Scotland's Gordon Strachan laments bygone days before Croatia match

• Manager yearns for Hampden's old days of intimidation
• 'It scared people to come here but you can't do that now'

Scotland's final match of a generally dismal World Cup qualifying campaign is not quite as meaningless as a glance at Group A would suggest. Gordon Strachan at least has the motivation of seeking to avoid an unwanted place in history.

The Scots have never ended a continental qualifying section for either a World Cup or European Championship without a single home victory, as will be the case if Croatia are not defeated at Hampden Park. Scotland have not won a competitive home match since Lithuania were defeated, more than two years ago in emphasising this damaging run.

"It's just finding a system that suits that set of players," said Strachan. "We seem to have, away from home, got that system. It's about finding a system now that suits us at home.

"That's the thing we have to find because we need those home victories before we can do anything. Take a couple of away victories and stick three or four home victories on there and life would be great."

There is more than one reason for Scotland's home woes, which are in stark contrast to positive signs when on the road, such as the win in Croatia in June. By Strachan's own admission, playing the kind of expansive football which breaks teams down is more tricky than the more defensive, counterattacking style which can profit in away games. "It is easier to set up a team that doesn't want to lose too many goals than set up a team that scores a lot of goals," Strachan acknowledged.

Although, of course, the Scotland manager will not admit it, of course, Hampden itself also offers part explanation. Since redevelopment, the old stadium's acoustics and therefore value have been widely criticised. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Scotland perform when they take an upcoming and enforced break from the national stadium due to Glasgow's hosting of the Commonwealth Games.

In offering further explanation, Strachan glanced back towards his playing days. "If you go back to the 70s or 80s, we could be aggressive to people here," he explained. "We were an aggressive nation. It actually scared people to come here but you can't do that now.

"Teams can come here without the fear of being intimidated. We were good at that in the 70s and 80s. When you think of some of the players we had in midfield who could run about, and Joe Jordan up front – we could scare the living daylights out of people. You can't do that now. People come here and know they can't get kicked any more.

"That's why Barcelona have come good. They have good pitches to play on and this environment. It's like the perfect storm. If you had tried to play the football that they play in my day, when we had to play in mud and over-the-ball tackling, it would not be the same.

"Playing in grounds like Hampden does not scare teams any more. Only bad players get scared by a crowd. Good players love it."

Strachan was similarly forthright when it was put to him that a more youthful Scottish team could take to the field for the Euro 2016 qualifying process.

"I remember being at an SPL game last year and the chairman and the manager were going on about how they had played young players," he recalled. "Then I watched them and I thought 'They are not very good'. Don't think just because you put 'young' in front of a player's name that they become good."

Strachan's biggest selection dilemma is whether to keep faith with Ikechi Anya, who excelled as Scotland won in Macedonia last month, or hand the Birmingham City winger Chris Burke a start. Strachan has labelled Burke as the most on-form player in his squad but, in Anya, the Tartan Army has a new hero.

"I won't pick the team just for the hype. I pick the team I think is right," Strachan insisted.

Scotland's cause may be boosted by Croatia having already secured a play-off place and have no chance of toppling group winners Belgium. Igor Stimac, the Croatian manager, said the match in Glasgow will be "a kind of training session" for his team.

In backing up Stimac's sentiment, Vedran Corluka, Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Niko Kranjcar, Nikica Jelavic, Gordon Schildenfeld, Ivan Strinic, Eduardo and Ognjen Vukojevic are all one booking away from missing the first leg of their playoff through suspension. Taking Strachan's words into account, they should at least be spared a bruising group finale.

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