Criticism of Oli McBurnie is unfair - the injury is genuine, says McLean

Midfielder leaps to the defence of his Scotland team-mate

Oli McBurnie insists he remains committed to Scotland. Picture: SNS
Oli McBurnie insists he remains committed to Scotland. Picture: SNS

Kenny McLean believes Oli McBurnie is being victimised after the striker’s commitment to the international cause was again thrown into question when he played for Sheffield United two days after withdrawing from the Scotland squad.

Steve Clarke issued a statement on Tuesday night in which he sought to clarify the circumstances. And the player himself took to social media yesterday to insist he had been “ready and willing” to play for his country before the decision was taken out of his hands.

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The Scotland manager said he had agreed with his Sheffield United counterpart Chris Wilder that the striker should remain at his club to work on his fitness after suffering a cut foot.

McBurnie, who is still to get off the mark for Scotland after nine appearances, came on for the second half of Sheffield United’s 2-0 win at Derby County on Tuesday.

The news generated dismay among many of Tartan Army, some of whom feel he should not be picked again. McBurnie’s departure from the Scotland squad to play Nations League fixtures against Israel at Hampden tomorrow night and Czech Republic in Olomouc on Monday was only confirmed on Sunday.

McLean is good friends with McBurnie and has issued a stern defence of the player. While he acknowledged he can be with his own worst enemy at times, he believes recent criticism is unfair.

“I don’t know if that’s just me saying that because he’s my mate,” he said. “Sometimes he will bring some stuff on himself, don’t get me wrong, but I think at times he seems to have a bit of a target on his back.

“I don’t think it’s justified what people are saying just now. He’s not fit, what else can he do?

“Does he come away and not train, train half the sessions and not be fit to play a qualifier? These are big games for us and we need everyone at 100 per cent and right now Oli is not 100 per cent. When he is, he’s a great asset for us.”

McLean, who signed a new three-year deal with Norwich City yesterday, has been in regular contact with McBurnie and was aware he was facing a fitness battle.

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“I think the people giving him stick don’t really know the whole story, they don’t know the position he’s been in,” he said. “I’ve been speaking to him a lot in the last few weeks and he’s been struggling with an injury.

“I think he’s done the right thing. He’s trying to get himself fit.”

McBurnie took to Twitter to stress he remained committed to the national side.

“Nobody is more frustrated than me at having to withdraw from the Scotland squad for this double-header,” McBurnie posted.

“I know both my club and international managers have explained the situation but I feel it’s important that I do, too.

“The reality is I haven’t been able to train at all for the last two weeks due to a cut in my foot that became infected.

“Given that pre-season coincides with the Nations League matches as a result of the Covid-19 impact on football, the last thing I wanted to do was let myself or my country down.

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“I was ready and willing to give it my best but both managers – probably rightly – took the decision out of my hands. Playing a bit longer than I expected in a friendly is a different world to an international double-header but I get how some people perceive it.”

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