Tis is Scotland’s first major tournament since the 1998 World Cup and their first Euros since 1996 and you get the feeling, they’d want the 2020 Euros to go a lot better than those two. Yet, with Steve Clarke proving to be a tactical master and a squadron of left-backs, here is why they will suck.
Your team: Scotland (Euro record: DNQ eleven times, played in Euro 92 and 96)
Record since Euro 2016: 23 wins, 8 draws, 18 losses
After Russia surgically destroyed their hopes, it took playoff games for Scotland to make the cut and boy did they make it. Steve Clarke’s men made it so very easy for themselves with them beating Israel 5-3 on penalties after scoring nothing during 120 minutes of football. Then, in the final, after Luka Jovic’s sucker punch of a 90th-minute equaliser, they beat Serbia as well this time 5-6 on penalties and it wasn’t great football and yet, it worked.
How? To this date, experts and fans are bamboozled as to how a team with Scott McTominay, Lyndon Dykes, Callum McGregor and co actually managed to beat the Serbs. But as history will tell you, it happened somehow and yet going into Euro 2020, the record doesn’t favour Scotland. 18 losses in 49 games since Euro 2016 took place is absolutely majestic because then they’ll have something to blame their poor show on, something beyond genetics and whatnots that is.
I mean, after decades in the doldrums, a mere appearance at the Euros has to have buoyed fans because it has been 22 years since their last appearance at a major competition. Since then, Greece, Colombia, Wales, Iceland and sooooooooooooooo many others have triumphed and proved that Scotland really does deserve their place in this tournament. They’ve paved the way for the country that reportedly claims that football originates there. Yet if that’s true, then where have you been for more than two decades mate? Where have you been?.
And yet, the hope has always faded and given their results can you really blame them? Like really blame them because hell and high water only means so much! Especially when your side loses to Slovakia, England, Italy, France, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Peru, Israel, Kazakhstan, Belgium, Russia, Belgium and Russia again, Slovakia and Israel again. The list is endless and definitely not a good looking one especially when your, former, manager blames genetics.
The man leading the charge: Steve Clarke
No, I’m not talking about Steve Clarke. I’m talking about the great and magnificent Gordon Strachan, three managers before Steve Clarke but we’ll get to that. So who is Steve Clarke, the man now hailed as Scotland’s saviour and redeemer? Well, Clarke is the man who nearly got West Bromwich Albion relegated from the Premier League in the early 2010s, led them to an 8th place finish and then nearly got them relegated again.
He then signed for Reading, a day after their previous manager was given the boot, and was sacked a year later with his side even booed off the field. The one thing I can’t knock, however, was his spell at Kilmarnock because Clarke worked bloody miracles with them. Bottom of the Premiership, he finished fifth by the end of that season, mounted an early title challenge in the next before securing a place in Europe and Kilmarnock’s highest finish since 1966 (third place).
It seems history has always been on Clarke’s mind which is probably why Scotland appointed him in the first place and they really needed this one to go right. Why? Because of his predecessors and it all started with Alex McLeish. Appointed for the second time, McLeish led Scotland to those remarkable losses over Kazakhstan, Israel, Peru, Costa Rica and even Georgia. The fans started cheering – read as booing – the team and McLeish with him sacked in the morning 28 days after the Kazakhstan loss.
Historic lows could go any further and yet, under McLeish, Scotland somehow managed it. They saw the point of no return and waved at it as the team flew past it, to a point that looked remarkably familiar to what Dante wrote about in Dante’s Inferno. Absolutely sensational stuff from the Scottish FA – aka Alan McRae, the president, - who wanted his friend as the manager and made sure he was. It’s at least better than sire Gordon Strachan who asked the Scottish people, and I quote, to improve because “Genetically, we have to work at things”.
Not a joke because he went on to add “Maybe we get big women and men together and see what we can do.” Because apparently, the bigger it is, the better it is. Someone tell Spain, Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Eden Hazard, Nicolo Barella and several others that or just men in general.
John McGinn: Hattricks, braces, goals coming out of the wazoo for the Aston Villa man and it seems that this dude might actually be good. Then, the question is asked, if John McGinn is actually good then why on earth is he still playing for can’t-even-finish-above-tenth Aston Villa? That is the real question to ask especially before an international tournament that has no bearing on club form?
The two-hundred left-backs: When your two marquee players happen to be left-backs, then you know Scotland’s got a real problem. I mean who do you pick then? Andy Robertson, the Champions League and Premier League winner, or Kieran Tierney, the man who for some reason plays for Arsenal? It’s quite a conundrum for Scotland especially when you look at it logically and the fact that – and this is not biased by the fact that I support Arsenal – Tierney is the better choice.
I mean, look at it this way. Robertson’s star has faded with the pressure of winning big trophies on the club stage weighing on his international performances. By comparison, Tierney has no such pressure because, well, he plays for Arsenal. And, the left-back – which one? – is far more versatile than the other one because of the fact that he plays as a left centre-back capable of flying forward. Is that worth the risk at Scotland’s first Euros since the 96 debacle? Sure because if you don’t experiment and tinker with your side at a major international tournament, then when do you??
What’s new that sucks:
Their strikers and I mean this with everything I’ve got, but Scotland can’t score goals. Their top scorer going into the Euros is John McGinn with ten goals and he has been an inspired star but that just explains the point even better. Because for a side that once had Sir Kenny Daglish, Denis Law, Hughie Gallacher and so many others, to now depend on Che Adams, Lyndon Dykes and Kevin Nisbet is just sad.
Like literally upsetting for many especially when you realise that John McGinn has outscored all three men as a midfielder for Scotland. It’s definitely not a good sign for all you fans out there when your forwards have scored a combined five goals in 19 caps. It’s also not a good sign when they’ve only got 19 caps but that’s a problem for another day. It’s not like Scotland score many goals anyway and yes, I know they scored 4 against the Faroe Islands and 6 against San Marino and also managed three against Kazakhstan but still, none of those three sides made the final cut.
What’s old that sucks:
The doubters. And nobody because it’s an inexperienced squad because outside of the three goalkeepers, Grant Hanley, Andy Robertson and like two or three others, the average number of caps won hovers around the 20 mark. It’s not the sweet spot, because there isn’t one, but given the fact that this is the first time in 22 years that Scotland are playing at a major tournament, even that doesn’t matter.
Because when you’re up against England, Croatia and the rest, then the real test is up and Scotland are most definitely going to crumble like a cookie. And the doubters but when you’re up against England, Croatia and the rest, that does make sense.
What might give you some hope:
Jose Mourinho did it well and it seems that Steve Clarke has been taking a few lessons because the siege mentality that he has embedded into this team has helped their cause. Otherwise, you don’t win back-to-back penalty shootouts to qualify for your first major tournament in decades. It’s quite something and it could help Scotland do well, even if they don’t. Then again, the potential misery that you could cause millions of fans by beating England at Wembley, would give anyone hope.