Depressing times for Scottish football. No teams left in European competition (although Celtic might just sneak back in if Sion are booted out) and it's still August.
I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth in 1990 when we were dumped out of the World Cup by Costa Rica amongst others. Well it's 20 years later and we've gone backwards. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Here's a quick guide to fixing Scottish football, the good news is it should all be doable by 2020.
1. First and foremost develop a new style of play. I know Craig Levein & Mark Wotte are already working on this but all clubs in Scotland need to sign up to it. Football has changed in the last 20 years. It's all about technique and athleticism today. That's what we need to focus on with the very youngest players. By 2020 some of them should be pushing through into the senior sides. NB All the points below are of secondary importance to this.
2. Become an export industry. Rangers and Celtic aren't going to win anything in Europe. Ever again. Accept it. Indeed, embrace the fact. Success will instead be seeing our players performing for clubs at the highest level. The SFA should have in mind an initial target of at least 30 Scottish players playing regularly for clubs in the English Premier League, Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1 by 2020. Look how many Dutch players are in these leagues - that's the level we need to get to. Part of developing young players should be to prepare them for living and playing abroad.
3. If point 2 is achieved then the real proof of success should emerge, namely Scotland youth and senior sides qualifying regularly for European Championships/World Cups again. Choosing a team from 30+ players who play top level football every week would certainly help.
4. Summer football. The season should run from March to November. Better weather means better pitches, in turn better football and perhaps then bigger crowds and TV audiences and the money that goes along with them. A mid-season break would easily allow us to accommodate the major international tournaments (assuming we were participating!).
5. End Mickey Mouse league format. 16 teams in the top division, they play each other twice home and away. Automatic relegation for one team, second and third bottom play off with the second and third from SPL 2. Allow Rangers and Celtic (plus others if willing & able) to field reserve teams in SPL 2 with the proviso that they can't be promoted. Proper pyramid system down to junior/highland league level.
6. Minimum standards for entry to SPL 1, e.g. SFA-accredited youth training scheme, proper training/medical facilities to include (ideally indoor) 3G pitch. Standards to be enforced in season starting March 2020. Gives clubs 9 years to sort this out, surely enough time.
7. If all else fails, splash the cash on some top drawer youth coaches from Spain, Holland or Germany and wait 10 years for the results. If I was the owner of Rangers or Celtic I'd be investing my money there rather than in the Rafael Scheidts of this world.