Scotland assistant boss James McFadden has told Alex McLeish’s squad to forget about fear and instead seize the chance to make themselves national heroes.
The Scots take on Albania and Israel later this month knowing back-to-back wins could see them top their Nations League group and put them within touching distance of Euro 2020.
That is the positive spin on what has been a frustrating start to UEFA’s new competition, with victory in their Group C1 opener against the Albanians followed up by a limp display in Haifa as the Scots slumped against Israel.
A repeat of that lethargic performance would heap fresh scorn on McLeish and his team but McFadden has urged the players to focus on the opportunity to end the country’s two-decade wait for a national tournament than obsess on the consequences of defeat.
“It’s important that the players are looking forward to it,” said the former Motherwell, Everton and Birmingham striker.
“Of course there is pressure on the game but don’t be fearful. Meet the challenge of winning the two games, winning the group and setting us up for the play-offs and the main qualifying campaign.
“The challenge is there for guys to go and score goals, to be match-winners, to be heroes. We feel the group we have got are the right mix for that.
“It is now or never because if we don’t win the two games, then we don’t win the group.
“If we win the two games then we win the group and it’s as simple as that. It’s in our own hands and we’re happy about that.
“It’s a great opportunity to go and win a game against two sides we’ve played before.
“We were disappointed over in Israel – we understand that – but we’re up against two teams we feel we should be beating so there’s nothing to fear for us.”
One player who has done his best to ensure he is in contention to play a part is Ryan Christie.
The Celtic midfielder looked to be on the periphery of Brendan Rodgers’ Parkhead plans once again this term but has fought his way into the Hoops line-up in recent weeks and repaid his manager’s faith with a goal in each of his last three outings.
“He’s been brilliant and it’s no surprise,” insisted McFadden. “Everybody knows he’s got the ability and it’s great to see him having such an impact in the Celtic side.
“In the summer, it looked like it might be another loan move for him but he’s decided to stick it out and fair play to him.
“He’s waited for his chance and has now taken it with both hands. He’s a terrific football player and I’m delighted for him.
“You’ve seen for yourselves that his performance levels have been really high and that’s great. If he can stay in the Celtic side that is only a good thing for Scotland.
“I’m delighted for him as it shows a lot of toughness to stick it out and finally put on the performances that everybody knows he is capable of.”
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