A couple of months back, after the Liechtenstein match, I had intended to post an update here stating that I now felt there was no chance of Scotland qualifying for the Euros in 2012. After a poor 0-0 draw against Lithuania (a match we needed to win), and then an extremely narrow victory (in the 97th minute!) against Liechtenstein, it really seemed there was no chance.
Still, a win was a win, it was pointed out to me. So, perhaps a little hope could be maintained? And then, all week the radio pundits had been saying that the Czech Republic weren't the force they had been, so maybe...?
Then came the news that our manager had decided to drop our in-form striker and instead go with a relative unknown, in an ultra-defensive 4-2-2-2 formation.
"What is he thinking?" I immediately asked. And then, "well, he's the manager. He must know what he's doing."
Yeah, I was right the first time. One heroic 1-0 defeat later, and we now get the excitement of facing Spain next.
So, yeah, I'm returning to my original prediction: Scotland won't qualify for the Euros in 2012. In fact, we won't qualify for the next World Cup, or the Euros in 2016 either.
So, the question is this: where do we go from here. Unfortunately, the answer is 'nowhere'.
See, it's not the players. This is the best squad of players we've had in more than a decade, and the best squad we're likely to have for more than a decade. As far as the manager is concerned, well, on paper, the four best candidates for the job are Walter Smith, Alex McLeish, George Burley and Craig Levein. Unless we can somehow persuade Sir Alex Ferguson or Martin O'Neill to take the job, we're not going to get anyone better.
So, if we can't improve the players, and we can't improve the manager, what can we do?
My radical solution is this: We should start lobbying for the dissolution of the Scottish national side and the Scottish Leagues, and press for an amalgamation with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Let's have a Team GB, and go from there. It's pretty much the only way we're going to see the finals of any major tournament any time soon.
(Of course, this week one of the English news outlets decided to poison that idea for me, by assembling 'their' Team GB. Naturally, they insisted on starting with the English team, and smugly asking "well, who can then break in from the other nations?" They also proved sublimely blinkered - as we all know, England have massive weaknesses in goal. The one area where Scotland is very gifted is in goalkeepers, where we have at least two world-class keepers. So, of their four choices for keeper, how many were English? Three. And where did the Scottish pick come in their order of preference? Fourth.)
(Still, despite that sort of idiocy, I think it's a good idea, for us at least, and I think it's probably time. Otherwise, we're not going anywhere.)
#76: "Eberron: Secrets of Xen'drik", by Keith Baker, Jason Bulmahn and Amber Scott