IT turned out to be the best of weeks for Steve Clarke, the Scotland players and most of all the Scotland fans.

I was disappointed by the Denmark performance but was also well aware that we need to recognise that they are a very strong side who are difficult to beat.

I stated last Saturday that because of the result in Denmark, it was imperative that we picked up six points in the coming two matches.

We didn’t perform outstandingly against Moldova but the main thing is always result first and performance second.

When you consider all the other results from the weekend matches, not only in our group but across others too, it was clear to see that many of the least-fancied countries put on very impressive performances in addition to some of them pulling off surprise results.

I would have considered the Austria match to be a real test for us and a game where we would most likely be outplayed, even if we were to pull off an invaluable win.

However, after the drubbing they received in Israel, I considered that we could go to Vienna and comfortably compete with Austria to gain the necessary victory.

We certainly did compete with them and we can be really pleased with the performance as well as the result. All round, Clarke got the team and formation correct on the night.

We defended well as Austria had created quite a few chances, but that can generally happen in an open away match when you’re not purely set up as a defensive unit.

The team was obviously put together to get a win. Our midfield is strong, even with a few of the other players challenging for a position being unavailable.

There is however, no question that we have a definite weakness in the attacking sense with the lack of a top-class finisher being available for selection.

Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams and Kevin Nisbet are all decent players but I don’t think any of them are outstanding at international level. It means we lack a cutting edge when playing against the quality nations. The three of them worked really hard on Tuesday and at times Dykes and Adams linked up very well but I still have my doubts on whether they are capable of fulfilling the requirement to take us to another level.

With Israel beating Austria on Saturday, it meant that if we could win in Vienna, we would make second place because Israel had to go to Denmark to face the group leaders and as expected they were comfortably beaten.

Amazingly, the Israeli team are excellent at home but don’t seem to produce the same quality of performance in away games against the better teams. Let’s hope this remains the case in October when they come to Hampden for our next group match.

If we can win this match then we will have a four-point lead over Israel and Austria with two games coming up against the Faroe Islands and Moldova before our final home match with Denmark.

If we win these next three matches then the final game against Denmark will have no significance.

Steve Clarke is certainly very positive now about the players we have available, the improvement in the system and the strength of the team.

Once all the players are available again, then we really can compete at the highest level. He’s absolutely correct to continue with a back three with the best wing-backs being Nathan Patterson and Andy Robertson.

The midfield is the strongest part of the team with real talent at our disposal and major competition for places.

If a striker can develop his game to fulfil the goal-scoring requirement, then Clarke has every reason to be confident regarding our progress as a competitive national side.

As the manager says, the Israeli game at Hampden on October 9 is like a cup final and it’s now an exciting one to look forward to.


MOST of the media attention is given to the Premiership clubs in Scotland and even some of the bigger clubs when they are having to compete in the Championship, like Kilmarnock, Dunfermline, Morton and Partick Thistle.

However, we tend to forget at times the great job being done by managers with smaller clubs who have to compete with these teams.

A great example is Dick Campbell who manages Arbroath and having taken them from League 2 to League 1 and then into the Championship last season, he certainly deserves great credit.

They’re a part-time outfit and they are sitting in fourth place in the league.

Dick has a great record in the game as he’s been a manager since the late 80s.

He’s still has the same drive and enthusiasm now that he’s demonstrated throughout his career.