Craig Levein says no to newco caps as he leaves Wallace out of Scotland squad
THE first Scotland squad of a new era in Scottish football was announced yesterday, and as expected it contained no players from newco Rangers.
Craig Levein’s options have been further restricted after he acknowledged yesterday that it would be “difficult” for him to select players who are operating in the fourth tier of the Scottish game.
As a result, Lee Wallace, who played in Scotland’s last outing against the United States in May, has dropped out of contention. Ian Black is another player who appears to have sacrificed his international ambitions by signing for Rangers. Levein admitted Black was “on the verge” of being involved with the squad last season, when he was at Hearts.
Although he acknowledged the special circumstances, Levein questioned whether it is possible for a player to make the step up to international level after performing in such low-standard matches on a regular basis. This, he felt, remained the case even if the individual concerned has already proved himself to be international quality. Wallace has already made six appearances for Scotland but the cap he won after playing in the 5-1 drubbing by the United States earlier this summer looks likely to be his last for a while.
The Scotland manager drew an analogy with those British sportsmen and women who have tasted success in the Olympics. “One of the key components of the performance system we [the Scottish Football Association] have in place [via performance schools] is that it is best v best, where you are testing yourself every single week at a high level,” he said. “If you look at Sir Chris Hoy, he’s had to down to England to compete with people who are at a similar level to him to enable him to push himself. The idea is that when you do your sport, every single day you’ve got to be at the top of your game to compete.”
Levein was careful not to close the door completely on those who are prepared to play for Rangers after being enticed by generous contracts. However, he admitted “it is difficult to think you can play at that level week in, week out and then go up to international level.
“I have said consistently that Scottish players playing in the Premiership is good for the international team,” he added. “This is almost the opposite of that.
“Ian Black was on the verge of being involved. I’ve made a decision. It’s not my job to give advice to players on where to play. I can understand the attraction of playing for Rangers, but I have to look at what’s best for the international team. I am not closing the door. It could be we get to September and have a couple of injuries and have to bring these guys in.”
The season is only a few days’ old and already Levein has had his hand forced due to injuries. Celtic skipper Scott Brown has been left out of the squad as he struggles with a groin complaint. Although he missed his side’s league opener against Aberdeen on Saturday, he should be available for the second leg of Celtic’s Champions League qualifying clash with HJK Helsinki tomorrow night. “He will get an injection after the game on Wednesday,” revealed Levein. “He didn’t play for Celtic on Saturday and he hasn’t trained so it is obviously an issue.” Levein admitted that, when it came to the injury-prone midfielder, he was “a little bit concerned about September”, when Scotland kick off their World Cup 2014 qualifying campaign with home games against Serbia and Macedonia.
On the face of it, having no club at all should be as unhelpful for a player’s international ambitions as playing for one in the Third Division. However, Levein insisted that the currently unattached Craig Gordon would have been named in the squad yesterday had it not been for a knee injury. “The reason he is not in the squad is nothing to do with him not having a club, he is not fit,” said Levein. “It’s been his decision not to go anywhere,” he continued. “He has had offers. He does not want to sign with anyone until he gets this sorted out. It’s not as if he is in limbo.”
Levein enthused about the re-emergence of Shaun Maloney at Wigan Athletic at the end of last season and confirmed that Jamie Mackie will start in the lone-striker’s role in the absence of Kenny Miller, who has been given time off to settle in at Vancouver Whitecaps.
• Tickets for Scotland v Australia at Easter Road on Wednesday 15 August are available on 0844 248 5155, via www.ticket master.co.uk or by visiting the Hibernian ticket office.
(to face Australia in a friendly at
Easter Road, Edinburgh, on 15 August):
Alan Hutton(Aston Villa)
Barry Bannan(Aston Villa)
Graham Dorrans(West Brom)
James Morrison(West Brom)
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West