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BLUE BLOO" SCOTLAND TALISMAN BACK AT SPIRITUAL HOME SAYS JAMES MCFADDEN; Everyone knows what it meant for me to play for Scotland. I am not going to do that again so this is the next best thing.


CAUGHT up in the moment it felt like a great deal more than watching just some passing Fad.

If truth be told it soon became Scotland's only hope of national salvation. But ultimately not even this bearded maverick could bring our suffering to an end.

It wasn't half fun while it lasted though. Every time James McFadden pulled on a dark blue shirt it did provide reason to believe there might be better days just around the corner.

He was the embodiment of Scottish over-ambition. A swaggering skelf of a football player and fearer of nothing or no one. A talisman who seemed destined to drag us all along with him on a seemingly inevitable journey out of the wilderness years.

That it all ended with a whimper, after McFadden was cut down in his prime by the knee injury which would deprive him of his destiny, is merely another sad footnote in Scotland's 20-year tale of woe.

But on Monday morning, McFadden pulled on a Scotland tracksuit again for the first time in almost eight years when he took his place in Alex McLeish's new-look backroom team.

And all of a sudden the thought occurred his Scotland story may have one last big chapter to come.

"It's massively exciting," McFadden said after his big unveiling. "It came out of the blue but I couldn't say no.

"Everyone knows what it meant for me to play for Scotland. I am not going to do that again so this is the next best thing. I couldn't be happier or more proud.

"It feels good to be back involved in the set-up. Putting the tracksuit on I am walking about here like I'm on cloud nine. I'm really looking forward to it.

"Alex texted me a couple of a days before he was announced. I didn't even know he was in talks at that time but he texted me and asked whether I would be interested if he did get the job. 'Absolutely', was the answer.

"I was still concentrating on getting fit and trying to find a team to play for so it was absolutely out of the blue.

"I didn't have any thoughts that I might be involved if the gaffer got the job. But I am absolutely delighted that he asked."

As we all should be. There's been something deeply unedifying about watching McFadden scrub around in the lower reaches of the Scottish game since those heady days at Everton and Birmingham in England's top flight.

When he parted company with Queen of the South in January he resolved to make a fresh start with whoever might have him.

Not for one minute did he believe the invite would come from his former manager and his spiritual home.

As a result, all thoughts of extending his playing career somewhere down the divisions have now been shelved.

McFadden is back on national service not a minute too soon. He said: "I don't think it's feasible for me to carry on playing now. Although this is not a full-time role, I will need to be watching games and players. That might also mean going through and watching boys training in that environment.

"I need to give this job everything because it is so important for me. I need to be there for the manager. I've dealt with the way my own Scotland career ended.

"I don't have any regrets. I had a fantastic career. I heard the gaffer joke about players winning one cap. I would have been happy with one but I got 48 and scored 15 goals. People only remember one but I remember the rest."

Yes, we'll always have Paris. But now he has been given the chance to top even that moment of his own magnificence by inspiring the new batch to channel their inner McFaddens in the name of qualifying for the major finals which eluded him.

If these players are not inspired by the sight of having him sitting in their corner, then it's hard to imagine what they are doing in there in the first place.

But for all of his on-field gallusness McFadden has always found the adulation which came with it hugely uncomfortable.

McLeish describes him as an inspiration. McFadden winces and said: "'I don't look at myself like that but I have been there.

"I have been part of the squad and now there are a lot of young players in the squad. Some are a bit unknown in terms of not being orthodox. I certainly wasn't myself.

"I feel as though I can relate to the players. It's all about encouraging them to come here and play their best without any fear. Obviously, t h e pressure is there but that is part of the job. I want to help them believe in themselves that they can go and make a difference for Scotland. Hopefully, the ultimate aim is to carry the nation to the tournament.

"When I came through as a Scotland player, Tommy Burns was there. He was excellent and then Ally McCoist came in as well.

"I've got to be there for everybody, helping the manager wherever I can and hopefully helping the players come into the squad.

"They wouldn't be in the squad if we didn't believe in them. I have said before that I think it is a really good time to be involved because we have a lot of good, young players coming through.

"There is a good balance between young and old - and a bit of the unknown here and there. We believe they can step up and it's a big chance for them. Obviously these are the best Scottish players available to us.

"I'm not saying I'm going to just walk in and it will be a piece of cake. But I am confident guy - you all know me - and I will give it everything I've got."

Sadly - and through no real fault of his own - that was never enough during his playing days. McFadden still carries the scars of those near misses, most notably the play-off double header with Holland for a place at Euro 2004 in which he scored another famous Scotland winner only to have his heart broken days later in a routing in Amsterdam.

We have never been so close to a finals since.

McFadden said: "I still need therapy about that.

To go from being so high to so low in such a short space of time was incredible.

"After we beat them at Hampden we thought we were going to win - not just the play-off but the whole tournament.

"Then they brought in this wee guy Sneijder for the return leg and we thought 'That's great news,' but he absolutely ran the show. I remember looking up at the clock and 58 minutes had been played and it was 6-0. "We just wanted the whistle to blow and the game to be over. But that was also another occasion where we thought, 'It's all right we'll get another shot, we'll do it the next time.' But it didn't come and we're still waiting for it.

"I think the importance now is that we don't wait for it to happen - we have to make it happen and leave no stone unturned."

I am a confident guy - you all know me - and I will give it everything JAMES MCFADDEN


ECK AND CALL McLeish asked Faddy about coaching role

THEY THINK IT'S HOLL OVER Faddy scores winner against Dutch in 2003 play-off and, inset top, his wondergoal in Paris sinks the French back in 2007
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 14, 2018
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