The Scotland manager George Burley has called for the Scottish Premier League to make changes ahead of next season in the wake of the Rangers fixture row. The Ibrox club yesterday failed in their bid to have Saturday's Premier League game against Dundee United postponed to allow more time to prepare for the Uefa Cup final against Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester next Wednesday.
The SPL's refusal to extend the season further means Rangers, who played Motherwell at home last night, have another six games culminating in the Scottish Cup final against Queen of the South on 24 May in their quest to win four trophies.
Burley, who named his squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic on 30 May at Hampden yesterday, waded into the row, insisting Rangers had been treated unfairly by the League. He said: "I think it's ridiculous at this stage of the season, when I'm naming the squad, that Rangers still have seven games to play. "It's something that shouldn't be allowed to happen and it's something the SPL and everybody in Scottish football has to look at.
"Football is changing – the European scene, the Champions League, the Uefa Cup. Are we playing too many games? Other aspects have got to be looked at. It shouldn't happen to any club. They are being punished for their success in reaching the Uefa Cup final and it's something that has to be looked at in the fullness of time."
Burley believes the SPL must learn from the mistakes of this season. He added: "Football is changing and you have to change with it. Scottish clubs have shown they are successful in Europe and hopefully they will continue that. They have got to be given the respect and know that, come this stage of the season, it [the fixtures schedule] is not going to hinder them. The bottom line is can we do more to help clubs that are doing well in Europe?" Burley is thrilled to see several Scotland internationals representing the country in a European final and believes the experience will be invaluable.
"It's absolutely tremendous," he said. "A number of these players have played in Europe this season, they have gained experience and to reach a Uefa Cup final is a magnificent achievement. I'm sure it will help them individually but for the country to see one of our sides in a European final is tremendous and shows how strong the Scottish game is becoming."
Burley missed out on the 1981 Uefa Cup final with Ipswich after suffering torn ligaments and is well aware that such a gruelling fixture schedule could take its toll on Rangers' players. Christian Dailly, Steven Whittaker, Kevin Thomson and Kris Boyd were named in yesterday's squad but captain Barry Ferguson, Allan McGregor, Lee McCulloch and David Weir were omitted to allow a period of recovery from injury and fatigue.
Burley said: "You are talking about players who are very valuable commodities for clubs and to ask them to play so much doesn't help their performances and sometimes it can create injury problems as well."
Burley knows that with so much still at stake in the SPL, he could find his 23-man squad depleted between now and the trip to Prague. "I've named the squad fairly early," he said. "The English Championship season is finished and the Premier League finishes next week, so it was important for the English-based players to know who was going to be in the squad.
"There are a lot more games left in Scotland and that's why I've chosen it early, knowing that there could be injuries between now and the end of May."
The international match will be a preparatory exercise before the World Cup qualifiers begin with a trip to Macedonia in September. Burley's tenure as national team coach started reasonably well with a 1-1 draw against Croatia at Hampden in March, and he is anticipating another difficult encounter. He said: "The Czech Republic are one of the best teams in Europe, I don't think there is any doubt about that."
Scotland squad to play the Czech Republic in Prague on 30 May: Gordon (Sunderland), Marshall (Norwich); Anderson (Sunderland), Berra (Hearts), Caldwell (Celtic), Dailly (Rangers), Hutton (Tottenham), McManus (Celtic), McNaughton (Cardiff), Naysmith (Sheffield United), Whittaker (Rangers); Fletcher (Manchester United), Hartley(Celtic), Morrison (West Bromwich Albion), Rae (Cardiff), Robson (Celtic), Thomson (Rangers); Boyd(Rangers), Fletcher (Hibernian), McCormack (Motherwell), McFadden (Birmingham), Maloney (Aston Villa), Miller (Derby).