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'Anyone But England': A Scottish Football Writer's Gloomy Take On Scotland Missing Euro 2016

'Anyone But England': A Scottish Football Writer's Gloomy Take On Scotland Missing Euro 2016
By Conor Neville Updated

Despite high hopes in mid-summer, Scotland's qualification campaign went the way of every other such campaign this century.

This latest failure is all the more galling considering the surprising success of some of their nearest neighbours and the more generous qualification criteria that applied this time around.

We spoke to the Daily Record football writer Keith Jackson about the bleak mood within Scottish football circles since the close of Euro 2016 qualifying.

Complete and utter despair would be one way of summing it up. There's probably an element of embarrassment as well. Everybody is going to this one and we're not. All our nearest and dearest neighbours will be there and we'll be out in the back garden throwing a frisbee at ourselves.

Rampant despair at the relentless stream of near misses (and sometimes not so near misses) in qualifying stretching back to Euro 2000 has blinded many to the positives of Scotland's latest qualification effort.

But there are positives, as Irish supporters should know.

Over the two games against Ireland, the Scots looked significantly the better side. Ireland were outclassed in Glasgow and, at best, broke even in Dublin. 

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There's no question that Scotland are progressing under Gordon Strachan. We're a far better side than we were two years ago when he picked us up out of the gutter a couple of years ago after Craig Levein had left. We are getting better. We're a better team. We're better to watch. We play nice football. We're capable of scoring some good goals. Yes, we've got problems defensively. Everybody's crying out for a world class player which we don't have. Everybody is miserable that we're not going but the general consensus is that we're on the road to somewhere...

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The success of the 'nearest and dearest neighbours' is tough to stomach. But pessimistic Scottish supporters should be reminded that both Scotland and Ireland were landed in a horrible group.

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It was a nightmare of a group wasn't it? I mean, that's the other thing. We're beating ourselves up here but if you do look across Europe there were some groups there that I think both Ireland and Scotland would have fancied their chances of coasting through.

And the big question. The one that has embroiled Andy Murray and numerous other famous Scots in needless trouble since France '98. Who'll he be supporting in the Euros? Jackson doesn't hesitate.

I'm happy to see... look there's one phrase, 'anyone but England' (laughs). But seriously, obviously very excited to see how you guys get on. Really excited to see how the Welsh get on. I think they could be a great story. But it really sticks in Scottish throats that we'll be sitting on our hands there watching all our neighbours, all you guys. So, I think jealousy may prevent me from supporting anybody!

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As for the neighbours' prospects, Jackson fancies the Welsh to really do something, reckons England will do 'all-right' but definitely won't win it, and that Northern Ireland have done well just to get there.

What about the Republic? Like many others, Jackson isn't besotted with the style of play but acknowledges that Martin O'Neill knows how to get the job done. And he regards Seamus Coleman as the best right back anywhere in Britain or Ireland.

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Between 1974 and 1998, Scotland were the kings of the qualifying phase. In that period, they only missed out on one World Cup (USA 94). England, by contrast, missed out on three ('74, '78, '94) and the Scots were easily the best of the UK sides in the 1970s.

How have they fallen this far and what can be done to arrest the slide?

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Jackson says that Strachan and Brian McClair are determined to reform the underage structures in Scotland. Proposals are set to be unveiled in the coming weeks. This should interest those involved in underage football in this country. Ireland may have just qualified for the Euros but we are beset with many of the same player development problems that dog Scotland. There could be much to learn.

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Read more: Balls Remembers The Night Scotland Went 'Beyond The Call Of Duty' To Help Out Ireland

Read more: The Gary Mackay Hall Of Fame

 

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