Scotland will be ‘prepped out their ear holes’ for Israel games

Assistant boss Steven Reid says he would be happy for Hampden clash to be behind closed doors

Steven Reid wouldn’t mind seeing Scotland fixtures played behind closed doors. ‘The sooner the better,’ he said.  Picture: Bill Murray/SNS
Steven Reid wouldn’t mind seeing Scotland fixtures played behind closed doors. ‘The sooner the better,’ he said. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

Scotland could feel as if they are crossing time periods in an entirely “weird” way whenever international football does return.

Steve Clarke’s men were only 14 days away from hosting Israel in a Nations League play-off semi-final when the pandemic shutdown was imposed. Now there is every possibility that they will face Israel in the Nations League in the autumn… but in the next Nations League, not the incomplete version Scotland hoped would be the route for them to end an exile from major finals that dates back to 1998.

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Scottish FA president Rod Petrie, pictured inset, has maintained that he only wants the Nations League play-off to be staged when it is possible to have Hampden at full crowd capacity for the occasion. In the absence of a vaccine, the continued need for social distancing will rule that out before 2021.

However, Uefa has suggested adding an international window this year to allow the new Nations League – which sees Scotland grouped with Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic – to be completed between August and November alongside the outstanding play-off semi-finals and final from the first edition.

Steven Reid, Scotland’s assistant manager, insists they wouldn’t be tempted to indulge in a phoney war with team selection in the event of the next Nations League games against Israel coming before the play-off against them.

“We are going to be prepped out of our ear holes by the time we get to playing them,” Reid said. “We know how much the Nations League games mean. That’s what got us to this play-off. So those games are massive.

“We are going to be picking strong teams as we want to win every game, but it is weird, I’ve got to be honest. It is a strange situation playing Israel again. If it was to be that situation where you are playing them in the Nations League alongside a play-off game it would just be a completely bizarre situation. But we’d certainly know Israel. All of it. The analysts will be so well up on Israel. Obviously a strange situation, but let’s just get on with it. We will adapt to whatever structure they use.”

Reid isn’t wedded to the notion that the play-off has to be in front of supporters at Hampden.

“For me the sooner the better to be honest,” he said. “It was always going to be a long gap from November to March never mind November to the unknown. It’s been too long since we’ve seen the players and it’s going to be quite a while longer.

“The last few months have been so frustrating. From the November game, that is when the preparations started for the play-off game. Not just the Israel game, we were prepping on [other play-off semi-finalists] Norway and Serbia to get information sent out to players.

“The debrief from November, all the notes were getting sent out and getting feedback from the players and using it to structure what we were going to do going forward. All bits like that, in terms of potential training camps, the venues we might try to get away to. How we were going to do it in terms of Championship players and the players in Scotland and the Premier League. How we were going to structure getting all those lads together.

“So it has been frustrating, no doubt about it. All the work that we have done, we are not going to have to go back to the start but we are going to have to reschedule, replan our plans going forward.”

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