AS far as historic sporting moments go, it wasn’t quite Bobby Thomson’s ‘shot heard around the world’, but it might just have been the save that blinded a nation. That’s Gordon Strachan’s take on Allan McGregor’s last-gasp intervention as the now former Scotland goalkeeper's outstretched right arm denied Israel at Hampden back in November and allowed Alex McLeish’s men to claim top spot in their UEFA Nations League group.

The triumph itself was hardly the queue for triumphant parades in the streets, but McLeish’s predecessor believes it did inspire another several months of heads being stuck in the sand when it came to the perilous state of the Scottish game.

That Scotland aren’t producing the same level of young talent it once did is self-evident, and it is a drum that Strachan has been banging louder than a warm-up act at a Rangers’ legends match for quite some time. Far from looking for excuses for his own or McLeish’s shortcomings though, he believes that until there is a complete overhaul of how we produce young players in this country, Scotland will continue to be left looking in from the outside when the major tournaments take place.

“We live in a dream world in Scotland, we never tell people the truth,” Strachan said.


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“This isn’t about the last two games. It’s been going on a lot longer than that. It’s time to get rid of the bile and take a sane look at it.

“Where did all that euphoria come from last year after beating Israel and Albania? Allan McGregor made a wonderful save which spared us from disaster. If he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have qualified from that Nations League group, and we’d have had this latest crisis before Christmas.

“As a nation, that save blinded us, we thought everything was wonderful, but we were just one great save away from absolute disaster, it could’ve been one of Scotland’s worst ever nights. Instead, that was just delayed a few months.

“So we need to not be blinded by short term results. Instead, we need to concentrate on what we’re doing to produce top players. [Or] else we’ll keep going on and on and on how we are.”


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By looking to change manager again or blame the SFA rather than carry out that root and branch reform of youth development makes the nation guilty of short-sightedness, and that extends to clubs who are more interested in their own narrow success rather than the wider good of the game.

“I’ve known what the real problem in Scottish football is for a while now,” he said. “And it’s not just Alex McLeish or the SFA. They’ve got their hands tied behind their backs.

“They’ve got to take a bit of responsibility, of course, but it’s the clubs and academy managers giving the illusion that we are producing good players, and that’s how we end up with a squad which loses to Kazakhstan. A squad of English Championship and League One level players.

“It’s too easy to throw this crisis at the manager and the SFA. They have limited power. It’s to do with the selfishness of clubs in Scotland.

“What’s happening at the moment is the same denial and delusion that has afflicted us for decades – everyone is saying ‘it’s not my fault’. They’ll say they’ve got a keeper who isn’t bad, or a defender who’s no bad, but does that qualify for top class? We think ‘no bad’ is top class.”

Strachan recognises that there is a debate to be had around leadership of the SFA, and he also knows his own shortcomings as Scotland manager, but he thinks there has to be a collective holding up of hands if Scotland’s recent grim history is not to repeat itself.


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“I’ve been Scotland manager, and I didn’t get everything right,” he said. “In case anyone thinks I’m saying it’s not my fault – no, no it was my fault. I picked the team.

“I take responsibility for what happened when I was there. But it doesn’t matter now, what matters is how we make the next generation better.

“As somebody who would like to work in youth team football, we have to do something different.

“I do look back on my time at Scotland and think ‘could I have done this differently or that differently?’

“I have to live with that. But I couldn’t live with myself if I just stayed silent and didn’t let anyone know what I thought. We can do better than this, Scotland.”

*Gordon Strachan is a Paddy Power ambassador. Read his columns, in full, at