In his latest column, Sky Sports pundit Andy Walker reflects on a historic international break for Scotland after their dramatic Euro 2020 qualification.
Like everyone else in Scotland, I have found it to be an absolute joy to watch Scotland qualify for a major international tournament for the first time since the World Cup in France, 22 long years ago.
No Scotland, no party has been our anthem for far too long, but we’ll be involved in Euro 2020 and I pray that our fans will be able to see it all then. They truly deserve one big party!
Scotland’s memorable Nations League win on penalties over Serbia after a 1-1 draw was a rollercoaster of emotions. We scored a wonderful goal thanks to the link up play of Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie.
To then lose a last-minute equaliser was agonising and I felt we were looking at yet another glorious failure.
But, if nothing else, there is a spirit, determination and belief in this Scotland squad. We scored every pressure penalty and eventually smothered David Marshall with tears of joy after his unforgettable save from Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic to give us the win in the most dramatic of circumstances.
I must admit I haven’t seen a better interview than the one conducted by Sky Sports’ Luke Shanley when he spoke to Christie after the game. It will live long in the memory for sheer, raw emotion and for summing up what it means to be successful in a Scotland shirt.
How the lower leagues helped Scotland to victory
In the build-up to the game, I mentioned how confident we should be knowing that we could call upon players from Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Aston Villa, as well as Celtic and Rangers.
But we shouldn’t forget the path some of our players have been on and the role that less-fashionable Scottish clubs have played in their careers. These clubs are important and should be proud of the part they’ve played in helping the national team qualify for a major tournament.
Andy Robertson’s story is well known. Rejected by Celtic, he found himself at amateur club Queen’s Park and played more than 40 games in Scottish League Two before moving to Dundee United, Hull City and enjoying the remarkable success he’s now having at Liverpool.
Stephen O’Donnell must have wondered where his career was going last summer. He had already played for Scotland while a Kilmarnock player but when available on a free transfer, there were few takers. Motherwell eventually gave him the platform to continue in Scotland’s top flight but previously, O’Donnell had played 71 games for Partick Thistle in Scottish League One.
John McGinn played 89 games in the Scottish Championship for Hibernian. When he was starring for the same club in the Scottish Premiership, Brendan Rodgers wanted to take him to Celtic.
However, one or two dissenting voices in the boardroom apparently knew better and he quickly moved to Aston Villa. It’s to his credit that he’s as influential for Villa in the Premier League as he was in the Championship for them. He meets every challenge head on.
Declan Gallagher played 222 games for Stranraer, Clyde, Dundee and Livingston in all three lower leagues before getting a move to Motherwell and starring for Scotland. Mitrovic was a real threat for Serbia but Gallagher gave him practically nothing in 120 minutes.
Our No 1 striker, Lyndon Dykes, played 136 games for Queen of the South in the Scottish Championship before Livingston took a chance on him. Plenty of Scottish Premiership scouts have misjudged his ability to play at a higher level and he now finds himself at QPR. Dykes has been magnificent for Steve Clarke and Scotland.
The best moments in Leigh Griffiths’ career came when he scored two stunning free-kicks past Joe Hart at Hampden against England, but we shouldn’t forget he played 117 games in the Scottish Championship for both Livingston and Dundee.
Like so many of his Scotland team-mates, he’s earned his shot on the big stage. If he gets fully focused and tuned in to what Clarke wants from him, he could emulate the goals he has scored for Celtic on the big occasions both domestically and in Europe.
Scott McKenna has recently moved from Aberdeen to Nottingham Forrest but he played 30 games in the Scottish Championship and Scottish League One for Alloa and Ayr Utd.
Midfielder Kenny McLean has starred for Norwich City at Old Trafford and Anfield but he also turned out 23 times in Scottish League Two with Arbroath when he moved there on loan from St Mirren.
Lawrence Shankland has also tasted international football but he’ll be the first to realise it’s a far cry from the time he has spent in the lower leagues with Queens Park, Dunfermline, St Mirren, Morton, Ayr Utd and Dundee United.
A word too for Oli McBurnie. The whole of Scotland would have held their breath when they saw him step up to take a penalty. Everyone thought he would miss. He put himself in that situation and handled the pressure brilliantly, scoring a hugely important goal for his country.
I have consistently listened to ill-informed, non-observers of the Scottish game that Scotland is a graveyard for footballers and that the standard is awful.
They have no idea what they’re talking about.
We don’t get everything right but the truth is we provide a platform for plenty of footballers to improve their game. If they really want to succeed there’s a pathway to go to bigger, more competitive leagues and be a success for club and country.
Help us to become independent in PANDEMIC COVID-19. Contribute to diligent Authors.
If you registered an account, please enter your details below to login. If this is your first time, proceed to the donation form.