KILMARNOCK manager Kenny Shiels insists he is deadly serious when he says England manager Roy Hodgson should be taking a closer look at winger James Dayton.
The 24-year-old Londoner will sit out tonight’s Clydesdale Bank Premier League clash with St Mirren and looks set to miss the rest of the season after suffering a punctured lung and broken ribs in the weekend win over Ross County. However, Shiels claims the former Crystal Palace trainee has done well enough in his 31 outings this season to merit a call-up for Hodgson’s squad.
He said: “We have lost Dayton, which is a big loss for us. He’s a big player and adds a lot in the attacking third. He was on the verge of an England call-up, we were thinking. I know you might find that funny, but other players who have been recommended for Scotland and England are not in the same league as James. I don’t see why, just because he is wearing a Kilmarnock shirt, he can’t be recognised as an international player and I think he is on the verge of it.
“It’s obvious that because he is playing for Kilmarnock, (James) wouldn’t get the same recognition but believe me, he is good enough. Technically (he’s good enough) and his game understanding has improved considerably since he came up here and over the last four or five months he’s been one of the top players.”
Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster was rewarded for his fine form for the SPL champions when he was included in the England group for their recent World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro. Forster’s Parkhead team-mate Gary Hooper only missed out on the chance to make his international bow in a friendly with Sweden last year through injury, while Hoops defender Kelvin Wilson has also been tipped to receive a call-up. Shiels rejected the suggestion he was being facetious with his comments on Dayton.
He said: “Do you ask Neil Lennon that? You don’t. There have been people recommended for Scotland and England and what’s wrong with me recommending a player? I’m saying that the media in Scotland, because (James) is only wearing a Kilmarnock shirt and we are a wee country club, it doesn’t fit with internationals. If I look at who is playing for England, I don’t see why James can’t.”
St Mirren visit Rugby Park tonight fresh from their Scottish Communities League Cup win and their weekend draw with Celtic and manager Danny Lennon wants his Hampden heroes to finish their SPL campaign on a high and move up the table.
Saints ended last term in eighth, their best top-flight finish in 21 years, and the former Cowdenbeath boss is hopeful of pairing this season’s cup success with another landmark league performance.
Lennon, whose team beat Hearts 3-2 last month to claim their first trophy for 26 years, said: “The cup win has certainly given us a wee spring in our step and we are hungry for more success, but the league is our bread and butter and we need to improve our performances. The table doesn’t lie. On a plus side it tells us that we have more points than we had this time last season. We have scored more goals and are closer to the top six in terms of points, but on the negative side, we are sitting 10th in the table.
“However, we believe we can achieve better than that. We are progressing and the good news is that the season isn’t over yet. We have now got some positive momentum and a strong desire to finish off the season on a high.
“We want to improve on our position of eighth from last season, which was our best finish for 21 years. If we can do that, it will be a very special season.”
Sunday’s stalemate with Celtic was marred by a string of refereeing mistakes, leaving Celtic manager Neil Lennon to dub official Bobby Madden’s performance as “appalling”.
The Glasgow side had midfielder Victor Wanyama sent off for a foul on Paul McGowan, while Emilio Izaguirre conceded a penalty despite making little contact with Esmael Goncalves in a tackle which took place outside the box. However, St Mirren had reasons to feel aggrieved too as Celtic survived an initial spot-kick claim in the first half, while Gary Teale had the ball in the net before half-time when his free-kick floated directly in at the far post, but referee Madden penalised Paul Dummett for a push on Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Television pictures later showed it was Izaguirre who had actually shoved the Buddies full-back, but Saints boss Lennon praised his players for not letting those injustices affect their display. “I can’t control the decisions that go for or against our club, but I thought the way that our club handled these decisions was the correct manner,” he added. “The only thing we can control is how our emotions and anger play out at these times. I thought we handled all that on Sunday very well.”