Scotland took on Luxemburg at Hampden last night in yet another pointless friendly game that served only to temporarily draw focus away from a magnitude of other problems facing the Scottish Football Association. The result was meaningless against a side 74 places further down the FIFA rankings from Scotland who sit themselves in an embarrassing 70th place. With no permanent boss in place, Under 21 coach Billy Stark took charge for the first time with hopes of securing the job on a more permanent basis. But with a squad that was unfamiliar to the one that departed manager, Craig Levein fielded against Belgium in the last game, little could be learned from watching the game.
The day after the Belgium result, Levein knew his time as Scotland boss was at an end. Whether he cared to admit it or not was besides the point as the fans, media and probably the SFA knew that he couldn’t go on. With over a month until the next friendly, the SFA had time to review the situation, make a decision on Levein, implement that and move forward. But as usual, the dithering SFA took weeks to meet and come to a decision. Levein had a chance to plead his case as still the man to take Scotland forward, despite only 3 competitive wins in his entire time in charge, his sacking eventually came a monthly later on the 5th November. Case closed or so it seems.
However revelations in the press this week have brought a new focus on Stewart Regan’s incompetence. It would appear that instead of terminating Levein’s role as manager and giving him a payout for the remainder of his contract, the SFA removed him from the role but intended on keeping him on the payroll at the SFA on £35,000-a-week wages until his contract ran out some 20 months later. What Levein would exactly have been doing for the SFA during those 20 months is unsure but Levein has since seeked legal advice and is now suing his former employers for wrongful dismissal and the unpaid monies he is owed to terminate his contract now.
Levein is in his right to do this but will harm his chances of ever working in Scotland again as the fans look at this as yet another black mark against his name. For the SFA, its is yet another blunder from Scotland’s top governing body and builds a firmer case for Regan to depart himself. It was Regan himself that was responsible for handing Levein a contract until the end of World Cup 2014, despite failing to reach Euro 2012 which was a required benchmark for success. Regan blundered earlier this year when he was unable to make a clear and concise decision around the fate of Rangers, when the Ibrox club was faced with liquidation. Regan decided instead to hand power to the SPL and SFL to decide on next steps.
Regardless of Regan takes the decision to stand down or is himself sacked, change at the SFA is needed. With no manager at the helm and no realistic chance of appointing one by yesterday, the SFA should have axed the friendly but instead kept in the calendar in an attempt to fill its coffers with yet more of Scottish fans money. The decision to continue with the game has frustrated players and managers alike with Neil Lennon being the most vocal. The Celtic manager rightly pointed out that after a gruelling tussle with Barcelona which lead to an amazing victory for the club in the Champions League, his players were in need of a rest, not another 90 minutes of international football. Why the Celtic players were included is anyone’s guess as other Scotland regulars like Gary Caldwell, Alan Hutton and Allan McGregor had already been rested.
With an additional 9 regular Scotland players pulling out of the friendly due to “injuries”, Stark’s squad looked more like a B team with call ups for Craig Samson, Cameron Bell, Pual Dixon, Grant Hanley, Leigh Griffiths, Andrew Shinnie, Liam Kelly, Murray Davidson and Darren Barr, all with a shot of gaining their first caps or adding to the few they already have. Whilst we should reward these players who have all played well for their respective teams, with the opportunity to represent their country, is this the best way? If the 9 players who pulled out and the 3 rested been available, how many of the ones called up would make the cut to get into the squad? Granted we need to see if these younger players can perform on the international stage but again against a tem like Luxemburg who are less of a opponent than some SPL teams, did we actually learn anything about these players in yesterdays friendly or simply create another trail of one cap wonders?
Scotland’s 2-1 win yesterday did nothing but confirm that they can beat the smaller nations when needed. Some of the new caps took their opportunity to shine well but against a medicore team in Luxemburg. As for Stark, its his first win but realistically does it prove anything about his capabilities as potential Scotland boss? Perhaps not. Now that the game is finished and the next fixture isn’t until early next year, the focus can once again revert back to the SFA and how they plan to recover from what has been a disappointing year from their prospective.