ultimate grass roots base.
Ian, Neil et others take note.
2. £140 Million Pounds is Just a Drop in Sandy’s Bucket
I was genuinely shocked to read that £140M is the amount that the BBC and ITV agreed to give to Sandy Ceferin and his Uefa money people so that we can watch the competition on council telly and make it a more successful competition so they can charge us all a bigger media fee next time.
It makes the £30M, the minimum prize amount our three home countries will collectively take out look like a pittance.
For many of us however the Euros is just about football and it is certainly a celebration of that but for Uefa it is about income.
Money makes the football world go round.
Here is a wee $M League table I came across for the 12 Main Euros Sponsors
Coca Cola 35
All Pay 28.8*
The figures come from KPMG Football so thanks to them and the asterisks are for deals that are Euros ‘plus’.
In addition Uefa are getting huge tv monies from markets all over Europe and around the world.
The numbers are staggering especially when you add in the media payments
3. How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ronaldo?
Congratulations twice from me to the winger from Madeira.
He is now the Euros leading ever goal scorer and not content with that has created panic at Uefa and elsewhere by highlighting the dangers brands risk when they associate themselves with sports stars who actually care about how they are being used/abused by the money men.
And it brings the dangers of Uefa or SFA or SPFL or whoever associating with the wrong kind of sponsor will increasingly face.
The Portugal captain is a known health afficionado and doesn’t drink Fizzy sugar drinks or alcohol.
That means he is not a fan of Sandy Ceferin’s two biggest sponsors.
And with 550,000,000 (ish) personal followers on social media Ronaldo has clout.
When he made a point of removing the ‘casually choreographed’ 2 coke bottles in the ‘casually-/mandated’ press conference set-up and said on camera that people should drink water I smiled.
His move allegedly affected the Coca Cola share price, the company value and sent a chilled message to brands, Uefa associations, and money men in football and other sports.
Tim Crow who advises Coca Cola on football sponsorship said “Coke pays millions to sponsor Uefa and this brings contractual obligations to take part in press conferences with logos and products but there are always risks. Athletes are taking a more activist view; we have seen it in press conferences, and we will see it again”.
Paul Pogba went further after France had beaten Germany.
A practising Muslim he removed a bottle of top Uefa sponsor Heineken’s product from the table before he sat down to speak.
Neither Ronaldo nor Pogba nor others have been reprimanded although Uefa are getting pretendy-aggressive and saying ‘No more’.
The PRs at Uefa were undoubtedly spooked and nervously reminded national federations in an email to tell their teams to “avoid actions that could affect tournament sponsors’.
The Coca Cola share price also slipped a little. Talk of £3 Billion wiped off is Tabloid nonsense and the slip might even have been for other reasons.
Scotland’s own John McGinn on noticing just water on the press-conference choreographed table in Darlington at his turn for the questions asked why in two words.
Responding to Uefa’s wee panic letter and warning his team not to misbehave England manager Gareth Southgate defended sponsorships and was attributed with a quote by one of the English Team’s PRs saying blandly “Their money at all levels helps sport to function”.
Much more wooden was the attributed Harry Kane quote that jarred and still jars with me and I guess any free thinking person.
It said “Obviously the sponsors are entitled to do what they want if they’ve paid the money to do so”.
4. Boris and Sandy Stand-Off
The fact is Uefa want 2500+ freeloaders to get to the Euros semis and final at Wembley in July.
That has always been known and is no surprise.
A similar reason was behind playing the Champions league final in Opporto rather than Wembley.
Uefa are mandating that VIPs comprising Uefa and Fifa officials, politicians, sponsors, and broadcasters can come in and out of the UK and the tournament areas without following the same rules that the rest of us have to.
i.e. No quarantine periods.
Just like all the guys and their hangers on at the G7 did last week.
So doable but political at the same time.
And if Boris says “No”, they threaten to remove the semis and the final to Hungary.
That’s Sandy Ceferin’s way.
London or Budapest – you choose Mr Boris.
Boris’s cabinet ministers are allegedly warning him that allowing VIPs to run roughshod over border restrictions could cause controversy at a time when we can’t take holidays abroad.
Boris wants to do it.
He wants to be there.
He wants to look important.
He wants to meet the senior figures from Uefa in person as he attempts to secure their support for a joint Home Nations bid for the 2030 World Cup.
Boris and Sandy will do the deal.
Boris will use England’s place in the tournament as a reason why.
5. ‘Underdeveloped’ Thinking Blights Scottish Football
I didn’t know until this week that Man City’s Riyad Mahrez had a month-long trial with St Mirren in 2009.
He was good, did well but wasn’t considered all round good enough to join the St Mirren first team squad.
By that the reckoning was he wasn’t big enough.
That is like Decca turning the Beatles down in the early 60s.
I write this because this week an under 12 match was held in Edinburgh between two well respected clubs.
It was for ‘points’ and I daresay glory for the coaches and the scorers.
One lad I know was stripped but didn’t get a game.
He has two good feet.
He passes the ball and makes space and looks to get it back.
He is fit as a flea and can play in any position because he has a football brain.
He will grow to be circa 6 ft but is a late developer.
Anyway the 12 year old kids were playing on an adult 11 aside full park with a full-size ball and full-sized goals.
The kid of nonsense that just breeds more of the same and means the bigger kids dominate, don’t need to work on the right skills and the wee guys get held over, disillusioned and lost.
Who needs to have great one touch ball control when you can force your way through and hit the ball high over the keepers who can’t touch the cross bars?
1 Play kids’ football in size related parks with smaller balls and goals and give everyone a game.
2 Stop worrying about who wins.
Rant over, for now
6. Faff and Loyalty
5 of you were obviously overwhelmed by SPFL Neil’s “enormously significant partnership’ for the SPFL announced last week with Cinch the second-hand car market who are also main sponsors of English Cricket where they recently replaced Nat West.
Anyway, first of all, there are this week 3097 cars for you to choose from up from 3092.
And the day after announcing their ‘deep commitment’ to Scottish Football they also announced their support for English Women’s Cricket.
I mean Cinch not the girls.
The English girls are all getting a second-hand car to “get to important fixtures over the coming months up and down the country in their own faff-free cinch second-hand cars”.
So now you know.
7. Elias from Monterrey’s First Scottish Goal
I was sent this wee video from a Scot in Mexico and it was even featured by the BBC on-line ahead of the Scotland vs Czech game.
If you haven’t seen it, it takes 3 seconds and makes me smile every time.
“Elias Smith Barrios, 8 months, born Monterrey Mexico but a proud Scot scoring first goal for Scotland assisted by ex Spartan Adam”
(Not our video but definitely worth sharing! 🏴) pic.twitter.com/uEPVwbqRwH
— SFSA (@scottishfsa) June 14, 2021
8. Steve Clarke.
“Michael Owen was 18 when he got that goal against Argentina.
As always feel free to contact me about anything in Scottish Football.
The SFSA do not claim to own any of the included images and will be removed on request of the owner.