Scottish Football podcast: Scotland can’t keep changing managers, says Kris Boyd

Ian Crocker is joined by Andy Walker, Kris Boyd and special guest James McFadden to look back at Scotland’s start to the UEFA Nations League campaign, which saw them top their group despite an unconvincing win over a makeshift Czech Republic side and a draw at home to Israel.

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Should Scotland go back to 4-2-3-1?

Scotland were below-par as they came from behind to beat a makeshift Czech Republic in the Nations League this week.

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Andy Walker believes Scotland are making progress under manager Steve Clarke and sided against the notion of returning to the old system.

“I don’t think we should be going back to 4-2-3-1,” Walker said. “I think you’ve got to give the manager the ability to look at his squad, see who’s fit and available and I have absolutely no problem playing three at the back.

“I thought McTominay looked out of place – I know he’s played there once or twice with Manchester United but he looked really uncomfortable. Tierney as a left-sided centre-back of a three, with Robertson in front of him – I’d have no complaints with that.

“Basic passing and controlled movement was the issue the other night. There’s a lot of chemistry to be found in certain situations and we have to give Steve Clarke the chance. We have to get behind him and trust his judgement.”

Scotland lead their Nations Group on four points ahead of the Czechs on three, Israel two and Slovakia on one after two matches.

Kris Boyd agreed with Walker’s assessment to provide Clarke with time and patience to implement his ideas on his side.

“We can’t keep changing managers,” Boyd began. “We were a failed generation, there was Gordon Strachan’s generation that was a failure as well, then there was Alex McLeish’s group of players… we can’t keep blaming the managers.

“Players have to the responsibility as soon as they cross the white line. People talk about formations but teams need flexibility and Steve touched upon that in his press conference.

“There was flexibility within the team and players need to adapt when things happen. It might just be human nature, but we’re waiting for others to make decisions for us still.”

Should Scotland pick Tierney and Robertson?

Arsenal defender Kieran Tierney was an unused substitute as Clarke stuck with a 3-5-1-1 formation, leading to plenty of debate over how Scotland can include two of their best players in the starting XI.

James McFadden said: “Steve has had 10 months to think about his formation and it’s tough to leave a player like Kieran Tierney out given the form that he’s been in – but that’s what he did against the Czech Republic.

“Andy Robertson has just won the Premier League, and in years gone by we’ve had players filling in. We’ve had Graham Alexander sitting in at left-back and right-back and Christian Dailly was another one who played in all sorts of positions. I’ve done it myself and sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

“That may mean putting Tierney at right-back but Liam Palmer gives you a lot going forward and I feel if the partnership in defence is between traditional centre-backs instead of Scott McTominay, that would probably be different because they’re aware of the position, responsibility and what gaps are left.

“It’s got to be a calculated decision and you have to always think of the options against doing it – what would the team be if you didn’t have both Robertson and Tierney in.”

Scottish Premiership returns – Team-by-team review

Rangers

Boyd: “Steven Gerrard will be delighted with the start they’ve had – 16 points from 18 – but there have been lessons to learn too; they didn’t create much in the goalless draw at Livingston. I thought they were a lot sharper in the forward areas against Hamilton. We spoke about the link-up play of Ryan Kent and Kemar Roofe; but you can see the start of something happening there and Kent, for me, is the best player in the league right now.

“There’s a long way to go but to be six games in and have no conceded a goal; people will look at the goalkeeper and defenders but they’ve pressed right from the front. Overall, it’s been a really good start. I think there’s a swagger back about Rangers, there’s competition for places and defensively they look solid.

“I think Rangers will have learned from that terrible run of form when they came back from the winter break last year. But it will come down to the four Old Firms again for me; there are big tests coming up with Hibs and then Celtic but I think Steven Gerrard will look forward to them.”

Walker: “The interesting thing for me has been the way they have set up. They attracted a bit of criticism for having Jack and Kamara – two holding midfielders – at Livingston but I think it does work because one thing you do get with Rangers is the attacking intent from the full-backs and having those two sit gives the likes of Tavernier and Barisic opportunity to go forward. When you’re up against teams with 10, 11 men behind the ball, you need to take chances and I think Rangers have been quite adventurous in the way they play.

“But we’ll only really know how the title race will shape up after the transfer window, given the speculation about Kent, Morelos, Edouard. We saw Morelos joking with his team-mates at half-time but it seems he wants to go and it looks like Rangers are happy for him to go given he agreed terms with Lille. He’s been such a goal machine for Rangers. But you want players who are absolutely committed.”

Hibernian

Walker: “I’ve been very impressed with Hibs and the consistency Jack Ross has been demanding. It was frustrating for him that he couldn’t get Alex Gogic on the pitch (after his false positive test). But I’ve enjoyed watching them.

“It was a big game against Aberdeen – that would have been a notable scalp – but I wonder if they have enough to challenge Aberdeen as ‘best of the rest’. You need a level of consistency that Hibs haven’t had for a number of years. I think Allan has got so much talent but he’s not influencing games as we know he can. He’s capable of being a lot more than a bit-part player but it’s all down to him.”

Boyd: “I don’t think that Hibs have the squad to go the full distance. Jamie Murphy would be an excellent signing but with Daryl Horgan leaving, it’s one for one really. Nisbet being missing is a big blow – they’ve been trying to get two strikers on the pitch – but the one that’s not happening for me at the moment is Scott Allan. Where does he go from here?

