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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

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Rewind to Boxing Day 1963

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Rae's say: McBerti's doomed

We Scots can't really deny that we all have a fair bit of Private Fraser in us. For those too young to remember, Fraser was the eternally pessimistic Scottish soldier, brilliantly portrayed by John Laurie in the BBC's classic comedy series, Dad's Army.

'We're all doomed,' was Fraser's favourite catchphrase and most of us recognized a piece of ourselves in it.

During the interval of Saturday's Scotland v Norway World Cup qualifier, a match of colossal importance to both countries, I had my own Private Fraser moment. In case you think I'm making this up, just ask my ESPN co-commentator Tommy Smyth, for he was on the scene to witness it first hand.

Ever since Scotland's 1978 World Cup fiasco in Argentina, we've been loath to get too confident about anything as it relates to our national team. You see back then, Scotland genuinely did have quality.

That didn't stop us throwing it all away by losing comprehensively to Peru and drawing with Iran, before beating Holland when it was essentially too late. We were one of the few countries capable of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In recent times, expectations have been lowered significantly. Gone are the days when Scotland could field the likes of Dalglish, Strachan and Souness. Now, and I'm not exaggerating when I say this, the names of some squad members mean nothing even to Scots who follow the game closely. Graeme Murty, anyone?

If it's true that options are limited to such an alarming extent, then why should the blame be pinned on national coach Berti Vogts, a rational onlooker might reasonably ask. The language of Scottish journalists has grown increasingly more bellicose with each mediocre result under the former Germany manager and after the Norway game, the clamour for Vogts' dismissal means his position borders on the untenable.

It's not that Saturday's match represented Scotland's worst display since McBerti took over early in 2002. One can indeed make the case that Vogts' team, ravaged by injuries, more than matched their Norwegian opponents for long spells, while understandably finding themselves hot under the collar at set pieces given the aerial power of the Scandinavians. On another day, the Belgian officials might have given Richard Hughes' shot which appeared to creep over the line, as a goal. On this particular day, it wasn't to be.

Many aspects of Vogts' tenure have been admirable. He came to the post with an open mind and a willingness to give young players a chance, something his predecessor Craig Brown had shied away from.

The 1974 World Cup winner clearly enjoyed life in Scotland, lapping up the country's incomparable golfing culture and even embracing the role of chieftain at his local Highland Games at Bridge of Allan.

Yet, the comparison between Vogts and Brown is one that works against the German.

Personally, I could never understand why so many in the Scottish media had it in for Craig Brown. It seemed to me that Scotland punched well above their weight under his stewardship. It was quickly forgotten that Brown took Scotland to EURO 96, World Cup 98 and within a whisker of EURO 2000 while working with a very ordinary squad.

Rare was the day when the Scots were on the wrong end of a hammering with Brown at the helm. Fair enough, it wasn't always pretty but history will surely be a lot kinder to the former schoolteacher than the prevalent mood reflected at the time.

Since Hans-Hubert Vogts took over, Scotland have lost their 'hard to beat' tag, instead handing it over to the majority of their opponents! It didn't help that Berti's reign began with a hapless 5-0 trouncing by France in Paris.

Calamities in competitive matches have included the Faroe Islands debacle, which saw 'his boys' have to come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with a team of part-timers, a limp 1-0 defeat in Lithuania and the painful 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Holland in the return leg of the EURO 2004 play-off.

Vogts' supporters can point to the spirited 1-1 draw with Germany or the 1-0 win against Holland in the first leg of the afore-mentioned tie but it's not unreasonable to dismiss these results as aberrations.

Tactically, Scotland have looked downright inept for the vast majority of matches during the Vogts era. You had to wonder if the players were at all sure of what instructions their boss had given them.

It saddens me to have to catalogue all this, speaking as someone who used to get ridiculed in Aberdeen due to an irrational obsession with Bundesliga football.

I had hoped the tenacious little man from Büttgen, who frustrated Johan Cruyff time and again in the 1974 World Cup Final, would similarly help Scotland stifle technically superior opposition, to bring Germanic virtues to our game. Surely, if nothing else, he would make us more worldy wise, more organised, even harder to beat.

Alas, Berti Vogts has not come remotely close to changing the Scottish national team for the better. Victory in Chisinau against Moldova on Wednesday might just be enough to keep him in the job, but make no mistake, his future is hanging on a shaky (or 'shoogily' as we say in Scotland) peg.

Gordon Strachan and Walter Smith are names that usually come up when Scottish fans speculate about who the next national manager might be.

Whoever gets the job will have his work cut out based on a threadbare talent pool, but surely from the international abyss, we now find ourselves in, the only way is up.

Then again, I had better make sure I don't sound too optimistic. After all, Private Fraser might be listening.

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