Gordon Strachan says '˜The whole nation is behind us'

Gordon Strachan has maintained that apathy will not be the enemy of his Scotland team this evening as they face the prospect of playing in front of the lowest Hampden crowd for a competitive fixture in almost 16 years.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan during training at Mar Hall
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan during training at Mar Hall

The national stadium is set to be half empty for the World Cup 
Group F encounter against Slovenia that is make-or-break both for hopes of making next year’s finals and Strachan’s future as manager.

Expected ticket sales in the region of 25,000 will make for the sparsest attendance at Hampden for a qualifier since only 23,228 turned up to see Scotland beat Latvia in October 2001 to conclude an unsuccessful Euro 2002 campaign in what proved to be Craig Brown’s last match in charge.

Strachan expects his players to “stand up” in a game they cannot afford to lose, and for the nation to stand behind them, whatever the numbers in their immediate vicinity. “It doesn’t change how we play, whether people are in the stadium or out of it. You have to generate the atmosphere between you,” he said.

“It’s the same when you’re away from home in a big European tie. You have to generate that winning spirit, that camaraderie between whoever’s there, whether it’s 50 supporters, no supporters, and it’s just you as a team. You get on with it.

“We know everyone wants us to win. Whether you like this striker or that midfielder or that coach, they want Scotland to win, so that’s what you take out there with you. Whether they’re fans in the stadium, players on the pitch, people watching at home, or people who can’t see the game, we’ll have five and a half million Scots wanting us to win tomorrow. That will inspire us.”

It is understood that Leigh Griffiths will start up front for Scotland tonight, with Strachan expected to select a clutch of Celtic players following the lacklustre draw with Canada in midweek.