Celtic

Walker: “If you took the game in isolation, Celtic absolutely dominated Ferencvaros. The big surprise to me was that Neil Lennon had options on the bench in terms of strikers and didn’t use them. They missed a striker’s instinct – someone to sniff out a bit of space or drive into the six-yard box. It was a huge disappointment.

“I think it’s quite right of some Celtic supporters to question the new goalkeeper Barkas because he cost a lot of money. In all honesty, I haven’t seen him make a big save yet. But I didn’t see the defeat coming – Celtic had enough of the ball. What impact will it have on their finances? You do wonder.

“Odsonne Edouard, in my opinion, could go into any top-six side in England and be a star. But even if he’s not playing, Celtic should still have had enough. We’ve said before, we’ll only know where we stand in the title race once we know who’s still there and who’s committed. I think Celtic will strengthen defensively – Shane Duffy is coming in and he’s different to what they have already.

“Could David Turnbull be a regular starter? If you’re as good a goalscoring threat from midfield as Turnbull showed at Motherwell, you have every chance. I don’t know how long Scott Brown has got left – I still think he has a lot to offer in terms of influence – but Turnbull has that ability to find a yard of space and consistently hit the target from 20, 25 yards.

“He’s very capable. Celtic have had a good spread of goals over the years but I understand why they’ve looked to get a young, exciting prospect in. He’ll need to be patient but I think he has the ability to perform at the highest level.”

Aberdeen

Boyd: “I’ve been impressed with Ross McCrorie. We always knew he could get about the pitch but he was making things happen against Hibs. He allowed other players to flourish too. The back three look solid and there was a confidence and buzz about them. We’ve spoken about the eight players who got the club into trouble but it seems to have galvanised them. Interestingly, when they have that big, physical striker, they want to go long but they played a lot of attractive football against Hibs.”

Walker: “Aberdeen are doing it without Sam Cosgrove, too – a player who’s given them a regular supply of goals. We know there’s been interest in Cosgrove but will anyone come in for Scott McKenna in the heart of their defence? They’re another club who’ll want to get the transfer window out of the way but been very impressed with them and their winning mentality.”

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Ross County

Boyd: “They got off to a fine start against Motherwell and then getting the three points from Hamilton but since it’s been two losses and two draws. We said it was going to be a long season for them. Yes, they’ll pick up points here and there but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them start to fall down the table – I hope not. The big one for them will be what happens with Ross Stewart because he seems to be carrying them.”

Walker: “You always like to see a manager who’s been given an opportunity get off to a good start. I think they made a good decision in making Stuart Kettlewell No. 1. But I think success for them is to survive.”

St Mirren

Walker: “The manager has identified that they need to be a bit stronger in every area. Jim Goodwin knows what he is doing; Richard Tait from Motherwell has a lot of experience; he gives you a seven, eight out of 10 every week.

“The problem has always been whether they can score enough goals. It’s getting that chemistry right. I know they were hanging around the bottom of the table for long spells last year but I think they’ve improved enough to be mid-table. I like the look of this squad.”

Boyd: “They’ve tried to get two strikers on the pitch, Jonathan Obika and Junior Morais, but you saw when Joe Shaughnessy was missing, they ended up losing; if any of their key players get injured, we might see them fall down the table.”

St Johnstone

Walker: “Getting that win against St Mirren last time out and seeing Stevie May get on the scoresheet was a big boost to them. We’ve seen Callum Hendry, I like the look of Danny McNamara – it was a big disappointment to see Liam Craig get sent off the other week – so I like the options they have, with Craig Conway and Michael O’Halloran too. It was a struggle for them to get points early on but I can see them climbing the table.”

Boyd: “They were creating opportunities, it was just a matter of them taking them. If May can find form, St Johnstone could be another one fighting for a top-six position.”

Dundee United

Walker: “It’s been a great pity that Lawrence Shankland has missed so many games but the focus – you hear it from Micky Mellon – is trying to give young players a chance to be Scottish Premiership players. I really like the look of Lewis Neilson. They have another youngster, Luke Bolton, on loan from Man City and he looks a really decent prospect. It’s getting that mix but I think they’ll be ok – they’re my surprise tip to maybe get involved in the top six.”

Boyd: “They’ve got that bounce from coming up. I’ve been impressed with them – but they don’t really look like scoring for me. They had over 60 per cent possession against Kilmarnock, 18 attempts on goal and failed to score. They will definitely want Shankland back and then see where they go from there.”

Kilmarnock

Boyd: “If Kevin De Bruyne had scored the goal Rory McKenzie scored against Dundee United, it would have been shown everywhere! What a finish. It was a big win for Kilmarnock and hopefully that’s their season up and running.”

Livingston

Walker: “It’s been a strange season already. They’ve lost Lyndon Dykes to QPR but they’ve brought in Anthony Stokes, which is an interesting signing. He’s got a brilliant record in the division – can he hit the ground running? They need a focal point for their attack.

Boyd: “It depends which Stokes turns up. There’s no doubt there is a talented footballer in there.”

Hamilton

Walker: “They have some experience in Lee Hodson but it’s a tall order for their young players to make an impact. But time and time again Hamilton come up with results you just don’t see. They do have options – David Templeton has experience too – but I do think this is a season where they will struggle.”

Boyd: “It will be tough but, as Andy says, they will always spring a surprise. You look at their fixtures coming up – Livingston, Kilmarnock, Dundee United – and you wouldn’t be surprised to see them get something. But they need to start picking up points at home.”

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