McCalliog joins Strachan in praise for Armstrong on Scotland debut
GORDON STRACHAN’S view that Stuart Armstrong enjoyed the best ever debut from a Scotland player might have come as a surprise to some. Particularly one gentleman sat in the Main Stand at Hampden on Sunday night watching the Celtic player’s maiden bow unfold.
Jim McCalliog’s first Scotland appearance ended with him scoring the winning goal against England at Wembley but he is too modest and too nice a man to pick holes with Strachan’s assertion that Armstrong’s achievements bettered what he did back in 1967. Instead, as a fan he was simply happy to watch Armstrong play a pivotal role in Scotland beating Slovenia to get their World Cup aspirations back on track.
“It’s not for me to say about who did what on their Scotland debuts,” said McCalliog. “I’ll leave that to others. I was just pleased to see Stuart Armstrong come into the team and do so well as it’s not easy making your Scotland debut, regardless of the circumstances.
“Scotland were under a bit of pressure on Sunday night as we really needed a win to keep alive our chances of reaching the World Cup. So any player getting thrown straight into that setting is going to find it tough but I thought Stuart did really well. He ended up getting the assist for Chris Martin’s winning goal so that was a nice reward for him at the end of the match after putting in so much up until that point.
“Stuart has always had the talent but you can see in the last wee while he’s really started to shine, especially since Brendan Rodgers went in at Celtic. He’s got that swagger about him, a wee skip in his step, and he’s become a really big player for his club. Hopefully he can go on now to do that for Scotland, too.
“You’re always apprehensive when you’re about to go up against better players and better teams and Stuart might have been feeling that when he was waiting to go out the tunnel. But there were no sign of nerves from him at all. He was certainly a match for anything Slovenia threw at him and I thought he took the whole occasion in his stride. You’d imagine that would be the first of many caps for him if he keeps playing like that.”
The result keeps alive Scotland’s chances of making it to next summer’s World Cup finals in Russia, imbuing June’s contest against England at home with even greater significance.
“I think as a Scotland fan you have to be optimistic,” added McCalliog. “We’ve learned that over the years. People try to knock us down but they’ll only manage that if they put us in the grave! We’ll always get back up and keep on fighting. You only have to look at Andy Murray.
“So we’ll be well up for this England game now in June and you never know what can happen on the day. There’s no reason why we can’t beat them if we play like we did on Sunday night.”
STU-PENDOUS: Armstrong picks up his man-ofthe-match award on Sunday night when he impressed Jim McCalliog (below).