Collins hails 'best team in a decade'

John Collins
John Collins believes this is the best Scotland side in ten years. Photo: PA

Former Scotland midfielder John Collins believes the current squad have a good chance of emulating his generation's achievements.

Collins was part of the last Scotland team to reach a major finals 14 years ago and famously scored an equaliser against Brazil in the opening game of the tournament.

Scotland's chances of qualifying for their first World Cup since that 1998 foray to France were dented when they were held to a goalless draw by Serbia in their opening Hampden qualifier.

But they have a chance to get the campaign on track when they host Macedonia tomorrow night.

And Collins feels the team can flourish with encouragement and some improved sharpness in the final third.

"I think it's the best Scotland squad we've had for easily a decade, and we've got to get behind them," said Collins, who was previewing the game for Scottish Football Association sponsors William Hill.

"They are our best players and that's why they are picked for Scotland. We've got to try and support them.

"One thing is for sure, every one of them that went on the pitch at the weekend gave everything.

"They might have had a bad shot or cross but they never meant that and their reaction when they lost the ball was always positive, working, chasing, sweating, so I find it hard to criticise them.

"Scotland started fairly well and needed that first goal. If we get the first goal, all of a sudden you probably see a different Scotland team, a bit more freedom in their play and the crowd get up for it.

"We could have played better, certain players' final pass could have been better, set-pieces we had in good positions which we never made the most of.

"But that's unusual, Charlie (Adam) has got the sweetest left foot, certainly in Scotland, if not Britain. More often than not he will deliver them into somebody's head but it never quite came off at the weekend. That happens in football."

James Forrest
Collins is particularly impressed with Celtic's James Forrest (right). Credit: PA

Collins is excited by the emergence of players such as James Forrest, one of a number of attacking midfield options available to manager Craig Levein.

"I think there are a lot of good technical football players in the squad," the former Hibernian, Celtic, Monaco and Fulham player said.

"When you look around, they can all pass and move and deal with the football. It's just getting the right blend together and playing as a team with confidence.

"Once you get a first goal it changes everything in a football match, especially at home.

"We were maybe a little bit tentative, our final cross, final pass, final shot let us down on the day. But it wasn't a really, really bad performance. There were periods in the game we passed it okay."

Collins is working to improve Scottish football in the long term as director of football at Irn-Bru First Division club Livingston.

"I'm loving my role," he said. "It's a pretty unique role, I have written the job description, I'm in charge of the coaching and content, and style of play, working from the kids all the way up.

"We are teaching the kids to play football the right way. That's the most important thing, developing football players, making them go on the pitch relaxed, comfortable on the ball, wanting the ball, not just wanting to hoof it up the pitch or out the pitch.

"We have got to learn to try and play like Barcelona. They are the ones everyone wants to watch on the television so we have got to teach our kids how to play that way.

"That takes time and patience and hours and days and years working on the training pitch.

"You won't see it overnight but it's the way forward. We did fall behind technically for a number of years and it's important we get back to where the Europeans are, the French and Spanish.

"That starts with kids of five years old working with the ball."