Scotland will have no excuses for failure says James McFadden

The Astana Arena, venue for the Euro 2020 qualifying game. Picture: SNS.
The Astana Arena, venue for the Euro 2020 qualifying game. Picture: SNS.
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James McFadden insists Scotland can have no excuses should they fail to secure the win they are desperate for against Kazakhstan to start off their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

The Scots have left nothing to chance after chartering a luxury plane recently used by Brazil to fly the players out to Kazakhstan four days before Thursday’s clash.

They are being careful to avoid the accusation of having taken the opposition, ranked 117 in the world, lightly. Scotland will play beneath a closed roof for the first time, meaning the freezing temperature outside will not be an issue – the climate control setting will be turned to 10C. “Taps off!” said McFadden. “We will be sweating!”

Group I rivals Russia, who face Kazakhstan at the same venue on Sunday night, have already voiced complaints about the synthetic pitch. But McFadden, while not an advocate of such surfaces, is unmoved. If Kazakhstan wish to play games in the capital, where the temperature at this time of year can drop to minus 30C, there is not much choice other than to do so on a synthetic pitch.

“It is tricky,” he said. “But we need to play it. It doesn’t matter whether it is your first game, your last game or a game in the middle. You just need to go and approach it the way we did the last two games in the Nations League.

“I am confident we can win the game. It is a good chance for us to get off to a good start. It is not ideal it being on a Thursday night with guys having played on Sunday. We are open to guys not being able to recover in time, especially with the travel. But we have to play it. It doesn’t matter.

“I see Russia have come out and said they aren’t happy about having to play on it [the artificial pitch]. But we are in that group, we have to play them. It doesn’t matter when we play them.”

McFadden was not a fan of artificial pitches when he played and trained on one at Queen of the South. The surface has robbed Scotland of Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Cardiff City’s Callum Paterson, who have both dropped out for the first game of the double header after agreements struck with their clubs. They will return for Sunday’s clash with San Marino.

Many of those who do take part on Thursday should be used to playing on such a surface, with three clubs in the Scottish top flight now playing on a synthetic pitch.

“The ones who play in England will be less used to it because they don’t play on it,” he said. “Even at the training grounds they will train on grass all year round. Their pitches at their stadiums are immaculate. But they are Scottish so some of them will have been brought up on the red ash or Astroturf anyway. We aren’t using it as an excuse. We have to deal with it. Players have played on it.”

McFadden claims Scotland’s standard of preparations is now up there with the very best, including clubs such as Manchester United and Liverpool. The players will remain on British time throughout their stay in a bid to limit the effects of the six-hour time difference. They also flew in a business class charter flight from Glasgow.

“It had to be done right,” he said. “If we want to qualify we have to do the stuff that allows players to have no complaints, no reason for them to worry about travel. There have been times before when it has maybe been an issue. But we are trying to make it run as smoothly as possible.

“They are all playing at a high level anyway and realise that’s what is required. Everything they get at their club we have to replicate here because this has to be the pinnacle for them. If they are doing it at their club then we have to do it for them here.”