The last thing you want after a heavy night and a rather disappointing result for Scotland is to navigate the twisting, hilly roads to Moor Park, home of Lanark United as I once again got my weekly fix of the sporting glory that is Junior Football. The stomach was on super spin cycle and there was a point when I thought pulling over may be in order. Suffice to say 90 minutes later my health and therefore my mood were much better. Pollok are a team I have followed since I was a wee boy, a weekly fix of chat about funny shaped veg, football, life updates and the character assasination of the various regulars who attend these games. There is ‘Shorts Man’ who walks to every game from his Shawlands home no matter where, there were rumours that he didn’t even own a pair of trousers a rumour that was dispelled when somebody spotted him wearing what they believed to be, after much eye rubbing, a suit. There was the unfortunate occasion where through a lack of communication me and Papa G found ourselves in Kilbirnie only to find the game abandoned. ‘Shorts Man’ also failed to receive this information and it was hard not to feel sorry for him as we saw him walking towards the ground as we drive away.There’s ‘Buster Bloodvessel’ who will one day keel over such is the incessant barrage of obscenities and slightly black and white tinted observations that he screams, and ‘The Professor’ always behind the goal where Pollok are playing into and always talking absolute nonsense. Not to mention The Dingles, Polloks very own version of The Scheme who seem to switch on a bi-annual basis between supporting Rangers or Celtic.
These characters will reappear over the season in my musings I’m sure but to the football and Pollok won a rather flat game 4-1, a double from Roddy Hunter as well as goals from Ian Diack and Calum Hardie. It was a game that Pollok dominated and yet as always there was that impending feeling of doom when with 20 minutes to go it was still only 2-1. 7 out of 9 is a good start to the season and with no team having a 100% record even at this stage the league could be very tight this year. How Pollok fare will very much depend on how they fill the void left by Tommy Nolan’s horrendous injury as without him they still seem to be lacking in imagination. The tackle that caused it, which happened away to Petershill, was reckless at best and artificial turf or real grass would still have caused a great deal of damage to Tommy, who is now out for the season, you’re going to be missed in midfield.
Onto the durge that was the Lithuania game, it finished 0-0, Scotland were the better team and Lithuania seemed to be on a mission to kick the living s**t out of any Scotland player with an ounce of quality. The fact Alan Hutton was our most potent attacking threat suggests that something ain’t quite right. Yes we kept a clean sheet but we didn’t score and in NO WAY is this result a good one no matter what Craig Brown, Craig Levein or anyone else says. 12 points from the Lithuania and Liechtenstein games should have been demanded and anything less has already left us with a difficult task once again, not impossible but more difficult.
There appears to be quite a swell in opinion that Scott Brown should not be near the team and I agree with this, in fact I have called for this for the past 12 months. He is the antithesis of what is wrong with Scottish Football at the moment, all bluster and running but absolutely no technique or rationale behind anything that he does. To be quite frank, I’m amazed he is getting a regular game for Celtic at the moment. I could run about shouting and kicking people, give me a call up, give me 20 grand a week, i’ll do that job and I have a right foot that I have trouble standing on nevermind kick a ball with, I’m a natural lefty.
Darren Fletcher seems to be getting a fair amount of abuse as well and I think a reality check is needed in terms of what D. Fletch brings to the team. Yes in Manchester United, he plays for one of the biggest teams in the world, but his role there is a destroyer not a creator, the role that we fill with the likes of Lee MuCulloch and Paul Hartley is what he does. Small nations tend to think that because they have a player playing for a top drawer team they are automatically capable of being there Lionel Messi, Rafael Marquez is a prime example, a centre back for Barcelona up until the end of last season, now at New York Red Bulls, he played as a center back cum winger cum attacking midfielder for Mexico in the last 2 World Cups. Fletcher has quality and I believe that he is key to any advancements we make.
Onto the glamour tie against Liechtenstein, and firstly the fact that he SFA are charging £25 for a ticket is a scandal, I understand why they have to do it, supporters much like myself have already paid for our seat through the Tartan Army and to then offer reduced prices to everyone else would be akin to lifting a kilt up and showing us there walloper, but a bit of pre-planning could have ensured that there would be a decent turnout for a crucial qualifier, as it stands after the Lithuania game I will be very pleasantly surprised if we get in excess of 35,000 for the game.
The game itself is vital not just for the result but for morale throughout the team, management and fans. If by some method of mass ineptitude Scotland fail to win then it will all be over before its even started. I’m sure we will win and I’m also sure we will score a couple of goals, neck on the line 3-0. My team as situation dictates at present would be McGregor, Hutton, McManus, Weir, Wallace, Hartley, McCulloch, Dorrans, McFadden, D.Fletcher, Miller 4-2-3-1. Hartley and McCulloch provide a shield allowing Hutton and Wallace to provide the width. Not just for Tuesday but the formation going forward. Have Fletcher in the middle of the attacking 3 so that he can sit and allow McFadden and Dorrans to do what Scotland are almost always lacking: be creative. Ideally Steven Fletcher if fit in place of Miller who seems to be adverse to scoring in a Scotland top and the option to fling on Boyd when we need a goal, the squad of players we have at present I believe like for like are better than some of our most recent sides but already 1 competitive game into his reign Craig Levein needs to show his mettle and re-affirm the belief that this time we will be there. I have the faith and will never lose it, its my Scottish Affliction that i wished a few more shared.