Craig Levein reveals he pondered Scotland cap for Shola Ameobi

CRAIG Levein has revealed that he looked at bringing Nigeria-born Shola Ameobi into the Scotland squad during his early days as national team coach.

• Shola Ameobi: interested Levein

He dropped his interest when it was learned that the Newcastle striker does not qualify to play for Scotland under the terms of the Four Home Nations agreement.

"I tried to get Shola Ameobi at Newcastle a while back," Levein said as the Scotland squad convened to begin their preparations for Friday night's Euro 2012 qualifier in Lithuania. "He has not played for England yet, though he has lived in the UK and had a British passport.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"So I thought he might be available to play for Scotland. But we have changed the rules."

Levein brought up the case of 28-year-old Ameobi after being told of England coach Fabio Capello's interest in Mikel Arteta. Capello has had talks with the uncapped Spaniard, who is eligible to apply for a British passport as he has lived in the UK for more than five years.

Under the terms of the agreement, however, even if he acquired a British passport, Arteta could not play for England. Having been born elsewhere, with no grandparent from England, the Everton midfielder's only other route to qualify for Capello's squad would be through his education. If he had spent five years' education in England - with further education counting as well as schooling - he would be available through the home nations' agreement.

That agreement was amended to include courses such as SVQs after it was learned that Hearts winger Andrew Driver fell two months short of the qualifying period when only schooling was counted. The amended agreement has since been ratified by Fifa and included in their statutes, meaning that any attempt to cap Arteta should immediately be ruled invalid.

What is as yet unclear is whether Capello has expressed an interest in Arteta because he is ignorant of the rules or because he aims to break the agreement, which was brokered by Gordon Smith during his time as chief executive of the Scottish Football Association. "The four home associations have agreed to something which is more than just a gentleman's agreement, but it might be that England are planning on challenging it," Levein accepted.

"Andy Driver doesn't qualify for Scotland through his parentage or his grandparents. He qualifies because he has lived in Scotland for five years, and he has come through our education system.

"Gordon Smith was behind it. About a year ago they decided that they would resolve this issue, when the Andy Driver case came up.

"The Arteta stuff is completely different. The rule (for non-UK countries] is, if you stay in a country for two or three years, you can play for the country. But I can only tell you what the rules are, as I perceive them, for the four home nations.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I don't want to go into enormous detail about the Arteta thing. All I am saying to you is, the way I understand it at the moment, Arteta can't do that (play for England].

"I haven't really thought about it that much, but what I would like is for the rules to be the same all across the board. But that is not my responsibility."

Having played for his country with team-mates who only qualified on the grandparents rule, Levein is not too interested in a debate over what might constitute being Scottish enough. What he does want, however, is a level playing field with the other three home countries.

"From my point of view, my job is not to describe who is Scottish or not," he continued. "My job is to try to win football matches. I'd be happy to ignore all the rest of it and just keep my mind on that one thing.

"It depends how you look at it. Look at the current rule about grandparents: a lot of the guys that I played with for Scotland were effectively English. So what's the difference?

"Look, I'd be happy if our rules were the same as everyone else's. But we are where we are."

While reports in England yesterday failed to mention the four nations' agreement, Capello appeared to defer any possible clash by saying he would only consider Arteta if and when he got a UK passport.

"When I can select (him] I can speak about him. I can't select because he is not English. I prefer to speak about the players I can select."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Meanwhile, new Scotland recruit Matt Gilks has revealed he was on the point of quitting the game and finding work in a factory or a garage.

Fifteen months on from those dark days, his goalkeeping career is on an upward curve in a way he never imagined thanks to the stewardship of manager Ian Holloway.

Gilks finds himself playing in the Barclays Premier League after Blackpool's remarkable promotion last season.

He was between the posts as his side drew 2-2 with Fulham on Saturday.

To cap it all, the 28-year-old has been drafted into the Scotland squad for the first time.

The turning point for Gilks - who went on loan to Shrewsbury to get games - came in May 2009 when Holloway arrived at Bloomfield Road.

"I had lost faith in myself, I had lost faith in football, " he told Up The Pool.

"There were times when I came off the training ground, went home and told everyone I was through.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"They all reassured me this is what I was meant to be doing. There wasn't really anything else I could have done, other than work in a factory or work on cars.

"It was a personal thing that I had to deal with and I came back with a different frame of mind. If the manager hadn't changed, though, I would probably have gone away from football totally. He has been a massive influence on everyone."

Rochdale-born Gilks joins Allan McGregor and David Marshall in the international squad - he is eligible through a Scottish grandmother.

He added: "I was always open to a call from Scotland and I am more than happy to link up with the squad.

"International level is the next step in my career that I want to go to and I am very grateful it has come along."