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Duncan Shearer: June date with Ukraine appears optimistic at this point for Scotland

Scotland manager Steve Clarke
Scotland manager Steve Clarke during the 1-1 draw with Poland a few days ago.

This should have been the day of one of Scotland’s biggest matches in years but I find myself doubting whether we will even see the World Cup play-off take place in June.

Wales should have been hosting either Scotland or Ukraine tonight for a place at Qatar, but events in Ukraine have put such trivial matters as a game of football firmly at the bottom of the list.

Scotland’s semi-final was rescheduled for June with the final taking place a few days later, but Ukraine national team boss Oleksandr Petrakov does not sound optimistic about the revised date becoming a reality.

His comment – “As long as people in my country continue to die, I cannot think about playing the game in Scotland” – really hit home.

It’s a horrible situation for the people of Ukraine and in football terms it has also become a difficult one for Scotland, Wales and FIFA to navigate.

The draw for the finals is going ahead on Friday regardless and I can only assume it will be team X in the pot.

You can be sure FIFA officials will be anxiously discussing how late they can conceivably leave these two games to be played without disadvantaging the three teams involved.

One option is to give Ukraine a place in the finals and let Scotland and Wales play their match to decide which one goes to Qatar, but no doubt someone will fail to read the room and question the sporting integrity of that decision.

Wales, having beaten Austria 2-1 in their semi-final, now play a waiting game of their own, while Scotland have been left playing friendlies this month.

Scotland not letting delays upset their momentum

Scotland’s Kieran Tierney celebrates scoring his side’s first goal of the game against Poland.

In the meantime, Steve Clarke is having potential training camp venues identified and inspected on the basis Scotland will be there in November.

He has to do that, because waiting until he knows whether Scotland have qualified is too risky. Having a venue which provides all your preparation needs is crucial for any finals.

Despite all the uncertainty about when or whether the play-off semi-final will go ahead, I am pleased to see Scotland continue to build momentum with another good performance in their 1-1 draw with Poland on Thursday.

I have to say the decision to award Poland a penalty in stoppage time was one of the most disgraceful ones I’ve seen in years, but their equaliser did not detract from what was a fine display from Clarke’s side.

Kieran Tierney opened his account for his country when he put Scotland in front and it is no surprised to see him linked with Real Madrid.

He was an outstanding prospect at Celtic and has been excellent for Arsenal in the Premier League. He is a terrific player who could play for any side and I’m sure there are worse places to play your football than Madrid.

Here’s hoping we can see more of that form from Tierney and his team-mates in Austria tonight.

McAlear should be in the Scottish under-21s

Reece McAlear deserves a place in the Scotland under-21s

Three games is all it has taken to turn Caley Thistle’s season around.

Wins against Arbroath, Raith Rovers and Dunfermline have given Billy Dodds’ side a six-point cushion with five games remaining as they bid to book a play-off berth.

Inverness still have an outside chance of catching Arbroath, who are second, and I am sure – with his side not playing this weekend – Doddsy will be following events at Firhill between Partick and the Red Lichties closely.

Victory for Ian McCall’s side will take the Jags back to within a point of Inverness, but give the Highlanders hope of making up the six-point gap Arbroath have on them.

But, if Dick Campbell’s side win, then a nine-point gap will probably be a bridge too far for Inverness.

I share in the manager’s comments about Reece McAlear, too. He has been terrific for Caley Thistle during his loan from Norwich City and Doddsy has been championing his cause for a place in the Scotland under-21 side.

Having watched how poor we were against Turkey, I’m astonished McAlear hasn’t even made the squad. He’s a top talent and one who we should be testing at international level.

Racism has no place in the Highland League

I didn’t think we would see racism become a talking point in the Highland League, but here we are.

It seems some people just want to say things for shock value without a moment’s consideration of the hurt it may cause.

That is why the alleged incidents of racist comments towards Huntly players at Nairn and Keith in the last week is horrible.

Keith have identified and banned a spectator and I hope this can bring an end to this horrendous trend.

The Highland League is a throwback to the old days of football where you stood on the embankment with your pals and a pie and enjoyed a game of football.

If you were old enough you might even go to a local bar for a pint afterwards.

It does not need or welcome this behaviour and if there is one good thing to come out of all of this, it is the reaction of the clubs.

Anyone shouting obscenities can be easily identified and dealt with. A few volunteers dotted around the ground would easily see to that.

Fans, too, should name and shame if there are any further incidents.

We don’t need this in society and it will not be tolerated in the Highland League.

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