GORDON STRACHAN has assembled a group of creative players in his own image hoping to add a cutting edge to Scotland’s play. The new national coach enters his first competitive match in charge when Wales visit Hampden Park on Friday night, and coach Stuart McCall has revealed Strachan’s desire for dangerous, attacking football.
The Scotland squad contains an abundance of forward-thinking players like Steven Naismith, Shaun Maloney, Robert Snodgrass, Gary Mackay-Steven, Kris Commons, Chris Burke and Graham Dorrans. Strachan’s own strengths as a player lay in beating defenders and causing opponents problems. His philosophy is to ensure his Scotland team can trouble the opposition and commit defenders when in possession.
McCall is thriving under a “refreshing” new approach since Strachan replaced Craig Levein along with his assistant, Mark McGhee. With the Motherwell manager third in command, the management team are eager to begin their tenure with three points in the World Cup qualifier with Wales.
“I think the gaffer has been a breath of fresh air because he wants players on the park who can beat people,” McCall told the Evening News. “I’m very similar. I’d rather win 4-3 than 1-0. I’m not saying Gordon is like that because we want to defend properly. He wants players on the park who can make things happen. He’s brought Chris Burke in out of the blue and he was terrific against Estonia in last month’s friendly. It’s unfortunate James Forrest is out but we’ve still got Maloney, Commons, Snodgrass, Burke and Mackay-Steven. It will help them playing on a bigger pitch as well.
“The gaffer is all about getting players on the park who don’t just have flair but who can get results. International football is about qualifying at the end of the day. Rather than think of things in a cautious manner, he has a breath-of-fresh air approach. For myself, listening to him is refreshing and you’re learning all the time from his little ideas and his thoughts.
“I think he wants players similar to himself. That’s what type of player he was. He went and got on the ball and went past people. It’s not about exciting people, it’s about being a threat. He’s spending as much time on what we’re doing when we haven’t got the ball because we’ve got to have a defensive structure to start with. When we get possession, he’s said himself he wants people on the park who can go by players and eliminate people. In an ideal world, you want to win and put on a scintillating performance. But we need to build a bit of a platform for the future.”
One omission from the squad is that of the Tartan Army talisman, James McFadden, who recently returned to Motherwell on a contract until the end of the season. His club manager believes he can, in time, re-establish himself with Scotland.
“That’s the key phrase – in time,” continued McCall. “Friday night against Hibs was his first full game in about two-and-a-half years. All he can do is keep performing. He was excellent against Celtic the other week and he followed it up against Hibs. If he can keep reaching those levels then he’s only going to get stronger. He falls into the category of players who can go by people and eliminate folk.”
Scotland sit bottom of Group A and have yet to win after four matches of the campaign for Brazil 2014. McCall acknowledged that a rousing atmosphere is vital against Wales in what is a must-win match. “Friday night should be cracking. Hopefully, there will be 40,000-plus there and the atmosphere should be cracking.”