After their 5-1 humbling against the USA post-season the last thing the Scotland players needed was another confidence sapping friendly defeat. Fortunately, Craig Levien’s men rallied to the cause and beat an Australian team placed far higher in the FIFA rankings.
Despite going behind to a fine Bresciano strike and losing Alan McGregor to a freak injury early on Scotland battled back to record an impressive 3 – 1 home win and set themselves up nicely for the coming World Cup qualifiers. Jordan Rhodes and Ross McCormack grabbed fine goals either side of a Davidson own goal to secure a rare friendly home win at Easter Road, Edinburgh.
The performance of Jordan Rhodes was particularly pleasing considering it was only his first start in the dark blue. He expertly headed a Danny Fox cross past the Aussie keeper to open his international tally and hastled the defence throughout his game. With Kenny Miller in the twilight of his career and playing in the MLS, Rhodes may be used as Scotland’s main striker, although Jamie Mackie and Craig Mackail Smith may have something to say about that.
Ross McCormack did well to weave into the Australian box then dispatch his goal and there were impressive displays for Danny Fox, Charlie Adam and Alan Hutton. That being said there were some worrying defensive lapses by Scotland against the off-colour Socceroo’s and these mistakes will be more ruthlessly punished in the qualifiers.
After last year’s claims of a Scottish mafia ruling the management class of the English Premier League this year looks less impressive. This has been mainly due to the sacking of Kenny Dalglish (Liverpool) and Alex McLeish (Aston Villa) along with the demotion of Steve Kean (Blackburn) and Owen Coyle (Bolton), and while Steve Clarke has picked a new job at West Brom and Paul Lambert has moved to Aston Villa it leaves Scotland with only 4 English Premier League manager/coach representatives;
Aston Villa – Paul Lambert
Everton – David Moyes
Man United – Alex Ferguson
West Brom – Steve Clark
In regards to players it looks a little healthier than years before although most of the Scots play for teams that shall probably be fighting against relegation in 2012/13. With the transfer window still wide open many some players may move into the EPL while others could drop down to the Championship etc.
Disappointingly, there are no Scots in the top 6 first teams apart from Darren Fletcher who is currently sidelined with a chronic, long-term illness. It is looking likely that Charlie Adam will move away from Anfield and similarly it remains to be seen if Danny Wilson can also remain at Liverpool.
Steven Naismith chose to release himself from the new-co Rangers and secured a contract with Everton while Steven Whittaker did the same with Norwich. As Internationals and with Champions League experience behind them both should cope with the higher level in the Premier League.
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds to Norwich) and Frazer Fyvie (Aberdeen to Wigan) have transferred up a level while Danny Fox and Alex Pearce benefit from promotion. Scottish representation in the league looks like this;
Alan Hutton, Barry Bannan (Aston Villa)
Charlie Adam, Danny Wilson (Liverpool)
Darren Fletcher (Man United)
Danny Fox (Southampton)
Alex Pearce (Reading)
Russell Martin, Steven Whittaker, Robert Snodgrass, Simon Lapin (Norwich City)
Gary Caldwell, Shaun Maloney, James McArthur, Frazer Fyvie (Wigan Athletic)
Graham Dorrans, Scott Allan, James Morrison (West Brom)
Phillip Bardsley (Sunderland)
Jamie Mackie (QPR)
Steven Naismith (Everton)
Christophe Berra and Steven Fletcher are looking to move on from demoted Wolves and should find an EPL club in the coming weeks however Craig Gordon and James McFadden are free agents and it remains to be seen if they can find a club.
Jordan Rhodes has been attracting interest from various EPL clubs after his recent high scoring but he may choose to stay at Huddersfield for another year. Many may argue whether the EPL is better than La Liga or Bundesliga but it is streets ahead of the SPL and the Championship from where most of the Scottish national team has previously been chosen.
Although we have no superstars akin to Greame Souness, Kenny Dalglish or Gordon Strachan anymore (or even any John Collins, Ally McCoists, Craig Burleys or Paul Lamberts) any greater EPL influence should benefit the national team.
Like many Scottish fans I still have my doubts about coach/manager Craig Levein. His handling of the recent Ian Black/Lee Wallace controversy has not been handled well and his relationship with tabloid media is beginning to sour.
The Levein/Houston partnership has not borne much success so far and with such a hard qualifying group (Group A: Croatia, Serbia, Belgium, SCOTLAND, Macedonia, Wales) I fear that this pair are not up to the task.
I hope I am proved wrong and pleasantly surprised.