Desmond Kane

Berti Vogts was figure of fun, but joke’s on Scotland

Desmond Kane

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Berti Vogts was derided by the tabloid press, but has been no worse than the managers who followed him

It will not dawn on the 50,000 or so fans who will descend on Hampden Park in Glasgow emboldened by whisky and the somewhat hairy buttocks version of the Sound of Music's 'Do-Re-Mi', but this weekend represents the tenth anniversary of one of the bleakest results in the history of the Scottish national side.

Scotland begin a World Cup qualifying campaign against Serbia on Saturday afternoon a decade after they were almost toppled by the tiny Faroe Islands in their opening qualifier for Euro 2004.

Scotland infamously drew 2-2 on the edge of a cliff in Toftir against an assortment of hardy fishermen and farmers, but one should ask if much has improved in the ensuing fallow period? Under the doomed German coach Berti Vogts, a man who became known as 'Bungling Berti' by the country's rabid tabloid press, Scotland required goals from Paul Lambert and Barry Ferguson in the second half to rescue a 2-2 draw.

Despite the obvious anguish, derision and lampooning of Vogts that such an outcome attracted, one can hardly pinpoint the result as the nadir of their fortunes. Scotland have continued to tumble into the vortex of the international spectrum with minimal gains.

Far from bottoming out, Vogts's tenure was just another point in a risible odyssey that has resulted in Scotland stooping to an abysmal low of 14 years without qualifying for a tournament.

Having recovered their gait sufficiently to qualify for a play-off match for Euro 2004, Scotland somehow snuck a 1-0 win over the Netherlands in Glasgow before being disassembled 6-0 in the return leg in Amsterdam.

Walter Smith replaced the sacked Vogts with Scotland's 2006 World Cup qualifying in tatters after a draw with Slovenia and defeat to Norway was laced with another draw in Moldova.

A boisterous start to the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign courtesy of an unlikely 1-0 win over recent World Cup finalists France in 2006 was not helped when Smith returned to Rangers a year later.

Alex McLeish was wheeled in as Scotland won 1-0 in Paris to complete a unique double over France, but a 3-1 home success over the Ukraine was rendered impotent amid some contentious moments when Scotland lost 2-0 in Georgia and 2-1 to world champions Italy in Glasgow.

George Burley cut a shambolic figure after replacing Birmingham City-bound McLeish. Scotland came up well short in attempting to reach the 2010 World Cup finals losing 1-0 in Macedonia before tailing off.

Barry Ferguson and goalkeeper Allan McGregor were banned after being dropped for a boozing session in the wake of defeat in the Netherlands. Their subsequent reaction to it during a home win over Iceland suggested Burley had lost control.

A pallid 4-0 loss in Norway confirmed Burley's shortcomings. He was handed a settlement after a 3-0 friendly drubbing by Wales in a friendly in 2009.

There was optimism when Craig Levein left Dundee United for Scotland, but that sense of hope quickly dissipated with another failed qualifying campaign for Euro 2012. Levein's decision to opt for 4-6-0 against Czech Republic in October 2010 while an eager Kenny Miller was holed up on the bench will live long beyond the manager's lifespan in the job.

It came back to haunt Levein when the Czechs potted a last-minute penalty at Hampden a year ago in a 2-2 draw that would ultimately bury any notion of a play-off spot behind Spain.

After missing four European Championships and three World Cup finals, Scotland have been hoisted into a group of dread. There is no Spain, Italy or the Dutch, but Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, Wales and Macedonia sounds murderous.

Scotland enter home games against Serbia and Macedonia on Tuesday without their most expensive player. Steven Fletcher apparently dropped someone in officialdom a text to say he was unavailable to play in a match against Northern Ireland last year. He has not been near a squad since.

Levein does not want to be undermined, but surely channels of communication could have been opened for both parties to resolve the situation for the greater good. It invokes memories of the time Duncan Ferguson opted out of playing for Scotland in the 1990s.

Fletcher completed a £12 million transfer from Wolves to Sunderland last month. He showed why with two goals in a 2-2 draw against Swansea on his debut for his new side in the Premier League.

Amid the usual convoy of Jimmy Hats, it would have been reassuring for Scotland to visit Wales and a lavishly assembled Belgium side - apparently the third most expensively assembled of all national teams - next month boasting Fletcher.

The absence of the inventive Kris Commons also seems bizarre when he has been arguably Celtic's best player of the season so far in helping the Glasgow side negotiate a couple of fraught qualifiers to qualify for the Champions League group stages.

Vogts was once Scotland's most derided coach. Time suggests that he was wrongly berated with the country not much better off than when a figure who won Euro '96 with Germany was dismissed for his apparent incompetence. At least Vogts coached Scotland to a play-off slot.

One remembers sitting in a media conference before Scotland visited the Faroes all those years ago. The late former Celtic manager Tommy Burns, then assistant to Vogts, was asked by his old team-mate turned pundit David Provan about the fall-out if Scotland lost.

"You know this business and how it works," said Provan. Burns responded abruptly: "Well Davie, you obviously know your business and how it works asking a question like that."

We all know how it works. Turning Levein's head into an assortment of fruit or vegetables after a defeat would not be amusing any more. Not comical when there are obviously bigger failings, mostly centring on a lack of basic technique.

Despite the promise shown by Blackburn's new forward Jordan Rhodes, one has to hope Levein's decision to ignore Steven Fletcher does not rebound on him as spectacularly as his decision to play no forwards in Prague.

That time, he decided to opt against choosing his best striker. This time, he has no choice.

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