NO stone was left unturned as Scotland looked to get their Euro qualifying campaign off to a flying start in Kazakhstan.

The suits this time were at the back of the plane and the players were at the front. Which hasn’t always been the case. The players even had beds on the plane to sleep. There were no excuses available not to perform at their optimum and get a victory against a Kazakhstan side ranked a whopping No.144 in the world rankings. But what followed was probably the worst result in our history as we were blown away 3-0 by a yellow tornado.

It is a defeat that has left Alex McLeish clinging on to his job by the thinnest of margins.


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Tactically we set up in a 4-3-3 formation but it was clear very early that the Kazakh’s had done their homework. They targeted the ball over and inside Graham Shinnie in our left-back area at every opportunity. I felt sorry for Shinnie as he was left badly exposed down that side by how narrow our midfield was. The central three of Callum McGregor, John McGinn and Stuart Armstrong just didn’t work. It looked great on paper but the balance wasn’t right. We didn’t have a clear sitting midfield player who could break up attacks and get the ball from our back four to dictate the pace of play and to take the sting out the game – let’s just say a Scott Brown or Barry Ferguson type who would pivot in between the two centre-backs and screen the forwards. All three kind of took turns in doing it but it was a bit of a mess.


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We had a back four who had never played together and had very little experience of international football. That defence was badly exposed and again missed an experienced head to talk and organise.

We couldn’t get any sort of hold on the game and decent possession through the central areas to give a platform to feed the likes of Burke and Forrest. Both our wide men got frustrated and eventually started dropping so deep it left Oli McBurnie dreadfully isolated. He is not the sort of player to batter centre-backs about and he was another I felt a little sorry for on the night as he got no service.


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In saying all this, tactics and formations go out the window if you don’t have have the same hunger and appetite to run or work harder than the opposition. We got outworked all over the park and physically we got bullied. Kazakhstan were well up for the game from the very start and, criminally, we just weren’t. I think the incident that summed up the attitudes of both sets of players was the two Kazakh players cracking heads going for a 50-50 ball when they were 3-0 up and the game was won. They just wanted it more. That was the main difference for me and questions need to asked of the management team and the players as to why that was the case.


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So where does this leave Alex Mcleish? I certainly have been in the minority of fans and pundits who wanted to give Alex a chance. He has been written off and under enormous pressure from the day he got the job and wore a haunted look in the post-match interviews. The little bit of goodwill he had garnered by finishing top of our Nations League group has been wiped out. It seems he has been fighting a losing battle from the very start and it hurts me to see him so embattled in his position. A defeat like the one in Kazakhstan is one that could cost a manager his position and Alex will know that.

Does he have the fire in his belly to keep going amid constant scrutiny? He looks absolutely drained now. Does he need it at his age? I would say no. I just hope the strain he is under doesn’t take its toll.