GORDON Strachan believes the only excuse for failure to gain the point against Germany tonight that he believes would re-ignite Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualification chances is the obvious brilliance of their opponents.
The national team’s manager was trying his best to play down the controversy following the players’ delayed return after Friday’s 1-0 defeat against Georgia. The Scotland party endured a three-hour wait at the airport due to the late arrival of their charter plane in Tbilisi after it was delayed in Amsterdam.
The hold-up meant the players did not arrive back in Glasgow until 6am on Saturday morning, when they then faced another 30 minutes for their bags to arrive. It prompted questions to be asked of the Scottish Football Association’s decision not to insist on the plane remaining in Georgia throughout Scotland’s stay.
But Strachan reported no ill-effects yesterday and he suggested that any personnel decisions he makes will be based on the identity of their opponents rather than the fact the players endured such a tiring journey home.
The manager is set to make changes as he seeks to counteract the physical threat of the Germans as well as give the distinguished visitors something to think about. He admitted it was a tall order.
“I need height, strength, patience and intelligence – how do we counter-attack them and take players on? I love to see players taking players on. How do we put that in the team? We have the system, it’s trying to get the names and bodies in there.”
We all had a drink, five or six pints, go to bed, get up the next morning…Gordon Strachan
He hinted Derby County’s Chris Martin could have a part to play as he swithers over who should lead the line. James McArthur, meanwhile, is also set to step into midfield, with James Forrest, who came on as substitute against Georgia, in line to start on the right.
Strachan insisted that the late return home on Saturday morning is not a factor in the changes as Scotland seek to breathe new life into their hopes of qualifying for the finals next summer. “It has not put us out of kilter at all,” he said.
“The players were able to train as planned on Saturday evening and again yesterday. There are no injury concerns.”
Strachan argued that the inconvenience of being delayed at an airport is nothing compared to European adventures of 30 years ago, when players barely gave themselves a chance of recovery between big-match assignments.
“We used to go and have a drink after it. We were with the journalists and we all had a drink together, five or six pints, go to bed, get up the next morning and then we’d come back and play Rangers or Celtic on the Saturday,” said Strachan, reflecting on his Aberdeen playing days.
“You get on with it. You got back on Thursday night, you played on Saturday, and that was the strength you had in those days.”
He did, though, confirm he and other SFA officials will have “a debrief” later this week, as is normal after internationals.
“First of all, what you have to do is have a look at how we play tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s see how we perform.
“We have been to places before and it has not run perfectly well for us but we have still won the game of football or won the game after it. I would get angry if any of the players did that [turned it into an excuse]. But they are not going to do that, they are all right.”
A well-rested Scott Brown backed his manager: “It doesn’t actually bother you,” said the captain.
“You are either sitting in an airport or sitting on a plane. It didn’t bother any of the lads too much, to be perfectly honest.
“We came back, we slept well, we’ve eaten well, and we’ve trained well today as well. So for us it’s not an excuse.”
The beleaguered SFA had some welcome backing from Georg Behlau, head of the national team department at the DFB [German FA]. He is in charge of the Germans’ preparations, with the DFB even taking the precaution of bringing their own bus to Scotland to ferry the players to and from their hotel.
“We had a situation in South Africa during the World Cup [in 2010]. We couldn’t fly because of fog,” he said. “Scotland were just unlucky. The people from the Scottish FA are always planning for their matches – but sometimes sh*t happens.”