Saturday, September 5, 2009

Burley cheats death for a few more days

If I was feeling very lazy, I'd churn out some proper cliches about the Scotland-Macedonia game, like "a game of two halves", or "like chalk and cheese", you know the like.

Since I'm just feeling slightly lazy, I'll go for this slightly tame analogy instead; today George Burley managed to pass his Macedonia exam (doing far better in the second part than the first), and he garnered enough marks to give him a small chance of passing his Netherlands exam on Wednesday. But if he fails that he gets expelled from International Management University.

Come on, you know the analogy works.

Anyway, we were guff in the first half, but full credit to Burley for giving the team a right kick up the proverbials at the break. Even before scoring the first goal (that was a damn fine glancing header by the way), Scott Brown was unlikely to be winning any popularity awards with Macedonians, having just about caused a diplomatic incident after winning a corner off a drop ball in the first half - that was very naughty, but look on the bright side, Scotland doesn't need Macedonia as a friend anymore, it's got Libya now!

Moving back from international politics to international football, my part-time colleague Iain continued to insist post-match that his half-time text, "it's about time Fadders stopped believing his own hype" remained justifiable, despite the fact that said Fadders had scored with a barnstorming 60 yard run which saw him tap in after dribbling past three defenders and the goalkeeper, in the process scoring the best Scotland goal since, erm, the one the same player scored in Paris four years ago. You might recall that goal, not least because of the national man-hugging epidemic it sparked.

Sorry, Iain, but while he was as rubbish as the rest of them in the first half, the presence of James McFadden on the pitch remains a necessity simply because he is capable of goals like these, providing a flair and creativity that is at a premium in this team. Which makes it all the more harrowing that he is suspended for Wednesday's game. Bugger.

So George Burley's impending doom is delayed for a little while longer, but while a draw would clinch us second place, we are virtually certain to need a win to avoid being the crappest second place team and missing a playoff spot. That said, if we do win (and that is an absolutely huge, enormous, behemoth of an "if") then that should be enough - that said, the calculations are enough to make quantum physics feel like a su doku puzzle. If wee George gets us to that stage then he is probably entitled to have a go at Euro 2012 - second place is what was expected of him, and progress from the playoff is random at best, with potential opponents ranging from Northern Ireland and Bosnia to France and Russia. On the other hand, I think his time has to be up if we don't manage it, simply because he hasn't done enough to suggest he can improve this side.

And we have to remember the lesson of 1999 - Craig Brown was on the brink, but that win at Wembley against England provided enough sentiment for him to keep going for two more years, by which point he had blooded few young players and we were left with a weak, inexperienced squad and no decent candidates for the manager's job (hence the dreaded Berti Vogts). This time, there is a candidate with suitable pedigree - Gordon Strachan - and if Burley does not get the result on Thursday then that should be it, even if his ship sinks on the back of the best Scotland performance of his reign.

After all, international football is not showbusiness. It is the results business.


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