Scott McKenna not expecting Scotland recall against Israel despite Grant Hanley's suspension

Scott McKenna is just two appearances short of earning the silver medal presented by the Scottish FA to any player who wins 25 caps for their country.

Scott McKenna strides purposefully onto the training pitch at Oriam in Edinburgh on Wednesday as Scotland prepare for their crucial World Cup qualifier against Israel at Hampden. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
Scott McKenna strides purposefully onto the training pitch at Oriam in Edinburgh on Wednesday as Scotland prepare for their crucial World Cup qualifier against Israel at Hampden. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Although the big central defender is currently enjoying a good spell of form with a revitalised Nottingham Forest side, however, he isn’t banking on reaching that personal milestone in the imminent World Cup qualifiers against Israel and Faroe Islands.

With Grant Hanley suspended for Saturday’s pivotal Group F fixture at Hampden against the Israelis, Scotland manager Steve Clarke will be forced into at least one change in his now preferred three-at-the-back system.

McKenna endured a torrid 45 minutes alongside Hanley and Liam Cooper before being replaced at half-time when Scotland lost 2-0 in Denmark last month. The 24-year-old was an unused sub for the subsequent 1-0 victories over Moldova and Austria in which a back three of Jack Hendry, Hanley and Kieran Tierney excelled.

Scott McKenna (left) shows his frustration after missing a chance against Croatia at Hampden during the Euro 2020 finals in June. (Photo by STU FORSTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“The boys have been excellent in the last two games,” agrees McKenna. “We’ve had two clean sheets and I wouldn’t expect too much change.

“If I am asked to play, I will be ready. I know the boys who have come in have done well and I fully understand it.

“It might open things up with Grant being suspended for Saturday but Scott McTominay is back in the squad and we also have Liam, Jack and Kieran. There are lots of options for the manager to pick from.

“I have always said it is far better having competition than lads playing because that is all that is there. There are five or six players fighting for those positions and it means the team will be in a better position because of that.

Scott McKenna in action for Nottingham Forest during their 3-1 win at Barnsley last week in the English Championship. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

“It’s difficult to force your way back into a defence, especially if the team is playing with a settled line-up and are not conceding goals. When that happens, you can have absolutely no arguments. It is all about being ready, even during a game, that you can come on and not disrupt things too much.

“I am only a couple away from that silver medal. It would be a great achievement to reach 25 caps but I am not too fussed when that comes. I would rather it was sooner than later but I would rather be in a winning squad, with everyone doing well, than just focusing on myself.”

McKenna is now in his second season at Forest following his £3 million move from Aberdeen last year. A torrid start to the campaign, in which Forest lost six of their first seven games in the English Championship, saw Chris Hughton sacked as manager last month.

They are unbeaten in their last four games since then with new boss Steve Cooper making an immediate impact and McKenna joining up with the Scotland squad on the back of helping keep a clean sheet in Saturday’s impressive 3-0 win at Birmingham City.

Recently coined the Dumfries Dreamboat, Grant Hanley has seen his stock grow over the past year after several solid performances for the Canaries, and it seems EA Sports have been paying attention, slapping him a 75 rating on him.

“Since the previous manager lost his job, we seem to have turned a bit of a corner,” said McKenna.

“We have taken 10 points from four games which has taken us from the bottom of the league up to 17th place, so it has been a nice few weeks.

“A formation change seems to suit the way we are playing. The forward players are getting a lot more of the ball and causing the trouble they are capable of. That confidence breeds through everyone.

“At the start of the season, the ambition at Forest was to try and better what we did last season. We have had a tough start and maybe we have to re-evaluate.

“Now we have taken these 10 points, it's a case of keeping on going. I think last year the most we did was two games in a row. If we want to have any success at all this season it can’t be a case of when we have 10 points from 12, we feel we can afford to lose one now.

“It has to be the winning mentality all the time and we have to go and make it five or six wins in a row. If we do that, then we will see where it takes us.

“When you are away from the Scotland camp, you know the manager or somebody will be watching you for him. Even at club level, you have to keep doing what you can to show him what you can do. The fact we kept a clean sheet at the weekend and have stopped conceding as many goals at club level should help the Scotland manager put a bit more faith in me.”

McKenna, who made one appearance for Scotland at the Euro 2020 finals in the summer, is hopeful the momentum is now there to hold onto second place in their World Cup qualifying group and book a play-off spot for Qatar 2022.

“To get to the Euros, we went nine games unbeaten,” he said. “So I think we now have to do something similar again to reach the World Cup.

“It’s all about having that consistency and being hard to beat. That’s what will get us that play-off spot.

“On the back of the Austria result last month, we still have that buzz and we want to carry that into this game now. A full house at Hampden on Saturday is exciting.

“I remember when we played there against Israel in the Nations League and how empty it was that night.

“It’s a sign of how far we’ve come as a squad and a team that Hampden is now sold out for this one.

“So this will be special and if we can get a positive result it’ll put us in control of our position in the group ahead of the Faroes trip and then Moldova. So hopefully we can get the business done.”

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