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Duncan Shearer: Spain is not mission impossible for Scotland tonight

Cause for optimism as Scotland chase first win against Spaniards in almost 40 years.

John McGinn celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 against Cyprus. Image: SNS
John McGinn celebrates scoring to make it 1-0 against Cyprus. Image: SNS

The campaign is in its infancy but Scotland can send out an early statement of intent if they beat Spain in their Euro 2024 qualifier at Hampden tonight.

It has been 39 years since Kenny Dalglish scored the goal which gave Scotland our last win against the Spanish and the wait for another victory against them is long overdue.

But I’m not kidding myself – I know beating the Spaniards is far from a simple task.

Are they the team of five or six years ago? Clearly not. Are they still a very good side? Absolutely.

It’s a monumental task for Steve Clarke and his players, but it is not mission impossible.

Hampden will be packed, the Tartan Army will be in good voice and we know the players are capable of rising to the occasion.

Spain are the top seeds and group favourites, but even a point tonight would be a huge achievement for the team.

Maintaining the early lead on Norway is vital

With two places up for grabs for Germany, it will be a shock if Spain don’t claim one of them. I fully expect Scotland’s biggest threat to be Norway.

They have fallen three points behind us due to their loss in Spain on Saturday and if we can keep our noses in front of them after both having played the strongest team in the group, then we will be in a very good position even at this early stage.

We’re already ahead of schedule, given our recent struggles in qualifying campaigns.

Saturday’s 3-0 win against Cyprus was the first time we’ve won our opening European Championship qualifier with a win since 2006.

It was a comfortable victory, too. I felt Scotland were in full control of the proceedings with John McGinn’s early goal helping enormously.

Credit to Cyprus for having a go, but in the closing stages we managed to snuff out any hope of a comeback thanks to Scott McTominay’s two late goals.

The only downside was the loss of Che Adams to injury for tonight’s game.

The Southampton striker has been a key player for Steve, but I’ve no doubt QPR attacker Lyndon Dykes can come in and lead the line well in his absence – that has become the key strength of the national team under Steve. We’ve got decent depth, but more importantly, players seem to know exactly what is expected of them when called upon to replace a team-mate.

New contract for Clarke a no-brainer

It the consistency of performances and results which have led to the SFA handing the manager a new deal.

When I sat in a dressing room with Steve for a game against the Netherlands I would never have picked him as a future manager.

Scotland boss  Steve Clarke has signed a contract extension. Image: SNS

A coach perhaps, but he was a quiet, reserved guy and didn’t strike me as a manager.

But you just need to look at the clubs he has worked at and the job he has done to see he’s an excellent coach and manager.

He should be proud of what he has achieved with Scotland so far – and the SFA should be applauded for knowing a good thing when they see it.

Convincing him to sign a contract extension is an excellent decision. I certainly can’t see anyone out there who could do a better job right now.

No margin of error for battling Caley Thistle

Caley Thistle players celebrate Nathan Shaw’s goal against Partick Thistle. Image: SNS

Caley Thistle dug deep when it really mattered to grind out a priceless victory against Partick Thistle at Caledonian Stadium on Friday.

They were under the cosh with 10 men, but fought bravely to take all three points with Mark Ridgers making some terrific saves to keep out the Jags.

The victory moves Inverness up to sixth in the table, six points behind the Jags for that fourth and final play-off place.

I still regard them as having little more than an outside chance at this stage, though.

Six points is a big gap to make up with only seven games remaining and I stand by my comments last week: it will take a near flawless finish if my old club is to make the playoffs.

Manning was well respected among Highland clubs

I was saddened to hear of the passing of former Caley Thistle physio Ian Manning last week following illness.

Ian was the club physio for Clachnacuddin in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as well as Inverness Thistle prior to the merger with Caledonian.

He continued as club physio with Caley Thistle, where he was a respected and valued member of the backroom staff.

A great character and a lovely man, Ian, who moved to Shetland several years ago, will be sadly missed by those who knew him.

My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Football management remains a ruthless business

Who’d be a manager?

I find myself thinking that after David Robertson’s departure from Peterhead last week.

Peterhead manager David Robertson. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson
Former Peterhead manager David Robertson. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

I played against David a few times when I was at the Dons and know little more about him other than what I watched in the documentary covering his time at Real Kashmir in India.

I don’t know if the managerial style he used out there was the same methods he employed at the Blue Toon, but it didn’t seem to be working.

It’s tough to be given only 12 games to make an impression, but with the team not making headway in their fight to avoid the drop from League One. I can understand why chairman Rodger Morrison felt he had to make a change.

Ryan Strachan and Jordon Brown have been put in interim charge and I wish them well.

If they can haul the Blue Toon out the mire, they will have firmly put themselves in the frame for being given the role permanently.