Andrew Smith gives his take as Scotland lose the first match of Alex McLeish’s second spell in charge of the national side.
Nations League can’t come quickly enough
This game was the first of five friendlies that Scotland will play in the next six months. Hold us back. Tedium enveloped Hampden last night, as it typically does on such occasions. Dullsville ensuing from non-competitive encounters with thrown-together teams in the international arena isn’t a peculiarly Scottish phenomenon. But, by crikey, the country can be considered a leading nation when it comes to such horribly humdrum fixtures, if in no other respect.
Change isn’t always to be embraced
There were many questions over the appointment of Alex McLeish. More negative observers asked “what’s the point?” Gordon Strachan, by relying on half a dozen Celtic players, had turned Scotland into a competitive and competent team. McLeish wanted to use last night to see what others could do, so he fielded six players from the English Championship, and one from League One. The results weren’t exactly edifying, but that’s instructive for the future.
Maybe Leigh Griffiths isn’t Scotland’s only notable striking option
Of the new caps, only Oli McBurnie offered any glimpse of genuine possibilities in the short-term. The striker, in rich scoring form since his loan move to Barnsley from Swansea, might have failed to make the most of a couple of good opportunities. He did, though, demonstrate the sort of guile and graft that wasn’t much in evidence elsewhere in the home line-up and is fearfully lacking when Griffiths isn’t fit.
Public enthusiasm for the national team just isn’t there at the moment
The wisdom of staging such a less-than-glamorous friendly at Hampden rather than a smaller stadium elsewhere in the country was always debatable. When even with the hundreds of free tickets handed to schoolchildren the attendance was only 20,488, that folly was fully exposed. It was expected that McLeish’s first game, and his fresh-looking squad, might put a few on the gate. It probably did. Only very few, alas.
McLeish and his staff are endearingly old school
None of that self-importance so often witnessed in technical areas these days when managers and coaches talk to one another with hands over their mouths to prevent TV watchers being able to lip-read their masterful pronouncements. Kudos, then, to McLeish, Grant and McFadden for chatting normally, without artifice. Not a big deal but then nothing was on an evening that was most notable for being so un-notable.