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Not quite from here to paternity

MANY views and voices have been heard in the aftermath of Craig Brown expressing an interest in a player from Ipswich Town FC - David Johnson - who currently plays in the league below the Premiership in England.

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The debate has even attracted political awareness and although there is no unanimity, there is the prospect of uniting the nation because everyone wants to air a view. This matter has provoked the kind of response that reinforces the opinion that football is a passionate art. The igniting of the volatile fumes of nationalism is such a strange thing when it is realised that this is about a player who had earlier said yes to three different squads: England, Jamaica, and Wales, although to be fair he has only played for the first two, injury apparently hampering his debut for Wales. The player is perfectly entitled to have a trial marriage with the eligible nation(s) of his choice, in order to determine which one, if any, he wants to settle down with. FIFA rules allow a player to appear in an unlimited number of international matches for an unlimited number of eligible nations without being tied to any of them. An important proviso is that the matches cannot be in an official competition and therefore a series of challenge matches does not inhibit the player from appearing for his eventual selected country. Any marriage is a partnership of two willing people and the intention is that the relationship is for life. As we know, many marriages do not survive the stresses and strains of living together. The reaction to the possible selection of this talented player suggests that no extended honeymoon will be tolerated for anyone involved. You may remember the time when Andy Roxburgh wanted to pick Nigel Spackman for Scotland and quite an adverse media and public reaction occurred at the idea of an Englishman playing for Scotland. The idea was speedily dropped after an embarrassing review revealed that in accordance with the existing rules, Nigel could not play in a Scotland jersey. A detailed analysis of the FIFA rules and the internal application of an agreement entered into among the Four British Associations was publicly aired at the time of Spackman and the SFA decided that in the future all Scotland coaches would only select players with a direct Scottish bloodline - up to natural grandparents. The committee responsible for airing these decisions was and remains the International Committee and as this group is a standing committee of the SFA Council, any material policy affecting theAssociation needs the approval of Council. Many Scots will harbour doubts about the perpetuation of an alleged, outdated eligibility hurdle and others will question the necessity to alter a tried and tested system. The debate intensifies when neighbours invoke the latitude of the present criteria. Whatever your view on this extremely thought-provoking issue, it is important that the SFA followed the correct processes, thoroughly checking the background and avoiding the traps that lie in wait of any controversial decisions. Craig Brown is the front man for a wide range of selection policy and implementation of SFA practice. He and others recently made a mistake regarding the interpretation of FIFA's ''five-day rule'' and a hasty retreat was effected, camouflaged in talk about meeting the top clubs for further discussions. It is important to highlight, that under the agreement signed by the four British Associations, the UK passport clause is only operative in the event that the player, his natural mother and father and his natural grandparents, are all born outside the United Kingdom. If these terms are fulfilled, then Craig can consider the player for selection, if permitted to do so by the SFA. The mould will not be broken by David Johnson, that honour belongs to Sergei Baltacha - St Mirren FC - capped recently at Under-21 level. Cynics will argue that the commercial return is accentuated and a career boost obtained when an ambitious player is selected to play for a leading football nation and that it is only natural for a player to want the best for his career, short as it is. A footballer is no different from any other worker and he wants the highest rate he can obtain for doing the job. Does this approach transfer easily to the international teams? It is possible for certain people to tolerate the wholly commercial route, but national pride and identity are intangible components of the overall equation and cannot be ignored in any analysis. The SFA Council is scheduled to meet on November 1 and many of us await the views expressed within that body.

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