The game in Alicante made for sobering viewing. I think it's time we come up with a new name for whatever it is Spain are playing, it bears little resemblance to the pedestrian game called football that everyone else is labouring with.
Glad to see Scotland stick at it though and hey, we won the last half hour! Yes, dear reader, that was the sound of straws being clutched right there. We've a decent side though, and I do think Craig Levein has us moving in the right direction. But for a contemptible dive and poor refereeing decision at the end of the Czech game we'd be looking forward to the play-offs now. Some decent young players are coming through, and the pace of Mackail-Smith and Goodwillie looked like it could threaten most teams. Shame that Goodwillie started reading his own headlines when he raced through and failed to square it to Mackail-Smith. 3-2 would have made for an interesting last few minutes. But hopefully he'll learn from the experience and be a bit cooler next time.
Another plus is the emergence of Bannan. He looks like just the kind of player we need to unlock opposing defences. The reality of the modern game is that every team is well organised and fit, even the likes of Liechtenstein. It's pretty rare for the minnows to get completely annihilated these days. The difference between the top teams and the also rans are those players that can create goals with a moment of creativity. If we can concentrate on encouraging the development of these type of players then we'll start to move up the rankings and maybe even qualify for a tournament.
All of which leads to the main point of this post. I do hope that the fans and press alike give Craig Levein at least another round of qualifying (or two) to continue to pursue his vision for the development of Scottish football. He's the first national manager I can remember who actually talks sense about the need to change how we coach kids to play in order to become competitive at international level. By definition the fruits of his labours with our youngest players will take several years to pay off. The last thing we need is to give him the chop in favour of someone who only sees the job as a stepping stone to a bigger pay day.
Ok, the tactics away to the Czechs were pretty objectionable (although in fairness they did almost work), but other than that Levein has developed a squad that clearly play with spirit and are trying their hardest. I'd like to see him use the time until the next qualifiers to give Mackail-Smith and Goodwillie more experience and perhaps to make sure that we have a good plan B in place for when his favoured 4-1-4-1 has to be abandoned. The 4-4-2 that we ended with against Spain tonight looked pretty reasonable, or perhaps a 3-5-2 with Hutton and Naismith charging down the flanks.
Finally, we can ill afford to have a player like Steven Fletcher sidelined. It would be great to see him back in the fold. I'm not sure on which side the problem lies, though from the press reports it seems to be on Fletcher's, but enough's enough. Time to bury the hatchet and get him back involved.