There’s no doubt that a lot of the positivity that came from us qualifying for the Euros has dissipated with the indifferent start to our World Cup campaign but it’s too early to make a judgement on whether we can now qualify or not considering we’ve only played three matches.

I understand people will feel this way due to the fact that we couldn’t beat Austria, one of our main section rivals, at home and also couldn’t win in Israel, basically the fourth seeds in the group. However, despite our great excitement about making the Euros, we have to realise that we’re actually the third seed in this group and this is a measure of where Scotland have been over the last two decades.

Steve Clarke is building a new team at the moment and things did look bright when we went through to the Euros, albeit without winning either game in the play-offs over 90 minutes. To go to Serbia and hold them to a draw was an excellent performance and there’s no doubt that a level of confidence materialised in both the people involved with the national team and the supporters who have been very loyal over the years.

The problem that Clarke has to remedy is determining what system is best and then, what players are ideal for it to be a success. The recent matches have thrown up more question than solutions. Having gone down the route of playing a back three, this had to be altered against Israel to turn the game around and recover from a 1-0 deficit. Going to a back four did work on the night and we eventually achieved a point from the match.

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I don’t think it’s too much of a problem to deal with as the main reason to determine what the system should be must relate to the quality of the opposition. Against those nations that are above us in the rankings, I believe the back five is the ideal way to set up the team. Against the weaker opponents then I think we should do what we did for the second half in Israel and play a back four.

My reason for forming this conclusion is that we are not strong in terms of central defenders and will certainly require extra cover when the level of opposition is good. Having the extra defender can make a massive difference when you’re playing against a quality team as they are always capable of drawing defenders out of position which leaves the required space for chances to be created.

In terms of the overall squad I believe we are strong in midfield. There’s real competition for places with lots of quality available for Steve Clarke in terms of any system he feels is ideal to compete with any of the top nations at international level. One area that is a worry and a continual discussion point with fans and the media is the striker position.

I still believe the most natural scorer we have is Leigh Griffiths. Unfortunately, he’s not available these days due to injury and lack of first team appearances for Celtic. The two players who have come into contention who could fulfil the Griffiths role are Lawrence Shankland and Kevin Nisbet. They are both good prospects for becoming regular selections but are still inexperienced for performing at the top level.

We are generally relying on more of the target-man type of striker in Oli McBurnie, Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams. The problem with this is that these three are not regular scorers, even at club level and to expect them to produce the goals at international level is a bit of a hopeful aspiration.

As I said, the group hasn’t been won yet although I have to admit Denmark appear to be strong favourites now. I watched the match against Austria and although for the first half it looked like a very even contest, there was quite a change after half time and Denmark were exceptional. They certainly have a real goal threat and considering they haven’t conceded either it’s obvious that they have to be considered as certainties for qualification.

Our games against them are now going to be crucial but it’s most important that we get the results against Austria and Israel because our best chance of World Cup qualification will probably be as runner up in the group which will

see us get into the play-off. If that’s our route forward then we have to remain positive and set that as our goal for 2022.

AND ANOTHER THING . . .

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I’d really like to send my congratulations to Steven Davis, who this week broke the male British record for international appearances. It was an amazing achievement to get ahead of England’s great keeper, Peter Shilton. Most of the time, it will be a keeper who has the best chance of attaining this record as they generally play at the top level longer than any outfield players.

For Davis to play in midfield, which is very strenuous position, for his entire career and accomplish this record as a 36-year-old, really heightens the level of respect he deserves. To have also just won a title with Rangers and with the excellent performances he has been contributing, he certainly deserved a new and extended contract.