31 Aug McGhee wants qualification
Mark McGhee admits the jealousy he felt watching this summer’s European Championships has only heightened his desire to help Scotland reach the World Cup finals in Russia.
The Scots were the only British country not involved in France and they have failed to qualify for a major tournament since 1998.
Gordon Strachan’s side begin their 2018 World Cup campaign in Malta on Sunday – England, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania are also in the group – and assistant manager McGhee is determined to see it end in success.
“It was a painful summer, it really was,” said the Motherwell boss, speaking at the Scots’ Mar Hall Hotel training base on the outskirts of Glasgow.
“I did my best to enjoy the Euros and I did enjoy a lot of it but I was hugely jealous of other nations that were there and kept trying to superimpose us at our best on certain games and in certain situations and wondering what we might have achieved.
“I go away back to the Nigeria game at Fulham (friendly, 2014) and the supporters that night were just amazing.
“I said to Gordon, ‘imagine going to a finals with this lot?’
“We have sold 4,500 tickets for this game in Malta and it shows the commitment the supporters have so Gordon, myself, the staff and players are driven by that desire to deliver something for the supporters that all these generations have missed out on.
“We are under no illusions. We have looked at the videos and we have done an analysis of Malta.
“We know their strengths and weaknesses and we prepare this week for a difficult game but a game we are determined to try to win and if we do win it will represent a very positive start and you do need that in a campaign.”
Much of the focus at Scotland’s media day was on Oliver Burke’s highly-publicised move from Nottingham Forest to RB Leipzig.
The £13million fee paid by the Bundesliga club makes the 19-year-old winger, who has been capped twice, the most expensive Scottish footballer ever.
“He was in the squad before he made that amazing move he made,” said former Aberdeen, Celtic and Scotland striker McGhee, who had a season with SV Hamburg in the mid-1980s.
“The first time I saw him here he blew me away. I was so excited by him.
“The thing about Oliver is that he has got this fantastic move but he is still a young player making his way.
“So he still has a long way to go but he has gone to a tremendous league to learn his trade and develop as an international player as well so I think it is only a good thing.”
Strachan’s squad was depleted by the withdrawal on Tuesday of Celtic duo Kieran Tierney and Leigh Griffiths – who has already scored seven goals this season – and Kevin McDonald and James McArthur, with Rangers captain Lee Wallace and Hearts striker Tony Watt drafted in.
“We have to make sure it is not a blow,” said McGhee. “We have other people here who will step up.
“You pick what you think is the best squad for the occasion so clearly losing four immediately is disappointing but we have to ask the others to step up and it gives them the opportunity.
“It is disappointing for him (Griffiths), it is disappointing for us.
“He started the season in tremendous form and we were excited about that so of course it is disappointing but there are others who will now get an opportunity.”