We all know that Scotland is a nation of migrants. They reckon that there is more folk of Scottish descent living abroad than living in Scotland itself. This has happened through the ages. Scottish football is no different from other industries,our talent has been exported throughout the world.
Recently the BBC Football Focus TV programme interviewed Oliver Burke the £13 million pound Scottish international now playing for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga in Germany. It is fair to say he has made quite an impact as RB Leipzig are second, chasing Bayern Munich.
This got me thinking about how little Scottish players are actually now playing abroad.Apart from Ryan Gauld at Sporting Lisbon I am struggling to think of a notable Scottish player playing abroad. There are of course others but at the top-level we have struggled with our foreign exports. This obviously correlates with our football standing in the world. It was not always like this. You can go back to the 19th century and find Scottish football exports like Thomas Donohoe.who introduced football to Brazil.
Through the years players have moved abroad to further their career , like Dennis Law, Steve Archibald, Paul Lambert and John Collins to name a few. Some of these players were playing at the top of their game when they transferred. But not all , Paul Lambert was in my opinion fairly average player at Motherwell before signing for Borussia Dortmund where he went on to play a key role in winning the European Cup.He developed into an accomplished midfielder adored by the Dortmund fans. It is fair to say that the Scottish national team and Celtic who he later played for benefited from his development.
Scottish footballers seem to be attracted down south to the big mony in the lower English Leagues rather than think of their own career development. Playing in a foreign country is a huge personal challenge, as well as adapting to the different footballing style there is the adapting to a new language and culture. But history shows fortune favours the brave. You learn more about yourself when you move out your comfort zone.
The SFA is developing the game through its Project Brave initiative. This will focus on home-grown talent and how we can develop the talent here in Scotland. But we should not forget that players can develop in other countries and systems. If I was to use an example of our country’s greatest sportsman Andy Murray . he went to Spain to develop as a young player as the British tennis system was not right for him. We should not discourage our young talent from moving abroad and developing. If we get the structure right the opportunities will arise but we need our footballers to be brave and ambitious to move to where the challenges are. Other smaller nations like Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia have weaker leagues but their players ply there trade all over the Europe. This has had a positive effect on their national team and the game in their own country
.In order for this to be achieved it will require a cultural shift and a real change in the national mind-set .But it is happening Gordon Strachan, Brendan Rodgers and Ian Cathro to name a few of the coaches now travel all over Europe looking at new coaching techniques. This personal development needs to be enforced throughout our game as we have become too insular in our outlook of the game.