Leaving out Celtic and Aberdeen stars ‘a gamble’

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan announces his selection for the upcoming friendly fixtures. Picture: SNS
Scotland manager Gordon Strachan announces his selection for the upcoming friendly fixtures. Picture: SNS
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Scotland manager Gordon Strachan admits he is taking a gamble by omitting his Celtic and Aberdeen contingent from his squad to face Italy and France.

But Strachan is convinced it is more important in the long run to have Scottish players competing at the top level in European club football.

Celtic quartet Craig Gordon, Kieran Tierney, Scott Brown and Leigh Griffiths have been dropped for the post-season friendlies along with Aberdeen midfielder Kenny McLean. Hearts rejected the chance to allow Callum Paterson to miss the trip, though.

Both Hearts and Aberdeen start their Europa League campaign on June 30 with Celtic kicking off their Champions League qualifying quest less than two weeks later.

Strachan’s 27-man squad will be cut because of the Sky Bet Championship play-offs, while Hibernian midfielder John McGinn could be in action less than 48 hours before Scotland jet off for Malta for their May 29 friendly against Italy.

But the former Celtic boss - who called up Rangers pair Barrie McKay and Lee Wallace - felt he had to take a long-term view.

Strachan said: “The reason the Celtic and Aberdeen players are not there - I’m the Scotland manager. My job is to get the best for Scottish football.

“So I’m picking a squad that’s without Celtic and Aberdeen players. I’m trying to give them as much rest as I can so they can be ready for their European ties.

“It might be a bit of a gamble, I could have done with some of them.

“If Aberdeen, Celtic, Hearts and whoever is next get through and plays at the top level throughout next year, I will be delighted because that’s only going to help Scotland, having experience of playing in Europe, playing against top sides and top players.

“I go back 10-11 years ago when Celtic and Rangers were doing very well in Europe, that definitely benefited the Scotland national side.

“I’m hoping we can give these guys a rest and that will benefit the clubs and in the long term that will benefit me and the Scottish national side.”

The only Celtic player included is Charlie Mulgrew, whose contract expires at the end of May.

Strachan, whose side play France in Metz on June 4, said: “He will maybe not be a Celtic player when we play the second game. So that’s the reason Charlie is there. But Charlie has had a stop-start season and I don’t think he needs as much of a rest.”

Hearts head coach Robbie Neilson felt Paterson’s inclusion would benefit his club.

“He has also had a six-week break as well with his injury, so that’s the reason Callum is in there,” Strachan added.

“He is a goal threat, he can get forward and cross, he has a good physique about him, and he will get better and better because he is still a young fella.”

Seven of Strachan’s squad are involved in the English play-offs, from all four Championship teams vying for the Wembley final on May 28.

“I can’t pick a settled squad just now,” Strachan said. “Most international managers at a decent level can because they play in top leagues in the world, they don’t have to play in play-offs.

“But we only have five players who play in a top league in the world. Most of my squad play in the Championship and we have to deal with it.

“It’s very hard to pick a squad where you don’t really know who’s going to get to the final of the play-offs. It could be a real problem for us but we have to deal with that.”

Meanwhile, Strachan felt he had to select Wallace and McKay together following their link-up play down the Rangers left flank.

“They’ve had a terrific season,” he said. “Lee we know all about but I just felt there were quite a few Rangers players who can feel good about themselves this year, but as a partnership they work brilliantly together. It’s as good a partnership as I’ve seen for a long time.

“Both appreciate each other’s contribution and they both know what they’re good at, and they both help each other all through the games. So I think it’s worth the two of them coming together.”

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