ALASTAIR Campbell, one-time Fleet Street journalist, former Labour spin doctor and renowned political strategist, returned to Scotland yesterday to promote the new football novel he has written with the former Burnley player Paul Fletcher.

Set at a fictional English club during the 1970s, Saturday Bloody Saturday is a lurid tale which follows the fortunes of seasoned Scottish manager Charlie Gordon as he prepares for a game in London amid the threat of an IRA terrorist attack.

But before he addressed a gathering with his co-author at the Spartans Community Football Academy in Edinburgh, last night he outlined a vision for the game in this country which seemed straight out of the pages of the most far-fetched fantasy.

An inspirational leader uniting every stakeholder in a divided sport and the Scotland team performing well and qualifying for European Championship and World Cup finals on a regular basis as a direct result? Any reputable publisher would throw that manuscript straight in the dustbin.

The man, though, who was a key figure as the Labour party reinventing itself as New Labour, a moniker he is credited with coining, during the 1990s and subsequently taking power after 18 years of Conservative rule, is adamant that it can be achieved.

The Scottish Football Association appointing the correct replacement for Stewart Regan and bringing in a figure who can get everyone in the game working towards a common goal is, he believes, absolutely vital to the future success of football and the Scotland side.

It may seem fanciful to say the least, but Campbell, a devoted supporter of the national team as well as his beloved Burnley, is convinced it can be achieved.

“There has to be a clear objective and then a strategy to try and meet that,” he said. “It has felt at times as if that was happening. No organisation succeeds in the long-term unless there is a clear strategy and everyone is signed up to it. I’m not saying there isn’t a strategy, but you can’t have a strategy unless you have leadership taking that forward.

“The days when the national team was the be all and end all have gone and that makes it a lot harder for the people who are running the national infrastructure to get all the things that they want, not least players. The clubs are so powerful.

“But in modern international structure you have got to have an alignment with the leagues as well and right down to grass roots as well.

“In Germany, the success of the national team is directly related to the strength and success of the league and of the clubs. People signed up to that. There was a sense of shared ownership and shared purpose. I don’t think that Scotland or England have had that for some time.

“One of the reasons England have got nowhere is because the Premier League is strategic, but the FA isn’t. The FA are getting better, but the Premier League is way better.”

It has been suggested the structure of the SFA should be overhauled and the major clubs given a far greater say in the running of football in this country.

But Campbell, a lifelong Scotland fan whose father and mother hailed from Tiree and Ayrshire respectively, believes that will only work if they have the needs of the Scotland side and the sport in this country as well as their own requirements at heart.

The 60-year-old, though, is convinced it is in the best interests of Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts, Hibs and Rangers for everyone to flourish.

“The clubs can have a greater say, but it has to be around this stated objective,” he said. “That is where you need leadership. You need somebody who can bring people together. That is very, very difficult with any organisation.

“The FA, the main body for football in England, is only responsible for the elite, the national sides, and grass roots. All the power is in the middle. That is an unsustainable structure. Here, if you had a national strategy it shouldn’t really be that difficult.

“I know you are dealing with clubs that have their own identity, their own history, their own heritage, their own sense of themselves. But it is in everybody’s interests for the situation to be fixed. The clubs individually, the SFA, the league, the government.

I don’t know how you would fix it., but if Scotland is going to get back to anything like its eminence as a football country then you can’t just rely on these two historic clubs with massive fan bases.

“It’s not enough.

“If the clubs are demanding more of a say then that is fine. But it depends what it they are saying. Are they going to do things that help them or the national side and the sport? My sense is everbody is trying to do what is best for themselves.

“But if the Germans can do it in a much bigger country with much bigger clubs then so can Scotland. The German Federation is aligned with the Bundesliga and the clubs that is why they got success.”

Alastair Campbell and Paul Fletcher were speaking at The Spartans Community Football Academy to promote the launch of their new novel, Saturday Bloody Saturday, which is published by Orion Books and is out now.