Players turn on 'negative' press pack with Levein under fans' fire


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The Independent Online

Scotland are in a state of unrest. The nation has become impatient with the scuffling performances of Craig Levein's side, and the two opening World Cup qualifiers at Hampden Park ended in draws and the sound of derision. It was the style of play as much as the points dropped that so riled the crowds and, naturally, the manager was the focus of the anger.

Levein has retreated into a state of denial. After both games, he thanked Scotland fans for being behind the team, and pointed out that there are still 24 points to play for in Group A. It is a blinkered analysis: earning any of those points would require a marked improvement in Scotland's performances and Levein's competitive record is now played 10, won three, lost three, drawn four.

The conservatism of Levein, below, was clear in the approach last Saturday against Serbia, a side who had not scored in their four previous games. There was more adventure in the 1-1 against FYR Macedonia on Tuesday, but there were too many hapless moments and the visitors ought to have won.

A manager's fate seems irredeemable when the response to his image appearing on the giant screens of Hampden is widespread and sustained booing. Levein is a strong-willed individual but he is involved now in establishing a siege mentality within his squad. Discontent has spread to the players, who are convinced that they have cause to feel persecuted.

"Maybe you guys chose to jump on a bandwagon and criticise," said Gary Caldwell, the Wigan defender, to the Scottish press. "The negativity which surrounds this group has to change. Who's got a problem with the manager? We haven't – we support him. At times we, as players, haven't been good enough. That's down to us. The media and what they write affects public opinion. You have to take responsibility for that. I don't think his tactics are negative."