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Law backing Strachan to keep Scots in attack mode

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Scotland's Scott Brown (L) and Steven Fletcher celebrate scoring during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group D qualifyier against Poland. Photo credit: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Scotland's Scott Brown (L) and Steven Fletcher celebrate scoring during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group D qualifyier against Poland. Photo credit: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Scotland's Scott Brown (L) and Steven Fletcher celebrate scoring during the UEFA Euro 2016 Group D qualifyier against Poland. Photo credit: JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Denis Law has praised Scotland manager Gordon Strachan for restoring the soul of the national team. The Manchester United legend remains his country's leading goalscorer with 30 goals from 53 appearances - a figure matched by Kenny Dalglish, who won 102 caps.

Now 74, Law is the only Scot to have been European Footballer of the Year. However, he admits that he despaired for the future of the Scottish game when he witnessed the craven 4-6-0 formation deployed by Craig Levein when losing a Euro 2010 qualifier 1-0 to the Czech Republic four years ago.

Law was so traumatised by what he regards as the betrayal of the spirit of football that he cannot bring himself to utter the name of the man he holds responsible but he believes that Strachan, by attempting to win at home and away, has undone that damage.

"I'm absolutely delighted that Gordon's managing Scotland," he said. "There's one thing about Gordon: he is a manager who wants his teams to be positive. I think everyone is happy at how Gordon is doing. You just feel something is going to happen. Even before the game starts, you feel the lads are all behind him and they are together and there are some decent players in there now. He's attempting to play good attacking football and he has got the crowd behind him now.

"We don't have to mention names but there was one before who didn't even have a forward line. How does that come about? We are Scotland. We were always an attacking team that tried to play nice football and score goals. The good thing about Gordon is that that's back."

Law could barely comprehend that capitulation against the Czechs in Prague and hopes that there will never be a repeat.

"Unbelievable," he said. "It was a sad day for Scotland. It was very disappointing. How can you win games, how can you entertain people? Was it all about avoiding defeat? Yes.

"I know it's changing as the years go on and we don't have the players in numbers [that we used to]. But good players are still coming through and Gordon will take us forward. If it happens for Scotland it will happen under Gordon because he wants to entertain."

Law is optimistic about the Scots' chances of beating the Republic of Ireland at Celtic Park on Friday but, as someone who has lived in England since leaving his home town of Aberdeen to join Huddersfield Town as a 15-year-old, he is just as keen for a home win when Roy Hodgson brings his side to Glasgow next week. "Can we beat them? Of course we can. What a stupid question! Even the last time we played well and we were unlucky to lose."

Meanwhile, Scotland striker Steven Fletcher is hoping to inflict pain on the man who played a key role in his return to international football in the Group D showdown.

There was a time when Fletcher thought he would never pull on the Scotland shirt again. He had rowed with the then manager Levein in 2010 and was banished to the international wilderness. It was then that Martin O'Neill signed the centre-forward for Sunderland for £12m and became an unwitting intermediary. "The situation has not cleared up and it may need an olive branch," O'Neill said at the time, in 2012. "Would I like to see him playing for Scotland? Of course."

GENEROSITY

On Friday, O'Neill may regret his generosity. Fletcher is back in the Scotland team, perhaps producing the best form of his international career. A reply to a tweet in which he was asked if he still wanted to play for his country fully opened the door that O'Neill had nudged. He said yes and soon was in a meeting with Levein that he thought was "going to be worse than it was".

Levein has gone and with Gordon Strachan has come renewed optimism. Scotland were full value for their point in Poland in the Group D qualifier last month. For Fletcher, left out of the Sunderland squad that drew with Tottenham in September, it has been some turnaround.

"There was a time I thought I wouldn't get another cap," he said. "But it's good to be back. When you are sitting back watching Scotland on the TV, you want to be there, but you're thinking that things are never going to get sorted. We managed to sort it, fortunately, and I'm past that now."

Sunderland team-mate John O'Shea will face a confident Fletcher. "I'm good friends with him [O'Shea] and we're looking forward to a good battle," he added. "We go at each other week in, week out in training, so it should be good. He doesn't kick me, he can't get near me! I told him to stay away from my ankles last week. That goal he scored against Germany was a bit of a sickener for us. I did congratulate him the next day. Through gritted teeth." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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