DELIGHTED as I am to see Steven Fletcher back in the Scotland squad, I think there has to be some realism.
He will make a difference, but he isn't Diego Maradona. Lots of people seem to think our problems are over now and we are on our way to Brazil. But we need to look at the way we have started the campaign, where we are now and the teams we still have to play.
There has been a clamour from the fans for Fletcher's return but in fact he has made eight Scotland appearances, scored once, and has hardly ever played as a central striker. He was mainly used on the left or right, and came on a couple times up front.
I hope Fletcher plays against Wales on Friday night, scores and we win. He is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League, and has made such a great start to this season, immediately taking the pressure off himself as a big-money signing. I'm not sure if he is going to tear people apart at international level but I still think he should start, and Jordan Rhodes too. He is the real deal so let's get him in there.
Injury to Kenny Miller might dictate how Craig Levein's team selection pans out but if he is fit I have a funny feeling Craig might just find a place for him as well. It would be a huge decision to drop Kenny after all the sterling service he has given, and the goal he scored against Macedonia which probably saved Craig's skin. As a former striker, I know how I would feel about that. Under Craig Brown, if you scored, you stayed in the team.
If anything Fletcher's return has posed more questions for Craig Levein, albeit good ones. Craig usually stands by his 4-1-4-1 shape, and I don't have a problem with that. But this will be a British style of match and I can just about see him changing things a little to a 4-4-1-1. If Miller is fit he could play in behind Fletcher, maybe with James Forrest on the right and James Morrison on the left. Arguably even more important are the returns of Darren Fletcher and Scott Brown, who can give real solidity in the middle. Scott Brown has been arguably Scotland's most consistent player recently and brings the nasty bit we have been missing if things aren't going well.
Craig has always liked players who can create, but get back into a nice solid shape because he knows we are not world-beaters and have to work hard. High-calibre teams will destroy you if a player on one side doesn't get back into shape and that is why Craig had reservations about Kris Commons and James McFadden.
Steven Fletcher came into that category, too, and he will have to show he is prepared to work hard for the team. I was sitting watching Sky Sports when the news broke that he and Craig had settled their differences and my first feeling was just relief that it had finally been sorted. But then I got to thinking that if it was that easy to resolve, it should have happened a long time ago – and at least before this World Cup qualifying campaign began.
Craig is saying there are still plenty of points to play for. Of course, he is right, but we are already way off the pace. People might say I am too quick to judge, but for me the horse has already bolted and it is going to take something spectacular to catch it.
It will need something like Andy Murray winning the US Open, Europe's come-from-behind Ryder Cup success, or Celtic overturning the odds to win in Moscow if Scotland are to qualify now. I was optimistic after watching us in the friendly against Australia because we looked threatening, but that wasn't the case against either Serbia or Macedonia. I will be urging the team on against Wales even though I am commentating, but I have a feeling we will not take full points, much as I would like the players to prove me wrong. I think we will draw in Cardiff and then have to go to Belgium and win.
One of my first games as a Scotland player was against Wales – John Hartson scored in a 1-0 defeat at Rugby Park – but possibly my biggest memory from this fixture comes from when I went to the famous 1985 match at Ninian Park as a punter. I was a young lad at Chelsea and David Speedie got me tickets.
Scotland took over the place. When Davie Cooper scored the penalty he ran right over to where we were standing. After the game, Rod Stewart popped out of a hotel window and led about 5000 Scotland fans in singing Sailing.
Then, all of a sudden, he stopped and stepped inside again. That was when we heard that big Jock Stein had passed away.