Oh dear! Following Scotland’s 3-0 victory against the Faroe Islands on Tuesday night, some of the football community have lost their heads and are now guilty of the same hyperbolic drivel uttered by English commentators about their team that usually enrages the entire country.
Yes, Scotland played well and Barry Bannan, in particular, had an impressive debut. But the poor individuals that comparing the diminutive 20 year old to the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andries Iniesta and, God forbid, Jimmy Johnstone, really need a long lie down in a darkened room.
Listening to this nonsense, my mind drifts back to a spring evening at Ibrox Park in 1993, when a young Duncan Ferguson “terrorised” the German defence in a friendly international. Although he failed to score, Duncan was hailed as Scottish football’s new saviour.
The hype was enough that summer for Rangers chairman David Murray, whose ego trip was by then in full flow, to blow his club’s entire transfer budget on the inexperienced Ferguson.
Alas, with Mark Hateley firmly established as number one striker at Ibrox, the move backfired: Ferguson was no more than a reserve de luxe during his brief time there and any hopes that Scottish football had of him becoming another Dennis Law or Joe Jordan ended when he turned his back on the national team, following a jail sentence and subsequent twelve match S.F.A domestic ban for an alleged head butt on an opponent while playing for Rangers.
During my time following the Scottish national team, others have been hailed as our new messiah but only to fail to fulfil their potential: Charlie Nicholas, Paul McStay, Ian Durrant, Derek Ferguson, Eoin Jess and Charlie Miller, to name but six, have all fallen by the wayside despite promising much in their youth.
A few years ago, James McFadden was the next big thing, but he has struggled to hold down a starting place at either Everton or his present club in the English Premiership despite his “wonder” goal for Scotland against France three years ago. The Birmingham forward has failed to develop into the player many expected him to become when he first emerged. Injuries have been a major factor, but the weight of expectation has also played a part.
It is perfectly understandable given the dreadful start to Craig Levein’s reign as national team coach. He and the media try to accentuate any positive they can find, but some balance is required. It was only a friendly against the minnows of international football and heaping pressure on young players is counterproductive.
While it must be hoped that Bannan avoids the pitfalls off the field that befell Duncan Ferguson, Charlie Miller and Charlie Nicholas and the injury problems that dogged Durrant and Jess, this is a boy who has made only six appearances for Aston Villa in the Premiership!
Danny Wilson, the eighteen year old centre half who scored on his debut on Tuesday, is another being tipped to lead the nation to a new footballing promised land, but has yet to start a league game for his new club, Liverpool. In truth, he may regret leaving the Rangers first team squad where he gained experience in the S.P.L. and Champions League for the obscurity of the Anfield reserves.
Until these players and others are completing a couple of seasons as Premiership regulars, we should leave them in peace to develop as footballers as well as men rather than burden them with the expectation that they will reverse Scottish football’s decline.
Charlie Adam is a case in point. Arguably our best player on Tuesday night until his injury, he was written off by many when he failed to make the grade at Rangers. He rebuilt his career away from the limelight at Blackpool and is now one of the stars of the English Premiership.
Rangers and their supporters will rue the day they let him leave for a song. Had he been given time to develop at Ibrox, he would have been a key player by now.
It is understandable that since Scotland’s record of producing homegrown players over the past two decades is so poor that any young player who shows promise is instantly hailed as our new star. But, by now, the people doing this should know better.
Today’s bright young thing can easily become tomorrow’s forgotten man, usually propelled there on a tidal wave of hype.
Bannan, Wilson and others may develop into a team of world beaters, but they are more likely to do so if we give them time and peace to learn their trade. Rather than go overboard following a good start to their international careers against the Faroe Islands, we should allow them to develop into the players they are destined to be!