Win against Irish not crucial to Scotland`s Euro 2016 qualifying chances: Whittaker

Steven Whittaker has played down the significance of Scotland`s Euro 2016 qualifying match with Ireland on Friday.

Win against Irish not crucial to Scotland`s Euro 2016 qualifying chances: Whittaker

Glasgow: Steven Whittaker has played down the significance of Scotland`s Euro 2016 qualifying match with Ireland on Friday.

Whittaker`s Scotland side, who sit in fourth spot, are just three points behind their Group D rivals in the chase for one of the two automatic qualification spots.

The assumption that Germany would run away with the group has already come undone with the World Cup winners suffering a slow start to their campaign.

Group D has become cluttered with only four points separating the top five sides, leaving minnows Gibraltar cut adrift at the foot of the table.

It means the match in Glasgow could be crucial to Scotland`s hopes of reaching their first major tournament since 1998 but Norwich defender Whittaker, who may feature at right-back due to injuries to regulars Alan Hutton and Phil Bardsley, insists qualification won`t depend on the Scots defeating the Irish.

"It`s not going to stop you getting to where you want to go if you don`t get the result," said Whittaker.

"It`s going to be right up there, with all the hype that`s coming with this game. It`s massive and we want a positive outcome in the end.

"We don`t tend to concentrate too much on the opposition, the manager`s got us thinking about what we`re doing and how we`re going to create danger for the opposition. It`s a home game, so we`re looking to be the more positive side.

"We`re fairly evenly matched at the moment, they`re ahead of us but they`ve probably had slightly easier fixtures.

"It`s a big game and the result is going to be massive, but we feel at home with the crowd and we`re very positive going into the game."

The positivity that surrounds the Scottish national side at the moment is due to the steady progress Scotland has made in the 22 months since Gordon Strachan took charge.

One of the players the manager introduced to the national set-up, Wolves winger Ikechi Anya, feels the confidence Strachan has imbued in the side means they now fear no one.

"The gaffer has given all the attacking players freedom to express themselves," Anya said.

"When you have that confidence from the manager, the players are only going to develop.

"The attacking prowess we have within the team is very good and we know we can go and win games.

"Not taking anything away from the defence, but I think the attack is the strongest part of the team.

"We have players with real strength in depth there now. It is so positive on all fronts."

The match at Parkhead will see Strachan up against the man he replaced in the Celtic dug-out in 2005, Martin O`Neill.

O`Neill and assistant Roy Keane have enjoyed a successful start to their time in charge of Ireland, having yet to taste defeat in their three competitive matches since being unveiled last November.

And the former Celtic, Sunderland and Aston Villa manager is delighted with the progress of his side.

"We have played three games, three competitive matches - the rest has been a build-up to it. There have been a lot of friendly games.

"We have changed the side around almost every single game that we have played to have a look at players, but really the three competitive games are the only things that count.

"We have got some points on the board at this minute, seven out of nine, so I am absolutely delighted with the way things have been going."

The Irish are still sweating on the fitness of Everton`s James McCarthy while Stoke City defender Marc Wilson has been ruled out through injury.

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