SCOTLAND supporters hoping that the tenure of Gordon Strachan will represent a break with the immediate past will welcome the new national manager’s eschewing of spin over the composition of his squad.
The preponderance of players playing with English Premier League clubs was always seized on by predecessor Craig Levein as a sign of progress. In the 28-man pool announced by Strachan for the forthcoming double header against Wales and Serbia, there are only five home-based performers. But although he selected a clutch of players from the glistening English top flight, he cautions that doesn’t automatically make them golden.
“We think we’re great at this and great at that, it’s the way we are,” said Strachan. “But, over the last couple of years, there’s a reality check has come into place now. When you actually look at the sides we’re playing against, where their players play and who they play for, what they’re doing in the world, you think ‘that’s not bad’.
“[But] who are our players playing for in the English Premier League? Are they getting a game? If you look at Serbia, where do the back four play? [Branislav] Ivanovic, Chelsea. [Milan] Bisevac, the Lyon centre half, [Matija] Nastasic at Man City, [Aleksandar] Kolarov at Man City. That’s up there. That’s not bad. Our guys aren’t up there in the glamorous teams as they were years ago. But they’ve made it to the Premiership, so we have to say well done to them for that.”
Wigan, with Gary Caldwell, Shaun Maloney and James McArthur, provide more Scotland players than any other English club. The Lancashire side are battling relegation and, frankly, lose in the league most weeks. Strachan is wise to that. His concern is that a number of Scots in the English Premier League are beginning to find opportunities increasingly limited. “Sometimes you say, ‘They are playing in the Premier League but they are not getting games’. That’s the problem. They then come to international football and the intensity against top sides is a real problem for them.
“We’ve had that. We had to speak to people in the Premier League this week who aren’t getting games. We’re saying: ‘Listen, it’s a huge problem this’. The more games they get, the better. I know for a fact that when Charlie Adam is playing 35 to 40 games a season, he is a terrific player. It’s about getting games.”