Buidling Dreams Together


Talking Points: Scotland’s International Break

Five defeats, seven without a win. Things are not looking so rosy for the Tartan Army.

5 defeats and 7 games without a games, the situation is looking slightly bleak as the Euros approach. A 4-0 defeat to Netherlands was followed up with 1-0 defeat at home to Northern Ireland, who had finished 5th in their qualifying group. So, here are some of the main talking points from Scotland’s international break.


A 2-0 win over Spain in the group stages in March last year had given some the impression that Steve Clarke’s men could compete with the best of them. However 4-1 and 3-1 defeats to France and England before the 4-0 hammering at the hands of the Netherlands showed that there is some distance between themselves and the elite.

Whilst they were not totally outclassed by the Dutch, even dominant for large parts of the game, collapses like the one they suffered in conceding 3 goals in 14 minutes is not something that the better sides do. Being able to contain opposition and bring in damage limitation is something the Scots will need to learn.

Dykes came off second best against Northern Ireland

Certain pundits were ringing off the names in Ronald Koeman’s squad and going as far as saying the quality was not dissimilar from Scotland’s. Forgetting that the Oranje had within their ranks Champions League winners in Aké, van Dijk and Wijnaldum. Not to mention the likes of de Ligt and Dumfries, who have been league winners in Germany and Champions League finalists with Inter Milan respectively.

Having the likes of Robertson (himself a European champion), McGinn and Gilmour among other in the Premier League is fantastic for Scottish football but comparisons like these do not do anything to help the squad. They are just not there yet.


This week was supposed to be the one that saw Lawrence Shankland announce himself on the European stage. Being in red-hot form for Hearts this season allowed the striker to force himself into Clarke’s plans but a big miss against the Netherlands as he hit the bar when one on one againt the keeper as well as a quiet game against Northern Ireland didn’t quite allow him to grab the number 9 shirt with both hands.

Shankland’s best chance hit the crossbar

He did however impress with his link-up play, showing that he wasn’t a one-dimensional finisher. Despite going goalless, the performance against the men in orange will give the manager a boost knowing alternative patterns of attack are available.

The Jambo will be helped by the performances of the other two main options upfront, Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes. Adams could not turn either game around and his substitute appearances did not appear to offer much, even if the side was trailing on both occasions. Dykes meanwhile was fairly invisible in his only appearance against Northern Ireland. Perhaps this was down to a lack of service for the striker. There should be slight bemusement at the influx of crosses coming in only when he was taking off.


Things could not have gone much worse for Nathan Patterson against Northern Ireland. Attempting to make up for a lost ball near the halfway line, he raced back to impressively steal it back only to pass it right to Conor Bradley, who duly curled in a fantastic shot for the only goal of the game.

Patterson had a night to forget on Tuesday

After that, Patterson continued to make runs down the right hand side but more often than not misplaced his passes and crosses. A night to forget for the Everton right-back.

That being said, prior the break, Patterson had not played a single minute for Everton since January and is still coming back to full fitness following a series of injuries. It is little wonder therefore, that he did not look his sharpest. The former Rangers player is also still only 22 and has plenty of time to come back from an off night.

Previous appearances have shown exactly what he is capable of, quick down the wings and a strong defender. The following few months will be a test of his mental resilience and, if he can bounce back, he could still be an important player for Scotland.


In June 2019, Scotland were the underdogs as they took on the then ‘best side’ in the world Belgium. They sat deep in a compact 4-4-2, organised and attempting to stifle the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku. Ultimately, they were pulled apart in a 3-0 loss and Clarke’s first as Scotland boss.

Almost five years on, they faced a team in Northern Ireland that was determined and tactically disciplined, willing to sit back and absorb pressure. Only Micheal O’Neill’s men did a better job than they had and held out for a win.

Gilmour struggled to open up the Northern Irish defence

Despite the obvious differences in quality between themselves and Belgium, Scotland will need to learn to unsettle low-blocks and create space when none seems available. White Irons’ keeper Bailey Peacock-Farell was not tested nearly as much as he should have been and it seemed McGinn was not his usual self in midfield as Aston Villa’s ever-growing fixture list seems to be taking its toll.

Billy Gilmour attempted to get his opponents moving to create gaps but his switch passes were often wayward or lacking the accuracy to create the necessary slivers of space for a through ball to be passed into. Ryan Christie made a few runs that caused problems but slowly began to fade as the game wore on before being substituted for Shankland in the 78th minute.

The introduction of Lewis Ferguson in the 37th minute following Robertson’s injury helped as he looked like lively around the box but it just wasn’t enough for the side to get a goal back. Clarke will hope Callum McGregor can make a swift return and help control tempo as well as create openings for the side should they face another deep-lying defence.


Andy Robertson’s exit in the first-half was a troubling sight for the manager as his options in the wing-back role on either side continue to be decimated by injury. Aaron Hickey is yet to return from a hamstring injury that has kept him out since October. Tierney has been dealing with hamstring problems of his own as he has been out for a couple of short spells for Real Sociedad this season. Patterson is had to use these international fixtures to return to full fitness as Sean Dyche continues to leave him on the bench at Everton. Having to rely on Celtic’s Greg Taylor and Motherwell’s Stephen O’Donnell is far from ideal as a group featuring the likes of Leroy Sane, Jamal Musiala and Xherdan Shaqiri on the wings will give Clarke nightmares should his current options not be fit for the tournament.

Clarke will hope Robertson’s injury is not serious