Gordon Strachan's blueprint gives Scotland grounds for optimism

Manager Gordon Strachan passes on instructions to captain Scott Brown
Gordon Strachan has revitalised the Scotland squad since his appointment in January 2013

Four points from three matches: perhaps not the start to a qualifying campaign that dreams are made of, but one Gordon Strachan can be very satisfied with.

Yes, it would have been nice to snatch a point in Germany the way the Republic of Ireland did or indeed take all three away from Tuesday's match in Warsaw.

But the results achieved so far are broadly in line with the new level of expectation upon Strachan's Scotland.

The game in Warsaw was something of a litmus test for Scotland's hopes of qualification.

To have fallen six points behind the Poles, even at this early stage, would have been devastating.

So the result and performance, which proved beyond reasonable doubt that Scotland are once again genuine qualification contenders, are extremely heartening and cause for optimism about what lies ahead.

Scotland's remaining Euro 2016 qualifiers
14 November, 2014R of Ireland (h)
29 March, 2015Gibraltar (h)
13 June, 2015R of Ireland (a)
4 September, 2015Georgia (a)
7 September, 2015Germany (h)
8 October, 2015Poland (h)
11 October, 2015Gibraltar (a)

Of course Poland, with their win over Germany, and the Irish, thanks to the superb draw in Gelsenkirchen and a precious victory in Georgia, have at least as much right to be positive about their prospects of making it to France 2016.

But as Strachan and his players keep underlining, if Scotland take care of business themselves, results elsewhere won't matter.

It's too early in the campaign to say exactly what Scotland have to do to have a realistic chance of automatic qualification, but given the start Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland have made, it's reasonable to suggest that a win over them at Celtic Park in November is vital.

What an occasion that promises to be, though one has to hope that the Scottish Football Association's ludicrous pricing policy does not prevent a capacity crowd from turning out as it did for the game against Georgia.

Just at a time when there is such a feel-good factor around the national team and fans are desperate to be part of the resurgence led by Strachan, many are priced out of coming along to watch their country.

That is a crying shame because the Tartan Army have more reason than ever to turn out in great numbers to roar on the team.

Not since the Alex McLeish-led campaign in which a cruel defeat at home to Italy denied Scotland a Euro 2008 play-off place has there been such enthusiasm surrounding the national team.

But even at that time Scotland were principally reliant on a blood, sweat and tears ethic - the odd piece of James McFadden magic apart.

Shaun Maloney scored a wonderful goal for Scotland in Warsaw
Shaun Maloney scored a wonderful goal for Scotland in Warsaw

That is not to say there were not good footballers in that squad, but no Scotland team in my memory - let's say back to the mid-eighties - has played football as easy on the eye as the current one.

The equaliser scored by Shaun Maloney against Poland epitomises that. A wonderfully constructed goal, which included great vision, technique, composure and skill, not a set of characteristics often associated with Scotland in recent times.

Strachan's effect on that squad of players has been enthused over now on numerous occasions, so I won't go over old ground. Suffice to say that his influence continues to grow.

He more than anyone knows much work remains if Scotland are to qualify, but at least under his tutelage we are back among the contenders.

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