GORDON Strachan yesterday took the wraps off his squad for the opening game of Scotland’s Euro 2016 campaign, welcomed Craig Gordon back to the fold, found a place for Callum McGregor – then insisted it would make “no difference” to his players that they must go to Germany to face the world champions.
The Group D game in Dortmund on 7 September is Scotland’s most exciting and daunting since, well, since they last lined up against new world champs, as has happened in qualification for the previous two Euros.
“We’re lucky, eh?” said manager Strachan. “The players are excited about the game. I don’t think they’ll be too nervous. Maybe there will be a wee bit of nerves on the day. That’s a good thing, but they’ll have no fear. I don’t think [the fact it’s Germany] will make any difference to the lads. I don’t think it matters. But we are playing the world champions and that’s absolutely fantastic. When Germany got to the quarter-finals in Brazil I was wanting them to go on and win it because that would mean we would be playing the best team in the world. It’s a tremendous fixture.”
The promotion of McGregor and the return of Gordon were the most eye-catching details in the unveiling of the 26-man squad. Celtic may be struggling to put together two good performances at the moment, but the emergence of McGregor has been a good-news story for the Scottish champions.
The lucky mascot of their chaotic Champions League campaign, he’s scored in the away leg of every qualifying round. Strachan, who is short in midfield with Scott Brown and Robert Snodgrass both missing the Germany game through injury, said he admired McGregor for “doing something about his career” last season and going on loan to England. “He got off his backside and went to Notts County. It would have been easy for him just to sit here. I like that.” Gordon resumes an international career which brought him 40 caps before he succumbed to his knee injury. Strachan described the goalkeeper’s achievement in getting back between the posts as “inspirational”. “It says a lot about his mentality. To help further with his recovery it’s nice to have him in the squad.” Asked if he thought Gordon could re-discover his pre-injury excellence, the manager said: “Why not? He’s got back to this stage when a lot of people didn’t think he could. He’s shown great character.”
Gordon’s reinstatement makes Scotland look strong in the goalkeeping department. Choosing between Allan McGregor, David Marshall and the Celtic man would be “very difficult”. At the other end of the field, there’s no room for Jordan Rhodes, Ross McCormack, Leigh Griffiths or Stevie May, but Strachan insisted that, with his chosen forwards, Steven Fletcher, Steven Naismith and Chris Martin, Scotland were “as strong as we’ve been for a while”.
Midfield has obviously been the main area of concern for the manager. James Morrison has told Strachan he’ll be fit; nevertheless Wolves’ Kevin McDonald adds to the numbers in this department as the other uncapped player alongside Callum McGregor.
So, Germany – any chance of complacency in their ranks? “I don’t think they’ve failed to qualify for a tournament. They qualify, it’s just part of the deal. The rest of us have to get on with it.”