The home nations are starting to fill places at the upcoming European championships in France this summer, Scotland are the only one of the home nations now officially out of contention for not making it to France. The Republic of Ireland could join Wales, England and Northern Ireland in making the finals providing they get through their play-off match. What an achievement especially for Northern Ireland and Wales, both at the start of the qualifying campaign were not expected to make it to France. Gordon Strachan the Scotland manager was given a tough group to get out off but realistically the play-off spot should have been closer to their reach than perhaps the Republic of Ireland especially looking at the group standings at the turn of the year.
The defeat to Georgia was really the turning point for Scotland and their bitterly disappointing performance was their downfall. Now the emphasis is yet again on the manager. With Gordon Strachan’s future currently unclear, the chanting of his name during their recent destruction of Gibraltar shows just how much the Scottish manger is in favour with the fans. The former Coventry and Celtic manager has showed great pride and passion managing his country and has really made big strides with this group of players. Before Strachan was in the job, the football Scotland played lacked creativity, energy and more importantly passion. Now when watching Scotland there is more energy, there is a team ethic and a real team spirit. When you watch the national anthem scenes and the passion at Hampden Park it can be spine chilling, everyone singing the Flower of Scotland and a real sense of pride. Strachan has really installed that atmosphere back and if the Scottish FA decides to look elsewhere, this could see them as a football nation slide back into the shadows again. They have some real stand out performers currently playing in that team, Andrew Robertson of Hull City has a lot of admirers, Matt Ritchie of Bournemouth is a tremendous talent and reliable pro’s Scott Brown, James Morrison and Shaun Maloney.
The group Scotland drew was rather unkind, World Champions Germany amongst the group and the fiery Poland this was always going to be a tricky group to get out of, however the spirited performances against Germany home and away gives this group of players confidence and hunger going into the upcoming World cup qualifying campaign. The group of players will need a slight overhaul, there is younger players coming through for Scotland and with the Scottish Football Leagues looking more promising, players will emerge available for selection. The connections to get players like Matt Ritchie is always available to Scotland so there should be a great optimism within the nation. There is a group of younger players already staking a claim for a place in the national squad, Ryan Gauld of Sporting Lisbon is a player who is delivering for the under 21 side, Ryan Christie recently signed by Celtic is a player which enormous potential and Jay Fulton of Swansea is pushing his way to getting a chance at the Welsh club while impressing on loan at Oldham.
Although Scotland will be extremely disappointed they are not joining the rest of home nations at a major final, there is no need to panic. Keep Gordon Strachan is charge and they can continue to develop and progress together.