CACKLING in the background forces Andy Watson to raise his voice over the table at Scotland’s team hotel. A group of players across the room are using a mobile phone to play the rave anthem “Bits ‘n’ Pieces”, the 1995 Artemesia tune which will blare through the Hampden sound system should Scotland score against Lithuania on Saturday.
It was chosen through a Twitter vote as the song fans wanted to hear most after a goal. As an assistant to national coach Gordon Strachan, Watson is concerned simply with seeing the ball nestle in the net. He couldn’t care less which music accompanies the celebrations because he expects to be in oblivious euphoria anyway.
Scotland opened their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 5-1 win in Malta – none of the goals needed music, incidentally – and now face the Lithuanians seeking another three points. They then travel to Trnava to meet Slovakia next Tuesday.
These two games could prove pivotal to chances of reaching the finals in Russia. Strachan stated last week that Lithuania is not a must-win fixture, but Watson is clear on the objective at home.
“I’m being genuine and I’ll say it’s difficult to put targets,” he said. “To say that if you end up with six, four, three or no points, does that mean you can’t qualify? The importance of a home game is clear. That’s the target just now and then, of course, whatever happens you carry it forward to build on.
“I know all that has been spoken about is Lithuania. We’ve touched on preparation for Slovakia but nothing properly will be discussed until that game is finished. We know the importance of a home game.”
And will the music prompt the 57-year-old to throw some shapes in the technical area if Scotland score? “As long as the ball is in the net,” he laughed. “There’s a wee moment when things can happen in the world that you don’t see or care about.
“Depending how the game has gone, there’s sometimes a sense of relief. You are maybe trying to see if there’s something that needs taken care of. Personally, I don’t care what song is played.”
Unusually, Scotland have several forwards in scoring form. Robert Snodgrass remains the talisman after his hat-trick in Malta. Chris Martin and Steven Fletcher also scored, whilst Leigh Griffiths and Steven Naismith are also vying for places.
Griffiths’ eight goals in 12 games for Celtic means there is an inevitable clamour for him to start. He may need to be patient. “Fletch and Chris Martin both scored in the last game and that is a great incentive for Leigh. He’s got to push and get in,” said Watson.
“You have strikers who are scoring at international level, as well as Snodgrass. Three of your front line are in the goals. Yes, some may say it was against Malta but they are no pushovers if you look at their results against Croatia, Results and Austria. Nobody turned them over and we must take good heart from that.
“There’s competition for places and that’s healthy. We know Leigh’s scored a lot of goals and Celtic have been playing well, but it’s a case of him being in the squad and available for selection.”
There won’t be any animosity whatever decision Strachan takes. Watson has noted a tight bond within the national squad since being invited to rejoin the coaching staff two months ago. He previously coached Scotland under Alex McLeish in 2007.
“There’s a different venue. We were at Cameron House, now we’re at Mar Hall. There’s a calmer atmosphere here, we also don’t have to go on a bus to train at Dumbarton. We can go straight to the training pitch here.
“If people want to do extra here, they can without the fear of others sitting on the bus waiting and shivering because it’s been chucking it down.
“The Malta game was my first time in with the guys. There was a real good feeling and warmth to it, it was almost like a club atmosphere. The club feel is important and that they all want to be here. We do get very few call-offs unless there are genuine injuries.”