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Sep
2013
Friday 13th
posted by Greg Leedham in Sport

Reaching Euro 2016 must be Strachan’s long-term aim after a morale-boosting win over Macedonia, writes Douglas Beattie


It may spring eternal, but hope has not been much associated with the Scotland national team for the majority of this ill-starred stab at World Cup qualification.


They are not going to Brazil, that much we knew long ago, but they may have got going again as a team — the fine win in Macedonia earlier this week strongly suggested as much.


Looking at the Scots lining up for the anthems in Skopje there was quiet determination etched on their faces. Gone was the self-doubt which haunted recent months and crushed the life out of their chances of making it to Rio next summer.


What followed was a studied and steady 90 minutes sprinkled with a little magic. OK, Macedonia are themselves no world beaters, but they are very far from being a poor side.


It’s still early days, but Gordon Strachan has taken his group of players some distance in a short space of time.


Forget the result against Belgium — one of the best sides in the world at this moment. The win away to Croatia and the narrow defeat at Wembley were more instructive.


Hope and belief are not to be taken lightly in this realm, anyone who follows Scotland will tell you that — and some bear the scars going right back to Argentina ’78.


Yet the players and fans seem to have responded to their manager. They know in their hearts he is the right man for the job, someone who is sure-footed and commanding.


That stuff rubs off without doubt. There was no luck involved in the late and typically sumptuous Sean Maloney free-kick which secured the win against Macedonia, but it is just the kind of break that never seemed likely under Craig Levein.   


However the steps which have been made with Strachan in charge are of the baby variety. There are yet acres to cover before we can say telling progress has been made.


The next targets will be making sure they do not finish bottom of Group A, as many doomsayers had predicted. In this regard the Scots’ fate is not entirely in their own hands.


After that we will turn to hope again in the qualifying draw for the European Championships of 2016.


Those finals may seem a long way off, but there is at last now a slight glimmer of sunlight on that French horizon.


With a shallow squad lacking an abundance of real talent and experience we should be extremely cautious of course, but we can — perhaps — begin to think again of brighter days ahead.

 

Scottish sport and boxing would be poorer without braveheart Burns

 

Some fights live in the memory forever and with good reason I suspect this will be the case with the thunderous meeting of Ricky Burns and Raymundo Beltran a week ago in Glasgow.


In the first instance Burns, who was making his fourth defence of his WBO world lightweight title, endured what must have been the incredible pain of fighting on after round 2 with a dislocated jaw.


On top of that there came the jaw-dropping result from the judges who scored the fight as a draw. The Mexican challenger who had dominated for long spells and floored the 30-year-old from Coatbridge was left empty-handed. He was robbed by any objective decision and, no matter how partisan we may feel about a fine Scottish boxer, you have to feel for his opponent.


It took me way back to Jim Watt’s fortunate victory over Sean O’Grady after a clash of heads stopped the Texan at the Kelvin Hall back in 1980.


Burns remains the champ, but was lucky to survive, though with a plate now inserted into his jaw he did so not quite intact.


Sure, he was brave to fight on, but doing so may have heralded the end of an always engrossing career.


We shall find out in the coming weeks, but if that is the case it will be a major blow to Scottish boxing and the sport in general. 

 

Rangers must put house in order or remain moths to the limelight

 

Week in, week out Ibrox remains a headline magnet and for all the wrong reasons. As if the interminable boardroom power games were not enough there’s been an almighty row about the much-respected veteran reporter Jim Spence, who talked about Rangers as “the club that died,” and now the 10-match ban for Ian Black (pictured) after he admitted football gambling offences.


All of the above, not just the high-profile case of the former Hearts midfielder, are yet more black marks against the name of a club which is still in the process of dragging itself from the mire.


As I have said previously Rangers must now put their house in order. Stability in the boardroom is desperately needed to secure their short and medium-term future.


Those in charge also have a duty to make it clear to fans that abusing and intimidating journalists is simply not on — no matter how much they object to the terminology being used.


As for the Black debacle Rangers have backed him to the hilt and — with the rest of the game — will need to work out how make sure he and his fellow pros do not end up in the dock again over such matters.

 




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