‘I saw the future of Scottish football’ – Mackay

Interim Scotland manager Malky Mackay

Scotland interim manager Malky Mackay handed debuts to four players against the Netherlands

Scotland interim manager Malky Mackay says he saw “the future of Scottish football” in the national team’s narrow 1-0 defeat to the Netherlands.

Mackay handed debuts to three players from the start – Ryan Jack, Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor – and a fourth in substitute Jason Cummings.

The home side had more chances on goal, and Mackay was heartened by the display.

“I saw a group who were technically competent, athletic,” Mackay said.

“More importantly, I’m loving the bravery of the players, to go and handle the ball. That’s where we will beat mid-level European teams, with players like that who are athletic but also technically gifted.”

Mackay named Celtic’s Kieran Tierney as captain, in only his ninth international appearance, and played him at centre-back rather than full-back. With Kenny McLean alongside John McGinn in central midfield and Matt Phillips through the middle as a striker, there was an experimental feel to the Scotland line-up.

Netherlands striker Memphis Depay<!–

Netherlands striker Memphis Depay scored the only goal of the game against Scotland at Pittodrie

Memphis Depay’s 40th-minute goal separated the two teams at Pittodrie, but Mackay felt he saw plenty of positives in the nature of Scotland’s performance.

“I saw boys who can handle the ball, that are tactically doing what I asked them to do, an athletic group who are working hard for each other and want to be here playing for Scotland,” Mackay said.

“The boys on the bench wanted to play and be part of it. I saw a group who were technically competent against technically one of the best teams in Europe.

“[With] the amount of really good chances we had, on another day we win the game, but it’s about the belief of our players to technically handle the ball. People talk about Scottish players not having enough talent, I don’t see that.

“If you go through the team, calmness in goals [Craig Gordon], I thought Ryan Jack was immense; we know he’s comfortable on the ball and he had to handle a little bit of stick at the start and grew as the game went on.

Scotland international Ryan Jack<!–

Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack played at right back for Scotland, and impressed interim manager Malky Mackay

“Kieran Tierney looked like a guy who had been there forever, stepped in and was brave when he had to be. [Andy] Robertson’s energy was immense and will always be like that.

“Kenny McLean is playing a position that was alien to him, but him and John McGinn wanted the ball the whole game, kept switching it to create overloads for us.

“Young Ryan Fraser comes on for us in the second half and nearly scores with his first touch of the ball and he just needs more belief. Ryan Christie is someone who I think can play for Scotland for the next 10 years.

“Matt Phillips looked like a proper centre-forward, the amount of times he held the ball up. I was delighted we got Callum McGregor in, and his touch at times was amazing.”

Scotland defender Kieran Tierney<!–

Celtic defender Kieran Tierney was named Scotland captain in only his ninth international appearance

Scottish FA chief executive Stewart Regan revealed before kick-off that Mackay will not be considered among the candidates to succeed Gordon Strachan, reverting back instead to his role as performance director.

Mackay, though, believes he has left a solid foundation for the manager who comes in to try to steer Scotland to the Euro 2020 finals.

“It’s a terrific group that’s been together this week, and they’ve got the jerseys,” he added.

“I’ll put a report in to the board on the whole week and what went on around it, the performance staff who were involved as well. It’s about raising standards all the time and making sure that the staff are at Champions League level and making the experience for the Scotland player when he turns up a terrific one.

“There’s hopefully a blueprint for someone to work with, and a group of players I’ve asked to go and get 50 caps, play like that together, with belief, play like a club side.”

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