James Forrest insists no one should question Kieran Tierney’s dedication to the Scotland cause despite his latest absence from the international squad.
The Scottish FA acceded to Arsenal’s request to omit Tierney from the Euro 2020 Group I qualifiers against Cyprus and Kazakhstan due to what has been described as an ongoing fitness issue.
Tierney underwent double hernia surgery in the summer but since making his debut for Arsenal in September, following his record £25 million move from Celtic, he has now racked up seven appearances for the London club.
The 22-year-old has not played for Scotland for more than a year, however, and his unavailability this week has attracted criticism.
But his former Celtic team-mate Forrest believes it is more important that Tierney is fully fit and able to contribute when Scotland go into the Euro 2020 play-offs next March.
“He is certainly committed to Scotland,” said Forrest. “He played for Scotland at an early age and he has already captained Scotland as well.
“KT loves playing for his country but he was out for a while and is just getting back in the fold at Arsenal. I think Scotland and Arsenal will both want what is best for KT.
“The main thing for him is just to keep doing what he’s doing at Arsenal and be ready for the games in March.”
No-one contributed more than Forrest to Scotland securing a place in those play-offs, the winger scoring five goals in the wins over Israel and Albania which saw the squad top their Uefa Nations League group. That has partly mitigated the subsequent miserable Group I qualifying campaign which concludes with Saturday’s match against Cyprus in Nicosia and the Hampden meeting with Kazakhstan on Tuesday night.
Forrest has only started three of manager Steve Clarke’s six games in charge so far and was, surprisingly, an unused substitute for both of the dispiriting 4-0 defeats against Belgium and Russia this season.
But the 28-year-old, now in his fifth qualifying campaign with the squad, remains optimistic about Scotland’s prospects of reaching next summer’s finals under Clarke.
“From the very first camp with him, it was clear that he knew what he wanted and the players were made aware of that,” added Forrest. “The results haven’t been there yet but it’s good that the squad will be together for longer during this international break because he’ll be able to do more work with us on the training ground.
“The country haven’t been in a major tournament finals for so long and you see players going there with England, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales and we want to make sure that we give our all so that ourselves and the fans can get to one as well.
“A lot of the guys in our squad play their club football alongside team-mates from those nations and they’ve all been told how good it is to be at a finals. It’s hard for us to take.
“It would be unbelievable for all of us if we did get there so we’ll be giving it a right good push.”
Forrest is hopeful the recent impressive European form of both Celtic and their Old Firm rivals Rangers can provide a dividend for the international team.
“The likes of Callum McGregor, Ryan Christie and myself – and Ryan Jack at Rangers – have had a boost with how well our clubs have done in the Europa League this season,” he said.
“It’s good that players can bring that into the camp with them. It does help – it’s certainly better than turning up on the back of bad results with your club because that can make it harder to pick yourself up.
“The priority now is the national team. Scottish football is in a really good place and it has been really positive from Celtic and Rangers over the past couple of weeks. That is good to see but we want to make sure it is the same story with Scotland.
“The last couple of trips have not been great but hopefully we can turn it around in these next two games.
“We all know that just one good performance can turn it around. It can change so quickly and we know it only takes one positive result to give everyone a lift. We want to try to win these two games and have real momentum and confidence going into the play-offs next March.”