The excitement is really beginning to build for the start of our Euro campaign on Monday when we face the Czech Republic. Everyone I’ve been speaking to lately is asking me about Scotland’s chances and saying that they are very positive about our chances of qualifying from our group. I agree with their optimism although, having followed Scotland for many years in numerous World Cup and Euro finals, I’m well aware that this was the case prior to the first match every time we awaited the start of the tournament.

On many occasions, we were actually a more fancied participant going into the competition because of the quality players we possessed and the form that proceeded us taking part. The best examples of this were 1974 and ’78 where we had players such as Bremner, Law, Jordan. Dalglish, McQueen, McGrain, Jardine, Gemmill and Souness in our squad. Nevertheless, as in every case so far, we failed to qualify from our group and have never enjoyed the emotion of supporting our country in the final rounds of a major contest. Maybe this time, although the positivity is there, the expectation is not so great because we are all just delighted to have finally qualified for the finals. It is incredible though, and who could ever have predicted this in years past, that we would be in a tournament final with two of our games being at Hampden. This is a major turnaround in events and one we should try and take full advantage of.

The squad has certainly developed well with Steve Clarke’s influence and I could even see a further gradual improvement in the system and individual talent coming through in the friendlies against Holland and Luxembourg. The only issue I had with the Luxembourg game is that we missed a number of goal-scoring chances. We won’t get as many chances in any of our forthcoming group matches but maybe it will make the players more precise if they know that any chance that comes along could be crucial to our qualification hopes. I still feel that it would be best to play with one striker so that we have more control in midfield. We have midfield players are are also strong attackers and when support for the striker comes from deeper, it is often harder for defensive players to anticipate and restrict. This is why I would have McTominay, Armstrong, McGregor and McGinn in the team with Adams as the front man.

If striker Adams tires as the game goes on because he is having to work on his own, then we have a suitable target-man replacement in Dykes. He can also do a good linking-up job and will benefit from coming on against defenders who will also be running out of steam. Should we require a goal then the ideal scenario would be to introduce Kevin Nesbit to play alongside Dykes as they could be a good combination. Nesbit is more mobile and is certainly a player who could use his pace and positional sense to get the necessary scoring opportunities. Clarke will obviously have an idea on the exact team and system required for each match as this can change according to the opposition set-up. I do think he’s got the right idea with playing a back five and he’ll stick with it for the three matches.  

This time next week I’ll be analysing how it’s gone over the first two games and I really hope that my positivity has been ratified. The fact that 16 out of 24 teams qualify from the group stages and that two of our matches are are Hampden will give us an obvious air of disappointment if we don’t make the last 16. Sadly though, that’s something the older generation are very used to. I believe a minimum of four points will see us through, so fingers crossed. Let’s really enjoy this event as we’ve waited such a long time for it.


It’s often forgotten that this is a sad time for many of the young players who have been trying to win an extended contact with their professional club. This is when the club tell the young player if he’s being kept or released. The Development Squad group is the final stage of making it through to the first team squad but as I found in my research into the system, more than 90 per cent of the players playing in their final year at this level, are released by their clubs. Some will already have experienced interest from other professional clubs but many won’t and can be devastated by being rejected at this stage. What these young players need to do is treat this setback as a motivation to show the decision makers they have made a big mistake. It’s happened in many cases in the past and you only need to consider that Jamie Vardy was released by Sheffield Wednesday and Andy Robertson by Celtic as youth players to realise that mistakes are often made but with the correct attitude, the player can go on to have a successful career despite this early setback.