Hibs striker Leigh Griffiths is poised for a recall to the Scotland squad for the World Cup qualifying match against Croatia in June.
Griffiths gained his only full cap under interim boss Billy Stark for a friendly in Luxembourg last November, which followed the sacking of Craig Levein earlier that month.
Levein’s successor, Gordon Strachan, has overlooked the Easter Road hotshot since becoming the national team manager, a situation his assistant Mark McGhee has admitted is unlikely to continue much longer, with 27-goal Griffiths on course to become the first Hibs player in 40 years to score 30 goals in a season.
McGhee said: “He is very close and he gets closer and closer. Gordon said it and I said it in one of my early press conferences when I was asked. He was very close then and he has gone on getting better and someone at Hampden said they are starting to see a little bit more maturity in his performances.”
Griffiths has, of course, attracted headlines for off-field activities, but McGhee insisted his absence from the squad for Strachan’s first three matches – a friendly against Estonia and the two World Cup qualifying games against Wales and Serbia – was based solely on footballing reasons.
He said: “One thing I can put on the record, I can absolutely and categorically state that Leigh Griffiths was not in the squad for any reason outside of football.
“We have heard things that we were not aware of, we have heard innuendo. I do not even know what the problem is, if there is a problem and I hope there is not.
“We did not pick him because we looked at the list of strikers we had at that time, it included Steven Fletcher, Jordan Rhodes, who was scoring goals freely in the Championship, Ross McCormack,who we think highly of and who gets goals in the Championship and we had Kenny Miller still in the squad.
“Then we had players who kind of play in that half-position between striker, Shaun Malony, people like that. Ultimately, the judgment came down to who we could get in the squad and he was not in it.”
McGhee, however, admitted that situation is set to change. He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme: “It is a case of watch this space. We cannot go on ignoring the boy, if that is what we did, who is scoring the goals he is scoring.”