WE'VE been treated to a really great week by Steve Clarke and his international team. I’ve been saying prior to these matches that the game against Moldova was the crucial fixture and I still believe it was. This was the key to us being in the play-offs regardless of how things would go against group leaders Denmark in the final match.

It was the result that mattered because I do believe we went into the Denmark game with a much more relaxed attitude because we were already through to the play-offs. This gave us the momentum to approach the game with a view to playing our style of football without worrying about the consequences of losing.

It was an outstanding victory against a team who have proved to be very imposing for a few years now and were cruising to World Cup qualification from the early stages of the group matches.

However, it was more than just the result that made this a landmark match for me. The performance was also outstanding and this proves that Clarke has been a first-class appointment, giving us a real measure of confidence that we are beginning to develop into a formidable and competitive international unit and the best we’ve had for some time.

He’s getting good competition for team places now and that’s an essential component in having a strong international side. Craig Gordon has been outstanding so let’s hope he’s still playing at the top level for the foreseeable future should we make it to Qatar.

Being able to bring in the likes of Nathan Patterson, Ryan Porteous, John Souttar, Scott McKenna and Anthony Ralston to bolster the defensive options has been a major bonus as this was an area where we lacked suitable alternatives.

The midfield was always our strongest section but there’s no question that John McGinn, Billy Gilmour and Callum McGregor now appear to be first-choice picks. They were outstanding in both games and appear to have formed a great relationship. They are all so comfortable in possession and combine well with each other, in addition to help protecting the defence when the opposition are in possession.

When you consider that six excellent players in Scott McTominay, Ryan Christie, Stuart Armstrong, David Turnbull, Kenny McLean and James Forrest might not play at all or need to be fitted into other positions, this gives an indication of the quality Scotland now have in midfield.

Striker has been a problem for a while with the downfall of Leigh Griffiths being a major blow to our requirements. Clarke has worked hard to determine who is available and has the necessary quality to fit into our structure. He has done reasonably well by considering Lyndon Dykes, Che Adams and Kevin Nisbet, although I still don’t consider any of them to be a top class international striker. I have made the point before that Adams, in my opinion, is the best and I believe his performance against Denmark was his finest. His goal was first class but I felt that, even taking into account the match against Moldova, he misses good chances. Maybe he will improve that side of his game but in terms of work rate and running power, I do think he has something positive to offer.

I thought we might see Jacob Brown some time during either match but he wasn’t introduced, so we can’t make any judgment on whether he can challenge for the striker role in the play-off match or hopefully, matches.

Clarke certainly deserves the credit that will come with producing six wins a row as this has seldom been achieved. He got us to the Euro finals and now we could finally be back at the World Cup finals. There’s a great positivity in the Scottish game due to these results and let’s hope that can continue with the Europa League campaigns of Celtic and Rangers.


It was sad this week to learn about the death of Celtic legend Bertie Auld. I was a great admirer of him as a player and having been in his company quite a few times, also his personality. He was a real character and was always trying to bring humour to every subject that came up in conversation.

I played against him for Kilmarnock reserves when I was a 16-year-old and he was with Hibernian. I was thoroughly impressed by how skilful and clever he was as a midfielder. He totally ran the game without moving much out of the centre circle and I couldn’t get near him. He was in the final chapter of his playing career but it came home to me that day why he was a successful player and what an asset he must have been to the great Celtic team of 67.

Rest in peace Bertie.