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Tartan Talk: 16/11/12

Friday 16th November 2012
Scott Binnie discusses the search for a new Scotland manager and radical plans to restructure Scottish football in the latest edition of Tartan Talk

SFA Set Date for New Scotland Boss

The SFA have stated that they will have brought in a replacement for Craig Levein before Scotland's next World Cup Qualifiers in March. Levein was let go after a dismal start to the qualification campaign saw the Scots amass just two points from their opening four games. The bad results, the failure to get the best out of one of the best squads Scotland have had for a long time, a continued ignorance of SPL players and overly-defensive tactics turned the support against Levein and if anything, he was dismissed much later than he should have been.

Favourites for the Job

The bookies' and fans' favourite to take up the mantle of Scotland boss is Gordon Strachan, the former Celtic boss who most recently plied his trade with Middlesbrough in the Championship. Strachan recently stated that it would be an honour to lead Scotland, so it looks pretty likely that he'd accept any offer from the SFA about taking over from Levein.

According to some bookmakers' sites, other candidates for the position include the likes of David Moyes, Ally McCoist and Paul Hartley, but at this stage it looks like Joe Jordan and Billy Stark are the only real opposition to those that are pushing for Strachan's recruitment. Jordan has managed Bristol City and Hearts previously and has worked as assistant to Harry Redknapp for a number of years, whilst Stark is currently the Scotland U21 boss and has impressed in that role.

Focus on Youth and SPL is Needed

An experienced head is important but Stark is very familiar with Scotland's future players from his current position, and with fans urging the next boss to move away from older players like Kenny Miller and Gary Caldwell, that familiarity could be key. Stark was placed in interim control of the team for this week's friendly against Luxembourg and will be continuing in that capacity until a replacement is found, following the 2-1 win in the small principality on Wednesday night. The initial squad reeked of Levein's input, but following nine call-offs through injury and subsequent replacements, the group started to look like a Stark squad. Andrew Shinnie, Leigh Griffiths, Murray Davidson and Paul Dixon were all rewarded for fine recent form with call-ups and it was refreshing to see such a willingness to trust SPL players.

Stark oversaw a laboured performance and uninspiring 2-1 win against Luxembourg but with such a vastly changed squad, little can be taken from such a scenario regarding Stark's managerial capabilities. The one lesson evident in the game though has to be the two-goal haul of Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes. Rhodes scored 44 goals in 45 games last year for Huddersfield, has notched six times in 12 games for Blackburn this season and now has three international goals in five appearances. Top quality finishing like that cannot be ignored, despite the swaths of experience that Kenny Miller undoubtedly brings, so Rhodes simply has to start for Scotland alongside Steven Fletcher in competitive games. Such a trust in youth is essential for the new boss.

SPL vs. SFL over League Reconstruction

Extensive restructuring of Scottish football has been on the cards since Henry McLeish's 2010 report into the state of the game, but the move picked up speed over the summer as those in charge of the game looked to do all they could to keep Rangers at the top level of Scottish football. Part of the offer to SFL clubs to accept Rangers in the First Division was restructuring the promotion and relegation between the top two tiers, but nothing more was said of the matter once Rangers were voted into the Third Division.

Now though the Scottish Football League have proposed, and agreed upon amongst themselves unanimously, new plans to vastly change the make-up of Scottish football. After the 30 member clubs all agreed to the proposals, the plans will now be put forward to the SPL for consideration, when a positive vote of 11-1 will be necessary to see the moves passed. With the SPL clubs likely to lose out on money from the new plans, their agreement is unlikely. Indeed, the SPL are working on two proposals themselves, full details of which we're currently without right now.

What the SFL are Planning

David Longmuir and the SFL propose a switch from four tiers to three tiers, comprising a top flight of 16 teams, a second of 10 teams and a third of 18 teams. There would be two automatic spots for promotion/relegation between all three divisions along with playoffs for a third spot, creating an increased variety of opposition for all teams – there could potentially be six new sides in the second tier each season. The plans include a merging of the SFL and SPL bodies as well as provisions for a winter break. What is most likely to incur the opposition of the SPL clubs is the move to distribute money more widely across the whole system, instead of the current top-heavy model. The most contentious aspect of the plan though is the inclusion of Celtic and Rangers ‘colt' teams in the third tier. Undoubtedly there would be a cap on promotion for the teams, much like that for the Barcelona and Real Madrid B sides in Spain, so as to avoid the Old Firm having two sides in the top division.

