Photo: Media Team members Sam Jenkinson & Lee Penman with Scotland Manager Strachan and Steven Naismith.

“We’ll need to be ready for anything that comes at us.”

He won’t admit it, but Gordon Strachan will go into this evening’s game in Tblisi knowing a win will put his side in a great position to qualify for their first major tournament since 1998.

The Aberdeen legend had only just completed his first full season in management before France ’98, and was put in a similar situation two years ago when he took his first international management job.

But his relative inexperience has not shown throughout his first full qualifying campaign, with a new, youthful, exciting side rejuvenating the team and reigniting the country’s passion for international football. 

Strachan is enjoying the job and change in scene, but admits he misses some aspects of the more day-to-day responsibilities of club management -

“The thing I miss about club management is going to training every day and watching good players play football. When I left Celtic, that’s what I missed the most, seeing top, top professionals train. It was like going to a great football match every single day, and it didn’t cost me anything.

“I miss the banter of the squad, because I still behave like a teammate rather than a manager!”

Strachan has brought a direct attacking style to the team, with Ikechi Anya, Andy Robertson, Shaun Maloney and Steven Naismith all flourishing in recent games. With the youthful aspect of the squad being so prevalent, the manager has been delighted to be able to welcome Craig Gordon back into contention after his long injury layoff and an outstanding first season at Celtic. 

The manager was full of praise for the 43-times capped goalkeeper:

“It says a lot about him. At times, everybody looks for help in life from other people, and sometimes it just happens that you can’t get back because the injuries that bad. What he did was pushed himself to the limit, asking himself can he get back, where it could have been easy enough to say I’ve pushed myself too hard, the pain’s too much, the disappointment’s too much. 

“It’s entirely up to yourself where you go in life and what you can achieve if you put your mind to it, and that’s what Craig has done.”

Of course, the national team manager is no stranger to the Lowland League and particularly Spartans. He grew up minutes away from Ainslie Park and is full of praise for BSC’s level of football and it’s true community roots.

“It’s huge for clubs like BSC, and Spartans, to be a part of the community. It’s great because parents come along, and then they get involved with the clubs, playing 5 a sides or coaching, just from coming along and watching their boys play.”

“It really changes everything; sport is incredibly powerful in changing things.”

Strachan has shown his dedication to these roots through starting his own foundation based near Coventry. As a director, he oversees the development and progression of young, disadvantaged children. 

“What a difference it makes to these kids, it’s huge. Luke Leahy, who now plays at Falkirk, came from our programme. It’s been going for 2 and a half years, we’ve sent 53 kids into full time education who didn’t have a job or any qualifications when they joined.”

“Now they’re going to university, or college, including 2 so far going to America on scholarships. They get education in the afternoon after morning training, and it could be video analysis, anything involved with football.”

International management may be a new experience for the ex-plucky winger, but he is showing no signs of rawness. And for the first time in years, the national team looks like it’s in the correct hands.

By: Sam Jenkinson

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