The former international striker talks managerial contract extensions and the road to Russia 2018 with HITC Sport.
Scotland’s Euro 2016 qualification campaign proved to be another case of so near and yet so far, with their recent international history littered with tales of what could have been.
Victory over the Republic of Ireland on Matchday Four left their fate squarely in their own hands, and for a while it looked as though they would grasp the opportunity presented to them.
Defeat in Georgia, though, back in September proved to be costly, as Gordon Strachan’s men were ultimately pipped to third place and a play-off berth by the Irish.
This has been an all too familiar story for the Scots since their last appearance at a major international tournament back in 1998.
Play-off defeats were suffered at the hands of England and Holland ahead of Euro 2000 and 2004 respectively, while third-place finishes left them narrowly short – with two points often the difference – ahead of events in 2002, 2006, 2008 and 2012.
There is, however, a sense that the side are moving forward, and the news that Strachan has agreed a two-year extension to his contract, taking him through to the next World Cup, has been universally welcomed.
Former international striker Kevin Gallacher is among those pleased to see continuity established, with the man currently at the helm having improved results and the general mood around the camp.
Gallacher, who was speaking at the filming of the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show, told HITC Sport during a phone interview: “With Gordon, it was a major concern because he’s built a squad which mixes youth and experience and it looks like we could be going places with it. If Gordon had walked away from it, we would have been starting all over again.
“What Gordon Strachan has brought to us is, he’s brought a club atmosphere where everybody knows each other and you have got four or five players that are sort of guests, who come into the side and get the opportunity of maybe getting a game.
“He is great to have around the place. He’s sometimes a lively little character, so the players will know when to step back and when to come forward. You have to acknowledge the respect that the Scottish lads give him, it’s fantastic. You can say that two years is maybe not enough to rebuild Scotland and he’s certainly advancing it now. Hopefully the campaign for the next World Cup is going to be a positive one for him.”
The general consensus appears to be that tickets to Russia 2018 are there to be shot at, with a favourable draw having placed them in a group alongside Slovakia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta and old adversaries, England.
Gallacher added: “I think we got a decent draw and the icing on the cake was England being a part of that. Sometimes you think ‘Oh no, is this going to be another hard campaign, is it going to be third place again’, but Scotland-England games sometimes don’t go down to form, they go down to who wants it more at that time, and it’s a competitive match which is slightly different to the friendlies we have had against each other. They are certainly games that the Scottish lads will be looking forward to.”
Those matches are, however, a long way off, with there plenty of time in which to fine tune and experiment before the important business of competitive action starts again.
Pressed on areas that need to be worked on, Gallacher said: “Sometimes it’s about getting the balance right, I think we are still working on that. It’s about the manner of, when you go away to Georgia, how do you break teams down, and little things like that. They are so used to being counter-attacking that you need a little more bit more going forward. Teams were thinking we’re going to play Scotland and they are going to sit back against us, but it never worked out like that, Scotland had a go at them and gave them a fright. That was a sign of what Gordon has brought to Scotland and I think he’s got to continue that, and I’m sure results will be better for that.”
The immediate past and present may have been rather frustrating for all concerned with Scotland, but there is every reason to believe that the future will be brighter.
The near misses have delivered important lessons, and you get the feeling from watching Strachan at work that he is not the kind of character to let costly mistakes be repeated and will be as determined as anybody to start righting a few painful wrongs.
Watch the Vauxhall Home Nations Football Show with Ian Wright, Gerry Taggart, Kevin Gallacher and Iwan Roberts by subscribing to Vauxhall Football on YouTube here.