Belfast Telegraph

Tierney switch boosts Scotland hopes of reaching World Cup

By Gavin McCafferty

Kieran Tierney would be happy to embark on a long-term Scotland career as a right-back after coming through a high-stakes experiment with flying colours.

The Celtic left-back was handed the role in Scotland's crucial World Cup qualifier against Slovenia and gave nothing away at the back while making some forceful runs forward, especially as the game progressed.

Scotland kept their first clean sheet of the World Cup qualifiers and Chris Martin's late winner has allowed Gordon Strachan to continue as manager with his new-look back four.

Strachan has an embarrassment of riches at left-back with Tierney, Andy Robertson and Lee Wallace all doing well there in previous Group F games, but few options at right-back after Callum Paterson suffered cruciate ligament damage and Alan Hutton retired from international football.

The only real alternative was midfielder Ikechi Anya, who played at right-back in the previous two matches, but Tierney looks to have solved a problem ahead of the visit of England on June 10.

The 19-year-old said: "I have been training there all week so I had a feeling I'd be playing there. The manager and the coaching staff have been giving me pointers. I enjoyed it."

When asked whether he would be happy to play there long-term for Scotland, he said: "It's up to the gaffer, whatever he thinks is best, and whatever he thinks the team that is going to give us the best chance of winning.

"It was a brilliant win for us all. It looked as if we got lucky with a last-minute winner but I thought we were the much better team over the 90 minutes. We should have been a couple of goals up in the first half. The full 90 minutes we were great.

"We believe we can qualify now. We will take that spirit into every other game."

With Robertson among the most impressive players on the pitch, and Charlie Mulgrew and Russell Martin largely untroubled in central defence, Scotland at least have the prospect of a defensive platform to build a qualification challenge after conceding six goals in their previous two group games.

Robertson said: "The gaffer had spoken to KT and he had played there all week in training. We had a rough idea and it was just depending if he went with him, and he did. And luckily I managed to stay left-back.

"I think people pre-match were maybe doubting that one of us could play right.

"We were both confident that we could have done it. I'm sure Lee Wallace was confident he could have done, he just didn't quite make it with injury.

"But I thought KT was brilliant out there on the right. It's uncomfortable for him but it didn't show and I thought I played well as well.

"As a back four, Charlie and Russell talked us through it, as we are both still young, and I thought all four of us did well. Craig (Gordon) didn't have much to do but was still commanding."

The victory moved the Scots two points off second place.

Strachan was expected to quit if Scotland failed to win but there was no need for the players to come together off the park and discuss saving their boss.

"We never discussed it because we will always play for that manager," Robertson said. "It's never been a split dressing room, we have always fought for him."

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