'Legend' tag awaits Scots says Strachan

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The Independent Football

The Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, believes Alex McLeish's Scotland players are on the verge of achieving a success unprecedented in the history of the national team.

Strachan was inducted into Scottish Football's Hall of Fame last night and branded himself a "half-decent" player compared to "legends" such as Kenny Dalglish, Denis Law and Jimmy Johnstone. However, the former Scotland midfielder feels that the present crop of internationals can do what players brimming with individual brilliance could not do – give the country a team they will never forget.

Jim Baxter, Billy McNeil and Johnstone never played in a major championship but the likes of James McFadden and Scott Brown will take Scotland to Euro 2008 if they beat Italy on Saturday. And Strachan feels that qualifying from a group containing the 2006 World Cup finalists, Italy and France, plus the quarter-finalists Ukraine, would beat any achievement by any Scotland team.

When asked if any of the new generation could emulate the likes of Dalglish and Law, Strachan said: "I wouldn't like to put pressure on people like that but what they can be is a legendary team, which Scotland have never really had.

"We have had legendary footballers and legendary performances but I think a legendary team is what we need."

A 2-0 defeat in Georgia last month changed Scotland's requirements from the Italy game from a draw to a victory to guarantee qualification. But Strachan, who won 50 caps for his country, does not feel the players should be inhibited by pressure at Hampden as they have already surpassed expectations.

"I don't think it's pressure, I think it's excitement," Strachan said. "It's a different thing. Pressure is when you have got one game to stay up or get relegated – that's pressure.

"Their performances so far mean they can't lose, whatever they do. It will be remembered as a fantastic campaign, so they can't lose. It should be just excitement."

The national team's successes in beating France home and away have been mirrored by the Old Firm's recent performances in Europe. Celtic beat the European Cup holders, Milan, last month while Rangers have defeated the German champions, Stuttgart, and Lyons, who have won six consecutive French titles.

Strachan feels that momentum will sweep the Scots to a result against Roberto Donadoni's side. "The players have been doing well in the Champions League," the former Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds midfielder said. "There is a confidence about my players. I'm sure there is a confidence about the Rangers players and there should be a confidence about the rest of them.

"There are a couple of people in relegation battles in England, but I think once you get back to the Scotland squad you can forget all about that and you will have the feelgood factor of the rest of Scottish football.

"When you get on a good run in a football team it definitely helps. It has to come to an end some time but I don't think it will be on Saturday, that's for sure."

Strachan also believes Celtic will joust with clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea on a regular basis in the future – as members of a new European league.

The Old Firm's traditional dominance in Scotland has resulted in regular discussions about the possibility of Celtic and Rangers joining the English Premier League.

Strachan, however, believes that a new European league structure will make redundant the cry for a revamped English top flight.

"I think in years to come there will be a European league with 54 or 60 clubs," he told the BBC's Inside Sport. "That's the way everybody will get round it. There will be a new structure, a new body. The powers that be, the businessmen coming into football now, will say 'forget Fifa, forget Uefa, we're so powerful we'll have three leagues with the best 60 clubs'. I think that's the way it's got to go."

Strachan added that, in his view, Fifa, the sport's world governing body, will have no choice but to go along with an ambitious and radical league project such as this.

"It will be that powerful that I think Fifa would have to go along and say 'we better let them get on with it because they'll just keep the players away from international level'."