GARY CALDWELL today urged the Tartan Army to turn the Hampden Roar up a few decibels again and bring the fear factor back to opponents.
The Scotland defender conceded that there had been a nervousness about the 32,430 who turned out at the national stadium to see their country held to a 1-1 draw with Macedonia last night.
The disappointing result came just three days after another draw, against Serbia, got their World Cup qualifying campaign off to a poor start.
Those two matches – both played at home and against two of the weaker sides in Group A – were seen as must-wins by the supporters, who were not slow to voice their displeasure at the manager, Craig Levein, after Macedonia bagged an early opener.
Caldwell knows that those in the stands are frustrated by the way things have been going on the pitch in recent times, but reckons they can be the best in the world when throwing their support behind their country.
He says that their backing can be worth an extra point as they negotiate their way through the remaining eight matches of the qualifying campaign.
The Scots haven’t made it through to a major finals since 1998 and Caldwell understands the desperation that the supporters are feeling right now.
However, he reckons that a lot of the criticism has been unfair and has not helped confidence levels within the squad. He said: “Any little chink seems to be jumped on at the moment.
“As players, we don’t mind that because we know that we have got to take responsibility, but I think that when it starts to affect this Hampden crowd then, we have to focus on being more positive.
“On their day, these are the best fans in the world.
“Teams like Macedonia should be coming here and being fearful of the noise, the crowd, the atmosphere and of getting a result.
“Last night I think that they sensed the edginess and it gave them real confidence at the start of the game.
“We just want this place back to a full house, everyone rocking and behind the national team again.
“When Hampden is noisy, it can be intimidating and it can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
“Fans have always got the right to voice their opinion, but you should want to get behind your national team.
“You watch people like Andy Murray on television – we watched some of it in our rooms – and you’re patriotic, you want him to win and you’re cheering and willing him on.
“And I want to see that support and the feelgood factor back at Hampden.”
The Scots’ next two matches are next month, against Wales and then away to Belgium – and the outcome of those games will be crucial in deciding whether they will have any hope of qualifying for Rio.
Caldwell continued: “There is such a fine margin at this level and we said at the start of this campaign that all of the teams in our group are capable of taking points off of the rest – and I think that after just two games that point has been proved.
“It is going to be tight and we just have to keep going and believing in what we are doing. We have to build momentum and confidence.”
The way that the latest round of results panned out last night, Scotland have come out of their first two matches trailing by just two points.
A heavy defeat for Wales, combined with a draw between Croatia and Belgium, worked in the Scots’ favour.
Levein and co know that they could have been well and truly out of the reckoning already had results not gone their way.
But Caldwell reckons that Scotland will fight all the way to the end of the group stage to keep their dream of reaching Rio 2014 alive.
He continued: “We’re two points off the top of the group but, obviously, we didn’t get the results or the performances that we were looking for in the opening two games.
“We were disappointed with the way that we played last night. We wanted to go and win the game, but we started slowly and couldn’t really recover. We will keep fighting though. There is a long way to go and we still believe. We just hope that the fans still believe as well.”
Levein, in particular, has come in for criticism and pressure from supporters and the media for the way that his teams have lined up, more often than not playing with a lone striker.
While the 4-1-4-1 formation has been slated in some quarters, Caldwell insisted that the players are right behind the national manager and will do everything they can to make sure they’re playing the game the way that Levein wants.
He insisted that the poor results over the last few days have been down to the players and not their manager.
He continued: “He got the job two years ago and changed a lot of things. He is trying to take us forward and in a new direction.
“We know that it is difficult for everyone. We haven’t qualified for a long time and we need the positivity from people to help the manager. He picks the team, he picks the tactics and we have to back him.
“We, as players, back him 100 per cent and we try to carry out what he is saying to us to the letter.
“We have got to hold our hands up, we haven’t been good enough over these last two games. It is nothing to do with the manager.
“We believe that we can beat everyone in the group and now it is up to us to go out and prove that.
“We have not shown that in the first two games, that’s for sure. But there are eight games to go and there are still 24 points to be played for. There is still time to turn around everything that has happened in the first two games.
“We can’t change what happened, but we can make sure that we get the right results in the rest of the games.
“The next eight matches are vitally important for us and we want to make sure that we make the most of them.”
Macedonia appeared to catch Scotland cold in the early stages of the game at Hampden last night and were unfortunate to go in level pegging at half-time.
Caldwell felt that he and the rest of the Scotland side had given everything for the cause and believes that things can only get better as the younger players gel with their more experienced colleagues.
“We gave it everything that we had,” he said. “As players, that is the minimum that you can ask for.
“We have a lot of good young players coming though and everyone in the dressing room put everything that they had into the game.
“We have a lot of injuries at the moment and to have one or two of them back for the next set of games would be good. Hopefully Darren Fletcher will be back and we can build on that and have a bigger group of players to pick from.”