John Collins believes Scotland will be desperate to continue building “momentum” against Nigeria tonight as they seek the perfect preparation for the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
The Africans have more immediate goals as they warm up for this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, but Gordon Strachan’s outfit will head for Fulham’s Craven Cottage this evening looking to extend an impressive five-match unbeaten sequence.
The Tartan Army have been given reason for hope ahead of September’s Euro opener against Germany after Scotland finished the World Cup qualifiers with wins over Croatia and Macedonia and racked up recent friendly wins over Norway and Poland. And Collins, a firm advocate of controlled passing football as both player and manager, has also been enthused by the style of play instilled by Strachan as the national team sets its sights on qualification for its first major tournament since 1998.
The former Fulham, Celtic and Hibs midfielder said: “Nigeria are preparing for the 2014 World Cup, but we’re preparing for Euro 2016. This will be the last game before the qualifying matches begin, so it’s a chance for Gordon Strachan and his team to look at some of the players that have done well this season.
“We go into the game on the back of a five-game unbeaten run, and want to extend that. We beat Poland 1-0 in the last game, and have kept four consecutive clean sheets. Gordon took over in January of last year and I think he needs to be given enormous credit. Results have picked up and progress is clearly being made. The team have a bit of momentum, and that’s not something we have always been lucky enough to have.
“I know Gordon well, he has vast experience and he was an excellent footballer. He likes his teams to get hold of the ball and pass it. You won’t see any kick and chase play, that’s not his style.
“Keeping the ball better has been a real plus, because if you give the ball away in international football you’ll get punished. The team looks nice and compact when they don’t have possession, but they open up when they do.”
Collins spent three seasons with Fulham from the turn of the millennium before hanging up his boots and eventually returning the game as manager at first club Hibs in 2006. And, having won the old Division One title in 2001 before spending two seasons in the top-flight with the Cottagers, Collins has spoken of his affection for his time in London as Scotland prepare to play at his old stomping ground.
The 46-year-old told his old club’s website: “I was very fortunate to have had the career I did. When I look back, my spell at Fulham was a very significant part of my time as a player. “There were a few eyebrows raised when I left Everton to sign for the club in July 2000 because I had to step down from the Premier League to Division One, or the Championship as it’s now known. But I knew it would only be for a year. That first season was immense fun; it was total domination from start to finish. We dominated possession, created lots of chances and scored loads of goals. We played with freedom, style and attacking flair.
“The fans loved it as well, and as a result, we built a strong relationship with them – a close bond.”