Friday, October 08, 2010

Czech Republic v Scotland

Scotland’s chosen ones: McGregor, Hutton, Weir, McManus, Whittaker, G Caldwell, D Fletcher, Dorrans, Morrison, Naismith, Mackie

Scotland’s formation: 4-2-2-2 or maybe 4-6-0 or maybe something else.

Craig Levein’s taken a risk or two with his selection for the game against the Czech Republic tonight. And it’s left me unsure what to expect.

Gary Caldwell returns for his first start after injury playing in midfield, although it’s his fitness that offers the biggest concern as the defensive sitter role is one he’s used to.

And, as you’ll have heard, no Kenny Miller.

Poor old Kenny never looks particularly happy. Maybe he’s always gutted by his bad luck. After the best part of decade amassing caps on the back of occasional bouts of club form, a willingness to work hard and a lack of competition, he now finds himself dropped on the eve of his 50th cap when he’s in the form of his life.

Not that we should be surprise as a tabloid newspaper had broken the story on Wednesday – a situation that enraged Levein. Best, perhaps, to gloss over the fact that one of the paper’s star columnists was at the centre of the storm.

So we go into the game with an angry manager, a raging debate over selection and formation and, it appears, a touch of discontent in the squad. Magic.

We shouldn’t be too quick to judge. Which of us hasn’t, current form not withstanding, worried about Miller’s profligacy as an international striker? And which of us has seen enough of Jamie Mackie, an Anglo with a Scottish grandfather, to write him off before he’s mouthed along to the anthem?

The formation itself could offer some fluidity. With attacking full backs and a third centre half in midfield it looks to be a selection that can quickly be adapted to suit the pattern of the game while retaining the defensiveness that will be our calling card under this manager.

Obviously espousing that theory on a tactics board is one thing, having enough trust in the players to actually put it into practice is another matter.

Certainly I can’t see it being a team to scare the Czechs as we search for our first win in Prague since before the Second World War.

But we’re not really setting out to frighten them. We’re turning up to contain them and snatch anything that comes our way. Maybe, just maybe, Mackie is better placed to feed off scraps than Kenny Miller.

Certainly I can see it being a long night and an uncomfortable night. A draw is clearly the aim and that can be a dangerous game to play in itself.

We’re going to set out to frustrate opponents who will be desperate for a win. It’s not exactly Pele’s jogo bonito. But it can be effective.

I hope it is tonight.