Kenny Dalglish: Gordon Strachan was man of the match for Scotland against Slovakia

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan (SNS Group / Alan Harvey)

ON Thursday night, night I watched the Scotland game in a very nice establishment in Spain.

When we walked into the place, they had the England-Slovenia game on the big screen, and I politely asked the guy to switch over to see Gordon Strachan and the boys play against Slovakia.

He was kind enough to oblige.

And he most definitely made the right decision as the 90 minutes at Hampden was packed with drama, goalmouth action and nailbiting moments.

I was up and down off my seat I don’t how many times, and was delighted when we got the winner in the closing minutes.

It was well deserved.

We now take it into tonight and a victory against Slovenia guarantees us runners-up spot and hopefully a play-off place.

When you look at England already through to Russia next summer, I think we merit being there.

If only Harry Kane hadn’t got that equaliser at Hampden in June . . .

Gareth Southgate has received some criticism for the performances, but everybody gets stick. You need to deal with it and move on.

Over the years, England have always qualified fairly comfortably, but they never produce when they get there.

I’m not sure why that is. Is it maybe down to the EPL being so competitive over the course of the nine months prior to the tournament, and the players have nothing left come June?

However, that’s not Scotland’s problem. What we can control is the result tonight.

Gordon and the players will arrive at the stadium in a confident mood. But I think what will give them even more belief is their last performance away from home.

It was as good as anything we’ve produced in a number of years.

I’m referring to the 3-0 victory in Lithuania. We moved the ball about well, defended in numbers and attacked with a flow and a purpose. We had the opposition on the back foot and they couldn’t cope with our skill, energy and belief.

It’s vital we again impose ourselves quickly on the game this evening.

Do not let Slovenia settle, and find a rhythm. Get our tackles in early and get into the final third of the park to allow Leigh Griffiths and the rest to put them on the back foot.

Remember, they are coming into this game deflated after losing a late goal to England. Their chances have all but gone.

In contrast, we are on a high, with momentum and optimism.

We scored another late goal on Thursday night, just as we did against Slovenia at Hampden earlier in the campaign.

I’d settle for another one tonight.

People may say we have been fortunate in this campaign with the amount of last-gasp goals we’ve had.

But we deserve that bit of luck because we have conceded plenty of last-gasp goals over the years.

So, it’s nice to have a wee change and the footballing gods giving us a break.

Gordon will have assessed the squad in the past 48 hours and he will be tempted to go with the same again.

His players did not let him down and the contribution from two of the subs – Ikechi Anya and Chris Martin – was superb.

Also, Griffiths played his part in the goal. What a fabulous asset he has turned into.

What impressed me, overall, was the patience and professionalism displayed by the players. They never booted the ball up the park. They were always in control and much of that stemmed from Gordon’s manner.

The wee man was different class on the sidelines, and that calmness filtered into the mindset of his squad. He never showed a moment of anxiety.

Gordon might not have played, but he turned in a Man of the Match performance.

The supporters were also understanding on Thursday night. As I’ve said many times, you have a far better chance of winning a game of football if the supporters are behind you and offering encouragement.

They were superb and those who have travelled will need to be again.

This evening, I will be watching the game in my house, sat on my favourite seat in front of the television.

I know there will be moments I will be a wee bit anxious, but that’s only natural. I’ll be spectating full of anticipation and hope.

If we win, I’ll be off my chair and celebrating as much as the next proud Scotsman.

I might not be in the stadium, but maybe the players will be able to hear my cheers!

It would be sad if I didn’t celebrate, feel emotional and passionate.

I’ve been involved in this kind of scenario a few times with Scotland, and we got the big World Cup results we needed when we played Czechoslovakia in 1973 and against Wales in 1977 and 1985.

I remember enjoying a wee kip for a couple of hours in the afternoon before those games.

I’d be in a sound sleep and then go for my scrambled eggs and beans for pre-match food.

From memory, wee Gordon also enjoyed a kip. I hope he has pleasant dreams today and they all come true tonight.

He deserves it.

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