Scotland boss McLeish ‘building a wall, not papering cracks’


Steven Naismith is congratulated after scoring Scotland's second

Steven Naismith scored Scotland’s second goal to give them a measure of comfort against Albania

Scotland head coach Alex McLeish says he is “building a wall, not papering over cracks” after defeating Albania.

McLeish’s side won 2-0 at Hampden in his first competitive game in charge following three successive defeats.

A 4-0 battering from Belgium on Friday brought pressure and criticism, but McLeish believes his side responded in their maiden Nations League match.

“We’ve learned a lot in some difficult fixtures against world-class teams,” said McLeish.

“This was always the night we felt we had to do it.

“People were talking about my win ratio being under threat. I’m not bothered about that.

“I lose three games in a row and I’m under pressure to win a game and I know that, I feel that. I know the way football works.”

McLeish came under fire for the manner in which Scotland gave away goals against the Belgians at Hampden on Friday night.

But, at a drenched national stadium on Monday, the Scots held firm to kick-start their campaign with a clean sheet and a commanding performance.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said McLeish. “We’re a work in progress. We improved a lot tonight on the errors we made in the Belgium game.

“They showed great mentality in abundance. I said ‘improve on the situations against Belgium’ and we got that.”

‘I see the players, you don’t. I’m qualified to pick who I choose’

McLeish chose to start Steven Naismith and Johnny Russell up front, leaving Celtic’s Leigh Griffiths and James Forrest, among others, on the bench.

Naismith, who wasn’t in his original squad for the game, played a significant role in the first goal and scored the second.

Asked whether he felt vindicated by the performance, he added: “I work with the players every day. I see them, you guys don’t. I think I’m pretty well qualified to pick who I choose to.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be and I said that to Naisy. It’s happened to me before, getting dropped by Scotland and then getting called back up again and you don’t look back.”

Scotland now face a trip to Israel for their next Nations League match on 11 October, with their remaining two group matches away to Albania on 17 November and home to Israel three days later.

“The way we’ll get the Scottish fans back is by winning,” added McLeish, whose side played in front of 17,500 at Hampden.

“I want the fans to come to watch us, not Belgium or Portugal. I know there’s a bit of apathy and we’re the only guys who can change that.”

New Scotland captain Andy Robertson insisted the players did not feel any added pressure after their run of friendly defeats, including Friday’s humbling by Belgium.

“There is always that pressure at the start of a campaign – you want to get off to a good start,” said the Liverpool full-back.

“Luckily we have managed that and that is us top of the group, which is good after one game. But we have still got three massive games to go.

“If we take that tempo and attitude into the next three games, then I am confident we can come out on top.”

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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/45479721

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