Former Scotland manager Craig Brown reckons this country’s near three-decade sabbatical from competing at international finals could be about to come to an end, writes Craig Goldthorp.
Ex-Motherwell FC boss Brown (78) the last gaffer to take our male national team to a major finals – the 1998 World Cup in France – thinks new Scotland boss Steve Clarke has a great chance of ending our long exile from the game’s top table by qualifying for next year’s European Championship finals.
Brown, who was on the Scotland coaching staff at a record five major tournaments, told the Times and Speaker: “Scotland made it to the 1992 European Championships in Sweden (when Brown was assistant to Andy Roxburgh) despite the fact that only eight teams qualified.
“Then when I was in the manager’s job 16 teams qualified for Euro 96 in England.
“Now it is 24. So it is a wee bit of an indictment on our football that as many teams as that qualify for the Euro finals and we still can’t make it.
“There are 55 teams in Europe and some of them – the likes of San Marino and the Faroe Islands – have no chance of qualifying.
“Out of all the countries there are maybe 35 who are realistically in with a chance of qualifying.
“With 24 teams qualifying for the Euros these days I think we should be doing it.
“Andy Roxburgh did it when there were eight teams for goodness sake.”
Scotland have two routes of qualifying for the Euro 2020 finals, to be held in 12 host cities – including Glasgow – next summer.
Having lost 3-0 to minnows Kazakhstan in their opening Group I match, the Scots’ best chance of quaification seems to be through the secondary route of the play-offs.
After topping a mini group also containing Israel and Albania, the Scots – assuming they don’t qualify via Group I – will play against two other sides in a semi-final and final next March, for one of four ‘bonus’ finals places up for grabs.
Brown, a director at Aberdeen FC, said: “I sincerely hope that Scotland can qualify.
“Steve Clarke has two chances of getting to the finals next year.
“I think he is a very worthy choice as Scotland manager. I was just glad the SFA didn’t pick (Aberdeen manager) Derek McInnes.
“Stevie was once in Andy Roxburgh’s Scotland team that won the European Youth Championships (in 1982).
“That side had Paul McStay, Davie Cooper, Brian McClair, Pat Nevin and Eric Black. Stevie played at left back.
“He also played for Scotland at an under-20 World Cup in Mexico, when they won the first game in front of 100,000 fans.
“Stevie has great experience playing at a good level. He won six international caps and I think he deserved more.
“He was also part of a Chelsea side which initially won the old second division and later established themselves in the top flight.
“But it was hard for Stevie to get a game for Scotland as Maurice Malpas was the left back and Richard Gough was the right back.”