IT is impossible to work out how many failed footballers there are in this complex country of ours. Numbers just don’t go up that high.

Who hasn’t been in a taxi when the driver volunteers a tale of brilliant talent, world at their feet, discovering what a night out was, and then their playing career was all over.

Many who did make it, at least in the lower leagues, admit they only had themselves to blame for not having the mental strength, dedication and willingness to sacrifice the fun elements of youth because they were “miles better than Scott Brown when we played together as kids.”

Things, thankfully, are changing. Actually, things have already changed.

Former Celtic player Brian McLaughlin yesterday was announced as head of the Scottish FA JD Performance School system, he also coaches the under-17 team. On the same day as the seventh intake of pupils into the seven schools – Celtic, Hearts and Rangers have their own – Scotland is, naturally, playing catch-up but we are doing so with pace, as explained by a proud Malky Mackay who left the impression that at long, long last, our national game is in decent shape.

“It’s a four-year programme – ie, the first four years of high school,” said the SFA performance director. “The first group have now come out of that and we’re now seeing evidence that some of our youngsters are technically better than we’ve ever been.

“We’re getting them into good habits from the age of 12 and not just a couple of nights a week but every single day.

“But we have to persevere with this because there is no silver bullet and, if we kept on doing what we’d been doing for the last 20 years, history suggests we won’t bring through enough good players to reach the finals of the Euros and World Cups.

“This is another way of doing it, of improving their technique; surely, if you’re doing something every day for four years, you’re going to get better at it? It’s a more clearly defined pathway for the boys now and all seven schools have the same curriculum. It’s all focused on the individual, too – it’s not about teams because the boys go back to their clubs at night.

“We need to train and educate them into a culture from the age of 12 then human nature is such that when they are 16-years-old it becomes part of what you are and who you are,” said Mackay.

“We can try and shape the formula we believe will allow them to become footballers, but it’s so difficult as there are so many things that are outwith our control. Luck, injury, a manager changing at a club, these are things we have nothing to do with.

“There are so many things that we can help with and we have spoken to parents about sacrifice. If you desperately want to be a footballer you have to sacrifice so much. That’s a message our clubs are good at giving them.”

Billy Gilmour of Chelsea is the poster boy for the system but the results the under-17s have had – they beat Spain – and the success in the Toulon tournament hints that a talented group are about to come through.

And how the SFA find the next crop has changed from back in the day. You will like this.

“There is a book out now called ‘The Talent Code’ and we have done a study on it and age maturation,” said Mackay. "We are looking at the age effect and the size of them when they come through and what birth months produce footballers.

“Funnily enough, it’s Januarys and Septembers that are everywhere. And that needs to change.

“We have got to recognise those who have something in them called a ‘rage to master’ meaning it doesn’t matter about the size, it’s about recognising the ones who have that thing inside them which means they will come through anyway.

“By hook or by crook they will become footballers and will keep going. It’s a really interesting topic at the moment because it’s not the old way of how a scout would look at him when the biggest and strongest boys get picked and put in the academies when it’s someone else in the team who has the technical ability but just needs the body to grow.”

Mackay spoke well and at length. The SFA haven’t had a huge amount of help from the Scottish or British government, there remains the problem of poor kids being denied the chance to play because of costs and, of course, a thousand other worries have to be considered.

However, for all things change, one thing remains. Young footballers need to play football.

Mackay said: “I’ve seen Kilmarnock sign a busload of players from England a couple of seasons ago. That didn’t work for them and they didn’t have the finances to go and get another busload so they had to turn to their younger players.

“Lo and behold, Greg Taylor has now made over 100 appearances for them. Sometimes just being given that chance is all it takes.

“I give great credit to some of our Premiership managers because they are now believing in our home-grown talent.

“Our programme is getting better because of the quality of the players coming through. The fact that most of them go these facilities during the day at the schools and then train with their clubs at night also helps.

“Celtic, Rangers and Hearts have their own academies as well so, with that, these kids are getting double the number of touches of the ball every week than they would do otherwise.”

Scotland are going to win the World Cup in 2022. It’s a certainty.