Scot­land 0 Nether­lands 1 Mackay bows out

● Only game for care­taker Scot­land boss ends in de­feat - but with pride

The Scotsman - - Sport - By STEPHEN HAL­L­I­DAY at Pit­to­drie

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.

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