Another International football week has ended,  and this draws to a close another drab chapter in what was previously an intriguing and uncertain start to the football season. The weekend brings relief as domestic football for many is restored and the drab, banal affairs of country versus country has been consigned to the chip wrappers for another month. The days leading up to, and during international weeks are as boring online as they are on the pitch – if you were a regular visitor to the Huddleboard (www.thehuddle.co.uk), you would find many people lost for real footballing subjects to talk about and a horrible underlying negativity would rear its head over the forum. A couple of days later, it was like a new dawn – the sun appeared and everyone (almost everyone) was a Jungle Jim again!

So following two forgettable Tartan Army performances and a game described by some as “the worst game of football ever witnessed(England v Wales) – what is the my, & many others, problem with International Football? Only a handful of games into the Scottish Premier League and it grinds to a halt – this is my first gripe, especially if your team is on a decent run or desperately needs to get a win under their belts. Then some of your squad are carted off to actually partake in these games, risking injury, jet lag and possible losses of confidence into the bargain.  Celtic could be handed a triple blow come the turn of the year when they risk losing new signings Mo Bangura,  Badr El Kaddour &  Victor Wanyama for up to a month in the African Nations cup.

Then you have to support other teams players….how excited can you get seeing Stephen Naismith celebrate a goal at Hampden? Not very, and I’m sure the other  lot are as bitter. National identity has always been a much debated subject, especially with Celtic fans – Celtic Football Club is a Scottish football club with proud Irish links but many do choose to negate the Scottish part even though the history books state otherwise.  You have born and raised Scots turning their back on their country for Ireland, this  has never been a problem with me as my heritage runs parallel with the club & so both islands will always be close to my heart – but due to the deep Irish influx inside Celtic Park, the affiliations & diaspora runs deep within the supporters. Celtic first, Celtic last and Celtic overall will ring true for most when questioned on whether they watched the Hampden park double (debacle)-bill.

JK

John Kennedy's career was cut short due to a meaningless game

You only have to cast your minds back to a spectacle on August 9th at Celtic Park this year to bear witness to the possible destruction International Football friendlies can have on a player. John Kennedy was a rising star and looked like a future, if not current Celtic captain in the making. Only one week after an exceptional performance in the Camp Nou, the young defenders world was turned upside down in a useless, throwaway friendly game for Scotland after a disgusting challenge by a Romanian thug.  The legends charity game, which was initially the Celts testimonial, brought the curtain down on Kennedy’s playing career as the knee injury sustained meant he could only take part in the early stages of the match. I don’t believe in this day & age, there is any great advantage to playing friendlies within the International scene – some managers may think it’s a good idea to bed in some new talent, but it will evidently be the same old faces in the starting line ups come crunch time due to the inevitable let down the fringe players serve up.

Celtic players were also famously left out of past squads for Scotland, even though they were unmistakably stand outs in their positions. Another despicable problem within the football association which needs only one example – Jimmy ‘Jinky’ Johnstone, the greatest Celt ever won only 23 caps in a ten year period for the Dark Blue side – Stephen McManus is currently on 28….. The final nail in the saltire embossed coffin was one of my earliest memories over in the Southside when I went along to a friendly against France with my childhood friend & their family. In hindsight, you will read this through your fingers and cringe, this was a foolish thing to do, but I went along with my Hoops on and Scotland scarf. For 90 minutes and beyond, I was subjected to abuse, swearing and hostility from every angle whilst “fellow supporters” sat in peace in their respective Aberdeen, Hearts and Rangers tops – (I found the cheuchters the most volatile and angry!).  So Celtic fans again, as with the SFA, feel let down and alienated by the association and country they play and live in which is shameful and downright sad.

jj

Jinky turning out for Scotland

So casting aside pointless friendlies, we have eight or so qualifying games during a year to abide before a major championship on the World or European stage every couple of years.  Half of these games are against veritable minnows and unknowns to the International game up until a few years ago and should (should) be veritable cannon fodder for decent sides. Eight ties could easily be played in a calendar month,  so my view would be to take the qualifiers to a more integrated local area (Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France/even Scandinavia) within our locality and play them at the end of the season – therefore embarrassments against the San Marino’s and Lichtenstein’s of World football would be at a minimum and local rivalries would stir up more interest and passions between sets of fans. I wouldn’t look too much into it, as the plan was hastily thought out with no real background work or logistical issues taken into consideration.

Bring on those bhoys in green….and not a second too soon!

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