Good on Steve Clarke.
The Scotland manager was absolutely right to mount a passionate defence of his team after their excellent win away to Austria last Tuesday evening.
Thanks to Lyndon Dykes’ penalty winner, we are now in the driving seat to finish in second place in our World Cup qualifying group.
With four games to go, we are doing well.
If we assess the three games just gone, we simply weren’t good enough away to Denmark, and were punished.
We got ourselves back on track with the narrow win at home to Moldova at Hampden.
It wasn’t a vintage performance by any means. But we created four or five good chances, and should have been more clinical in front of goal.
However, Lyndon again got the goal that mattered, which put us in a good frame of mind for going to Vienna.
We got the vital three points. However, there was some negativity in the aftermath because we didn’t score three or four.
That led to Steve saying his players deserved a wee bit more respect. And he was 100% correct.
I liked the way he stood up for his squad and his staff. He trusts his players, and he was perfectly entitled to praise and defend them all.
So I’m happy to defend his reaction.
Look, I would imagine that the people who were trying to put the knife in last weekend were the same people who were critical when Steve was given his new contract last month.
It means he will be in charge through to the end of our Euro 2024 campaign.
I said back then, and I’ll say it again, I can’t understand why anyone would have doubts over Steve’s capabilities to do the job.
He is the best man to try and take us to Qatar next year.
Sure, there are one or two positions in the team that we might wish we had more options to choose from.
But this isn’t club football where a manager can go to the chairman and ask for a cheque to go and buy a player to strengthen a specific position.
You have to go with what you’ve got until a new player is given an opportunity at club level, and then you hope there is a chance he will develop and grow into an international player.
That said, what can’t be in question is the togetherness in the Scotland set-up. It’s first-class.
We just have to cast our minds back to the scenes of celebration when we defeated Serbia on penalties in Belgrade last November to get to the Euros in the summer.
From David Marshall through to Ryan Christie, it was a joy to watch.
We had a collective spirit again in Vienna in midweek, and it was there for all to see.
Every player was outstanding.
From Grant Hanley to Callum McGregor to Che Adams, they all set a very high standard. The victory was deserved.
We are now in a great position to come behind Denmark, who will run away with the group.
Next up is Israel at home. We’ve played them so often recently, we should probably know all of their players’ dates of birth and home addresses off by heart!
They have some talented players, but they are beatable, especially in front of 50,000 Scotland fans.
That should be the only game on our minds right now and, for me, October 9 can’t come round quickly enough.
I am not in any shape or form taking victory for granted, but after Israel we play away to the Faroe Islands and Moldova.
Sure, tricky ties – but we must fancy our chances.
Getting nine points from our next three games is certainly achievable, and that has to be the aim. If we do that, then we will have another play-off spot.
It’s a target to go for, that’s for sure.
Now, we need to step back and take a breath. It was a testing week, but the lads pulled through.
Every player will be desperate to be involved against Israel. What a night that is going to be.
As ever, Steve will make sure we are well-prepared and everybody knows their job inside-out.
That’s on the park.
Off the park, we will all need to be pulling together, and the build-up has to be positive.
We can’t have any negativity from outside influences.
We have given ourselves a brilliant chance.
Let’s go for it.
Our first World Cup since 1998 is something to aim for, and dream of.
Let’s do it together.
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