The National Secretary of the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA), David Little, has blamed an “influx” of “average” foreign players for the current plight of the national side.
Scotland were beaten 2-0 in their World Cup Qualifying game in Belgium last night leaving them bottom of Group A with just two points from 12 and rank outsiders to qualify.
Speaking to The Independent, Little said: “We never invested in young players at the correct times. I think the financial state of Scottish football has necessitated young players to be drafted in to first-team squads and there has recently been the influx of average, cheaper foreign players.
“The English Premier League are damaging English football in a similar set of circumstances, in that there are greater amounts of foreign players coming in. I believe the number of players available to Roy (Hodgson) for the national team is 35 per cent. I don’t think that can be a good thing for the long-term future of the game. I also think that wages being paid takes money out of the game and (they do) not reinvest it into the correct areas.”
Little also believes the growing separation between footballers and ordinary people is dampening interest in the game.
“(Roy Keane was) a prophet when he had his rant about prawn sandwiches and I think the game, in general, is losing its working-class roots with the cost it takes to get into football (matches), players’ wages, it becomes more difficult for people to identify with the game and I think that’s an ongoing problem we face both north and south of the border.”
Ex-Manchester United and Scotland centre-back Martin Buchan shares the view that foreign imports are the chief cause for the Scottish talent decline. The two-time World Cup finals participant told The Independent: “The development of home-grown talent has been stifled over the years by too many Scottish clubs signing too many second and third rate foreign imports who weren't good enough for the English Premier League or the Championship. Just because an overseas player's name ends in a vowel, it doesn't mean he's a good 'un or, more importantly, better than what's on your doorstep.”
Rangers’ relegation to the Scottish Third Division, according to Buchan, is also having an adverse effect on the national team.
“It's sad to see Rangers in such dire straits. Their demise will obviously not have a beneficial effect on the national side because, no matter how hard they push themselves week in, week out, their top players will not be getting the type of opposition necessary to keep them physically and mentally sharp enough to be able to compete against others who are regularly involved in top club, European and international football.”
On the subject of Craig Levein’s future, Buchan – now an Executive with the PFA – said Scotland supporters must be realistic.
“Expectations of the fans, then and now, I feel, have always been based on optimism rather than realism. We should rejoice in the fact that for a small nation, every now and then we've produced a team or a result or a player to make people sit up and take notice, but potential World Cup Winners, I don't think that was ever or ever will be on the cards. At the end of the day, he (Levein) is a manager, not a magician.”
Speculation is rife as to whether Levein can retain his tenuous grip as Scotland manager. The Scottish Football Association today declined to comment on his future ahead of a board meeting expected to take place in the coming days.