Scotland ‘will play it cool against Gibraltar’

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GORDON Strachan would like the Scotland fans to buy into his patient approach to their European Championship qualifier against Gibraltar - but he knows that is unlikely to happen.

The Scotland boss recognises the Tartan Army will turn up expecting plenty of goals - and quickly - against UEFA’s newest members.

The Scotland squad are put through their paces ahead of their upcoming Euro Qualifier against Gibraltar. Picture: SNS

The Scotland squad are put through their paces ahead of their upcoming Euro Qualifier against Gibraltar. Picture: SNS

However, Strachan has confidence that his players will cope with those expectations and produce a mature display against the team from the British Overseas Territory.

All week he has drilled into his players the need to probe for openings rather than rush balls forward too soon - and he is optimistic the practice will pay off.

Speaking just before taking his players for a training session at a wet and windy Hampden, Strachan said: “We don’t want to be panicking and rush into things. We will look forward and try to play forward at every occasion, but that can’t happen all the time.

“There are areas where we will have space to go and attack, there are areas where it might be harder. We will have to be patient to get the areas where we think we can work at being successful.”

When asked whether he had a message for supporters to replicate that patience, the former Celtic boss said: “That would be handy if they could.

“But fans come along to lose their inhibitions, shout and scream. They want to see goals.

“If the weather was scorching hot, they would maybe be more patient but I don’t think it’s going to be like that. I think the fans will be wanting something to warm them up right away.

“But we can’t be sucked into trying to score a goal with the first touch of the ball. We have done a lot of work and you might at times think we are not going anywhere, but we have to be patient and try to find the weaknesses.”

Strachan has his own cautionary tale from May 1991 when Scotland laboured away to international newcomers San Marino in a European qualifier before the then Leeds midfielder broke the deadlock from the spot in the 63rd minute, on their way to a 2-0 win.

“It wasn’t an easy ride, that’s for sure,” Strachan said. “I have taken a lot of penalties in big games but that one was really pressurised because I didn’t want to be remembered as the guy that missed a penalty against San Marino.

“We had some good players playing in that team and it took a corner-kick and a penalty.”

Strachan’s side have made a positive start to the group with a draw in Poland and victory over the Republic of Ireland putting them in a decent position, although their two main rivals for second spot - assuming Germany will win Group D - previously stole a march by taking points off the world champions.

Strachan believes Gibraltar, who pick their team from a population of about 30,000, are a more difficult challenge than when they began their competitive international campaign.

They conceded seven goals against both Poland and the Irish but then the same amount combined in games against Georgia and Germany. They have already secured their first friendly win, against Malta, and also drew in Estonia last year.

Strachan said: “In the first couple of games of the championship, the excitement was so great, but you could see in the Germany game there was a bit of reality about it. The world champions only scored four goals.

“Four goals is definitely enough to win a game of football, that’s for sure, but that’s the improvement we have seen from the first couple of games. You get over that initial excitement of just being there and then you want to be hard to beat, and I think that’s the stage Gibraltar will be at.”

Hull’s Allan McGregor was not present at training, although Strachan said earlier that he could pick any one of his three goalkeepers and “not lose any sleep”.

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