HOW'S this for a Scotland team.

In a good old 4-4-2 formation we have Goram; Gough, Narey, Hansen, Malpas; Provan, Strachan, Aitken, Burns; McAvennie, Nicholas. I’d happily stand on a wet open terrace to watch them.

Others in and around the squad, with differing success, during the period after the 1982 World Cup and going into qualification for the 1986 tournament included Steve Archibald, Frank Gray, John Wark, Mark McGhee and Murdo MacLeod. All fine players.

My all-time favourite Scotland game took place in late 1984. We beat Spain 3-1. For fans around about my age this was the first time we felt that our lads were going to take us to glory. The naivety and stupidity of youth.

Not one player mentioned above was on the Hampden pitch that November evening. Then they they were all current internationals.

Leighton; Nicol, Miller, McLeish, Albiston; Bett, Souness, McStay, Cooper; Dalglish, Johnstone. What a team.

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That’s ten winners medals from Europe, three who would later be voted into the greatest Scotland side – Miller, Souness, Dalglish. Wee Mo got two and King Kenny with a brilliant individual effort equalled Denis Law’s record of 30 goals for Scotland. It’s a night that, for me, has never been bettered.

Considering who our manager was and the strength and depth of the pool, Scotland under-achieved.

It was easier to get to World Cups back then and we did so in 1982 and 1986 through a play-off with Australia when Alex Ferguson took over from Jock Stein who died a year after this game against Spain.

We finished bottom of our 1984 European Championship qualifying group behind Belgium, Switzerland and East Germany winning just once from six games. We played England five times, losing four and winning just once.

The point to this tear-stained meander down Nostalgia Avenue is that even with Stein and some world class footballers who wanted to play for their country, we fell short. This was because we lacked a certain pragmatism.

Too often, Scotland would fail to win away from home against lesser nations because we were too open. We would take the lead and not see the game out. At both World Cups, we went into the final game in with a chance of getting though the group stages. I don’t have to tell you what happened.

We were good. But we weren’t smart. That’s Scotland for you.

Fast forward to today and pragmatism, never an exciting word, is even more crucial for whoever gets the job of national team manager.


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We need a man who knows that for us to do well, or just better than being terrible, we need to get all our best players on the pitch, get everyone behind the ball when we don’t have it, defend set-pieces and don’t worry too much about playing the scintillating football of 1984.

This brings me to Derek McInnes.

The Aberdeen manager is pragmatic to the tips of his toes. The reason for his success at Aberdeen - which is what he's been - is that he’s more than aware of his players’ strengths and weaknesses.

Every season he loses his best players. Every season Aberdeen are in the top two or three, get to finals and semi-finals. The naysayers who don’t fancy him are wrong. The guy knows what he is doing.

I would take him as Scotland manager in a heartbeat. When once he was guilty of overthinking selection and tactics, now he trusts his instincts.

As time goes on, the more convinced I am that McInnes’s sensible, some would say cynical, approach of giving his team the best chance of winning - or at least not losing. It’s not always be pretty but, sadly, Coop is no longer with us and Kenny is getting close to 70, so you have play with the toys you have.

McInnes knows the players, his style suits a team which has to be defensive minded and he’s not the type to be messed about by someone who isn’t sure whether playing for Scotland is for them or not.


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It’s been a while since the SFA got something right. All they need do it have a word with McInnes soon enough.

He’s due at Hampden on Friday on a disciplinary hearing. They should offer the job to him then. After letting him off.

And Another Thing

THE venue is a hospitality box at Celtic Park. It's perhaps ten years ago now and some middle aged and even older supporters have rediscovered their inner child.

They are in the presence of greatness. Dixie Deans, Bobby Lennox and Stevie Chalmers. That's 669 Celtic goals in the same room. All of them are heros. And the craic is flowing almost as well as the wine.

Chalmers is being asked, of course, about that day in Lisbon.

"Ach, one goal 40 years ago and he's still going on about it," said Bobby about his pal. It got a big laugh.

The thing is, Stevie Chalmers never went on about his goal in the European Cup final. That wasn't his style. He was genuinely a lovely man, who was blessed with a loving family and a decent golf swing.

So many stories of the man's kindness have emerged over the past few days. It didn't surprise me.

He was unassuming, polite, modest. If you never knew anything about football, he would never reveal himself to be the man who scored one of the game's most famous goals. A few of today's players should learn from his example.

A boy from the Garngad, he had Celtic in his DNA and magic in his boots. He was always a terrific interview, generous with his time and anecdotes. That's if it didn't get in the way of 18 holes.

Coming so soon after the passing of Billy McNeill, the death of Chalmers at 83, he had also being suffering from dementia, came as a real blow to all of us fortunate to have had the chance to meet a gentleman and a gentle man.