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Football: Rob Maclean: Kids must practise what is preached.

Byline: Rob Maclean

DON'T blame the coaching. If you're wondering why the supply of top talent to the Scotland team has dried up try pointing the finger at pampered players.

So says a man who could sit in the old Mastermind armchair and readily tackle two minutes on youth development as his specialist subject. I have a lot of time for George Adams, which is probably just as well because he has a lot to say.

It's not that he likes the sound of his own voice or would ever promote himself as an authority on the game. He will appear in front of a microphone or a television camera only at gunpoint.

But sit down on the other side of Adams' desk at Fir Park where he works alongside Terry Butcher and Chris McCart and he'll happily voice his opinions about where the Scottish football system is getting it right and where it's going badly wrong.

The timing was right. In the space of four days we had gone from Nightmare in the North Atlantic to Magnificent Motherwell. From despair at the shocking state of our national team to a demonstration that the Old Firm can be beaten by a home- grown challenge if it's big on belief.

The amiable Adams doesn't have to show you his references to deserve the right to speak with a fair bit of authority on the rearing of young footballers.

You only need to know the long list of quality kids he has brought to Aberdeen and Celtic, his previous employers, and hear him enthusing about the numerous Well youngsters who are playing for Scotland at every age level outwith the senior side.

If watching the Under-21 trio of Steven Hammell, Stephen Pearson and James McFadden play a massive part in slaying the champions on Tuesday night didn't do enough to cure your post Faroes depression - and if you're a Celtic fan it certainly didn't - take it from me there are plenty more where they came from.

Seventeen-year-old Shaun Fagan showed last midweek he doesn't suffer stage fright and former Rangers teenager Iain Russell is another battering on the first-team door.

Adams points to other names on his wall chart like Jack, MacDonald, Wright, Kinniburgh and Clarkson as yet more youngsters who have a big chance of making it.

And he's talking as much about attitude as ability. That's where he believes it has fallen apart in recent years for so many stars-in-the-making.

Adams said: "It's not about the quality of the coaching in Scotland - there's nothing wrong and plenty right about the way we teach the game in this country.

"The big problem is that so many kids don't take in what they've learned then go away and practise. They're told how to play in the morning but can't be bothered to go and work at it in the afternoon."

Adams preaches with passion when he's on his pet subject and clearly has acres of evidence to support his theory.

It's this lack of application by football apprentices he sees as the real reason so many players of potential at youth level fail to graduate to the top team. The training- shower-lunch-home routine of the older players is copied by the kids at the expense of their careers.

It goes without saying that's not the way it is now at Fir Park and it's not the way it was during George's formative coaching years at Pittodrie when the pre- knighthood Alex Ferguson and Archie Knox ran the show.

Laziness or sloppiness among young players was not part of the script. Missing the minibus on the way to training meant a three- mile run to catch up. It was the same punishment on the way back to the stadium.

Of course, the big carrot then for Fergie's fledglings was a clear run to first- team football if they were good enough. And while you can't compare the Aberdeen set-up of the Eighties with Fir Park 2002 there is now no barrier to the Motherwell minors realising their dreams.

Talented teenager McFadden has a pay slip that pales into insignificance alongside that of another 19- year-old - and an Adams discovery - Celtic striker Shaun Maloney.

However, the on-field difference was summed up during the match when sub Maloney feature for just a few minutes at the end, going on just as star man McFadden was about to go off to a hero's reception.

It makes you hope for his sake that young James stays for another year or so at Fir Park and delays the inevitable move to a top club in favour of playing regularly.

Others have made the mistake of jumping at the chance of a move to the big time and found themselves festering on the bench.

Sometimes short-term gain should lose out to the long-term view. And sometimes a little bit of hard work goes a long way.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 15, 2002
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