Scotland : Look to the Euros

Unbeaten in our last 5 matches, which has included away wins to Croatia, Macedonia and Poland it seems Scotland are in a long awaited purple patch of relative success. It’s a pity it doesn’t really mean anything.

Gordon Strachan has come in at the tail end of a failed campaign and instilled a coherent playing style and format that could see us qualify for a major tournament for the first time since France 1998. Although the team is not changed much since last year the inclusion of Ikecha Anya, Chris Burke and Ross McCormack together with a spattering of new starlets has made us at least competitive and no longer group cannon fodder.

World Cup qualification was scuppered long ago-before it had really started, thanks in the main to Craig Levein and a squad bereft of confidence and belief. Scotland supporters shall once again watch through the TV cameras and will have no team to cheer on in Brazil (barring those playing England). But although Scotland’s group was no means kind with the exception of Germany, Scotland should be confident of at least play-off berth.

Group D: Germany, Republic of Ireland, Poland, Scotland, Georgia, Gibraltar.

With the top 2 qualifying for France 2016 Scotland’s main competitors should be The Republic of Ireland and Poland although Georgia are no dummies. Gibraltar should be the whipping boys in their maiden campaign but remember the Faroe Isles??

The Republic of Ireland are similar to Scotland in that they have no main superstars but rely more in a combined team effort of Premier League and Championship players. Their main danger lies in new coach Martin O’Neill who has a detailed knowledge of Scottish football from his time at Celtic. The ex-Aston Villa coach will be eager to impress in his job, especially as if mooted, Scotland’s home time is staged in Celtic Park. Robbie Keane is still a threat despite being in the twilight of a prolific career and Shane Long and Wes Hoolahan are dangerous players given the opportunity. Added to this Ireland have the two Scottish born midfielders playing for Everton in James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady.

Poland were without Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Błaszczykowski last Wednesday and should be a different outfit with their stars back come September. Poland have strength in the players they have plying their trade in the Bundesliga but little else. Łukasz Piszczek of Dortmund and Ludovic Obraniak of Werder Bremen give the squad a stronger spine than both Scotland and Ireland but in truth apart from that they are not overly powerful.

It would be wrong to discount Georgia on the grounds of their squad. They do not have many players in competitive leagues but they will definitely be a match for Scotland on their home turf. In my opinion the games against Georgia could be Scotland’s banana skin. Too often Scotland have stumbled against the so called lesser nations, we should not treat them lightly.

Germany will win the group with a couple of games to spare. With major players in the EPL and Bundesliga regularly playing in the latter stages of the Champions League each one of the squad members are worth 15 million plus. Whether coach, Joachim Löw hangs around after the World Cup remains to be seen. A point in Germany or Hampden would be quite a coup for Scotland, in reality keeping the goals down to 1 or 2 would be a success.

Gibraltar?? Hammer them into the ground both home and away as the goal difference may be crucial.

Out before everybody. Scotland have reached the bottom.

It’s impossible for Scotland to make Brazil. In truth we have known for a long time, maybe as soon as the draw was made, but we didn’t think it would end so poorly.

Winless and gutless the Scottish national team lie rooted to the bottom of Group A. A tally of 2 points from 6 games is pitiful in the extreme. We now lie alongside San Marino, Liechtenstein and Malta as International minnows.

 

Belgium 6 5 16
Croatia 6 5 16
Serbia 6 2 7
Wales 6 2 6
Macedonia 6 1 4
Scotland 6 0 2

 

This is as rotten as it comes for a supporter: out of the reckoning before things have even started. The remaining ties are meaningless and we are now playing for pride.

Many supporters will feel helpless and unsure of where we are going to end up. International wilderness is a real possibility. In fact a probability if not an actual current reality.

It’s all got too much to bare.

 

In truth it has been a long descent. Alike a horse stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking to the bottom. There have been small moments of resistance and defiance along the way but these have only delayed the inevitable and no one is going haul us out.

Against Serbia tonight, the farmer finally came along and unloaded two shells into our skull. A mercy killing.

Gordon Strachan has inherited a nightmare: a squad devoid of any real class and lacking any semblance of confidence. His is a long term project. But I do feel he is the right man to take us forward. At least he has enthusiasm and ideas.

Strachan blooded Liam Bridcutt and George Boyd against Serbia and this is where any hope of revival exists. Fresh and young talent. But it will be a long road to recovery. I doubt on the strength of the last few matches that France 2016 is even realisable.

 

That’s enough. This is too depressing.

Scotland claim historic win.

All this time I was deceiving myself, Scotland are going to Brazil after all.

Tonight’s historic 1-0 win against Estonia signifies a seismic change in our fortunes.

To be fair we had a couple of quality performances from Charlie Mulgrew, Chris Burke and Robert Snodgrass especially.

