Strathclyde Telegraph

The Big Interview with Jim Traynor

TOP PUNDIT GIVES HIS VERDICT ON SPORT AND EDUCATION

 “WE NEED RADICAL CHANGES”

 AS one of Scotland’s biggest and best sports journalists, Jim Traynor has never been one to hide his opinions.

 And in a wide-ranging interview with the Telegraph, Traynor stresses the importance a background in education can have on sporting stars of tomorrow.

 “A good education is vital”, explained Traynor.

 “If you look at Scottish sports stars, such as Chris Hoy and Andy Murray for instance, they are lucky enough to excel at their sport but you need an education as a back-up because the majority of people who play sports can’t make a living out of it.”

Having once been a promising footballer himself, signing for Airdrieonians at the age of 12, Traynor understands just how difficult it can be for young people to keep focused on their education whilst trying to play sports professionally.

Although, Traynor was lucky enough to be given some extra help fitting in both during his school days.

“The Head-teacher at my school was also the Chairman of Airdrie at the time, so he always made sure I was given enough time to study for exams,” said the former Caldervale High pupil.

“The team bus would come up to the school and all I would have to do was swap my school tie with the club tie. When I was 16 or 17 years old, I had sit up the front of the bus next to the old directors to study and it worked out well as I got my highers.”

But for those who are not so lucky to be able to juggle their sport and education just as easily, Traynor believes the two should be working alongside each other.

“You can’t be a top star unless you play the sport everyday,” stressed the Daily Record journalist.

“You have to practice your sport everyday and that’s where sports and education should be aligned. Other countries like Spain and Holland do it, where you have to take kids who are good at football or whatever sport, out of the classroom to be playing but also making sure they are studying. It can be done and is not hugely expensive.”

And Traynor feels a simple concept of making sure students reach a certain required level of education before they can play sports would be effective, as he has witnessed first hand himself.

Traynor said: “I think the demise of school football was a killer and bringing it back can only help. We need to align it with education and tell students you can only play if your grades are of an acceptable standard. 

“We did a simple thing at Victoria Primary school where I went to, in that the Airdrie Schools Cup – the oldest football tournament trophy in the world – no student could play for the team, even if you were the best player in the town or region if your schoolwork had not been up to scratch, showing sport and education can and should work together.”

Despite tens of millions of pounds being spent in the past few years on top facilities such as Murray Park and Lennoxtown, Traynor doubts whether or not, more of their kind would help battle the wider social problem of getting children involved in various sports.

The ‘Your Call’ presenter stated: “Even if by some miracle you suddenly woke up tomorrow and every town or village had a state of the art sports facility, are you saying they would be full? Of course they wouldn’t.

“Young people do different things now and the wider social problem is that not enough people are taking part in sports.

“We need to make it easier for kids to play sports because the bottom line is if more and more children take part in sports, we will have a healthy society in the years to come.”

Switching attention to our national game and the Scottish Premier League kicked off earlier than ever this season, facing much criticism from managers such as Neil Lennon and Terry Butcher.

However, Traynor disagrees and argues that this does not excuse the lack of quality the league produces.

“I don’t have a problem with the early start. Who cares if the players are back too soon, it’s the same pre-season and players would rather be playing than training anyway.

“It doesn’t excuse the lack of skill and talent that we see at the moment. When we take our players out of the Scottish leagues, they are exposed as ordinary, so we need to aim higher.”

Although, one of the main reasons for the early start to the new campaign was to help our clubs in European competition, Celtic, Dundee United, Hearts and Rangers have all faced early exits.

And Traynor, who wrote for the Herald for 19years before moving to the Daily Record, insists changes to help Scottish sides have to be made from within.

“The only thing that will help Scottish teams in Europe will be Scottish teams themselves.

“We have looked abroad to see what people are doing there and we will complain about the lack of finance or facilities but the biggest change we will have to make is in attitude. Our good players in reality are not as good as we think.

“Radical changes are needed – we’ve known that for decades. We need a radical change because the people who are running the game have got us into this state and they can’t agree to change, so it will continue to decline.”

Looking towards the future, even though Traynor knows radical changes are needed within the game, he says it can be done.

“We need to accept where we are but not where we always should be,” Traynor empahsised.

“We need to stop blaming lack of money here. We can still produce players without money, they done that years ago and it was done because players started playing at an early age and that’s the basic problem we need to fix.

“We need to get more kids playing football and sports in general and that doesn’t take money.”

As Traynor relishes reporting on another exciting year of Scottish sport, it is sure to be as unpredictable as ever.

However, what can be seen as certain are Traynor’s views on how sports and education should be working together to guarantee students can make the grade on and off the field.

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