Gordon Strachan sending his Scotland side in search of a win

Manager believes trust has helped to build team spirit in his squad

No world class players. Just good, good players.

Gordon Strachan, a familiar face and voice in his role as television analyst, enters the Lansdowne Road press room in manager mode.

No chance of him giving Martin O’Neill any advantage in this battle of the former Celtic managers. So each compliment is divided equally.

If anything was going to squeeze a quotable gem out of Strachan it would have been the Sky Sports guy telling him SFA chief executive Stewart Regan said he was doing as much as Nicola Sturgeon (Scotland's modern day William Wallace) to unite the clans.


“Trust helps,” said Strachan, swallowing the mere hint of a smile. “That’s been built up. The hard work we’ve put in off the pitch, that helps.

“It’s the best team spirit I think. There are no nights out. Golf days, going in Go Carts . . . so that’s good. But we are always wary that can go. That’s why we let them know that over the last few years.”

Then he says the same of Ireland. Same spirit, same ability to dig out results.

“Because of that you got two sets of supporters expecting to win.”

A draw is offered to him. The age old difference between football person and football reporter is crystallised by his response.

“I can’t remember ever any manager telling me ‘This is the way to play for a draw’.”

Never fell under the yoke of Giovanni Trapattoni then. None of the great masters he's served suggested it; not Billy McNeill, Jock Stein, big Ron Atkinson, Alex Ferguson or Howard Wilkinson.

“I don’t think I’ve tried it myself. We’ll try and win the game and see what happens after that. Take a draw? I would say yeah but again you never know what the points total is going to be. You play the game and get on with it. We don’t know where we might be at the end. (The win) might be important.”

The draw, however, might feel awfully like the win.

Aiden McGeady’s potential absence, Strachan maintained, will not overly impact the contest as he, like everyone else on view, is slightly below the standard of footballer who can decide a game on his own.

“Ireland are not short of good players. They have some top, top Premiership players. I think they can lose two or three and still put in a performance.”

Evidence to the contrary was seen in the midfield skirmishes at Celtic Park last November.

“I don’t think any one player on either side could really affect the outcome of the game. The squads have good players but what the two squads have achieved is through excellent team work.

"We do not have a Gareth Bale, we do not have a Ronaldo, either side. We do not have a Messi, a player that can change the game just on their own. Who can cause havoc.

“Some good, good players but no world class players.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent