Out of the frying pan, into the ice bucket

Scotland tonight swap the blistering heat of Macedonia for the more familiar cold and wet weather of Iceland. However criticism of the manager, rather than the build up to the match, has dominated the headlines over the last few days.

After only one competitive match, George Burley has been subject to a media campaign, which is doing nothing more than pilling the pressure on both him and his team. We lost away to Macedonia, big deal! McLeish lost in Georgia, Brown drew both in Latvia and in France against Estonia and MacLeod lost 3-1 to Peru and drew 1-1 with Iran.

In the same stints as managers McLeish recorded a famous victory in France; Brown managed wins against Germany and England and MacLeod beat the Netherlands in the same tournament as the two aforementioned results of his tenure.

We are Scotland, this is what we do. We frustrate the bigger teams, are capable of attaining hard fought draws and can sometimes even come away with a victory. Conversely, when we go into a match as favourites we either obtain a victory, but always the hard way, or we royally mess it up.

So to berate the manager - who has not had things made easy for him - after four matches, for continuing the trend that Scotland have set for around 30 years, is absolutely ridiculous.

Burley may still turn out to be a disaster, not all managers who have success at club level transform that into international level but we should surely give him time. The fact that his employers ridiculously allowed Macedonia, two years after bowing to similar pressure from Ukraine, to get their way after throwing their toys out of the pram, made his job harder before he was even chosen to do it. People say that it evens out as we then have a period where we will have two home games in a row but get off to a bad start and it’s an uphill battle all the way.

Another thing constraining Burley, is the amount of injuries and call offs he has had. In his first four matches he has had nowhere near a full strength squad to choose from for any of them. Arguably our best player, Alan Hutton, is out long term which leaves our already weak defence looking even more vulnerable.

Despite these problems, Burley should not be exempt from any criticism. He has attempted to field a more attacking Scotland team, with a more positive formation but it hasn’t worked. Especially away from home, the priority is to protect our defence. One thing Scotland never do is come from behind. Whenever we chase the game, we are poor and if we go gung ho from the start, we run the risk of this. My guess is that we will see a more defensive set up this evening, trying our luck from set pieces and counter attacks.

The performance from Paul Hartley, who began his career as a more attack-minded player, on Saturday shows that we lack a ball winner in the middle of the park. Pandev and Naumoski were allowed to drop deep and turn with ease time and time again. If we allow Eidur Gudjohnson to do the same tonight, we will be punished.

If Burley continues to play attacking away from home and doesn’t get any results, then he is not the right man for the job. But surely he should be given more than 90 minutes of competitive action before the media jump on his back and call for his head.

We should be uniting behind the team and the manager. It is the English media who castigate their boss at the first opportunity and look at what it has done for them in the past. The media contribute towards the formation of opinion amongst some sections of the support and if they are on the back of the management from the off, their chances of success diminish. England think they are world beaters, we know, or should know, that we are not.

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