Brendan Rodgers has hinted he will support the inclusion of some of his Celtic players in Scotland’s squad for the end-of-season trip to Peru and Mexico.
The timing of the challenge fixtures, in Lima on 29 May and Mexico City on 2 June, has caused some consternation for Celtic, who will return to training in the middle of June ahead of the start of an anticipated Champions League qualifying campaign in early July.
Following the retirement from international football of Celtic captain Scott Brown, six of his clubmates remain as likely regulars in new Scotland manager Alex McLeish’s plans – goalkeeper Craig Gordon, full-back Kieran Tierney, midfielders Stuart Armstrong and Callum McGregor, winger James Forrest and striker Leigh Griffiths.
McLeish has already spoken of his desire to reach a sensible consensus with club managers over which players he takes to South and Central America for what will be Scotland’s final preparation games before the inaugural Uefa Nations League campaign kicks off in September.
Rodgers has now revealed he has held initial talks with McLeish over the availability of Celtic players with a further meeting between the pair planned next week.
It seems likely that Tierney and Forrest, who have both already played almost 50 games for Celtic in domestic and European football this season, will be excused from Peru and Mexico matches. But the other Celtic contenders, including the currently injured trio of Gordon, Armstrong and Griffiths, may travel with Scotland if it is viewed as beneficial to both parties.
“We had a brief chat about it, in terms of the individual players, but I’ll speak to Alex more about that over the course of the next week or so,” said Rodgers, pictured. “But we’ve had a preliminary discussion about it.
“It’s fair to say there has been a huge burden on our players this season, mentally and physically. It was a really short turnaround for the majority of them after last season. There are going to be some of them who need the recovery and rest. We will speak with Alex on that and see what’s going to be best.”
Rodgers’ assistant Chris Davies, meanwhile, believes Brown’s announcement that he will no longer play for Scotland has come as a timely and significant boost to Celtic’s bid for an historic second consecutive domestic treble. Brown claimed his 14th major honour as a Celtic player when they retained the League Cup last November and, following the postponement of last night’s scheduled Premiership fixture against Dundee, the focus of the league leaders turns to Saturday’s Scottish Cup quarter-final at home to Morton.
“It is a memorable season for Scott,” said Davies. “The club is about winning trophies, that is what Celtic is about and that is what Scott Brown’s career has been about – being at the top of the Scottish game and winning trophies. He’ll be focused now on the next couple of trophies that we are all fighting for.
“It will be a positive for Celtic that he is playing less games over the season (after retiring from Scotland duty). He is very patriotic and he will not have made the decision lightly but for us it is good that he’ll maybe be that little bit fresher.
“I can only judge him in the period I’ve worked with him and he’s been first class since the day we got here. He is a great leader. But firstly he is a very good player in his own right as a central midfielder. With the ball he is good in possession and has good defensive qualities as well.
“The bigger picture is what he does for the team and he is a Celtic legend. I think that is fair to say, even before he has finished playing.”
Davies has also expressed his satisfaction at Celtic notching up 100 goals for the season, the milestone reached when Tierney slammed in their clincher in last Sunday’s 2-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie.
“We are an attacking team and we want to score as many as we can,” Davies told Celtic TV. “We are at the 100 mark for the season now. That was KT’s fourth of the season so as a left-back you aren’t expecting him to score too many.”
Davies believes the depth of Celtic’s squad has stood up well to their significant injury problems in recent months and is confident January signings Jack Hendry, Charly Musonda and Marvin Compper can play important roles in the remainder of the season.
“You need to accept that there will be injuries and dips in form but we have had guys stand up and do well,” added Davies. “We are getting a few back now and it is important that they are all ready because when you play 60 games you need a full squad.
“Jack and Charly have done well. They aren’t expected to be the finished article but they have done well and they have clear qualities for everyone to see. They are here to develop and we are happy with them.
“Marvin has just started training again. Unfortunately it has been a frustrating few months for him because he has had some niggles and some problems and now it is about building up that fitness now.”
According to Davies, there is no prospect of any lack of focus in the Celtic camp when they entertain Championship opponents Morton on Saturday at noon.
“The Scottish Cup is a trophy that we want to win,” he said. “We have a chance to get into the semi-final and we take absolutely nothing for granted. We will do our analysis and prepare for them as though they are a Champions League team. There is absolutely no difference. We respect them the same because we need to be ready to win the game and have no complacency.”