Ryan Gauld and Stevie May have been called into the full international squad for the first time for next month’s Euro 2016 qualifiers against Georgia and Poland – shortly after each completed moves away from Scotland.
The pair are included among the 27 players named for the crucial fixtures, with manager Gordon Strachan set to call in one other younger player to supplement the numbers in the event of likely injury call-offs.
Strachan has decided against recalling Gary Mackay-Steven, who has starred in recent weeks for top-of-the-league Dundee United. There is also no place for Wolves midfielder Kevin McDonald, included in the last squad to face world champions Germany, and Celtic’s Charlie Mulgrew, suspended for the first game against Georgia and, in any case, currently injured.
The inclusion of Sheffield Wednesday’s May and Sporting Lisbon’s Gauld, aged 21 and 18 respectively, caught the eye in a group of players recruited mainly from outwith Scotland. Of those players named, just three ply their trade in the SPFL – the Celtic pair Scott Brown and Craig Gordon, and Aberdeen defender Mark Reynolds.
“The number of players who have gone from the Scottish Premiership to the [English] Championship is phenomenal,” admitted Strachan, with 13 of the current squad currently operating in that division.
“It’s just a pity we didn’t have the finances to keep them all here because, if you ask most people, if they are told they can quadruple their wages in the Championship they will go. I’m sure they would all like to hang about here and play football here and get a real good wage, but that’s what you do.”
Asked why May has been called up now and not last season, when he scored 27 times for St Johnstone, Strachan explained that he felt the striker still had a lot to learn then.
While noting the player is still not the finished product, Strachan pointed out that May was set to be included in the squad for the friendly clash with Nigeria at Craven Cottage in May. However, it was decided that the striker should play for the under-21 team in their crucial qualifying clash against the Netherlands.
Now at Sheffield Wednesday, May has scored three times in ten appearances since joining the Hillsborough club in August in a £800,000 deal.
“To be fair, he would have been in the Nigeria squad but he was needed for the under-21s,” said Strachan. “Billy [Stark] had an important game against Holland. So he would have been in that squad playing for Scotland if the under-21s weren’t playing in a big, big match.”
“The reason he wasn’t picked for Germany [last month] was because we knew how we wanted to go and also I wanted to see him settled [at Wednesday],” added Strachan, who watched May play against Reading two weekends ago. “He has just been through that traumatic on-off transfer. So he has settled in. I saw him last week, Mark [McGhee] has seen him, other scouts have seen him and he’s doing smashing.”
Gauld’s inclusion is a perhaps greater surprise. Although he has been named in the Sporting Lisbon Champions League squad – the Portuguese club hosted Chelsea in a group G fixture last night – he has not yet made a first-team appearance for the club since moving from Dundee United.
“I just want to get to know him,” said Strachan. “I’ve only seen him from afar. I’ve not actually sat down and spoken to him and said ‘what’s your ideas on the game and how can you play with these players?’ The way we’re playing, I think he’ll be able to step in here and add to our training sessions. Whether he does enough to get on the bench or play, that’s entirely up to him.”
Goalkeepers: Craig Gordon (Celtic), David Marshall (Cardiff City), Allan McGregor (Hull City)
Defenders: Christophe Berra (Ipswich Town), Craig Forsyth (Derby County), Gordon Greer (Brighton and Hove Albion), Grant Hanley (Blackburn Rovers), Alan Hutton (Aston Villa), Russell Martin (Norwich City), Mark Reynolds (Aberdeen), Andrew Robertson (Hull City), Steven Whittaker (Norwich City)
Midfielders: Ikechi Anya (Watford), Barry Bannan (Crystal Palace), Scott Brown (Celtic), Craig Bryson (Derby County), Chris Burke (Nottingham Forest), Graham Dorrans (West Bromwich Albion), Darren Fletcher (Manchester United), Ryan Gauld (Sporting Lisbon), Shaun Maloney (Wigan Athletic), James McArthur (Crystal Palace), James Morrison (West Bromwich Albion).
Strikers: Steven Fletcher (Sunderland), Stevie May (Sheffield Wednesday), Chris Martin (Derby County), Steven Naismith (Everton)