Dur­rant the rea­son that Aird de­cided to spurn Scot­land

CANADA Torn be­tween two coun­tries, mid­fielder was ad­vised to mid­fielder to fol­low his heart. By Ste­wart Fisher

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 SPORT -

CANADA have a for­mer Tar­tan Army hero to thank for the fact that Fraser Aird will be lin­ing up for them, rather than per­haps against them, at Easter Road on Wed­nes­day night. Ian Dur­rant would have won far more than his 20 in­ter­na­tional caps for his coun­try had in­jury not in­ter­vened and it was the voice of the Rangers Un­der-20 coach which came through loud­est and clear­est as Aird ag­o­nised over which side of the At­lantic he should play his in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

Born in Toronto, to Scot­tish par­ents – his father Bill trag­i­cally passed away af­ter a long ill­ness last month – Aird fea­tured for the Cana­dian Un­der-15s, be­fore rep­re­sent­ing Scot­land at Un­der-17 and Un­der-19 level. So torn was he by the im­pend­ing de­ci­sion over his dual na­tion­al­ity that he took a step back al­to­gether dur­ing 2013 to get his head straight, his mind wasn’t en­tirely made up un­til Dur­rant told him to for­get about try­ing to please every­body else and fol­low his heart. The rest is his­tory and he is set to win his fifth cap for his coun­try at Easter Road, against the na­tion where he has forged his ca­reer, on Wed­nes­day night.

“Colin Miller called me and said he was go­ing to put me in Canada’s Gold rIg Cup squad in 2013 when I was only 17,” re­called Aird. “I’d played with Canada at un­der-15 be­fore I moved to Scot­land as well but I was in two minds, I didn’t know whether I wanted to go or stay and play with Scot­land. I was play­ing at my age group here but get­ting a call-up to play first team in­ter­na­tion­ally was some­thing I re­ally had to think about.

“At that time I said I would leave it be­cause I wanted to con­cen­trate on my club foot­ball but it was a tough de­ci­sion for a 17-year-old to make,” he added. “I spoke to my par­ents about it but it was hard to know what to do and I fig­ured it was best to just stay away un­til I was 100 per cent cer­tain about what I wanted to do.

“Ally McCoist was Rangers man­ager at the time and I had a few con­ver­sa­tions with him at the time. Ob­vi­ously he played for Scot­land so I think he was try­ing to lean me that way. But I was also close to Ian Dur­rant at the time and al­though he’d also played for Scot­land and was a great ser­vant, he was the one who said I had to make the right de­ci­sion for my­self, not for any­one else. He said I had to feel in my heart that I was happy to rep­re­sent the coun­try I was go­ing to choose. That was one of the talks that swayed me to­wards Canada.

“I’m happy with my de­ci­sion now. I feel Cana­dian, 100 per cent. I was born there, spent the first 16 years of my life there, and that’s where I felt I should be at the end of the day. I’m glad I took the time when I was younger to think about it and make my mind up.” Per­haps it helped make his mind

te up that the cur­rent Canada coach, Mike Find­lay, was once in a sim­i­lar predica­ment. “I’m sure his dad was Scot­tish and he spent a num­ber of years here when he was younger,” di said Aird. “He has been great as the in­terim man­ager and was as­sis­tant to Ben­ito [Floro] be­fore that. He was the one to give me my first cap. He has faith in me and has picked me for this squad again. It will be weird but good [to play against Scot­land in Scot­land]. This is my sec­ond home now.”

Aird played 85 games for Rangers – “I was grate­ful for that but I felt there were times I could have got a chance and didn’t,” he says – but af­ter a loan spell at Van­cou­ver White­caps, Falkirk pounced when Mark War­bur­ton agreed to the mu­tual ter­mi­na­tion of his con­tract. Co-in­ci­den­tally, he could spend much of Wed­nes­day night in di­rect op­po­si­tion with Lee Wallace, a men­tor through their Rangers days.

“I sent him [Wallace] a mes­sage con­grat­u­lat­ing him on his call-up, and hope­fully we get a chance to play against each other down that side of the park,” said Aird. “He’s a great player and a pro on and off the park. He was one of the older ones when I first broke into the Rangers team and we were work­ing our way through the divi­sion, and he was al­ways there for sup­port.”

While Scot­land could field an experimental line-up for a match just days be­fore a cru­cial World Cup qual­i­fy­ing tie against Slove­nia, Canada are build­ing for this sum­mer’s Gold Coast, hav­ing seen back-to-back de­feats to Mex­ico cost them the chance of qual­i­fy­ing for Rus­sia.

“Maybe our world rank­ing doesn’t show how good of a team we are,” said Aird. “But I’d say def­i­nitely do not un­der­es­ti­mate us come Wed­nes­day.”

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