On November 5th, Craig Levein was relieved of his duties as Scotland manager. On the same day, people up and down the country celebrated by holding huge firework displays. Or at least I assume that’s what they were celebrating…
Yes, the man with the worst competitive record in Scottish international football history is gone, but he will continue to draw his full salary from the SFA for the duration of his contract because it is cheaper to honour his deal than to pay him off.
With deals like that, it is perhaps unsurprising that Mr Levein is now among the front runners to be named as new Director General of the BBC.
Only kidding. The BBC haven’t stooped that low. Yet…
Anyway, with Levein gone, the Scotland fans are in need of something to give them a boost. Rooted to the bottom of World Cup Qualifying Group A and without a win in four games, the news that they had slumped to 70th in the latest FIFA world rankings, behind Uzbekistan, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde Islands and Gabon, just rubbed further salt into the already-gaping wounds.
Even Libya, a country crippled by civil war and international sanctions, are a full 11 places above the Scots.
Kenny Miller attempted to give Scotland a boost in midweek by announcing that he was 100% committed to the national team and would never contemplate retiring from the international scene. The groans from the Tartan Army could probably be heard from Canada, where most of them wish the Vancouver Whitecaps striker would stay.
But not to worry, Scotland fans, because on Wednesday the SFA has lined up a glamour friendly to lift the mood of the nation.
Yes, this week Scotland face the might of Luxembourg in a match that surely has to be up there with some of the most meaningless international fixtures ever played. Even the famous game against Estonia in Tallinn in 1996, which lasted all of three seconds, will have taught us more about the players than this game threatens to do.
With Under-21 manager Billy Stark in charge of the full team for the time being, it might have been an idea for him to take his squad of youngsters with him to give them experience at, ahem, the ‘highest level’, before the real business of trying to avoid bottom spot in the qualifiers starts again next year.
Nine call-offs from the original squad has forced Stark to include some new faces, including Leigh Griffiths, Andrew Shinnie and Liam Kelly, but it would still come as a shock to absolutely nobody to see Miller deployed in a lone-striker role in an attempt to contain a side that lost 6-0 at home to Israel last month.
Worryingly for Scotland, however, Luxembourg have shown that they can live with Europe’s most mediocre sides, holding Northern Ireland to a draw in September and beating Macedonia and Albania in the last campaign.
Two of those teams are officially better than Scotland according to FIFA, with only Macedonia having to suffer the ignominy of being ranked lower than a side who can’t even beat Wales (who are, by the way, also now ranked higher than Scotland).
Sadly, the only way to make this game even slightly bearable is by winning some decent money on it. So that, my dear friends, is what I intend to do.
Scotland are 3/5 to pick up a win that nobody back home will care about, while Luxembourg are 5/1 to pick up a win that nobody back home will be surprised about. The draw, on offer at 13/5, looks like a decent bet, but I’m going to swallow my pride and back the Scots to win, but only just.
You will get odds of 5/2 on Scotland winning with under 2.5 goals scored in the game and since I expect a turgid, agonising affair to be settled by a late, scrappy and probably embarrassingly lucky goal, then this is the bet for me.
New customers to bwin who sign up online qualify for a free £20 bet and using that to back Scotland to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game will return £70 if successful.