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How to fix Scottish football

Dejected Scotland fans after the 4-0 defeat in Oslo
Dejected Scotland fans after the 4-0 hammering in Oslo

BBC Scotland reporter and presenter Jim Spence summarises the arguments made on Sportsound to improve Scottish football.

When four strong personalities like Craig Levein, Pat Nevin, the SFA's director of football development Jim Fleeting, and football columnist Bill Leckie can all agree on ways to improve our national game then we should be reasonably optimistic that Scottish football can improve.

On Wednesday I hosted a one-hour BBC Radio Scotland Sportsound special called "It's broke, let's fix it".

OK, the editor's an Ayrshireman and the name was his idea, but in the wake of the national team's defeat in Norway and our club sides' dismal showing in Europe, what's in a name?

Dundee United manager and director of football Craig Levein, who has just radically restructured the Tannadice youth set-up, told us many of his young players are not technically good enough and that a move to summer football would help with better coaching.

He said: "I look at the quality of players that are available to me to pick for the first team and, although we've got some decent players, I don't think that those players, having been in our system for some time, some of them for seven or eight years, have the necessary tools to be able to play SPL football."

Under Levein's new set-up, the emphasis for young players will be on technique and more technique.

Jim Fleeting argued our schools needed to do more to prepare kids for sport generally.

"I do believe that Scotland is way behind any other country in Europe with regard to our physical literacy for young kids," said the SFA football development director.

"Our PE at school is absolutely horrendous. They took away the PE teachers at primary schools many years ago and I don't think they replaced them."

Fleeting described physical literacy as the basic abilities to run, throw and catch, and the ability to fall and get up and to learn balance.

Pat Nevin attacked the vested interests in the game, saying that it had to change for the good of football.

He told of his devastation when, as Motherwell chief executive, he sat on the youth development committee at the SFA and thought that that year's surplus of funds could be used to develop better facilities for players.

I think the crux of things in Scottish football is that we need one voice at the top of the tree

Sports journalist Bill Leckie

Nevin said: "Did I get one piece of help in that meeting? No. Every one of the self interests made sure that they got their little bit and the money was frittered away.

"I knew that the club I was at, Motherwell, had frittered that money away, not on youth development. Everyone else was doing the same; that had been happening for 10 or 15 years."

Bill Leckie made an impassioned plea for one governing body to run the game in Scotland.

"I think the crux of things in Scottish football is that we need one voice at the top of the tree," he said.

"One Scottish Football Federation, not three disparate bodies.

"We need one body that sets one agenda for everybody that kicks a ball, from just me and you organising a game with our mates right through to the teams that want to get to the Champions League and into international football."

The texts and the emails flooded in to the show, and left me in no doubt that there is a passionate desire among football fans to fix our game and make it better.

If we truly want to improve our football we could do a lot worse than take advice from the four guests on the programme.

Each of them eats, breathes and sleeps the game, and crucially they have ideas to radically reshape it for the better.

Shona Robison, the minister for public health and sport, could not take part in the programme, but given that government has a part to play in shaping a healthier and fitter country, I'll send her a tape of the show.

It might just spark the fire we need to rekindle our former glories.

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see also
Dinamo Zagreb 4-0 Hearts
20 Aug 09 |  Europe
Celtic 0-2 Arsenal
18 Aug 09 |  Europe
Norway 4-0 Scotland
12 Aug 09 |  Internationals
Motherwell 1-3 Steaua B'rst (1-6)
06 Aug 09 |  Europe
Aberdeen 1-5 Sigma Olomouc
30 Jul 09 |  Europe
Vaduz 2-0 Falkirk (agg 2-1)
23 Jul 09 |  Europe

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