Chris Iwelumo recalls media reaction to infamous miss as BBC pundit calls on country to get behind Oliver McBurnie

BBC pundit Chris Iwelumo draws parallels with the situation he found himself in after his infamous miss for Scotland and the criticism currently being thrown at Oliver McBurnie.
Chris Iwelumo walking off the park after his debut against Norway in 2008. Picture: SNSChris Iwelumo walking off the park after his debut against Norway in 2008. Picture: SNS
Chris Iwelumo walking off the park after his debut against Norway in 2008. Picture: SNS

It’s been 12 years since the striker’s open-goal miss at Hampden Park in a World Cup qualifier made him a national pariah. Iwelumo found himself vilified by the media and fans and would go on to make only three more appearances for his country after the game.

Though Scottish supporters are currently in a happier place after the victory over Serbia booked a place at Euro 2020, ending 22 years of wait for an international tournament, Sheffield United striker McBurnie has still drawn ire from all direction.

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An unpopular figure with a lot of the Tartan Army, he was condemned for his performances in each of the last three games, especially the 1-0 defeat in Slovakia which ultimately played a part in Scotland missing out on promotion in the Nations League.

With manager Steve Clarke a supporter of the striker it seems almost certain he’ll be in the squad next summer and Iwelumo has called on fans and pundits to rally behind him.

He said on The Terrace Scottish Football Podcast: “As a striker, confidence plays a massive part. There’s no one that wants to score more than Oliver McBurnie. You don’t feel part of the game unless you’ve scored.

"I feel it for him. He’s fighting an uphill battle. It’s going to take a massive final push for him to win the fans over before the Euros. He needs to find that goal.

"He’s getting criticised at the minute and everyone is jumping on a loose touch or a missed header.

"I hear comments from pundits about how he wears his socks and I’m like, ‘come on, come on’. He’s a Scottish player. Let’s get behind him.”

Recalling the reaction to his miss at Hampden, Iwelumo continued: "As I’m walking out, Barry Ferguson and the head media officer ask if I want to go out this other way, this secret way for me to get out of Hampden. But I was like, ‘no, no, the media walk should only take 15 minutes, maximum’. I was there for an hour and 40 minutes.

"I’ve looked at it over and over. The reason I missed that? I have no idea. I went back and scored ten goals in the next six or seven games for Wolves. I was an absolute fire. I’d already scored a few in the games before the call-up.

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"The media were very harsh over the next two or three weeks. I think I was fortunate because I was playing down in England. I missed a lot of it.

"It is one of those things that haunt you. It was the highest and lowest moment of my career rolled into one. I got to go out and represent my country but then I’ve got that miss on my debut.

"But some of the criticism... I can’t remember the individual’s name, but he said, ‘we’ve got to keep the national team pure’. What the hell does that mean?

"So I understand and I hope McBurnie gets that drive to prove a lot of people wrong.”

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