Second best for Scotland

Archie Gemmill believes Scotland should target second place in their World Cup qualifying group – and that Sam Allardyce’s exit makes England even stronger.

Scotland won their opening qualifier 5-1 in Malta and face Lithuania and Slovakia in a double header before next month’s trip to Wembley.

Meanwhile, England’s qualifying campaign was thrown into chaos after one game when Allardyce was replaced by Gareth Southgate after the former Bolton, Newcastle, West Ham and Sunderland manager was caught making controversial remarks to undercover reporters.

But former Scotland midfielder Gemmill said: ” I think that will possibly make England stronger. I think Scotland should look at it as a group minus England.

“The two games against England are obviously going to be absolutely massive, but if Scotland can concentrate on picking up the points against Lithuania, Slovakia, Malta and take it as that, if they win the group minus England, they are going to be in a play-off for the World Cup.

“It’s a hard group and Slovakia will not be easy in any way, shape or form. So if you can get second position, everybody would be delighted. If everything goes particularly well and you finish first, absolutely delighted.”

Southgate has been promoted from his role with the under-21s for at least three qualifiers – England face Malta and Slovenia this month.

“It’s fresh management once again,” said Gemmill, who was speaking at the unveiling of the new William Hill Stand at Hampden.

“Gareth has been with the England set-up for quite a few years, he has had a stint at Middlesbrough as a manager. So he’ll know a large percentage of the players.

“It’s someone who is a bit younger and possibly a bit fresher and might have some different ideas. I think it might help them.”

While Gemmill thinks it is unlikely Scotland will top the group, he sees no reason why Gordon Strachan’s squad cannot emulate his appearance at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and reach a major tournament.

“Wales got there, Northern Ireland got there,” he said. “No disrespect to those two countries, Scotland should be able to get to a finals.

“This group is going to be difficult but I would expect Scotland to be in a position where they could qualify.

“Gordon’s got a squad that has experience and youth in it as well. The average is 24-25 so they are there for the next five to six years. If they can all keep improving, and luck comes into it an awful lot in life, not just football. So if they can get the breaks at the right time, Scotland will be more than useful.”

Strachan last week gave short shrift to suggestions that Saturday’s Hampden clash with Lithuania was a “must-win” game, and Gemmill backed the manager.

“I’ve been in the game quite a long time and I’ve heard this must-win, must-win,” Gemmill said.

“There’s so many things that happen in a campaign. Scotland could get beaten and all of a sudden they might still qualify.

“It’s not a must-win because that puts extra pressure on everybody concerned. It’s a game that Scotland should win but you just never know what’s going to happen.”

:: Archie Gemmill was speaking at the unveiling of the new William Hill Stand at Hampden Park. William Hill is a proud sponsor of the Scotland national team.

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