It is time for people to get off Steve Clarke’s back.
I’m fed up of seeing the clamour to change a manager every time there is a poor result and I was far from impressed at seeing people line up to have a go at Steve following Scotland’s loss to Denmark last week.
We seem to be permanently stuck in kneejerk reaction mode in Scotland. It was only a few months ago everyone was celebrating the fact he had led the nation to the Euros, yet three months later the knives are being sharpened because we conceded two goals in a minute to Euro semi-finalists Denmark.
I was in a few Scotland squads with Steve back in my playing days and I can tell you he is a man who takes pride in his work. If he thought he was not doing it then he would be the first to put his hands up and walk away.
It’s international football and Scotland are not at the top table. If we were we would not be shipping two goals in a minute away from home and we wouldn’t be scoring just one goal against Moldova as we did on Saturday at Hampden.
We’re not going to be winning any groups to qualify for tournaments anytime soon. Our only routes to a major tournament are via the play-offs or the Nations League.
The games against Denmark were never going to determine our chances of making it to Qatar for the World Cup next year. It’s the matches against the rest of the teams in the group which matter, such as tonight’s game in Austria.
We’re effectively in a three-horse race for second place with the Austrians and Israel and I see tonight’s game as one of our campaign-defining games.
If we can beat the Austrians on their own patch we’ll be four points clear of them and in all likelihood back in second place, as I’ll be astonished if Israel take anything from their game against the Danes tonight.
The stakes are high, but if there was any doubt about how tough the going is for us just now then you just need to look at Saturday’s game at the national stadium to see how slim the attacking pickings are for Steve.
We created a lot of chances, but we don’t have a striker with that bit of guile, that composure under pressure, to deliver consistently on the big stage. That’s why we only scored one goal.
While England can change their entire 11 and win 4-0, we are still trying to find the right combination and hope someone finds form in front of goal for us.
There has been a clamour for Kevin Nisbet to start, but he looked a fish out of water for me on Saturday. It’s a big responsibility leading the line for your country, not to mention a massive step up as you are playing against strong defenders every time. It’s a far cry from playing up front for Hibs in the Scottish Premiership.
When I look at the candidates I’d probably go with Lyndon Dykes purely in terms of what he can offer as a target man. He has been in good form for QPR, but I still don’t see a striker capable of scoring on a regular basis for Scotland.
That has to change if we want to move from play-off contenders to potential group winners anytime soon.
Fraser the pick of the bunch from Buckie’s trip to Inverness
I took a trip to Inverness to watch two of my old clubs go head to head in the SPFL Trust Trophy on Saturday and I was hugely impressed by my former Highland League side Buckie Thistle.
The 4-0 scoreline in Caley Thistle’s favour flattered them as Buckie were terrific. They started the game well, hit the post and were denied by a point-blank save.
Inverness picked up after the break and their superior match fitness helped them pull away from the Jags, but Buckie were a credit to the Highland League.
They also had the best player on the pitch in Kevin Fraser. He was a one-time Inverness target and it was not hard to see why as the midfielder dominated the game. He was outstanding.
Dons will be delighted to remain intact after deadline day
Aberdeen manager Stephen Glass will be delighted to see the transfer window close and his squad remains intact.
There was speculation about Lewis Ferguson and late interest in Ryan Hedges, but by the time the clock struck midnight both were still at Pittodrie – much to the delight of the Dons boss I’m sure.
The closer it gets to the window closing, the tougher it is for these deals to go through for several reasons. Managers are left with little time to find replacements and there can be pressure from families on players not to move.
When four new players arrived at Aberdeen in the final week, it all pointed to a key Don moving on, but Stephen knows what he has to work with between now and January 1 and I expect to see Aberdeen kick on during the Autumn months.