ALEX MCLEISH and the Scotland squad are currently thousands of miles from home, preparing for their games against Peru and Mexico.
For the life of me, I can’t get my head around why on earth they are there.
When you take on a trip of this magnitude, there has to be rationale behind it.
I’ve thought long and hard about this one – and, sorry, I can’t figure out too many positives.
My mind drifts back to the end of the season in 1977, when I was in the Scotland squad when we went on a three-game tour of South America.
We played Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
The reason we embarked on such a trek back then was sound.
We had a really good chance of qualifying for the World Cup Finals in Argentina the following summer, so it was good preparation for us.
Or, at least, it was meant to be!
But there was the logic behind it. It could be justified.
This time? No, I’m not having it.
I feel for big Alex and the players. In many ways, they are on a hiding to nothing on this tour.
Alex inherited the trip when he was appointed as national team gaffer.
I believe it was organised when Stewart Regan was SFA chief executive and Gordon Strachan had just been sacked.
So, with no national manager in place, someone in high office thought it wise to take games on in Peru and Mexico.
I don’t know of the exact figures involved in terms of how financially lucrative this trip is.
But I’m informed that it is nowhere near enough to warrant going to Central and South America to play two games with a depleted squad against two nations preparing to play at the World Cup Finals in Russia.
Surely, someone in the football department at the SFA should have been consulted and asked for an opinion?
I doubt they were. And you usually find that you don’t want to ask certain questions when you know you are going to be afraid of the answer.
Anyone with football at the forefront of the decision wouldn’t have gone within a mile of it.
Club managers will also be raging that their players are on this tour, particularly the ones who begin pre-season training in early to mid-June to prepare for European qualifiers.
We all want to see the our international players improve and be tested at the highest level as often as possible – but there are better ways of doing it.
Whether you agree with this or not, the bottom line is that the players should be relaxing just now, lying on a beach, recharging their batteries, mentally and physically, for the new season.
I certainly wouldn’t blame them for wanting time away from football at this stage of the year.
They shouldn’t be on the other side of the world playing wo friendlies.
However, Alex and his backroom staff need to get the players in a positive frame of mind for the two games. He has to make the most of this unfortunate situation.
Alex can only hope that he sees something really positive in two or three players over the two games.
That would then give him food for thought for the Nations Cup games against Albania and Israel later in the year. Let’s hope so.
When we were in South America in 1977, we beat Chile 4-2 in the National Stadium in Santiago.
There was outrage over the choice of venue as General Pinochet had used the stadium as a prison camp during his horrible regime.
I scored a goal, Lou Macari scored a double and Asa Hartford got the other.
I can honestly say I don’t remember a thing about the goals!
We then drew 1-1 with Argentina in Buenos Aires. Wee Willie Johnston was sent off in that game and it was pretty lively.
In our final game, we lost 2-0 to Brazil in the Maracana Stadium.
That was a brilliant experience. I think Zico scored for the samba superstars that night, so we were in excellent company.
I remember we got battered and only an outstanding performance from Alan Rough stopped it from being an embarrassment.
So we can only hope there are no really red faces when the squad return from this trip.
There is the possibility of some damage being done and that is something big Alex will be very wary of.
I can only wish Alex, Peter Grant and James McFadden – and the players – the very best of luck.
A lot of the main players in the team are not there, and the call-offs from Stuart Armstrong, Matt Ritchie and Allan McGregor won’t have been helpful.
So it will be up to the likes of Charlie Mulgrew, John McGinn, Scott McKenna, Jamie Murphy, Oli McBurnie and Matt Phillips to step up and deliver as best they can.