Scotland’s midweek meeting with Poland was always going to be something of a surreal occasion.
The nation had been gearing up for a crucial World Cup play-off, a night which would have sparked the most frenzied of emotions, but for entirely the right reasons that was scrapped, and we were instead served up an international friendly which exceeded expectations.
The main plus from the night was the money donated by the near-40,000 crowd to help support relief efforts in war-torn Ukraine. More than £350,000 was raised for Unicef which was a magnificent effort.
The Ukrainians have far more pressing matters on their mind than football right now, and it remains to be seen what will happen to the play-off match and the planned Nations League encounter with the same nation.
Rescheduling of games is a mere inconvenience when compared to the suffering in that country, but someone at a high level in UEFA and FIFA may ultimately have big decisions to make.
As for Thursday night, there was much to enjoy at Hampden, and most of the players enhanced their reputations. Apart from a few Grant Hanley moments, the defence was solid enough, Nathan Patterson and Kieran Tierney particularly impressive, and it was good to see Aaron Hickey blooded.
The midfield oozes quality and Steve Clarke has strength in depth in that area which will serve him well in the coming seasons. John McGinn is emerging as a real leader in the heart of the pitch, and it was fitting he was given the captain’s armband. If he stays fit, John has at least another six or seven years of international football in him and could easily surpass Kenny Dalglish’s 102 cap record.
We now know it’ll be another friendly in Vienna next Tuesday – a game the Austrians could see far enough after their World Cup exit in Wales – and I would expect the manager to freshen the side up.
Hickey will start, Craig Halkett might get an opportunity and Ross Stewart will surely be given a run-out up front. Whoever he selects, Clarke will expect to build on the momentum gained during their seven-match unbeaten run.
The other international story of the week was the confirmation of a proposed UK and Ireland bid to host the Euro 2028 Finals.
While still a massive occasion, the Euros is more manageable than the World Cup Finals – plans to stage the 2030 tournament were previously shelved – and if they get their proposal in order, securing the event looks highly likely.
With the national stadiums Hampden, Wembley, The Principality and The Aviva all considered elite venues, the bid is off to a good start. Northern Ireland maybe be an issue – Windsor Park currently holds only 18,000 – but that can be overcome. On top of those grounds, there are numerous world class facilities across England, while Murrayfield and Celtic Park in particular, and perhaps Ibrox, could also be included.
Having sampled a small part of the delayed Euro 2020 Finals last summer, I am sure our nation is ready for more, and the staging of another such tournament in just a few short years is a prospect to be welcomed.
It will have been a good week at Cormack Park following Jim Goodwin’s richly-merited first win as Dons manager.
The display was excellent and an example of the kind of performance levels I expect to see regularly under the new boss, particularly after he brings his own players in during the summer.
Vicente Besuijen continues to catch the eye, and his superb finish added to the two well taken penalties by Lewis Ferguson.
The second of those caused a bit of uproar with Hibernian disputing the sending-off of Ryan Porteous, claiming he had made a genuine attempt to play the ball.
It was among the most frivolous appeals I have ever seen, and the additional punishment meted out was deserved.
Take away the offence of denying a clear goalscoring opportunity, the challenge itself was outrageous, and worthy of a red card.
Porteous’ stats have, I understand, been pretty good this season, but he continues to be a danger to opponents when – as happens too often – he gets a rush of blood to the head.