Gordon Strachan: I'm not going to apologise to every player left out

Gordon Strachan couldn't find a place in his squad for Callum McGregor. Picture: SNS.Gordon Strachan couldn't find a place in his squad for Callum McGregor. Picture: SNS.
Gordon Strachan couldn't find a place in his squad for Callum McGregor. Picture: SNS.
Gordon Strachan insists he does not have to explain Callum McGregor's absence from his latest squad to the player himself, and neither will he apologise to anyone else who missed out.
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The Scotland manager yesterday announced a large squad of 27 players for the forthcoming World Cup qualifying double-header against Lithuania and Malta. But he still couldn’t find a place for midfielder Callum McGregor, who scored one of Celtic’s goals in their 2-0 win over Kilmarnock on Saturday.

McGregor, who has started five of Celtic’s nine games to date this season, has been pressing for international recognition since towards the end of last season.

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Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers described McGregor as international class after the midfielder once again shone on Saturday, adding he “wouldn’t be surprised” to see him named in Strachan’s squad this week for the first time. But Rodgers has been proved wide of the mark for once, with Strachan once again reluctant to call the player up. So the quota from Celtic remains at six, including Stuart Armstrong and Scott Brown. The latter player continues his return from a briefly served retirement.

Strachan is well catered for in midfield, with a dozen players named yesterday. In addition to Brown and Armstrong, options include Sheffield Wednesday’s Barry Bannan and Fulham’s Tom Cairney. Strachan explained that many others, including McGregor, were in the frame. But he stressed he cannot please everyone.

“I could say the same about [Aberdeen’s Graeme] Shinnie,” said Strachan. “There’s a lot of midfield players out there that I could say the same about. We don’t personalise it.

“I’m not going to sit here and apologise to every person who’s not in the squad. I got left out for more than a year with Scotland but I looked at the squad and thought: ‘They’re no’ bad – and I’m no’ playing very well’.

“So I understand that. He’s playing well but he is in and out of the team at the moment. There are other guys playing well. I watched Kevin McDonald – what a good player he is for Fulham. We’re really strong in that area. So I’ve got to pick who I think is right for this game.

“I saw Barry Bannan recently. Mark [McGhee] saw him as well and said he was the best player on the pitch. I saw him the week before and he was the best player on the pitch.

“He was magnificent and he scored a wonderful goal the previous week. He plays regularly and everything revolves around him at Sheffield Wednesday.”

Strachan did call up Millwall goalkeeper Jordan Archer for the first time and re-called full-back Steven Whittaker, now at Hibs. Sheffield Wednesday striker Steven Fletcher also returns after scoring in his side’s 1-0 win at Fulham on Saturday.

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Robert Snodgrass retains his place despite being left out of both West Ham’s league games this season after being told he is free to leave the London club.

“He’s not missed many games since the England game,” noted Strachan. “He’s only missed two, so that’s not a big thing. Is it a show of loyalty? Yes, but it’s also an understanding of his ability to make things happen – and he’s shown he can make things happen here. It’s not blind loyalty, but I do show loyalty to everybody who’s given it all to us and to the group.”

Strachan was delighted to see full-back Andrew Robertson not only make his competitive debut for Liverpool last weekend, but also win the man of the match award. The £8 million signing from Hull City took the challenge in his stride, helping Liverpool to a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield.

“There’s clubs where you go to and there is no real expectation on you, because you go and youturn up and you sign and you play and see how it goes,” said Strachan. “But I think when you are talking about teams like Liverpool, you go there but you must win.

“He has gone to a place with a ‘must win’ mentality now, and I am sure he will enjoy that pressure.

“He has been asked questions all through his life and he has answered them,” he added. “It is character building what he’s been through. He is ready now for that top club.

“We are delighted for him because he is a right good kid,” he added. “The first time I clapped eyes on him was for Dundee United in I think the first game of the season. I thought: I like him. Then we saw him in the Under 21s a couple of months later and we thought: get him up. We were short of a body. So we brought him up to the full squad. Within half an hour we thought: he can be a player. So we watched his progress and we are delighted for him.”