Mark McGhee yesterday stressed that all players who fit the eligibility criteria will be considered by Scotland after confirming that Cardiff City captain Steven Caulker remains a potential option, even though he has already played and scored for England.
McGhee admitted that he and manager Gordon Strachan were “aware” that the defender still qualifies to play for Scotland despite having played once for England in a friendly against Sweden last year, when he scored one of his side’s two goals in the 4-2 defeat.
Caulker, who has a Scottish grandmother, has not been picked by Roy Hodgson since and, in the interim, has moved to Cardiff from Tottenham Hotspur in an £8 million deal.
Scotland are continuing to keep tabs on him, having also monitored his progress at under-19 and under-21 level with England. Until he plays a competitive fixture for the full England side he remains permitted to switch allegiance and McGhee said: “We will always want to pick players that are good enough for us when they fall within the rules that have been set.”
It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke. Have you heard the one about the English international who plays for a Welsh club and who may now want to play for Scotland? However, McGhee yesterday stressed that he is comfortable with the notion of someone switching international allegiance having already played for one country. In Caulker’s case, it would mean turning his back on England in order to play for Scotland.
“What we are aware of is that he meets, if not all of the criteria, then some of the criteria – as do some other players,” said McGhee. “We are also realistic. We’re aware of who meets the criteria and they’ll be aware that they meet the criteria. If certain players, whoever it is, felt they wanted to play for us then I think we would know.”
McGhee added that no attempt had been made to call Caulker for the current squad for the forthcoming friendly games against United States and Norway. “We’ve not done anything to persuade any player other than the ones that are already here,” he said.
Indeed, Caulker, who scored the winning goal for Cardiff against Swansea City earlier this month, has spoken as recently as this week about his hopes of an England recall. “If you play well then you never know, the call might come,” he said.
McGhee stressed that Strachan and himself would be the ones who would seek to persuade any player to switch allegiance. “We wouldn’t leave it to the SFA,” he said. “The most recent one that’s been turned up is Ikechi Anya. As soon as we knew he was eligible we watched him intensely and, once we were convinced we wanted him, we went to him. So we would do the same.
“As a general rule, we’d need to do that with any player. But so far that’s not something that’s happened. We’ve not been to that player and tried to persuade him. But it certainly wouldn’t grate with me [if someone changed their mind].
Atletico Madrid forward Diego Costa was called up by Spain for games with Equatorial Guinea and South Africa despite playing in two friendlies for Brazil, the land of his birth, in March. However, he qualifies for Spain on residency ground and he made a pledge to play for them, although he has now had to pull out due to injury.
McGhee put the issue in a personal context by referencing his own young son, Archie. “I’ve got a wee boy who’s five,” he said. “His mum is Greek-Cypriot, he would qualify to play for Greece as well as Cyprus. He was born in Westminster, so he could play for England, and he’s got a Scottish parent. Who he would play for at this moment in time, I’ve no idea? He’d be within his rights to do that [change his mind] as he’s as qualified to play for any of them. He can take his time and decide what’s best for his career.”