Glf78 - Graham sees our teams make a quick exit from Europe.
SCOTLAND IN EUROPE
There has been enough knee-jerk reaction stuff to the fall-out of our sides’ performances in Europe this season but that doesn’t mean we can’t have even more here!!
Dundee United were up first playing against a Polish side, Slask Wroclaw, before the SPL season began in mid-July. They lived up to Scottish tradition and despite a brilliant 3-2 win at home they went out on away goals.
Hearts at least made it past Paks of Hungary before coming out a much better quality side and they were completely outclassed at home making the second a non event (Bet ITV 4 were delighted to have the rights for that one!).
Rangers fell at the first hurdle in the Champions League qualifiers when the lost to Swedish side Malmo, despite the usual Scottish media build up which had Rangers through before the game was underway.
This was the same Malmo who then were humbled in the next round when they were beaten 4-3 by Dinamo Zagreb after losing the first leg 4-1!
They then had the daunting task of seeing off the Champions of Slovenia, Maribor, and despite taking the lead in the first leg, they blew that strong start by losing two in the second half, including one in stoppage time.
Then in the second leg they failed to really trouble Maribor before losing a soft second half goal and stumble out of their second European tournament of the summer.
Celtic fans were not treated any better when their side were poor in the first leg of their tie with Swiss Champions after failing to score, or threaten very much in a 0-0 draw. This was felt to be, at least, a decent result as they hadn’t lost a goal.
They were soon quick to press the self destruct button in Switzerland when they lost a goal and a man in the opening minutes, leaving them a mountain to climb (pardon the pun!).
This was a mountain they could not cope with as they completed the Scottish misery in European tournaments this season by failing to score for a third competitive game in a row.
There are, of course, many reasons for our fall from grace and we have spoken about many of them before. BUT, here we go again;
MONEY – across Europe the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting left further and further behind. I am sure someone said Spurs TV money, about £45 million, was about four times that for the whole of the SPL !
This is the same TV deal that rewards relegation from their top flight with a multi million pound deal for three years to ease the pain. Even this is about 10 times what our Champions wins!!
While resources certainly helps you buy better quality players it is not the only answer, as I see it there are a couple of others…
COACHING – we need to prepare our teams better for the games, not only in our style of play but also in how we set up to play teams from Europe. For example, Hearts against Tottenham at Tynecastle, the Jambos' 4-4-2 helped invite the slick moving Spurs side on to them and help tear them apart.
Maybe if they had played a more conservative 4-5-1 they may have choked the space that was exploited by Van Der Vaart, Bale, Defoe etc.
The other thing that needs to be learnt is how important keeping possession is, at any level. This means players working on their technique and feeling comfortable to take the ball at any angle and know your touch will kill it.
This was a major problem for Hearts at Tynecastle every time they knocked the ball upfield they were robbed of it, and very often 10-15 yards in their own half, again inviting Spurs on to their defence in a hurry.
YOUTH DEVELOPMENT – we need to start much of the above at the younger age groups and make boys comfortable on the ball. Managers also need to have a belief in home grown talent, and pitch them in as soon as possible.
Rangers are a classic example of this in recent years, choosing to play 40 year old Davie Weir while selling on Danny Wilson, and this season Ross Perry being dropped to accommodate Bocanegra.
This will also ultimately help the national side with players coming through in the SPL being ready for International football at a much earlier age.
OUR POSITION IN EUROPE - we need to recognise where we stand in Europe these days. I heard a colleague say, “Rangers should be good enough to beat the Slovenian Champions.” In the 21st Century I think this is a mis-placed estimation of where even Rangers stand in relative terms to the rest of Europe.
I replied by saying I bet the Slovenians were delighted to be drawn against the Scottish Champions pretty sage in the knowledge it wouldn’t be an overly difficult tie.
We have to accept we have probably now dropped to the level of a third tier country in Europe and unless we change our approach, and attitude, this is the best we can expect for a long time.
In the last 20-30 years there have been a number of think tanks employed to come up with the answers, with none of them delivering so far. Hopefully the one recently put together by Henry McLeish
It is time for ACTIONS not WORDS, or our game in Europe will become an even bigger laughing stock…..and we will have no European games in September, never mind after Christmas ever again!
Back to GLF 78