Qualifying for Euro 2024 with two games to spare is a remarkable achievement for the Scotland national team.
We may have already qualified but I know Steve Clarke will still want to finish top of the group and potentially get an easier draw in Germany next summer.
I am delighted for everybody involved with the national team, especially Steve.
I was in a couple of Scotland squads with him as a player. His sixth and final cap was in a 3-1 defeat against the Netherlands in Utrecht. It was my second cap and I came on as a substitute and scored the consolation goal.
At the time, I probably wouldn’t have expected Steve was going to be the one in the squad to go on and lead the country to multiple major tournaments.
He was a very quiet lad who kept himself to himself. He would join in with conversations but he was happy to be in the background and let other people be the big characters in the squad.
Even in his interviews as Scotland manager, he is very measured in what he says.
…AND WE'RE OFF TO GERMANY 🎶 🏴 pic.twitter.com/KEtNJRQRRk
— Schottland (Q) (@ScotlandNT) October 15, 2023
There is a lot of humility in that man, he is happy for others to do the talking. He is a thinker who lets others speak but when he does speak you better sit up and take notice because he’ll have something important to say.
He doesn’t get carried away. He just loves the game and he has now guided the country to successive European Championships.
There is a great team ethos and I love the brand of football Scotland play. There is no panic in defence and they try to play good football.
He is a modern coach who has worked with some of the top managers in England.
Steve will be the first to say that he has a good group of players – even though we are all still searching for the next Kenny Dalglish up front. We may be searching for a long time for a striker like that to come along.
Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes who are leading the line for us know what they have to do, which is a huge amount of work chasing down defenders, holding the ball up when possible and bringing others into the game.
There is a real determination about the defenders to keep clean sheets – and Ryan Porteous has really impressed me since making the step up to international level.
The friendly against France will give him the opportunity to play some of the boys who have been doing a lot of travelling but not getting as much time on the pitch.
He will want to see what some of his fringe players can do against one of the strongest national teams in the world.
I expect both teams will make plenty of changes. The club managers won’t be as happy to see their players in friendlies in case they pick up injuries.
Andy Robertson suffered a nasty shoulder injury against Spain and could be facing a lengthy period on the sidelines.
That is the fear of every international manager when their players go on international duty.
Scotland still have Georgia and Norway to play next month and Steve will want to finish the group on a high with two wins.
It is very unlikely that Spain will drop points over their final two games against Cyprus and Georgia but it would be great to pip them to top spot if they do slip up.
The great thing is I don’t think there will be too much fear whoever Scotland are drawn against in Germany next summer.
Teams won’t relish coming up against us because we have turned into a team that is hard to beat.
Patience is running thin with VAR
While it has been a great week for Scotland, it has been another frustrating experience with VAR.
Scott McTominay was denied what could have been the goal to take us to Euro 2024 when his free kick was chalked off in Spain.
Alvaro Morata had a goal ruled out by VAR against Norway while Gavi’s winner for Spain in Oslo was finally given after a four-minute VAR check.
I was a big advocate of VAR being introduced but I don’t feel it is enhancing the game.
When I think about the money that has gone out of the game to bring it in, I don’t think it has been worth it.
I don’t like waiting two, three or four minutes for the officials to come to a decision – and even then it is too often not the right one.
The return of the Doc
Tony Docherty returns to Pittodrie this Saturday as manager of Dundee.
I wasn’t very convinced by Dundee when they won promotion from the Championship last season but, since replacing Gary Bowyer, Tony has made some good signings and has the Dark Blues playing well.
It will be a hard game for the Dons but Barry Robson will be looking for an improvement after the display in the 0-0 draw against St Johnstone.
Caley Thistle are heading to Greenock Morton which is a huge game as they both sit in the bottom two.
I’m sure Duncan Ferguson will have enjoyed having this time during the international break to work with his squad and implementing his style.
I’m heading to Ross County against St Mirren this weekend which should be another good game. The Buddies have started the season well so it will be a tough game for County.