Missed Opportunities

Date: 18th November 2022

This week’s first blog, brought to you by our Donald.

Missed Opportunities

For those of us in the lower leagues, life goes on. For the Premiership, things halt. The World Cup has delivered a hiatus, a break, a chance to recharge and never was there a more obvious piece of evidence that there is a huge gulf in British sport than when the top leagues stop to allow internationals depart for their international adventures and the leagues below keep going because the biggest star they have is called up for a pot 4 team that is likely to be, as Tommy Docherty once described the Scots, home before the postcards.

So, whilst the guys setting the heather alight in the Premiership are off to parade themselves at the biggest shop window in world football, we have devastated Premiership squads, without their stars departing for some warm weather training. No doubt it is in preparation for wind and snow about to arrive over the winter in the new climate norms we are getting to experience…

As title contenders, Rangers and Celtic, and the rest, have their breaks, the rest of football will hope that supporters in the highest league might fancy slumming it down the lower end of the football spectrum. Some will, most won’t. Glued to the pot 4 team versus the pot 3 team telling their mates that there is a great midfielder they could get for an absolute steal is more likely to be their pastime OR they will follow the fortunes of the countries with their players playing for them – Australia should see an upturn in focus from these shores…

Imagine though, if the SFA had made the decision that this was an opportunity for the Scottish Premiership teams to have to play from their youth teams and they were to continue fulfilling fixtures, but they had to field players who had been developed in Scotland and for the Scottish game? Can you imagine that? Does the corruption of the Lowland League by Colt Teams tell us anything about whether or not the development of a new squad of young Scottish players may be ready to take on the challenges of a top-level league?

Instead, we are going to see the cessation of the league campaigns at the top as top players get their well-deserved rest whilst the rest of the country sign up for an extra shift or another job, just to pay the electricity bill.

Now, I have no gripes with the amounts top players get paid. They are welcome to their millions. It’s a short career and players’ names and themselves are mercilessly marketed to make other people big money. They deserve to benefit from their dedication to the sport and to their clubs – even if they are only there for a short time.

But, for me, the optics are simply awful.

Football made a mistake with Qatar. We sold our soul.

But we have to live with it. I shall watch, as shall many, many others. I am delighted, given that my team is top of our league, with momentum, that we shall keep going. The lower leagues are far more interesting than the top league where the best you can hope for during a season is a cup run and third place, unless you are part of the big two. How many elite athletes go into a competition hoping for a bronze? To be fair, most elite leagues in Europe are the same.

The opportunity to be radical, do something different, gamble with the product and force the clubs who are spending millions annually in youth development to show us their wares on a massive stage is lost. Instead, we shall see the players who weekly deny our homegrown future stars out there in Qatar try to make an impact and wonder why their involvement won’t lead to a PSG contract or why their name won’t be mentioned alongside Messi’s. We shall marvel at the Brazilians, Argentinians,

wonder if this shall be the Belgian breakthrough and hope that England’s recent form is permanent. It’s quite depressing and all too familiar.

In comparison, Stenhousemuir or Elgin City or Dundee might sound less attractive but if you want to see Scotland back on the world stage, competing at a world cup, development is the key. If you can’t see youth breaking through at Premiership level, then you need to nip down the leagues to see where it is in the firmament. And in the competitive lower leagues you may well catch an emerging Andy Robertson in a Queen’s Park side in the Championship or a Kieran Tierney plying their trade in a Celtic Colts team.

Evidence suggests you may not see them in the Premiership any time soon…

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