McGhee relishing the challenge of 'biggest game' so far
MARK McGHEE claims Scotland's crucial Dublin clash with the Republic of Ireland deserves to be hyped up - but he insists the pressure will not put the Dark Blues off their stride.
The Scots will cross the Irish Sea looking to take another step towards the Euro 2016 finals in France. Victory at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday will put five points between them and Martin O'Neill's side and likely keep them apace with Poland and Germany at the top of Group D as they take on strugglers Georgia and Gibraltar.
But the Irish will view this weekend's match-up with just as much importance, knowing a win at home will fire them right back into the qualification fight following last November's defeat at Celtic Park.
Each of these factors has added a pinch of intrigue to a clash that already has local rivalry for spice. And Gordon Strachan's number two McGhee gave the permission for the Tartan Army to keep on stoking the fires as he said: "I think you can't build this game up enough.
"In the scheme of what we have experienced as coaches coming into the job, this is the biggest game we've had. But the next one after that will become the biggest one and the one after that will be bigger still.
"So build this up as much as you like. We recognise the importance of it to everyone. We relish this challenge, we believe we can go there and win and we are all looking forward to the game."
But even with so much at stake as Scotland bid to end their 18-year wait to reach a major finals, the Scotland assistant manager is not worried about the occasion getting to their players.
"I don't think nerves will come into this at all," said the former Motherwell and Aberdeen boss.
"These are guys who play in the Premier League, the Championship and Champions League every season. They have played in big games with big atmospheres. They relish it and thrive on it. Far from being nervous I think they will all say, 'Bring it on'."
Scotland warmed up for the Irish with a low-key 1-0 win over Qatar in Edinburgh on Friday night, while O'Neill's side hosted England on Sunday but could not raise themselves to claim anything more than a goalless draw. While Scotland were hardly tested by the 2022 World Cup hosts at Easter Road, McGhee was adamant the match had proved beneficial in the build-up to their date in Dublin.
"This is no doubt it was worthwhile," he said.
"I think we had to have a game. It was a test enough physically. Tactically, they gave us some issues, so it was good.
"How much can we read into the positions some guys played that night? Nothing, nothing whatsoever. Ikechi Anya played right-back on Friday. He will not play right-back against the Republic. I can categorically state that now.
"We felt people needed a game and we couldn't get them all in their favoured positions, so we felt Ikechi was quite capable of playing where he did. He acquitted himself quite well and got a game.
"As for Ireland's match with the English, you try and read between the lines and deduce what Martin (O'Neill) might be thinking. But like the Republic might be looking at us on Friday night, there will be certain things they think they know because of what they have seen and we are the same.
"But the reality is that until the team-sheet comes in over in Dublin, we won't really know what they will do and they won't know what we will do."
Ireland were undone the last time they faced Scotland by a moment of magic from Shaun Maloney as he swept the hosts in front in Glasgow following a clever corner routine. And McGhee says it will again come down to individual brilliance - rather than a tactical master-stroke - to decide this weekend's meeting.
He said: "What happened with the game here was that Shaun Maloney and Scott Brown conjured a goal from a set-play that we had initiated.
"But they improvised and scored an amazing goal. That is nothing to do with us on the bench. That was them and their ability.
"We give the guys a platform to keep the game tight and then do something like that. Winning the game will come down to the individual or the team themselves - not us on the bench."