These pages have seen Gordon Strachan written off many times since those four days in August 2005 when Celtic conceded nine goals to Artmedia and Motherwell. Last night, as Scotland manager, he got the breaks. First, at the most ridiculous dive for a penalty ever perpetrated by a player on a yellow card (and I have seen Steven Naismith), then, when tired defensive limbs contrived to concede a late winner for Scotland.
If he gets a result away to Slovenia on Sunday, he will have earned whatever grudging appreciation goes his way. A generation of adults have never seen Scotland at an international tournament. They don’t know the joys of losing 3-0 to Morocco, watching a defensive wall shirk at a free kick, or celebrating as an Iranian scored an own goal to deliver a point. It’s time they learned.
Little about Scotland’s success is good news for Celtic. Should we win the league, our first qualification round will start two weeks after the tournament kicks off. Although that round is unlikely to provide a particularly stiff challenge, consider what happened to Newco when they arrived unprepared against Luxembourg semi-professionals.
Even if Scotland don’t reach the finals in Russia, a second place finish in the group for Scotland would see the players face two play-off games in the middle of our Champions League group games, and the possibility of a League Cup final.
Brendan Rodgers will wish his players every success, but he would surely not be too distressed to share hard luck stories with them when they return to training next week. The club-v-country debate has kicked around for decades, but I doubt if any club/country combo has seen it as acute as it is for Celtic and Scotland right now.
Catch up with this CQN Podcast from last month when we interviewed Celtic star from the Centenary season, full back Chris Morris. It’s a great listen…