Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When will we see your like again

Can we look forward in anything other than trepidation?

The all conquering Dutch stand between Scotland and a place in the play off. Except they don’t really. We know three points is a must but even then it might not be enough. What a classically Scottish story that would be.

Can we do it? Well, yes we can. This isn’t the team that put the French to the sword twice. But the team that beat the Netherlands when Berti was in post wasn’t much good. And this time we worry only about the 90 minutes today.

Will the Dutch relax? Not intentionally but these are high quality players with big seasons ahead. Some sort of reaction to having already qualified can be expected. But we can’t rely on it.

We need big games from every player. For some that will mean performing above the standard that their talent dictates. It’s a great thing about football that it allows players to do that. Let’s hope it happens tonight.

Let’s hope also that Craig Gordon is passed fit. We look a different team with Gordon in goal. For all the talk of talismen at the front, it is Gordon who consistently provides them with a platform to perform. No wonder he’s being asked to play on one leg.

No McFadden tonight. Step forward Kenny Miller, time to repay the manager’s loyalty. Step forward Steven Naismith, time to show the manager’s gamble hasn’t be made in hope rather than expectation.

Step forward too Scott Brown. Another dynamic display and, with the temper kept under control, another Olympian display of niaff-y niggliness. It might annoy people but it also unsettles people. It might not be Corinthian but tonight’s a night for Scotland to win not a night for us to rediscover football’s lost soul.

The manager? There’s little he can do now. He’ll be the scapegoat if it all goes wrong but it’s for the players to win the game now. The conduct of this whole campaign should be looked at, the SFA scrutinised from top to bottom, the manager and his employers. But not tonight. Tonight is all about the football.

1998 was too long ago. There are children at secondary school now who have never seen Scotland in a major finals. Unthinkable to my generation. We grew up as Thatcher’s children and our deal with that devil was the chance to watch Scotland at World Cups and European Championships. Pride in the national game means we have to demand a seat at these international events.

Tonight we can take a small stride towards getting back there. It may, ultimately, prove futile. If it does then no talk, please, of glorious failure. Failure is failure and failure has been a theme of this campaign.

But tonight we can at least bury some of that. Scream, shout, believe. Tonight’s about a footballing nation coming together to get a job done.

The rest, the shouting, the incrimnations and the rolling heads, will just have to wait. There’s a game on.

So, come on! Let’s get intae them!