Steve Clarke will have another decision to make ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Israel in Netanya with Declan Gallagher ready to return after being named among the substitutes in Trnava yesterday.
The Motherwell defender now seems to be first-choice for the middle role in Clarke’s favoured three centre-backs formation after keeping his place for last Thursday’s play-off final win over Serbia. Gallagher deputised for the injured McKenna last month as Scotland kept three clean-sheets in the wins over Israel, Slovakia and Czech Republic.
The stakes are now higher ahead of next summer’s Euro 2020 finals with every Scotland player desperate to represent their country at a first major finals in over two decades.
‘I have no complaints’
“Of course, I want to stay in the team,” said McKenna. “But I wasn’t involved last month and the lads kept three clean sheets and were absolutely excellent, so I can have no complaints.
“I think I’ve just to do as well as I can when I get the opportunity for Scotland and show the manager what I can do. And if not, then certainly I’ve got to perform for my club, keep my performances level and give the Scotland manager something to think about.”
The Nottingham Forest defender has welcomed the increased competition for places at centre-half, which used to be Scotland’s problem position.
Clarke brought in Liam Cooper and Andrew Considine yesterday along with McKenna in what was a complete refurbishment of the back three. Right wing-back Liam Palmer also came in for Stephen O’Donnell while Kieran Tierney moved from left centre-half to left wing-back to replace injured skipper Andy Robertson.
“There is a big fight for places but as a player that’s exactly what you want,” said McKenna. “It prevents complacency and I think when you do get a chance to impress you have to try and take it.
“You need to really try and stamp your authority and make yourself noticed. But that’s exactly what you want as a player and it’s great to be involved in that set up.”
A looooooong night
McKenna praised the efforts of all involved yesterday after the dramatic and emotional events of Thursday night in Belgrade. Even those who had not featured in the game itself were feeling the effects of the after-match party.
“I wish I could tell you – but I don’t really know!” said McKenna when asked at what time they eventually all got to their beds. “It probably was about four or five in the morning but it was a good night enjoyed by all.
“The spirit is very good in the squad,” he added. “It just comes back to that it doesn’t matter what emotional or physical fatigue there is, all of the lads see it as an opportunity to show the manager what they can do.
“We didn’t get the result tonight [v Slovakia], but I still think everyone gave as much as they could in that performance. We definitely merited more.”