Monday, March 24, 2014
Scottish Premier League News March 2014
by Lisa Dillon
The resurgence of fortunes within the Scottish national team continued with a friendly win over Poland in an interesting prelude to the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. The teams will come up against one another in October in a competitive qualifier, but manager Gordon Strachan dismissed the suggestion that the 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Scott Brown goal, was a psychological advantage.
"It meant absolutely nothing, because there will be changes," said Strachan. "These two teams won't be the same. But what it does, for the next couple of months, is give us confidence." Scotland's next friendly is likely to be at Fulham's Craven Cottage in May, with Nigeria having invited Strachan's side to play them in London.
The win over Poland was Scotland's third successive away win, and they have gone five matches unbeaten, the past four without conceding a goal.
"That's good and it's not easy to do that," said Strachan, though, somewhat typically, he was not getting carried away with the improvements he has seen since taking over the helm from Craig Levein.
"It wasn't a great game. I don't think you could expect anything other than that at this time of the season in a friendly. It gave us a chance to have a look at them and vice versa, but we got some bonuses."
Strachan also used the game to assess debutant Andrew Robertson. The 19-year-old Dundee United left-back came on as a second-half substitute just a year to the day after playing for amateurs Queen's Park in a victory over Elgin City in Scotland's lowest tier.
"I thought it didn't faze him and that adds to our squad. If he can keep up his performances then there's no reason why he shouldn't be in the next one," Strachan said.
But the manager reserved most praise for captain Brown, whose powerful finish from the edge of the box followed up his winner in the previous friendly in Norway. "He has been fantastic," enthused the Scotland boss. "We're looking to be more potent in attack. We need to work at that, that's for sure, but we're hopeful of having players over the next six months who will add to that." .
Virgil van Dijk's agent has suggest that the Dutch defender is likely to head to the English Premierhip this summer, a move that may be prompted by the 22-year-old's failure to earn international recognition while in Glasgow.
The defender has been one of Celtic’s most consistent performers this season and there was some surprise when he was omitted from the Dutch provisional squad for this summer’s World Cup finals.
"I'm surprised because I think he's good enough to be in the provisional squad of 33,” said Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager. "I don't know why he didn’t make it. You'd have to ask the coach of Holland about that."
Van Dijk has been linked with Arsenal, Manchester City and Manchester United after impressing in his first season with Celtic, having joined from Groningen last summer. "He's played very well and been very consistent domestically and he was superb at the highest level in the Champions League," said Lennon. "He is only 22, so he's got a lot of scope to be even better."
Van Dijk was a replacement for Kelvin Wilson, who moved to Nottingham Forest, and Lennon admitted that the Dutchman had exceeded his expectations.
"We knew we had a good player having seen him and then looked at him in pre-season, but it's his temperament you don't know about beforehand - he's got a fantastic attitude to the game as well," said the manager.
"Kelvin was an excellent player here and had a big bearing on the Champions League last year - he had some great games. We felt it might take a little time to replace him, but Virgil's been a very good fit."
Lennon stressed that Van Dijk, who has represented his country at under-21 level, should not dwell on missing out on Dutch coach Louis van Gaal's initial squad.
"He’s what you what you want in the modern-day centre-half. He's big, he's got great timing in the air, tactically proficient with both feet, he's got good pace and reads the game very well." Meanwhile, Lennon has admitted that the tantalising possibility of Celtic playing in England is one that he has given thought to. There is always an issue of Scottish clubs playing in the Premiership, but it is doubtful whether or not it will ever come to fruition. Lennon, though, has revealed his perfect future would be to manage Celtic south of the border.
"The ideal scenario for me would be to manage Celtic in the Premier League but whether that will ever happen or not I don't know," said the Hoops boss. "Maybe one day it will happen but at the minute we are content to keep going as we are."
“There are always moves behind the scenes but there are always buffers in the way. It's just a nice thought. We all harbour ambitions to better ourselves and I'm no different from anyone else but I've got a big job on my hands at the minute.
"European football and winning championships is the driving force behind us. Can we get to play in what would be perceived to be a better environment for the club?
Ibrox boss Ally McCoist has once again found himself shying away from public queries about the financial state of Rangers. Yet another war of words has broken out between former director Dave King and the current Rangers board over the financial running of the beleaguered Glasgow club.
King called on Rangers fans not to renew their season tickets, a move which irked chairman David Somers, who accused the prospective investor of 'attempting to destabilise the club'.
The South Africa-based businessman has now agreed to meet Somers, and other members of the Rangers board, but when asked how he felt the showdown talks would go, McCoist was reluctant to voice a public opinion. "I don't have to pay attention to that," he said. "What I pay attention to at the moment is the football team," he said. "Matches, games, results... that's my job as a football manager. "Everything else will look after itself. I'm not saying it's secondary but everything else will look after itself. Our boys have been doing particularly well in terms of results."
When pushed on the imminent arrival of King in Scotland, he replied: "I think Dave King said 'Ally McCoist was doing the right thing by actually talking about the football'. "So is the chief executive and the board. So if all parties are quite happy with me talking about the football, which indeed I am, I think I will continue to talk about the football. "The last two years have been what they've been. I don't get frustrated, I just have a job to do."