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View From Abroad
At one time Andy Roxburgh wielded power in the corridors of UEFA. Now based in the USA, he has worries about the game in Scotland and is powerless to help
Former Scotland manager Andy Roxburgh admits watching how Scottish football is ailing brings a mixture of disbelief and sadness as Hearts became the latest club to crumble under the burden of debt this week. These days Roxburgh is sporting director for the New York Red Bulls' football franchise and is based in New Jersey. Roxburgh joined the Red Bulls last November after working with UEFA as technical director for over 18 years, so has seen the finances of football across Europe and how the different countries cope with the shared problems. Hearts are looking for saviours to rescue them after it was placed in administration owing £25million. The development at Tynecastle came as no real surprise but was another blow to the game which is arguably still coming to terms with Rangers being liquidated last summer before starting again in the Irn-Bru Third Division. It is not just clubs in the top flight that are affected by money problems as Dunfermline are also trying to come out of administration and they will start next season in Division Two.With distance and years out of Scotland meaning his finger may not be right on the pulse Roxburgh believes it would be "inappropriate" for him to offer advice. However, he still has deep-felt concerns for the Scottish game. He said: "My heart is there but I view it from the outside and I just shake my head in disbelief. I can't believe what has happened to the Scottish game. I find it really sad. That is the only word for it. But I am not Harry Potter. I don't have a solution or (will say) go to the American system. American sport is different from European sport. But what I would say that they have done brilliantly here is they have made sure that the business, that is the clubs and the league, can survive, that is their priority. Previously, there had been start-ups and failures and what they have done over nearly 20 years is they have kept the league alive, adding to it and improving it. The salary cap and all the controls on you are quite difficult, but they are there for a reason. For them, the league is more important than any one team and so the survival of the league is the name of the game for them and they have done it well. The league is in good condition financially and in general, the clubs are stable. Nobody seems to be under threat in any way, nobody is going into administration so you have to say that what they have done here, in terms of the business model, has worked."Roxburgh never managed at club level but was the first national team manager to take Scotland to two successive major finals - the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 1992 European Championship in Sweden. However, the former Queen's Park, Partick and Falkirk player was keen to stress he was not looking at Scottish football through the rose-tinted glasses of hindsight. He went on: "It is too easy to say it was better in the past. The past had its flaws as well but right now it is clearly an economic thing in Scotland more than anything. It is a business problem and that is having an impact on who you can buy, who you can keep, who you can develop. There was a period in Scotland when they didn't really invest in youth football. They are starting to do it again I gather but after the Bosman ruling a lot of clubs brought in cheap imports and almost abandoned their own youth development and that, to me, was a real problem. There was a demise of Scottish players over that period. Scottish football had constantly fed itself, the talent just kept appearing but there were very few coming up through the youth ranks. I know the SFA is working really hard at the grass roots and in its player development. There is not one answer but clearly, if the business at the top level is not in order then the whole thing collapses like a pack of cards."However, Roxburgh is optimistic about the future for Scottish football and believes current Scotland manager, Gordon Strachan, is the man who can reverse the fortunes of the national side, who have not qualified for the finals of a major tournament since the 1998 World Cup in France. He said: "I don't feel pessimistic. We will miss out on the next finals (in Brazil) but I think we will be back for the following one. I would be positive. I spoke to Gordon before he took the job and I said to him that I hoped he would be the next Scotland manager because I was sure he could do a good job. He knows the game, he is a good personality and he is a worker which is another important Scottish trait. It was a fantastic result in Croatia recently and it gave everybody a boost, so I remain optimistic."
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