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Robertson is ready to strike.

But Roxburgh banks on a more cautious approach against skilful Romanians

12 Sep 1990

JOHN Robertson, who criticised the decision of his club, Hearts, to relieve Alex MacDonald of his job as manager, has been given an incentive to forget the peculiar happenings at Tynecastle.

Upset though the striker may be, his mind will have to be focused on nothing other than his own job tonight at Hampden, where he will gain his first international cap.

The 25-year-old has waited a long time to pull on Scotland's colours and he intends to make the most of his chance, even though the opposition, Romania, are multi-talented.

"It's always been a dream of mine to play for my country and I can't wait to get started and give them the message," he said yesterday after a training session at the squad's seaside hotel.

"Them" everyone took to mean the Romanians.

It sounded gallus, but Robertson's attitude might be exactly what Scotland need.

Brian Irvine, the young Aberdeen central defender, also will be making his debut, although his introduction to the rigours of the international game might not be so unnerving.

After all, he will be flanked by the familiar faces of Stewart McKimmie and Alex McLeish, his Pittodrie team-mates, in the back four.

The new fellow should not feel too strange out there on Hampden despite the Romanians, who believe they can put one of their rivals out of contention by securing a win this evening, but Robertson might find his night the more frustrating.

Scottish strikers always begin knowing they will suffer from a lack of service and since Romania are better than most teams, the flow of balls towards Robertson and his partner, Ally McCoist, could be reduced to a trickle.

They might have only a few genuine opportunities, which means, of course, they will have to be as sharp as broken glass.

By scoring five times in his last two matches for Rangers, McCoist has shown his instincts are honed, but Robertson has made a slower start, with only two goals so far.

Nevertheless, Robertson does have an eye for goal, as his 22 last season prove.

Those goals also should have been enough to earn him a place in the World Cup squad, particularly when it was clear McCoist was struggling to keep an edge on his game because of injury.

However, the Hearts striker's moment has arrived -- and at a time when most thought the international manager, Andy Roxburgh, would persevere with the McCoist/Robert Fleck partnership.

However, Roxburgh suggested yesterday that the problems being experienced by Fleck at Norwich City, with whom he would like to part company, have gone against the striker.

John Collins and Pat Nevin, others who must have felt they would be in the team, also have been left out and the manager explained their omissions thus: "Collins is still settling in at his new club and with Nevin it depends on the system we want to play, because he is a special kind of player."

It is obvious Roxburgh's strategy is based on caution, which is not difficult to understand considering Scotland are playing the favourites in their group and must avoid defeat.

It's a reasoning which abounds on Saturday afternoon's in the Scottish game.

Also, given the serious drain on Roxburgh's reservoir of talent, which was no more than a puddle in the first place, caused by the weekend's withdrawals, any attempt to play open football against the Romanians would be like inviting a man with a mask and a crowbar into your home.

Trying to play the eastern Europeans at their own game would be asking for trouble.

This is not to say that the Scots are without cultured souls, but Paul McStay and Robert Connor, who, at 30, is being given another opportunity to make a play for international recognition, are not enough to combat the wizardry of tonight's opponents.

Running and tackling is the name of this particular game, but I don't believe these qualities will overcome the genuine skill of Romania.

Robertson, although he has enough on his mind, is bound to be invited into the chairman's quarters at Tynecastle on his return from international duty.

Wallace Mercer yesterday called in his other players and criticised those who spoke out against the sacking of the manager, Alex MacDonald, and it can be taken for granted Henry Smith, Eamonn Bannon, Gary Mackay, and Scott Crabbe were singled out.

Robertson, however, was the most outspoken.

As Mercer tried to calm emotions he also had to accept the resignation of reserve team coach John Binnie.

"My ties with Alex MacDonald are too strong," he said as he left yesterday.

Scotland's team is:

Goram (Hibernian), McKimmie, Irvine, McLeish (all Aberdeen), Malpas (Dundee United), McAllister (Leeds), MacLeod (Borussia Dortmund), McStay (Celtic), captain, Connor (Aberdeen), Robertson (Hearts), McCoist (Rangers).

Substitutes to be named today.

Taken from the Herald

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