Monday, November 09, 2009

An age old problem

I remember when I was young.

I remember it always being sunny with quick witted street urchins running happily on the car free streets, performing footballing miracles with tennis balls.

Actually, I don't.

I do, however, remember our old sage Craig Brown. How he would puff his chest out with pride when talking about the sudden availability of "young Alistair" or "young Paul." He looked just like the fastest pigeon in the loft.

Ironic as little Craig might have intended to be when referring to the thirtysomething McCoist or McCstay there was always an underlying message. The veterans were preferable to the youngsters.

It's a trait of Scottish sport. Young Scottish golfers are great prospects when Tiger is going for the Grand Slam. Andy Murray has Slam winning potential as Rafael Nadal wins major after major.

Surely, for all that's wrong with our diet, we don't mature later than other countries. Do we lose four years from child prodigal to failing adult? Are we spending the critical years drinking cheap cider behind the bike sheds with the school glamour girls?

Glenn Gibbons summed it up perfectly in Saturday's Scotsman:
EXPANDING on the players included in the Scotland squad to play Wales next week, George Burley touched on a modern tendency that is no less irritating for being so widespread. By describing the Rangers midfielder, Kevin Thomson, as "a young player with potential", the national team manager betrayed a failure to distinguish between potential and lack of fulfilment. Thomson, below, is 25, precisely the average age of the ten outfield players who won the European Cup with Celtic in 1967.

He is three years older than Jimmy Johnstone and Bobby Murdoch, two older than Tommy Gemmell and Bobby Lennox and one older than Jim Craig.

There is a similar perception of Aiden McGeady, who, at 23 and in his sixth year as a first-team squad member, shows few visible signs of improvement, but is viewed as a novice with much to learn.

Ally McCoist, too, seems to be a beneficiary of this inverted ageism, frequently described in the media as a young coach, almost ready to make his way in management. He is 47, an age at which Alex Ferguson had been in management for 15 years, had won ten major trophies with Aberdeen and been appointed manager of Manchester United.

McCoist is also nine years older than Jock Stein was when he won his first Scottish Cup with Dunfermline in 1961 and three years older than the great Celtic manager was when he won the European Cup.

Some of today's "apprentices" are actually closer to greybeards.