WATCHING Scotland is generally tough and this week was no exception.

However, as I’ve said on many occasions, the main thing in football is the result rather than the performance, so winning both matches certainly achieved that desired outcome for us all.

Having said that, it was painful viewing with the defending and football played in both first halves being so poor that it’s very hard to see how we can be too positive about our chances of making it through the play-offs – if we get there.

Fortunately, the second-half performances in both games were a big improvement. It’s hard to understand why this was the situation in both games.

We were fortunate to win both matches and it was certainly really exciting to score late winners when it didn’t look likely. Neither winning goal was of any quality but it was just so relieving to get them that you actually don’t care how they went in.

The result is everything for us as it’s so important that we can be a position where we don’t need to gain anything from our last group match against Denmark. If we still do need something, then that would be a real concern.

This is my worry for us going into the play-offs as the level of performance needs to go up a notch because we’ll be facing better opposition.

If we make it to the qualifying stage now, as expected, I’m sure Steve Clarke must be fully aware of the improvement that’s required for us to compete against teams of a higher level and getting the line-up and the system right is certainly crucial to this happening.

I think he’s getting closer to having a consistent team selection with the likes of Craig Gordon, Grant Hanley, Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney, John McGinn, Billy Gilmour, Scott McTominay and Lyndon Dykes all appear to be nailed on.

This essentially leaves three positions up for grabs but at least we do have real strength in midfield.

However, I still worry about centre-back and striker as I don’t think we currently have genuine quality available for these positions. Despite his goals of late, I don’t think that Dykes is a top international player and I’d choose Che Adams ahead of him if I was playing with one up front.

I felt that McTominay would fit well into the back-three system but was very disappointed with his display against Israel and I believe that’s why Clarke had him back in the midfield for the Faroe Islands match.

I think he’s chosen on a regular basis because he’s playing for a massive club in one of the top European leagues. So despite the quality of Callum McGregor, Kenny McLean, Stuart Armstrong and David Turnbull, he’s seen by Clarke as a mainstay of the team.

I’m delighted to see that Gilmour and Nathan Patterson are being considered for the team as both are exceptional young talents. For regular club matches Gilmour has had to go and play with a struggling Premier League club, Norwich City, but he’s been outstanding for Scotland and I thought he was definitely our best player against the Faroes.

Patterson didn’t start the match but after coming on as a sub, he made his presence tell by laying on the winning goal with an excellent cross. This is the standard that’s required, and I feel that if Clarke can get a settled first-choice line-up that he can depend upon to produce the required level of performance then this will put us in a stronger position to finally qualify for a World Cup.

However, maybe I’m looking for too much of an improvement in how we’re performing and the current scenario might become a continuous event that all the Scotland fans are happy to accept. That is, we play badly but still manage to win. We’d certainly welcome that when you consider all the times in the past when we’ve lost crucial games despite playing really well.


Who is the world’s best player is still the biggest ongoing debate in football. Both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have massive support and I’ve heard many arguments from people at a high level in the game, players and coaches, putting forward very strong cases as to who should be regarded as the top man.

I personally feel that Messi is the most naturally talented but I have considerable admiration for Ronaldo as I believe he has extended his ability beyond the natural level with dedication and considerable endeavour. In the last week he’s also become the most capped player of all-time with 182 appearances for Portugal. That’s pretty incredible and when you consider that he’s also the highest all-time scorer at international level with 115 goals, then you can’t deny that he falls into a category above and beyond legendary.