Scotland: Don't blame Scotland boss, says Henry McLeish

By Brian McLauchlinBBC Scotland
Henry McLeish with Supporters Direct Scotland's Paul Goodwin
Henry McLeish with Supporters Direct Scotland's Paul Goodwin

Former First Minister Henry McLeish says it is wrong to keep blaming the Scotland manager for the demise of the national football team.

McLeish says it will be some time before the benefits of the changes made to improve the quality of players at the manager's disposal are seen.

"We are simply not good enough," said former footballer McLeish.

"To focus on the manager is an easy thing. The future of the game is much more complex."

McLeish carried out a wide-ranging and much-publicised review of the Scottish game for the Scottish Football Association in 2009.

It led to a reorganisation of the youth system, with current national coach Craig Levein appointing Mark Wotte to spearhead a revitalisation of grassroots football.

"We have made massive investments in the youth side, in the elite side, but much more has to be done," McLeish told BBC Scotland at the launch of a new initiative to gain a wider view of Scottish football fans' opinions.

Those very fans have been calling for Levein to be sacked after Tuesday's 2-0 defeat by Belgium left his side bottom of World Cup qualifying Group A.

"Let's be careful and not just look for an early killing on this one to satisfy the lust after we've done so badly," said McLeish.

"The state of the game is not the problem of one person. We can talk about changing managers, but quite frankly there's bigger problems in the game.

Levein has been under pressure after poor World Cup results
Levein has been under pressure after poor World Cup results

"I like Craig Levein. He makes an enormous contribution to developing young people, he's strong-minded. He has a big future in the game whatever happens.

"We should think of the long-term, be optimistic for the long-term and let's not make too many sacrifices - it will not improve the situation.

"All I'm saying is to caution the idea that there is someone out there who can be brought in to turn a miracle. That's not going to happen."

However, McLeish said the onus is now on clubs to provide the national teams with the quality desired.

"We have now got to invest in Scottish talent," he said. "That is the way forward.

"But, to do that, it needs income, it needs patience and we have to think of the long-term."

Supporters Direct Scotland, who have launched the "Fans Parliament", has already had talks with the SFA, the Scottish Football League and the Scottish Premier League about working with them in the coming months and years.

"Like five million other people in Scotland I'm very, very disappointed," said McLeish of the current campaign.

"It might be five, 10, 15 years before we see the benefits of the current investment. For most fans that's a long, long period.

"I would appeal to them that, if we want to see football survive, we cannot concentrate on a bad set of results, getting rid of somebody, to think that's the problem.

"That won't save the international side, it won't progress Scottish football."

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