McCalliog joins Stra­chan in praise for Arm­strong on Scot­land de­but

The Herald - Herald Sport - - WORLD CUP QUALIFYING - GRAEME MACPHERSON

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.”

Pic­tures: SNS

STU-PENDOUS: Arm­strong picks up his man-ofthe-match award on Sun­day night when he im­pressed Jim McCalliog (be­low).

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