BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
DARREN Jackson scored a double the last time Scotland faced Malta – and has backed the current side to cope with the pressure of this weekend’s must-win World Cup qualifier.
Jackson insists he should have scored a hat-trick 19 years ago as Scotland enjoyed a 3-2 friendly victory that helped build momentum towards qualification for the World Cup in France in 1998.
That tournament is a constant reminder of the failures of teams since then to reach a major tournament but, with Gordon Strachan at the helm, Jackson firmly believes the present-day outfit are capable of ending that nightmare drought.
The former Celtic and Dundee United striker said: “I just think we need to carry on. With Gordon Strachan as manager, I’m sure there’s always a desire there to do well.
“Every day he wakes up the desire is there and the players have shown great passion.
“Probably watching the Euros, especially what Wales and Northern Ireland achieved, will have shown them what they missed out on.
“Yes, every time a tournament comes around and they don’t qualify there’s just more pressure.
“But I don’t think the boys are that far away from achieving.
“It’s a tough group but they’re always going to be tough, and people will say they’re tough for Scotland because they’ve not qualified.
“But they just need to forget that and make sure they get off to a good start.”
Jackson admits the decision of skipper Scott Brown to retire from international football is a setback for Scotland going into a campaign that also sees them take on England, Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania.
However, he is hopeful that, with the core of the squad that came close to qualification for Euro 2016 remaining in place, they can overcome the loss of their inspirational captain.
The Raith Rovers number two added: “It’s more or less the same squad, so the continuity’s there.
“I think it’s a huge blow to lose Scott Brown but it’s probably the right decision for him if it’s going to prolong his Celtic career.
“But there’s a good bit of experience and youth in there and, knowing a lot of the boys, when they go away they love it with Gordon.”