Alex McLeish has sought to calm fears he is already daunted by the size of task confronting him as Scotland manager as he prepares to find the right blend against Hungary tomorrow.
McLeish stressed there is no cause for panic as the fall-out from Friday night’s 1-0 defeat by Costa Rica continued. The squad leaves for Budapest from Edinburgh today with McLeish desperate to achieve a confidence-building result to help ensure his second spell in charge is up and running.
Winger Matt Ritchie and defender Grant Hanley are definitely out after returning to their clubs to have injuries assessed.
Newcastle United’s Ritchie has a groin strain while Hanley, of Norwich City, is suffering with shin splints. Hanley’s withdrawal means it is likely Celtic centre-half Jack Hendry will complete a rapid ascent to international defender after being called up to the squad when team-mate Kieran Tierney withdrew. The 22 year-old defender only joined Celtic in January after a six-month spell with Dundee and is now in line to win his first cap. But McLeish revealed there would not be wholesale changes to the side that finished against Costa Rica.
“I want to win the game first and foremost,” he said prior to departure for Budapest. “I’m not going to hand out caps for nothing. I’ve got to play to win. I’m aware we are losing one or two players so there are factors that will come into consideration.
“Grant Hanley has gone because he has shin splints so can’t play two games in a week. We had agreed that beforehand.
“Matt Ritchie is also away because he has a groin problem and has to go back to Newcastle for treatment but we have a few options for that position.”
McLeish insisted he was heartened by much of Scotland’s play on Friday having re-watched the match. He dismissed concerns he is already sounding care-worn at the start of what is supposed to be a new era. McLeish had urged his team to create some “fervour” on Friday but Scotland fell far short in a stadium that was not even half-full.
“We played against a team that’s been together for about four years,” said McLeish. “A team who were No 1 in a World Cup group containing Italy, Uruguay and England. So they were a decent team but we gave them too much respect in the first half. So this is not the time to panic.”
He added: “I was never panicking in the first place but if I sounded a bit down then I was only trying to be measured and calculated. I just don’t like losing games. But I have to manage my own expectations along with those of
McLeish said he was “very disappointed” in the manner Scotland started against Costa Rica. He instructed his players to make an up-tempo start but Costa Rica made early in-roads with a goal from Marco Urena after 14 minutes.
“There are a few things I have learned and a few things I’ve picked up,” said the manager. “We have to do it as quickly as we can.
“I don’t want to go into details. But when we’re at home at Hampden we have to be on the front foot the way we were in the second half. There was a huge difference in the way we played after the break.”