Scotland coach Mark McGhee fears that an air traffic control strike in France could undermine one of the motivations for taking the game against the Euro 2016 hosts in Metz on Saturday, writes Andrew Smith.
A three-day strike to start on Friday has been called by the USAC-CGT union and is said to have the support of all unions representing the 12,000 workers employed by France’s Civil Aviation body, the DGAC.
It could leave many of the expected 3,000 members of the Tartan Army unable to attend the friendly, and out of pocket, which McGhee concedes would be a miserable end to an unhappy season in which the French game, and the friendly lost to Italy in Malta on Sunday night, were supposed to be crumbs of comfort for Gordon Strachan’s side missing out on a tournament that will be contested by every one of the other four national teams on these islands.
In the event of the planned industrial action going ahead, the Scottish team, with their own charter, could switch Friday’s flight plans and land in Luxembourg – only an hour and a half’s drive away from Metz but McGhee knows that many fans won’t have such a luxury.
“It would absolutely be a shame for our supporters if they were caught up in the problems in France,” he said. “We saw a lot of positives to be taken from the two games and one of them was the experience for the supporters.
“They were denied the opportunity to go to the Euros, and of course one of the games we knew would give them the opportunity to watch Scotland play in France before the tournament. I realise it’s a small consolation, but it’s still a game against the hosts and one of the potential winners. So if this was interfered with in any way then it would be a real shame. Fans will have forked out a lot of money for the trip and we really don’t want to see them affected by the situation in France.
“I know for sure, too, that Gordon considers these kind of things very seriously, also in terms of the relationship with clubs and us having their players. He arranges these games with so much consideration – and he knew the Italy and France games would be attractive for the supporters and, on the face of it, not too difficult to get to.
“At the moment I’m not aware of any changes to our plans but before we came out we were aware of the situation in France. So far there isn’t an issue in terms of us going there and leaving. But we’ll be kept up to date by our staff.”
McGhee, meanwhile, is being kept up to date about the contract stalemate at Motherwell where Scott McDonald, Stephen McManus, Keith Lasley, Steven Hammell and Craig Samson have yet to agree new deals, with the club unable to match their current terms following losses of £2 million in the past four seasons.
“It’s not going to be that much longer, it’s coming to a head,” said McGhee. “They have all intimated they want to stay. There might even be some progress this week. I would like to think a couple of weeks before pre-season, so a couple of weeks’ time, so that if they’re not staying I can go and get someone else.”
Plans over recruiting a striker – with Dunfermline Athletic striker Faissal El Bakhtaoui a target – will have to be placed on hold until such decisions are known.