There’s been a slight glitch in the supply chain. Having struck twice in his first four appearances, Dykes, who grew up in Australia, has not scored in his last ten. This is not to say, however, that he’s been failing to make an impression. Just ask Luke Shaw.
Dykes re-adopted the shaved head look last seen in Belgrade ahead of Friday’s crunch match with England. “When the boys see I’ve done this, they know it means we’re going to war,” he explained yesterday while sitting on the veranda of a plush members’ golf club at Scotland s training camp in County Durham.
With his sleeve tattoos and skinhead, it’s a wonder he wasn’t marched off the premises.
Shaw certainly wished Dykes was barred entry to Wembley. Seconds after kick-off the Scotland striker launched himself into the air to get on the end of Kieran Tierney’s diagonal ball into the corner and took out the Manchester United player in the process.
It turns out the referee, Antonio Mateu Lahoz, had already warned Dykes, whose reputation as a fearless, uncompromising striker clearly precedes him. The Spaniard looked out the striker during the warm-up. Watch those elbows when jumping, Dykes was warned. If this was supposed to inhibit the 25-year-old, it didn’t work. Shaw was left to pick himself up from the turf. Admirably, the referee let the challenge go unpunished although he did make a rather forlorn attempt to persuade Dykes to apologise to the stricken Shaw.
“I think I just caught him with my knee on his leg,” recalled Dykes. “The referee actually pulled me beforehand and tried to warn me for my headers and stuff. He pulled me up in the warm-up. He (then) tried to get me to say sorry.
“Obviously I smashed him a bit there and I think from that a few of the boys didn’t really want it in the England team,” he added.
Dykes enjoys the rough and tumble. He relished the battle with England centre-half Tyrone Mings. “It was a good fight,” he said. “I liked it.”
His shaved head and early bone-crunching greeting for Shaw set the tone for a night when Scotland took the fight to England.
“It was a big game for us and the boys know that, when they see me with the shaved head, we mean business,” smiled Dykes. “So I went in and got a straight zero on the clippers. The boys loved it. They knew it meant we were going to turn up. I do it myself, just get the clippers out.”
Big games demand the zero cut. Teammate Declan Gallagher was the one who brandished the razor in Belgrade in November when Scotland qualified for the finals. “I did it for Serbia because it was a daunting place to go,” said Dykes. “I just did it to help get everyone in the right frame of mind – all the boys knew we would be up for it when they saw me. Big Dec did it for me. Just before the pre-match, he came to my room and shaved it all off.
“And I did it for England when we had another great performance. A few of the boys came on to my Instagram later saying we know when the bald comes out, that’s when Dykes turns up – he’s ready for a battle! It’s a bit of fun, a way to mix it up.”
As a former rugby league full-back, the striker is happy to put his head, shaved, dyed or otherwise, where it hurts for the cause. This will be the case again against Croatia tomorrow night as the Scots go in search of the win they need to qualify for the second stage. Having grown up in Gold Coast, Australia, Dykes, whose parents hail from Dumfries and Galloway, has many Croatian friends. One runs local side Gold Coast Knights, who play their home games at the Croatian Sports Centre.
“I played against them a few times,” he recalled. “They were always good teams to watch to be fair because they had such a good support. A few of the old boys I knew as well, the old Croatians.”
It’s his Serbian Gold Coast-based friends who touched base with him over the weekend. Dykes might have contributed to their team’s elimination at the play-off stage, but they are now fully backing him against their fierce rivals. “A couple have been in touch just making sure we win,” he said. “We will see what happens there.”
Dykes may have to run a razor over his head again before tomorrow night as there were some signs of regrowth yesterday.
Amid all this talk of intimidating Croatia, and whether to get another zero-cut or not, the bald fact is Scotland must score at Hampden to entertain hopes of progressing to the second stage for the first time. They have not scored in the tournament so far, the only side to fail to do so. There is some hope: In Scotland’s last two European Championship appearances they did not put their shooting boots on until the final group game.
Dykes and strike partner Che Adams hold the key to making history, but they were frustrated against Czech Republic and England. Since Joe Jordan scored for Scotland against Russia in Spain ’82, only two other Scottish forwards have netted from open play at a major finals – Brian McClair and Ally McCoist, with the former’s goal coming via a deflection. Both were from outside the box.
It doesn’t matter where they come from tomorrow night, or, indeed, who they come from. But Dykes must feel he is due a goal. It could be the most precious one of all.