Ikechi Anya’s mum makes eight-hour drive to Hampden

Ikechi Anya in action for Scotland in the World Cup win over Slovakia. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
Ikechi Anya in action for Scotland in the World Cup win over Slovakia. Picture: Rob Casey/SNS
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The whole of Hampden bouncing up and down in song after his delicious cross which forced the vital Slovakian own goal made Ikechi Anya feel more than a little proud.

But what swelled his chest most was the thought of one very special person among the Scotland crowd delighting in his contribution to Thursday night’s 1-0 victory.

The last-gasp success ensured Gordon Strachan’s men will take it to their final World Cup qualifier in Slovenia tomorrow, despite their pursuit of a play-off place 
having seemed doomed.

Anya’s mum, Mariena, was behind the wheel this week, criss-crossing the UK as she has throughout the four years the Derby County wide man has been in the Scotland set-up. It is what she always does to watch the son whose early years in Castlemilk have given him some unforgettable moments across 28 caps for his birth nation. On Thursday, she was joined by the 29-year-old’s godparents.

Anya, pictured, said: “She texted me at 7:30am on the morning of the game saying she had left at 5:30am, because she was coming from Oxford. Eight hours in the car but she loves it.

“The amount of miles she does – when we played Ireland and England she drove up and drove back and drove up and drove back down again. She does not like flying! I’m happy for her.”

Anya has become a bit-part player for both country and club – he has started only one game for Derby this season and only two qualifiers this campaign – but manager Strachan is always keen to involve him and has brought him off the bench four times so far in the Group F matches.

Anya added: “All of us cannot
say enough good words about the gaffer. He is one of the best guys in football I have ever worked with.

“Whenever he calls you up it is a great privilege. He knows the game and what players he wants. He knows what he needs. You could see with the substitutions he made [against Slovakia]. I think we all had a good impact and managed to bring home the good work the players had done.

“The manager deserves all the credit he should get.”