Scotland’s progress has been hindered for decades by the lack of a top-class striker or centre-half, says former national assistant Steven Pressley.
Steve Clarke’s side lie fourth in their Euro 2020 qualifying group and will not qualify automatically for the finals.
Pressley believes coaches can make a difference elsewhere but that, inside the penalty box, it is down to players.
“Unfortunately we’re not producing top-class strikers and top-class centre-backs at this time,” he said.
Pressley thinks head coach Clarke, who has overseen two wins and four defeats since taking over from Alex McLeish, remains the right man for the job as Scotland look to qualify for the finals via the Nations Cup play-offs.
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But he believes Clarke and his predecessors have been hindered by the lack of “a real top, top-class striker” since former Celtic and Liverpool forward Kenny Dalglish, or a defensive duo to match McLeish and his long-time Aberdeen defensive partner Willie Miller, in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I think, in certain areas, we have some really good players and really good emerging players, and managers and coaches can make quite a difference to a side between 18-yard box and 18-yard box with their tactical work and detail,” Carlisle United manager Pressley told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound.
“But the final parts of the game in both boxes is where you pay your money – where it becomes uncoachable parts of football, where defenders smell and anticipate the danger, where strikers have the know-how and anticipation and movement and the clinical finishing.
“And those two areas, which are the most important areas and the most important players in the team, are the areas where we are lacking.”
‘Can see Steve’s principles coming through’
Former Scotland striker and team-mate Kenny Miller argued that a coach can introduce tactics to compensate for the lack of talent in those areas.
“If it was coachable, you wouldn’t have Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp going out and spending £75m on a centre-back, and even Manchester City have had problems after losing two of their most important defenders this season,” former Scotland centre-half Pressley replied.
Pressley does believe, even in last week’s 4-0 defeat by Russia, he could see hints of the improvements that Clarke was able to make with Kilmarnock before joining Scotland in creating a side that was difficult to break down in defence and dangerous in counter-attack.
“It will take Steve a long period before everyone fully understands,” he added. “If you look at Michael O’Neill’s example with Northern Ireland, his initial 12 to 14 games were difficult games for him.
“Even looking at the Russia game, I could see the detail in Steve’s work. I can see the principles of his defensive work. You can see it coming through.
“But, when the ball comes into the box and we have to defend the set play, that doesn’t come down to Steve – that comes down to the players.”