FOR US IN KOREA
Unbeaten in eight qualifying matches and
not even a sniff of a play-off place for next year's World
Cup. Unthinkable? Not if you're a Scotland supporter.
For that is precisely the scenario which Craig Brown's
side faces with just three games to play.
The leading three in the qualifying group - Belgium, Croatia
and Scotland have drawn all their games against each other
and beaten the two minnows Latvia and San Marino.
Should that sequence continue then goal difference will determine
who goes to Japan/South Korea, who goes into the play-offs
and who stays behind on Barassie/Ostend/Split Beach.
Of course if the Scots had been able to defend
a two goal lead against ten men at home then things would
be looking a lot rosier. But the points dropped at Hampden
against Belgium cancelled out the one gained in Zagreb
and , as it stands, Scotland have the worst goal difference
of the trio, miles behind Belgium, just one worse than Croatia.
But the Croats have a game against San Marino to boost that
So it could go right down to the wire. (When
was it ever different? In qualifying for Italia 90
Scotland needed just one point from three to play and got
it in the last match.) One thing in Scotland's favour is that
our last game is at home to Latvia (exactly the same as
in qualifying for France in 1998). while our two main
rivals face each other with victory likely to mean a group
win and automatic qualification. In such a scenario we could
grab second place.
That would mean a play-off and a possible tie
with England. The opportunity for revenge. Revenge
for the Euro 2000 play-offs, revenge for Euro 96, revenge
for Flodden/Culloden/18 years of Thatcherism/ Skinner &
Baddiel etc etc etc.But given the way England are playing
under Eriksson maybe that's not such an inviting prospect.
In any case how are we going to put fire into the Tartan Army's
bellies if we have to sing:
"Que sera, sera, whatever will be will be
We're going to Cardiff/Old Trafford/Newcastle/Villa Park/Pride
Just not the same is it?
There is another way. Scotland could just surprise
us all and defeat Croatia at Hampden then beat Belgium in
Brussels, thus guaranteeing us a place in the Finals.
But the next time you pay a courtesy visit to either of Messrs.
Hill, Ladbroke or Coral, don't worry about having to avoid
a stampede of optimistic punters shoving the mortgage on such
Supporting Scotland. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.
Plus ca change and all that.
YOU THINK OF IT SO FAR?
Let's have a quick review of the Scottish domestic season
An excellent start. Larsson in fine form again.
Sutton scoring goals. Five wins and a draw. Going to be
hard to beat. One drawback - the thuggish Hartson has
yet to score
Unbeaten domestically but almost in crisis! Four points behind
Celtic, they can't afford to lose the first Old Firm
match at Ibrox at the end of September.
Seem to have got over the loss of Colin Cameron quite
well. But every single player knows he's available for transfer
(which might be a boost to individual form). Lack of ambition
may be a problem as the season unfolds.
Surprise packets thus far. A mean defence a major plus. But
only scored in two of six games. Surely can't stay as high
in the table.
Already faced both the Old Firm. Will surely climb higher
in the coming weeks and months. Unless Alex McLeish
fancies the Scotland job.
Not a bad start considering they've had four away matches
out of six played. Will look to continue improving when Durrant
and Dargo return from injury.
No longer the surprise they were last season. Home form fine
but struggling on their travels. Should be thereabouts when
the League splits.
Alex Smith has assembled a team of 'reformed' characters.
Much better than last season and a good chance of the top
Recent revival has helped Ebbe Skovdahl's job prospects.
Too early to say if its permanent. Still relying on loan signings
like the wonderfully named Dadi. Ben Thornley
is a major improvement to the side though.
False optimism engendered by opening two wins (against worst
sides in the League). Brought down to earth with four losses
on the trot. Home form the key to survival.
No wins. No money. Poor discipline. A long hard season ahead.
The game at McDiarmid Park on Sep 29th looks like a
This website's forecast for the drop before a ball was kicked.
Experience of Willie Falconer and Darren Jackson
will help but doubtful if they'll last a full season. Return
of Keigan Parker will be a bonus but need points from
next two at home (Livingston and Motherwell).
Outside the Premier there have been fine if unexpected starts
in the First Division for both Partick Thistle
and Airdrie. Both surprises given that Thistle have
just been promoted and Airdrie didn't even have any players
signed shortly before the start of the season.
Its important that whoever wins this division meets the SPL
requirements of 10,000 covered seats. Perennial contenders
Ayr and Falkirk are nowhere near this. Apart
from the Jags and the Diamonds, only St Mirren
and Raith Rovers fit the bill. With the SPL ruling
out ground sharing, this is effectively a four team League.
If one of the others wins, there will be no relegation from
Ross County and Arbroath already look like
the bottom spots are made for them. Both Clyde and
Inverness Caley Thistle have made decent starts but
need a lot of work to being their ground up to SPL standards.
Clydebank's ownership problems look to have been resolved.
They top the Second Division. OK, they've got a team,
they've got a Board. All they need now is a ground.
Hamilton have a ground - a new one. The stupidly named
Ballast Stadium (What is it with Lanarkshire sides?
Airdrie called their new ground the Shyberry Excelsior before
they saw sense and renamed it New Broomfield) has been
attracting crowds of over 2,000 and Accies are well placed
to make it two promotions in a row.
This division is shaping up to be as tight as ever. There's
a 40% turnover each season. But promoted Cowdenbeath
are struggling as are Berwick, who almost went up last
In the Third Division, Brechin City have the
only 100% record in Britain with Stirling looking to
prove they're too good for this level. Elgin are much
improved from their first season but it may be too soon to
talk about promotion.
Lurking at the bottom surprisingly are East Fife and