With a distinct lack of domestic football to keep us entertained over the next couple of months, interest will be largely centred on Euro 2016 over the coming weeks.
Of course, despite some encouraging signs of progress under Gordon Strachan, qualification for Euro 2016 wasn’t to be for Scotland. It’s not going to make viewing any easier in seeing not just England, but also Northern Ireland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all participating in France, but that’s not to say that the finals won’t be of interest.
For starters, those of us who like the occasional football bet will have something to punt on over the close season. As with any major tournament there will be the usual plethora of markets to tempt us and a vast array of Euro 2016 enhanced odds and free bets will be available with the bookies for new customers, so it can pay to keep an eye open for any such deals before wading in.
From a Scotland perspective, the finals do at least provide an opportunity to see World Cup 2018 group rivals England and Slovakia in action. There’s clearly not a great deal new to learn about England, but Slovakia are something of an unknown quantity.
Scotland’s first game against the Slovaks (the third World Cup qualifier) is scheduled for early October, so Strachan and his backroom staff should certainly benefit from seeing them in a minimum of three competitive matches.
Nobody is going to enjoy watching Germany, Poland and the Republic of Ireland and contemplating what might have been, but how that trio fare will at least provide Strachan with some sort of gauge as to where Scotland stand ahead of their World Cup 2018 qualifiers.
The Tartan Army might be absent, but there will at least be some limited SPFL representation on view in France. Most squads are still at the provisional stage, but there should be at least a handful of players who featured in the domestic game last season on view.
As things stand, those at least vying for places in their respective nation’s final 23-man squads are Mikael Lusting (Sweden); Owain Fon Williams (Wales); Jonny Hayes (Republic of Ireland) and the Northern Ireland contingent of Josh Magennis; Michael McGovern and Alan Mannus.
Hopefully there will be a few other players on show in France who can be tempted to ply their trade in the SPFL next term. With 24 teams participating, at least some of those involved should be viable targets for Scotland’s top club sides.
Missing out on Euro 2016 was an undeniable blow but, although automatic qualification for the World Cup in Russia is more restricted (limited to the nine group winners, with the eight best runners-up facing the now traditional play-offs for four final places), Scotland can at least watch events in France with genuine hope that they themselves will be centre stage in Russia two years from now.