Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The ba's burst

Norway 4 : 0 Scotland


Stone the crows. That was bad. Really bad, Berti Vogts bad.

Excuses and mitigation first. The red card was probably justified but you might still feel slightly hard done by. And we'd had a couple of minor sights at goal by that point.

And the free kick was deflected. But if you turn your back and jump into a free kick then the ball can go anywhere. Them's the breaks.

Of course really there can be no excuses. Hopeless, clueless, rudderless, leaderless, naive. Write a list of adjectives that shouldn't describe an international football team. Scotland were every one of those things tonight. And more.

We could have lost six or seven. And we did actually concede five before a moment of generosity from the officials denied Carew the goal that his performance deserved. A towering, pivotal performance that was amplified by the woeful inadequacy of the Scots.

You're hard pushed to find any heroes tonight. This was a team bonded by anonymity and coherent only in their woeful inability to come together as a serious international football team.

Gary Caldwell and George Burley will be the fall guys. And Caldwell was certainly silly to get his first booking and stupid to not avoid trouble in the minutes following that.

But with ten men Scotland looked like they had only five players on the park. For international footballers that reaction is not good enough. Not nearly good enough.

The calls will be for Burley to go now. Tonight. This minute. Many will want him to jump off the plane over the North Sea to better atone for his sins.

But who wants to inherit a team that's on the verge of failure. Let Burley see out this campaign. Then get a new man – if you can find one – before the Japan game.

Mathematicians will say qualification is still possible.

But maths doesn't win football matches and the job of raising that group of players seems too much. Even a second place in the group would probably not be enough.

We've failed to beat Norway and Macedonia so far in this group. That's not the form that deserves play off places let alone a seat at Fifa's South African jamboree.

"Whatever could have gone wrong tonight went wrong." That was Burley's reaction to this enormous failure.

After coming so close to Euro 2008 we were looking to take the next step. For that we needed a new leader. We were looking for Churchill. We were given Mr Mainwaring.

The sound of laughter you hear? That's coming from somewhere in Birmingham.