JUST four days after they hope to have reached the Premier League with Derby County, Craig Forsyth and Chris Martin will hope to make it a month to remember by pulling on a Scotland shirt for the first time.
Gordon Strachan has raided the Midlands club ahead of the friendly with Nigeria at Craven Cottage on 28 May, by which time they might be able to help boost the number of Premier League players in the squad. Craig Bryson, the Derby skipper who has already won two caps for Scotland, has also been included among the 28 names selected by Strachan for the international side’s last friendly before the Euro 2016 qualifiers begin in September.
It will be the manager’s last chance for experimentation, although he also struck a blow for the old guard by recalling Gary Caldwell, who is in line for his first international appearance since March last year. The 32-year-old Wigan Athletic defender, who has made 55 appearances to date for Scotland, has recently made a comeback from a hip injury.
With Russell Martin excused international duty after an arduous Premier League campaign with Norwich City, Caldwell has been called in as cover.
It is the appearance of another Martin in the squad that caught the eye yesterday. Derby made it to the Premiership play-off final at Wembley on Sunday after defeating Brighton & Hove Albion 6-2 on aggregate. Martin scored twice in the tie, taking his total for the season to an impressive 25.
It means Strachan’s success in persuading someone who has already scored twice in four England Under-19 appearances to swap nationalities can be regarded as something of a coup. Martin’s father is Scottish and Strachan confirmed that, despite already having played for England, where he was born, he was “proud” to be called up by Scotland.
Strachan was made aware of his credentials shortly after becoming Scotland manager last year. “I found out about a year ago that he could play because his dad is Scottish,” he said yesterday. “The most important thing is that he really is proud to be Scottish himself.”
He has earmarked a role for Martin in which he will be asked to hold the ball up and allow midfielders to become involved further up the pitch, a task Steven Naismith has performed with a great amount of success in recent matches. “I felt we could do with more of that,” said Strachan. “I looked at Martin and thought he could do it. He has 20-odd goals this season and his assists are phenomenal.”
“Between him and Bryson they have scored and created some number of goals.
“Chris is also a big lad and gives us something a bit different. What I’ve noticed is that when the ball goes up to him, he knows where everyone is on the pitch. It’s not like he needs three touches. We actually tried to get him for the last game in Poland but didn’t get all the paperwork through. Because he has played Under-19 for England, he had to send a written form away to Fifa saying he wanted to be Scottish.”
Strachan also enthused about Forsyth, whose father, Stewart, was once an elegant full-back at Dundee.The manager revealed that he had been keeping tabs on the left-back for most of the season. “If you get picked by Steve McClaren every game, there should be a good chance of getting picked by me,” he said, with reference to the Derby, and former England, manager.
“Most of this year, he [Forsyth] has got better as year went on,” he said. “He has kept plugging on and every time you see Derby something happens down his side. He forces himself on the game, like Andy. I think your full-backs have to be a bit like that these days, because no-one is really playing as traditional wingers as such anymore. There are not many of them going about.”
With Allan McGregor still making a comeback after a serious kidney injury, Strachan has taken the precaution of naming four goalkeepers, including Rangers’ Cammy Bell.
“You can see how desperate Hull are to get McGregor back for the FA Cup final,” he said. “That’s good. It’s good competition.” Asked whether he has settled on a first choice, given David Marshall’s excellent form for Cardiff City, he said: “No, not really. I’ve got two No 1s at the moment. It’s unfortunate for Gilksy [Matt Gilks] to hear that, but he’s not daft.”
Scotland squad to face Nigeria
Cammy Bell (Rangers); Matt Gilks (Blackpool); David Marshall (Cardiff City); Allan McGregor (Hull City).
Christophe Berra (Ipswich); Gary Caldwell (Wigan Athletic); Craig Forsyth (Derby County); Gordon Greer (Brighton); Grant Hanley (Blackbrun Rovers); Alan Hutton (Aston Villa); Charlie Mulgrew (Celtic); Andrew Robertson (Dundee Utd); Steven Whittaker (Norwich City).
Ikechi Anya (Watford); Barry Bannan (Crystal Palace); George Boyd (Hull City); Scott Brown (Celtic); Craig Bryson (Derby County); Chris Burke (Birmingham City); Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion); Darren Fletcher (Manchester Utd); James McArthur (Wigan Athletic); James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion).
Leigh Griffiths (Celtic); Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic); Chris Martin (Derby County); Ross McCormack (Leeds Utd); Steven Naismith (Everton).