Scottish Football Today - Where is it Going? By Colin Hendry

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Scottish Football Today

Last week Hendry took us through the golden era/s of Scottish football… a time when Scotland qualified for top tournaments and their domestic teams could compete with the very best in Europe. However, as Hendry says, it has been almost years since Scotland has managed anything like this. So, where is it now? Is Scotland looking at better times ahead? Hendry takes us through where things have gone wrong, and how he sees Scottish football going today.

“Back when I was playing, the Scottish team had lots of top players. We had Premier League players, players in top European clubs as well as Celtic and Rangers players who were playing at top level. As a result, we were an international team that could compete with others and put up a good match. In the World Cup in 1974, they were knocked out the cup without even losing a game – we even got a draw against Brazil. We qualified for five consecutive World Cups, up until 1990. Although we never progressed, we had a squad good enough to get there.

The last time we qualified was in 1998 – over 20 years ago. That seems like a long time ago. Why? Because we had top club players. Now, the Scottish national team doesn’t have that top quality. There are a few players for top clubs, like Andy Robertson, but we need more. I’d say unless we get at least six or seven of those players, then we’ll keep struggling.” So let’s compare the quality of the Scottish players between then and now.


The 1998 Scotland Word Cup Squad

When we looked at the last World Cup Squad, we can see that out of the 22 players they had on the team, 8 were from Premier League clubs, 10 from Celtic and Rangers, plus players from other top clubs such as AS Monaco. A typical Scotland starting 11 would have looked as follows:

Kevin Gallacher

Kevin Gallacher played as a striker/winger from 1983 up until 2002. This Scottish player started his career in Dundee Utd – a strong Scottish squad. However, in 1989, he moved to First Division club, Coventry City and then in 1992 joined the Premier League club Blackburn Rovers, alongside Hendry. He stayed at this club until 1990, and it was here that he was part of the Premier League-winning team. Gallacher then moved on to Newcastle United. Overall, he made a total of 53 appearances for his country, scoring 9 goals for the team.

Colin Hendry

Hendry was the club’s defender – and captain in the 1998 squad. Another player that started off in Dundee, he then moved over to Blackburn Rovers in 1986, then in the Second Division. He made his move to the top league when moving to Manchester City in 1990 – however, he then went back down to the second on return to Blackburn. This wasn’t for long, as they were promoted to the Premier League in 1992. It was with Blackburn Rovers that Hendry won the Premier League title. He stayed in the Premier League with Rangers and Coventry City. Overall, Hendry made 51 appearances for his country, scoring 3 goals.

Colin Calderwood

Calderwood, the Scottish defender, is yet another Premier League team player. Starting his career in Mansfield Town, he moved on to Swindon Town, and then onto Premier League squad, Tottenham Hotspurs in 1993, where he stayed till 1999. He also made four appearances during their victorious League Cup campaign. It was during his time at Tottenham that he earned most of his 36 national appearances.


David Weir

Weir, the Scottish centre back spent the earlier part of his career in the Scottish league, playing for Evansville Purple Aces, Falkirk and Heart of Midlothian, when the team won the Scottish Cup. It was whilst he was at Midlothian that he was part of the World Cup 1998 squad. However, in this tournament, it became evident that he was Premier League material, as he made his move to Everton in 1999, and his debut game saw the squad winning 5-0. He stayed in the Premier League with Rangers in 2007, where he was part of the squad that won the SPL 3 times, Scottish Cup twice and Scottish League Cup 3 times. Weir played for his country 69 times, scoring one goal.

Gordon Durie

The Scottish striker, Durie, made his profession debut for East Fife in 1981, he then moved on to Hibernian, before moving into top-flight football in 1986 with Chelsea football club. He stayed at Chelsea until 1991, when he moved to Tottenham Hotspurs. Durie stayed in this Premier League club for 2 years until moving to Rangers where he stayed until the year 2000. During this time, he played for his country 43-times.

Tom Boyd

Defender, Tom Boyd, started his club career in Motherwell, where he made an astounding 252 appearances. In 1991, he moved into top-flight English football when playing for Chelsea. However, this wasn’t for him and he moved back to Scotland, playing for top Scottish team Celtic. With Celtic, he played a large part in the club winning the domestic treble in his first season. In his time at Celtic he won the SPL 3-times, Scottish Cup twice and Scottish League Cup 3-times. Boyd played for Scotland 72 times, scoring once.


Paul Lambert

Lambert is a Midfielder, who started his career in St Mirren in 1986, winning the Scottish Cup. He then moved to Motherwell and then on to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Lambert won the UEFA Champions League with the club, before moving on to Celtic in 1997. With this SPL team, Lambert won the Scottish League 4-times, the Scottish Cup twice, the Scottish League Cup twice and was the UEFA Cup runner-up. During his career, he played for Scotland 40 times, scoring once.


