IMAGINE you are the chief executive and board of directors of a company or organisation whose stakeholders set you a target every two years. For 20 years running, you miss those targets. How long do you think you would stay in your job?

Yet when it comes to the Scottish Football Association, the repeated failure in arguably its most important and certainly most public task is allowed to just go on happening year after year and nobody, but nobody, at the top of the organisation seems to bat an eyelid never mind do the decent thing and resign.

As the governing body of Scottish football, the SFA has several major jobs to do, but the most high-profile of them is to put a national team on the pitch that is capable of competing at the highest level. That is not my statement, that has been their assertion for many years.

Loading article content

We used to do it regularly. From 1974 to 1998 Scotland only missed out on qualification for the World Cup finals on one occasion, in 1994. Two years before that we were in Sweden at the European Championships and two years after that in the finals of the same tournament in England. Since 1998, we have missed out on the ten major finals in a row.

The SFA will no doubt argue that during those golden years Scotland had many truly great players, like Kenny Dalglish, Danny McGrain, Martin Buchan, Graeme Souness, Joe Jordan, Paul McStay, Alan Hansen and Willie Miller, and others who were ‘merely’ excellent like Richard Gough, Bruce Rioch, John Robertson, Roy Aitken, Alex McLeish, Gordon Strachan, John Collins, Gary McAllister, Colin Hendry, Jim Leighton and plenty others who were more than capable of performing at the highest level. We also had managers of real stature such as Willie Ormond, Jock Stein, Craig Brown and, yes, Ally MacLeod, even if he was just a little over-enthusiastic as a cheerleader.

Following Sunday’s sad loss in Slovenia, we now have not qualified for a major finals since the World Cup in France in 1998, and it is about time that there should be independent scrutiny on just why the SFA has failed for so long and gotten away with it.

No doubt there will be plenty of other people who will be screaming about the SFA’s failures in many other departments, such as their craven inability to look into the way that their own processes worked in regard to the Rangers EBT scandal, as requested by the SPFL. But then they cannot allow such independent scrutiny of anything they do, because they can’t control the outcome.

As someone who paid his dues as a member of the Tartan Army before switching to sportswriting, I feel the time has now come for all of us interested in the future of Scottish football is to address the fundamental issue – the failure to create the conditions in Scotland for young players to develop and flourish and make it to the world stage.

No doubt there will be people who will be blaming Gordon Strachan for this latest failure, and I do question his loyalty to certain players and his tactics for Sunday, plus we were unlucky to lose Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong to injury. Yet Strachan can only work with the players that he has and we are long past the time when the SFA should have brought in proper systems to find and develop those players.

If you are a housebuilder you cannot blame the foreman for houses collapsing when you didn’t give them the proper tools to do the job. That what’s been happening in Scottish football.

I know all about what current performance director Malky Mackay is trying to do and applaud him for it, but it is far too little and far too late and we will not reap the benefits of the current attempts to develop players for at least another four or five years, if at all.

The national team manager is going to be hamstrung for at least that period because the SFA did not do its job properly and did not get its member clubs doing the right things by Scotland.

I do not expect anybody at the SFA to resign over this latest failure, especially chief executive Stewart Regan. But someone needs to start asking serious questions about the national side’s failure to make any finals for 20 years and put the blame where it ultimately lies – in the SFA boardroom.

There is a genuine example of how progress can be made and it’s very close to home. The Scottish women’s team made it to this year’s European Championships finals because they had good enough players and an outstanding coach in Anna Signeul who of course has now left for fresh pastures. And it’s no coincidence that the improvement happened because clubs like Glasgow City, Celtic, Hibs and Rangers started to put serious resources into the women’s game.

The SFA needs to get all its member clubs to be investing much, much more in youth development, using Continental and yes, English practices if necessary, and clubs must be made to go along with the national policy or else face real sanctions if they do not comply.

We came so close to making the play-offs on Sunday, all that we could expect given our ranking in world football, but at the end of the day Scotland still failed. Show me a glorious failure and I will show you a loser, and for far too long the SFA has been an inglorious failure. Time for permanent change.