Monday, August 30, 2010

Craig Burley made a very interesting comment yesterday during the Celtic and Motherwell game on ESPN. Well there has to be a first time for everything!

Celtic have used 14 different nationalities so far in this young season and only have one player (Scott Brown) in Craig Levein's squad for the forthcoming Euro 2012 qualifiers against Lithuania and Liechtenstein.

It's a point that can be very open to debate, but is this really a bad thing for the Scottish national team?

Growing up, it was felt that if you didn't play for either of the Old Firm your chances of getting in to the Scottish national team were greatly reduced. Looking at Levein's 26 man squad, this is certainly far from being the current situation.

It's hard to think that West Brom, Wolves and Blackpool have more players in the Scottish squad this time around than Celtic. You could argue that they're playing in the top flight of English football, which is a damn sight better than the top flight in Scotland. But then you just have to look and see that there's even more players from a Welsh team in the squad, with Championship side Cardiff having two players listed.

Changed days indeed, although the other half of the Old Firm, Rangers, do still have eight players in the squad.

There's a couple of ways to look at all this.

Looking at the Rangers situation, it's great for the national team that they have so many players in the squad who will play regularly with each other, know each others game and hopefully gel all that quicker.

I hate praising Rangers at the best of times, but well done to them for not only looking at Scottish talent, but for actually using it as well. It doesn't seem to have done them any harm domestically.

Celtic on the other hand are struggling like hell and you could certainly argue that such a mish mash of nationalities doesn't help their cause.

For years though, the Old Firm have killed up and coming Scottish talent, signing any Scottish players that shows promise in the SPL (and lower leagues) to take away even further any possible element of competition in our domestic game.

Celtic's plundering of Hibs in recent years has been appalling and is still continuing with the signing of Irish striker Anthony Stokes. Both Old Firm sides have done it to Hearts, Aberdeen and numerous other clubs as well.

And what invariably happens to these players? They're stuck on the bench or the reserves, have few appearances as foreign players get picked ahead of them, get farmed out on loan and then sold or released again without making an impact and to the detriment of their careers, their valuable formative years wasted.

I personally feel that it's no bad thing that there's only one Celtic player in the squad. I want to see our top Scottish players playing at the top level to help us out internationally and like it or not, that's in the English Premiership.

When you look at our best Scottish international sides (especially those in the 1970's), they came about when our top players were playing for top level sides like Leeds United and Liverpool.

Sure they might not be playing for the top, top level sides in England but then how many English stars are at Chelsea, Arsenal and Man United? 35% of our current squad are currently playing in the Premiership. This has to be good for the Scottish national team if not the Scottish domestic game.

If one Old Firm side is dominating domestically when it comes to the Scottish talent pool then so be it. It's for the good of the game and the players developments. Keep as many of them together as you can and then let the better ones play higher level.

Only 42% of the current squad are playing in the joke that is top flight Scottish football. I think this can only help us. Will it? Well we'll soon find out, starting in Lithuania on Friday.

C'mon Scotland. Do us proud.


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