Stage set for Scot­land’s un­der­stud­ies to shine

Strachan no fear as reg­u­lars must be re­placed for vi­tal game

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - SPORT - BY ANDY SKIN­NER

Scot­land will be forced to change their suc­cess­ful for­mula for their two re­main­ing World Cup qual­i­fiers but man­ager Gor­don Strachan is con­fi­dent his play­ers wait­ing in re­serve can do just as good a job.

Strachan named the same team for last month’s vic­to­ri­ous dou­ble-header, which brought a 3-0 tri­umph away to Lithua­nia and a 2-0 win against Malta at Ham­p­den Park.

Changes will be made for this week’s must-win fix­tures against Slo­vakia and Slove­nia, fol­low­ing the with­drawal of skip­per Scott Brown through a ham­string in­jury, and fel­low Celtic mid­fielder Stu­art Arm­strong with a calf in­jury.

Strachan feels he has the strength in depth to cope with the loss of Brown and Arm­strong and he does not believe there is enough dis­par­ity in qual­ity in his pool for their ab­sence to be too keenly felt.

Strachan said: “Ev­ery­one in here, if we spoke to the play­ers af­ter the games we’ve played re­cently and asked Ryan Fraser, Barry Ban­nan and an­other cou­ple of play­ers if they felt they would have made the team bet­ter, they would have said yes.

“They are not say­ing they are bet­ter than any­one but they can do what they are asked.

“That’s fine. I don’t think there is an in­fe­ri­or­ity com­plex with any of them, be­cause I don’t think we have play­ers that far ahead.

“It is dif­fer­ent if I’m ask­ing a player if he wants to step in for Messi. He might say ‘no, I don’t want to step in for Messi’.

‘Aguero? ‘No, I don’t want to do that, ei­ther. I’d rather just sit on the bench and watch this’. We are not there.”

Among the op­tions Strachan could turn to in mid­field are Stoke City’s Dar­ren Fletcher, who will cap­tain the side in Brown’s ab­sence if se­lected, and Sh­effield Wed­nes­day’s Barry Ban­nan. Hiber­nian’s John McGinn and Celic’s Cal­lum McGre­gor could also be drafted in, hav­ing each scored twice in Satur­day’s 2-2 draw be­tween the sides at Park­head.

Strachan wants any re­in­force­ments to make their own mark on the side and said: “We’ve got to say that, if we can han­dle things bet­ter in one area of the team than oth­ers, it’s in mid­field.

“It’s not fair to say to play­ers that I want them to play like some­one else. We have to have a sys­tem where the play­ers feel con­fi­dent enough in them­selves, know­ing that it’s all about the way they play rather than try­ing to fill in for some­one who couldn’t be there. I don’t want them try­ing to im­i­tate some­one.”

Strachan feels all four mid­field­ers have a strong case for in­clu­sion but hinted the pa­tience and de­ter­mi­na­tion of squad reg­u­lars Fletcher and Ban­nan could be an im­por­tant fac­tor, ad­ding: “It is easy for Dar­ren at his age to say, ‘I didn’t get a game the last cou­ple’. But he turns up again. There are loads of guys who could do that.

“Barry could do that sometimes, but he turns up all the time, he has not played reg­u­larly but he is al­ways there. We ap­pre­ci­ate that. That’s al­ways re­warded – that kind of loy­alty.

“His per­for­mances have

“It’s not fair to say to play­ers that I want them to play like some­one else”

been as good as any­body’s, he’s prob­a­bly the best mid­fielder in the Cham­pi­onship – he got voted into the Cham­pi­onship team of the year last year and I feel he is ac­tu­ally play­ing bet­ter this year.

“I’ve not got a prob­lem with John McGinn, he has been ter­rific for a while.

“Just be­cause Cal­lum hasn’t been in the ini­tial squad, that doesn’t mean he can’t be in­volved.

“He has been in and out of the Celtic team – but when he gets in he scores.

“He never lets you down, but at times he does not play – he comes on.

“It’s not as if he’s never been out of the Celtic team, that’s for sure.”

EVERY­THING’S UN­DER CON­TROL: Dar­ren Fletcher shows off his ball skills dur­ing the Scot­land squad’s train­ing ses­sion at Ham­p­den

ALL SMILES: Liam Cooper re­laxes above af­ter, be­low right, ear­lier tak­ing part in the Scot­land squad’s train­ing ses­sion at Ham­p­den

Andy Robert­son on the ball at Ham­p­den

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