The biggest issue for me continues to be that there are not enough Scottish players getting opportunities in first-team football within the Premiership. Until that changes I don’t think anything is going to fulfil whatever potential there could be.
We’re trying to develop pathways and systems for young players, yet ultimately when they get to the top end of the senior game there’s not enough opportunity to play. At the weekend I counted 63 Scottish players starting out of 132 positions. Five of those players were under the age 21. There is so much pressure on teams to perform and we’re fully aware of the consequences of poor results. Already this season we’ve seen almost one-third of senior clubs change manager.
It’s hard to blame clubs, in search of immediate success, for looking at experienced players from other countries who ‘on paper’ have strong CVs, and ignore younger players or players from lower leagues.
But how often does that prove to be successful for a club? And more importantly, how harmful is it for our national game to have less than 50% of players playing SPL football being eligible to play for Scotland? Until that ratio increases dramatically I don’t feel we will produce what we are hoping for in order to improve our game on a European stage and Internationally. I also don’t think Project Brave alone will improve the flow of players coming into SPL football given the demands of immediate success. How do we change it? The Governing Bodies could put rules in place to ensure we play a certain number of Scots, if employment law allows! Or, they could significantly reward clubs for recruiting and playing Scottish and young Scottish players within their team.
Significant financial reward for achieving these outcomes may force clubs to provide more opportunities for home based players and as a result develop systems of recruitment and player development that fits with their own club model.
Brown Ferguson is manager of Stenhousemuir FC