BY IAIN COLLIN – Capital City Press
Colin Stein watched Steven Fletcher match his Scotland hat-trick for a second time – but just wishes the goals flurry counted for something.
Until Fletcher’s three goals in the 6-1 win over Gibraltar at Hampden in March, Stein had been the last Scotland player to net a hat-trick – a full 46 years ago.
The former Rangers and Hibernian striker actually scored four times in that 8-0 victory over Cyprus in May 1969 and admits he fully expected Fletcher to finally become the first to equal that feat as the goals rained down in Sunday’s 6-0 victory over Gibraltar.
Stein said: “He seems to be making a habit of matching my hat-trick, but he’s still not scored four yet!
“It looked like he might get the four this time, though. He had a couple of chances that he could have scored from in the first-half and then, for a while, it looked like he would get to the four in the second-half.
“Fletcher has always been an excellent target man, receiving the ball and bringing other players into play, but it’s hard to receive the ball out on the wings and then get yourself into a scoring position.
“But, at the end of the day, if you’re a striker you’ve got to score goals; that’s your job and he’s done well.”
However, the 68-year-old insists his biggest disappointment was that Sunday’s game was a dead rubber after the Tartan Army’s dreams of qualification for Euro 2016 had been dashed against Poland three days earlier.
Long way off
He added: “They performed well up until the Georgia game but that was the one that cost them in the end.
“They were unfortunate against Poland, though. I think they should have beaten them.
“It’s fantastic for the likes of Northern Ireland and Wales and good luck to them, it’s a tremendous achievement.
“I think it will come eventually for us, but nobody likes to be defeated or fail to qualify all the time.
“The fans have been great but they just can’t be saying ‘okay, we’ve been beaten again’. They want to win something, but to me that seems a long way off.”
As the dust settles on another failed qualification campaign, the debate is now centred on whether manager Gordon Strachan will remain in charge for the formidable challenge of progressing to the 2018 World Cup in Russia from a group that includes England, Slovenia and Slovakia.
Stein went on: “They’re more or less the same players that played so abysmally under Craig Levein.
“But Gordon’s managed to get them playing. His problem is they aren’t getting any younger and there doesn’t seem to be much coming through the under-21s.
“It’s a hard group for the World Cup qualifiers next, so it doesn’t get any easier.”