MORE than a few weekend visitors to Glasgow will take in the transport museum on the Saturday, go for a walk along the Clydeside on the Sunday and finish off their stay with a trip to the Blue Lagoon chippie just outside Central Station. Very few who follow such an itinerary will be international sides in town to face Scotland.
Davie Wilson had these excursions in mind for his Gibraltar squad because the Euro 2016 qualifier at Hampden has brought him home, of course. The coach has admitted that all the planets have aligned for him to be able to take charge of a team for the first time in senior football at Scotland’s national football stadium.
Wilson, a Kilmarnock apprentice in the 1990s who played junior with Kilwinning Rangers before a navy career led to him resettling in Gibraltar, was only promoted to take interim charge of the fledgling international side four weeks ago. He did so after coach Allen Bula was sacked following what the Gibraltar FA stated was “a thorough and careful investigation into internal matters”.
The sense of occasion awaiting him at Hampden has dominated Wilson’s waking thoughts. His Scottishness has been a source of mirth for his players since they stepped out of Glasgow Airport and stepped in to a deserted arrivals’ lounge.
“They were winding me up something terrible when there were no media there to meet us at the airport,” the 41-year-old said. ”We have great camaraderie and I got pelters. ‘We thought you were famous here?’ that kind of stuff. But they know my connection with Jim Fleeting and the SFA and I’m actually joining up with the SFA in a few weeks to complete my qualifications. I always speak very highly of them to the boys because that’s where I got my upbringing and my discipline.”
Wilson’s Ayrshire roots will swell the attendance at the Group D encounter by almost three figures. “I think I’ve got around 24 family and close friends, and then around 60 or 70 more lads who I’ve played football with in Ayrshire and Glasgow all going as well,” he said. “The wishes have been fantastic from everyone. But they all have a common theme – good luck… but we hope you lose.”
The loss is certain, the manner less so. Wilson is not here for a jolly or some memories to last a lifetime. He is here to draw a measured display from his side that will allow them to build on the 4-0 defeat in Germany. Wilson demonstrates his toughness as a technician by declaring that result not “as good as it looked”.
“If the Germans were on form that night it would have been another cricket score,” he said. “But the lads have seen it and we’re in agreement. I can’t change a lot but what I can do is get the players to take more responsibility for how they’re playing and respect the level they’re playing at.
“We can’t lose our shape and that’s what happened against Germany. We were defending seven against four at times. That’s why we never got out of our half and we want to change that. And the players have to believe that. Some of them questioned it and said ‘oh, well it’s worked for us so far’ but I begged to differ. It’s worked for us but we’ve lost 21 goals in four games? I’m not saying we should never have lost those goals but a relatively decent amount for the level we’re supposed to be playing at is maybe 15 or 16. Which is why setting a target of three or four against Scotland is realistic.”
Realistic for goalkeeper Jamie Robba is to expect Gibraltar to take off now that they have a place in the international domain. “Gibraltar a very football-orientated place. It is very small but very sporty and has 160-odd different sports associations,” said the 23-year-old, who is turning professional with club College Europa. “As it is very small, it is very competitive. Everybody knows each other and everybody wants to beat everybody. That is the reason I got into football, because everyone likes it so much.
“We have a new [domestic] league but it has moved on ten steps in two years. It’s not just taken step-by-step, it’s running before it can walk. The league has two or three teams at an all right level. It’s getting better and better. It can’t compare to League One or League Two in the professional system in England but it is a decent level and it keeps growing.
“I hope I can keep growing with the GFA and coming on international duty and maybe go out of Gib. I never tire of saying this is a dream come true and hope what has happened can allow the 16-year-olds and the 17-year-olds to make the jump and go and play outside the island.
“We’re obviously the newest, smallest nation in UEFA, so it is going to happen for the next five years that we’ll always be the underdog and I’m always going to be the lad who is worked the most in the whole team. I’m looking forward to it. It gives me a chance to shine. There are players who have played in the Premier League all their lives and never played international football. It’s a privileged position.”
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