Virgil van Dijk has been promised a “very uncomfortable” night when he makes his return to Scotland tomorrow, writes Stephen Halliday.
The former Celtic defender is expected to line up for Netherlands at Pittodrie where he will find himself on opposing sides to Eric Black, his current assistant manager at Southampton.
Black, who has been drafted in as Scotland interim manager Malky Mackay’s No 2 this week, is a huge admirer of van Dijk, who has flourished in the English Premier League following his £13 million move from the Scottish champions in 2015. The 26-year-old is now back in the Southampton side after seeing a transfer request turned down by the club amid interest from Liverpool.
Black says van Dijk is close to recapturing his best form but is determined to ensure Scotland give him plenty of problems.
“There are still a lot of things surrounding Virgil at Southampton at the moment,” said Black. “But even at 85 per cent, he is very comfortable in the Premier League. But he’s going to be very uncomfortable on Thursday night.He was exceptional for us at Southampton last season. There have obviously been circumstances that dictated he’s not fully back to what he was yet. He was great last year – one of the best I have ever seen in every area. But the things that went on with the club and his injury meant he didn’t play for eight or nine months. To come back in and try to get back to that level isn’t easy.”
Black, who was capped twice by Scotland in 1987, is thrilled to be serving his national team again, even on a temporary basis. “It feels wonderful,” said the former Aberdeen and Metz striker. “Even just hearing all the Scottish accents is great after so long working down in England. I’m just happy to be part of it this week.
“Malky called me when Gordon Strachan left and asked if I would come up and help for this game. He didn’t get to finish his sentence before I agreed. I have not looked any further ahead than this week. I am happy to come up and if I’m asked again, I’ll be straight on the plane.
“It’s a good standard of player in Scotland and I’ve already been impressed with the lads this week. I’d heard a lot about Kieran Tierney, for example, and you can’t tell me that himand a few others in this squad aren’t capable of playing in the Premier League.”