THE sight of Berti Vogts strolling through the Acropolis Convention Centre in Nice on Sunday afternoon may have induced an unpleasant bout of flashbacks in the minds of those of a Scottish persuasion.
It remains difficult to recall Vogts’ reign as Scotland manager without a sense of despair at the generally wretched nature of his tenure and the often humiliating results it delivered.
But amid the ineptitude, there were fleeting moments of credibility when Vogts was in charge, including two noteworthy performances against Germany during the Euro 2004 qualifiers.
Vogts, who was at Sunday’s Euro 2016 draw in his current capacity as Azerbaijan’s head coach, was unable to contain a smile when he saw Scotland bracketed with his homeland once again in the qualifying competition.
While the current German side are odds-on favourites to win Group D, Vogts believes Gordon Strachan’s Scottish squad are capable of competing with them in the two meetings between the sides.
“We did it at home when we got a 1-1 draw with Germany at Hampden in 2003,” said Vogts. “We also played very well against Germany in Dortmund a few months later. We lost 2-1, but the Germans’ winner was a penalty. It was not a penalty, so it should have been two draws for Scotland against Germany.
“It’s 90 minutes of football, 11 against 11, and especially with Scotland, anything is possible. Listen, your boys need to fight, fight, fight for the country and maybe the Germans will have some problems.
“Scotland need to play with high speed and put them under pressure, that’s what’s most important. I spoke with Gordon Strachan when I met here in Nice.
“He told me the players had been doing well for him since he took over. He is looking for other good players but it’s not about just working hard for two years, it’s about longer term progress. Scotland has new players and a new team but when they play Germany they cannot be nervous.”
Joachim Löw’s Germany have already been installed as favourites to win Euro 2016 and are also strongly fancied by many observers to be strong contenders for this summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil. But Vogts was reluctant to lavish them with too much praise.
“You cannot say this Germany team is better than the team I managed at Euro 96, just as you can’t say they’re better than the Germany team I played for when we won the 1974 World Cup,” he said.
“In 1974 someone could have asked me if the team was better than the 1954 World Cup winning team and it’s impossible to say.
“Germany have had special teams through all time. They are special now as one of the favourites for the World Cup with all their young lads coming through.
“They play with such high speed and that’s the problem for Scotland, keeping up with that tempo.”
Vogts also expressed his happiness at the news of Darren Fletcher’s return to full health and fitness following his ulcerative collitis surgery. The Manchester United midfielder became one of Scotland’s youngest ever captains when he was handed the armband for the first time by Vogts for a friendly in Estonia.
“When I met Gordon my first question to him was about Fletcher,” added Vogts. “I asked him: ‘what’s happening with Darren?’
“I actually met his sister recently when I was in Dubai. She told me a lot of very bad things about her brother’s illness but Gordon told me things are getting better and better for him now.
“He is back in training and back playing in the matches for Manchester United, which is great. Soon he’ll be back for Scotland and that will be good to see.
“I wish him the best of luck because he’s a good, good boy. Maybe things aren’t easy for him but I hope he gets back to the level he reached before his illness. Darren is a fighter, you know. He is Scottish and he will come back, I am sure of it. I know it.”
Vogts was less enthused about the current situation of another player he promoted into the senior Scotland squad as a teenager. Motherwell forward James McFadden, labelled his “cheeky boy” at the time by Vogts, has so far been unable to force his way back into the Scotland squad.
“Is he still playing?” asked Vogts. “I didn’t know he was back with Motherwell – what happened, why is he not playing for the national team?
“He cannot be too old. He was my tricky, cheeky boy – someone should speak with him and put him under pressure again.
“He had a lot of potential as a youngster. Someone should speak with him and say ‘come on, come on, this is your last chance’.
“Look, I don’t know about the other boys getting into the Scotland team ahead of him. But in my thinking I believe James can come back. He just has to train very, very hard.
“Some Scottish players are very lazy so I hope people are putting him under pressure to return for Scotland.”