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Great Britain

Deflowering of Scotland’s national side has been a grave decline… the system has been bust for years, says Karren Brady

MY GUESS is that if you had to name the latest successor to Jock Stein or Craig Brown as Scotland manager, you wouldn’t have much of a clue.

That isn’t a criticism of Steve Clarke, who took over four matches ago, but of a whole system which has been bust for a score of years and more.

And while he hardly could have expected his team’s mixture of shaky spare parts to beat the world’s No 1 side, the 4-0 defeat was Rolls-Royce against an old bike.

THE BLAME GAME

Honestly, I do not know who to blame for the downward spiral since Scotland’s 1998 World Cup appearance, their last qualification for a major competition.

I guess it would be the usual mixture of inadequate coaching, average players, frustrated managers of whom there have been 11 since Brown left in 2002, and fussy officialdom.

The Scots have a hilarious history of tight-bottomed bureaucracy — an ‘us and them’ mentality.

I suspect it continues in some form, although not in repeating the SFA’s decision in 1954 to allow only 13 of the 22 permitted players to travel to Switzerland for the World Cup while bevies of officials and their wives accompanied them for free.

Their record of appointments is palpably poor, even allowing for the difficulty of finding managers willing to forsake club jobs for the impossibility of welding a team that begins with weak Scottish leagues.

There hasn’t been a single player to reach world recognition since Kenny Dalglish left Celtic 42 years ago.

It may be no coincidence that since the Home Internationals ended, with England no longer on the annual agenda, Scotland have gone into grave decline.

The national fervour that in 1977 fuelled Wembley scenes reminiscent more of Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn 650 years before is vanishing.

Time has caught up with the proudest and joint-oldest international side on Earth.

After the Belgium defeat, Clarke added that the remaining European qualifying ties “will not be as difficult”.

Dangerous words — especially when your team is ranked 48th in the world.

The deflowering of Scotland’s football has come that far.

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