Gordon Strachan insists he is excited more than anything else ahead of Scotland's decisive World Cup qualifiers

The Scots have taken 10 points from the last 12 available in Group F

Gavin McCafferty
Wednesday 04 October 2017 17:08
Strachan knows he needs two wins and other results to go Scotland's way to get to the play-offs
Strachan knows he needs two wins and other results to go Scotland's way to get to the play-offs

Gordon Strachan is feeling excitement more than any other emotion ahead of Scotland's decisive World Cup qualifiers.

Scotland hauled themselves back into contention ahead of Thursday's visit of Slovakia after a disappointing start to Group F, when they took four points from their opening four matches.

Strachan's side have since gained 10 points from their next four and were only denied a clean sweep by England striker Harry Kane's dramatic equaliser at

Hampden Park in June.

The Scotland boss looked to be moments from ending his reign before Chris Martin popped up with a late winner against Slovenia in March, so it is no surprise he is relishing the chance to lead his country to the play-offs.

Victories over both Slovakia and Slovenia this week would secure second spot in Group F and a likely two-legged encounter in November for a place in Russia next summer.

Strachan said: "Forget how big it is, it's how exciting it is. And it's really exciting. Forget the rest of the emotions, excitement takes over the whole thing.

"When you have a challenge, excitement comes along. It's really exciting for me and really enjoyable taking on this challenge with the players.

Strachan was denied four wins from the last four against England

"We try and start at the same level where we are all looking forward to joining up with each other. There's always a good buzz when we meet, but obviously the buzz is higher if you have got those couple of wins under your belt."

Strachan's frame of mind will no doubt have been boosted by the way his side handled that clash with Slovenia, which the 60-year-old unusually branded a "must-win" game.

"We have to deal with must-win games over the last four, I think," he said. "So we have dealt with that OK. We could only deal with that OK if we've got a good spirit and a good bit of camaraderie.

"We believed that we could come back in and play the way we have played in recent months."

Ticket sales were nearing the 45,000 mark as Strachan spoke and the national boss feels the Hampden crowd can continue helping his team over the line.

"There were times against Slovenia when we needed their help and they gave us their help, there were times against England when we needed their help to get back in it," Strachan said.

Strachan is excited ahead of a pivotal week

"Between the players and the fans we have dragged ourselves back in the position where we can determine our own future. Players can determine their own future but the fans can do that as well. The more help they give us, it works, the more they give us back, vice-versa."

The Scotland manager has had a fairly settled team since the Slovenia game, when he built his team around a Celtic core, but he has decisions to make after injured Parkhead midfielders Scott Brown and Stuart Armstrong pulled out, along with Newcastle's Matt Ritchie.

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor and Hibernian's John McGinn both hit doubles at the weekend as they challenge for a place in the centre of the park, but Strachan revealed that Barry Bannan's display in Sheffield Wednesday's 3-0 victory over Leeds on Sunday had given him a real chance of starting.

"You talk about John McGinn and Callum McGregor, probably the best performance I have seen over the last three or four weeks is Barry Bannan's, so he is certainly at the forefront of what we are trying to do," Strachan said.

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