Scotland manager Alex McLeish believes that Scotland fans expect the team to fail after 20 years of failing to qualifying for a major tournament and hopes to help alter the country’s footballing psyche.
In his second stint as the Scotland national manager, McLeish watched on as his side lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in a friendly at Hampden Park on Friday.
Speaking to BBC Scotland, McLeish said: “The expectations are not what they were in the 70s, 80s, 90s when we expected to get to World Cups and Euros. It’s more a perspective that we’ll fail – that’s the kind of, ‘Oh, Scotland, they’ll let us down again’.
“That’s in our psyche now a wee bit and we’ve got to try and change that – the only way we can change it is on the pitch with top-level performances.”
In what was viewed by many as a poor first half performance against Costa Rica, McLeish pointed to the second half of the match as the way forward – after he brought on five substitutions.
He added: “The first half was not to my liking; the second half was a bit better. There were always going to be subs coming on, we wouldn’t have announced such a big squad if we were doing otherwise.
“If I wanted to include James McArthur and (other) experienced guys, to get some kind of result and have everybody saying, ‘Oh, that’s not bad, we got a draw or we got a win against a team who finished top of England, Uruguay and Italy’s group in the World Cup in Brazil’.
“I’m not making excuses for that but we were capable of beating them in the second half, or at least getting a draw.
“We’ll look to give other players a start (against Hungary). We’re at almost an experimental stage. I want to win the same as any other man, but what I want to do is get the right results at the right time. Hopefully it’s not a marathon in terms of games before we win but let’s say a mini-marathon.”
Scotland had enough chances to find the back of the net against the Central Americans, but they failed to find that killer instinct and McLeish admits that he fears that Scotland have a problem up front.
With Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths sidelined with a calf injury, Swansea’s Oli McBurnie [on loan at Barnsley] made his international debut after finding the net six times in nine appearances since January.
McLeish admitted: “Of course (goals are a concern). We don’t have a natural 20-odd-goals-a-season man which we have had in the past.
“We have a few of the older players injured down south – Chris Martin’s not been getting a game, Steven Fletcher’s been injured, Jordan Rhodes has been bit-part at his club. They’re the kind of experienced guys. Leigh Griffiths has been injured, he was our main man and broke through brilliantly last season.
“Oli McBurnie didn’t do himself any harm, he got into good positions, probably should’ve executed one or two of them, and it would’ve been a fantastic debut for him.
“But he’s playing at Barnsley, who are struggling to stay in the Championship. I think there’s scope for Oli, there’s definitely a player in there somewhere, but he’s still only a boy.”
Another problematic area for McLeish to worry about is central defence with Scotland short of right sided defenders.
26 year old Grant Hanley was the only right sided central defender among the three that McLeish called up for the Costa Rica and Hungary game.
McLeish continued: “We are really struggling on the right side, Hanley won his 29th cap against Costa Rica on the right of a back three. I know there’s John Souttar at Hearts, I’m waiting on a report to see how he did last night for the Under-21s. We don’t have a lot of right-footers.
“You don’t normally see two lefties playing in a 4-4-2, but we may have to do that if we have an injury to a right-sided centre-back. Where are they? There’s not a lot going about. Sure, clubs in the Scottish Premiership have them but, from what I’ve seen, are they good enough at this international level?”
Scotland next take on Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday.