Thursday, October 07, 2010

Phil In The Blanks

Enough scoffing.

In years to come we’ll remember where we were when the news filtered through. It will be our JFK moment. With less blood, and fewer conspiracy theories. And much happier.

The day Scotland welcomed a new star.

The day Craig Levein picked up the phone and called Phil Bardsley.

Suddenly the doubts raised by those twin performances against Lithuania and Liechtenstein were washed away. The fear about facing the Czechs and the Spanish eased.

Scotland are on their way and Phil’s leading the charge.

All nonsense of course.

Who knew that Bardsley had a Glaswegian father? Who knew that he was still at Sunderland? Who knew that Alan Hutton kept him out of the side at the Stadium of Light last season?

Craig Levein knew and that’s all that matters.

We live in a world that is getting smaller. We occupy a strange postion in that, along with the other home nations, there are going to be a lot of cases of dual qualification (in Bardsley's case triple qualification). And we are entitled to use that to our advantage. It’s within the rules and the manager is entitled to use those rules as he sees fit for the good of his team.

And when it brings success we’re likely to forget all about it. John and Martin Leslie were parachuted into the Scottish rugby team. That raised eyebrows but was forgotten when they were instrumental in winning the last ever Five Nations Championship in 1999.

It’s the lack of ambition that annoys.

Phil Bardsley might be a great guy. He might even ceilidh dance around his living room while munching on haggis balls washed down with whisky, Braveheart on a constant loop on his TV. And his somewhat stalled career might hide a world class footballer who has simply been unlucky with injury, managers or some other of the many variables that can take a toll on promising young careers. (In my case the most damning variable was being crap at football but I’m sure Phil doesn’t share that affliction.)

Levein has said that Bardsley is the sort of young but experienced player Scotland needs. But he’s not. At 25 he would only be called young in a country that has zero confidence in taking a risk on youth. Scotland is such a country. And with under 100 senior appearances he would only be considered experienced in a country that considers being a Manchester United youth player and appearing a few times in the English Premier League as experienced. Scotland is such a country.

Would Levein’s squad really have suffered if he’d taken a punt on a player playing in the SPL who is actually young? Would, in the long term, that not have been more beneficial for both the player and the development of Levein’s squad?

According to the manager, the SFA had been aware of Bardsley’s eligibility for some time but the player had only recently decided to throw his lot in with Scotland. One wonders if he felt the need to phone Fabio Capello to tell him that he no longer wanted to be considered for selection.

Maybe Levein has uncovered a gem in Bardsley. If not then this seems a pointless call-up. And one that will serve only to increase the gulf between the manager and the fans.

Roll on Friday night…