BY IAIN COLLIN – @CCP_sport
PETER Houston insists any win will do for Scotland against Malta on Sunday.
The former Scotland number two knows all too well from painful experience the cost of not getting a qualifying campaign off to the perfect start.
Under manager Craig Levein, Houston was part of a Scotland set-up that began their Euro 2012 qualifiers with a 0-0 draw away to Lithuania before an unconvincing and last-gasp 2-1 win over Liechtenstein at Hampden.
Two years later, in the bid to reach the 2014 World Cup, they kicked off with a 0-0 stalemate with Serbia at home and then a 1-1 draw with Macedonia.
On both occasions, the disappointing starts set the tone for the failure to reach the country’s first major tournament since the World Cup in France in 1998.
And Houston is adamant that returning with the three points from Sunday’s opening World Cup qualifier against the expected Group F whipping boys should be the only goal, no matter how it is achieved.
He said: “I hope they can get off to a good start this weekend – and I fully expect them to win, I really do.
“I know there’s been a lot made of the squad, with people disappointed or whatever.
“But Gordon’s a sensible guy and I think he’s an excellent manager, and it’s all about trying to get Scotland off on the right trail – and the right trail is getting three points in Malta.
“And that’s the only thing he should be thinking about just now, and forgetting about games in the future.
“There aren’t any easy games in international football. People have got to recognise that this is not a game where, I think, Scotland are going to go and win 5-0 or 6-0.
“If Scotland get three points then, as a Scotland fan, I’ll be happy, because that’s the objective.
“I want Scotland to win every game, not matter what my experiences were with the national team.
“I want Scotland to win because I’m a Scotland fan and got used to seeing Scotland qualify when I was a young boy.
“And I just want them to get three points on the road to try to qualify from a difficult group.”
Meanwhile, Houston is backing Darren Fletcher to resume his duties as Scotland captain following the decision of Scott Brown to retire from international football.
When fit, Fletcher was captain during Houston’s spell with the national team and the Falkirk manager believes the West Brom midfielder is a ready-made replacement for Brown.
He added: “I would endorse Darren Fletcher as captain.
“Scott Brown’s energy and enthusiasm will be missed but Darren is a quality guy on and off the pitch.
“He passes the ball well, he always tries to keep possession and, although he’s quiet, he always urges his team-mates on and isn’t afraid to say things.
“I’ve got a lot of time for Darren, he’s a top-class pro and he’ll get others round about him working hard.
“And, if it is him, then good luck.”