HENRY McLeish has warned that Scottish football is ‘running out of excuses’ as a fresh era begins with the appointment of Malky Mackay as the SFA’s new performance director.
McLeish, who conducted a wide-ranging review of Scottish football in 2010, was recently appointed chairman of the Fife Elite Football Academy and insists he ‘remains optimistic’ that progress has been made since he published 53 recommendations to improve the national game six years ago.
However, the former First Minister and East Fife footballer admits that Mackay has a ‘tremendous challenge’ ahead as he bids to reverse the fortunes of the 18 years since Scotland last qualified for a major tournament.
He said: “One piece of good advice for Malky is that this is a listening job as well as a doing job.
“I think Scotland has talent. A lot of people say to me we’re too small, we’re too this or we’re too that.
“Look, we’re running out of excuses.
“I believe, like any other country in the world, we do have the talent.
“Let’s identify it and let Malky work with all the new academies, the new set-up, the SFA, the club set-up, to make sure that when we identify talent it can come to the fore.
“The big issue for Scotland is we’ve got to have a much, much bigger ambition.
“If you look at countries like Wales and Northern Ireland, Serbia, Albania, Iceland, we don’t really have any excuses.
“I defy anyone to argue that Scotland is not brimming with talent.
“Our challenge is to identify it and then make sure we bring it to club level and international level.”
McLeish admitted at the time that the recommendations in his ‘Review of Scottish Football’ were ambitious but he is still hopeful the differing factions in Scottish football can work together to find a solution to the game’s ills.
He added: “The key thing is we are on a journey here, we started it in 2010, 2011, and a lot of significant progress has been made.
“But, at the end of the day, in terms of the European Championships and our current progress in the World Cup, we are not in good shape and our football isn’t good enough relative to our European counterparts.
“So, Malky is going to have a tremendous challenge.
“He won’t be alone, he’s got to work with clubs, he’s got to work with every aspect of the game, including the new academy structure, which is being reformed.
“I remain optimistic that we’ve made some progress – but that a lot more progress has still to be made.”
Mackay’s appointment has proved controversial, thanks to an English FA investigation in 2014 into discriminatory texts he sent whilst manager at Cardiff City.
Some critics have suggested Mackay should not have landed the prominent role because of the incident.
McLeish added to BBC Radio Scotland: “He’s made some statements in the past and created some controversy, and hopefully he’s taken some responsibility for all of that.
“It’s up to him to prove his doubters wrong.”