2014 was perhaps a rush to blood, the real sense of determination that the game in Scotland is finally putting itself together.
From the affray, the product appears to be a shredded one. ‘Big’ clubs appearing in the Championship could be seen either as a positive or cause for concern for concern but economics have been considered among the jaded, the only force within Scottish Football. There are positive statistics that argue there is an underlying force in Scotland.
Rangers case carries on
There was a particular nucleus in the media again of continued gloom yet Rangers for all their trials away from this cynicism have immediately marched along the leagues as expected. The dismissal of Ally McCoist was long noted, yet when it occurred being put on gardening leave, was a surprise. McCoist, a club legend had prevailed against the toughest period in the history of the club, shown by the emotion and considerable cleavage evident in his face.
Cup defeats against Raith Rovers and Alloa Athletic have been constraining as were the earlier defeats against Stirling Albion and draws against Elgin City and Montrose, all scalps.
The snapshot of a player who played the game with a smile on his face as glorious goal scorer for Ibrox being consigned to the dustbin was a painful sight and not merely a comedy act. Any manager however would have struggled in the circumstances of Craig Whyte, Mike Ashley and the boardroom scenarios at Ibrox. It was McCoist’s own glint of character, loyalty, endeavour and ability that remained that protected his players however that should be pivotal in the history of Scottish management to the extent that he is almost the anti-Jock Stein.
However his decision to go for instant gratification in bringing in experienced physical style Scottish Premier League players instead of promoting an entire nucleus of youth within Murray Park has backfired; the likes of Ian Black, Kris Boyd and Jon Daly have not lived up to the expectations with only Lewis Macleod claiming to be an emerging force. In a sense because of the difficulties surrounding the club generally, the players performances as experienced campaigners attributed to the style of play has been difficult to watch. They are a club heavily relying on its fanbase to keep it going.
The ability to rebuild in Scotland has been evident of the new style of living; frugal spend little. Heart of Midlothian finally slashing their debt, a relegation to the Scottish Championship bringing an overall new structure, being taken over by Ann Budge, a capable and confident assertive new chairman, interested in a process overall rather than instant gratification.
Hibernian, a club dropped down signed a talented youngster in Scott Allan who has rebuilt his career with some standout performances for the Easter Road club. Allan prematurely left Dundee United after a contract dispute through his agent demanding a contract of over £2,000 where the player had not yet properly broken into the first-team. A period down south that included a car accident involving the player paying £6 million in damages was fracturous but the player will now be hoping to settle in Scotland again and focus on his football.
The comebacks of Scotland players, of Craig Gordon and Darren Fletcher have perhaps not got as much recognition as it should such was their status as star players for a decade. However they have become an inspiration, Gordon a hero stepping into the breach for Glasgow Celtic after three years without competitive football that included a spell as being considered an ex-player and a coach at Dumbarton. The long drives to the physios from his home will have been lonely as it will have been for Fletcher from illness; they have managed to regain their international status and will be key players for Gordon Strachan coming up.
Debt-free home-grown clubs
An outlandish for a vast wave of cynicism to be almost evaporated within the space of a year; Scotland’s ability of highs and lows a transcend to a steady approach, the early days of Doncaster and Regan changing the bureaucracies, the absence of a top-flight Rangers.
Motherwell’s ability to finish second despite more financial cuts against Aberdeen and Dundee United; the passion and bravado of Stuart McCall, a fiery Yorkshireman disguised as the ginger-haired Scot, a flashback to 1990’s grit and zealous, bringing a goal-orientated philosophy. This is a manager who resigned in loyalty bringing the finest period.
Aberdeen’s father, Stuart Milne finally coming good after a 20-year period of hell; bringing back honours, a manager of straight streetwise Glasgow talk, a combination of supreme negotiation ability in tying up new deals, a tactical insight to Niall McGinn erupting as a goal-scorer and in an awash of midst.
A new kind of Scottish footballer emerging; take Dundee United’s Andrew Robertson and Ryan Gauld both sold in high fees to England and Portugal respectively. Robertson, a left-back with an astonishing eye for goal and beautifully endearing energy level combined with Gauld a player, helped through a new modern youth structure at Tannadice, but yet a long way to go.
There is growing trend of debt-free clubs. Despite the previous two players of course going, Scotland’s ability to keep hold of some it’s more established young players such as Stuart Armstrong and Gary Mackay-Steven at Dundee United and Ryan Jack at Aberdeen is another step of sign in sight of when players such as Ryan Fraser, Jack Grimmer, Fraser Fyvie amongst names were sold perhaps pre maturely in the past.
The women’s game too is receiving enduring success. Kim Little, a player achieving success in America, the best country in the world for the game, winning the most valuable player award for the 2014 season. The national team reached the World Cup qualifying play-offs, and Glasgow City reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time.
The national team are becoming a well-tuned side. Previous relative success achieved under Walter Smith and Alex McLeish in the Noughties based on defensive reliability but this side is an attacking threwat. Gordon Strachan’s side with a matured Shaun Maloney, a cult in Ikechi Anya and an attacking unit, the best since the mid-1990’s appear to look good.
There is not a particular approach of rightness but rather a case of continued focus as 2015 awaits and things are looking exciting again.