Fan divide: Scotland need to unite, not split

As domestic action returns, teams across the country are preparing themselves for the home stretch as the season’s end draws ever closer. 

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However, while some players were able to jet off for a few of days sunshine to recharge for the battles to come, others had the task of playing for their country.

Much has been made of Alex McLeish’s homecoming for Scotland, who the reins for the second time, 11 years on from his first stint in charge.

McLeish had a 70% win ratio from his 10 games as Scotland gaffer before leaving to take over Premier League outfit Birmingham City.

Why the divide?

So why has the 59-year-old’s appointment split the fans so much?

The two friendly matches versus Costa Rica and Hungary show exactly why.

The former Rangers manager called up first-timers Barry Douglas, Scott McKenna, Jack Hendry, Oli McBurnie, Jon McLaughlin and of course Scott McTominay.

With former captain Scott Brown hanging up his boots for the national side (for the second time) and important players such as Leigh Griffiths and Kieran Tierney unavailable through injury, the two games gave the 27-man squad a fresh look.

The first game of the doubleheader against World Cup minnows Costa Rica at Hampden Park perhaps fueled those who have their doubts about McLeish.

The boos wrung around the half empty stadium at the end of 90 minutes as the South Americans defeated the Scots 1-0 thanks to a neat finish from Marco Urena.

Manchester United’s McTominay started along with other debutants McKenna, Kevin McDonald and in-form Barnsley forward McBurnie.

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Right from the first lyric of the national anthem you could tell it was going to be a subdued occasion for the boss’s first game back – you could hear a pin drop.

The silent atmosphere certainly translated onto the pitch as Scotland put in a lacklustre, unimpressive and uncomfortable performance from the first minute to the last.

There was no intensity or fluidity. Too many backwards passes instead of finding the forward man quickly to put the Costa Rican defence under pressure.

Albeit, this was, for many, their first time out on the Hampden surface. Friendly or not, of course that was going to provide some nerves and players would have been desperate to impress.

However, too often, especially in the first half, the team tried to play back-to-front with no joy. The midfield three of McTominay, McDonald and Cairney struggled to get a foot on the ball and take any sort of control of the game.

Three shots on target the entire game speaks volumes about the lack of creativity and attacking play.

The defending from Callum Paterson at right-back for the goal was also poor and summed up the night for Scotland.

A change of tact and heart?

Thankfully though, Tuesday night’s 1-0 away victory in Budapest highlights why Scottish fans need to remain patient.

Matt Phillips silenced his doubters with an instinctive goal around the penalty spot.

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The Dynamic midfield of Stuart Armstrong, John McGinn and Callum McGregor were key to providing the confidence boost that the team so badly needed.

Rated at £5 million by club manager Neil Lennon, McGinn played like a man with a point to prove as if to say “I’m the powerhouse midfielder our country needs”.

His incredible body strength combined with his guile to manoeuvre all over the pitch and a wand of a left foot was clear to see.

Celtic duo Armstrong and McGregor played well too and the three complimented each other – yet they only have 15 caps between them.

This has to change.

I don’t think it is any coincidence that when McLeish reverted to more Scotland-based players that the team played completely differently.

Armstrong, McGinn and McGregor should be McLeish’s midfield three going into the Uefa Nations League in September because their battling, passing and awareness was far superior to the three that started against Costa Rica.

Although Charlie Mulgrew missed a penalty, McLeish’s men looked comfortable throughout, controlling large periods of the game and looked a far brighter team than the one that played four days previous.


Another positive for the management, staff and supporters to take were the solid performances of youngsters Jack Hendry and the aforementioned McKenna.

It’s safe to say centre-half has been a problem position for around a decade, but with Hendry, 22, and McKenna, only 21, the future looks promising.

McLeish might not have been the most popular choice for many Scotland fans as they  waited on the SFA to fill the vacancy and he will be heavily scrutinised.

However, after a bleak night under the lights at Hampden, followed up by a convincing win over Hungary without some of our better players, I have three words of advice for Scotland supporters – everybody calm down.

Follow Ewan on Twitter at @ewan_paton22



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