IT used to be said that it was the hope that killed you as a Scotland fan. Now it is apathy that is the biggest danger of rigor mortis setting in amongst the Tartan Army.

When performances and results like the ones against Kazakhstan and San Marino in recent days are met with a shrug of the shoulders, then the game is almost up for the national team.

There was disappointment, of course, but was there real anger? Did it hurt? Maybe for some, but perhaps not for all.

The only surprise in the aftermath of these two fixtures is that people are surprised. It shouldn’t be a shock that players don’t fancy representing their country or that Alex McLeish’s side are short on quality.

The embarrassing 3-0 defeat and turgid 2-0 win were as bad as it has been for some time, though.

If you were tempted to turn over to watch The Chase on ITV or have a look at the documentary about Australia’s islands on the BBC during the second half on Sunday, nobody could blame you.

A sense of loyalty was the only thing that would have kept many tuned in and that support from the support is about all Scotland have going for them right now.

That can’t be counted on forever, though, and the longer the malaise continues the more fans will be turned away and turned off by the national team.

As pointless wins go, the 2-0 victory in Serravalle was right up there. No joy could be taken from it, only relief, and most of that was because that it was over.

Soon, it may well be for McLeish and it is difficult to see how he wins over his detractors and silences his critics going forward.

When he was appointed as manager for a second time, there was a lingering fear that it would end like this, that the 60-year-old would lurch from one game to the next, just about doing enough to keep his head above water.

Now he finds himself swimming against the tide and he is in danger of drowning in a sea of negativity, and some unwarranted abuse.

McLeish’s commitment to the cause, to his country, can’t be questioned. But there is a somewhat shambolic feeling about Scotland right now and fewer and fewer supporters will have faith in the manager or the players whilst they are under his control.

Nothing that Scotland did against San Marino could have made up for events in Nursultan last week.

Even when he won, McLeish found himself in a no-win situation.

It was uninspiring, insipid and fairly depressing stuff as McLeish’s side huffed, puffed and stumbled to three points that will mean nothing come the end of the Euro qualifying campaign.

So fair play to those that made the journey out there, the hundreds that spent their hard earned cash to follow a team that give you few reasons to be cheerful.

There has been a growing sense for a while now that interest in the national side is steadily on the wane and it is hard to argue that international football holds the kind of lure and lustre that it once did.

People still care, of course they do. But in the same way they do about their club, the managers and players they devote their lives to week in, week out? That’s far from certain.

The chants against McLeish and the Scottish FA were the first public signs of disaffection from the Tartan Army and they will have focused minds at Hampden.

The question now is whether there is enough appetite within the fan base to force for change, both in the dugout and in the corridors of power as Alan McRae and Rod Petrie, the president and powerbroker in waiting, come in for increasing criticism and questioning.

On the back of a double-header like this one, everyone comes under the spotlight and every area of the game is up for debate.

Repeated failures, the long line of heartbreaks, will naturally wear supporters down, though, and the crowd for the qualifier with Cyprus in June will be an indicator into how much backing the current regimes on and off the park still have.

Those that do turn up will do so both in hope and expectation. The indifference towards Scotland from many will be hard to shake off, however, and only change and results will alter attitudes and win back hearts and minds.


THE calls for Alex McLeish to be sacked as Scotland manager are entirely understandable.

The list of names that were immediately banded about as potential replacements were just as predictable as the anger and the outcry, though.

But a glance at the next manager markets offered by the bookies highlights just how big a problem the Scottish FA have on their hands should they actually decide to dispense with Big Eck's services. It is easier to rule candidates out than it is to pencil them into contention for the job.

Gordon Strachan can't come back after his failed campaigns, Davie Moyes has the same feel of yesterdays man as McLeish and Craig Levein still hasn't been forgiven for that night in the Czech Republic nine years ago.

Michael O'Neill is now committed to Northern Ireland, Alex Neil has unfinished business in the Championship and Steve Clarke and Derek McInnes would be taking a backwards step if they headed to Hampden to become national boss.

After that, the bookies' odds go from the unlikely to the down right ridiculous, apart from two names.

Handily for the SFA, both - Malkay Mackay and Scot Gemmill are currently under their employment.

If McLeish moved on, would anyone be surprised if Mackay, the Performance Director, and Under-21 boss Gemmill were high on the list?

The position of Scotland manager is no longer highly sought after, no longer rewarding in a financial or football sense and interest in it will be scarce from a certain calibre of candidate. Nobody jumps out now.

Good luck then, Mr Maxwell. You are probably going to need it.