Under 21s Win
Updated Saturday, 29th March 2003
The players in under 21 teams are meant to be groomed for promotion to the A Squad. How many would make the grade?
Scotland's youngsters just about deserved to win tonight when they entertained Iceland at Broadwood. I say entertained and that is really being generous. There were long periods in the game when I thought that a new rule had been introduced. The rule, as far as I could figure, was that you were not allowed to get the ball past the player facing you if you were within 20 yards of the goal. Time and time again, both sides contrived to hit the outstretched boot of the opposite number when a telling cross would have been easier to engineer. For the record Scotland's goal was scored by Celtic's Shaun Maloney who had come on for Jamie McFadden in the second half.
There will be other sites which will tell you about who did what and when. I think it would make a change to talk about how some of the players performed. The two drop outs from the A Squad, Gary Caldwell of Newcastle and Andy Webster of Hearts, did their chances of being considered again no harm. They managed to cope with the occasional threat posed by the ponderous Icelanders. The tricky right winger, Magnus Sverrir Porsteinsson, was certainly a player the Scottish defence had to watch. He looked as if he could do a turn and with just a little bit more luck he could have made Scotland sorry.
In the first half, Scotland's main threat came from the wings with both McFadden and Peter Canerio, of Kilmarnock pulling the Icelandic team apart with their speed of foot, often chasing on to a good ball threaded between the defence. Unfortunately, as I said on the board, they both were affected by the inability to get the ball from whatever position they had managed to carve out for themselves past whichever Icelandic player challenged them. However, when meandering across the 20 yard line they both managed to keep the ball while bemusing the opposition.
I was impressed by Manchester United's Michael Stewart who always appeared to be ready to receive the ball and send in the probing pass for others to chase. He was not afraid to take chances that came his way. As the first half was drawing to a close, a cutback from McFadden to Kyle was intercepted and the ball broke to Stewart. He did not hesitate to try his luck but unfortunately he managed to blaze the chance over the bar. In the second half, after Murray was brought down outside the box after a fine run out of defence, Stewart grazed the top of the bar with a curling free kick. With a little more luck, and me not holding my breath, that would have been a cracker of a goal.
Maloney was busy for the time he was on the pitch. He managed to hold his own with the defenders that towered over him. He was only on the pitch for 7 minutes before he gave the crowd something tangible to cheer and maintain Rainer Bonhof's record. The impressive Ian Murray retrieved the ball after an ineffective header by Kevin Kyle on the left. Murray went for the byline and sent in a low cross that Maloney diverted past the goalkeeper at close range. It was really rather simple in the end when the goal came.
Which brings us to the subject of Kevin Kyle as the man charged with leading the line for the youngsters. Has anyone read 'Of Mice And Men'? This famous book has two lead characters living during the depression in America, one small and bright (George), the other - large and not carrying a full deck (Lenny). George looks after Lenny as he knows he does not want to harm anyone. The Lenny character is full of good intentions but does not know how to channel his energies to make the best use of his strength. This results in clumsy efforts to do the right thing. Watching Kyle tonight made me thing of Lenny. What Kyle needs is a George to provide the balance that will allow the best use to be made of whatever talents he has. If McFadden, Maloney or Canero were to be used effectively as Kyle's minder, the under 21s could have a neat double act to enjoy. Just don't let anyone tell you that Kyle is full international class. He should stick to the rabbits.
Scotland U-21: Soutar, Caldwell, Murray, Kennedy, Webster, Kerr, Canero, Williams, Kyle, Stewart, McFadden.
Subs: McGregor, Doig, Pearson, McManus, Hughes, Maloney, Lynch.
Iceland U-21: Johannsson, Arnarsson, Eiriksson, Mete, Gudmundsson, Steinsson, Hjalti Kristjansson, Danielsson, Armann Smari Bjornsson, Porvaldsson, Porsteinsson.
Subs: Hannes Sigurdsson, Halldorsson, Sigmundur Kristjansson, Elisabetarson, Skulason.
Referee: Kostadin Kostadinov (Bulgaria)