Friday, November 14, 2014

Scotland v Ireland: Bring it on!

There have been moments over the past decade when Scotland's national team have looked in need of a miracle worker.

It's premature to describe Gordon Strachan as that. But maybe he's getting close.

He's certainly worked wonders with me. A dozen or so years ago I walked away after one wet, miserable night in Glasgow too many.

I've returned sporadically. But tonight I'm not only heading to another rainy night in Glasgow, I'm actually looking forward to it.

Expectant. Maybe even slightly confident.

Like our last match against Poland I don't quite see this as a must-win. But it does look like another mustn't-lose.

And I don't think we should have much to fear against Ireland.

That's not arrogance.

They've got good players. They've got a decent manager. They've enjoyed some decent results.

But so have we.

The apparent similarities between the two teams suggests tonight could be tight.

The various subplots over booing, Roy Keane's Gardai incident, the fact that so many players are drawn from the same leagues combine to add another layer of intrigue.

Tight but also feisty. A sell out and partisan crowd. A wet night under the floodlights.

Hold on to your hats.

The reality is, of course, that we find ourselves in a close group, in Strachan's view the hardest.

No team - the Germans are a possible exception - can afford an off night without losing ground.

Ireland know that as well as Scotland.

Winning your home games is vital. A point for Ireland tonight might just feel like a victory for them.

Strachan v Martin O'Neill. Aiden McGeady v the Scotland fans. Roy Keane v the world.

A win would give either team a fresh burst of momentum as they look forward to next year's qualifiers.

For Scotland the promised land of qualification would feel that bit closer.

A tight game. One moment of magic. One mistake. One scrappy, sclaffed shot deflecting past a keeper. That's all it might take.

Bring it on.

And, unfashionable as the sentiment might be in these more enlightened times, "let's get intae them."