I attended the Scotland v Ireland game this past Friday as my primary national team took on my secondary national team at Celtic Park a stadium which both national teams will consider a home away from home.
• Ticket Price
o I paid £32 for a restricted view ticket (was the cheapest available) which is atrocious. When you consider that I paid £35 for a ticket just over a year ago for a seat in the middle of the pitch and now I have to pay basically a tenner more for a seat which wasn’t even half as good. Scotland is a socialist country and to be fair generally the international tickets have been fairly priced but this game against Ireland was not the case. It is made all the worse by the fact that they are then selling tickets for the England game at £50 (cheapest available) for a friendly! This is a double header that many fans were incredibly excited about but instead of both games being a definitive sell out (still tickets left for England game and I don’t care what the stats say the Ireland game was not a sell-out) we have been left rather embarrassingly scrounging about trying to sell off the last few hundred tickets to try and save face.
o I personally am not going to the England game because as I said £50 for a friendly is ridiculous and that to me is frustrating because I’d definitely have went if the prices were reasonable, however £85 for two games is a lot to shell out in such a short space of time.
• Seats at Celtic Park
o I’ve often wondered why Parkhead isn’t listed as a top end European stadium (I have been before but not for a big match) and now I know. My initial seats had a delightful view of a monstrosity of a green pole which obstructed about a third of a half. However as I said this game wasn’t a sell out and I ended up moving to a seat with an angle which had an excellent view of the pitch which for some reason hadn’t been sold. I can only assume that this was part of the Sky Studios (which had been constructed in the stands) which seen two sections of perfectly good seats go unsold, that or the incompetence of the SFA…hm… Anyway as I was saying, you have to wonder why a team the size of Celtic has a stadium which is so ill prepared for big nights and is so woefully out of date. I’m not saying that they should expand the diddy side of the stadium because they can barely fill half of the current seats they have, but something needs to be done because my initial seats were pretty pitiful.
o Naturally as a Scot I’m more than happy with how the result turned out. The night never dragged as both teams played the game at a high pace and it was very much a fifty fifty type of match. Yes there wasn’t much quality out there from either team (excluding the Scotland goal which was magical) but it was what you’d call a good old fashioned British Isles tie. I think the right team won as Ireland made almost no attempt to attack and seemed to be settling for a draw (felt this at the game and afterwards watching the game back on TV).
o I was actually very disappointed with Ireland who I felt weren’t really interested in playing football but rather kicking the shit out of whoever was on the ball. There was a number of poor tackles which were a bit too nasty for my liking. I also was very surprised with the lack of creativity from the Irish, at no point did they open up the Scottish defence from open play but instead relied on workmanlike play, which is the exact same sort of style Scotland play and saw both teams pretty much cancel each other out.
o I think that things are looking really promising for Scotland; we look good defensively, the midfield looks solid and we have good attacking players who can create and cause defences problems with pace and trickery and we have guys who are willing to put it all on the line for the full ninety minutes. The one thing which we still lack is goals and more specifically goals from strikers (Steven Fletcher 18 games 1 goal for instance), thankfully we have Gibraltar next and a good drubbing should lift a number of players confidences in front of goal.
o I felt Marshall looked great in nets and had a great command of his area, his kicking however was dreadful.
o Thought the defence played well although I wonder why more teams don’t put balls in behind Martin and Hanley because they are sorely lacking in pace.
o I thought it was interesting to see that Andy Robertson played with the no. 15 which says to me that he wasn’t meant to play but Morrison pulled out pre-match with illness and this saw Mulgrew (who was wearing no. 3) move from left back to central midfield. Which to me seems odd as Robertson is a fantastic young player with bundles of potential who can only improve by playing in games like this, plus he was excellent and put in a man of the match worthy performance to boot.
o I do believe that Steven Naismith is beginning to make himself Scotland’s most indispensable player as he put in another stellar performance.
o Maloney took his goal incredibly well and it was a very well worked corner, something that you can’t often say about short corners.
o It is interesting to point out that of Scotland’s starting eleven six ply their trade in the Championship. Now don’t get me wrong some of these players are too good for this level (notably Maloney, Marshall and Anya) but it is interesting that Strachan doesn’t pick the players who are playing at the highest level but rather the ones who he feels fit his system the best and with recent results you can’t really deny that he has got it right.
o I can’t really think of an Irish player who played very well…which maybe explains why they didn’t play too well.
• The Fans
o The Scottish fans were in fine voice and the atmosphere was phenomenal after Maloney scored what turned out to be the winner.
o Prior to the match there was a big hullabaloo about Irish fans not getting enough tickets and how that would mean that they would end up in the Scotland end and then who knows all sorts of shenanigans could break out! Naturally I thought with the game being held in the heartland of Catholic Glasgow there would be no problem whatsoever… Well that turned out to be wrong, which is a real shame. As the game went on the Irish fans were getting more boisterous joining in on the Aiden McGeady songs and the like which when you’re sitting in the home end and he was naturally everyone’s least favourite player (born and raised in Scotland and more than good enough to play for his home nation but still chose to play for a nation which is of a similar level [nothing sectarian about this (despite what some dafties say) the guy is just a prick]) wasn’t the wisest thing to do and tensions are going to rise. This led to a fight breaking out about eight rows in front of me as a bunch of pasty white men took on another bunch of pasty white men as beer bellies and fists went flying. The stewards eventually got up there and broke it up and everything calmed down for about ten seconds before a wee ned ran up and smacked a guy and it all kicked off again and the police ended up getting involved. Got to say that this is incredibly unusual from two sets of fans that are well known for their good behaviour, however on a side note the Aiden McGeady singing coincidentally died down dramatically.
• Looking Forward
o Scotland will be the happier of the two sides naturally but will also be happy with how well we have performed so far. If you had said how many points do you want after these four games you would have said 7, which is exactly what they have achieved. The only negative so far in this campaign for Scotland is the fact that both Poland and Ireland got unexpected results against what has been a very sluggish Germany. If Scotland were to achieve 13 points from their remaining six games I think that will be enough to finish 2nd in the group and qualify automatically and more than that I think it is quite achievable.
o Ireland have now got a lot of work to do in my opinion. They were lucky to get a win against Georgia and were lucky to get a draw against Germany and based off of what I saw I can’t see them finishing above Scotland in this group. If I were to say how many points the Irish would be happy with at this point I would have said 7 which considering I just said they would be disappointed seems a total contradiction, but a draw against Germany is a bonus a draw away to Scotland would have been more valuable.
Naturally it was a good night and it was great to see Scotland continue on our path to the glory of playing in a tournament finals once again. In a perfect world I would love to see Scotland finish 2nd and Ireland take 3rd but after this game and the fact that Poland have had some really good results so far I seriously doubt that will happen.
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