THE SFA – NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE is a new series on CQN that will examine decisions taken or not taken by the SFA and the consequences for Scottish football as a result…
BERTI VOGTS: THE DAWN OF A NEW ERROR…
THIRTEEN years ago today, a decision made by the SFA toppled Scotland spectacularly and embarrassingly into an international black hole.
And it is only now that ex Celtic manager Gordon Strachan has the national side back in recovery mode.
The SFA were delighted to announce Berti Vogts as Craig Brown’s much-hyped replacement while the Tartan Army was promised a bright new future under the “innovative” German.
Instead, our game entered football’s version of the Twilight Zone.
Unfortunately, indications weren’t good right from the start. Vogts was given a fanfare kick-off against world and European champions France at the Stade de France, Paris, on March 27, 2002.
He elected to give Gary Caldwell, only 19, his baptism of fire despite the future Celt only playing seven Premier League games while on loan at Hibs from Newcastle. The gamble on the raw teenager back-fired with obvious consequences.
It was 4-0 for the rampant hosts before the interval. Four goals in a devastating half-hour spell left Vogts’ line-up and plans in shreds.
Zinedine Zidane slammed in the first goal in the 12th minute and, in quick succession, David Trezeguet (2) and Thierry Henry piled on the misery.
Thankfully, Zidane and Co took their foot off the pedal and settled for a late effort from Steve Marlet to make it 5-0 in a dreadful, dismal one-sided encounter.
As far as debuts go, it ranked alongside that of The Titanic.
Warning signals flashed throughout the game and also in the aftermath before the crestfallen players flew home. The SFA did nothing.
Poor Gary Holt, of Norwich, came on as a substitute at half-time for Colin Cameron, of Wolves.
The midfielder was then hauled off to make way for Celtic’s Jackie McNamara as bungling Berti got him confused with another player.
There were arguments at Charles De Gaulle airport later on when Celtic keeper Rab Douglas showed his displeasure at not getting a promised 45 minutes game time while the new supremo persevered with a clearly unfit Neil Sullivan, of Spurs.
Remarkably, Vogts remained upbeat after the mauling in front of 80,000 spectators.
He said: “You can’t feel downcast. I was happy to play my first game against a strong team and I learnt a lot from the experience.
“We have to cling to the performance in the second-half when we tightened things in the midfield and played better.”
Alas, the lone optimistic viewpoint fell on deaf ears as Vogts and Scotland bounced from one disaster to another.
Another humiliating lowlight came in November 19, 2003, when Holland blitzed their way to a 6-0 win to qualify for the European Championships the following year.
It was Scotland’s worst defeat in 42 years and, ironically, was masterminded by former oldco Rangers manager Dick Advocaat.
The Scots travelled to Amsterdam with a one-goal advantage after James McFadden’s strike in the first leg of the play-offs at Hampden on the Saturday.
However, oblivion beckoned before half-time with the Dutch three goals ahead. Manchester United’s Ruud Van Nistelrooy went on to help himself to a hat-trick.
Vogts observed: “I’m embarrassed, the players are embarrassed and, maybe, all of Scotland is embarrassed.”
But it takes more than a 6-0 thrashing to embarrass the brass necks at the SFA.
At least, Vogts got it right. The SFA’s decision to appoint him led to not just embarrassment but humiliation.
A 1-1 draw with Moldova on October 13, 2004, effectively put paid to Scotland’s chances of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup Finals.
Vogts resigned the following month with a year-and-a-half to run on his contract.
He said: “The major reason in this decision has been the disgraceful abuse I have suffered.”
For the record, the German won only eight of his 31 games in charge while losing 16 and drawing seven. His success rate was a miserable 25.81 per cent.
He left Kuwait to take over at Scotland, but possibly someone at the SFA hadn’t done due diligence in checking his credentials with that nation.
Vogts took control of the team in 11 games and won a mere two. He had a 18.18 per cent record before being lured to Hampden on a big money deal.
The rest, as they say, is history.
The SFA? What are they like!