Jim Leighton

Jim Leighton, the goalkeeper, started his career in 1977 playing for Aberdeen. He made his splash in top-flight English football when joining Manchester United in 1988, where he stayed until 1997, before being loaned out to Arsenal and Reading. Leighton then returned to the SPL in 1992, when moving to Dundee United. He then went to Hibernian for 4 years until 1997 and finished his career in Aberdeen in 2000. In his career, he has won the SPL twice, the Scottish Cup 4-times, Scottish League Cup once, European Cup Winners’ Cup, the European Super Cup, the FA Cup and the FA Charity Shield. He played for Scotland 91 times.


Craig Burley

Midfielder, Craig Burley, started his career in 1989, playing for Premier League League club Chelsea. He stayed there for 8 years, until 1997, where he played for Celtic. Burley then moved on to Derby County. Burley ended his career in Walsall in 2004. In his career, he won the FA Cup once with Chelsea, the Scottish League and Scottish League Cup with Celtic. He played for his country 46 times, scoring 3 goals.


John Collins

The Scottish midfielder, Collins started his career in 1985 playing for Hibernian. However, he became Celtic’s first million-pound player when he signed for the club in 1990. He stayed here until he was signed by top European club, AS Monaco in 1996. Two years on, he returned to Britain, and to Premier League team Everton and then Fulham. In his career, he won the Scottish Cup with Celtic and Ligue 1 with Monaco. He played for Scotland 58 times, scoring 12 times.


Darren Jackson

Jackson was a forward who started his career in 1985 in Meadowbank Thistle. He moved into top-flight football when joining Newcastle United in 186, and then on to the top clubs in Scotland – Dundee United, Hibernian and then top SPL club Celtic – his club when in the World Cup 1998. He stayed in Scotland till the end of his career, finishing off at Clydebank in 2002. In his career, he won the Scottish Premiership once and Scottish League Cup once with Celtic. He played for Scotland 28 times, scoring 4 times.


Jamie McNamara

McNamara is a defender who started his career in 1991, in Dunfermline Athletic, before moving to top SPL club, Celtic, in 1995, where he stayed for 10 years. He then made the move to the Premier League in 2005 when he moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers. In 2007 he went back to the SPL, playing for Aberdeen and finishing his career in Partick Thistle. During his time at Celtic, he won the Scottish Premier Division, SPL 3-times, Scottish Cup 4-times and Scottish League Cup 3-times. He played for his country 33 times.


Christian Dailly

The Scottish Centre Back started his career as a teenage striker for Dundee United in 1990, where he stayed for 6 years. He then moved to Premier League football in 1996 when signing for Derby County in 1996, then on to Blackburn Rovers in 1998. In 2000 he moved over to West Ham United, then to Southampton to a season, then on to top SPL club, Rangers, in 2007. Dailly then moved on to Charlton Athletic, then Portsmouth, then Southend United. In his career he won the Scottish Cup twice, SPL once, Scottish League Cup once and was UEFA Cup runner-up once. He played for his country 67 times, scoring 6 times.

The 2018 Squad

Let’s compare this to some of the 2018 players that Scotland has available.

Goal Keepers

They have the choice of three goalies – Scott Bain, Celtic; Jamie MacDonald, Kilmarnock; Allan McGregor, Rangers. Although two are from top SPL teams, they don’t have experience of top European clubs as Rangers and Celtic haven’t qualified for top European tournaments in recent years. None have top European football experience.


The best of the lot here is Andy Robertson, the captain, who currently plays for Liverpool. This is their best player as he has experience in top-flight football, playing at the top of the Premier League and against the top European Teams. They also have David Bates, from Hamburger SV and Callum Paterson, from Cardiff City. Although these are both in their top leagues, they haven’t got top European club experience. Their other choices are from Celtic and Aberdeen.



Their midfield isn’t too bad, and the one that stands out is Scott McTominay as a Man U player. He has been there for 2 years and in that time has played 24 times for the squad. Not the most, but he has had top Premier League and European experience. Other Premier League Players are Ryan Fraser, Bournemouth; Snodgrass, West Ham Utd; Matt Ritchie, Newcastle United and Stuart Armstrong, Southampton. However, again, these players don’t have experience of top European football. Kieran Tierney has promise and is one to watch. Other players come from Celtic, Sheffield Utd and Aberdeen.



This is where they really are lacking as there is no top-flight player upfront. They have players available from West Brom, Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea – Championship clubs – as well as a Sporting Kansas City Player, Johnny Russel.


The Future of Tournaments

Here we can see that despite the number of players from top SPL teams, these players lack experience from playing top-level European football. Out of all the players they have, it is only really Robertson and McTominay that have any experience of playing the best clubs in Europe. Hendry says “until we have at least 6-8 of these top European players, it will be a struggle.

The manager just doesn’t have the quality of players to choose from that he did. I’m not sure where these players will come from, but if we want to have any hope of qualifying for top tournaments in the future, we need to find them”. It’s not looking too promising right now. Despite having a couple of top-class players, more are needed to compete with other world-class teams. Until then, World Cup qualification any time soon looks unlikely…