Sport Soccer

Tuesday 19 September 2017

Players' egos to blame for Scotland woes, insists Lennon

Ronnie Esplin

Neil Lennon believes some Scotland players "need to leave their egos at the door" if the national team is to emerge from its current slump.

The 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat in Serbia in midweek left the Scots at the bottom of Group A, with two points from six games, and confirmed their absence from the finals in Brazil in 2014.

Celtic manager Lennon joined in the inquest into the state of Scottish football, after the latest failure to reach a major tournament.

Lennon, a former Northern Ireland international who played under Scotland manager Gordon Strachan at Parkhead, questioned both the desire of modern players and the validity of football academies.

His condemnatory comments were all the more interesting given that the Celtic academy is widely recognised as one of the best in Scotland.

"In terms of the national team, some of the players need to leave their egos at the door and sacrifice a little bit more for their country," Lennon said. "I am not just talking about the hunger at young level, I am talking about the hunger at senior level.

"I think players are comfortable at their clubs and it looks to me like it becomes a bit of a chore rather than a privilege to play for their countries. You look at countries like Montenegro and Uruguay, who are smaller, but they have a real hunger and love for playing for their countries.

discipline

"Now I am not here to question any player but it just seems to me that there have been sagas over the years when I have been here, of ill-discipline and players walking out of squads and refusing to play for Scotland again.

"That, to me, is a worry. You can't be (optimistic) at present, that's the realism of it, although I think they (Scotland) have the right man in charge. I think we need to look deeper than the national team. Are we producing players? If not, why not? Because I do believe the talent is there. We are more affluent than we were 20 or 30 years ago. I question the hunger, when I look at other players who play for their countries."

Former Celtic skipper Lennon, who started his career at Manchester City, expanded his thoughts on the way youth players are produced both north and south of the border.

"Twenty or 30 years ago Scotland were producing a seam of top-quality players and that has lessened," he said. "I look at when I was coming through the ranks, it was a different system but it seemed to work. I was at Man City and I was cleaning boots and cleaning toilets, it was part of our remit during the day.

"I don't see that as much now. Maybe we should bring that level of discipline back and they may appreciate the game a little bit more when they come through."

Irish Independent

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