Vogts' Scotland reign descends into ridicule

Phil Gordon
Sunday 04 May 2003 00:00

The last post is being sounded for Berti Vogts. If Scotland's beleaguered national coach thought being taken apart by Austria on Wednesday night was the low point of his week, Thursday and Friday soon put him right about that.

It was only a friendly, but the pitiful 2-0 defeat to a side even lower than the Scots in the Fifa rankings appears to have damaged the German's public credibility for good.

Vogts was ridiculed the following morning. The Daily Record decided that losing to Hans Krankl's patchwork Austrian team had made Vogts a joke and plastered his face on to a photograph of a well-known – or is that notorious? – comedy duo, with the headline: "Krankies 0 Krankl 2."

Just 24 hours later and humour was abandoned for savage judgement. Kenny Dalglish – Scotland's record cap holder with 102 appearances – declared in print that Vogts was "solely responsible for the débâcle" against Austria. Jim McLean, who guided Dundee United to a Uefa Cup final and was Jock Stein's assistant at the 1982 World Cup finals, was more caustic: "Vogts does not have a clue – my wife could put out a better team."

The vital European Championship qualifying game with Germany is now looming. If Vogts loses at Hampden Park to his successor at the German FA, Rudi Völler, on 7 June, it would not be the end of the world – but the bigger picture of nine defeats in 14 games since Vogts took over has alarmed an entire nation, so that now even football people have joined the public in withdrawing support for him.

It is estimated that it would cost the Scottish FA £1.5m to sever Vogts' contract, which has until June 2006 to run. The idea was that the date would coincide with him taking Scotland "home" to his own country where the World Cup finals are being staged. The reality is that Scotland have gone into such a sharp decline under Vogts there is little evidence they would qualify.

The chaotic disorganisation of Scotland's side against Austria has raised serious question marks over Vogts. He is to tactics what Homer Simpson is to nuclear safety: the ludicrous move of playing Christian Dailly and Gary Naysmith out of position came back to haunt him, as the right-footed Dailly was moved out of the back three to the left side of a four-man midfield, bumping Naysmith into a central role. Dailly played so deep that he seemed part of a back four, all marking just one man as the Austrians deployed a 4-5-1 system.

Don Hutchison failed to finish a fourth successive game under Vogts, but that tells you a lot about the West Ham forward's year out after knee surgery. However, it is alarming that Vogts is pinning his hopes on Hutchison to score against Germany – he did so when Scotland triumphed in a friendly in Bremen in 1999 – and even compared him to Lothar Matthäus. "He's finished, though, isn't he?" Hutchison joked. "Truthfully, that's an unbelievable compliment. I don't think Völler will be too bothered about me, because that game in Germany was only a friendly, though I have an eye for goal and I am quite aggressive. Friendlies are not important, the European Championship is."

Hutchison insists he is progressing after a year out. "The knee is fine now, it's just match sharpness that is missing." Hehas a personal reason for wanting to get it right when the Germans come to Hampden. "My father died recently and he was my biggest fan. I cried when they played the national anthem before the Iceland game because Flower of Scotland was played at my dad's funeral. The happiest I ever saw him was when we beat England at Wembley thanks to my goal."

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in