Robert Snodgrass has rejoined the Scotland squad after his partner Denise gave birth to a baby daughter, Leonie, at the end of last week.
It is a welcome boost for manager Gordon Strachan after it was confirmed yesterday that left back Lee Wallace will not be fit to face Croatia at Hampden Park tomorrow night.
The Rangers player had been in line to play against the Croatians in the final Group A World Cup qualifying fixture due to Steven Whittaker’s suspension. But a knee injury saw him depart yesterday with Motherwell’s Steven Hammell already called up as cover.
Snodgrass arrived just as Wallace was leaving and his presence hands Scotland a psychological advantage. The Norwich City midfielder is one of the last players Croatia will want to see after his winner against them in Zagreb in June.
Snodgrass could now be handed the opportunity to repeat his match-winning performance tomorrow night. The 1-0 victory in Zagreb was the result that knocked Croatia out of their stride and they have to qualify in the play–offs next month. Belgium went through in Group A with a win against Croatia in Zagreb on Friday.
Snodgrass has talked of becoming a hero in Belgium thanks to his winner against Croatia. The 26th-minute goal was greeted with jubilation in Belgium and allowed Marc Wilmots’ side to cement their place. Now the birth has given Snodgrass another thrill and he thanked Strachan for granting him permission to leave the squad in the run-up to the game.
“I’m absolutely buzzing after the birth of our baby,” Snodgrass said yesterday. “I managed to train at the club last week and I think the adrenalin of fatherhood alone will get me through the game.
“I’m looking forward to training tomorrow and seeing the boys and I would like to thank the manager for being so understanding by letting me get everything sorted with my family.”
Snodgrass believes Scotland will now be afforded greater respect by their opponents following the win in Zagreb, which was the first time Croatia had lost a competitive fixture for six years. However, he knows this could count against Scotland. “It will be a different type of game to the one in June,” he said. “We went there with nobody giving us a chance of winning, while Croatia still had hopes of topping the group. We worked hard in training for the week before, carried that effort and determination into the game and fortunately I managed to score the winning goal.
“Now we have proved we are a tougher proposition, and on top of the Croatia result showed a resilience to win in Macedonia after they equalised. It is important we finish as high up the table as we can and really give the crowd at Hampden something to cheer,” he added. “We don’t want to finish the group without a home win and after the momentum we have built up it would be great to finish the campaign with another positive result that we can take into the preparations for the European Championships.
Snodgrass praised the contribution Strachan has made to the campaign since replacing Craig Levein earlier this year.
“Gordon has made a real impact and I think you can see the passion from the players to improve our position in the group,” he said. “The fans have stayed with us and I believe they can see the potential in us and the improvement we have made as a group.”