There were many changes in the second half and while no-one set the heather alight it was a solid performance.

Unfortunately every single one of our Group A opponents won as well. Some emphatically.

 Croatia 4 – 0 South Korea

Cyprus 1 – 3 Serbia

Macedonia 3 – 0 Denmark

Belgium 2 – 1 Slovakia

Wales 2 – 1 Austria

 

But a win is a win. Everything movies to the home game against Wales. Lets see what happens.

Strachan starts against Estonia

 In 2014 football will truly return home and Scotland has about as much chance as the Vatican City of making it. An awful start to the qualifying campaign sees us languishing at the bottom of Group A, 2 points from 4 games and 8 points of the pace.

It has been a hideous start and about as salvageable as the Titanic. The more you think about it the more depressing it gets.

 Even if we win all our remaining games there is little chance of making one of the 8 play-off places.

New manager, Gordon Strachan will probably be in Brazil, as a pundit for ITV. His aim must be France 2016 and building a team at least capable of competing for one of the 24 places available.

New Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

It is not an insurmountable mountain to climb but it is Kilimanjaro rather than Ben Nevis. Scotland has an adequate first 11 who thus far have under-achieved but we do not have the riches of say Belgium or Croatia (Both of which are in Group A).

 

The current strongest 11 is probably as follows:

 

 

 scot

 

These players, barring Jordan Rhodes are the most experienced players available. The younger players such as Fraser Fyvie , Tony Watt, Johnny Russell and Gary Mackay Steven should  evolve through the under teams and B squads.

 Players such as Robert Snodgrass, Danny Fox, James Forrest, Barry Bannan, James McArthur, Christophe Berra and Graham Dorrans will be in the full squad and be drafted to cover injuries, suspension or loss of form.

Next month’s friendly against Estonia will be little more than a welcoming party for Strachan, it matters not.  The qualifiers start again next month with a double header against Wales (home) then Serbia (away).  An away fixture against Croatia follows in June before the remaining fixtures are played in August September: Belgium (home), Macedonia (away) then Croatia (home).

Strachan’s big test and chance to ingratiate him with the Scottish support will come on August 14th when the Tartan hordes travel down to Wembley. By that time the English will have qualified for Brazil but it will afford us the chance to get a rare win against the Auld Enemy.

Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last  derby.
Don Hutchison scores versus England in the last derby.

Long time ago in a galaxy far away, the winning of this fixture was of paramount importance nowadays however it will have little resonance and in Scotland’s case a consolation prize for not making Brazil.

No real surprises in Strachan’s first squad

Gordon Strachan has named his squad to face Estonia next week.

Despite the previous managers reservations in picking any 3rd Division, Rangers players Strachan has pulled in Lee Wallace.

The squad has a familiar feel with the majority of players coming from the Championship and EPL.

Chris Burke returns after a long hiatus and Kenny Miller is included along with no fewer than 8 attackers.

Scotland play Estonia next Wednesday at Pittodrie Stadium (Aberdeen).

Goalkeepers

 Matt Gilks, David Marshall, Allan McGregor

Defenders 

Phil Bardsley, Christophe Berra, Gary Caldwell, Grant Hanley, Alan Hutton, Russell Martin, Charlie Mulgrew, Lee Wallace, Andy Webster

Midfielders 

Charlie Adam, Scott Brown, Chris Burke, Kris Commons, James Forrest, James McArthur, James Morrison, Matt Philips, Robert Snodgrass

Forwards

 Steven Fletcher, Ross McCormack, Jamie Mackie, Shaun Maloney, Kenny Miller, Steven Naismith, Jordan Rhodes

Strachan named Scotland boss.

In the midst of league reconstruction blundering and general mismanagement, the Scottish Football Association has at last acted and confirmed Gordon Strachan as the national team manager.

It’s a sensible and popular choice.

New Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

 

 

 

Strachan represented Scotland  50 times, including in the Spain 82 and Mexico 86 World Cups and is best remembered for his fine goal against West Germany and “leg over” celebration.

At club level he was a member of Alex Ferguson’s Aberdeen and early Manchester United teams and the leader of the Leeds United team that won the last English First Division title.

After retirement he managed Coventry City, Southampton and Middlesborough but was most successful with Celtic where he won the title 3 times and secured two last 16 Champions League places.

Strachan is also a regular pundit for the BBC and is known for his acerbic wit and one liners.

Given that World Cup qualification is more or less impossible Strachan will be tasked with reinvigorating a jaded Tartan Army and providing hope for the France 2016 qualification campaign.

This will be no easy task but it is hard to see be as shambolic as previous incumbent, Craig Levein who masterminded tow dreadful campaigns and Scotland’s tumble down the FIFA rankings.