Don't sack him! Caldwell sticks by Levein and blames players for Scots' woe
21:36 GMT, 12 September 2012
Gary Caldwell insists that sacking Craig Levein as manager will do nothing to change Scotland’s fortunes.
The national team were jeered from the Hampden pitch for the second time in four days following Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Macedonia.
Hopes of qualification for the World Cup finals in Brazil in 2014 were dented by Saturday’s scoreless draw with Serbia. Fortunate to emerge from the Macedonia game with another point, the Scots now face an uphill challenge to qualify.
Back him! Gary Caldwell (left) dismissed claims Craig Levein should go
A defiant Levein maintains he is ‘very positive’ over his side’s prospects.His record in competitive games now worse than Berti Vogts or George Burley, however, the Fifer will enter next month’s games in Wales and Belgium fighting for his job, despite the backing of Caldwell.
Quizzed on whether Levein’s job is now in the balance, the Wigan captain admitted the players have to take their share of the flak, saying: ‘I don’t even think you should be asking that question, to be honest.
‘If you change the manager, nothing else is going to change.
‘We’re going in the right direction but we need everyone pulling in the right direction and at this moment in time there are too many people pulling in different ways and trying to cause disruption.
‘The whole country has to be positive. I think we’re a better team than we were two years ago but, to prove it, we’ve got to win games — and big games.
‘We haven’t done that and that’s down to the players. We are the ones who haven’t performed in the last two matches so we need to look at ourselves and try to be better.’
Blow: Scotland failed to win either of the opening qualifying matches
Against a Macedonian team ranked 97th in the FIFA World rankings the Scots — with Caldwell in a midfield holding role — struggled to contain Napoli playmaker Goran Pandev.
The visitors scored an opening goal which looked offside, but could have scored more had it not been for the excellence of goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
‘Craig was disappointed afterwards because he wanted to win as much as anyone,’ added Caldwell.
‘He knows we can play better and he said that so it’s time to regroup.
‘We don’t have a crystal ball. We don’t know yet whether or not this will be two good points but there are eight games left and we still believe we can win every one of them.
‘Obviously, we haven’t yet shown that and we accept that. Whoever gets the strip in the remaining games, we need to be better and believe in ourselves.’
Macedonia’s players, meanwhile, have
admitted surprise at how little they were tested by a dismal Scotland at
Hampden. The Balkan nation dominated the scoring chances in Glasgow and
were unlucky not to take all three points.
Not in the script: Macedonia took an early lead against Scotland at Hampden
'We watched Scotland’s game against Serbia and their team was very upbeat and good at pressing the ball,’ said full-back Daniel Georgievski.
‘Their work ethic in that game was great, with lots of running. But there was little of that against us. We dominated the game and deserved three points.
‘I expected more from Scotland. They were better against Serbia.’
Striker Mirko Ivanovski admitted his poor finish had cost Macedonia a famous victory.
Put in on goal by the outstanding Pandev during the second half, Ivanovksi mis-hit his shot at McGregor.
‘I wanted to lob the ball because I saw the goalkeeper going to ground, but I didn’t make the right connection and hit it with my heel instead,’ he said. ‘That made it an easy save for the goalkeeper.
‘When you play a game alongside a player of Pandev’s quality then you are sure to get a 100 per cent chance in a match. But you have to take it. I didn’t and we lost the points.
‘Pandev is in a class of his own but we have to make the most of what he brings to the team. People can say we deserved to take three points away from Glasgow, and something against Croatia, but the only thing that really matters is the total on the group table.’