THE dearth of accomplished centre-backs is the most deep-seated deficiency Gordon Strachan must address if Scotland are to be revived.
Perhaps he should consider sending a striker back to occupy the position. That worked for Willie Miller, the late-ish convert to the role going on to become one of the most celebrated defenders Scotland has ever produced.
Miller, who won 65 caps, doesn’t attempt to varnish the truth about the current crop of Scottish centre-backs. Brighton captain Gordon Greer, aged 32, could earn a first senior cap in Croatia this week. He could be partnered by Blackburn Rovers youngster Grant Hanley, Hearts’ Andy Webster, or Russell Martin, little used at international level despite showing up well for Norwich City. Gary Caldwell might be injured and new Hearts signing Danny Wilson is only now playing regularly again after little game-time at Liverpool, but they have not been the answer in the past. Maybe it will require remodelling players who have shown good attributes at the highest level, with the likes of Alan Hutton, Steven Whittaker and Lee Wallace possibles for switches to central defence.
Frankly, though, none of these players has proved beyond question that they can be the dependable type, “the big dominating centre-half or someone defensively strong who can play alongside him and show leadership” as Miller puts it, that Strachan is in desperate need of.
“We don’t seem to be producing them,” said Miller. “All I can say is that it’s important we find the answer. Even when I was at Aberdeen [as head of youth development], central defence was an area you didn’t look at and say there was a heap of candidates who could play there.
“We need to encourage certain qualities within players to encourage them to be leaders. We don’t seem to produce that type of player with leadership qualities like Billy Bremner or Graeme Souness.”
There is perhaps a problem with playing at the back not being perceived as glamorous. “It was when I played,” Miller said. “I was a failed striker. But I loved the game and wanted to play. So, if you find out you can’t play as a No.10 then there is always that central defensive area… we’re crying out for players in that role.”