World Cup qualifier
Failure not an option for Strachan
When Scotland were swept aside by England in their World Cup qualifier at Wembley, many thought the 3-0 defeat would see the whistle blown on Gordon Strachan’s tenure as manager of the national team.
The November loss was the latest in a series of disappointing results during a stuttering qualifying campaign and the growing feeling was he would struggle to survive the defeat.
Fast forward seven months, however, and Strachan remains in the post having stubbornly refused to fall on his sword.
He has managed to breathe life into the attempt to make it to Russia next summer, fading hopes rekindled by a late Chris Martin winner against Slovenia in March.
The former Celtic boss had filed that match firmly in the ‘must-win’ category and as he looked ahead to tomorrow’s return fixture against Gareth Southgate’s runaway group leaders at Hampden Park, Strachan says this one is a ‘must not lose’ game.
Scotland lie fourth with seven points from five games in Group F, with Slovenia a point ahead and Slovakia two points in front in the race for a play-off spot.
His 36th game in charge of his country, the crunch qualifier promises to be a defining moment in his time as national boss.
There’s no doubt he is drinking in the last-chance saloon again. Defeat will surely signal the end, while anything taken from the match will probably be enough to allow him to see out the campaign.
“There is a lot riding on this match. There are a country’s hopes and dreams riding on this,” he said.
“My future’s not a problem, don’t worry about that. The players and fans are the only things I’m worried about.”
He would do well to also be concerned as to how best to nullify the threat of in-form Harry Kane, the Tottenham Hotspur striker looking set to spearhead the English attack, ably assisted by club mate Dele Alli just behind him.
England, who are travelling by coach rather than plane, will arrive in Glasgow fresh from a team-bonding exercise at the Royal Marines’ Commando Training Centre designed to make them an even tougher nut to crack.
“To get to World Cups you need to pull off big results,” said Strachan. “This is a cracker and one we are all excited about. This is our big chance to pull off a big result.
“When you do that it gives you a real good chance of qualifying. If we get the result then there will be an opportunity for us to grab
“This one is a must not lose. I’m thinking about victory, but ‘must not get beaten’ keeps us in it. England should qualify, they have enough good players in their squad and the other teams are after second place really and to get to the play-off. We believe we can be that team.”
Celtic defender Kieran Tierney has played a full part in training this week with the aid of a special gum shield after his jaw injury sustained in the Scottish Cup win over Aberdeen and the youngster looks set to retain his place at right-back with Hull City’s Andrew Robertson occupying the left flank.
How adventurous Strachan will be as he tries to mastermind a first win over England since 1999 remains to be seen. The likelihood is he will opt for one man up front, with Slovenia goal hero Martin and Leigh Griffiths battling it out for the jersey.