Tried and tested, that’s the Strachan way
Why waste an opportunity by calling up individuals who won’t feature simply to placate the irate supporters of their respective clubs?
THOSE who expressed their outrage when Gordon Strachan last week omitted certain prominent players from his two squads for the Scotland friendlies against the Czech Republic and Denmark later this month overlooked one thing.
Ross McCormack, Mark Reynolds, Jordan Rhodes, Johnny Russell, Graeme Shinnie, Lee Wallace and others are all highly unlikely to be involved, certainly to any significant degree, with their country in the Russia 2018 qualifying campaign.
Sure, they might get some game time here and there, may make the odd appearance as a substitute, could even get the occasional start, during our forthcoming Group C fixtures against Malta, Lithuania, Slovakia, England and Slovenia.
But stake a meaningful claim for a regular place in the national team? Forget it. None of them has a chance.
The Scotland side will, as was very much the case during our unsuccessful bid to reach the Euro 2016 finals in France this summer, be comprised from the same select group that Strachan rates and favours.
Once again, the team will come from David Marshall, Alan Hutton, Russell Martin, Christophe Berra, Grant Hanley, Gordon Greer, Charlie Mulgrew, Andy Robertson, Steven Whittaker, Scott Brown, James Morrison, Darren Fletcher, James McArthur, Graham Dorrans, Matt Ritchie, Shaun Maloney, Barry Bannan, James Forrest, Steven Naismith, Ikechi Anya, Robert Snodgrass, Steven Fletcher, Leigh Griffiths and Chris Martin.
Some felt that Strachan contradicted himself when he stated that McCormack, Reynolds, Rhodes, Russell, Shinnie and Wallace had been overlooked for this double header in Prague and Glasgow because he was well aware of what they were capable of.
If that was the case, why did he pick such as Anya, Brown, Darren and Steven Fletcher, Griffiths, Hanley, Hutton, Marshall, Martin, Mulgrew, Naismith, Robertson and Whittaker? Hasn’t he worked with all of them extensively in the past, too? Doesn’t he know exactly what they can contribute? Wasn’t this a chance to give somebody else the opportunity to show what they have to offer?
The truth is, though, that those are the players he will turn to as he bids to end our absence from the finals of a major tournament. He is, quite rightly, keen to give them game time as he builds towards the meeting with Malta in Valletta in September.
Why waste one of a limited number of opportunities to see his players in action in a match environment by calling up individuals who won’t feature simply to placate the irate supporters of their respective clubs? It isn’t his style.
Strachan will have a look at those untested talents he believes may be able to contribute to Scotland in the future in Liam Bridcutt, Liam Cooper, Kevin McDonald, John McGinn, Kenny McLean, Jamie Murphy, Kieran Tierney and Tony Watt. Who knows? One or more of them may well catch his eye.
The fact that McGinn of Hibs is the only player out of the 33 selected who is currently operating in the Championship in this country – the rest are playing in the top flight in England, France or Scotland or in the second tier in England – underlines that Strachan places great importance on the level an individual is plying his trade at.
Mark Warburton, the Rangers manager, has admitted that he was surprised none of his players was called up. However, Strachan clearly believes making the step up to international level is too great for them.
Yet, he shouldn’t discount what Wallace can bring to his team as Scotland strive to reach Russia 2018. The eight-time capped 28-year-old is athletic, experienced, defensively sound and consistent. The specialist left-back should be considered for what has been a problem position in the past.
Robertson is featuring regularly and performing well for Hull City in the Championship in England and is probably first choice to start in his favoured berth on current form. But it would certainly be worthwhile having a look at Wallace ahead of Mulgrew, who is better utilised at centre-half or in midfield, or Whittaker, who hasn’t been playing, if he is injured or suspended.
Barring a late collapse of unprecedented proportions, Rangers look set to win promotion to the Premiership. Playing in that division alongside Aberdeen, Celtic and Hearts next season should allow their captain to further his international ambitions.
Shinnie, too, is worth a go. If he maintains his current high levels of performance for Aberdeen – and his manager Derek McInnes rates him as the best left-back in the country – it will be increasingly difficult for Strachan to overlook him in future.
CONSISTENT: Lee Wallace is a specialist left-back for what has been a problematic position for Scotland