The Kilmarnock striker criticised Malky Mackay’s approach before the match with the Netherlands. Did the 1-0 defeat prove him right? Craig Fowler answers
Scotland were certainly no laughing stock at Pittodrie. While it wasn’t the sort of performance to shout from the rooftops about, the home side equipped themselves fairly well against their Dutch visitors and deserved at least a draw out of the friendly.
Sure, this is arguably the worst Dutch team since the 1980s, but a bad Dutch side is still a pretty formidable opponent to Scotland. You just had to have a look through the squad to see that. Even though there wasn’t a Dennis Bergkamp, Robin Van Persie or a in-his-peak Wesley Sneijder, there still existed enough talent to comfortably defeat their hosts.
With the exception of left-back Andrew Robertson and leading striker Matt Phillips, every single Scottish player in the starting XI was based in the Scottish Premiership. This included debutants Ryan Jack, Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor, as well as the fairly inexperienced John McGinn and Kenny McLean at international level.
This was exactly the sort of team which fuelled Kris Boyd’s incredulity on BBC Scotland in the week before the game, leading him to wonder whether the selection of so many Aberdeen players in the squad was a marketing exercise. He found it strange that players in the English Premier League or Championship had not been called up instead.
In one way he was right. Kenny McLean and Ryan Christie didn’t have the best of games, and while Ryan Jack defied expectations to have a solid performance at right-back, it’s hard to imagine him playing there much when Callum Paterson gets fully up to speed again. But then it was always going to be an experimental line-up. This isn’t going to be the new norm. Malky Mackay, in his role as both interim boss and SFA performance director, wanted to see if these players could hold their own. They may have lost, but they certainly did that.
It’s difficult to imagine the home side playing much better if Boyd got his wish and Paul Coutts and Kevin McDonald, whom he used as examples, were included instead. We’ve seen Scotland squads filled with English Championship players before in the not-so-distant past. Thursday’s team didn’t do any better than those but they weren’t much worse either. If anything, it showed that our league can harvest talent which can compete on the international stage.
To go back to Ryan Christie. His touch was poor throughout proceedings, which was uncharacteristic of the playmaker, and he did manage to impose himself on the game. The touch will come on other nights. The most difficult thing to do as a young attacker on the international stage is to continuously get involved in the play. The game is usually too quick or the opponent too perceptive, moving a step ahead. Even though he didn’t play well, there was more than enough there to suggest he could be involved in future.
The one player called out by Boyd who wasn’t given the chance to prove himself was Graeme Shinnie, which was a shame. Alongside the excellent John McGinn, he may have brought better balance to the midfield area as the grafter alongside McGinn’s ability to act as a deep-playmaker, something McLean tried to do as he failed to properly mesh with his midfield partner.
Even then, though Christie and McLean have had better games, along with a couple of others no-one in a Scotland shirt was a complete failure. There definitely wasn’t much for onlooking nations to point and laugh at.