Euro 2020 preview: Craig Brown says that bosses are not to blame for 23 years of Scotland failure

Former Scotland manager Craig Brown is writing a weekly column for us on his old team’s progress at Euro 2020 and it starts with this preview piece.

Thursday, 3rd June 2021, 12:13 pm
Scotland can at last rely on star performers like Andy Robertson (2nd right) after years of failure, says Craig Brown (Pic by Getty Images)
Scotland can at last rely on star performers like Andy Robertson (2nd right) after years of failure, says Craig Brown (Pic by Getty Images)

As the last manager to lead Scotland into a major football finals, I reckon a lack of overall playing talent, rather than coaching errors, is the major reason that has prevented us from qualifying for every major tournament since the 1998 world cup in France.

After 23 barren years, during which Scotland have failed to reach 10 consecutive finals, we will finally take our place at the top table at Euro 2020 in just a few days’ time.

To be fair to the previous Scotland squads that haven’t qualified for competitions over the past two decades, I think we’ve had a lot of bad fortune.

Scotland's Andy Robertson celebrates after his team's victory in the penalty shootout after their Euro 2020 play-off semi-final match against Israel at Glasgow's Hampden Park on October 8, 2020 (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

I don’t think the players were as good as the players I had. I was very lucky. I had a good crop of international players. I was picking players from the champion team of England. I had three from Blackburn Rovers – Colin Hendry, Billy McKinlay and Kevin Gallacher – who won the league.

Subsequently, we’ve been picking players from – no disrespect to these clubs – Bournemouth, Derby County, teams that are nothing like the champion teams.

We had the likes of Gary McAllister, and he won three trophies with Liverpool. Paul Lambert won the Champions League.

I think the reason for the long delay in getting to a championship was the quality of players.

I don’t blame the managers. I think we’ve had good managers.

Berti Vogts had 100-plus caps with Germany as a player and then won Euro 96 as a manager. I honestly think he was a good manager.

George Burley had a very good reputation at the highest level in England, and Alex McLeish, Walter Smith and Gordon Strachan, these guys were good managers, but they didn’t have the resources that Andy Roxburgh and I had because we were very fortunate in the crop of players that we were able to choose from.

I would see Charlie Nicholas playing with Arsenal and then I was going down to Liverpool.

When Andy was the manager, Liverpool had Steve Nicol in the team, Gary Gillespie, Kenny Dalglish.

Now we are raving about having the one Liverpool player – Andy Robertson – in the Scotland squad, and he’s a brilliant player, but in my time, when I started, we had Graeme Souness, Dalglish, Gillespie and then Nicol came in. Nicol was the player of the year in England.

I’m trying to exonerate the managers from blame because they didn’t have the best of resources to choose from.

We face sectional games against the Czech Republic, England and Croatia, with the six group winners and runners-up, plus four best third-placed teams, qualifying for the knockout stage.

I think a good result for Scotland would be to qualify, to get to the last 16.

It’s still half as good as Andy Roxburgh because Andy was in the last eight of Euro 92 in Germany.

I qualified them to go to Euro 96 but 16 qualified then. We were a goal away from getting out of the group.

Patrick Kluivert scored a consolation goal for Holland in a 4-1 defeat to England to put us out.

I think this Scotland team can qualify out of the group because I think, for the first time in a wee while, it’s a very well-balanced group.​​​​

In a way, picking Clarke’s squad was made easier for him by the injuries to the two experienced midfielders, Kenny McLean and Ryan Jack, so that gave him two spaces to pick David Turnbull and Billy Gilmour.

Unlike Andy Roxburgh and I, Clarke had a flexibility factor in picking his squad.

Young guys like Turnbull and Gilmour will be only too happy to be at the Euros.