One of my favourite things about watching that Scotland performance last night as seeing how Steve Clarke handled the aftermath. I thought he was absolutely brilliant.
He has taken a ton of stick in the course of this week, but today he’s entitled to sit back and smile as the critics turn on his opposite number instead and some of his decisions are vindicated.
Let’s not lie here, the Czech game was terrible.
Performances in it were just not good enough. I thought he was foolishly negative with his line-up. The decision not to play McGregor was disheartening and costly. I thought a couple of players looked miles off it.
Clarke got the tactics right last night.
Indeed, he got them so right that England’s much vaunted forward players barely got a sniff in front of David Marshall.
There are all sorts of debates over who the man of the match was; I though Andy Robertson was magnificent, covering every blade of grass, drifting wide, getting in crosses and defending resolutely.
More than 50% of this squad has some connection with Celtic.
So of course the media is raving about the one Ibrox academy graduate who’s played.
A lot of the anger after the Czech game was directed at Stephen O’Donnell, who I thought had a poor match … but we know that the real reason he was singled out for that treatment was the media’s fervent wish to see another Ibrox player, Patterson, the Covidiot, starting instead.
That pressure was nearly relentless.
It was good to see Clarke vindicated in not bowing to it, and not just backing O’Donnell but singling him out for special praise.
Clarke is used to the sounds of Ibrox squealing. He is also used to ignoring it.
I said the other day that this was his proving ground, the place where he could show us all what his talents really are.
From a disastrous game against the Czechs where his biggest mistake was in not being more aggressive, he went to last night with an attacking team which nevertheless managed to play compact stuff and hold England at bay.
Over the course of it, I thought Scotland deserved to win.
This is what Clarke is really capable of, and if he gets us past the Croats and into the next round that will be a real feather in his cap.
He’s finally showing people what he can do on the big stage. It’s not been smooth sailing, but he handles pressure well, he protects his players … and he learns from his mistakes. Yes, I was well impressed.