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Enough to give McCall nightmares

YOU could see it on Stuart McCall's face.

Stuart McCall will be having nightmares following Motherwell's Europa League exitPhotograph: SNS
Stuart McCall will be having nightmares following Motherwell's Europa League exitPhotograph: SNS

To me he looked haunted, gaunt and drained. Motherwell had just lost to Stjaran, a poor, poor team and one I'm convinced he thought they would beat. Stuart has enjoyed so much success at Motherwell, but two results will give him nightmares - Albion Rovers in last season's Scottish Cup and now Stjarnan in Europa League qualifying.

That result apart, it was an incredible day and night for Scottish sport on Thursday. When Motherwell were going out in Iceland they were hearing about Aberdeen's goals in Groningen and St Johnstone later went through against Luzern. I don't imagine Motherwell would have been thinking about the gold medals being won at the Commonwealth Games, but they would have known there was a feelgood factor back in Scotland.

They just didn't expect to be the ones letting people down. They had a quiet confidence. I was with them and talking to the fans, talking to the players, guys like Bob McHugh and Craig Reid, who I've worked with in the past, they weren't cocky, but they didn't think they were going to under-perform again like that.

Stuart will never look back on it and say "you know what, everyone in Europe is decent, Stjarnan were a good side". They weren't. You could see he was gutted, it was playing on his mind straight away. He knew it was a bad result. The players knew they had under-performed when they let a 2-0 lead slip in the first leg at Fir Park and they didn't think they would do it again. But they did.

What does it mean for the season ahead? I really worry about them defensively. Shaun Hutchinson going to Fulham is a huge loss. Before the game their fans were saying to me "we're not looking great at the back, we're a wee bit ropey".

Motherwell are normally steady at the back but they did look ropey in Iceland. Even when they took off Lionel Ainsworth and Josh Law, and tried to see it out with solid, defensive-minded players, they never looked secure. Stuart has to be working on that.

LEGIA Warsaw are a step up in class for Celtic in the Champions League third qualifying round but it is a level they should handle. They should be winning that one. I fancy Celtic to get through, but they will have to be on the money, though.

I've watched them under Ronny Deila and I think there is a bit of work for him to do. They still have some class players. Virgil van Dijk is every bit as good as Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper. There are clubs having a look but hopefully they can keep him and Fraser Forster.

What they could do with is a striker. The front men they have are much of a muchness. Anthony Stokes, Teemu Pukki and Leigh Griffiths all like to come short, link up, and go into wider areas.

I'd love to see Celtic sign a right big physical target man, a guy who gets them up the park: a John Hartson type; a natural goalscorer who can give them that physical dimension up front with a bit of pace. That would let Stokes, Pukki and Griffiths play around that guy. It would let Kris Commons go off him. I don't think they can gamble on getting to the group stage and then trying to land a main striker. I'd like to see them do it now, but from what Ronny has said that isn't going to happen.

DEREK McInnes is a shrewd one, isn't he? He played for Aberdeen not losing a goal against Groningen at Pittodrie because he knew his team were suited to playing away from home. He was vindicated because they went to Holland, scored twice, and won. He took a chance, but the players handled it ever so well. I did worry whether they would get through, but they have and to be facing Real Sociedad this week is unbelievable.

They have a really good spirit and balance, with youth, pace, doggedness and experience in that team. I'm not saying they're going to be world beaters, but they are capable of giving Sociedad a run for their money. They dropped Barry Robson to the bench in Groningen because they wanted players breaking on both sides. Derek wanted to hit them rapidly on the break and that's why he had Jonny Hayes, Niall McGinn, Adam Rooney and Peter Pawlett in the team - four absolute flying machines. You have to have the players for it, but it's good management.

St Johnstone did well too as that was a decent Luzern team they beat on Thursday. After knocking Rosenborg out last year they should have gone on to see off Minsk and go through. In Scotland we must start winning these evenly-matched ties, against opponents where you have a real chance. These are games that can affect our co-efficient. Even if you play poorly, it's about going through.

Last year St Johnstone beat a good team in the first round then played a poorer team and the poorer team put them out. The danger is that the same thing happens again: after Luzern, they now play Spartak Trnava. But St Johnstone have a right good bunch of boys and a right good management team. I also think they have a bit of European nous as well. They know the risks ahead of them. And the rewards.

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