Crumbs from the funding table too little, too late for Scots soccer hopefuls
Scotland women face an uphill task at the 2017 Euro Championships in the NetherlandsEmbed from Getty Images
But just how likely is the women’s football team to join a pantheon of Scottish sporting successes, including Celtic’s 1967 European Cup win, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Commonwealth Games curling?
A cash handout announced at Hampden Park yesterday will at least cover the expenses of home-based Scots players, currently in training for their Dutch sortie.
So – for a few weeks – they’ll be at a level England’s women were about ten years ago. So? Then what?
It’s not enough, Hampden hierarchy, not nearly enough.
It smacks of a clatty schoolboy on the morning of his six-monthly trip to the dentist. Forswearing his usual Irn-Bru to make a show of brushing his yellowing gnashers.
Get your fingers out and get real, SFA, or get left even further behind.
The travails of Scottish football
In guiding the women’s national team through to their first ever major tourney, Anna Signeul has given Scottish football a much-needed shot in the arm.
Albeit a Parthian shot, because straight after the Euros she’s ditching the Scots to take over Finland. But her team has already achieved much more than Gordon Strachan’s “wee tumshies”.
Of course, as we’ve written before, the wider context is that Scottish football remains a laughing stock, stuck in a morass of self-delusion.
Broken, rigged and sixth-rate. How did it come to this for the nation that gave us Law and Dalglish? Stein and Shankly? Reilly and Fleeting?
The sports pages of the Daily Record pioneered ‘fake news’, known as ‘succulent lamb journalism’: fawning coverage of corruption and industrial-scale cheating at Rangers.
No-one reading internet fan forums Rangers Media or Follow Follow in hope of a chortle is likely to be disappointed. Especially when they’re in meltdown after another defeat.
Conversely, these sites often leave neutral visitors genuinely unsettled. Spooked, even. Wondering: “just how thick is it possible to be”?
True, many denizens of these online swamps are clearly mischievous “Timposters” – Celtic fans dumbing down to go “Hundercover”. But they can’t all be Tims at the wind up… can they?
Malky Mackay’s mission
The man charged with turning around Scottish football is the SFA’s new performance director, Malky Mackay.
He replaced Brian “Choccy” McClair, who did absolutely nothing worthwhile over his whole bizarre tenure.
Like McClair a former Celtic player, Mackay’s appointment aroused wild conspiracy theories from predictable quarters. But a lurid text message scandal also copped him some more credible flak.
Rightly or wrongly, there’s a perception that Mackay is damaged goods and the SFA only took him because he’d work for peanuts to get his foot back in the door.
Any mileage in that? Well let’s consider each charge in turn.
Charge: Celtic bias
Mackay arrived at Celtic from Queen’s Park in the early 90s, when The Hoops were on their uppers. The former kings of Europe needed players to pad out their squad but had no money.
A big, dependable if limited centre-half, Mackay had been working in a bank while playing (cough) amateur football with Queen’s Park.
Queen’s Park were no breeding ground for Celtic “Tarriers”, quite the opposite in fact. Malky’s dad Malcolm Sr was dubbed ‘Mr Queen’s Park’ for his staunch service to The Spiders.
After being shown the door at Celtic, Malky bounced around a few provincial English clubs and collected five caps for Scotland under Berti Vogts.
Verdict: not guilty
Charge: text message bigot
While managing Cardiff City, a boardroom battle with owner Vincent Tan led to the exposure of dozens of off-colour texts, typed by Mackay on his club mobile.
The messages were willfully, gratuitously offensive; Mackay perhaps marking himself out as the Seth Putnam of football management.
To borrow his own vernacular, Mackay and sidekick Iain Moody had undoubtedly behaved like a couple of “wallopers”.
The one thing in their favour was that – at worst – they’d been equal opportunity bigots.
Like the creators of TV’s South Park, they’d apparently taken assiduous care to parcel out roughly equal helpings of Mickey-taking.
Yes, they all “got it tight”. Gays, Asians, Jews, women. Practically no-one escaped their ire.
After the storm broke Mackay was big enough to put his hand up, admit his mistakes and take his medicine.
He’s now a changed man; a poster boy of football’s booming equalities industry, with the rubber-stamped certificates to prove it.
Verdict: not proven – a uniquely Scottish proposition, famously summarised as: “not guilty, now don’t do it again!”
In the eyes of many, Mackay still has some making up to do. But if he can pull it off and restore a semblance of pride to the Scottish game, even the most pursed lips will surely melt into smiles.
Likewise, it remains to be seen if these temporary training contracts for the women’s national team are the precursor to something more tangible, which will allow the Scots to compete properly.
Infobox: Big Malky’s best game for Celtic
BIG MALKY’S best game for Celtic came twenty years ago, in a pulsating 2–0 Scottish Cup quarter-final win over Rangers.
His thumping header from a Paolo Di Canio corner soon had The Celts a goal to the good.
With Paul McStay rampant in midfield and their former “Old Firm” rivals cowed by the deafening Celtic Park crowd, it was a matter of time before the killer blow landed.
Jorge Cadete outstripped the overrated Joachim Björklund and was hauled down for a penalty.
It was then a case of “cometh the hour, cometh the man” as the irrepressible Paolo Di Canio put the tin lid on it from the spot.