Published On: Mon, Jun 3rd, 2013

Out with the Old and in with the New for Scotland

A cursory glance at Scotland’s squad for the forthcoming qualifying match against Croatia, on June 7th, suggests that Gordan Strachan, a staunch apostle of the beautiful game, will stay faithful to his principles of playing entertaining, attacking football during his tenure as boss of the national team.

Whether his philosophy can be put into practice by his players however, is a different matter entirely, but surely the negative – and unpalatable – style of football the fans were forced to endure (for far too long) with Craig Levein at the helm, must improve under the new man in charge.

It certainly cannot get much worse.

The cautious approach employed by the previous incumbent was so extreme you would have thought he’d been threatened with death by hit men – assembled around Hampden – if his team dared to cross the halfway line.  Unsurprisingly, this negativity became embedded in his players, who were seemingly paralysed with fear of the opposition, resulting in an inability to express themselves offensively.  Consequently, the players turned in performances that were bleaker than a West Coast winter, whilst Levein’s relationship with the fans became just as cold and frosty.

In contrast, Strachan will have endeared himself to the supporters by selecting such a young, energetic and exciting squad for his 1st competitive game in charge. It is a clear statement of his intent for the future – and one which will help regain the trust of the Tartan Army – which has taken more beatings than a blindfolded boxer.

The youthful exuberance and enterprise of newcomers Liam Bridcutt, Gary Mackay-Steven, Gary Armstrong, Tony Watt and Leigh Griffiths will add fresh impetus to a squad which is already furnished with a lot of players who perform consistently well, week in-week, out in the Premiership.  Fans are certainly hoping that Strachan’s characteristic passion and positive approach can encourage the more established players such as Steven Naismith, Scott Brown, Shaun Maloney and James Morrison to flourish and replicate their club form on the international stage.

In the fullness of time he must find a way to lift the country out of the footballing malaise it has floundered in since France 98’. But, for now his task is try and build upon the utterly pathetic total of two points the team has amassed (from a possible 18) in the current campaign.

The painful memories of previous doomed qualifying campaigns seem to have induced a type of Post Traumatic Distress on the older, more experienced pros like Kenny Miller and Gary Caldwell, who are plagued by the harrowing images of past defeats and failures. So now is the time to replace the battle-scarred old guard and mobilise the new, fresh faced recruits for action.

And what better initiation is there than to throw them into the heat of battle in the remaining qualifiers? Indeed, the final fixture – on October 15 against Croatia at Hampden – provides the perfect setting for the passing out parade of the new hopefuls and give the Tartan Army foot soldiers one last chance to salute the effort and endeavour – if not the results and quality – of the outgoing older players, who will be honourably discharged from duty.

Words by Robbie Bannatyne