There’s a real feelgood factor around Scotland at the moment and we’re all now looking forward to the first game of the Euros against the Czech Republic next week.
I really enjoyed Scotland’s 2-2 draw with Holland in midweek. I know people will say we were unlucky not to win, but the result against both the Dutch, and then Luxembourg on Sunday, were neither here nor there.
It was all to do with getting some sort of shape and getting boys game time, that’s why the coaching staff made changes against Luxembourg and left some at home.
However, you couldn’t help but be swept up in the positivity of the draw with the Netherlands.
I played – and scored – for Scotland against Holland in 1994, with the game taking place in Utrecht, and we got spanked. We were lucky to get away with three.
So to now be in a position where as a nation – after all our struggles since then – where we’re drawing with the Dutch gives me hope.
I thought Clarke’s decision to play two upfront in the 1-0 win over Luxembourg on Sunday added a bit of intrigue to the friendly.
Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams looked really busy and were helped by the team getting loads of crosses in from the left-hand side.
When I was playing, I wanted the players who lined up alongside me to take even a half opportunity to get the ball into the box. If you just keep whipping it in, strikers will get chance after chance to score.
Dykes and Adams were getting this kind of service against Luxembourg – down to 10 men after 15 minutes – and, on another day, the Dark Blues would’ve won by three or four.
You can point to the fact the chances weren’t converted as an area of concern, but what Newcastle, Arsenal and England great Malcolm Macdonald taught me, and I think it rings true for Dykes and Adams, is it would be a bigger issue if they were not getting the opportunities.
Creating the chances – being in the right place and your team-mates finding you – is the tough part. With the amount of opportunities the Scots showed they can present to Dykes and Adams, there’s no question in my mind the goals will come.
I thought there were the early signs of a real understanding between the two strikers at the Stade Josy Barthel, best reflected when Dykes unselfishly played in Adams to slot home the winner.
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 6, 2021
However, as much as I enjoyed watching the national team playing with a double act up top – which isn’t something you see too much of nowadays – I can’t see Clarke being as attacking against the Czechs when their Euros campaign kicks off on Monday.
If Clarke was to start both Dykes and Adams, it would certainly show his intentions in an opener where victory would give Scotland a huge chance of getting out of the group and reaching the next stage.
There’s also Kevin Nisbet, who scored his first international goal against the Dutch, and I’m sure Kevin and all of the coaches who’ve helped him through the years will feel similar pride to how I felt seeing Ryan Christie score in Belgrade against Serbia.
But, if I have to pick one forward to play from the start against the Czechs, it would be Dykes. His work-rate is phenomenal, he’s got pace, power, can come short and go long. If he could add a killer touch in front of goal, he’d be the complete package, however, I think he can do well for us in the championships.
Strikers-apart and barring any Covid issues or injuries, Clarke’s team is basically set for our first major tournament match since 1998.
We’re now in a position as a nation where we have stars who play at the highest level filling several slots. We know Andy Robertson will be at left-back, Kieran Tierney inside him at left centre-back, with Scott McTominay and John McGinn in the heart of the midfield.
The only other area where there is a question mark is the right centre-back slot, which I expect Jack Hendry to occupy instead of Aberdeen’s Declan Gallagher, with Grant Hanley in the middle.
Craig Levein could be an asset to Brechin City
The news former Scotland boss, Craig Levein, is taking up an advisor role at now-Highland League Brechin City was a strange one when I first heard it.
I understand Craig has agreed to help out for nothing because he’s got a connection with Brechin’s new chairman, Kevin Mackie, so good on him.
He could prove to be very useful indeed for the Hedgemen as they try to get back into the Scottish league at the first attempt. They certainly need some kind of guiding hand following their slide down the pyramid over the last few years which culminated in losing the pyramid play-off final to Kelty Hearts a few weeks ago.
Brechin, with the right players, should feel confident about competing in the Highland League next term.
Glebe Park is a fantastic ground and Brechin shouldn’t be in the predicament they are. They’ll want to get their house in order and bounce back quickly or risk tailing off completely.
The arrival of a new side to the division will be interesting and likely enjoyable for the likes of my home town team, Fort William, despite the extra travel requirements.
Great to see Doddsy getting a crack at Inverness
I was pleased to see Billy Dodds confirmed as the new Inverness Caley Thistle boss last week.
We know each other well and played together for a number of years. He has shown in his post-playing career work – as a coach and in the media – that he speaks brilliantly and has earned a lot of respect as a result.
Good on him for landing a belated crack at it as a manager in his own right. He’s a perfect fit in terms of background – having served as interim boss Neil McCann’s number two last term – and location.
It’ll be a challenge delivering the promotion back to the top-flight Caley Thistle want, which will likely come through the play-offs, and hopefully he’ll get the funds to strengthen he needs if he’s to build a squad capable of competing with Championship new boys Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Partick Thistle.
I don’t think Billy will be the kind of manager who lets his coaches do all the coaching, and the Caley Thistle players have talked glowingly of their experiences under him last season when he was interim assistant.
Hopefully this will be a strong foundation – although we will undoubtedly see a new side to Billy in his role as manager, as he will have to make tough decisions if Inverness are to be successful.