Berti risks a more terminal power cut

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The Independent Football

If Berti Vogts is international football's Dead Man Walking, then Friday night's freakish events in Valencia offered only a stay of execution. Countless victims of the electric chair must have pleaded unsuccessfully for the luck that Scotland's beleaguered manager was shown.

If Berti Vogts is international football's Dead Man Walking, then Friday night's freakish events in Valencia offered only a stay of execution. Countless victims of the electric chair must have pleaded unsuccessfully for the luck that Scotland's beleaguered manager was shown.

The power cut that plunged the Estadio Cuidad into darkness after an hour of the friendly with Spain ensured that Vogts and his team returned to Glasgow yesterday with a morale-boosting 1-1 draw to prepare for Wednesday's vital opening World Cup qualifying tie against Slovenia. There will be no danger of the lights going out at Hampden Park. That is why, despite all the positive aspects to emerge from the Spanish trip, the full glare of scrutiny will be on Vogts. His job will be decided on this 90 minutes.

After two-and-a-half stumbling years, the German has lost the patience and the backing of the public. Though the way his team gave Spain a real scare - they could have been 4-0 up by half-time after James McFadden had opened the scoring - will have lifted the spirits of players and supporters, there is no disguising Scotland's slide under Vogts.

"Judge me on competitive games," declared the man whose voracious appetite for friendlies has seen Scotland plunge to No 67 in the Fifa rankings with just three wins from those 19 non-competitive games. That, then, means Valencia is inadmissible as evidence on his behalf. A lynch-mob mentality set in after last month's friendly defeat against Hungary at Hampden. People wanted him to go then, but the prospect of paying out more than £1m in compensation has tied the Scottish Football Association's hands. The amnesty from the Tartan Army lasts until Wednesday night.

To their credit, the players are trying to protect Vogts. McFadden showed against Spain the glimpses of talent that have been all too fleeting at Everton this season. "We showed the passion that the manager wanted," he said. "I think the result will give everyone a boost now." For Vogts, the Spanish trip had been perfect up until the last couple of minutes. It has served its purpose. The Scotland manager complained about the Scottish rain ruining his training programme last month, but in Valencia he and his team worked out for four days under the sun on the training complex used by Claudio Ranieri.

Only the concession of a penalty, which allowed substitute Raul to drag Spain level just two minutes before the power cut, spoiled what was an effective display in which the Scots were superior - Steve Crawford missed two one-on-ones against Iker Casillas, otherwise Spain would have been dead and buried - especially in midfield, where Barry Ferguson's display underlined the freedom he had been given by Jackie McNamara's new holding role.

Being in midfield is nothing new to the Celtic captain. The adaptable McNamara has done it before, but he has excelled for his club in defence in recent years which means that the territory, in international terms, is slightly new to him. Vogts would like McNamara to be a carbon copy of his Celtic team-mate Neil Lennon. "I was always certain we could get something positive from this game," said McNamara in Valencia. "When you play someone like Spain, people expect you to get beat four- or five-nil. But this gives us a lot of confidence for Slovenia.

"Most of the stick recently has been directed at Berti, but the manager can only do so much. Once we cross the line, we're the ones who have to get results - and it's our fault things have not been happening. The holding role is not new to me, I've done it before, but I have watched Neil Lennon perfect it for Celtic over the last few seasons, and learned a few things. It is a very disciplined role."

Now comes the real test. With Italy rightly assumed favourites to win qualifying Group Five, Scotland are fighting it out with Norway and Slovenia for the play-off spot that is available to the runners-up. Before training on Thursday, Vogts bumped into Ranieri at Valencia's training ground and shared a joke with the former Chelsea manager. Gallows humour? Perhaps football's original Dead Man Walking was offering to pull the plug the following night.

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