SOMETHING isn't right at the SFA's performance department.
For starters, Mark Wotte can't seem to retain his staff. First, Ian Cathro leaves for Portuguese side Rio Ave, next Ray McKinnon is off to Brechin City, then Dean Gorre leaves for personal reasons and now Under-17 coach Scott Booth jumps ship to Stenhousemuir. You are always going to have one or two cases where people want to move on or have a crack at day-to-day club management. But, with no disrespect to Brechin and Stenhousemuir, they aren't exactly the biggest clubs around.
Performance director Wotte has ring-fenced his job for 10 years - I wish we could all do that - but if this was such an elite, long-term process, guys like McKinnon and Booth would be sticking around rather than grabbing hold of the first job going. There is something they don't like in there and I'll take an educated guess and say the problem is the edicts sent down by Wotte himself.
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The only way Booth got in there in the first place was because he played under Wotte at FC Twente. He then led Scotland to a Victory Shield triumph for the first time for 15 years and what an achievement that was. While it emerged yesterday that Booth had an alleged drink-driving offence, which he denies, hanging over him, his departure creates uncertainty around that group of players ahead of next month's Under-17 European Championship elite round.
I know from talking to a couple of the coaches that they are simply not allowed to change from a 4-3-3 shape. It is Wotte's way or the highway, but it is absolute madness as a coach if you can't counter the way a team is playing against you. Coaches must have the right to change within games; you must allow people to tinker.
I can't help thinking these boys simply wanted to start thinking for themselves, that they didn't agree with Wotte's plans, so they left. His inflexibility has also made a hash of the SPFL Under-20 League to the point where there are rumours it will need to be changed again for next season. Wotte's mantra is that we must progress the youths - of course we must - but you need to balance the competition's structure so it helps the clubs as well as the players.
I know a lot of managers are unhappy about it. Most sides in the Scottish top division run with a squad of 18 to 20 first-team players, with five or six youngsters coming through the Under-20 League. But Wotte insists that clubs can only field two outfield players over 20, one additional outfield player who is under 23 and a goalkeeper who is over 20. For me you should be allowed to field a team which is roughly half and half.
This would help the manager of the Premiership teams, because you can try to get game time into guys who aren't playing without the cost of arranging friendlies, while also allowing young players to mingle with senior pros.
When I was coming through the ranks at Chelsea, I used to play in the reserves and loved playing alongside guys like Kerry Dixon, Gordon Durie and David Speedie. If, say, we were playing Spurs and there were a couple of first-team players then brilliant. It gave a great edge to the game, and was great for the young players to learn from. Wotte's actions need to start speaking louder than his words, and soon, because he has not proven anything to me or many coaches or managers in the Scottish game.
THERE are always a few surprises in a Scotland squad and this week's was no different. There was controversy when Andrew Robertson got the nod ahead of Lee Wallace, with Phil Bardsley also restored to the squad for the friendly with Poland in Warsaw, but I think the Dundee United player definitely deserves his chance. Ever since Gary Naysmith retired Scotland have needed a specialist left-back - we have tried the right-footed Bardsley and Steven Whittaker in there - and while Robertson has a bit to learn, especially defensively, there is no-one better going forward from that position in the Premiership right now. From Queen's Park last season, his progression has been rapid, but he has impressed while training with the first team. He reminds me of his namesake David Robertson, who used to play for Aberdeen and Rangers, in the way he marauds forward.