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Win or bust for Strachan

By March 14, 2017No Comments

Boss Gordon Strachan concedes only victory will do for Scotland against Slovenia if ailing 2018 World Cup qualifying hopes are to be revived.

The Scots are second bottom of Group F with four points from four games and have lost their last two fixtures 3-0, away to England and Slovakia respectively.

Scotland take on Canada at Easter Road in a friendly on March 22 before Slovenia visit Hampden Park four days later.

Strachan, speaking at the national stadium where he announced a 30-man squad for the double-header, said: ”We must win that game.

“There is no getting away from that fact but we are looking forward to that challenge and I think the fans will be looking forward to that challenge, going to a game that you must win.

”So together we can make it a right good night.

”The fans have always given us support but we really need it that night.

”The guys will be prepared, the fans will be prepared and we are looking to put in a right good performance.”

Strachan’s future will be called into question again should the Scots come up short against Slovenia, who sit second behind England.

However, the former Scotland midfielder was keen to strike a more positive note.

He said: ”We have done this. It has all been done before. We knew the question would come up so it is old hat.

”I think fans, players, anybody who really wants us to do well will be wishing us luck and dealing with anything after the game.

”Everyone who want to see us go to the World Cup will be backing us to win this game.

”The most important thing is three points and enjoying the build-up which we will be doing.

”The best part of my job is coaching and I am looking forward to that and then looking forward to the challenge of the game and whatever happens after that, we will look at it.”

Strachan also enthused over his three uncapped call-ups, Celtic’s Stuart Armstrong, Bournemouth’s Ryan Fraser and Fulham’s Tom Cairney.

He said: “Up until four or five months ago they (Stuart and Tom) played wider and I always thought both would be better central and since then they have moved to central positions and similar positions and done very well.

”I saw both players over the weekend. Stuart scored his goal (against Rangers) yesterday, he had five shots, five on target.

”He is now using his assets. He has great fitness. He plays players he is up against out the game. He is getting goals so he is leaving a footprint.

”Tom Cairney was the best man on the pitch at St James’ Park (a 3-1 win for Fulham) but that was no surprise, he has been the best man on the pitch on many occasions and Ryan is doing very well at Bournemouth.

”He is keeping out some good players, some high-value players at Bournemouth with his ability and work rate and he played very well at the weekend.

”We are always looking for players to bring a freshness. We always need experienced players to set a standard here before so add that together, I am looking forward to meeting up with these guys.”

There is a recall for Hull goalkeeper Allan McGregor, who has impressed while on loan at Cardiff.

Celtic captain Scott Brown, who reversed his decision to retire from international football last year, is also included.

Armstrong, capped 20 times by the under-21s, has forced his way into the reckoning after discovering his shooting boots in recent months.

The 24-year-old has scored 11 times for Celtic this season, eight times since the start of December.

Fraser’s form has also been impressive over the winter.

The 23-year-old made his mark in the Cherries’ remarkable 4-3 comeback win over Liverpool in December, coming on as a second-half substitute with his side 2-0 down before winning a penalty for Bournemouth’s opener and scoring the second – his first goal for the club.

Cairney, 26, was previously capped at under-19 and under-21 levels but has been made to wait for his chance with the seniors.

But he has caught the eye in the Championship this season with Fulham, and scored a fine goal in the Cottagers’ upset victory over leaders Newcastle at the weekend.