CRAIG FORSYTH had admitted he was surprised to be handed his competitive international debut against Republic of Ireland on Saturday but believes he overcame a sticky start to help Scotland earn an important point.
The Derby County full-back endured a torrid time in the opening half of the 1-1 draw as he faced relentless Irish pressure. His discomfort was later acknowledged by manager Gordon Strachan, who wondered whether the slick pitch and different type of ball to the ones used in the English Championship accounted for some of Forsyth’s early errors.
“I think what spooked him was the surface,” said the manager, who gave the 26-year-old Forsyth his fourth cap at the expense of full-back alternatives Andy Robertson and Steven Whittaker.
“The ball and the surface was completely different from what he’s used to. They watered the pitch before kick-off and the ball was different from what we had been practising with. I think that spooked him a wee bit – if I’m trying to help him out in any way!
“It might have spooked him because I think he’s better than that,” he added. “Did I feel sorry for him? Erm, I think he just had that look about him. That’s the way he is. You look at him in training and you ask him ‘Are you happy enough? Because you disguise it well!’ ”
But Forsyth later stressed he had been thrilled to help Scotland overcome the loss of Jon Walters’ opening goal to grab a point in Dublin. The late confirmation that he was in fact starting – the players were only told the team on Saturday morning – meant his father Stewart, who played full-back for Dundee in the late 1980s, was not at the Aviva stadium to see his son make his competitive debut for his country.
“No family travelled over and, like I say, I didn’t expect to be picked either,” said Forsyth, who grew more confident as the game unfolded. “They all watched it back home on the TV.
“It was only in the morning that I found out I was starting,” he added. “There was a team meeting and the gaffer named the side. He went through the set-pieces and I have to confess it was a bit of a surprise for me. But I was delighted to finally make my competitive debut.
“Obviously, before the game, I had a little bit of nerves, but I think that’s only natural,” he continued. “It was the magnitude of the game, but you obviously have to just try and play your natural way.”
Forsyth admitted that he found it tough going in the opening stages, when Ireland seemed to try to take advantage of his obvious uncertainty.
“I thought I did all right,” he said. “I could’ve done a bit better on the ball, I had a few sloppy passes and there was one where I gave them a breakaway. But, overall, I was quite happy with how I played.
“We’re in the middle of the off-season and I still think you can get sharper and fitter. But I think the Qatar game showed what I can do going forward and I felt I did okay defensively against Ireland.
“It gave me a massive confidence boost that the manager was prepared to put me in for my first start in that occasion and knowing what it meant to everybody.
“It was obviously a massive international, it’s different from club level, and there was so much at stake. The atmosphere and the occasion, it was huge, while their fans and ours were lively. It was a big occasion but I felt I handled it well.”
“It was on a par with the play-off final,” he added, with reference to a game in which up to £130 million is reckoned to be at stake, and in which he finished on the losing side a year ago for Derby against Queens Park Rangers.
“In fact, it was probably above it – if only because of the occasion and what it meant to everybody. So, yes, it probably was my biggest game [of my career] so far.”