Burley’s Bhoys

by Mystical Mike

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Being a Dundee United fan, it would presumably be welcome news that club legend Paul Hegarty has joined George Burley’s coaching staff for the national side. The fact that he only collected a handful of caps in his playing career is surely nothing to be worried about – there are after all a number of high-profile backroom string-pullers with comparable experience – but it isn’t just the emotional, tactical and judgment-related rollercoaster ride of Burley’s reign that flavours this appointment with a lack of ambition.

Granted it doesn’t look good that Hegarty was Burley’s second choice, with Gary McAllister rejecting the chance to join up with the national squad in favour of waiting for his place on the inevitable managerial merry-go-round south of the border, but there was an inevitability about the announcement, given the lengthy career the former United stopper has carved out as the also-ran in Scottish football.

A steady if not necessarily sought-after coach, spells as caretaker manager of Aberdeen and Dundee United saw him replaced after four months apiece (despite saving the Dons from relegation), with subsequent stints at Motherwell and Livingston lasting just over a year between them. A relatively long career without any substantial successes to speak of, it appears more likely Burley simply picked someone he knew would say ‘yes’ before the saga dragged on too long.

With Terry Butcher ‘on club duty’ with Inverness Caledonian Thistle, it will be Hegarty lining up in the dugout next to Burley, for what will be – judging by yet another listless squad selection – a yawn-inspiring friendly with Japan next week. While there is welcome news in the announcement (with ease akin to that with which he tends to slip out of his assigned position – and despite United old boy Owen Coyle’s recent hilarious claim that he merits his place in the Premiership through the length of time he has had to wait for it – Graham Alexander has finally slipped from the squad) disturbing habits in Burley’s selection policy remain present. With exactly half the 22-man squad plying their trade in Scotland, just 3 play outside the Old Firm – including the third-choice goalkeeper. A further 4 of the England-based players previously played for either Rangers or Celtic before moving south.

Perhaps its true that these teams produce the best players Scotland has to offer – but when new Bhoy Daniel Fox earns a call-up on the merit of less than three months work at Celtic, it has to leave consistent performers like Lee Wallace, Charlie Mulgrew and Paul Dixon wondering why they are not even allowed to compete for a cap in a friendly. Indeed, Burley must see Kilmarnock’s Kevin Kyle through the same eyes Fabio Capello views the prolific Darren Bent – the lanky forward has scored 10 goals in 13 games this season, but sees his name omitted from the roster in favour of sometime international benchwarmer Garry O’Connor, who surely makes the grade on his Premier League status alone, given his tragic-comical inability to find the back of the net.

And if former Livingston midfielder Robert Snodgrass can force his way into the squad all the way from the third tier of English football, it begs the question whether it is a good idea to keep faith in a manager who has so low an opinion of the Scottish game that he can comfortably peer into the depths of our neighbour’s lower leagues looking for squad players while consistently ignoring any combination of talent and form that can make a player stand out in the Scottish top flight.

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  • Stevie

    Scottish football is at it’s lowest point in many years. The national team are a joke and Celtic and Rangers are no longer a force. There used to be a time when they would have been able to compete against the top clubs in England, no more, I think they’ve struggled to win the Coca Cola Championship to be honest.

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