THE trademark Afro has gone but thankfully there are no signs yet of any Samsonesque loss of Ikechi Anya's powers.

The chirpy little Watford and Scotland winger took to the clippers just prior to the turn of the year, not long after his manager and mentor Gianfranco Zola resigned from the club, but a couple of first team goals from the newly-shorn wing back pay testimony to the fact that the 26-year-old continues to turn heads under new manager Giuseppe Sannino. Indeed, Anya revealed last night that the most famous Afro in Scottish football was in fact largely accidental.

"The original plan was never to let it get that big and it got the point where I thought it's a New Year, let's cut it off," said Anya, a man who team-mates have been known to call superstitious at times. "I wouldn't have been able to do it on the first of January so it was mid-December and I was near the hairdressers. I can go there now, I thought, so I just did it. I have scored a few goals since so it doesn't seem to have had an affect on me.

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"I have a philosophy of if 'it ain't broke, don't fix it' but not to the point where you go out of your way or are OCD or anything."

On to more serious business, however, and Scotland's quest to return to a major football finals, after an 18-year absence, in the summer of 2016.

Having made himself a key component of Gordon Strachan's system one fateful night in Macedonia, the player is determined not to be exiled to the periphery again when qualifying starts in earnest in September, with Wednesday's meeting with Poland one of only two scheduled tune-up matches before then. Scotland might have hoped for a simpler qualifying section than Group D, which also includes Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia, and new boys Gibraltar, but Anya for one feels second place behind the Germans is a realistic ambition.

"Germany are the standout ones and then if you categorise it further you would say the Republic of Ireland and Poland but we have done well, we managed to beat Croatia, we beat Norway, and had a respectable draw against the USA so if we can keep on improving as we have we should realistically be able to aim for at least second," he said.

The son of a Nigerian research scientist and a Romanian economist, the cosmopolitan Anya has only limited local knowledge of this group. Alexander Merkel is a young German playing at Watford.

"He plays for the younger age groups but you can see what a good player he is and if he's that good at that level you can imagine how good the senior team will be," said Anya.

He caught a flight from Gibraltar a few times when playing his football in the Spanish divisions with Cadiz - "I can't say I made many friends there!" he says - and there has been some light-hearted jousting with a Polish member of the Watford kitchen staff.

The match is sure to feature some tactical shadow-boxing between the respective managers, determined not to show their hand ahead of the qualifiers, but Anya feels that taking the match can only be positive for Gordon Strachan.

"We can turn it into a sort of chess game," said Anya. "We can see their strengths and weaknesses but obviously they can see that for us as well. The gaffer will choose how he wants to play it and I am sure it will stand us in good stead come September time."