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Brendan Rodgers on Scotland's 2018 World Cup failure

  • Scotland facing another period of soul searching after latest World Cup failure
  • Gordon Strachan sacked on Thursday after Scotland missed out on play-offs
  • Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers feels Scotland has talent but poor coaching

By John Mcgarry For The Scottish Daily Mail

Published: 19:02 EDT, 12 October 2017 | Updated: 19:02 EDT, 12 October 2017

The past few days have been played out to a depressingly familiar soundtrack. Think tanks and poor facilities. A failing academy system. The sins of the past. Factors which have contrived to leave the national team manager with slim pickings.

On the issue of Scotland producing footballers blessed with the raw ingredients, however, Brendan Rodgers’ position is abundantly clear. It’s still happening - and to a commendable extent. It’s imprudent coaching further down the line that’s stamping the green shoots into the ground.

‘There are a lot of good players up here,’ said the Celtic boss. ‘It’s not the players that’s the problem. The boy Lewis Morgan at St Mirren, quick, dynamic, can press, can run, can get at people. Stuart Armstrong here. Boys that are quick and can play. So you’ve got the players. It’s how they are coached and how they are asked to play.’

Scotland are facing another period of soul searching following their latest World Cup failure
Scotland are facing another period of soul searching following their latest World Cup failure

Scotland are facing another period of soul searching following their latest World Cup failure

Gordon Strachan was sacked on Thursday after Scotland missed out on a play-off spot
Gordon Strachan was sacked on Thursday after Scotland missed out on a play-off spot

Gordon Strachan was sacked on Thursday after Scotland missed out on a play-off spot

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers feels Scotland has talented players but poor coaching
Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers feels Scotland has talented players but poor coaching

Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers feels Scotland has talented players but poor coaching

This, in Rodgers’ informed opinion, is where it’s all going horribly wrong. ‘There is an approach here that needs to change. 

'I touched on it last season when I watched Celtic v Rangers under-17s. You had the most talented players smashing the ball up the pitch. It comes from coach education which has always been very good here in Scotland. People come from all over the world to get their badges here but it is what you do after that. What is your identity of playing? Is there a clear identity?’

In this regard, the SFA have already taken action. Performance director Malky Mackay has spoken of the need to ‘coach the coaches’ to ensure bad habits are not picked up as soon as the A Licence certificate is framed on the wall. In March, Jim Fleeting and Donald Park were given supervisory roles in this area.

‘That’s Malky’s role to come in and try to affect that,’ added Rodgers. ‘I get why you want the best facilities but that’s not what makes the players. It’s great if you’ve got them but it’s about what you do inside them. It’s like in Barcelona. It’s the environment and what they are creating inside it.’

Rodgers highlighted Stuart Armstrong (right) as one example of Scotland's talented youth
Rodgers highlighted Stuart Armstrong (right) as one example of Scotland's talented youth

Rodgers highlighted Stuart Armstrong (right) as one example of Scotland's talented youth

The ongoing issue in Scotland is to what extent club coaches are obliged to defer to their Hampden counterparts. Joined-up thinking in this sphere can be difficult. Who ultimately carries the can?

‘It is the responsibility of everyone,’ Rodgers stressed. ‘You have to go to the federation to get your badge but it is what comes after that. That’s always the difficulty. In most other countries outside of Britain it’s very much taken by the Associations. You go to Holland and they’ve fallen away from where they were. They’ve moved out from where they were and look at the result.

‘Iceland has been from government level right the way through into schools, into education. Spain was the federation and then they went into a golden era where they took players, the large majority, from one team and played one philosophy and drip fed players in and around it.’

In an ideal world, coaches at all levels and from all quarters would be preaching the same creed. Successful national teams invariably follow.

Performance director Malky Mackay has spoken of the need to ¿coach the coaches¿
Performance director Malky Mackay has spoken of the need to ¿coach the coaches¿

Performance director Malky Mackay has spoken of the need to ‘coach the coaches’

‘In my short time here I’m really enthused by the level of players because I can clearly look at them and see how we play,’ said Rodgers. 

‘Mikey Johnston, Tony Ralston will go in there, Mark Hill, Calvin Miller can come in here. So it’s very clear with the profile of how we want them to play.

‘Get that at international level and have an identity. Bigger countries than Scotland have done it. Germany had to do it in the 2000s, define a way of working that will lead to putting young players in and eventually go on and win the World Cup.

‘If Scotland can find a systematic approach to work in, to play in, so that if players are missing the next ones can come in, you can succeed. It’s going to take a collective effort.’

While technique, touch and tactical awareness can always be worked upon, defining the size and shape of the population will remain beyond us. In blaming inadequate genetics for surrendering a winning position in Slovenia, Strachan cast himself as the bad workman blaming his tools.

Strachan was criticised for blaming genetics on Scotland's latest qualification failure
Strachan was criticised for blaming genetics on Scotland's latest qualification failure

Strachan was criticised for blaming genetics on Scotland's latest qualification failure

In the days since our World Cup dream bit the dust, the flat rejection of his theory - from experts to the man on the street - wouldn’t have escaped the notice of the SFA board.

The blunt reality is this; people in Strachan’s shoes are paid handsomely to manage. To find a way of making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. And suggesting that tall men and women ‘get together’ as a means of solving a perceived problem was a dereliction of duty.

On this thorny issue, Rodgers has a degree of empathy for the now former Scotland boss. He, too, has managed teams that were vertically challenged. But where Strachan saw a problem, he schemed a solution.

‘I know where Gordon was coming from. I can understand that,’ he said. ‘At Swansea I had one player over 6ft3 and the rest were 6ft or below, but we were very good technically and tactically. You have to find a way.’

Not one week on from the horror of the second half in Ljubljana, looking to the future remains unappetising. For all the foibles of the Scottish game, there would have been no inquest nor need to fire the manager had 11 men simply held their own for 45 minutes.

‘It was a missed opportunity. There’s no doubt about that,’ Rodgers lamented. ‘There are young, vibrant, exciting players who have shown they can do the things you want at that level. Let’s take away all the negativity and frustration and say: “How do you move on from here?”’

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