VOGTS OF CONFIDENCE
This website has held back from joining the siren
voices hailing the appointment of BERTI VOGTS as Scotland
coach until the announcement was made official. With the news
confirmed that the man who led Germany to victory in
Euro 96 will succeed Craig Brown in charge of
the Scots as of March 1st, now is the time to throw our twopence
Firstly, congratulations to the SFA in
getting their man. They refused to yield to the press lobby
which vociferously demanded an immediate appointment every time
there was a dearth of Old Firm stories. Getting it right is
more important than rushing the job. Scotland's next fixture
is at the end of March against France. There will be
no competitive matches until next season when the Euro qualifiers
get under way. So there was no need to go for a quick fix.
As for Vogts himself, there have been a few doubts
expressed in some quarters. Let us address the critics main
1) He's not Scottish. We could answer
glibly and say neither are a few of the players. But the top
Scottish bosses - Sir Alex Ferguson and George Graham
- ruled themselves out of contention. Others, like Gordon
Strachan who demanded a home-grown appointment, didn't hang
around long enough to be asked. Strachan happily took over at
Southampton and is doing a decent job there. Who else
was available? Kenny Dalglish? How long before he decided
that the only pitch he was interested in involved a putt afterwards?
Kenny is close to a modern Don Quixote - Man of La Manga.
Alex Miller and Jim Jefferies are
both looking for jobs. In the bad old days this would have been
the route the SFA went down. Let's face it. Before Jock Stein
the Scotland job was hardly as prestigious as it should
have been. It was given to Ian McColl who had never even
managed at club level. Other appointments were made from middling
domestic clubs like St Johnstone ( Bobby Brown and
Willie Ormond) and Clyde (John Prentice).
Willie Cunningham even turned the job down to stay with
Ormond apart, none of these managers was a great
success. Yet it was either that or the bragadaccio of Tommy
Docherty and Ally McLeod. When Stein left
Leeds to take up the post, at last the job of Scotland
boss was filled by a top class manager. After going down the
internal route with Andy Roxburgh and Craig Brown,
the SFA have again appointed a man in the Stein mould. Nationality
is irrelevant. Yes, it would have been preferable to have
a Scot in charge but there are no Scots available who have a
record that can be compared to that of Vogts.
2) His best days are behind him. Well,
we'll see but at 55, Vogts is the same age Stein was
when he became Scotland boss. He's a couple of years younger
than George Graham and five younger than Fergie.
He's younger now than Bobby Robson was when he took
England to the World Cup semi-finals in Italy. He's
also younger than that great chancer Terry Venables.
Sure he's spent the best part of a year in a footballing backwater
in Kuwait (if the desert can ever be a backwater).
But there isn't a coach in the world that would turn down the
sort of money on offer there.
3) He was a failure as boss of Germany.
Yeah, the sort of failure we could do with. When Franz Beckenbauer
departed in glory after the 1990 World Cup he could see
that the long era of German dominance was drawing to a close.
Vogts won the European Championship in 1996. Simple as
that. Of the four major tournaments played in under his command,
the Germans won one, made the Final of another (Euro 92) and
the quarter-finals of two World Cups. That record bears comparison
with all the big European powers over the same period. How
many trophies were won by England, Italy or Spain
between 1990-98? Answer: As many as Scotland.
Denmark and France were the other European countries
to lift the big prizes. Finally, consider this. Vogts led
his country to two major finals inside six years. Only Brazil
can make the same claim.
To conclude, yes we know we we have a shortage
of natural talent but that's been the case for a number of years
now. In particular we lack strikers and we aren't the most blessed
nation on Earth when it comes to goalkeeping. Vogts , if he
was unaware of our problems before, certainly won't be by the
end of his first week. But the SFA have made a bold move and
it deserves to pay off. Just as long as we don't go looking
for miracles we will surely make progress under Vogts. Lastly,
here's one to ponder: what sort of incentive must this be
for Vogts to return to the Germany that has written him off
as Scotland boss in the 2006 World Cup?
He may not be our Sven-Goran Eriksson but
he could well be our Jack Charlton.
These are some of the most difficult words this
writer has ever had to cast into cyberspace, suffering as he does
from that congenital disorder of the football supporter; rabid,
incomprehensible, paranoid loathing of local rivals
So, with teeth firmly gritted and hands trembling
as they write, this diehard Kilmarnock fan declares:
" Congratulations to Ayr United on
reaching their first major cup final and here's hoping you can
make St Patrick's Day an even more unappetising date than
usual for Rangers fans by winning the League Cup."
Phew, that took some doing. Usually, the non-old
firm fan has no problems when it comes to this kind of game. We
simply support the side that isn't Rangers/Celtic. But
now I have an inkling of how it must have felt to have been a
Dunfermline supporter when Raith Rovers recorded that
famous League Cup victory over Celtic.
So why should local rivalry go by the board now?
Well, for one thing, what does yet another Rangers League Cup
win add to Scottish football? Absolutely nothing. A win for Ayr,
as outlandish as it seems, would be a triumph for the underdog,
it would gain valuable recognition for them as a club and for
the Scottish Football League. It would also be the first time
since the foundation of the SPL that a major trophy had been won
by a team other than the old firm.
For most of Scottish football outwith Ibrox an Ayr
victory is something to be desired but for many Kilmarnock supporters
it is something to be feared. Taunts at the workplace, added to
the fact that Killie have now lost to Ayr four times in a row
in cup competitions will be hard to bear. The supporters will
lose one of their songs : "Ayr United, Ayr United, one
for Colin, never Will" (think about it).
But look at it from the point of view of the rest
of Scotland. Ayr have been consistently successful against SPL
sides in knockout tourneys in recent seasons. To get to this Final
they have eliminated two of Scotland's European representatives
(Kilmarnock and Hibernian), without conceding a
goal even though both games went to extra time. They played against
Killie for well over an hour with ten men. OK, their penalty
against Hibs was as soft as one of Mr Softee's supersoft soft
ices, but so what? As Franck Sauzee said, Hibs
performance was so poor that they didn't deserve to win. Ayr did.
And they deserve to on March 17th as well.
But before I get blackballed from Rugby Park
for life, let me ask my fellow Killie fans this: Isn't it about
time we cheered on the little team instead of regarding them as
a threat? If this were an Ayrshire junior team in the Junior
Cup Final, we'd want them to win. And, in a way, that's what it
is. I mean, this is a team that BOASTS of having Sydney
Devine and the Record's Bob Shields as fans
- something most clubs would want to keep quiet about (incidentally,
this game must represent a dilemma for Ayr "supporter"
Shields whose column can normally be found singing the praises
of David Murray.).
Things have reached a desperate state when some
Kilmarnock fans have taken to writing "C'mon the Gers"
on KFC websites. Get a grip guys. The Ayr mob are only doing
what non-old firm fans have been saying supporters should do for
decades "support your local team"
It's their first Final in 92 years and it'll probably
be another 92 before they get the chance again. So let's not whinge
on the sidelines, pretend we're temporary Huns, or even compare
Ayr to England in the World Cup Final. Be generous. Give them
your support. A little team like Ayr needs it. If it helps,
be patronising towards them. Offer to find them someone to
build a trophy room even - it won't be Bill Barr, he builds
everywhere except Somerset Park. And remember, after the match,
they will still be black-and-white shite.