Provided Scotland can beat Macedonia and Holland at Hampden in September, as George Burley expects, then the Scots will qualify for next summer’s World Cup with no real problems. There is the minor issue that even if Scotland did achieve those two monumental victories, the resultant points total of 13 is highly unlikely to secure a play-off spot, and consequently Burley’s big scheme will be scuppered.
In fairness to the Scotland coach, not even Sir Alex Ferguson could have successfully manoeuvred the national team to avoid the ruthless execution dished out by a Norway side who were made to look somewhat exceptional following Gary Caldwell’s dismissal. Indeed, it took guts from Burley to select Steven Caldwell and Callum Davidson considering both players had been idling in international wilderness for the past four years, but their shortcomings were brutally exposed on a night when the wheels well and truly came of the Tartan bandwagon. Of course, there were many excuses for the coach and his superior SFA blazers to cite for the rout: Barry Ferguson’s damning Evening Times Interview; injuries to key players Stephen McManus and Craig Gordon; Alain Hamer’s harsh, if not correct choice to send Gary Caldwell packing following two bookable offences; FIFA’s decision to schedule the fixture before the Scottish domestic season had commenced.
However, the raw and painful truth is that players such as Darren Fletcher, Alan Hutton and Scott Brown should be more than capable of battling players of lesser standards on an international level. Nevertheless, the brewing emotion of gross public contempt for George Burley comes from deeper roots than merely inept squad selections. Such player choices, combined with a perennial insistence for referring to Cristophe Berra as “Christopher” and Barry Ferguson, quite sublimely as “Darren”, prompts reminders of the inglorious Berti Vogts era. It is frantically frustrating to witness Burleys current woeful form in contrast to the track record he established at Hearts three years ago. Furthermore, his apparent leniency in dealing with Ferguson and Alan McGregor following Februarys infamous “Boozegate” farce did nothing to replenish Burleys image.
While Scotland’s chances of catching a flight to South Africa next summer are slim to say the least, victory against Macedonia in Glasgow is mandatory. Defeat would see Burley’s popularity plummet to a level that would make Gordon Brown appear to be Robin Hood in disguise. Conversely, three points against the Dutch would be a feat akin to the miracle of Loaves and Fishes.
For our nation, a new Promised Land awaits: Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.