Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Burley confidence trick does Scotland no favours
Scotland’s results in arguably the weakest qualification group were frankly pitiful. The campaign started with defeat in Skopje to a pedestrian Macedonia side ranked more than twenty places below them, and it says a lot that the laboured 2-0 win over the same opponents at Hampden was seen as one of Scotland’s best performances of the campaign. James McFadden’s superb solo goal was the tasty icing on a somewhat bland, crumbling cake.
Burley’s men took just one point from two games against a Norway side that are outside the world’s top forty and haven’t qualified for a major tournament since Euro 2000. The furore surrounding Chris Iwelumo’s astonishing close-range miss in the home match diverted attention away from a dire performance, a game in which keeper Craig Gordon rescued his country on several occasions.
The two victories over Iceland were the least that could be expected against a team that finished bottom of the group with just one win.
Despite a litany of errors and tactical misjudgements, Scotland could still have given themselves a chance with victory at home to the Dutch. It seems appropriately depressing that a misdirected header from David Weir, parachuted back into the international set-up by Burley at the age of 39, should lead to the late Dutch goal that ended Scotland’s World Cup dream. Another Burley gamble had backfired, and the qualification campaign lay in ruins.
Burley was quick to praise his defeated troops, using words like pride and passion. I would have thought that pride in playing for your country and passion for the game are surely the minimum requirements, not qualities to be given high praise.
The SFA used the same language of losers when justifying the decision to retain Burley’s services. They too spoke of passion and commitment, describing Burley as a man who deeply cares about his country. No mention of tactical nous, no reference to levels of performance. There is talk of heading in the right direction, but no evidence to back that up.
Normally I would be the first to advocate managerial stability, but in this case I would make an exception. I fear the SFA and Burley are using sleight of hand to sell the loyal Tartan Army a qualification dream that cannot come true, and the rabbit’s set to stay rooted to the bottom of the Euro 2012 hat.