After the Glasgow Kiss of their early European exits followed by what will now surely be another doomed qualification bid for a major tournament Scottish football is on it’s knees. Ric Ireland sends out an SOS (Save Our Scotland) with an idea that might just resurrect a once proud footballing nation.

Being a Scotsman, brought up just outside Manchester in Rochdale, I used to take a lot of banter from people about the rivalries between Scottish and English football. It was fun, no real nastiness intended on either side and both parties stood and fought their corners well. I’d always come out on top though. Why shouldn’t I? Who can forget the great European Cup Battle of Britain in the 92/93 season between Rangers and Leeds?

The first leg saw Rangers come out as 2-1 winners, but I’m pretty sure anyone connected with Leeds that night would have been more than happy with such a result with Rangers still having to go to Elland Road. But the second leg didn’t go to plan for the Yorkshire faithful and Rangers again won 2-1 on the night and 4-2 on aggregate.

Rangers then progressed to Group A in a two group format, where they eventually finished second, a single point behind a very good Marseille team who went on to win the tournament and beat AC Milan in the final. Also, an important stat is that the two games between Rangers and Marseille both finished as draws; 1-1 away and 2-2 at home.

I also shouldn’t forget overlook Celtic’s conquering of Liverpool in 02/03 when the Scottish club knocked out the European big guns in the UEFA Cup, but Liverpool’s time of dominance had long been over.

Now fast forward almost twenty years and look at Scottish football today. It is unrecognizable. Not only has the quality of the game taken a severe nose dive, but already all-but-one Scottish team is out of Europe with Celtic only remaining due to the technicality of their victors FC Sion fielding ineligible players. Rangers, Dundee United and Hearts all went out of this year’s Europa League in the qualifying rounds, Rangers struggling to overcome a very average Maribor from Slovenia while in their first leg Hearts shipped in five to a half decent Spurs side. The Edinburgh club couldn’t even overcome a team mainly made up of kids in the second leg and came away with a 0-0 draw.

Even on the International front, what once was a proud roar from the Scottish Lion has become nothing short of a purr

Even on the International front, what once was a proud roar from the Scottish Lion has become nothing short of a purr and that once proud lion has become a bit of a tabby cat. Going back to that 92/93 season, Scotland’s national side was a respectable 24th in the world rankings. Apart from a brief spell in 2004 which saw Scotland somehow fly up to an all time high of 14th, Scotland now meekly reside 55th in the world, one place behind Romania, and one place in front of Lithuania. Yes, that’s correct, Lithuania. The problem lies a lot deeper than just club football in Scotland, and where I was once a proud and mouthy Jock now I’m merely proud. I no longer have a lot to be mouthy about.

How Does Scotland Improve Their Game?

For me the problem has always been rooted within the format of Scottish Football and the blame should lie with the SFA. In Scotland there are four leagues, which comprises of twelve teams in the Premier and ten in each of the others. This leads to teams from each league playing the same team three or four times during a season. This causes difficulties because it leads to an over-famililarity and allows every team to understand how another coach sets up. Very rarely will you find a coach making any big tactical changes before a game, and they tend not to stray from their original tactics.

So at the moment there are 42 teams in the Scottish football leagues. The SFA only need to find six more teams to be able to produce three leagues which all hold 16 teams each, which would also allow for a winter break within the Scottish game that a lot of managers and fans have asked for this side of the border, especially after so many cancelations to the football calendar last season.

Whether the SFA decide to add six teams or twlve I will leave to them to decide, but if they did go for the larger number, there would be a host of clubs waiting to join.

Cast your mind back to 2008 and a small team very close to where I live in Dumfries – Annan Athletic – were given entry by a voting procedure into the football league and beat off competition from Cove Rangers, Spartans, Preston Athletic and Edinburgh City. As you can see, there are another four teams within Scotland wanting to join the league set up and all four of these teams could quite easily be given the space required. So twelve missing teams then turns to eight.

For the remaining eight teams the SFA only need to look at Spain as an example of how successful it has been in having B teams in their league set up. Obviously there would be sanctions on the B teams, maybe a ruling like the majority of the team must be Scottish born players, and all team members must be under a certain age. This would help develop the younger players at Premier League clubs and give them invaluable experience for the future of their game. Each B team would only be able to get promoted to the 1st Division, as is the case in Spain, where each B team can only play as high as the Segunda Division, unless they replace the full team in the higher league.

It seems Scottish football has lost its ability to bring through young players and we as a nation haven’t really given the world anything since the days of Dalglish, Souness, Hansen, and Gemmill. Unfortunately the Scottish game has suffered hugely because of this, and as a football nation we are still behind the times.

The SFA have to act sooner rather than later, not because it annoys me to be laughed at because of my nationality, but because our much loved football has now become very embarrassing indeed.