Come in No 9: Berti desperate for a saviour

McFadden skills a delight but Scotland's embattled manager needs goals.
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There was a marked difference between events in Katowice and those in Glasgow on Wednesday night. And not all of it was confined to events on the pitch.

There was a marked difference between events in Katowice and those in Glasgow on Wednesday night. And not all of it was confined to events on the pitch. While England's stars sulked with the media, Scotland's footballers were still talking in the mixed zone deep in the bowels of Hampden Park as the clock nudged towards 11pm.

No ban here. It offered a refreshing contrast to Sven Goran Eriksson's side in the area of public relations. And yet, this Scotland team have endured far more criticism over the past year.

However, not even the frustration of a 0-0 draw with Slovenia at home in the opening Group Five fixture, which could seriously damage any ambitions of reaching the World Cup finals, could prevent all of Berti Vogts' players dealing with a plethora of television cameras and reporters' dictaphones before they could meet up with their families.

All were unswervingly loyal to Vogts, whose future is still very much in doubt after 30 months of treading water in a job he is paid £750,000 a year for. "The players have to take responsibility for what goes on once we have crossed that line," declared Darren Fletcher. "It is totally unfair if the manager is criticised after this. All he can do is put us on the pitch, and this time we had an attacking formation. But the result was nothing to do with the system we used, we were just unlucky in front of goal."

Fletcher is only 20, but already the Manchester United youngster is discovering what his predecessors did, as has Vogts: that Scotland and goalscoring are very rare partners in crime. Vogts' team found the net only 12 times in their eight Euro 2004 ties, and that was in a group that included the Faroe Islands. This time round, there are 10 games to be negotiated on the way to Germany 2006, and already Vogts has earmarked second place as the only possible prize in a group in which he expects Italy to walk away with first place. "Forget about Italy," he said. "They are a different class from anyone."

However, in marked contrast to England, who unveiled another in their constant production line of goalscorers in Poland, Jermain Defoe, Scotland have no such threat in their locker. Even Wales have three good strikers, but for Vogts there is no one on the horizon beyond James McFadden. The capricious Everton striker has scored on four of the last five occasions that Scotland have found the net, but could not extend that sequence against Slovenia. He came so close with one audacious curled shot, but the reality is that McFadden's best work is done outside the box, not in it.

"James is young and has a great talent," said Ally McCoist, whose goals carried Scotland to the World Cup finals in 1990. "The problem is that he is our most creative player but is not a natural in front of goal. Everyone can see we're crying out for a poacher. Paul Dickov ran himself into the ground, but we don't have a real quality No 9."

Beyond Dickov and Steve Crawford, yet to score for Scotland in 22 games, are Steven Thompson and Kevin Kyle, who don't start regularly for Rangers or Sunderland. "My team played wonderfully, all we needed was a goal," bemoaned Vogts, in an address that could have been handed down by Craig Brown or even Andy Roxburgh. "At this level, you get only one good chance and you have to score."

Vogts, too, may be on his last chance. Should Scotland fail to beat Norway at home on 9 October, or slip up in Moldova four days later, he may be finished. "I am more confident now about the campaign than I was before," insisted Vogts. "We have to fight until the very end. Nothing will be decided before then. Slovenia, Norway, Belarus and Scotland will be fighting for second place - I still believe it."

Comments