On these pages you will find we always look for the positives because there’s enough misery in the world right now. Sometimes that task is harder than others.
Thursday night’s Playoff Final win is so bursting with positivity that I just had to write it all down (for context I awoke at 4am with a compulsion to write this):
GK - David Marshall
The player with a longer Scotland career than anyone else, and his experience showed. Our penalty hero against Israel, he did it again, saving low to his left to deny Aleksandar Mitrović in the shoot-out. A professional to the last moment, he waited for permission from the ref to celebrate. Please sir, may I boogie? Yes Marsh, you may boogie.
LCB – Kieran Tierney
“BuT tIeRnEy AnD rObBo CaN’t PlAy ToGeThEr…” Kieran made a mockery of that lazy assertion, slotting in perfectly into the left hand side of Scotland’s back three. Funnily enough, that’s exactly the role he’s been excelling in for Arteta’s Arsenal.
CB – Declan Gallagher
Let’s step back for a moment. A *Motherwell* centre back kept the Leeds United Captain in the English Premier League out of the Scotland side. Declan’s Scotland career is six caps old – four wins and two draws that became wins through penalty shootouts. The Motherwell Maldini didn’t give Mitrovic a sniff.
RCB - Scott McTominay
With Scott’s accent, eyebrows were raised when he joined the Scotland squad under Alex McLeish. Those eyebrows raised further when he was asked to play in an unfamiliar centre back role. Any lingering doubts are gone. He’s grown in confidence with every game and his celebrations after full time show exactly what playing for Scotland means to him. A Rolls Royce of a player.
LWB – Andy Robertson
Oh captain, my captain. One of the best Scotland performances from Andy. He led by example all game. As a World, European and Premier League Champion he drives the highest standards from those around him. Despite all that success, his tears post-match show exactly where a wet night in Belgrade ranks in his career achievements.
RWB – Stephen O’Donnell
Stephen has had a tough road in his Scotland career. Criticised for a couple of shaky early caps, he deserves all the credit for several excellent performances in a row. What is so pleasing is how the attacking side of his game has developed. Christie’s goal only comes because of the shanked clearance from the edge of Serbia’s box – forced by O’Donnell’s high press.
CM – Ryan Jack
Jack’s role on Thursday wasn’t flashy or showy, most would struggle to remember any stand-out moments. For me, that’s vindication for the job he did. He gave the midfield balance, filled gaps, kept the ball moving. A classy performance.
CM – Callum McGregor
In 2019, a study showed that Callum had played more minutes of football than any football player in the world. He ran and pressed and ran some more for 120 minutes. What an engine this man has, more machine than man. Set up Christie for the goal, this has to be his best Scotland performance in his 25th cap. Another who silenced some nay-sayers on Thursday.
CM – John McGinn
The exponential career trajectory of this young man. From St Mirren to Hibs and a Scottish Cup Winners medal. To the English Championship then Premier League with Aston Villa. Every move a step-up, every step confidently taken. How many times did McGinn win the ball high up the field? A quite sensational performance.
CF – Ryan Christie
Even typing this is going to be hard without welling up. To think had Ryan Fraser been fit, Christie would likely have had to settle for a place on the bench. He grabbed his opportunity with both hands. Scored his goal from a quite ludicrous angle and could have made it 2-0 shortly after. Had to endure extra time and the shoot-out like every fan from the sideline. His outpouring of emotion after full-time broke the hearts of a nation. He feels how we all do. Social distance permitting we’d all love to give him a hug!
CF – Lyndon Dykes
A colossus. A frankly ludicrous performance from the Australian born hitman. Did he lose a single ball in the air? Last year, Scotland fans watched as our defenders were rag-dolled by Artem Dzyuba. Now we have one of our own.
Dykes brings an attitude of Antipodean excellence to the side. When he was first called up, he spoke of wanting to be Scotland’s record goal-scorer. That unshakeable self-belief is alien to Scottish football fans. On this form, would you bet against him? His post-match smile could light up a country.
Sub1 – Oli McBurnie
Another who has taken more than his fair share of social media slings and arrows. The beard was gone but the socks were still low. He wasn’t able to hold the ball up like Lyndon, but when it mattered, he stepped up and sent his penalty home with ice-cool nerves. One day, Scotland fans will love him. We’re moving in the right direction.
Sub2 – Kenny McLean
The mayor. The scorer of our winning penalty against Israel repeated the trick. Nervelessly slotting home in the shootout. Only 15 caps but two of the most iconic moments in recent Scotland history. Efficient.
Sub3 – Callum Paterson
Mr Versatility. Came on up front then slotted in at right back after Griffiths came on. That versatility could make him a tempting wildcard for Steve Clarke’s Euro 2020 squad.
Sub4 – Leigh Griffiths
Did he even touch the ball after coming on? How much football has he had recently? How much criticism does he take on social media or in the media? Did any of that weigh on his shoulders as he strode up to take the first penalty? Did it hell…
Manager – Steve Clarke
A word for the man at the top. He inherited a side woefully short of self-belief. He has turned them into a team that brushes off a last-minute equaliser, regroups and wins a second high-stakes penalty shootout in a row.
He showed unshakeable belief in the three at the back system he had chosen, despite the howls from some fans and commentators. His side is now built in his image, with incredible mental strength.
Last year, after watching his side capitulate in Moscow, he spoke of how that result and performance had to be the “lowest of the low”. Nine game on, nine games unbeaten and qualification for Euro 2020 is secured. Arise, Sir Steve.
We're Boogie-ing to Euro 2020
While I could write for days on this, I’ll close with this thought.
How likeable is this group of players? After full-time, my adrenaline levels meant there was no chance of sleep. This meant staying up until 4am scrolling social media and drinking in the photos and videos from fans around the world and inside the dressing room & back at the team hotel.
Teams that boogie together, win together and we can all now follow a David Marshall conga line to Euro 2020!