Sat. Oct 1st, 2022
THE Scottish mentality doesn’t do ‘in between’.

We either walk on air or convince ourselves the end of the world is nigh.

Willie Vass

Lyndon Dykes after scoring Scotland’s second goal against Ukraine[/caption]

PA

The Republic of Ireland couldn’t beleive how good they had it against Scotland in June[/caption]

The Tartan Army flit between the two — though the latter state has been more of a go-to option.

It certainly felt that way in the summer when we were denied a World Cup spot by Ukraine, and were then horsed 3-0 in Dublin a few days later.

That was easily the lowest point of Steve Clarke’s reign and the negativity — although extreme — was understandable.

Yet, things are never really as bad as we make them out to be. The reality is normally somewhere in the middle.

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When it comes to not getting carried away with either terrific or horrendous results, my old boss Clarke is a master.

Of course, the summer would have involved a lot of soul-searching, particularly given the manner of the tame collapse against the Republic of Ireland.

However, the Scotland gaffer would have analysed the reasons why it went wrong, and set about making sure the same mistakes are not made again.

After a 4-1 win in Armenia, the superb 3-0 victory over Ukraine in midweek was a start for Clarke in making amends for those June horror shows.


But the manager will know that is all it is — a start.

Looking back, he will realise his players got caught up in the emotion of the situation with Ukraine, and the war that’s raging there at the moment. The bottom line was Ukraine’s players dealt with it much better than us at Hampden in the summer.

We then went from bad to worse by getting roasted in Dublin by an Irish side who were on their knees at the time.

The performance over there was as bad as I have ever seen.

Like the rest of the country, I’m sure the manager didn’t recognise his team.

But coming on the back of a play-off defeat and a long hard season for most, it was understandable as emotionally the squad must have been devastated.

Having worked with Clarke at Kilmarnock, I would have been hugely surprised if he had allowed himself to be undone by Ukraine a second time.

It was vital Scotland put on a performance that got fans back onside. They certainly did that.

It is now imperative they build on Wednesday’s display because it was full of encouraging signs.

The injury to Nathan Patterson was a blow as he has been outstanding this season.

But he was replaced by Aaron Hickey, who was close to being man-of-the-match after coming off the bench.

Like Kieran Tierney and Andy Roberston on the other flank, Hickey and Patterson could push each other for years to come.

But a lot of credit must go to the manager. His side ruthlessly exploited Ukraine, and it could have easily been four or five.

What also helped was he had no major calls in team selection.

Clarke pretty much knew who his starting XI were going to be a fair way out, due to injuries and lack of game-time for some of his players.

He didn’t have the dilemma of whether to start Tierney at wing-back or in central defence.

With captain Robertson out, the Arsenal defender slotted into his favoured left-back role and he thrived.

It enabled him to put an extra man in midfield and there was never any chance of being over-run in the engine room.

All over the pitch Scotland were far superior to Ukraine and there were so many stand-out performances.

John McGinn popped up with another vital goal, using that bum of his to great effect. Fair play to him as he is the only man ever to wear a Scotland jersey who has a bigger backside than me!

Che Adams was brilliant as well. I thought he led the line magnificently without getting on the scoresheet.

It is Sod’s Law that Lyndon Dykes then comes on and helps himself to a quickfire double.

Yet I’m sure he would be the first to admit the workrate and effort of Adams allowed him to come on and take advantage of a tired Ukraine defence.

Dykes has taken a bit of stick in the past, but his scoring record speaks for itself.

The big QPR striker now has more international goals than myself, Charlie Nicholas and Steve Archibald.

I’m delighted for him as there have been people who questioned him when he didn’t initially commit to Scotland over Australia.

I totally understand why he took his time over the decision as it was a huge call.

Clarke deserves credit for his role in that as well. He was the one who was able to talk him into playing for Scotland.

As I have said many times before, he is a brilliant man-manager who can make you feel ten feet tall.

However, he will not be getting carried away before trying to take revenge on Ireland.

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Yes, the win has put us back in the driving seat and the ground will be buzzing as we try to avenge that loss in Dublin.

Ukraine will beat Armenia, so it is vital we don’t slip up ahead of the showdown in Krakow.


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