MARK McGhee has not lost hope that Scotland can still salvage something from their current World Cup qualifying group, after being unveiled as new manager Gordon Strachan’s assistant yesterday.
Like Strachan, he is more upbeat than many in the Tartan Army. “We’ll have a go,” said Strachan last week when asked about bottom side Scotland’s prospects in Group A. McGhee, too, can see opportunities to recover from a poor start, with Scotland having earned just two points from their first four games. As it stands, Belgium and Croatia both head the group on ten points.
“It seems to be like it has almost been totally written off,” said the England-based McGhee. “I am far enough away maybe not to fully appreciate the gravity of the situation we are in. But I think, with six games to go, that there surely must still be hope.
“I think it starts with the Wales game. That is a home game against a British team who will bring a similar philosophy and similar players to ourselves. It’s a game where we have to be prepared to roll up our sleeves and try and win. That will be the first thing. It starts with the Wales game.”
The new Scotland management team have one game in which to bed themselves in before the clash with Wales at Hampden on 22 March. Next month’s friendly with Estonia at Pittodrie will see Strachan and McGhee return to Pittodrie, where their own relationship developed as team-mates under Sir Alex Ferguson. McGhee expects the reception to be a good one, despite their association with other clubs elsewhere and his own struggles on his return to Aberdeen as manager in 2009.
“Regardless of my experience of being at Aberdeen as manager, we are not going there with Celtic or Rangers or Bristol Rovers, we are going there with Scotland,” he said. “Everyone who comes that night will be there hoping their team is going to be playing well and going to win. I would expect them to give the team the support and to give Gordon and I as much support as the positions we occupy deserve.”
As for Strachan, he said: “Gordon has as good a chance of being successful as the Scotland manager as most people would have.”