Lewis football ace Eachainn Miller hails Highland hero Ryan Christie for Scotland's Euro qualification
Lewis football ace Eachainn Miller has hailed Highland hero Ryan Christie for helping fire Scotland to next year’s Euro 2000 finals.
Inverness-born Christie scored a stunning second half opener against Serbia in Belgrade last Thursday night, as Scotland dominated the play-off final encounter.
Despite enduring the agony of conceding an 89th minute equaliser, the Scots stayed level at 1-1 through extra time and eventually won a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out.
Eachainn told the Stornoway Gazette: “It was just unbelievable wasn’t it? We’re all watching it and thinking: ‘It’s the 89th minute, surely this time’ but that’s just Scotland and of course they conceded!
“But we got there in the end and I was absolutely delighted. They are legends now.
“I took extra pride from the fact that a guy from the Highlands – Christie – got the goal.
“First of all Christie was amazing. In his interview afterwards he spoke with great emotion in his voice and you could hear how much it meant to him.
“Obviously it was nice to hear the Highland accent!
“I think it gives everybody here hope. Every young player will be watching that thinking: ‘Ryan Christie did it and he came from Inverness’.
“So I think it was a really proud day for Scotland but a really proud day for the Highlands as well.”
The last time Scotland qualified for a major tournament – the 1998 World Cup in France – Eachainn was just a baby whose crying prevented his parents from seeing much of the action on their home television.
He said: “My dad Graeme was telling me that – because I’d just been born three months earlier – he was missing watching the games from the 1998 World Cup!
“I think I was causing a bit of a problem. Him and my mum Fiona had to miss a lot of seeing the football unfortunately!
“I have watched Scotland try and qualify for all the tournaments since then. Thankfully, I feel like my whole generation on Thursday night felt a massive relief.”
Qualification for next summer’s Covid-19 delayed European Championships means that Scotland will enter Group D with England, Croatia and the Czech Republic.
The Scots will go up against the Czech Republic in Glasgow on June 14, with a trip to face England at Wembley following on June 18 before a final group game at Hampden Park against Croatia four days later.
“I don’t think there is any reason why we can’t qualify from the group,” Eachainn said. “That’s what we’ve proved now, when it matters we can step up.
“We have beaten Czech Republic before, albeit a weakened Czech Republic, but I think we can do it.
“Hopefully, all being well, we’ll be able to have a full Tartan Army at Hampden. It’s so exciting, such a boost for everybody.”
After going for several months without competitive football, Eachainn and his Clachnacuddin team-mates will return to Highland League action when the 2020-2021 league campaign starts on Saturday, November 28.
To add to the appeal of the new season starting, Clach’s first game will be a local derby at Nairn County, as they bid to improve on the third bottom placing they occupied when the 2019-20 season was ended early by Covid-19.
“I think we were all absolutely buzzing when we heard the news that the Highland League was going to go ahead,” Eachainn said.
“Over the past few months it has looked at times as if we might not have a season at all.
“I know how difficult it’s been on the club, the fans and the board. As players, we have played a lot of friendlies (over the past two months) and not really known if we were going to get a season so I’m really looking forward to it.
“Our aims for this season are to push up the table. That is the main aim.
“I think we want to try and get a good start. Nairn is our biggest rival. It’s a spicy start.
“Being a derby it gives us an added bit of anticipation. We played Nairn last season and got a couple of good results – including beating them in the Scottish Cup – so it’s a good opportunity for us to get a good start and get some points on the board.
“But as I said the broader aim of this season is just to move higher up the table and become a bit more consistent.
“We are a very young team but that’s not an excuse. We know we can do better than we did last year.”
One reason for Eachainn’s optimism is that Clach recently appointed the new management team of gaffer Jordan McLeod and his assistant Gary Farquhar.
“My early impressions of them are really, really positive,” Eachainn said.
“I think they both have got a connection with Clach and they really want to see the team doing well.
“They have changed the way we were doing things and brought in their own style of play.
“They are trying to bring in a good brand of football so it’s up to us now.
“Hopefully we can hit the ground running.”
With the Highlands in tier one of the Scottish Government’s coronavirus restriction categories, some fans will be allowed to attend Highland League games.
However six Aberdeenshire clubs are not allowed to let fans in due to being in a tier two region.
Eachainn said: “Having a limited amount of supporters getting in is the key reason the Highland League is going ahead.
“Had it not been for that there would have been no Highland League because the clubs made it clear it was just not sustainable without fans.
“That was the added bonus, brilliant news.”