Gary Caldwell wants end to ‘negativity’ and calls on nation to back Levein

GARY Caldwell yesterday called for Scotland fans and the media to back the manager and has hit out at the negativity which surrounds the national side after just three wins in ten competitive matches under Craig Levein.

Caldwell accused the media of negatively influencing the Tartan Army, large sections of which jeered Levein for the second time in four days at the end of Scotland’s 1-1 draw with Macedonia at Hampden Park on Tuesday night That followed the similarly anguished reaction to the 0-0 scoreline against Serbia on Saturday.

Those results have left Scotland with a total of only two points from a pair of home fixtures which were designed to ensure that the team hit the ground running in their efforts to qualify for the World Cup finals in Brazil from Group A.

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With all six teams having played twice, Scotland are fourth in the group, two points from both top and bottom place.

But Caldwell was adamant that the players still supported Levein, who is priced by one Scottish-based bookmaker as odds-on to be sacked by the weekend. McBookie.com also have him at a remarkable 1-9 to be gone by the end of the World Cup campaign.

Caldwell said the poor results had “nothing to do with the manager”.

“Who has a problem with the manager?” he asked. “We haven’t. We support the manager. He puts us out, he works hard, he shows us video after video, he gives us tactics and we work hard on them. We have a gameplan and we try to execute it. As players, we at times have not been good enough so will take the responsibility. It is nothing to do with the manager.”

Reacting to a query about the prospect of a managerial change being made, he said: “We have a manager. If we change the manager nothing is going to change. We are going in the right direction. We need everyone pulling in the right direction. At this moment in time there are too many people pulling in a different direction and trying to cause disruption. We need to be positive.”

Caldwell placed a particular emphasis on the media, who he said were guilty of turning fans against Levein. “I think the media, I think what they write affects public opinion,” he said.

“I think you have to take responsibility. You affect public opinion. We need everyone, that’s the whole country, 
helping this team because it is difficult to qualify, and we need the positivity to come back,” added Caldwell.

“I think the negativity which surrounds this group, whatever agenda people have got, whether with the manager or the players, it has to change.”

He described the atmosphere at Hampden at Tuesday night as “difficult”, with only 32,450 fans present in the 52,000 capacity stadium. Boos greeted the half-time whistle and again echoed around the stadium at the end, after Scotland had failed to complete the comeback that had been hoped for after Kenny Miller’s 42nd minute equaliser. Levein was also jeered in the second half when his face appeared on the large television screens placed at each end of Hampden.

Caldwell added: “This crowd is the best in the world.

“But [on Tuesday] it was difficult. We need the crowd behind us.”

Miller also noted the uneasy atmosphere at Hampden on Tuesday, describing it as the “strangest” he had known at the ground. But Caldwell rejected the notion of the players adopting a defiant stance in response to such ill-feeling towards the manager. “We don’t want to use that as motivation,” he said.

“We want the whole country to be behind us. These are the best fans in the world. This place [Hampden] should have been full. We want it full, we want the atmosphere back. This is what will propel us to Rio.”

Caldwell insisted that the 0-0 draw against Serbia on Saturday was a better result than it looked, something highlighted by the Serbians’ 6-1 victory over Wales at the same time as Scotland toiled against Macedonia. “We said Serbia were a good team on Saturday,” he said.

“I think a lot of you guys 
[reporters] and everyone else chose to jump on a bandwagon and criticise, then Serbia went and skelped Wales 6-1. It shows what a good side they are, 
and what a good point it was on Saturday.”

Caldwell is confident that the players will regroup ahead of next month’s double-header against Wales and Belgium and show that they are better than the last two displays would appear to indicate. “We believe we can win every game,” he said. “Obviously we have not shown that, and we know that. As players we take responsibility. It is our responsibility. Whoever gets the strip, we have to be better. There are eight games to play. We need to be positive.

“There are 24 points to play for,” he added. “We are two points off the top of the group. It is a bad start, we wanted better. We tried for better but we did not get it. We have to roll on. As a footballer, you have to roll on. The next game is important.

“We go to Wales, and I think we can win in Wales. We beat them in the Carling Nations Cup. We go there and will try to be positive and give it everything we have got.

“As a group of players, we can’t give anymore. We are trying our best. We just need that bit of quality which has not been there in the past two games, why I don’t know.”