Saturday, December 16, 2006

Dear John

Anyone reading the Scottish media over the past few weeks would be forgiven for thinking the nation’s scribes are trying to woo John Collins.

Hardly a day goes by without a paean to Collins and his matinee idol looks appearing. Even defeat at Rangers could not dent the ardour of his admirers. Like a John Wayne character Collins’ fallibility seems to have made him all the more attractive: it’s easier to court a mortal after all.

Amid all this blether there is a serious point. Collins – with apparent ease – is changing things at Easter Road. A Scot who has travelled, he seems to be having much more success bringing continental methods to Edinburgh than Frenchman Paul Le Guen is having in Glasgow.

Training every day? No problem. Collins did it in France so they can do it at Easter Road.

Youth players struggling with a target of 25 dips? No problem Collins can do that himself. The young players should be aiming for 64.

This should not be revolutionary thinking. Look at France where players often train seven days a week. Look at Scotland where players shy away from a five day week. Is there a correlation between success and attitude?

And this week Collins was more refreshing than ever. A calm post-match interview. No shouting, no naming names, no talk of refereeing bias for the Old Firm. But also no hiding the fact that he wanted the players to know they had let the club down.

And Ivan Sproule, sent off at Ibrox for throwing the ball away, will have extra training during his suspension and a “heavy” fine.

No moaning from Collins that a Rangers player and a Celtic player were not punished from similar offences. Sproule was stupid, Collins punished him. Simple. No nonsense about the desire to win that Strachan wheeled out for yet another defence of Neil Lennon on Sunday.

It is discipline of this sort that Sproule needs. Go to Easter Road when he’s playing. Amid all the teenyboppers screaming his name you’ll find more than a few of the old sages shaking their heads and wondering what Ivan the terrible could achieve if he’d been blessed with a brain to go with his speed.

Collins might just have what it takes to turn Sproule and his teammates into the players their talent suggests they should be.