Scotland 0 Netherlands 1 Mackay bows out
● Only game for caretaker Scotland boss ends in defeat - but with pride
Malky Mackay expressed his pride at Scotland’s performance despite a defeat in what is set to be his only match in charge of the national team.
The SFA performance director says he will “return to the day job” after overseeing the 1-0 loss to Netherlands at Pittodrie. Shortly before the friendly, SFA chief executive Stewart Regan confirmed that Mackay would not be considered for the role on a permanent basis as the search for Gordon Strachan’s replacement continues.
Mackay, who gave debuts to four players last night, believes the future of the national team is bright for whoever gets the job.
He said: “I wouldn’t imagine I’ll be in charge for the next friendly. I’ll go back to my day job tomorrow. We have a staff in place. That’s what I’ll be heavily involved in, putting in place a staff which surrounds the senior squad. I want it to be a certain fashion, like a Champions League club.
“I was really, really proud of the players tonight. To play against Holland and end up with 18 chances on goal says something about them.
“They will be disappointed at not being more clinical and taking some of the chances but I thought they showed real bravery.
“We have a young group who are very athletic and tactically aware of the gameplan. More than that, they are technically good players.
“People have knocked the technique of Scottish footballers but, if you look at the way they played against one of the top-ranked European countries, who are so comfortable on the ball. We were also very comfortable on the ball,” added Mackay, pictured. “I’m very proud of them and I’ve told them that. That is the group with the jerseys now. They have three or four friendlies to play before they go into the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Why that group can’t go on to win 50 caps, I don’t know. “We lost Leigh Griffiths beforehand, lost Stuart Armstrong on Wednesday and lost Scott Brown during it. He sat next to me on the bench and was part of the coaching staff.
“We also lost Darren Fletcher. If you add those four to it, then you are starting to see a real good blend. We have a lot of young, hungry, athletic and talented footballers. They just need belief. They just need helped along the way to become top Scottish international footballers.
“If they play like that against midranking European teams in a campaign, then we win.”
Mackay is unsure if he will play any part in the ongoing process to find a new manager.
“There is a sub-committee involved in picking the new manager,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be involved in that. If I’m asked my opinion, fine. All I’ve been doing in the last week was making sure the preparation was right to go and play Holland.”
It seems that nary a week passes without Kieran Tierney racking up some sort of career milestone. Last night, you could contend that the wunderkind of Scottish football, whose talents have the game’s cognoscenti all a quiver, brought up not one but two more.
The Celtic defender’s headline act may have been becoming the second youngest Scotland captain in more than a century – Tierney, aged 20 and five months, is a mere one month older than Darren Fletcher was when first handed the armband for Scotland in a win over Estonia in May 2004.
That is some headline act, but for his next trick Tierney could also point to a remarkable piece of juggling. The youngster has earned his status as the most exciting player to hail from these borders in more than three decades on his faultless performances at left-back for Brendan Rodgers’ side.
Against the Netherlands, interim manager Malky Mackay installed him at centre-back in a four-man defence and so ensured that Tierney added a third position to those he has featured in across the span of his nine-cap Scotland career.
Even if his destiny is being presented as a £40 million signing for one of Europe’s top clubs, it seemed unfair to burden Tierney with an unfamiliar role on the night of his being asked to lead his team – a duty he has only performed twice at club level.
Yet, such is the marvel of this player, whenever you fear too much may be being asked of him, he responds with the sort of performance that suggest there is nothing that appears beyond him.
Tierney recently signed a six-year contract with Celtic, with whom he has intimated his professional ties may be more enduring than any believe possible in this football world where he could probably earn more in a year in England what he would bank in a football lifetime at a team for whom the personal and professional fuse as they never could elsewhere. He is a special case in all respects then, and proved that is breathtakingly so in an onfield sense with the contribution he made at centre-back against the Dutch. Tierney simply never betrayed any apprehension or uncertainty, never looked like a fill-in. Indeed, he appeared more assured than when deployed on the left of a three against England in June. Much more so, in fact, than when he operating at right-back to accommodate Andrew Robertson in the end days of the Gordon Strachan regime, the Liverpool squad man once more in the position he is given no opportunity to play at club level.
Looking as if he is stretching beyond the 5ft 10in officially given as his height, Tierney won aerial duels, showed innate positional sense to win every important block and, most impressively of all, built and made the play from the back. Granted, early on this amounted to the sort of long upfield balls that he wouldn’t dare deliver under club manager Rodgers.
Yet, it wasn’t clatter but craft that informed these 60yarders because on two occasions in the first 11 minutes he released Matt Phillips with the range and accuracy that underpinned these booming balls. A tactic, clearly, it ought to have yielded the desired result, with the West Bromich Albion forward squandering the precious chances that Tierney’s class opened up for him.
Deep in the second half, Tierney produced another penetrating delivery to allow the just on-field Ryan Fraser to drive into the visitors’ penalty area, with his eventual effort whistling just past the post.
Tierney couldn’t be the man at both ends but he almost was in stepping forward to have a pop from 25-yard that Barcelona keeper Jasper Cillessen was forced to push at full stretch. That effort came four minutes before the loss of a 40th-minute goal that may have spoiled his first outing as Scotland captain but which was not a black mark on his performance.
Tierney held a high enough line to play Ryan Babel offside when he received the ball from which he crossed for Memphis Depay to score. The flag that should have been raised to denote the illegitimacy of the strike did not arrive, but Tierney planted another flag on his ascent to the summit of the game.
3 Kieran Tierney, who skippered his country at the age of just 20, acknowledges the supporters.
1 Scotland’s Ryan Christie, left, battles Timothy Fosu-mensah for the ball. 2 Ryan Fraser fires a shot on goal under pressure from Nathan Ake and Karim Rekik. 3 Ryan Jack, left, puts Netherlands goalscorer Memphis Depay under pressure.
0 Kieran Tierney, right, at the start of his night as Scotland captain.