The time is approaching when results will deliver an emphatic judgement on George Burley's reign as Scotland manager. He has at times seemed embattled in this job, as though a sense of unease had crawled under his skin, but he continues to seek an air of defiance.
Burley gathered his players together at Cameron House on the shore of Loch Lomond last Friday, five months after the squad's last stay at the hotel, when Barry Ferguson and Allan McGregor embarked on a drinking session that ultimately led to their banishment from international duty. An alcohol ban has been imposed, but Burley's emphasis is on what is possible for his squad.
In Oslo on Wednesday, Scotland face Norway in the first of their three final World Cup qualifying fixtures, with two wins likely to be enough to secure second place and a berth in the play-offs.
Burley is expecting a tumultuous encounter in the Ullevaal Stadium. "They've got to win," he says. "[John] Carew is their focus, so we've got to nullify his strength. Norway are direct, there will be an aerial onslaught over there."
The manager's resources are stretched, through injury and circumstance, with his three goalkeepers boasting five caps between them. But the Scotland manager refuses to be diffident ahead of such a significant game, preferring instead a kind of bullishness.
"We're not going to go there and be wary of them," he says. "We'll try to impose our own style on the game and we'll be looking to take the game to Norway."Reuse content