UEFA European Under-21 Championship Qualifier
SCOTLAND v Ukraine
Friday, 13 November 2015, kick-off 5.45pm
St Mirren Park, Paisley
Scotland U21 boss Ricky Sbragia says he is relishing the challenge of tonight’s European Championship qualifier against Ukraine at St Mirren Park. The manager has been joined by national coach Gordon Strachan and Performance Director Brian McClair this week, and insists it’s been beneficial for everyone.
“It’s been fantastic. From day one, he’s (Strachan) came in and helped everyone with his knowledge of international football and the sessions we’re talking about. He’s just been watching training, spent some time with the players and got to know them.”
Despite Ukraine having failed to pick up any point thus far, Sbragia commented:
“They’ve lost their three game against France, Macedonia and Iceland, but they’re a good team. They play a long ball game, they’re very physical and tall but very decent and should’ve probably beat Macedonia and Iceland. It’ll be a tough game, we know that, so we know what to expect. We’ve done some video analysis over the past few days and have a game plan."
For Scotland, who currently sit fourth in Group 3 with four points, Sbragia says this isn’t a fair reflection of his sides progress in recent months.
“I actually think we should’ve beaten Iceland, and their goalkeeper made a fantastic save late on in the game. A lot of it has to do with luck and luck has to do with us sometimes not being clinical enough. As ever, we just take each game as it comes and see how it goes and hopefully get something from it.”
Sbragia also admits there has been an extra edge to training, as the national boss casts his eye over the future generation.
“There’s certainly a bit more tackling going around! There’s been a real competitive edge and they’re obviously trying to show Gordon that, at some point in their careers, they deserve to make the step up to the A squad.”
Sbragia, who previously assisted with the U19 squad, was full of praise for Hull City defender Andy Robertson who has joined up with the squad having received three full international caps already.
“The great thing about Andy is that he’s had no problems coming down. In the past, when you ask more experienced players to come down they don’t want to, but with Andy it’s been different class. He’s really mixed well with the group and he’s been a gem to work with.”
Sbragia was emotional as he paid tribute to former Sunderland goalkeeper Marton Fulop, who passed away at just 32. The former Black Cats boss fought back tears and said:
”Marton was everything, he was great for me as a manager and he kept us in the Premiership. Craig Gordon was injured at the time, so Marton was a big focal point in the team. He made a save in the 94th minute from Gary Cahill, and kept us in the division. I was really sad to hear that he passed away, he was a lovely man and I had a lot of time for him.”