Advantages

With more teams in each league, and a high turnover of clubs between those divisions, there will unquestionably be a greater level of entertainment: fans and players won't grow bored of playing the same teams four games a season. A more even distribution of money is of great importance of course and can only benefit the game by helping to level the playing field to an extent. Old Firm B sides will bring higher attendances to bottom tier clubs and thus more money. The implementation of a pyramid system below the bottom tier is massively important; Spartans and Cove Rangers etc. deserve their opportunity and the likes of East Stirlingshire can't be allowed to finish bottom six years in a row.

Disadvantages

A split of 16/10/18 sounds far too random. Having just 10 clubs in the second tier, as well as the possibility of there being six new teams each season, makes the league seem like too much of a halfway house. Three tiers of 16 would be preferable: 42 current clubs, two OF colt clubs, and four teams invited from lower leagues. Two-up and two-down for promotion and relegation with a playoff between 14 and 3 for the third spot. A bit criticism of the plans so far has been the allowance of ‘colt' teams to Rangers and Celtic but not any other clubs. The strongest explanation of this is that most other clubs would be unable to sustain a second team financially. Other clubs really should be approached though.

Only 30 fixtures in the top flight seems like too few, especially to try and secure TV deals and sell season tickets. However, the revamped League Cup also under consideration would provide more games overall. The bottom 20 clubs from the three tiers would contest a qualifying round before joining the other 22 teams in a Champions League-type format competition, featuring eight groups of four based on seedings. The colt teams would not be entered.

The primary sticking point for SPL teams is going to be the redistribution of money. The very reason these sides broke away from SFL was for financial gain; they're unlikely to be keen to agree to less money than they currently receive. The SPL clubs will be asked to vote on these plans shortly but have two separate proposals of their own to put forward.

What the SPL are Planning

Not much is known about the two plans currently being worked on by the SPL, except a very basic idea. The first option is simply an extension of the SPL from 12 teams to 16 teams, with nothing released as of yet regarding what would happen to the SFL or how these four additional teams would be selected. The top four of the First Division could be promoted, or teams could be invited to join, which would open the door to Rangers' return to the top flight.

The second proposal includes the creation of a 12-team SPL2. The two leagues would split in mid-season and merge into three leagues of eight teams. Again, nothing has been said yet about the rest of the SFL or promotion and relegation between the leagues. It's difficult to comment on these plans just now given that so little has been made public about them, but on the face of things it doesn't appear that the SPL are giving too much thought about Scottish football as a whole, merely themselves.

The SFA had been earmarked to take control of plans to restructure Scottish football but Chief Executive Stewart Regan has admitted that he and his organisation haven't been involved, with a deadline for the agreement of proposals ignored and discarded. Clearly, the groups have got to work together and come to agreement on how to move forward. Scottish football needs change, but that change needs to benefit the whole of the game, not just those at the top.

 
Scott Binnie
Scott is a Rangers and Aston Villa fan from the Midlands who now resides in Stirling, Scotland. Scott made the three-way choice that faced everyone from his area as regards to his football leanings: Coventry City, Aston Villa or Man United? He went for the Villa and his first game was a brutal 0-0 draw with West Ham, setting the tone for much of the time supporting Villa. Raised by a Gers-loving Scottish father, Scott always had a team on each side of the border and, after going to the University of Stirling, he got the chance to see his beloved Teddy Bears at Ibrox two years ago, when they were hammered 3-0 by Hibernian on a horrible November evening. Since then, he has managed to see them win a few times! His favourite players are Ally McCoist, Savo Milosevic, Michael Mols, Andres Iniesta, Barry Bannan and Lee McCulloch. Outside of football, Scott loves writing (usually on football but not exclusively!), heavy metal, reading horror and fantasy and he recently graduated from University of Stirling in English Studies. He is now training as a sports reporter and covers Stirling Albion games every week. Follow Scott on Twitter @SBinnie19

Total articles: 15

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