Tried and tested, that’s the Stra­chan way

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FRONT PAGE - TO­MOR­ROW Nick Rodger

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

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