Scottish sports comment: Gordon Strachan hardly enters the lion’s den when he takes charge of Scotland for the first time at Pittodrie tomorrow evening in a friendly against the minnows of Estonia.
Still, a most precious commodity in sport is momentum. Traction sets tone and mood, and was something Strachan’s predecessor Craig Levein simply never had while in post.
The Tartan Army will expect a good start against what are considered relatively weak opponents, though this group of players from the shores of the Baltic Sea are no mugs having been together a long time. The Scots would do well to be on their guard for their boss surely will be.
Strachan knows all about the perils of sticky starts having recovered admirably from his “worst football night” when his first game as Celtic boss ended in a 5-0 hammering at the hands of the almost unknown Artmedia Bratislava back in 2005.
That was his most high-profile appointment to date, but he is someone who has been in the public eye almost constantly since his talents blossomed with Dundee and the great Aberdeen side of the 1980s.
He was Alex Ferguson’s wing wizard first at the Granite City then at Old Trafford. Throughout he starred in dark blue, memorably scoring a fine goal against West Germany at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986.
At the age of 40, at the close of an extended playing career, he moved seamlessly into management and then punditry where his off-beat and sometimes spiky character shone through.
Sure, Strachan will need a thick skin for his current job — Levein would be the first to tell him that — but he’s been wise enough to surround himself with men of pedigree.
His assistant and close friend Mark McGhee played alongside him at Aberdeen before turning out for Hamburg and Celtic among others. Then there is the Motherwell manager Stuart McCall, who remains a darling of the Rangers’ support.
Bringing him in is a clever move reminiscent of Walter Smith appointing Tommy Burns to work together with Ally McCoist when he was in charge of the national side.
Perhaps then the new boss is making his own luck, but time will tell. He’s said he will give World Cup qualification “a go,” but in truth the matches will be used to fine-tune things for the coming European Championship campaign, with a bumper crop of 24 teams going to the finals in France three years from now.
There’s not been a time in the last four decades when the Scottish public were so starved of watching their side compete in a major competition. No pressure then, Gordon.
It wasn't like old times at all when Ally McCoist took his men to Tannadice to face Dundee United at the weekend. The Tayside crowd made that crystal clear by singing: “You’re not Rangers any more.”
This was a stinging reference both to the visitors’ inability to compete with United — in a match the Govan side lost 3-0 — plus the difficulties which ended in liquidation and the formation of a newco.
Rangers had no-one to blame but themselves for the result. Too often they looked like what they are — a side from outwith the SPL.
Nor were they helped by their army of supporters who had refused to turn up in an ugly dispute over past ticketing issues and what they view — to put it mildly — as the unhelpful attitude of some clubs over their proposed re-entry to the SPL last summer.
While Light Blues fans absolutely have the right to stage a boycott, I’m not convinced it was wise of the club to officially sanction such a course of action.
Saturday’s events did nothing to clear up the bad blood with United. It also sent the wrong signal to the rest of Scottish football against the backdrop of the battle against HMRC which seems set to run and run.
But let this be an end to the pettiness. Rangers need their fans home and away and, despite the enormous hurt caused by administration almost exactly a year ago, they will be unable to move on if they remain intent on clinging to past disputes.
A Scotland win at Twickenham never really looked likely during their 38-18 loss to the “Auld Enemy.”
Interim coach Scott Johnson was frank enough to admit they had “made things too easy” for England and he will now have to redouble his efforts to get the fundamentals right before Italy arrive at Murrayfield this coming weekend.
The good news is that game provides the immediate opportunity to put the Twickenham result behind them and get back into the Six Nations. This will be no easy feat, however, as the Italians — once the whipping boys — have already sprung a major surprise in taking care of France.
As a natural optimist Johnson will also conclude that far better Scottish sides have had their hopes shredded in south London, and note that his charges were ahead in the game early on, in contention at half-time, and scored not one but two tries.
Things could have been much worse, but they must also get a whole lot better.
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