IN THE DUGOUT | February 2nd | FIVE games in three miserable months...
By IAIN KING, Head Coach, BSC Lowland League brought to you in association with Sport Careers
FIVE games in three miserable months, nine infuriating postponements, one proper training session in three brutal frozen weeks.
Do those against a winter shutdown outside the very top reaches of Scottish football still want to try and give me some sort of logical argument against a winter shutdown?
Spare me the garbage about tradition, the talk of freak cold snaps and bad luck with the weather. This is our climate now.
Yet still we ask coaches to try and construct a league season and improve footballers against this sort of backdrop? It’s embarrassing.
BSC Glasgow’s tale of woe battling the elements began back on November 8 when our clash with Mickey Lawson’s Whitehill Welfare was called off.
We are due to play that game under the lights at Lochburn Park on Wednesday night, it’s got no chance.
I just went out to put the bins out and nodded to the friendly polar bear who hangs about there now waiting for scraps. No sign of a thaw.
Now I am not suggesting we should have pulled the shutters down in November, far from it.
Yet there MUST be some sort of logic applied now to football for clubs like ours – and even more importantly we need brave decisions and a cohesive plan for our developing players.
Thanks to years of squandered investment and government ignorance and lethargy we simply don’t have the indoor sporting facilities to cope with the winters we now suffer through.
Witness the frantic scramble each week now for professional clubs to grab a quarter of a pitch under the roof of Toryglen and ask yourself how a boys club coach is meant to cope?
The answer he is he shouldn’t have to. The kids’ season must be switched from March to November NOW to give us some sort of chance to produce more technically gifted players.
On Friday night I took charge of the SYFA Scotland 2001 Development Squad alongside my BSC colleague Craig Young and EKFC’s Garry McGunnigle and Hugh O’Neill at the National Indoor Centre.
It was a heartening evening as the Broomhill quartet of Mitch Donohoe, Gio Vezza, Jack Muir and Calum Hughes did the club proud .
For the boys it was an oasis amidst a week of freezing frustration, training sessions cancelled and their long-awaited Scottish Cup quarter-final a victim of the weather.
Right now they should be in close-season, honing their fitness in structured programmes, pursuing other sporting interests, recharging their batteries before coming back ready for the big kick-off in March.
Instead we ask them to go through the same sort of nonsense the BSC players and coaching staff have suffered through since the momentum of a three-game winning run began to be wrecked three months ago.
Our club’s biggest day do far, the memorable 3-0 win at Scottish Sun Lowland League champions Spartans on January 17, came on the back of a break in the Arctic weather.
We had a solid week learning and listening on the 3G training fields at Scotstoun and Hyndland. It’s not rocket science.
In the three weeks since we have trained properly ONCE. As the temperatures plunge below the -4 the artificial surfaces can tolerate Craig and I have spent our time hurriedly arranging circuit training, boxing, five-a-sides.
Anything to keep our squad together, spirits up, it’s coaching by the seat of your pants without a structure and it’s a joke.
So what is the answer? Long-term do we really want a Scottish football scene where no-one plays games on grass any more?
I love the best of the 3G and 4G surfaces but I know from personal experience that it took £1million of a big-hearted local businessman’s money and the clearing of a host of planning obstacles to finally build East Kilbride’s K Park facility.
So if that sort of individual doesn’t exist in your community, what next?
The answer to me lies in leadership and bravery from the top of our game.
It took guts for SFA chief executive Stewart Regan to champion the pyramid system our club now enjoys being part of.
The next step has to be to scratch a line in the snow, we shut down in December and January.
Our season starts earlier with the first game on Saturday July 26. If some of your first team are still in Magaluf, play an Academy kid and bring his parents along to watch his debut with the sun on their backs.
Work hard to achieve your dreams for four full months, use every midweek date if needs be until say the end of October when the pitches are better.
Then when winter bites have a planned break, rest then build back up towards the first weekend of February.
Yes we will still have call-offs and frustration but surely now we can see we have to start somewhere.
I have played and now coached in Scottish football through four decades of players and the truth is we have failed every one of them.
I’m sorry but braying about tradition and the need to go and see a game on Boxing Day after a pint in the boozer doesn’t really stand up as a blueprint for the future of our national sport.
In my day job I’m lucky enough to be able to ask questions of those who can change our game’s backward mindset. I’ll keep you informed.