Craig MacGillivray: The lowdown on the Scotland call-up that had fans asking 'who?'

Craig MacGillivray was a surprise call-up in Scotland for the Euro 2020 qualifying double header against Russia and Belgium.
Craig MacGillivray was a surprise call-up in Scotland for the Euro 2020 qualifying double header against Russia and Belgium.
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There are few things more predictable than the announcement of the Scotland national team squad provoking outrage.

READ MORE: Leigh Griffiths left out of Scotland squad but Hearts' Steven Naismith could face Russia and Belgium

'What about *insert player*?!'

'How can player X get in ahead of player Y?!'

'HANLEY?! Is this a joke?'

Steve Clarke's selection for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifying double header against Russia and Belgium prompted an additional question: A collective '... who?'.

It was in relation to the appearance of a new name - Craig MacGillivray.

The Portsmouth goalkeeper was the first name on the announced list, joining fellow goalkeepers David Marshall and Jon McLaughlin - custodians Scottish football fans are familiar with due to their spells in the country with Celtic and Heart of Midlothian.

MacGillivray speaks with a Yorkshire accent and counts Stalybridge Celtic, Harrogate Town, Harrogate Railway Athletic, Walsall and Shrewsbury Town among his former clubs.

But this isn't a lament of a player who has little connection to Scotland or Scottish football receiving a call up. But a celebration of a proud Scot who has fulfilled a career ambition.

Speaking to the BBC earlier this year, the 26-year-old said of a possible Scotland call-up: "If they ever came knocking, I would be absolutely thrilled."

MacGillivray was born in Perthshire with one half of his family Scottish, and it has been a hard slog to reach to the level he is at today.

Prior to his move to Portsmouth last summer, he had played just 20 times in the English Football League.

The goalkeeper was coming off the back of a season where he had played second-fiddle to on loan Manchester United stopper Dean Henderson at Shrewsbury Town. Despite an offer to stay, he wanted to finally be a No.1; to finally play week in, week out at a good level.

Pompey offered him that opportunity, and he grasped it with two firm, safe and steady hands.

READ MORE: Steve Clarke explains absence of Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths from Scotland squad

Neil Allen, chief sports writer at the Portsmouth News and author of two books on the club, told The Scotsman: "He was out of contract and Shrewsbury wanted to keep him but he turned it down as he wanted to play regular first-team football.

"He is Pompey's undisputed No.1 keeper. He has been absolutely superb and it is fully justified.

"He just needed regular football to thrive. He is improving all the time and has that desire to improve."

In 61 games for the club he has kept 20 clean sheets. Half way through last season he signed a contract extension.

"The manager Kenny Jackett always talks about how level-headed he is," Allen said. "He never gets too high, never gets too low and never too emotional. His team-mates say he is a model professional and a great guy.

"He's unflappable, Nothing seems to get to him. [He's] nerveless. Man of the match in front of 41,000 at Sunderland and he won the penalty shootout in front of 85,000 at Wembley [in the Checkatrade Trophy final].

"An incredibly reliable performer, commanding of his area and saves penalties. He is so consistent, barely puts a foot wrong. You could count his mistakes on one hand."

When he did make a mistake, conceding a penalty at Accrington Stanley during last campaign, he redeemed himself by making a fantastic save.

Allen, and those at Portsmouth, are in doubt that if he is pitched in against Russia or Belgium, Scotland will be in safe hands.

And MacGillivray would be completing a meteoric rise over a little more than 12 months.

Allen said: "He's a proud Scot. His accent belies his Scottish roots but he has always had the ambition to play for Scotland."