A year after he quit his role as Performance Director at the Scottish FA, Mark Wotte is back in football after he was appointed the Performance Director of the Royal Moroccan Football Federation.
Wotte has signed a five-year deal with the North African country and will oversee the country’s national youth teams, coach education and talent ID.
He had been appointed by the Scottish FA as their first ever performance director, on the back of Henry McLeish’s review of Scottish Football, in June 2011. But he left his position in October 2014, claiming that he had fulfilled the tasks set for him by the SFA
His successor, former Celtic and Manchester United forward Brian McClair, has shunned the media limelight for the most part as he focuses on the job at hand, but Wotte believes that it is ‘better’ that a Scotsman is in the role now ‘to get everybody on side’.
Speaking exclusively to Scotzine, days after his appointment at the Moroccan FA, Wotte said: “I think it is quite acceptable for Scotland to have a Scotsman [McClair] in charge of their country’s future. Maybe it is now better to have a former Scottish international to get everybody on side. He will maybe understand the conservative attitude amongst some stakeholders better.”
There had been criticism of Wotte’s tenure at the Scottish FA during it and when he left, including with former Scotland international Maurice Malpas who hit out at the Dutchman and his methods.
Malpas claimed in an interview with BBC Scotland that: “His initial contact with coaches was ‘I know better, I come from Holland’ – their system is better, they have better players, they have better everything and that was pushed down your throat.
“He was very abrupt with us and it was an iron rod he ruled by. He wasn’t the type of person who came and asked your opinion.”
However, Wotte was scathing when discussing his critics and those who stood in the way of change, he added: “The individuals who did not want to change, did not influence the progress of the Performance Strategy. They just couldn’t handle the mirror I held before them.
“They just wanted more money for clubs to spend by themselves and their own clubs instead of investing in the future of new Elite Player Development and a new Scotland Generation qualifying for EC and WC Finals.
“People thought they were doing a great job, but they did not according to European standards or BCS. They never kept up with new ideas or philosophies, they couldn’t handle criticism but ‘if you do what you did you get what you get’ was in my opinion reason enough to open eyes, change approaches and definitely raise the bar.”
He continued: “I only implemented initiatives and shared my experience of world proven best practise to get Scotland’s development program on its way with unique Performance School project, academy certification, national youth team set up, pathway to first team Under-20’s league, talent ID, match analysis department and measurable performance outcomes [MPO] funding of academies.
“The more first and national youth team players you produce as a club the higher the Scottish FA funding was. For the record I was not involved in grassroot programs for 5 to 11 yr olds, community programmes or coach education that was all Jim Fleeting’s department.
“In my time I created a performance advisory panel with a lot of football personalities and experienced academy guys who helped me very well in my decisions. Some individuals who were not asked to join that group heavily criticised me when I left the role.”
Wotte believes that Scotland need to focus on the football academies, he added: “I think all stakeholders should embrace a country’s approach not based on the past (football run by school and S forms) but at highly equipped Football Academies playing as many best v best games from 10 to 20 years old with a daily individual holistic program to become a world class football team player with transferable skills if they drop out, coached by expert football teachers with the right developmental attitude.”
When questioned on the lack of game time for youths nowadays compared to the days of Dalglish, Souness and Law – and how to get that sort of development back. Wotte replied: “The greats of our game were developed on the streets. Replacing that by training numerous small sided games and playing lots of matches across the region or in national competition from Under-15 at least twice a week in the right way. This creates top footballers.”
The Dutchman questioned Scotland’s lack of foresight during the 1980s-90s when other nations were developing academies, he said: “Street football in the 1960s-80s was the base for a lot of stars across Europe. When it died those countries quickly developed highly equipped academies in the 1980s-90s to fill that gap and continued developing stars unlike Scotland in my opinion.
“Ajax and Feyenoord, for instance, started building their academies is 1980s-90s and made them full time. Seven of the Dutch side that played in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil had a Feyenoord background.”
While Scottish football is investing in all weather pitches and facilities, the cost of using them in some areas are pricing teams and more so youngsters out of the game. Local councils and several schools also prevent kids from using the facilities outwith school hours.
Wotte added: “In Holland they train three nights a week playing a Dutch FA organised game at local, regional or national level for €15 a month that is €3.50 per week on great facilities, that have been built and maintained by community councils and the government.
“That is the key. It is the same in Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Portugal. In every country they have to pay to play, not a lot, but the coaches are football teachers who want to educate the game, but not necessarily to win games only.”
But Wotte is of the belief that the future is bright for Scottish football, he continued: “There are numerous well run and supported boys clubs for 5-12 year old and a maximum of 12 top academies from 12 to 20 years old – this is the future for Scotland. Linked to a Performance School ensuring 16 to 20 hours of practice per week is a world class model.
“No country in the world had such a set up with a permanent high school involvement from 12 to 16 years old. It is a fantastic model. However, Football Development has to upgrade its support for Boys Clubs for 5 to 11 year olds, its coaching and facilities. That is Jim Fleeting’s department.”
It will be interesting how McClair and the Scottish FA move on from Wotte’s era and if any of the work that the Dutchman did during his time will pay off.