The trouble with getting older is not what you forget. It’s what you remember that’s the problem.
The thought occurred to me while I was watching Steven Fletcher’s performance against Gibraltar at Hampden on Sunday.
By Hugh Keevins – Guest Columnist
The Sunderland striker was the talk of the steamie for scoring three goals against the place with thirty thousand inhabitants and almost as many reasons why places like the British Territory near Spain should have to pre-qualify before being allowed to attempt to pre-qualify for the European Championship.
Fletcher got his first international goal for six years when he scored with a header that put Scotland two up and proved Gibraltar’s goalkeeper was inadequate at the highest level in the process.
Six years without a goal. No wonder Denis Law and Kenny Dalglish remain enshrined as the joint top scorers in Scotland’s history with thirty each when one is now in his sixties and the other one a decade older.
The likeliehood is, based on all known form, that Denis and Kenny will take their scoring distinction with them to the grave at this rate.
There was a chance Fletcher missed off a cross from Alan Hutton in the second half, for example, which Law or Dalglish would have netted while blindfold and riding on a unicycle.
But this is not nostalgia getting in the way of giving credit where it is due.
Fletcher took his two goals in the second half with a mixture of subtlety and determination, but it would be nice to think he’ll retain that sharpness when the bugles are blowing and the sirens are wailing at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin next June.
That’s the time and place when a win over the Republic of Ireland would surely bury their chances of making it to France for the Euro finals next year and strengthen the possibility of Scotland ending an eighteen year cycle of failure by reaching one of the major stages.
Gordon Strachan says the days of the old-fashioned centre forward have passed and a look at the goalscoring chart for the Premiership this season makes the manager’s case for him.
Celtic have scored fifty-nine goals so far this season in the defence of their title. That’s nine more than nearest challenger from Aberdeen.
But there isn’t a single Celtic player who has yet struck double figures when it comes to goals scored in the league. That stat proves the ability of Ronny Deila’s side to strike from a variety of areas on the park. It also disproves the theory put forward by Celtic strikers of the past that anyone in that position who can’t get twenty league goals a season isn’t doing his job properly.
There are times when you have to hold your hands up and say the stats win over the recollections from the past, but there was also a time when championship-winning sides used to be going for a hundred goals in a season instead of still trying to reach five dozen.
We are where we are and there are no strikers of Scottish birth or eligibility who are throw-backs to the past when it comes to being prolific, but you can’t help wishing there was an honest to goodness scorer of goals and nothing else who could emerge in time for the game in Dublin.
They’ve got Robbie Keane and his predatory instincts were good enough to get him a hat-trick in the space of eighteen minutes against Gibraltar in an earlier qualifying tie from Group D.
The sands of time are running out on Keane’s glittering career and he’s enjoying an Indian Summer with LA Galaxy in the MLS.
But when the chips are down it’s nice to have the psychological comfort of knowing your team possesses a man, even a veteran performer, who can turn the course of any game with a single kick of the ball.
Just in case the new age of forward going players are enduring the kind of night when they couldn’t hit a barn door if they had it by the handle.