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Jack Harper’s Scotland snub is sheer folly

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Scotland Under-19 coach Ricky Sbragia has snubbed Real Madrid’s Jack Harper in his latest squad for this week’s UEFA Elite round, according to STV Sport.

Despite impressing in this season’s UEFA Youth League for the La Liga giants, Sbragia labelled him a ‘luxury’ player and that Scotland could not afford to ‘carry’ him.

Sbragia, speaking to a national newspaper, commented: “At Real Madrid, Jack can float all over the place, which he does. But with us he has to be more disciplined. He’s an exceptionally gifted lad but we can’t carry him. He can be a luxury sometimes.

“In some cases, if it’s going well, he can be a good luxury. And listen, Jack’s time will come. I’ve gone for a physical side and runners. Hopefully I’m proved right in Austria. It’s purely a tactical decision.”

Former Scottish FA Performance Director Mark Wotte, who quit in October 2014, expressed his frustrations over the Scottish football mindset which was focusing more on youth coaches trying to produce successful teams rather than on the individuals.

In an interview with Inside Futbol, Wotte said: “I’m not sure if academy managers in Scotland have picked up what is essentially the most important aspect for current football youngsters: to be recognised as individuals with their own potential and DNA, to be treated as football pupils/students, to be educated as world-class footballers and prospects for their clubs and to become part of a better future within the first team or somewhere higher up with a decent return on investment.

“The seven performance schools in Scotland do ensure a proper individual foundation, but it is down to the clubs to bring those kids to fruition between 16 and 20 years of age. However, if it continues to be all about team coaching and winning at certain clubs then Scottish football will stagnate or even go backwards again.”

So Sbragia has decided to go for the nextgen team of Gary Caldwell and Kenny Millers rather than utilising the talents of such a ‘luxury’ player.

It should be all about the player’s performance and development rather than picking youth players to be ‘runners’ and to be solely physical in the hope of qualifying for one tournament.

Is this what the Scottish FA’s development of our youngsters is all about? Not selecting our best players but rather selecting average ones that run about and tackle harder?

We should be nurturing and using the abilities and talents of Harper rather than ditching him by the way side. If Sbragia and other Scotland coaches are of the same mindset then Scotland could lose another potential top talent to another nation.

Just like watching Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy playing for the Republic of Ireland, we could potentially see Jack Harper swap Scotland for Spain – they don’t call up players because they need ‘runners’ and ditch the luxury players.

And you wonder why our national teams cannot qualify for major tournaments.

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About Author

scotzine

Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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