IT IS almost a year since Kris Commons made his 12th and, in all probability, last appearance for Scotland.
A taxi journey this week suggested that the Celtic playmaker’s self-terminated international career did not make much of an impression on the footballing public at large.
“The driver asked me if I was eligible to play for Scotland,” smiled Commons. “I told him I was and he said it would be smashing if they could get me into the Scotland set-up. I said ‘I’ll wait for that phone call’. He didn’t realise I’d played for Scotland – talk about making an impact!”
It was in May last year that Commons, first called into the Scotland squad in 2008 upon confirmation of his eligibility through his Dundonian grandmother, announced his international retirement.
His twin reasons were to spend less time away from his young family and to prolong his top-level club career with Celtic. The 30-year-old’s impressive form for the Scottish champions, which saw him receive the SPFL Player of the Month award yesterday, has vindicated the decision in his mind.
Although retaining an element of a “never say never” attitude towards a future return to Scotland colours, Commons gave a strong indication that he will not be performing a U-turn to make himself available to Gordon Strachan for the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign which begins later this year.
“People have asked me about Scotland over the last couple of months,” he added. “With me playing pretty well at the moment, it’s probably inevitable that people would ask. But at this minute in time I wouldn’t change my mind, no. It’s not something I’m thinking I’d love to be a part of again. I’m 30 now and I want to try and start looking at just solely club football.
“I want to play in the Champions League again and, when you start getting into your thirties, you need to starting looking at games and thinking ‘I need to protect myself’ because I’d hate to pick up injuries and then be out for Celtic for so long.
“If I was 23 or 24, it would be a completely different kettle of fish, but I’m not. I want to start protecting my body where I’m not going to be picking up injuries and I want to play the best football of my career at Celtic at this point in time.
“Looking at my form and the way I’m playing and scoring goals, I’d say not playing for Scotland has been beneficial to me. International football is very demanding, not just playing football but the travelling and being away from your family.
“When you’ve got the double-headers in qualifying, you could be away for ten or 11 days. That’s challenging, you have to take it into consideration and that was one of the main reasons I quit.”
Commons has been the most influential figure on the pitch in Celtic’s recent run of form, one that sees them complete an SPFL awards double with Neil Lennon also picking up the Premiership Manager of the Month prize.
Despite Celtic’s domestic dominance, it is the first time this season Lennon has won the award. He acknowledges that the general assumption Celtic should routinely win league fixtures often mitigates against him in the monthly voting.
“Yes, but it’s not a major issue for me,” said Lennon. “It’s nice to get the recognition. With the form the team has shown, I was bound to win one of these sooner or later.
“We’ve had clean sheets and a really good run of wins. What pleased me most in December was that they showed a lot of character after the heavy Champions League defeat in Barcelona. You felt there might be a big European hangover, heads could have gone down and we could have gone backwards, but the players have taken on board what we wanted to do and kicked on really well.
“It wasn’t too hard to pick them up after the Nou Camp. Immediately after the game, you felt they might have needed a big lift. But they have good personalities and a good spirit. They have played very, very well since then and there is a desire to get back into the Champions League again and have another go at it.”
Following their mid-season break in Turkey last week, Celtic resume the defence of their title against one of their notional challengers tomorrow when Motherwell visit Parkhead.
Lennon’s men are seeking an 11th straight domestic victory and a ninth consecutive domestic clean sheet, but anticipates a stiff test against Stuart McCall’s men, who are on their own impressive run of six successive league wins since they lost 5-0 at home to Celtic at the start of December.
“It’s a brilliant run and it’s
incredible to think people were turning on Stuart a month ago,” added Lennon.
“You now look at the run he’s put together and it speaks volumes for him and the job he’s doing. He’s had to change really important personnel this season and that takes time. But they’re now playing very confidently.
“I’d like us to improve our home form in the rest of the season. It’s been good in terms of results but I’d like to see us put teams away a little bit more convincingly.
“That’s going to be difficult because Motherwell come in a confident vein of form. But, with the break our players have had, they should be refreshed and looking forward to the second half of the season. I’m looking forward to the game.”