22 Mar 19
The Scottish Sun
SOME say it’s time to sack Alex McLeish.
Oli Burke insists it’s time his players backed him.
Burke buries his face in his top after Scotland’s humiliating loss
They should have maybe thought of that before kick-off in Kazakhstan on Thursday night as a team of no-marks inflicted the worst result on Scotland in living memory.
But McLeish must now show he has men willing to fight for him in San Marino this weekend.
In fairness, he wasn’t playing at centre-half.
He didn’t lose his man or get outfought or out-jumped for a ball.
No, Burke has admitted McLeish gave this team instructions that they didn’t follow and that’s partly to blame for the dire defeat.
That sees the gaffer under pressure now, that’s for sure.
And Celtic star Burke has challenged the rest of his team-mates to prove McLeish is the man to take them forward in the rest of this Euro qualification campaign.
Burke said: “We have to all get behind the gaffer. It’s about the players out there as well as the manager.
“We have to focus on the next game now and do our very best.
“We didn’t do what we were told to do, obviously. I think we had our moments, but we didn’t have enough of them.”
Burke insists the players — not McLeish must carry the can for dire loss
Burke looked good in flashing moments but far too often he bursts into great positions only to take a bad touch or let the ball run away from him. It’s like his legs are too quick for his brain.
He wasn’t the only one, of course, with Scotland failing to make any inroads against a bang-average Kazakhstan.
Burke admitted: “We should have created more chances. We showed we could create chances, but then we sort of just stopped. It was one of those days unfortunately.
“It’s one to reflect on and learn from as a player.
“We need to focus on picking ourselves up. We know we can do much better than that.
“We created some good opportunities during the first half, but I think we just let everything get on top of us, maybe the crowd and everything.
“We sort of gave up on making those forward passes and creating opportunities.
“We have to look back and see where we went wrong.
“The analysis team will look at it and see where we can do better and what there is to improve on.
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“We’ll continue to focus on the next game and we will do our very best to win that one.
“I think we all have to recover, prepare as much as we can and be ready.
“We want to prove everybody wrong, that we can do it. Of course, it’s totally understandable why the fans are angry.
“They know we can do better. It’s very disappointing.
“You just can’t lack concentration. We have to all be on the ball and all 100-per-cent focused every minute of the game.
Forrest and Co came down to earth with a bump after 3-0 loss
“That minute, that one run when you’re not concentrating, can kill you.”
Burke’s Celtic team-mate James Forrest was just as gutted by Thursday’s performance.
He’s lost in Kazakhstan twice before — to Astana and Karagandy — but this hurt badly.
Forrest added: “I’ve been there a couple of times with Celtic and it felt similar to that time we were 4-1 down — they scored and grew in confidence and we were sloppy in possession and just never really got going.
“It couldn’t have gone worse for us this time with it being the first game of the campaign, it’s really disappointing.
“We have to try and lift ourselves and take three points on Sunday.”
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Forrest has been a Scotland player long enough to know there are always peaks and troughs.
But it’s all the more galling for him that his last get-together left him feeling so confident about what lay ahead.
He added: “The last camp was probably the best time I’d had ever being away with Scotland — there was a real feel-good factor and now we’ve had this terrible night and we have to pick ourselves up.
“We were all right for the first few minutes but it meant nothing after they scored and then scored again not long after the first one.
“From there, they grew in confidence and we didn’t get started at all.
“We can talk but everyone was here and felt good and were working on things, but we just never got going.”
Like Burke, Forrest knows boss McLeish is facing stinging criticism. But he’s backed the players to turn things around, starting with a win in San Marino.
He added: “After the last camp we topped the group and got there and it proves we’ve got the players. We’ve just got to show it more on the park.
“We didn’t do that against Kazakhstan but hopefully we redeem ourselves on Sunday and then we have two games in the summer to kick-start what we didn’t start on Thursday.”
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