GREAT to see the match-winning intervention from 17-year-old Aaron Hickey in the Edinburgh derby on Sunday.

Just what the nation needs, you might say, another left back. Even if his game-defining goal, which flew in with the aid of a deflection and has reportedly taken him to the attention of Manchester City, came with a sweep of his right boot.

I am being facetious, of course. Steve Clarke needs as many players as he can get, even if so many of them seem to specialise in the same position.

Also excelling in the last few days, of course, at the top reaches of the Premier League have been European Cup winner Andy Robertson and Arsenal’s fit-again Kieran Tierney, with Greg Taylor and Leeds United’s Barry Douglas two other Scottish left backs who have already moved for big money.


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On the other flank, with the only competition to Kilmarnock’s Stephen O’Donnell being converting midfielder Ryan Jack or Sheffield Wednesday’s Liam Palmer, how Clarke would love to see another top class right back develop.

You could say that his logjam at left back is a statistical quirk, an outlier which you should resist from drawing firm conclusions from. I’m not so sure.

Of course, the genuine two footedness of a Lubomir Moravcik and the likes would be the ideal scenario.

But considering right-footedness, like right-handedness, is thought to be a dominant trait across society, perhaps even as high as 70%, it does seem strange that Scotland seem to be more adept at brining through players who favour their left side.

Should the Scotland manager choose to play Tierney at right back as one of his predecessors Gordon Strachan did, our entire back four could be left-footed.

In addition to our litany of left backs, currently our three-most established central defenders are left-sided too, in the form of Charlie Mulgrew, Liam Cooper and Scott McKenna when he returns.

Into midfield, and as proficient as Norwich City’s Kenny McLean is with both feet, he favours his left.

So too do likely starters like John McGinn and Callum McGregor, not to mention Ryan Christie off the front.


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Out wide against Belgium we had Robert Snodgrass, and how Clarke would love to be able to call upon either Steven Fletcher or Leigh Griffiths up front. That only leaves the likes of McTominay, Ryan Fraser and James Forrest to offer a bit of balance.

I’m not seriously calling for equal rights for right-footed players here but what I think it does paint is a picture of the haphazard and patchy nature of youth development in Scotland. While the pathways of the likes of Robertson, Taylor and Hickey have been anything but straightforward – two were released by Celtic, one by Rangers - could it be that left-sided players have an easier route through boys’ club and pro youth level, presumably because there is less competition when it comes to getting game time?

On a more broader note, you will recall that there used to be an SPL rule making sure clubs included three Under-21 players in their matchday squads. It was a scheme which was eventually disposed of mainly due to an alliance between the Old Firm clubs, who felt that they were artificially promoting young players, and it was causing disharmony amongst their multi-million-pound squads.

My guess is that both Glasgow giants would be equally be against it now on the grounds that it eats into their in-built advantage. But with Mikey Johnston the only Under-21 player on either side of the city likely to see any real playing time this season, I feel administrators must do more to guarantee more game time to homegrown players and create a more consistent stream of talent.


IT is hard to imagine a more calamitous start to the Rugby World Cup than the one Gregor Townsend’s side suffered in Yokohama on Sunday morning.


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Pretty much the only thing that went right all day was Jim Hamilton winning a mock line-out in the ITV studio against Paul Connell pre-match.

Not only were they humiliated by Ireland in this World Cup opener, they lost back row Hamish Watson and scrum half Ali Price to injury, two men who were sure to be crucial in the way Townsend’s side wanted to play in Japan.

Ireland, of course, are currently the No 1 side in the world but the way the floodgates opened in this 27-3 defeat just as the rain poured down in Japan leaves Scotland firmly behind the eight ball. With all those old question marks over the defence returning, the inquest has already begun.

With their work cut out just to win the poisoned chalice of a quarter final encounter against most likely New Zealand in the last eight, Townsend has his work cut out if his players aren’t to reach the conclusion they have much to lose and not much to gain as they battle it out with the likes of Samoa and hosts Japan for that last eight spot. It is a time for bravery, as much with team selections as on the pitch itself.

There is something about the Scottish psyche which tends to react well to adversity and even hopeless causes. Let’s hope that is the case as the Scots look to salvage some pride in the remainder of a tournament which suddenly looks fraught.