World Cup Qualifying Scotland 1 Slovenia 0
GORDN STRACHAN last night told Scotland match winner Chris Martin he has joined some illustrious company, after the striker was booed by sections of the Tartan Army after coming on against Slovenia.
The Fulham forward scored an 88thminute winner in the Russia 2018 qualifier at Hampden last night to secure a dramatic and hugely important 1-0 victory for his country.
However, his strike came just six minutes after the national team’s own supporters had reacted angrily to him replacing James Morrison.
Strachan, whose side are now just two points behind second-placed Slovakia in their qualifying section, has assured the forward that some legendary players have suffered identical abuse before him
“Chris is in good company because they booed Kenny Dalglish, Gary McAllister and Alan Hansen,” he said. “How’s that for company? He must be some player. It’s a great club to be in. If you can wind up with them, it’s fantastic. Seriously, though, Chris gets a good reception from his team mates and the staff. That’s why we pick him.
“The goal was a sweet moment for him in particular, and the players. Because I think everybody knows we deserved to win that game tonight so it was a sweet moment for anybody who wanted to enjoy the victory with us.
“Anybody who gave us a thought, who wanted us to win tonight – it doesn’t matter what age, whatever you do, that was for them. Some people can’t see it with Chris, which is understandable. If you don’t understand the game then you have a problem understanding what players are all about.”
Meanwhile, Strachan singled out Stuart Armstrong, the Celtic midfielder who was named man of the match after making his first appearance for Scotland, for special praise.
“Stuart Armstrong was the best Scottish debut I’ve ever seen,” he said. “He did well, but there were other guys who were special as well. We needed special performances because we were up against a very good and very physical side.”
Strachan, who would almost certainly have lost his job as manager if his side had failed to beat Slovenia, rated the performance as the best of his four-year tenure.
“It was probably the best they have played under me,” he said. “Everything went very well, considering we were giving away height and strength. They had to be at their best. We got that.
“Struggling to deal with the fact we weren’t ahead at half time could have been a problem, but it wasn’t. We had to get used to it for a bit when Griff [Leigh Griffiths] went off ,but we overcame that and came again.”
Strachan added: “I’m quite calm now and I was quite calm during the game. You get a bit emotional when things are not going well for your team. I can’t complain about that at any time.
“All you can ask as a manager is they go and do certain things. They did everything they were asked. They pushed themselves to another level out there.
“So, I was calm enough. Whatever will be, will be. I was enjoying their performance – the technical perfor- mance, the fitness performance and the mental strength. It could have been another hard luck story but I was okay because whatever happened, I was proud of what they were doing.”
A poor turnout of just over 20,000 fans watched the game and Strachan is hopeful that will improve in the future as a result of their excellent display.
“Everybody who was involved will go away feeling good about themselves,” he said. “I hope they enjoyed it. We are available for people to come along and support us next time! They will be welcome! And I know they will give us that support. The points were the most important thing – the performance and everything else helps as well. They have a feeling now that they can go and match quite a few international teams now.”
YA BEAUTY: Chris Martin celebrates his 88th-minute winner at Hampden last night as fellow substitute Ikechi Anya races to join in the party. Picture: SNS