Strachan: Ikechi Anya too good for Championship

GORDON Strachan has expressed surprise that Ikechi Anya, Scotland’s star of the show against Germany on Sunday night, is not playing at a higher level than the Championship in England.
Scotland's Ikechi Anya celebrates scoring against Germany. Picture: PAScotland's Ikechi Anya celebrates scoring against Germany. Picture: PA
Scotland's Ikechi Anya celebrates scoring against Germany. Picture: PA

The Scotland manager was reflecting on a result that got away against the world champions following the failure to hold on to the foothold established by Anya’s composed 66th minute equaliser in Dortmund.

A winner five minutes later from Thomas Muller saw Scotland denied the chance to record a historic result – Strachan later said that he felt his side could go on to win after Anya’s inspired intervention.

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Steven Fletcher was the architect when he swiveled just over the half-way line and played the winger in. But there was still much to do for Anya, who has now scored twice in seven appearances since Strachan brought him into the side for the first time as a substitute against Belgium, just over a year ago.

Strachan yesterday said that his coaching staff are “scratching their heads” at why Anya is not playing in the English Premier League, or for a club the size of “a Celtic”. The winger has had an itinerant career so far, joining Watford, initially on loan, in 2012.

As well as playing for five clubs in Spain, where he went in an effort to re-ignite his career, he was also at non-league sides Oxford City and Halesowen Town as recently as six years ago. Now 26, he is relishing breaking back into professional football and now has seven international caps and two goals to his name.

“There is no doubt about it, he could go to a Celtic or to a club in the English Premier League no bother,” said Strachan. “He can play different positions too which makes him even more valuable. He can play on the left as he did against Germany, he can play on the right side, he can even play left-back. He has not got a problem with any of them.

“And he has a love for the game which is so refreshing. I think he’s worked so hard to get to where he is right now that he doesn’t want to lose it.”

“The coaching staff scratch our heads at times and wonder why he is not playing in the English Premier League?” added Strachan. “It’s not mugs he’s playing against here – it’s Germany, Croatia, Belgium and England. The Macedonians were no mugs either and he scored against them too.”

Strachan admitted he had doubts about whether Anya would be able to add the finish that such a great run deserved.

“When he was running through I thought to myself: ‘Right, you’ve just sprinted for 30 yards and now you’re up against the best goalie in the world’,” said Strachan. “But he stuck it away as if it was in a training game. The ball hasn’t trickled into the back of the net either, he knew exactly what he was doing.”

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The Scotland manager also reiterated his belief that someone in his position should not be seen to criticise referees, although he did let slip that he thought Erik Durm deserved to be sent off rather than only yellow carded when he pulled back Steven Naismith just outside the box. This was one of several questionable calls made by Norwegian official Svein Oddvar Moen. Asked whether he was inclined to say anything more on the subject of the referee having had a night’s rest, Strachan, who was also restrained with his comments in his post-match press conference, said: “No because I think, as the international manager, you have to set some kind of standard. So you have to stay calm.”